Projects

Letters and Numbers

  Baby nurseries are full of letters and numbers. Today, in honor of Jillian’s 30th birthday, we wanted to share some of our favorite letters and numbers that relate to Jillian!

Maggie  – I’m a fan of all things numbers! I love significant numbers, irrational numbers, fractions, the way they add and combine, their order…so now, in no particular order, here are 30 things I love about, have in my life, share or otherwise appreciate thanks to Jillian!

1. Fate
I think that Jillian, Mary Margaret and I have always felt our friendship was destined or fated to be. So, thanks to Jillian (and Mary Margaret), I do believe that certain things are meant to be.
2. Rhett and Link Jillian introduced me to these two friends who are almost as hilarious as we are…I hope you enjoy them, too!
3. Without Jillian, our triangle would be a line!
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Photo credit: Matt Obrey
4. I was the 4th bridesmaid at Jillian’s wedding  (Also, in case you were wondering, I am a terrible bridesmaid, but mercifully, she did not count this against me!)
5. – 6. – 7. -8. Jillian’s appreciation of the art, style and nuance of all kinds of dance is really worthy of four numbers!

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9. Serendipity – we saw the movie Serendipity when it came out. I don’t know that either of us really liked the movie, but the word and the line from the movie: “It’s one of my favorite words, it means a fortunate accident.” stuck around for a long time!

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10. Age at which our friendship officially began

You really cement a friendship by traveling together – I felt it was only appropriate to note a few of my favorite adventures 
11 8th Grade trip to Savannah
12. Choir Tour to Alaska
13. Choir Tour to Florida
14 Spring Break to NYC to see Mary Margaret at NYU
15. Another time, Jillian and Mary Margaret came to see me in Nashville!!
16. More recently, our triangle converged in New York City with my daughter!
Baby joins the triangle!
17 And I’m SUPER excited about my upcoming trip to meet Jillian’s little boy!!!
18 – the year we became responsible for our own friendship 🙂
19 – When you’ve been friends as long as the three of us have, you get to know and become family. I was always grateful to know and be a part of Jillian’s sister Laura’s life.
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20 – 20 years of friendship (Oh my gosh, how are we old enough to have anything constant in our life for 20 years!)
Mysterious ancient artifacts with significance to us
21 Nefertiti Painting – this is a hilarious story…and that is all you need to know
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22 Statue of Athena at Nashville Parthenon
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Even then, the triangle appreciated the wisdom of a strong woman!
23 Passing notes – whether between classes, text message, or various other messenger apps, we’ve always share a special connection of note passing and keeping in tough through the written word.
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Actual notes that Jillian and I exchanged…isn’t she great at paper folding?
In the Spirit of Books – A few books that remind me of Jillian
24 The Life of Pi (she got me a signed copy!!!!)
25 The Time Travelers Wife
26 Harry Potter (all of them)
27. Monty Python (I realize that Monty Python isn’t a book, but it is literature that we appreciate!)

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28 – March 28 is Lady Gaga’s birthday. Without Jillian, I would not appreciate what a true artist Lady Gaga is.
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29 – I will forever appreciate the week Jillian came to spend with me right before my second baby was born. It was supposed to be the week my baby was born (but she had other plans), but I really don’t know how I would have made it through that week without an understanding friend!
30 – A year of new adventures, new growth and taking our friendship into “official” adulthood!

Mary Margaret 

You know I’m obsessed with anything to do with words and letters, so obviously I am taking on the alphabet– something you’ll be sing-songing to your little one in no time! There’s 26 of these little symbolic babies, not quite 30…but I guess we can’t all be as numerically harmonious as our math major Maggie!
A. “A” represents a mysterious figure on one of your favorite TV shows, ‘Pretty Little Liars,’ which I have literally never seen, but am aware of entirely because I know you!
B. Brigadoon! The entire triangle performed in this musical our senior year of high school. We wore tartans, danced Scottish jigs, and were generally all around awesome! This was just one of our many musical adventures.
C. Clark- Before you were Jillian Walters, you were a Clark, and your family is just one more inextricable part of the incredible person you are now!
D. Dance-  You will always be a dancer and choreographer to me, from the pictures of you as a tiny girl in a ballet tutu, to the dancer I knew creating amazing movement in plays!
E. Eating...I don’t want to get overly personal here, but eating in the face of tremendous life stress and uncertainty is surprisingly not so easy to do, but you have been fiercely brace and candidly honest about becoming healthier and caring for your body and mind. I am in awe of you and inexpressibly proud.
F. Fox- He’s growing… He’s coming…He’s transforming you into a mother day by day, and I can’t wait to meet him, watch you raise him, and hopefully get to be a part of his life as well!
G. Gaga- Duh. You taught me and Maggie to listen closely to her lyrics, to dig deeper than the pop beats we heard on the radio, and meat dresses on the covers of magazines in the checkout aisle. You gave us a whole new appreciation for all things Lady Gaga.  I mean, there’s a reason I made you a Christmas stocking for your dogs that says “Little Monsters” on it!
H. Humor You make me laugh. Sometimes we laugh so hard together that we cry. I love this about us.
I. Intelligence You are undoubtedly one of the smartest people I know, but your intelligence is not merely book-learning, (as they say.) You have emotional intelligence as well, that has always seemed wise beyond your years to me.
J. Josh Your partner in life and crime.  It’s a joy when you like the people that your friends choose to spend their lives with. I lit a candle in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem on the day of your wedding, heartbroken that I wasn’t by your side, and I prayed for your union. It’s a blessing to see how your love and your life together has grown since that day!
K. Keen The definition of this is literally sharp or penetrating, and I have so often been amazed over the years by your ability to have clear-eyes in emotional situations, to be unafraid of honesty even when your voice stood alone, and to move in a direction that aligned with your convictions. 
L. Laura She’s always a part of you- no more needs to be said.
M. Mercer University Alum!– You matriculated in Macon (alliteration always!) and met your husband while in school. So although no college experience is perfect, we know you made it out okay!
N. Nike, (and Clio!) I always associated your family and home with having sweet pups, so it made perfect sense when you and Josh adopted your rescue puppies, giving them a loving home and companionship!
O. Oxford Oh my gosh didn’t you go there? So basically you’re Hermione Granger now, right? 
P. Parkview Panthers forever! We had so many adventures together, and really solidified our friendship for life in those Lilburn public school halls!
Q. Quirkiness I love that our brand of humor is absolutely ludicrous sometimes, and we can swing from one conversation to the next at insane paces, sharing extremely intimate details in one moment and speaking in ridiculous accents the next.
R. Righteous Anger- I mean this in the in the most flattering possible way, because I think this can be an extremely useful emotion to have. You have a critical eye for wrongs and injustice that you see in this world, and a determination to help combat it, whether its’ with writing, with action, or simply with being the amazingly strong person and friend you are each day.
S. Solitude- You have the ability to be alone, the ability to seek out solitude in ways that many are unable to. I think your willingness to spend time with your own person, necessarily sometimes even with sadness (another S!) makes you an incredibly thoughtful, compassionate, and empathetic person in ways unavailable to those who must always fill the silence (a third S for the win!).
T. Teatime I can always count on you offering me a cup of tea, hot or iced, whenever I come to your home, which is a sign of your lovely gracious hospitality. It’s one of the ways you care for people, and nothing could be more inviting and welcoming. I also love that now that you and Josh are homeowners, you literally have a room and cabinet devoted to tea.
U. Uteri- That’s right, lady! I am woman hear me roar! You helped expose me to the concept of feminism in a new way, pointing the way to understanding what it means to stand up for a woman’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
V. Viewpoints You were my first decidedly democrat friend, steeped as we were in a largely conservative, red state. You challenged what I had heard from most people in my upbringing and brought new questions to help me discover and clarify my personal opinions and beliefs…I would be willing to bet you’ve done this for a lot of people that have had the blessing to be in contact with you
W. Wordsmith What a wonderful writing woman (all the W’s!!) you are! You’re an amazing writer that combines humor, pathos, and great depth of thought whenever you sit down to grapple with the English language.
X. XXX is not just for smut! I am venturing into Maggie’s numbers world  here because this is the Roman numeral sign for 30! And today you are turning 30!!!
Y. Youthfulness  You always joke that people mistake you for being much younger than you actually are. Sometimes I think, though, that you and Maggie and I are some mixture of old-souls and absolute children, and I’m pretty sure we should stay that way.
Z. Zinc. Take those prenatal vitamins. Also, I learned this week that the atomic number of zinc is 30!! Also, there are not nearly enough words that begin with Z.
Okay, okay, so Maggie had 30 things, so I decided to steal 4 extra symbols from other alphabets and sources!!
A Heart For no other reason than to tell you once more that I love you.
ñ You took Spanish in high school, while Maggie took Latin and I took German, so we’d be hopeless trying to communicate together in a language not English
Because every English major knows this symbol as a great one for footnotes in all those impressive tomes we’ve read!
Ω Omega- We started with A, Alpha and now to the Omega, the end. My dear, you’re stuck with me till the end.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY JILLIAN!!!
3:30 Thursday, Projects

Birthdays, and Birth-Days

The 3:30 Project is a collaborative blog by three life-long friends: Maggie, Mary Margaret and Jillian. In honor of Jillian’s 30th Birthday on April 27, she will write her thoughts on three decades, while Maggie and Mary Margaret share some thoughts about our dear friend becoming a mother in her 30th year! 


Jillian

In the stories of Flannery O’Connor, innocent people suffer and die and evil people walk away from their crimes, the end.

When I first started reading them, I thought, “Well, that was miserable. Why is that considered great literature?” But they say when you read Flannery O’Connor, you shouldn’t focus on what happens to the characters physically- you have to look at their souls. That’s where the real story is – in the movements of souls.

I’ll be thirty years old the day this is published, and it’s very easy to see myself as a massive screw-up. I always thought by now I’d have an enriching career where I was both successful and important in my own way. I thought I’d be making good money and deftly managing all the responsibilities of adult life. I thought I’d have learned how to keep everything in order – the laundry, the dishes, the dusting, the dogs’ toenails, my acne, my hair.

Actually, I thought I’d have all that down by age 27.

But when I left home at 18, what bloomed was not my potential but all my latent anxiety and despair. I starved my body. I slogged through college with constant migraines. I worked five years in a job that crushed me. I quit my job as soon as I could justify it. I crawled home to lick my wounds.

I’m turning thirty having been out of the workforce for a year. I’m in eating disorder recovery for the fourth consecutive year. I’ve spent more money on my therapy than I can bear to think about. I’m still working on how to not feel overwhelmed by everyday life.

But I think those things are not the real story.

I’ve fought for the things I believed in, over and over again. Especially when it mattered for my soul or for someone else’s. I lost all of those battles, but I never walked away from a fight that mattered. I’ve seen myself stand up and speak truth to power when everyone around me fell silent. I’ve stood up to opponents and to loved ones. I’ve stepped up to face things other people have found too frightening, not because I had to, but because I wanted to do right by my soul and others’.

I lost. I never righted any wrongs. I certainly never saved anyone. But I found out what I’m made of. Fire and grit and passion and sadness and faith and fear and bravery most of all.

So, if I’m a warrior of the soul who can’t get her shit organized, I’ve mostly made my peace with that. I can keep working on the everyday life skills, and I will – but my battle skills have been honed. I’m ready to take up arms when it’s needed. I’m ready to face down fear when it appears.

If the real story is the movement of souls, then I’m proud of how far I’ve come. I’m stronger, brighter, and fiercer than ever before. I’m making plans for my future – a future I have confidence and faith in, a future that only a year ago I didn’t even believe in.

I’ll be a mother before the end of the year, and I know that parenthood is rife with pain and fear and heartbreak. But I am not afraid. No matter how hard life may be, I know how to see past it, to find hope in the movements of souls. That’s my real story, and this is my gift to my son: that we will tell real stories – mine, and his father’s, and his.

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Maggie

Dear Jillian,

I know that you have really considered the pros and cons of adding a child to your life. But even so, taking on the role of mother is pretty daunting.

I would like to be the first person to officially give you unsolicited parenting advice. So, with love, please ignore any of this that you see fit!

10 Things You Simply Must Know Before Becoming a Parent

  1. People will give you unsolicited advice on parenting in an inverse relationship to how well they know you. You are not obligated to listen.
  2.  There is no perfect method that will help your baby to sleep through the night.
  3. Your child WILL have a temper tantrum in a public place. It doesn’t make you a bad parent.
  4. You will forget to take your diaper bag with you exactly once. When that one time happens, your baby will have a super blow out poop. If you’re lucky, this will happen at a place that sells diapers and baby wipes. You will live through this experience, but it’s okay to cry.
  5. People will judge you for how you feed your baby and whether or not you use a pacifier. But as long as your baby is fed, it’s probably going to be okay.
  6. You are under no obligation to breast feed in public.
  7. I know that strange things always happen to you, but nothing will be stranger than human coming out of your body.
  8. But right up there with a human growing in your body and then exiting, milk coming out of your breasts is also pretty weird. Depending on how things go and what you decide to do, that’s going to take a while to get under control. I know it’s natural, and despite our smart phones and climate control, we are still mammals, but it is messy and disconcerting to feel like a cow.
  9. There’s nothing wrong with naptime being your favorite part of the day.
    • There’s nothing wrong with also taking a nap during naptime.
    • There’s no reason that you should obligated to “be productive” while your baby sleeps.
  10. One of the things I try to do when I’m arguing with my daughter about whether or not she should wear underwear or when she’s upset that I’ve opened her yogurt incorrectly, is I try to remember the feeling I had when I found out I was pregnant for the first time. The hope, the terror, the excitement, the love, the joy – all of that. When I remember how much I wanted this little person to be in my life, it makes it a little easier to get through those moments.

Welcome to parenthood!


Mary Margaret

You know how people sometimes take any topic (almost to comic effect) and manage to somehow make it about them?  My dear Jillian is turning 30 this week, and in late summer she will enter motherhood for the first time with the arrival of a little boy! Now let’s talk about me.

Some people might look at my life and say that I am gradually being Left Behind.  No, not in the Post-Apocalyptic, Revelations-style, book-series-into-bad-movie way. What I mean is that while my status has remained “Single and Childless” over the past decade, my sisters, closest friends, and many of my peers have taken on new roles as spouses and parents. I would be lying if I didn’t say that there’s always a part of me that finds myself worrying that these new life-changing relationships and roles will mean that my life will suddenly seem small, tedious, and irrelevant to these people who have chosen to shoulder the awesome responsibility of growing and raising another human being. I wonder if they will look at me and my concerns and begin shaking their heads with a sigh of, “Unmarried with no kids? She just can’t possibly understand.”

People say motherhood changes a person forever,  and not having experienced this, I can only imagine what these changes feel like. But dwelling on the margins, witnessing the transformation of beloved people into mothers and fathers, I am categorically unable to say that I have actually been Left Behind.  On the contrary, my sisters, cousins, and friends seem to have invited me along for the ride, and I humbly and gratefully assert that my life has been profoundly transformed by the births of these beautiful children. Of course I am not claiming alterations like the radical, 24-7 life-overhaul brought about by having an infant under your care, but my life is decidedly different populated by the wonderful little people that are not mine directly, but I undoubtedly lay claim to in my heart.

So to the parents who have invited me along for their journey through pregnancy, birth, and parenthood…Most importantly this week, to Jillian,  here is what I want to tell you most about my transformation on the fringes:

I am grateful, I am honored, and I do not take lightly the responsibility of being permitted to be in your child’s life. Jillian, you are a careful, thoughtful,  discerning person; you do not bestow trust on each person that you encounter, so when you confided in me your motherhood hopes and later the fulfillment of these hopes, I  saw this as being entrusted with a gift. The gift and responsibility is your trust in me as a person able and willing to support you in this terrifying/joyous new experience and as a person capable of being a positive and loving figure in the life of your child.

Which leads to my next point, which is how deeply your pregnancy makes me think about who I am as an adult person, begging the question: who do I choose to be as a figure in the life of your child? If we are called to teach by example, how can I be (although marginal or far-away) a role model for your son of the values that you, his mother, and I share and have spent countless hours discussing together? How can my life be just one more small positive force in his world?

Speaking of values, what also am I called to do out in that world to make the life of your son safer, better, more hopeful, and more compassionate? There are times over the past few months following the 2016 election that have made me want to despair the direction of our American society. It seems a cliché I’ve heard repeated, but I’ve had those instances of looking around and not recognizing my own country. The fact that people around me are having babies, an act I view as a supreme faith in the hopefulness of the future, requires that I never throw my hands up, but rather seek out actions that will give those kids a country still worth being proud to grow up in. Whether that is voting, civic engagement, creating art, volunteering, and simply the fundamental nature of how I treat people in my work and personal life, your son drives me to action because I must take care of this world he must reside in.

I also am already considering what I can do to give you and your son a deep sense of my constant love.  I realized strikingly after losing some loved ones how deeply we come to know ourselves by our mirrors: people in our lives reflecting our identities back to us. Who am I to you, and where does that place me in the universe? I am tremendously grateful to have had people throughout my life that reflected back at me the sense that I was loved unconditionally, that I was valued, that I was smart, beautiful, indispensable to their existence and being on this planet. Even if I am close or far, I suppose I consider it of tremendous value for you and your son to know that no matter what happens, there is one more person beaming back love and support at them. One more person in their corner, in spite of the overwhelming feat of living life.

But enough about me.

Jillian, I know you are going to be an amazing mother. Why? Because, it’s you, my love.

And you know, you’re gonna have back-up. Always.

Projects

Something Swell (and a little sad) on Saturday

The 3:30 Project is a collaborative blog by three life-long friends: Maggie, Mary Margaret and Jillian. On Saturdays, Mary Margaret plans to post something from the week that made her smile.

Today I’m happy sad. You know that scene at the end of the Disney movie ‘Inside Out’ where we discover that memories are usually neither all happy or all sad or all any one isolated emotion? (Notice I’m pulling a Maggie here and referencing animated movies!) Well a lot of things are like this, yes? Human experience is a mash-up of feelings, because, well…life.

New York is a wonderful city in so many ways, but it’s also transient; living in a big urban environment full of transplants  means that as Dorothy quips in reference to the magical land of Oz, “People come and go so quickly here!” People are drawn here for so many different reasons, and are drawn away for reasons just as varied and complex. Necessarily this means that I meet many wonderful people here- friends that become a constant feature of life– that I ultimately have to say goodbye to.

Today my friend and colleague Julia is moving to Cooperstown, NY.  We’ve worked together as freelancers at different theatres on who-even-knows -how-many shows over the past few years.  Here’s just a few of the things Julia and I have done together in the time we’ve known one another:

-Sewed costumes for the original cast of ‘Hamilton’ at the Public Theatre

-Tag-team feverishly sewed the lining back into a jacket, minutes before it needed to go on stage

-Pulled bugs out from between the layers of tulle of dresses at Shakespeare at the Park

-Done yoga under the open sky in Prospect Park

-Marched together at the Women’s March on January 20, 2017 in Washington, D.C.

We’ve also discussed our favorite Russian novels, shared sewing tricks, talked about our families, friends, work, love, God…and it has been a joy to share those many hours with needle or iron in hand next to Julia, who is a smart, strong, caring, creative, wonderful person that I’m glad to call my friend.

So naturally I’m sad to say goodbye to her. But here’s the rub– Rather here’s the beauty:  I’m also so very happy for her and the new adventure she’s embarking on. She’ll be working at a fantastic regional theatre this summer, but the main reason for her relocation is to be closer to her super swell fiancée Joe who lives and works in Cooperstown. Having had many opportunities to be in the company of this delightful (and adorable) couple, may I also say that I’m truly so happy that they found one another and are starting this new season of their life together, and I wish them all kinds of congratulations! All kinds of things to be happy about, even tinged with the sadness of parting…

So, thank you for being such a wonderful part of my New York family, here, Julia, and here’s to me having a new friend in Cooperstown!

3:30 Thursday, Projects

Reflections on Easter

The 3:30 Project is a collaborative blog by three life-long friends: Maggie, Mary Margaret and Jillian. This week we wanted to share our thoughts on the recent Easter holiday.


Maggie

This morning, when my children woke up, there were no surprises from the Easter bunny in my house. I’ll admit that I’m ambivalent about telling my children that magical creatures sneak into our home in the middle of the night to leave them presents, but I did not neglect to celebrate this tradition in my home for any “holier than thou” reasons. I have just never figured out what I feel like is an appropriate Easter basket. I really don’t want Easter to be “Christmas lite,” I don’t like to give my children a lot of candy, they already have more stuffed animals than they can possibly play with, and I’m just left not really knowing what to do. So, I have just chosen to not participate in the tradition of the Easter basket.

Mercifully, my children are young enough that they don’t go to school every day, so they won’t go to school tomorrow and find out that the Easter bunny visited some of their friends, but for some reason skipped our house.

Nevertheless, I would like to share a few words in defense of the Easter bunny. I know you’ve all seen the “what do eggs and bunnies have to do with the resurrection of Jesus” posts on your social media accounts all week. And given my total failure to produce an Easter basket for my children in the course of their short but otherwise wonderful lives, I’m hardly the person to stand up for a tradition of magical bunnies leaving eggs and candy in your home.

But, in defense of the bunny – here is what I think: Yes, early Christians co-opted a pagan fertility festival because the vernal equinox (aka beginning of Spring) is really close to the Jewish celebration of Passover. It may have been an opportunistic way to retain more converts. But, on the other hand, look around you! If you live in the Northern hemisphere, Spring is in the air. Life is cropping up all around you! Flowers are blooming, everyone you know on Facebook is having a baby, and if you live in a place where you have an actual winter, I’m sure it feels like the world is waking up! Surely, whether the roots of the celebration are Christian or pagan, new life is something to celebrate!

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An actual robin’s nest at Jillian’s parents’ house.

 

I also think it’s weird that in our society where we use sex to sell literally everything (I listened to a radio commercial using sex to sell car insurance this week), we turn up our noses at the idea of a fertility festival.

Why should we give up this tradition? In our amazing modern world, we have many avenues for people struggling with infertility to seek medical help to have children, and it’s STILL crazy hard for some people to have babies. If I were an ancient druid struggling to have babies or my children had miraculously made it through the Winter, I might celebrate a burrow full of bunnies or a bird’s nest full of eggs, too – because, as I’m fond of saying when it comes to making and having babies: “It’s only weird if it doesn’t work.”

So…please forgive my blasphemy, but today, in addition to celebrating the new life available to me through faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, I also want to celebrate the new life that surrounds us at Spring time. With all things we can truly and legitimately be afraid of in the World today – Global Warming, nuclear war, extreme weather, intelligent robots taking over the world – the Earth is still reborn each Spring. I feel like birth – whether it’s a baby, a puppy, a bunny, a chick, a tree or a flower – is the Earth’s way of saying it’s still optimistic about the future. And that is certainly worth celebrating.


Mary Margaret

Saturday night at Easter Vigil, our Spanish language congregation partners, Sion Lutheran, baptized a group of children—and what miraculous outfits these children wore! Little girls arrayed in tiered, bridal-like layers of shimmering polyester, bedazzled tiaras, gloves, and lace-trimmed capelets; little boys in smart white, silver-trimmed militaristic suits and high-gloss shoes. These shimmery beacons fidgeted, twirled, giggled, got sleepy, and then were baptized with water and the Holy Spirit and welcomed into the Christian faith!

girl_at_catholic_christening
More details Girl in christening gown being baptized in a Roman Catholic church. (from Wikipedia)

The story of Easter— the death and Resurrection of the man named Jesus in Roman-occupied ancient Jerusalem —is the most important story in my faith. It’s the central narrative on which our hopes are founded, the story that most clearly reveals God’s relationship to His Creation. Naturally, we each hear this story with individual ears, nuanced by our experiences, and because of my interests and profession, I likely notice references to fabric and clothing more than most.

The Baptism of Saint Vladimir in Chersonesus by Viktor Vasnetsov(1890). To the left attendants are holding Vladimir’s golden royal robes, which he has taken off, and the simple white baptismal robe, which he will put on (1890, fresco from St. Vladimir’s Cathedral, Kiev).

vasnetsov_bapt_vladimir
The Baptism of Saint Vladimir in Chersonesus by Viktor Vasnetsov (1890). To the left attendants are holding Vladimir’s golden royal robes, which he has taken off, and the simple white baptismal robe, which he will put on (1890, fresco from St. Vladimir’s Cathedral, Kiev). (from Wikipedia)

The fabrics of Holy Week are varied and suffused with meaning. Jesus ties a towel around His waist to wash the feet of his disciples before they partake in the Last Supper. Roman soldiers clothe Jesus in a purple robe to mock the idea that He is the king of the Jewish people. Soldiers cast lots to try and win the garment Jesus wore at His arrest, which is seen as a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. When the lifeless form of Jesus is removed from the Cross, He’s wrapped in a burial shroud– these funereal wrappings being what Mary Magdalene and the disciples later find folded in the empty tomb. The angels proclaiming the Risen Christ wear garments of radiant light.

I am struck by the marked contrast between the types of garments described—robes of light next to a utilitarian foot-washing towel; royal purples aside linen burial wrappings; the majestic and ethereal with the humble and rough-spun. I found myself contemplating Baptism alongside burial customs, and how across time, culture, and tradition, we often swing between these contrasts. Some are baptized shrouded in a simple white robe, stripped of embellishment or individual expression. Or some, like these children, are baptized in finery, arrayed like lilies of the field. Similarly, we might be buried in our nicest clothes and jewelry, while in other times and places, the most basic shroud or wrapping is traditional.

I don’t compare to advocate for one approach— dressed up or humbly simple—rather they both seem so startlingly appropriate as an illustration of how I believe God views us—in our lives…and deaths. They are two sides of Christianity’s claim about mankind’s identity in God. On one hand, He sees us at our most basic— stripped of pretensions of identity, culture, and habit, flawed and sinful—rough-spun. Our essential being is more clearly known to Him than to ourselves, and thus we approach Him empty-handed and unadorned—what could we possibly offer to the one who gives us ourselves?

Easter’s claim, though— that God in Christ redeems Creation, bringing ALL things into right relationship with Himself—is that when He views rough-spun Creation, He actually sees His Beloved. Like the Parable of the Prodigal Son, God takes a humanity that finds it so difficult to love one another, and in spite of anything we are, have done, or have failed to do, He clothes us in new robes, puts rings on our fingers. The Bible abounds with metaphors of new garments, garments washed clean, of God clothing His Beloved people in righteousness and holiness.

Easter asks us to believe that we are loved by God. That He sees us as intimately and essentially as the woven fibers of a simple white shroud. That He sees us as splendid, special, and worthy as the children of Sion clothed in gleaming new garments, heirs to a Kingdom of love. When we dress up for Baptism or burial, we may clothe ourselves in the signs and symbols of our humbleness or our belovedness, but either way, in life and in death, God covers us.


Jillian

“I believe that there is one story in the world, and only one.” -John Steinbeck, East of Eden.

The thing that I love most about the Christian holidays is that, in a way, they’re all the same.

In Advent, we await deliverance. O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel. We wait hopefully and desperately. At Christmas, we celebrate our awaited deliverance – hopefully, and desperately. Then again at Lent, still we await that same deliverance. It comes on the cross at Easter weekend – we celebrate, again, hopefully, and desperately.

Mary conceives the divine Word of God and gives birth to the hope of mankind.

Christ conceives the divine Word of God and dies to bring hope to mankind.

Nichodemus asks, “How can a man be born when he is old?” Jesus answers, “Flesh gives birth to flesh but spirit gives birth to spirit.”

One story: the story of the soul’s painful and transformative exodus from old life to new. We ask, can I be redeemed? And the Bible gives us, over and over, this one story.

That’s why I celebrate Easter (and Christmas, for that matter) with Lady Gaga.

The thing that I love so much about Gaga is that her music videos and live performances always deconstruct the surface-level messages of her lyrics. You can listen to Born This Way and hear a long, 1980s-ish pop declaration that homosexuality and bisexuality are biologically natural – or you can watch the performances and see the One Story. In truth, I think, Gaga cares very little about biology. She cares about whether a human soul can be redeemed and how.

In the original Born This Way performances and music video, Gaga wears horns on her head. That’s how you know Born This Way isn’t about being “born that way.” You can see the powerful homages to the great Alvin Ailey’s modern ballet Revelations (Gaga’s choreographer trained with the Alvin Ailey school), you can see the images of baptism, and you can start to see how Born This Way is about being re-born this way. It asks, how can we be redeemed, to be wholly without hate and wholly united with God and one another in love? And it answers with pain and transformation and purification and death and spirit giving birth to spirit. One story.

You can listen to Judas and hear an irresistibly catchy pop confession of a Christian’s struggle with sin. But you can watch the music video and witness the shattering and scrambling of all the binary oppositions in the stories of Jesus: follower and leader, faithful and heretical, chaste and unchaste, sinner and saint, servant and master, human and divine. Judas doesn’t ask you what role you play in the story of Jesus – are you a follower or a betrayer, a Judas or a Peter – you are every role and every label. Instead, it asks, can you be redeemed to be wholly without sin and wholly united with God and humankind in love? And it answers with pain and transformation and purification and death and spirit giving birth to spirit. One story.

gaga judas
Gaga throwing away the binary oppositions in Judas.

You can listen to Edge of Glory and hear one more addictive “YOLO, let’s dance and have sex before we die” song. Or you can watch the music video and see the glow of a refining fire barely contained behind a flimsy Hollywood set, and you can see the stylized makeup reminiscent of ancient religious icons. And you can begin to see the fragile boundaries between the physical and the spiritual, and how you yourself are the glass you must break so you can fall toward the glassblower’s breath.

gaga edge of glory
Edge of Glory official music video

Can you be redeemed?

Pain, transformation, purification, death, spirit giving birth to spirit.

One story.

gaga born this way

Motivation Monday, Projects

Motivation Monday

For the past few weeks, I’ve been slowly reading a book by Brené Brown called I thought it was just me (but it isn’t). In it, Brown discusses shame, the ways that shame affects women, and strategies individuals can use to move past shame in your life and in to self-acceptance.

I’m really enjoying the book. It’s honest, real, practical, but it’s also uncomfortable and challenging. It’s challenging in a good way…but it’s not exactly fun to confront and work through the things in your life that paralyze you with shame.

Today, I read a section about this scene in the 1983 movie Flashdance.

 

Brown writes:

We all wanted to be Alex in Flashdance. She was perfect — ripped clothing looked sexy; welding looked exciting; ballet looked cool and break dancing looked easy. But alas, the perfection was only an illusion. I was disappointed to learn that the film director used four different people to create that audition sequence: Jennifer Beal’s beautiful face, a professional dancer for the ballet scenes, a champion gymnast for the leaping and jumping and a male street performer for the break dancing. All those bad perms and all that money for leg warmers…for what? To try and achieve some level of perfection that doesn’t exist.

If most of us stopped to examine the expectations we set for ourselves, we would discover that, like the scene in Flashdance, our concept of perfection is so unrealistic that it can’t exist in one person. instead, it’s a combination of pieces or snippets of what’s perceived as perfect. We don’t want to be good at what we do, we want to be perfect — we want to edit together all the best clips of what we see to form our lives.

I know that there are plenty of extraordinary, multi-talented people in the world, and I don’t want to take anything away from them. But, I feel like there’s a difference between honoring and admiring the gifted and talented among us, and feeling like that is a norm that we should all be able to achieve in our own life.

As someone who has always strived for excellence in my life, I find it fantastically freeing to think that I don’t have to expect perfection of myself. Later in this chapter, Brown suggests that setting goals for growth and improvement is more empowering than expecting yourself to be perfect. I found that really resonated with me, and I hope it resonates with you this week!

I hope you have a week full of incremental improvement and growth! Do your best!

If you’re interested in reading Brown’s book, here’s a link!
I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Making the Journey from “What Will People Think?” to “I Am Enough”

Projects

Something Swell on Saturday

The 3:30 Project is a collaborative blog by three life-long friends: Maggie, Mary Margaret and Jillian. On Saturdays, Mary Margaret plans to post something from the week that made her smile.

It’s Holy Saturday, the weighted pause between Good Friday and Easter, between the Cross and Resurrection. I wanted to share one of my favorite pieces of poetry, that is often shared in a musical adaptation at my church here in New York. The poem challenges us to look at the reality of death, the material stuff of believing in true resurrection of body and spirit, the physical presence of Christ, His humanity, the majesty of a living God, rather than fairy tale or myth, or vague spiritual sensation. The poem asks that we ground in the physical realm– the stuff of Creation–  what Easter asks me to believe, which is that God loved His creation so much that He was willing to become part of it to redeem it.

“Steven Stanzas at Easter”

Make no mistake: if he rose at all
It was as His body;
If the cell’s dissolution did not reverse, the molecule reknit,
The amino acids rekindle,
The Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
Each soft spring recurrent;
It was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled eyes of the
Eleven apostles;
It was as His flesh; ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes
The same valved heart
That—pierced—died, withered, paused, and then regathered
Out of enduring Might
New strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
Analogy, sidestepping, transcendence,
Making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the faded
Credulity of earlier ages:
Let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache,
Not a stone in a story,
But the vast rock of materiality that in the slow grinding of
Time will eclipse for each of us
The wide light of day.

And if we have an angel at the tomb,
Make it a real angel,
Weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair, opaque in
The dawn light, robed in real linen
Spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
For our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
Lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are embarrassed
By the miracle,
And crushed by remonstrance.

-John Updike, 1960

3:30 Thursday, Projects

Better than The Original?

The 3:30 Project is a collaborative blog by three life-long friends: Maggie, Mary Margaret and Jillian. So often people rant on and on about how an adaptation, sequel, or remake could never possibly be as good as the original. This week we challenged ourselves to take an opposite approach and look at adaptations that we think actually worked– ones that maybe even got it a bit better or brought a whole new appreciation to our understanding of the first version.


Mary Margaret 

My sister Emily and I loved reading Roald Dahl when we were little, and Matilda was undoubtedly a favorite. I have memories of us reading his paperbacks together, sprawled out on the carpet, with our yellowed paperback copy adorned with Quentin Blake’s classic illustrations of the stringy- haired little girl (that I’m sure Emily still owns). What I remember most about Matilda was it’s combination of eerie supernatural magic, slightly foreign “British-ness,” vivid characters both love-able and malicious, silly yet dark humor, and like many Roald Dahl stories, possessing palpable lessons about morality, justice, the importance of kindness, and in this case, the hidden strength under what seems outwardly meek, unloved, and small.

I saw Matilda: The Musical on Broadway with my mother in the summer of 2014. Ironically, two weeks later, I was given the opportunity to join the show’s wardrobe department, where I worked as a frequent sub stitcher and dayworker for a year and a half, until the show’s closing at the end of 2016. It was my first gig on a Broadway musical, and I was thrilled to work on a show that I enjoyed so much—the kind of show that made me truly excited about my part in making live theatre happen.

Matilda: The Musical is a fantastic adaptation of Dahl’s novel, superior in my opinion to the 90s film version. When you make an adaptation, I think it shouldn’t simply be because the original was “a good story” or successful, beloved or likely to garner attention (and ticket sales). One compelling reason to reinvent something is because you believe you can illuminate or bring to life some crucial essence of the original work in a new medium, and for this, theatre seems perfectly suited to Dahl’s work.

matildawestend

Why, you ask? Here’s just a few of the many reasons:

*Highly Theatrical Characters– Tricky to do on film, where outlandish characters can seem garish, the stage is the perfect place for Dahl’s characters like Mrs. Trunchbull and the Wormwoods to be dramatically over-the-top, without seeming strangely disjointed from the gentle realness of Miss Honey.

*Creepiness!- Dahl’s stories are rife with the creepy and dark; I mean the school principal locks unruly students in a horrifying closet called “The Chokey!” A dark theatre, complete with lighting, sound, music, fog machines, and stage tricks is an incredibly immersive experience, and so incredibly evocative of the eeriness and thrills of Dahl’s book, as well as vividness of a child’s imagination, which is a critical part of the story.

*Supernatural Elements– The recreation of Matilda’s telekinetic powers is inherently better on stage as opposed to film, because for most audience members, there is a true level of wonderment and “how do they do that!!” when live “stage magic” plays out. Even for a backstage worker like me, I am still often amazed by effects created by stage artists. I think with modern films, we are so aware now of the capabilities of computers and post-production, so it seems less magical, while seeing a little girl live on stage miraculously writing on a chalkboard with her mind, seems intrinsically more spectacular by the hiddenness of the trick.

* Revolting Children!- Matilda is about a child who does incredible things, and while watching a company of children sing, dance, and act their hearts out for over two hours, it’s hard to deny the amazing abilities and sensitivities of even the very young. Certainly children have much to learn, but we so often dismiss how much children are capable of doing and understanding. Watching the virtuosity of these real life kids (who genuinely seem to be having fun backstage, too!) perform so spectacularly, is to me a beautiful illustration and inspiration of what Dahl tells us through his little book-loving girl. Small does not equal weak. Force does not equal power. The power of your own mind and heart are stronger than an unjust regime.

I’d like to believe in this kind of justice- where a kind and brilliant child could topple a cruel despot. Where those who start out powerless and unloved achieve justice and peace.


Maggie

When I was in college, I took a course on fairy tales. It was one of my favorite classes. One of the ideas I took away from the class is that historically, fairy tales teach children skills they need for their life – don’t trust sweet talking wolves, ugly ogres can be princes in disguise if you give them a chance, and kindness and goodness will be rewarded.
We also get some insidious messages from our fairy tales: stepmothers are evil, powerful women can’t be trusted, good girls suffer, and it’s preferable to have very small feet.
So, as the mother of daughters, I’m delighted by a modern fairy tale: One where we learn that love will thaw a frozen heart, that you can’t repress who you are, sometimes you have to “Let it Go,” and you shouldn’t marry someone you just met.

Like every 4-year-old in America (possibly the world), my daughter loves the movie Frozen. For most of 2016, she would only wear Elsa dresses in public. I have 3 singing Elsa dresses, 3 Elsa nightgowns, a dress we affectionately refer to as the “hoop dress” and an Anna dress. So, I get that if the goal was to sell merchandise, Frozen is doing pretty well at my house.

So many dresses, so little time…
In many ways, I feel like Frozen is not just an adaptation the Hans Christian Anderson tale “The Snow Queen,” it’s an adaptation of the Disney Princess movie in general. I haven’t shown my daughter’s the classic Disney movies I grew up on: Beauty and the Beast (even the new one), The Little Mermaid, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, etc. There’s a lot to love about those movies, and I know they would enjoy them, but…I want them to be older so I can talk to them about Stockholm syndrome, love at first sight, consent, and generally make sure they have a fully developed sense of their own agency and self before I threaten it with the idea that they’re going to need a prince to save them from their challenges in life.
But in Frozen, Disney challenged itself to have a story of sisterhood rather than a story of marriage. It challenges the idea that an act of true love is a true love’s kiss, and instead offers the idea that love is complicated. You can love a sister who ignored you for your entire childhood; you can grow apart and come back together; you can be really really messed up, and it’s really hard to fix a big problem on your own. I mean, anyone can sweep you off your feet at a fancy ball, but it really takes love to climb a frozen wasteland and try to reach your sister in her castle made of ice (I mean…check out that symbolism!).
So, I tip my hat to Disney and all of their recent films. I think Moana and Zootopia are even better! Thank you for giving me a fairy tale that I can believe in!

Jillian

You know those people who are always saying, “Oh, DO NOT watch that movie until you’ve read the book”? I hate those people so much.

I’m an English major, and all English majors start out as book lovers, that’s obvious. But you learn pretty quickly that the world is so full of good books, you could never hope to read them all in your lifetime. And you also learn that truly great books are a different story.

Good books have interesting storylines and enthralling characters. Great books have interesting storylines and enthralling characters and masterful writing.

Good books are prime fodder for excellent movies, and since they don’t have masterful writing to begin with, they don’t lose anything in the adaptation. Here are some very well-loved books that I deem totally skippable in favor of the screen version.

The Hunger Games. Great story, great characters, but the writing is not special. In the film version, you get a purer, more elegant, more artful story by elevating the plot and the characters and leaving out the mediocre narration.

Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire. As a creator of worlds, George R.R. Martin ranks right up there with J.R.R. Tolkien. As a creator of complex and fascinating characters, some might compare him to the Bard himself. But as a writer? No. A lot of readers have been angry that Martin appears to invest more time in the HBO series than in finishing the book series. But I say let him. He started a good book series, but now he’s writing a great, groundbreaking, go-down-in-history television series. And I’m thrilled with that.

But it’s not just mediocre books that can be surpassed on screen. Even really good books by some of the best authors can sometimes be surpassed by their film adaptations. The number one best book I have ever deemed to be totally skippable in favor of the movie version is Ian McEwan’s Atonement.

Ian McEwan is considered one of the great writers of our time. Atonement was nominated for the Booker Prize – it is a really good book. McEwan takes a lot of risks in his storytelling, and some of those risks don’t exactly work out. If you’re interested in examining the craft of novel writing, it’s fascinating. But if you’re interested in a challenging, thought-provoking story without – for example – complex characters who end up not mattering in the end, a handful of themes that get dropped part way through, and the confusion those extraneous elements bring to the story’s conclusion, then skip this excellent book and watch the extraordinary film.atonement_ver6

In the film, you get beautiful costumes, historical sets and an enriching musical score. But most importantly, you get a purer version of the story.

The best novels are already pure – distilled down until every sentence matters. That’s why for me, Atonement, in spite of its well-crafted prose, falls short of being a truly great novel – there’s too much that could be weeded out. And that’s what the film does – it weeds out the author’s wandering literary experiments and leaves a profound and meaningful story.

Life’s short. Spend it reading the books you love. Because if you spend it trying to read all the good books, you’ll miss out on a lot of phenomenal films.


Leave us a comment about the adaptations or remakes you love!

Projects

Something Swell-(ing) on Saturday!

The 3:30 Project is a collaborative blog by three life-long friends: Maggie, Mary Margaret and Jillian. On Saturdays, Mary Margaret plans to post something from the week that made her smile.

This week, my sister Emily gave me the honor and joy of using my Saturday post to share some wonderful news about what is (literally) developing right now in our family! Baby Neder 2 is coming in late summer, and this week at her twenty-week prenatal check-up, we discovered some fun and exciting news!

Here’s what I love about a gender-reveal from my perspective. I tend to have a guess in my mind, like many people do, but when I find out, my reaction ends up being so similar. It’s like….”I was right!! I knew it! Hurray!! It’s so exciting!!” or alternately, “I was wrong-Totally off!! Hurray!! It’s so exciting.” Few things in life can elicit such equal reactions to different outcomes that introduce two such lovely possibilities to look forward to. At the end of the day, we were all just happy to hear that the baby is healthy and Emily is healthy, but it’s also fun to start dreaming even more about what the little one will be like.

And what do we know so far? Dylan’s getting ready for big-brotherhood in a sweet way….

IMG_0469

 

There’s something swelling! And it’s Emily’s baby bump, with a baby NIECE!

 

3:30 Thursday, Projects

Spring Cleaning

The 3:30 Project is a collaborative blog by three life-long friends: Maggie, Mary Margaret and Jillian. Spring has officially arrived, and now that it’s April, we might actually begin to believe it. This week we look at how this green, fresh season often spurns a cleaning spree, whether or not we shall partake, and what this means in our lives. 


Maggie

I struggle with tidiness in the same way that I struggle with my weight. For me, it’s not really a matter of discipline or willingness to try to keep the spaces in my life clear or my body healthy. For me, it’s a matter of courage. The courage to let go of the comfort and reassurance I feel from having the extra weight on my body and extra things in my life.

Any time I start losing weight or my house starts to get to clean, I sabotage my own efforts – not on purpose, of course. But it’s happened enough times that I know I do it. I indulge in an extra cookie, I miss a few workouts, I stop putting the laundry in the basket. To totally clean up my diet, my home, my life would require facing some uncomfortable truths about myself and risk discovering what I fear most of all – that I am not enough.

As it stands, I have an excuse: I can’t get any place on time because I’m so disorganized. I’ll 

IMG_1920
I blame the children

be more successful when I just “get it together.” Often, I blame the children (to be fair, a 4 year old and an almost 2 year old can create a truly impressive amount of pandemonium in a remarkably short period of time).

But what if I cleaned up my home and took care of my body, and still couldn’t get my life together?

A few years ago, I picked up Mari Kondo’s book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. She recommends that you go through all of your possessions one by one and determine whether or not they bring you joy. If the answer is no, then you can get rid of it. Her reasoning is that if you get rid of the excess things in your life, you’ll be more motivated to keep your remaining possessions in order (and she has some recommendations on how you do that as well).

I set to work right away – I pulled all my clothes out of my closet and went through every piece of clothing – one by one. I didn’t think I had a huge selection of clothing, but I managed to donate three trash bags full of clothes to my local second hand store. I went on to discard an entire book case full of books – something I would have once considered a high crime. But, on the other hand, when my shelves were filled with books that brought me joy, I found that very freeing and refreshing.

But, after that initial and energizing round of tidying, I never made it to the rest of the house…I just haven’t had the courage to face it.

For me, facing my possessions – the aspirational purchase of a cross stitching kit, the 2015 journal that I started but lost track of sometime in February of that year, the picture frames I bought but have never put pictures into, the random notes with reminders on the them – they’re reminders of all things I’ve wanted for myself and my home and for whatever reason, I haven’t acted on or followed through with. It’s easier just to ignore them and let them pile up.

A fellow Martial Arts instructor once told me that when you clean your school, you clean your soul. I have thought about those places in my soul and my home that need cleaning. In my case, cleaning up is not simply an act of courage, but would also require an awful lot of compassion and forgiveness – for the hardest person to have grace for – myself.


Jillian

Confession: I never get rid of old clothes. I still own a blouse I bought in middle school when Forever 21 first opened in our mall. (It still looks great. I wonder if it was a different kind of store back then.)

I have more clothes than you’d probably believe, but I’m not a hoarder – I’ve been keeping my old clothes because I was still wearing them. And I’ve loved it – buying only a little here and a little there over the course of years, I’d built a strong and flexible wardrobe that I thought could carry me a long way in life.

But then, I started eating disorder recovery, and long story short, the enormous wardrobe I’ve cultivated for over 15 years is now full of clothes that – god willing – will never fit me again.

For the past year I’ve lived on mostly hand-me-downs while I ignored the problem of what to do with the loads and loads and loads of clothes I can’t wear. But now we have a baby on the way and it’s time to clear out.

It seems like an easy chore – bag it all up and drop it at Goodwill, job done. But in my mind, things get trickier.

Here’s the thing: donation centers are completely swamped with all our unwanted clothes, and people don’t necessarily want them. In fact, only about 20% of America’s secondhand clothes ever get sold. Whether it’s a consignment shop or the Salvation Army, they keep only what they think they can sell. If the clothes look too old, they never even get put on the shelf.

And the clothes that the donation centers don’t want? A lot of them go straight to the landfill. Goodwill alone ships around 20 million pounds of unsaleable clothes to the landfill every year. As for the rest, they may get passed around to other donation centers but ultimately they’re sold to for-profit textile recycling firms.

A good portion of those clothes – maybe 45% – actually do get recycled into things like housing insulation. But the rest gets stuffed into enormous bales and sold wholesale to private re-sellers in third-world countries where – guess what? – our tons of throwaway clothes smother their established textile industries and crush local economies, making the poorest people of the world even poorer.

Discarded clothes are America’s 8th leading export. One billion pounds of our throwaway clothes are sold to (dumped on) the developing world every year.

Of course, the alternative to donating your clothing is putting it straight in the garbage, where it can produce greenhouse gases and seep dangerous chemicals into the soil and groundwater while it decomposes.

The best thing to do with old clothes is to find an organization that will place them directly into the hands of someone who needs them – like a women’s shelter, for example. But in my case, I doubt even a shelter wants my anorexic skinny jeans. I doubt anyone does.

So, I have mounds of clothing to get rid of and no possible way to feel good about doing it.

But here’s what I’m telling myself to ease my conscious. If the key to this whole mess is to buy fewer clothes (and that is the key), then I’m doing okay. I’m not discarding bagfuls of last year’s fashion trends – I’m discarding bagfuls of apparel that’s been accrued a few pieces at a time for over a decade.

And here’s the other thing I know. While my own personal choices are important, recycling won’t end global warming – only renewable energy can do that. And refusing to donate my clothes won’t end global poverty – only international policies aimed at ending neocolonialism can do that. So at the end of the day, what matters far more than what I do with my old clothes is how I vote.

Happy problematic spring cleaning, everyone. Get ready to vote in 2018.

For sources, google “what happens to donated clothing” and take your pick.


Mary Margaret 

I learned while living in Jerusalem that strictly observant religious Jewish families go through an intense cleaning process in anticipation of the spring holiday of Passover. I already knew that no leavened bread was eaten during the eight days of the festival, a commemoration of the Exodus story where the Israelites journey out of slavery in Egypt. The practice reminds its observers that in this deliverance story, their ancestors left in such a hurry there wasn’t time for their bread to rise. What I learned in the Holy City is that far beyond simply avoiding rolls and crunching matzo for a week, people eradicate any trace of chametz, (leaven plus any of five specific grains) from their homes in anticipation of Passover. From an outsider’s vantage, it seems to amount to a religiously-proscribed, ritualistic, extreme home cleaning. Corners are swept, linens washed, surfaces doused with boiling, purifying water; anything that might possess a wayward crumb is cleansed.

I grew up in a household kept immaculately (let’s be honest, obsessively) clean and organized. (Note: Love you, Mom, and actually love that I’m like you this way). Cleaning happened continually, along with the habitual practice of weeding out unneeded items. I now organize my home multiple times a year, gleefully purging closets, cabinets, and paperwork, invoking a lightening, less burdened feeling around my life. Truthfully, don’t most of us clean partly or primarily because bringing order to our environment changes our mental and emotional state somehow? My most recent flurry was at the end of 2016 in an attempt to physically slough off some of the previous year’s burden. Along with donation/discarding sweeps, I also never last long without actual broom sweeping and my lemon-scented cleaner, so I avoid feeling completely overwhelmed by the state of my house. I can honestly say (without judgment of others!) I’ve never been in on the joke: “I must clean my room, since I can’t find the floor anymore!”

Spring-cleaning is a different beast, though; my roommate and I are planning our coordinated effort to tackle floorboards, stove, windowsills, etc.  Perhaps strangely, when I think about this type of elbow-grease, corner-vacuuming frenzy, my mind leaps to the Passover preparations. Not because I have the same goal as the orthodox, nor pretend to understand the true significance of someone else’s religious observance; rather my obsessive mind identifies deeply with the idea that I could eradicate every trace of something from my environment or life. I’m captured by the idea of the exquisitely clean, rooted-out, purged, fresh-slate, residue-free situation. After all, along with a floor I could eat off of, there are also crumbs I’d like to sweep from the corners of my brain.

Then I encounter a problem in my train of thought: my analytical mind that understands atoms starts whining about the virtual impossibility of eradicating every trace of leavened bread from a home. You could never get rid of EVERY crumb, my 21st century, post-high-school-chemistry brain exclaims!! In my home, too, I could never get rid of every speck of dust, every bathroom tile stain. Similarly, it is literally impossible to cleanse yourself of certain unwanted aspects of the mind or spirit.

Ultimately and obviously this leaves a tension in my fixation on the idea of cleanness and purification. The idea captures me, oddly romancing me in its simplicity and sterility. But logically I comprehend its impossibility—the futility and unhelpfulness of chasing it in a physical and spiritual realms.

No grand conclusions here. I’m working on this tension.

I’ve got to learn to live with crumbs.

Projects

Motivation Monday

These days, I watch animated movies almost exclusively. One of the treats of buying the DVD for a movie like Disney’s Moana is the bonus features – like this short film, “Inner Workings.”

 

This film is adorable and has a wonderful message about filling your days with things that bring you life.

The protagonist (and most of us) starts his day with this idea that you can either have fun and be happy or be successful and make money. I think a lot of us have this false idea in our head that we can either be successful or happy, but not both.

Spoiler Alert

In the end of the short, the guy takes a lunch break and really enjoys himself – he gets out of his rut and does a few things he really enjoys – swims in the ocean, asks a girl out on a date, and eats a decadent meal. Then, he brings that energy and enthusiasm back to his work day and the whole office is transformed with life and energy.

I think we all struggle with the idea that we have to have separate compartments in our lives – that our responsibilities are an arduous burden and our interests and passions are frivolous wastes of time. I think there are many paths to success in any life, but I hope that you find a way to bring passion, enjoyment and engagement to your work so that it honors your heart!