I chose a random cat at the shelter and she turned out to be just like me

August 18, 2016 § 1 Comment

The moment the shelter worker brought her into the room she plastered herself to the wall like only the best covert operative could. Her black bottle-brush tail as puffed up as she could make it, she slinked along the wall to hide behind the desk.

The first cat we saw was a rambunctious Russian Blue. This was a life of the party kind of cat, with his jumping and bouncing and his unfortunately bobbed tail showing off his even more unfortunate-looking freshly neutered half-balls.

The second cat was a tabby princess with a fluffy Persian face. She was a diva and wanted all the rubs and scratches and lovins. A cuddle monster for sure.

But this third cat wanted nothing to do with us and everything to do with the space under the desk behind the trash can. Some personality, eh?

After several unsuccessful attempts to lure her out with a temptingly friendly hand to sniff, or an exciting feathery toy, I finally reached under the desk to fish out the scaredy cat. I scooped her up and put her in my lap. She sat there briefly, frozen, and looked up at my face.

Then she went back under the desk.

That was it. Less than 10 minutes of interaction, and I made my choice. Scaredy Cat. Somebody would love Mr. Half-Balls, and somebody would adore Princess Purr. Scaredy Cat didn’t have the wherewithal to make herself interesting. So I would take her home.

She’s not a people cat. She doesn’t like to show off, or greet visitors, or be touched by anyone outside of a small circle of 3 people. She likes to be in the room with people, but she’d prefer if they ignored her.

When babies cry she runs up to them to make sure they’re OK. When loud music plays she rolls on her back in joy.

She hunts cockroaches and delicately places their shredded carcasses under furniture.

Her favorite napping spot is my Danish Modern chair. She sleeps there while I read, clean, cook, or watch movies.

The first night I took her home, I put her on my bed before I turned out the light – she was still small enough that to get onto the bed she’d have to claw her way up the overhanging bedspread.

She curled up near my knees, but not touching. I waited. She got up and moved up toward my waist, curling up again, still not touching. Still I waited. She uncurled and walked toward where my hand lay under the covers. She sat on it. She curled up. And she stayed.

That’s how we sleep, even now.

She’s my only cat, and she’s the only cat I want. She had a cat roomie for a while, because my roomie had a cat. Scaredy Cat was…ahem…displeased, but she got over it and befriended the little bugger. It wasn’t till we moved out, into a roomie-free apartment, that I realized she loves living alone even more than I do.

When I get home from work every day she runs to the bathroom sink and cries until I turn the faucet on for her, so she can play in the water.

She’s neurotic. She’s picky. She’s introverted. Other people probably wouldn’t like her.

But I do.

20160729_160129

The Examined Life (aka Priorities, Boundaries, and Setting your Sails)

August 15, 2016 § 1 Comment

Whoops.

I never mean to go long periods of time without blogging. Just like I never mean to go long periods of time without introspecting (see previous post).

I’m working on it, folks. Balance. Having time to do both the things I want to do and the things I need to do. Isn’t this what we all struggle with?

And then there’s those pesky things I should do…but as a friend and counselor of mine would say, “Stop shoulding yourself.”

There are necessary things, then there are good things, but there are also better things.

Am I making sense yet?

I was feeling guilty recently – shoulding myself, actually – when it occurred to me that perhaps I was spreading my net of responsibility (or calling, if you like) too wide.

Consider the below, expertly-designed-in-MS-Paint graphs.

World's needmy perceived responsibilitymy actual responsibility

If I literally cannot meet the world’s whole need, then it follows that I’m not called to meet the world’s whole need. This led me to ask, what need can I meet? Well, there’s a lot of things I can do. But what can I do really well? What do I feel really strongly about?

You might not know this about me – I hope you do, though, because it’s important to me. Ultimately important, actually. I believe that:

Few things are necessary;

really, only One.

Know God.

It’s on my About Me page. For a long time I wondered about my purpose in life, but I figured it out, about 10 years ago: Know God.

We can get more in depth about what that means later, but I touch on it because it’s part of the purpose of this post. Knowing God – seeking him, learning him, finding him – is my Number One priority, and when everything in me and about me fails, when I have lost everything and all of my ability and have nothing to give the world and no one to give me anything, I’ll still have this One Thing. I’ll still have him.

That kind of sets you free, when you think about it. It set me free, the more I thought about it in light of all the the Shoulds and Needs and Wants. I felt free to choose my priorities – to choose what was most important to me, what I felt most strongly about, what I felt called to. And, inversely, what I don’t feel called to. Or even what I feel called to but feel less called to than other things.

Because, our world is too full of people not having time for great things because they’re too busy doing good things.

Does this make sense? I feel like I’m rambling. I mean, I guess that’s ok because that’s what I do here, right? Rambling is wandering, and I wander. I wonder…

Ok, I’m sorry, I’m not going to leave you on that vague note. I wanted too, though. It would have been poetic.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is, I decided I don’t want to drift about aimlessly, juggling wants-needs-shoulds and never getting closer to my goals and often feeling guilty. I don’t want to live the unexamined life; I want my life to be examined. Purposeful.

In practical terms, here’s what I did:

I wrote down a list of what I wanted my priorities to be. I wrote down what each of these things – mind, body, family, creativity, etc – entailed or required. Sometimes I got to choose, sometimes I didn’t. Because, you have to pay rent, right? You have to make sure the cat has food, and you need food too I guess.

Then I wrote them all down on index cards. I put them in an order. I changed the order. I rewrote a couple of cards. I thought about it. I prayed about it. This took me several hours, actually.

Then I decided on it. I decided what I would be responsibile to and what I would feel free to decline if it conflicted with a higher priority.

Friends, this process might not be helpful for you but it’s been shockingly helpful to me. I feel a new degree of freedom, and a new excitement at pursuing my highest priorities. I have weight and trajectory for my goals. It even gives more meaning to more boring of the priorities – like aforementioned rent paying – because they’re a part of making the others possible.

Perhaps this Wandering has been helpful for you, perhaps not. It seems likely that you didn’t make it all the way down here to the bottom of the post, and I forgive you for that. You have more important things to do.

The Unexamined Life

June 7, 2016 § 16 Comments

Do you ever stop, just to check in with yourself, and realize you haven’t done that in a few weeks? Maybe even months?

And you suddenly feel as if all that time that’s passed since you last introspected, you weren’t really living? Like your brain switched to autopilot and your Self took a nap.

Do you grieve that time? Do you feel like you’ve lost days you’ll never get back? Even though you lived them – you have vivid memories of them, you had fun, you were productive – still you feel like you only just now woke up.

This happens to me sometimes. More than sometimes, but not quite enough to be often.

Does it happen to you?

The Beautiful Secret behind Social Media Voyeurism

May 10, 2016 § 7 Comments

“Did you see Kylie Jenner’s latest instagram?”

We humans are inarguably more interconnected now than at any previous time in human history. We are in constant, instantaneous contact with one another – and not just with the people we know “in real life,” but with our favorite (and least favorite) celebs, public figures, and even random strangers whose sole claim to fame is their social media presence.

“YouTube Star”

“Instagram Celebrity”

Louis XIV used to allow people to come watch him eat, sleep, even go to the bathroom. I remember learning that in elementary school (long before the social media age) and being shocked (and giggling about the bathroom part).

My friends, we have gone farther. So, so much farther.

We are a culture of voyeurism.

A culture where one person’s outfit is bigger news than a suicide bombing.

We peer into people’s lives – we follow them, truly, following them around as much as they let us.

We want to know.

I think we all understand that this habit is not the healthiest. It breeds false intimacy, perhaps even to the exclusion of true intimacy with those who are actually around us. It can set a standard of experience (“my life will never be that cool”) that’s often manufactured, an illusion that will sow discontent in our own hearts. It gives us self-centered goals – to have this person’s life, to have that person’s instagram. To be so socially “loved.” Everyone has a “chance” to be famous and admired, and I am someone who “deserves” it.

But in all of this voyeurism, all this jealousy, all this discontent –

there is one kernel of beauty.

People care about other people.

Okay, so, anybody who’s ever read the comment section of anything on the internet knows how nasty humans can be to one another. How uncaring, how cruel. So when I say “people care about other people,” I want to clarify: I mean that people want to know.

They want to see.

They want to understand

and be understood.

The blog Humans of New York is probably the best most shining example of the heights to which social media voyeurism can rise. An opportunity to find compassion and solidarity. An opportunity to see someone else’s life – sometimes a life very different from your own – presented with personal vulnerability, even authenticity.

Does this mean every person featured on HONY is 100% telling the truth? Not necessarily. But I think most of the time people are telling their truth. And we love it – we love seeing the world through their eyes.

“Us vs Them” is such a prevalent, ugly attitude right now. Us vs the other candidate, Us vs immigrants, Us vs government, Us vs the other religion. And some people are so broken, so depraved that when they meet “them” face to face their ugliness only increases.

But in my experience, when you actually know “them”, they’re not a “them” anymore.

They’re a person, just like you. With highs and lows and griefs and joys, choices they’ve made, things that have happened to them.

That’s the redemption of social media. It has the opportunity to vanquish the concept of “Them.”

Does it always take that opportunity? Overwhelmingly, probably not.

But at least it shows that we have that desire, innately, to know and understand other people’s lives.

And that, I think, is beautiful.

 

Gentrification: The Good, The Bad, & the Ugly

May 6, 2016 § Leave a comment

rose & sword

DSC_0246THE BAD

Gentrification is a loaded word. And depending on your socioeconomic or ethnic background, you may define it differently. This disagreement on definitions has led to much misunderstanding.

So what is gentrification? Webster’s definition begins with:

“the process of renewal and rebuilding…”

Sounds pretty good to me. But wait there’s more:

“…accompanying the influx of affluent people into deteriorating areas that often displaces poorer residents.”

Sounds pretty bad in reality.

My question is: in Birmingham, is it possible to seek the good aspects of renewal and rebuilding while actively fighting the harsh realities of displacement of the poor? 

THE UGLY

I hear lots of talk about gentrification these days. As a young, white business operator in a predominantly low-income, minority neighborhood, people have lots to say to me about the word.

My husband and I moved into the neighborhood in 2012. As newlyweds, we were excited to start out new life together…

View original post 548 more words

Musicians’ Musicians

May 4, 2016 § 3 Comments

I don’t go to concerts very often.

You might have gathered, from my recent post about definitive albums, that I care about music. I care about music a lot. I am a musician. Music has always been a part of my life.*

So why don’t I go to concerts more?

I guess it takes a lot to make it worth it for me. It costs money, and I’m likely going to be standing behind some big dude trying to peek under his elbow to get a glimpse of the band (unless it’s a symphony, ah, that lovely fair place where everyone gets a comfy seat and a good view). If I’m going to go to a concert, the band better be damn good.

Not Mumford and Sons good.

Not John Mayer good.

Punch Brothers good.

I don’t care to see something that’s just a visual version of an album. I especially don’t want to see a band that’s not even as good live as they are recorded. I don’t want to see anything auto-tuned and I don’t want to see one guy on a synth.

I want to see musicians.

Do I sound pretentious yet? I hope so.

Because this is one area where I am undeniably a snob. Getting a master’s degree in Ethnomusicology changed my approach to music a bit: when I don’t like something, I don’t say anymore (in my most hipster voice):

“This is so lame.”

Instead, I might nod and say (in a mildly hipster voice):

“It’s a different aesthetic. It’s not my aesthetic, but I appreciate it for what it is.”

When people ask me what kind of music I like, I tell them tongue-in-cheek, “Good music.” More seriously, my aesthetic – what I prefer to listen to and to see live – is complex, innovative, skilled, and thought provoking.

A lone guy with a guitar will probably bore me.

An out of tune violin will drive me nuts.

Something that can be sung to the bassline of Palchelbel’s Canon in D will most likely annoy me.

Now you’re definitely thinking, “Wow, what an elitist.”

I don’t think I’m alone in this, though. People who have had years of training in music (me) or people who have incredible gifts (others) have a high bar. Everyone wants a band or an artist to blow their minds. When you know the little things that go into a song, the common cadences, the difficulty (or ease) of a passage, you start longing for something that makes you go, Holy Shit.

Therein arrives the Punch Brothers, the band that makes musicians say “Holy Shit. That is AWESOME.”

There are others, of course, but I just saw PB live – for the second time – and I’m still reeling. Haha get it “reel”ing? Music jokes.

It’s a strange, eclectic crowd that goes to a Punch Brothers concert. You have your Hipster Bros who like banjos; you have your music professors who appreciate the reappropriation of bluegrass; you have your musicians who want an evening of mind-melting displays of skill. (Also you have the girlfriends of the Hipster Bros.)

I bought my ticket months ago, planning to likely go alone, but I was able to recruit some friends – all musicians – at the last minute. And then we ran into more friends there – all musicians.

You know, Punch Brothers deserve acclaim. They deserve to be lauded for their skill and creative genius and I really hope they continue to grow in popularity. But I think the core of the PB fanbase will always be those music nerds, the ones who laugh at jokes about Debussy and scream themselves hoarse at a shredding mandolin solo.

And that, quite happily – and quite unashamedly – is my element.

IMG_20160503_231025

Can we take a second and observe that they are all gathered around ONE condenser microphone? #nerd

 

*Just a wee disclaimer: I do not claim to be any kind of excellent musician. I play violin semi-professionally, dabble in other instruments, and used to teach. However, playing semi-professionally has given me the opportunity to be around a lot of really excellent musicians.

 

 

Get It Together

April 26, 2016 § 2 Comments

I don’t know if it’s a part of getting older, but I’ve been trying to get it together lately.

Meal planning. Cleaning regularly. Making my bed every day. You know, adulting.

I’ve actually found great relief – and I think this is the getting older part – in forming and maintaining these habits. I don’t cringe when I walk into the kitchen. It’s relaxing to come home after work. I don’t worry I’m spending too much on food.

The apartment doesn’t smell like litterbox.

Having two adult roommates (yes that is a total of three adults) means that sometimes, especially in the morning, maintaining good habits is a wild dance.

This morning I felt like I was doing pas de chats and soutenus to get everything done and leave early for a dental appointment on the other side of town. (Another adulting win!) I was feeling pretty pleased with how well I was dancing, too.

I made breakfast the night before and ate it peacefully, sitting down.

I had time to make and drink coffee.

I made my bed!

Did I mention I also took a shower and washed my hair?

I packed my crockpot chicken that had simmered deliciously all night, and made a salad to accompany it, and packed two snacks – one for mid-morning, one for afternoon.

I washed all my dishes because I didn’t have time to unload the dishwasher – I was watching the clock very closely.

And –  the piece de resistance – I scooped the litter box.

Yes, I was quite pleased with myself.

Almost whistling, I marched out the front door promptly at eight with work bag and delicious packed lunch in tow.

I started to pull out of the parking lot, and I know what you’re thinking – she’s out of gas.

But I wasn’t!

I gave the clock another trimphant look as I started to jam out to some great morning tunes:

8:02 AM

My appointment is at 8:00.

8:00 AM. Today. NOW. TWO MINUTES AGO.

And the dentist’s office is twenty five minutes away.

From a soaring height to a crashing fail. It’s still a little sore. Even though they were so nice and they still had time to take me even though I was ridiculously late; even though the appointment itself took only 10 minutes because the Lord in his infinite wisdom blessed me with teeth I hardly need to take care of (he knew I’d forget to floss); even though I got to work earlier than I even originally expected; even though I was 100% prepared for the meeting I was supposed to lead when I got there.

It still smarts.

It’s just nice to feel in control of your home life, you know? That’s how I know I’m officially “adult.” I need control. I can’t sleep on the couch or roll with the punches. I gotta have my routine.

I have to admit, I felt all kinds of embarassment and shame at not being able to something as simple as remembering that arriving at eight does not equal leaving at eight. I really like to pat myself on the back for getting things together as well as I have, even though it’s not perfect, because it’s all so contradictory to the absent-minded scatter-brained haphazard essence of my person.

It’s a lesson in humility. And grace. The world didn’t fall apart because I was late for my dental appointment. My world didn’t even fall apart.

It just kept on turning.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,192 other followers