3:30 Thursday, Projects

Screen Less?

On Sunday, August 13 Maggie and Mary Margaret are planning a screen free day or technology sabbath. We wanted to make ourselves more aware of the role technology plays in our life and see how we do for a day without them. However, simply preparing for this day has proven worthy of many laughs, insights and challenges.

Mary Margaret

Once Maggie and I agreed to the idea of doing a “screen-free day” as a blog topic for the month of August, we immediately had to begin preparing ourselves for this epic, challenging feat!

Wait a second… a few years ago I didn’t even have a smart phone.  My first year in New York I didn’t have any internet capability on my phone. A few years before that, I didn’t even send texts. A few years before that I didn’t have a personal cell phone….HOW HAVE WE COME TO THIS?!!

I immediately begin thinking through the potential problems and scenarios presented by the idea of not using the phone or the computer for the day. I can do this pretty handily when I am away from work, on a family vacation or something, but in my working, day to day life, the idea sends me into a mild state of anxiety. I’ve certainly felt the wave of panic and then freedom from suddenly realizing on the train that I’ve left my phone at home, but then typically I can still check in through  email communication once I get to work.

Maggie and I proposed screen-free day precisely for this reason; we want to be mindful about the amount of time and energy spent engaging with these devices. We want to make ourselves aware of our addiction to being connected and plugged in. Here are some major anxieties that started to come up when we started discussing the idea:

1. OVERSLEEPING!

My phone serves as my alarm, so I’ll have to pull out that small clock I have somewhere…hmmm, where is that thing?

2. Work contacting me!

I requested we do the experiment on a  Sunday, because Monday is my day off. Since the nature of my job means I frequently hear last-minute stuff the day or evening before. Or morning of. Basically, this comes down to the fact that people EXPECT to be able to contact you at any time, so I’ll just hope our stage manager isn’t frantically trying to get ahold of me to let me know that we’re putting an understudy on in the Sunday matinee.

3. Letting people know

This goes back to expectations. There’s an awareness that people have their phones with them virtually all the time. We spend actual time with many people that we contact by phone; we see them check their phones! We know they look at their phones!! So if we don’t hear from someone that is typically responsive (and I try to be) we may worry or think something is wrong.

4. Making the plan beforehand

We are so used to being able to make last minute changes to plans, and I am getting together with friends on Sunday night, which is typical for me. Only this time we shall have to plan ahead, and then refer to point #3, which is me telling them not to change plans, since I won’t be reachable for last minute upheavals.

5. What if someone I love has a baby?!?!

The last and most pressing current anxiety is that Maggie and I are both on baby watch! In spite of knowing that in ye olde time days, you might have to wait months for a letter to arrive letting you know about the birth of a baby, now neither of us could imagine not knowing (even hundreds of miles away from these births) the instant when our dear friend Jillian and my sister Emily go into labor. Via phone call, Maggie and I we may have concocted a contingency plan that involves friendly confederates roped into looking at our phones FOR US at spaced intervals to screen for baby-related incoming texts or calls. And then naturally there was the tacit agreement  that if a baby is coming, screen-free day  is henceforth finished and postponed until a later time. Maybe to a day far in the future when no one will potentially be sending us cute baby pictures.

…So the moral of the story is that we haven’t even gotten close to screen-free Sunday (coming to torture a blogger near you on August 13) and we are already hopelessly proving the point  about our modern-day screen addiction.

Yes, where’s that alarm clock? And maybe I should start passing out the extension on my land line at work.


Maggie

I have been gearing myself up for a screen free day for weeks. I don’t like to do things cold turkey, so just like when you’re easing into a swimming pool trying to avoid taking the inevitable plunge, I have been trying to use my screens a little less in preparation for our screen free day.

born-ready1. Deleted Social Media Apps from my phone.

I realized about 9 months ago that Facebook was just way too much temptation for me to have available for viewing at all times, so it’s been off the phone for awhile. But, that meant I started exploring the Twitter-verse. And WOW, there are some fascinating, funny and crazy stuff on that platform. So…it’s gone now, too.  There were a couple of other apps I tried that also tend to suck me in, they’re also gone.

2. Attempted to ‘get ahead’ on work I normally do on Sunday.

I like to think that I take my Sundays totally and completely off from work and reserve that day for my family. But…I own a small business, so there’s a part of me that really wants to be available if someone wants information, has a question or needs something on a Sunday. But…maybe it can wait.

3. Starting bringing awareness to when I want to visit social media

There are a couple of tools to help you stay focused when working on computers. Two that I like are called Block Site and Freedom. Block site is an app that will keep you from visiting certain sites during days/times that you specify. So, for example, if I try to visit Facebook, Twitter, certain new sites, etc. during my “working” hours, my browser will redirect me to a website that is raising funds for a cause that is offensive to me. It’s AMAZING how quickly that will make you realize that you’re typing in the URL for Faceboo… before you’ve even thought about it.

Freedom is an app you can use on your phone (or computer) which also blocks sites and apps that you choose during the days/times of your choosing.

I’ve found that I love/hate using these tools. On the one hand, it’s great to keep myself accountable. But, on the other hand, I’d like to think I could have self-control without the aid of an app. But…I think they’ve designed the apps to be that way, so I don’t blame myself.

4. Recognize what I want from my technology

I do really appreciate the way that my phone connects me with my family and friends. I love listening to podcasts, seeing pictures of my friend’s babies, going on vacations vicariously through my friends, learning tricks to help me be a better parent, business owner, wife, homeowner, etc. But I don’t want to be so involved in those things that I miss my own life – my children, my home, my town, etc.

I also don’t want to fall into the trap of viewing my world through an iPhone camera lens, 140 character quips, and filters. Of course, our own beliefs, values and experience serve as a lens that change what we see in our world and in our lives…but at least it’s a 3D representation rather than a curated bunch of pixels. I want my kids to know how to make eye contact, to listen intently, to know what dirt between their toes feels like. I don’t want to make a false choice and say we should all get rid of all our technology, but I don’t want to use it just because it’s there. I think that my phone, my computer and my television are tools. They work very well as tools, but aren’t great masters. So, I’m hopeful, that Screen Free Sunday will be a kick-start on a journey to a more mindful relationship with the screens in my life.

 

3:30 Thursday, Projects

The times, they are a-changin’

The 3:30 Project is a collaborative blog by three life long friends: Maggie, Mary Margaret and Jillian. In August, we’ll be approaching the 3:30 Project a bit differently. Let us explain… 

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven”

-Ecclesiastes 3:1

The 3:30 Project has now reached its seventh month, and seen each of its three triangle members hit the anticipated Big 30! We’ve been so grateful for everyone who has read, commented on our writing (both online and in conversation), shared the blog with someone else, and been overall so supportive of our endeavors! We set out to create a habitual practice of writing and sharing ideas with one another, and we’ve seen some lovely things come out of the commitment we made. Not only has writing been a good way to process the events of the year, we’ve been in even more constant contact with one another. On top of that, I’d say we’ve all done some writing to be proud of.

Every season has its own requirements, though, and we’ve come to a moment of transition. With Jillian expecting the imminent arrival of Fox, and so much going on in life and work, we’re embracing a new format moving ahead, more reflective of what the second half of 2017 holds. Maggie and Mary Margaret will each post on a different Thursday during the month on a shared topic. We then may use the last week of the month to respond to one another’s writing or add something new to the conversation. Jillian will be free to post when and if she has time in these early days and months of motherhood. As much as we shall miss her writings, we know she will have more than enough to keep her busy! We have also chosen to go more free-form with our alternative posts like Motivation Monday and Something Swell on Saturday. You may see these, or other additional content throughout the month, but on a less formulaic basis than previously.

Thanks for reading along with us! We sincerely hope we’ve brought new voices and new ideas to you somehow and we also hope you’ll continue reading along with us as we continue in this new direction! Onward and upward, friends!

3:30 Thursday, Motivation Monday, Projects

Let’s just leave God out of this, please.

Earlier today, the President of the United States shared the following sentiment on his social media accounts:

And something in me has officially snapped.

I am done.

If I hear one more statement from a Christian comparing the man who currently resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave to a morally questionable leader/king/etc. from the Old Testament and saying that because God used so-and-so, God is also using the 45th President of the United States to bring about his will. I have a few things to say to you.

And, to you, morally superior Christian who has instead identified this man as a portent of the end times, the anti-Christ, and evil incarnate – I have some things to say to you, too.

It’s probably not the end times.

Let’s get some perspective – basically, all Christians since the year 33 A.D. have believe that they were living in the end times. And, let’s be honest, the Christians who lived through the black death in the 14th Century saw 50% or more of Europe’s population die. By 1691, 90-95% of the indigenous peoples of the Americas had died from epidemic disease, war, famine, and other side effects of the “discovery” of the New World. Even in the last few centuries, children died of malaria, small pox, diphtheria, polio and common colds due to malnutrition, lack of medical care, poor sanitation and unfortunate luck. Now, here we are in 2017, and in the United States of America we have an unqualified bully for a President.

A man who admittedly thought it was worth his time today to accuse Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska of “letting Republicans down” by not voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act. And who also thought it was worth his time and energy to make a statement excluding transgendered Americans from serving in our military.

But even in these dark times, we still have electricity, running water, cable television, Facebook, and an overabundance of cheap processed food available at grocery and convenience stores 24 hours a day. I’m just saying – our claim on the end times is pretty pathetic compared to basically all time before now.

I can appreciate your feeling that our President feels like a bad omen. Nevertheless, I want to challenge that idea. I think we make this mistake over and over again in our country, and in the Christian faith.

Let’s think about Jesus for a second…

The ministry of Jesus Christ was not a political revolution. He confused people constantly in his ministry. He appeared to have infinite power:

ICYMI (In cased you missed it):

  • He could heal the sick just by touching them
  • He used 5 loaves of bread to feed 5,000 people
  • He turn water into wine
  • He hung out with prostitutes and tax collectors – usually having meals with them
  • He raised a child from the dead
  • He raised his friend from the dead
  • He called out religious leaders for hypocrisy
  • Also, when faced with the prospect of death, he died. Rather than use his power against his accusers – he died. (Note the distinct contrast with the words of our current President: “When the President gets hit, he’s going to hit back 10 times harder.”) Then (we’re back to Jesus now) he came back to life.

Note some big missing elements: He never endorsed a political candidate or party (not even Ronald Regan). Also, he never mentioned the United States of America, free speech or trickle down economics. In fact, he suggested that in the Kingdom of Heaven, the first would be last and the last would be first (Matthew 20:16).

Thanks for the Sunday school lesson…why are we here again?

Here’s what I believe: Jesus Christ came to restore humanity’s relationship with its creator, not overthrow the Roman empire. I’m just going to put this out there – I don’t believe that God cares one way or another who the President of the United States is. I think God cares how we treat each other, how we treat the poor, how we treat the sick, and how we treat the planet. And, I dare say, we can do better in those areas.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I don’t even believe that God hates Donald Trump. I think this is why Evangelical Christians have “hope” for this man – Donald Trump is not beyond the reach of God’s love…he doesn’t strike me as someone who is searching desperately for the living water that Jesus offers his followers (John 4:14), but who am I to judge another human’s innermost heart?

And that is another revolutionary idea of the Christian faith – Jesus Christ died for Donald Trump, too. I believe that Mr. Trump sees Christians in a transactional way – he likes the ones that voted for him…and that is sad for him. Because if he ever put anyone or anything above himself, he might discover the power of grace, the value of love, and the return on the investment of forgiveness and faith that leads to a truly abundant life.

I don’t believe that Donald Trump should have the power of the Presidency, and I certainly don’t want to give him the power of the antichrist. He is unworthy of both.

Is he a greedy man? Yes.
Is he a shallow man? Yes.
Is he a bully? Yes.
Is he an insult to the position that he holds and the country he represents? Yes.

And YES, he is in a position to do real harm to many people and our country, and that is why, despite my desire to pretend that he does not exist, that I choose to resist.

But please, do not give him the credit for bringing about the end times. And certainly don’t give up on the Paris accords or trying to prevent the destruction that our planet will experience due to Global Warming because you think the World is going to end anyway.

The world has seen bad leaders. evil leaders. and worse – leaders who were bad and evil, but also smart and charismatic. Mr. Trump is clumsy, inarticulate and foul. His lies are transparent and he will fall into the trap he has laid for himself.

In the mean time, let’s give God a break. Christians, can’t we please get back to the work that was important to Jesus Christ? Feeding the hungry? Healing the sick? Loving those who were rejected? Turning the other cheek? Not throwing the first stone? Following the Spirit rather than the letter of the law? Let’s do those things and stop pretending that the man in the White House represents those values right now.

 

3:30 Thursday, Projects, Triangle Tuesday

America the Beautiful…

The 3:30 Project is a collaborative blog by three life long friends: Maggie, Mary Margaret and Jillian. Lately America has seemed a little, ummm….ugly? In spite of well-intentioned and idealistic talk, there’s been very little unity building in this country since last November’s election. In honor of Independence Day this week, the 3:30 gals remind ourselves and you that there’s so much to celebrate with some awesome, uniquely American things! 


Mary Margaret

  1. Geography. No seriously, folks. The song about fruited plains, mountains, and shining coastlines is poignantly correct when we consider the vastness of diversity in our country. The Grand Canyon, the Rockies, Appalachia, coastlines, forests, lakes, glaciers, volcanoes; there’s profoundly wondrous natural beauty in this land, which is worth celebrating and protecting!
  2. Bluegrass Music. You’re welcome,  world. Or sorry, world, depending on if you’re       anti-banjo. Sure, it may not be for everyone, but I’m grateful for this uniquely      American sound, born on this soil.
  3. The First Moon Landing. The anniversary of this is also in July, and I’d just like to remark that while I wasn’t even alive when this happened, I still find it        incredibly inspiring that Americans dreamed of, planned, implemented and achieved walking on the moon. Multiple times. Obviously I am not a conspiracy theorist here. Maybe I’m just captured by the sheer capacity of humans to dwell in everyday realities and yet believe in things that seem fantastical!
  4. Regionalism. Diversity is complicated. Diversity is also cool, if you ask me. Technologies may be making us increasingly more homogenized, but I still think it’s cool that you can travel to a different part of your own country, your own town, your own city even and be surprised by what you find in the myriad of religions, languages, cuisines, cultures and subcultures that this nation contains.
  5. Rocket Pops. Enough Said.

Rocket-popsicle


Maggie

  1. The Internet. I recognize that the internet isn’t specifically American, and that internet trolling, cyber bullying, and cyber security are real and challenging issues that come along with the internet. But, thanks to the internet, I also get to see my family on video calls, collaborate with my friends who live far away, and see hilarious videos on youtube. I have the encyclopedia of the whole world available when I want to learn whether cloth or disposable diapers are better, or how to pronounce quinoa. We can all work on our cyber manners, but I’m still going to count the internet as a win for America.
  2. National Parks. We have some amazing National Parks in our country. I get to enjoy the Canaveral National Seashore on a pretty regular basis, but there’s more. The Saguaro National Cactus forest is amazing, Yellowstone, Grand Tetons…and that’s just the few that have made a big impact on me. I have a passport to the National Parks, so I can track all the one’s I’ve been, too. It’s not very full, but maybe something to work on like in Mary Margaret’s Some Suggestions for Saturday.
  3. Musicals. The Musical is a decidedly American art form. And whether your favorite is Oklahoma, Ragtime, Hamilton, West Side Story, Les Miserables, Wicked, Urinetown – or one of the many other wonderful and noteworthy American Musicals. I think they’re delightful. I haven’t taken the opportunity to enjoy live theater in a while, but I still hum show tunes all. the. time.
  4. Libraries. I love libraries so much! I love them! There’s something about being in a building full of books that makes me feel like the world will be well. And mercifully, even in my small community, we have public libraries available for everyone.
  5. Interstate Highway System. I think it’s incredible that I could get in my car right now and drive, for free, on a pretty good road all the way to Tacoma Washington. As long as my car could make it, I could go there. I know from playing Oregon Trail in Elementary School that many people didn’t make that trip. But I can! Why? GPS, interstate highways and gas stations.

Jillian

  1. Satire. America is the land of democracy and free speech – the land of the everyday, ordinary person. So there’s really nothing more American than laughing at the powerful.
  2. Conspiracy Theories. Another wonderful element of free speech – you are allowed to talk shit about your government, you are allowed to call out the ugly things they do, and you are allowed to endlessly postulate about all kinds of outrageous and horrible things they may or may not have done at all. And I love it. I don’t personally believe that they faked the moon landing, or that a crashed alien spacecraft is hidden away at Area 51. But if you do, please tell me because I could listen to you talk for hours. (And I totally do believe that FDR sent Amelia Earhart to spy on the Japanese and that they captured her, that FDR did not even try to save her, and that both governments have covered it up this whole time. This Sunday on the History Channel, 9/8c.)
  3. Generous personal space. I think the abundance of geographic space in America is what makes us inclined to claim a lot of it for ourselves. We have big houses and big cars and we have BIG perimeters of personal space around us at all times. And that is something I profoundly love about being an American. When you’re in America, strangers try to stay about 3 feet away from you, and that is the best way. The American way.
  4. Vegetables. Okay, this one is cheating a little bit, because these things are particular to the New World on the whole, and a lot of them originated in Central or South America. But I think very few Americans realize how special our vegetables are. Ireland had no potatoes before they were brought back from the New World. Italy had no tomatoes. I can’t even list all the things we wouldn’t have without corn. Truthfully we should all be celebrating the Fourth in the produce section at Kroger.
  5. Coca-Cola. I’ve saved the best for last. Coke is hands down the greatest American invention, don’t even @ me. Coke has conquered the world with its delicious, fizzy, tooth-decaying goodness and its gorgeous logo and its amazingly uplifting commercials – how do they even do that?!?! Wherever you are in the world, when you see that beautiful white scroll on that red background, your heart fills with pride. God bless America.
3:30 Thursday, Projects

Should have Gotten a Pedicure…Barefoot Tales!

The 3:30 Project is a collaborative blog by three life long friends: Maggie, Mary Margaret and Jillian. Now that summer has officially arrived, the time for kicking off your shoes and feeling the grass between your toes, we bring you stories of going barefoot! 


Jillian

When I look at my bare feet, I think of my mother.

It seems to me that 90% of what it means to be a woman you learn by the time you’re three years old. You learn it from your mother, just from looking at her and watching her move and listening to her tones.

I studied my mother. I watched her curl her hair, I noticed the blackness of her mascara-ed eyelashes and the redness of her lipsticked lips. I touched her smooth, shaved legs. The thing that captivated me perhaps most of all was her bright, colorful, beautiful, perfect toenails. They were different shades of pink and red all the time, from neutral to bold, sometimes flecked with gold. Her toenails were never bare. In my memory, they were never even chipped.

As I grew into a teenager, I realized how much discipline and attention it takes to pull off the consistent, daily performance of femininity – the hair, the hair products, the hair removal, the creams and pumices, the makeup and the nail polish. I realized that my mother has that kind of discipline and attention, and I realized that I will never have that. And I decided it wasn’t something I wanted for myself anyway – I don’t want to fret about a perfect appearance, I want to leave my mind free for other thoughts.

Now, when summertime arrives, I paint my toenails like I’m supposed to and then I forget all about it. I just go about my life, to work or to church or to Fourth of July picnics, with my toes peeking out, blissfully unaware of the weeks-old polish flaking away.

But occasionally I see my toenails with the polish halfway eroded and I think to myself, That is shameful. And then I smile, because it reminds me of something so old and universal. Something about the way a little girl looks at her mother, something about the innumerable things that you learn just from watching her. And something about that part of you that, despite all the growing up and changing and rejecting and discovering, will always wish you could be just a little bit more like her.


Maggie

I have organized a large part of my life around my desire to not wear shoes. As a Martial Arts instructor, I teach all of my classes in bare feet; in my home, I don’t wear shoes; and, in between, I try to wear sandals as much as possible. Since I live in Florida, this is socially and seasonably acceptable.

One side effect of my barefoot lifestyle is that I spend a LOT of time vacuuming and mopping. Every day our training floor must be vacuumed (sometimes twice), and at least once a week we clean and sanitize the mat. A fellow instructor once told my husband and me that “when you clean the mat you clean your soul.”

At the time I thought he had gone off the deep end.

But with time, I have come to appreciate that lifting the dust, dirt and grime off the mat and being constantly vigilant about foot fungus is good for my soul (pun intended).

I find that the daily ritual of vacuuming the mat very soothing. I’ll listen to a podcast, strap one of my daughters on our baby back pack, and the white noise of the vacuum cleaner will lull her to sleep. It’s a peaceful, cuddly weightlifting exercise.

Having grown up in the church, I have heard at least 30 sermons (probably more) on the The Last Supper and particularly the moment when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. Most of the sermons emphasize how humbling this was because the disciples probably had disgusting feet – they walked everywhere, lived in a desert climate, had no running water, etc. But it wasn’t until I began my daily practice of cleaning up after other’s people’s feet that these sermon illustrations really hit home, and I have come to appreciate how much dirt people pick up and leave behind with their feet, but also how nice it is to clean away the dirt you pick up every day.

I feel like my feet probably look a lot like the disciples’ feet – calloused ,and by the end of most days, they’re pretty dirty. But they’re also tough – I can walk across most surfaces unprotected by sock or shoe. In my baptism, my head was sprinkled with water, symbolizing the washing away of sin, but nothing feels cleaner to me than having my feet cleaned and clearing away the dust and dirt from the day.

There is so much that comes at us every day. So many stories to hear, so many issues to care about, so many things that taking a few minutes to clear away the the grime and leaving your sole fresh and refreshed can be good for your spirit and your sole.


Mary Margaret

The first thing I do when I walk into my apartment? Take off my shoes. Aside from the sanitary benefits of not wearing New York City pavement-pounders all over my floors, removing my shoes is my signal to myself that I’m home. I instantly feel more comfortable and like myself when I’ve achieved foot freedom- Closest to my natural state of being. If I could safely go barefoot more places, I would. But you know, glass and dog poop, so freedom has its limits.

The human spectrum of reaction to the uncovered foot, ranging from lust to disgust is expansive, but whether you loathe or delight in toes, to me there’s something so visceral and immediate about the uncovered foot’s connection to memories. The physical sense of the ground, temperatures and textures, earthen or manmade, wet or dry, solid or crumbling surfaces—these feelings come yoked to my recollections as if I could feel their matter beneath my toes once more. Being barefoot seems to make my sense of place more immediately and firmly etched into mind. Smell, taste and sound connect more intimately to my emotional memory—how I felt in a moment—but the feel of a place is under my feet. For instance:

The lacquered wooden beams and pebbly mats of every yoga studio I’ve ever entered. No wonder yoga has been my favorite form of physical activity for over a decade, since it’s rather unique in being safely practiced sans footwear. I feel most grounded in my own physical self on my mat, digging my toes down, acknowledging gravity and the connection from toe to ball, to heel, to every other part of my body.

Cool, smooth, richly ornamented carpets of the mosques I visited in the Middle East. As my head was covered, so were my feet uncovered to respect these spaces. Thinking of leaving my shoes in small cubby holes by the door to tiptoe lightly across the rugs, threadbare from the thousands that came before me to visit and pray at these sights, instantly brings me back to the year I spent in East Jerusalem, and traveling in Israel, Palestine, Jordan, and Egypt.

Cool, hard stone floors of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church. I’ve long loved the annual Maundy Thursday practice of foot washing in my congregation. We wash and are washed, literally touching the bare feet of people we only casually know. If you aren’t a pedicurist, you’d probably never do this, and for me, I’ve found it to be a palpable reminder of the kind of humility Jesus calls us to. If he could wash the dust covered feet of His Disciples, surely we can at least bring ourselves to pour some water over the foot of an elderly choir director, finding some holiness in humbleness.

Shorelines: mud, grits, pebbles, sand, stones, debris. Many places I’ve been blessed to visit- in Italy, the Middle East, East and West Coasts– had some body of water, affording the chance to step directly into the soil and water of the land. This can be a perilous pursuit. Jetty rocks are often sharp, creatures in the sand may pinch or sting, icy water may cause your toes to numb, but allowing no barrier between you and Mother Nature invites a fullness of experience impossible with barriers of rubber, leather or canvas blocking the way.

Is this perhaps the heart of what I’m trying to say about going barefoot? I long to get everything out of the way to be more consciously present? In yoga, the “chakras” describe locations where energy flows in, out, and around the body. While I don’t attach spiritual significance to this per se, I enjoy this mental exercise of visualizing energy. I feel corny verbalizing this, but I think I’m so eager to take my shoes off because of my internal sense that it brings authenticity to my experience of that place. I’m ready to kick off my shoes, seeking sensation of the inward and outward flow of energy through my foot chakras, rooted under the balls of each foot. Maybe I’m striving, hoping to soak in the energy and memory of places through my toes and legs, up, up, up, through torso and heart center, all the way to my brain and inner eye where it can lodge and dwell as memories of unique and singular places and moments where my feet once found themselves.

 

3:30 Thursday, Projects

Try a Podcast!

The 3:30 project is a collaborative blog by three lifelong friends: Maggie, Mary Margaret and Jillian. This week, we’re going to share a recommendation for a favorite podcast that we enjoy listening to!


Maggie

I don’t watch television. I don’t have cable in my house. I don’t even have the bunny ears set up so I can watch the local news when there’s a hurricane. Instead, I occasionally watch The Magic School Bus and animated kids’ movies on Netflix and listen to podcasts.

I am a huge fan of podcasts. In fact, I organize a large portion of my life around listening to my favorite shows and hearing the interesting stories, news, ideas and insights from people I’m interested in and admire.

The first podcast I ever subscribed to, and probably my favorite podcast is by writer, Gretchen Rubin and her sister, Elizabeth Craft. It’s called, “Happier.” 

Each episode has a delightful tip to try at home: make your bed, go on an errand date, plan your summer, keep a one sentence journal. Happiness hacks like how to store your toilet paper in a small bathroom. And interesting conversations about Happiness stumbling blocks that come up for many people.

They aren’t addressing the deeper ills of society, but rather the nagging things that come up day after day that can either boost us up or drag us down. Their conversations are lively, engaging and most of all useful. It’s true – I’m happier when I make my bed every morning; I feel better when I tackle nagging tasks; and it really bugs me when I don’t have a place to keep my toilet paper.

In fact, I think it’s thanks to Gretchen’s inspiration that I was eager to start this blog with Mary Margaret and Jillian – it boosts my happiness to see their words every week and gives me a reason to stay in touch with them!

Coffee Break Podcast
subscribe at https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/my-coffee-break-podcast/id1249557075

Also – I feel like I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that all of my podcast listening has inspired me to start a podcast, too! My husband and I enjoy drinking coffee and talking to each other. So, we’ve started a podcast, which just like this blog, has given me a big happiness boost. I’ve had to figure out new challenges: how do you submit a podcast to iTunes, what’s an RSS feed, how do I get a logo, is there music I can use without violating copyright laws, and, most of all, how do I get myself to stop saying “um” when we’re recording; and it’s given us something fun to collaborate on together, which I’m sure sounds crazy since we own a business together, but a lot of times we work in parallel rather than together, so this is a nice way to connect.

So, if you’re not a podcast listener, try subscribing to a few and giving them a listen! It’s a delightful medium – kind of like radio, but whenever you want, and you can press pause!


Mary Margaret 

Thank goodness for podcasts. I’ve become extremely addicted to them while doing daywork at Broadway theatres, because those are three to four hour spans of time where I’m basically alone in dressing rooms prepping clothes (ironing, steaming, sewing repairs) for the evening performance of the show. What to do with my mind while I check countless pant hems and ferret out loose buttons? Podcasts are absolutely my friends.

I’ve mentioned several on the blog already that I enjoy, including ‘This American Life’ and ‘Reply All,’ but I’ll also add another new favorite I’ve been enjoying, thanks to my co-blogger Maggie Penton: ‘Pantsuit Politics.’ This is a twice-weekly conversation between two women—a progressive and a conservative—tackling the political topics of the day, striving to introduce “nuance” to each of their conversations. I like listening to these southern ladies, because they are educated, with backgrounds in law, but they aren’t reporters, living in Washington, or ensconced in the bubble of a full-time political career. They are moms and wives, active members of their communities— one of them works in the business world, the other serves as a local City Commissioner. They attempt to provide research, background and context for the issues they discuss, strive for balance, and also authentically express where they land on certain issues. When an issue is asking for more background in order to facilitate discussion, they even put together special episodes called “primers” to help people understand the history of a certain issue. These women push back at one another’s various opinions in a non-confrontational, non-insulting way. It feels like a mutually respectful discussion between friends, but without rambling, (which while completely fine for normal conversation, can be tedious in some other podcast opinion shows I’ve listened to.)

Since most of politics now feels so polarizing and negative, I have found listening to these women to be a very healthy way to consume news. They are real voices, not playing characters or striving for satire (which granted can also be fun and have a place in our public discourse) talking about things that matter to them. Rather than pushing an agenda, they’re earnest and clearly motivated by their personal values. They started the podcast with the worthy goal of inciting dialogue and increasing empathy, which seems like a monumental task in the current climate. But I’d like to travel with them on that journey, and if that sounds appealing to you as well, I think you’d enjoy listening to Sarah from the left and Beth from the right!


Jillian

Maggie and Mary Margaret have shared some really smart, informative podcasts about self-betterment or current events and to all of those I say YAWN.

When it comes to podcasts, it better be about MURDER or ALIENS or I’m not interested.

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Here are the podcasts I listen to, and highly recommend:

King Falls AM: Y’all. Y’ALL. Check out King Falls AM, it is so wonderful. This one is a fictional radio serial (how retro!!) about an urban radio broadcaster who moves to a small town that turns out to be a hotbed of paranormal activity. Before long he finds himself at the center of a weird mystery, and hilarious hijinks and creepy encounters ensue. It’s like the lovechild of the War of the Worlds broadcast, the X-Files, and the Cat Who mysteries. It’s perfection, and the voice acting is delightful. It’s literally the best thing on the internet.

My Favorite Murder: You might have heard of this one – it was featured on Buzzfeed not that long ago. It’s a comedy podcast about true crime – murder in particular – which sounds weird, but if you listen, you’ll find it totally makes sense. For those who love true crime and love to laugh about their weird love of true crime, it’s perfect. Hosted by two hilarious women, it’s also got a humorously empowering vibe, with catchphrases like “f*** politeness,” “stay sexy, don’t get murdered,” and “you’re in a cult, call your dad.”

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Astonishing Legends: The hosts of Astonishing Legends research and present only the weirdest stories from history, both recent and distant. Some of their series are mainly historical, like the one on the disappearance of Amelia Earhart (give it a listen – it’s much weirder than you probably know!), and others explore stories of the paranormal, such as the haunted Greyfriar’s Kirkyard in Scotland, the Mothman encounters, or Skinwalker Ranch. (Guys, just fyi, you should be at least as concerned about skinwalkers as about supervolcanoes. Which, if you’re me, is very concerned.) Most involve a nice blend of both, such as the Oak Island Money Pit, the ghost ship Mary Celeste and the Dyatlov Pass mystery.

Up and Vanished: If you liked Serial, and you enjoy a good southern drawl, then you’ll love Up and Vanished by novice documentary filmmaker Payne Lindsay. This podcast investigates the disappearance of Tara Grinstead, the largest criminal case file in all of Georgia, which has gone unsolved for more than 10 years. A suspect was indicted mid-season, but the podcast is still continuing to explore a number of strange apparent inconsistencies with the state’s case and with the testimonies of witnesses and townsfolk. The case gets creepier every episode. I’m not sure Lindsay makes an ethically responsible journalist, but he’s definitely a great storyteller.

Happy listening! And remember…

The truth is out there.

3:30 Thursday, Projects

Summer Reading!

The 3:30 Project is a collaborative blog by three life-long friends: Maggie, Mary Margaret and Jillian. The three of us have all been life-long readers! This week, we wanted to share a book recommendation from a book we’ve enjoyed in our 30th year!


Maggie

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum

Ever since I graduated from college, I’ve struggled to get myself to read fiction. I have found that there are so many things I’ve needed to learn how to do to be an adult and own a business that I feel like all my reading time must be devoted to figuring out how to adult.

But, earlier this year, I picked up The Wonderful Wizard of Oz to read with my four-year-old daughter. I was doubtful about whether or not she would be into a chapter book with so many words and so few pictures, but I was delighted by how engaged she became in the story! She loved Dorothy, the Scare Crow, the Cowardly Lion, and the Tin Man! And I was delighted to read this story. I’ve seen the movie (and the play), but I’d never read the book! It was so fun to see how the original book differed from the movie. Also, it reminded me of what I love about fiction: getting to see imaginary worlds, enjoy a story and learn a lesson about how often we have the things we seek, if only we knew how to use what we have.

So, whether it’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz or another story, I’d recommend you revisit a classic from your childhood (or perhaps a classic that you missed!). And…if you can, enjoy the book with a young and enthusiastic reading buddy!


Mary Margaret

The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante

My summer book recommendation is actually a series of 4 novels, translations of works by Italian author, Elena Ferrante, which is actually her pseudonym. To me, these are a perfect series to fall in love with over the summer, since once I met these characters,  I enjoyed following their journey through time and age with each successive novel, so happy that I wasn’t done with their story once I put down the first book! I’ve been thinking back frequently on these books right now, since I’m working on a show with two Italian immigrant characters from Naples- a husband and wife living in Brooklyn in 1960 with their three daughters. Their complicated family dynamics have been more deeply illuminated for me having read the novels, giving me a greater understanding of the relationships and the world that these parents come from. These novels are great for readers who enjoy character/relationship-driven writing, who enjoy reading about times and places that are somewhat unknown to them (in this case, southern Italy in the period following WWII) and who especially enjoy reading about the complexities of the female psyche. Ferrante expertly paints complicated and absorbing portraits of women’s relations to their friends, moms, husbands, lovers, children, friends, and enemies, spanning from childhood to old age. Additionally, the translation is far from stilted or awkward, but often feels poetic, much credit given to translator Ann Goldstein. I’m grateful that my roommate lent me this series to fall in love with, and definitely recommend it to you. Once you put down the fourth book, though, I have little advice on how to work through your own Neapolitan novel withdrawal! Hmmm…I guess I’d suggest reading the books Maggie and Jillian recommend!


Jillian

When the year began I was already pregnant and in the middle of a degree program in Computer Science. So unless you are also pregnant, or also learning Java, I have little to offer in the way of book recommendations.

The one book I’ve been reading this year that has some universal appeal is They F*** You Up by psychologist Oliver James. James examines the “nature vs. nurture” debate and argues that the influence of parenting in the development of personality has been grossly underestimated. In fact, he argues that virtually all an adult’s behavioral and thought patterns are rooted in the way they were parented, even in cases of mental illness (which has been thought – wrongly, in James’s opinion – to be closely linked to genetics).

The book has some great insights into what makes people think and act the way they do. While it could be tempting to read it as a guide to blaming your parents for all your problems, James frequently encourages the reader not to do so. Instead, he hopes that you’ll use the insights from the book to take responsibility for changing those patterns from your childhood that don’t serve you in healthy ways.

The book has one very weird and very obvious flaw, in my view – which is that James interprets the “nature” in “nature vs. nurture” to mean genes. James sets up every single issue as being either a matter of genes or a matter of parenting. He believes that the role of genes has been overblown, and his evidence is compelling. But to propose parenting as the only alternative explanation seems bafflingly short-sighted. Plenty of things are natural without being genetic. Refusing to acknowledge that simple fact leads James to make some downright offensive assertions about sensitive matters like mental illness, sexuality, and working mothers. For instance, he declares that since there is no “gay gene,” that homosexuality is “caused” by abnormal parenting. James’s theories also seem to be wholly critical of working mothers. And when “science” appears to affirm all of society’s already entrenched ideas of sex and gender, that’s an obvious red flag.

If you’re able to dismiss the offensive parts without being too upset by them, there’s some interesting tidbits about family roles, discipline, sibling relationships, etc. It’s sparked some good conversations between my husband and me about the kind of parents we want to be. So if you think your parents might have f***ed you up, or if you’re terrified of f***ing up your children, like I am, then you might get something out of this book.

But as for turning your kid gay? Come on. That’s not a thing.

3:30 Thursday, Projects

First do no harm…

The 3:30 Project is a collaborative blog by three life-long friends: Maggie, Mary Margaret and Jillian. We have all had our own experiences with our health care system. This week, Maggie and Mary Margaret are reflecting on their perspectives on health care as a right and our societal duty to the sick.


Maggie

Just over three years ago on the day after Thanksgiving, my husband and I had a conversation with my in-laws over Skype. We talked about our holiday, our plans to visit over Christmas, and how nice it had been to see everyone at my sister’s wedding the week before. The next day, my father-in-law was admitted to the hospital through the emergency room. He had severe chest pain on the upper right side, and when he got to the ER my blood pressure was dangerously low and dropping. They couldn’t figure out what exactly was wrong, but his conditioned worsened quickly. That afternoon he was transferred to the Intensive Care Unit. The next day, my husband rushed to Atlanta to be with his family in case his father didn’t make it.

My father-in-law had contracted a rare condition called necrotising fasciitis, with an even more rare complication called blood sepsis. Necrotising fasciitis, which means flesh eating disease, is when a bacteria starts destroying your skin cells. His condition affects about 4 in every 1,000,000 people in the United States every year. 30% of those affected die. Blood sepsis is when the bacteria enter your blood stream and start destroying your blood cells and internal organs, whereby the mortality rate leaps up to 80%. My father-in-law started out in reasonably good health without any of the risk factors – a compromised immune system, cancer, drug use, etc. that tend to accompany this disease and make it harder for your body to recover. Still, he spent a terrifying month in ICU, another month hospitalized in step down and rehab units, and months recovering at home before he could resume his life.

Each day that he held on to life was a miracle. But when I think about that experience, there were many miracles that made his recovery possible. It’s miraculous that he got treatment so quickly, that he was in a hospital with an ICU equipped to perform the multiple surgeries he needed to remove necrotic (dead) tissue and that none of the surgeries had any disastrous complications. It’s miraculous that he had nurses and doctors who were willing to keep fighting for him even while the odds were so heavily against him. It’s miraculous that while his organs were failing he had machines breathing for him, feeding him, cleaning his blood, and catching his waste. It’s miraculous that he had a month of paid vacation and sick time, so his family had less financial hardship while he was recovering. It’s miraculous that he had the protection of medical leave so he could take six months off from work and still return to his job when he was well. It’s miraculous that he had health insurance without a life time cap, so that my mother-in-law never had to make a decision about his care based on whether or not it was “cost effective.”

When we talk about healthcare in this country, we use terms like pre-existing conditions, co-pays, deductibles, primary care providers, in-network coverage, referrals, etc. We sanitize our language and forget that we’re talking about people whose lives have been disrupted by injury, disease or chronic illness. We’re talking about people who need treatment, compassion, support and dignity.

When I think about how fragile our bodies really are, I am humbled. My father-in-law’s journey through illness and recovery reminds me that this could and probably will happen to all of us or someone we love. Maybe you won’t know one of the people who experiences necrotizing fasciitis and blood sepsis, but you may know one of the people who faces cancer, stroke, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, old age, lung disease or some mystery ailment that defies diagnosis.

We need to remember when we talk about the injured, sick or chronically ill people in our society that these people are not “bad people” who aren’t taking care of themselves. We’re talking about our neighbors, friends and family members. They’re just people who’ve done the best they can with their lives and deserve to have their shot at a miracle recovery.


Mary Margaret

“My understanding is that (the new proposal) will allow insurance companies to require people who have higher health care costs to contribute more to the insurance pool. That helps offset all these costs, thereby reducing the cost to those people who lead good lives, they’re healthy, they’ve done the things to keep their bodies healthy. And right now, those are the people—who’ve done things the right way—that are seeing their costs skyrocketing.”

-Rep. Mo Brooks, R-AL in an interview this week with CNN’s Jake Tapper

I wrote an entirely different post for this week—and maybe someday I’ll find a use for those other musings—but current events compelled a change of course. The scrambling effort to do something (anything!) on the long-promised issue of healthcare, led the US House to a vote repealing the Affordable Care Act (by no means a perfect piece of legislation), only to replace it with an even less popular, less promising bill. While my concern is tempered by the knowledge that any repeal or replace still has to make a long, slow journey through the US Senate before becoming law, I’m still deeply troubled by the action and its surrounding conversation.

Before people had a firm understanding of cellular biology, before powerful microscopes revealed viruses to the human eye, before science made firm the link between microorganisms and the spread of disease, illness and disability were commonly viewed this way: people fell sick because they were bad. In Dickensian London, the filthy, overpopulated neighborhoods along the Thames were ravaged by disease as punishment for moral depravity…as opposed to sewage-polluted water, tainted foods, and other environmental and microbial causes.

The idea has Biblical roots; Judeo-Christian tradition understands the infirmities and limitations of the body as a direct result of our sinfulness—our fallen human condition. As illustrated clearly in John’s Gospel, when right before Jesus miraculously restores the sight of a blind man, his disciples inquire: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” The implication is that disability is punishment for “bad living”— he or his parents hadn’t gone through life “the right way.”

It’s a comforting fantasy to think we’ve evolved past ancient times, Pre-Victorian London, or the ideas that prevailed during this country’s AIDS crisis, with its widespread attitudes that homosexuals were dying and suffering as retribution for their sinful lifestyle. To hear a modern legislator equate sickness and medical need with moral failing actually reveals how little we’ve changed the conversation By this dichotomy, the healthy are righteous, the sick are undeserving, and the federal government must step in to protect the interests of the healthy and blessed “good.”

I don’t know exactly what role I believe government should play in healthcare, but I do know I vehemently reject my lawmakers carrying such toxic, misguided viewpoints into their decision-making. With all the talk about preexisting conditions, we must truly face the reality that we all have one—maybe call it our pre-existential condition. It is our humanness! Like the ancients, I also believe that we ail because of our sin, but I do not believe it is personal. Jesus does not lay fault with the man or his parents, yet the man was still born blind; so where’s the blame? Is the sin with the child who develops diabetes growing up in a poor neighborhood with little access to nutritious food, or is the sin more with the society that hasn’t equally prioritized certain populations and the health of its youngest members?

Representative Brooks, I certainly believe in personal responsibility, and I believe we are sick because of our failings, but I do not believe in the cause-and-effect personal relationship between goodness and health you describe. Yes, we are sick because we haven’t lived good lives. Also, our neighbors are sick because we haven’t lived good lives. Which leads me to my more important point regarding our policy makers and healthcare: if you can accept the collective culpability of a sin-sick humanity, you must also recognize the collective responsibility of that humanity to care for one another. If we all make each other sick, we must all play a part in making each other well.

 

3:30 Thursday, Projects

May the 4th Be With You…and Other Made-Up Holidays

The 3:30 Project is a collaborative blog by three life-long friends: Maggie, Mary Margaret and Jillian. May 4 has now become a sort of pop-culture faux Star Wars holiday, with a now annual tradition of people channeling their inner Yoda and flooding the Internet with punny memes saying “May the 4th Be With You.” This week we look at unconventional holidays—those created and recognized by the wider culture, or maybe just ones we’ve made up ourselves.


Maggie

One of my favorite writers is Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, Happier at Home and Better than Before. One of her tips for being happier is to commemorate minor holidays – St. Patrick’s Day, Valentine’s Day, etc. As I mentioned on Easter, I do not excel at celebration, gift giving, or any other holiday traditions. That may be why I love the low-pressure nature of a silly or unofficial holiday that you can commemorate with an action, movie or talking in a funny way. I find that Gretchen is right and that it does give me a boost in happiness to celebrate for no reason and have special days to commemorate things like Star Wars, pi, Aunts and Pirates.

Some of my favorites (I’ve included lots of hyperlinks in case you want to learn more about all of my favorite minor holidays and celebrations!)

Google Doodles – I love that google creates a fun illustration or game to honor a person or event that I may have otherwise overlooked. I usually take the time to look up the event, person or occasion when there’s a new google doodle. One of my favorites was the google doodle commemorating the 155th Anniversary of the Pony Express!

May the 4th – Today! A day to celebrate all things Star Wars! I love the enthusiasm and creativity the Star Wars Universe inspires in people of all ages. I love the fan fiction, the costumes, the lore. So, May the 4th be with you!

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Pi Day: March 14 (3/14). Pi (Greek letter “π”) is a constant that represents the ratio of a circle’s circumference to it’s diameter. It’s an irrational number meaning it’s never ending, but thanks the the beauty of homophones, it sounds a lot like
“pie,” a tasty treat in the shape of a circle! As a lover of math, Pi Day is obviously one of my favorite informal holidays! To celebrate a little late, check out these math puzzles from my favorite math writer (yes, those exist!), Alex Bellos!

Aunties Day! The 3rd Sunday in July (which this year will be July 23rd) – I found out about this emerging holiday earlier this year. I know that my daughters have some very special aunts (and honorary aunts) for whom I’m so grateful. We have days to celebrate mother’s, father’s, grandparents and even siblings, so I love having a day to celebrate all the wonderful things aunts bring to our lives!

International Talk Like a Pirate Day: September 19- Argghhhhh Mateys! Okay, I know Pirates are actually really bad. They steal, kidnap and do all manner of bad things, and it is probably bad for our society that they’ve been so romanticized in our collective imagination. But, I’m a big fan of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” kind of swashbuckling pirate fun, and I love that there’s a day to celebrate it!

3:30 Day – on March 30th, we at the 3:30 project celebrated 3:30 day for the first time ever, but hopefully not the last! I love having a day to celebrate my wonderful friends and our collaboration is a great source of joy for me! To me, a 3:30 Thursday (if you haven’t noticed, we post on Thursdays!) – is like the opposite of Friday the 13th! A day when lucky things are bound to happen!

Another day I celebrate is October 20 – the anniversary of my first date with my now husband. This day doesn’t have the weight or pressure of an anniversary or birthday, no gifts or cards need be exchanged. But I can note the passing of this day with fondness and gratitude.

I love that on these special days there is no pressure to decorate the house, have a party, wrap a gift, send a card (things I really struggle to get myself to do), but these days mark the passing of time in a fun way. Today, “talk like Yoda I could” and it would feel festive and special, not like “problem I have and need a life I do.” These little holidays highlight that what makes something special is our collective celebration. It’s fun when everyone says “May the 4th be with you!” – but it wouldn’t necessarily feel special all the time.


Jillian

I’m not a holiday person.

I don’t hate holidays, I’m just not that into them. Take Christmas – it’s supposed to be a time when you gather with your family to be intentional about showing each other how you care. But I see my family all the time, and we’re good to each other year round. So I don’t appreciate all the pressure to make December 25th a profound and unforgettable experience. There will be another one next year, so just chill, okay?

If I feel that way about Christmas – the biggest holiday of the year for most Americans – you can just imagine how I feel about lesser holidays. St. Patrick’s Day flat out makes my blood boil. I will not buy and store special items of clothing in a horrid color just for one day a year. And if you touch me, god help you.

But there’s one holiday I love. In fact, I love it so much, I celebrate it every week. I invented it myself, and it’s called PLL Day.

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PLL stands for Pretty Little Liars (Tuesdays at 8pm on Freeform). Here’s how PLL Day got started. First, I fell in love with Pretty Little Liars. Then I got my mom hooked. Then I found some friends who were also obsessed with the show, and we made a plan.

Every Tuesday we’d gather at mom’s house for dinner. We’d rehash last week’s episode and all our theories and questions, then we’d watch the new episode, and lastly we’d spend at least an hour after the show talking about it.

The great thing about PLL Day is that it’s very flexible. It could be as casual as ordering a pizza, or if it was a season premiere or someone’s birthday or both those things on the same day, it could be a whole themed party with a cake.

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And an Instagram photo shoot.

But whether you plan something big or just order takeout, either way it’s always going to be a highlight of the week.

I wish all holidays could be like PLL Day. Not something to stress over, or make travel plans around, or cook a big meal for, or shop for – not something you have to make special, or worry about whether each person will have a good time. Just something to look forward to – a little time with people you enjoy, where the fun is built in. Something to get you through a week, or a month, or a season. And something it’s okay to change, or even to skip sometimes – there’ll be another episode next week.

pll invite
A hand-written invitation I made for a friend.

Just don’t ask me what I’m going to do when the series ends this summer. I can’t think about that yet.

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Mary Margaret

Anyone ever played the silly game whereby you take three people and then deem which  you’d Kiss, which you’d Kill, and which you’d Marry? Here’s my faux-holiday version!

KISS: Email Debt Forgiveness Day

There’s a technology podcast I enjoy called “Reply All,” whose hosts created a holiday called “Email Debt Forgiveness Day.” The premise, as stated on their helpful explanatory link for observers :“If there’s an email response you’ve wanted to send but been too anxious to send, you can send it on April 30th, without any apologies or explanations for all the time that has lapsed.” ( http://emaildebtforgiveness.me/ ) I only learned about their comical, yet grace-filled idea recently, so haven’t ever participated—one reason being that I try to be very responsive with email. That said, I once heard someone express that they felt “oppressed” by email. Not having a desk job where email is my primary form of communication, I can only imagine what it’s like to receive hundreds of electronic communications daily. It’s relatively easy for me to manage my inbox, but I know that for many in the modern world, email creates tremendous pressures and expectations. I’d like to kiss this idea because it opens up the idea of forgiving ourselves and one another for not being perfect users of our technologies, inviting us to break down some of the artificial rules we’ve constructed surrounding our communication via these technologies. Set aside awkwardness, guilt, and simply communicate- Just choose to reach out! I find this concept so appealing that although I may not greatly need it myself, I’d like to give it a smooch and pass it along!

KILL: Black Friday/Cyber Monday/Giving Tuesday

I certainly feel oppressed by email during this annual barrage from basically every company and organization in the country suddenly instructing us to SPEND, SPEND, SPEND! I’m sure there are economic benefits to this trifecta, and I’m not negating the positivity of Giving Tuesday as an antidote to the excesses of holiday consumerism, but I do find the timing and message utterly overwhelming. On the heels of a holiday of gratitude, we’re swiftly assaulted by the message that we do not have enough, are not giving enough, our loved ones don’t have enough; we must open our pocketbooks or miss out! The “holiday” also invokes an extreme competitiveness and covetousness between businesses and consumers both, which provokes strange anxiety in me. Nothing says peace on earth and good will to men like crowd-control fencing outside Target and people being trampled at Wal-Mart. Offering no solutions here; just saying these days make me want to hide out in a remote cabin somewhere until they’re over.

MARRY: Christmas Windows

Now that I’ve railed against Christmas commercialism, let me confess my beloved annual self-invented tradition of visiting the NYC Christmas windows with my dear friend Val. We’ve celebrated for six years, fanatically guarding our pilgrimage!We set the date, plot the route, choose a festive post-window unthawing spot…and in the precdeing weeks, we strictly observe the practice of “NOT LOOKING” in neighborhoods where the holiday decorations are. But the day is really only special because we make it special. Far more important than twinkling lights (which are awesome!) is this prioritizing of one another and time together, no matter how crazy the holiday season is. We give one another this gift that says: we do this each year together because we are family and love one another. I’d say any holiday based on that is worth committing to.

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.