La Frontera 2016

Wednesday 9 November 2016

I have a lot of printed t-shirts hanging in my closet, and I’m usually thoughtful about which one I wear on a given day. Yesterday, working the election polls, I decided to go with my Chicago neighborhoods tee (which looks like this, but on a shirt).

Today, flipping through my shirts, I stopped and pulled down my Camp Mowana “La Frontera” theme shirt. The meaning that we were shared (at least as I internalized it) of “La Frontera” was of a place between, neither here nor there, a place of transition from what was to what is to come. In seeing that word and what it’s come to mean for me in the 10+ years since I obtained the shirt, I decided it was the appropriate way to capture my mood this day. (The shirt is subtitled “Where Jesus Meets Us” for some context for the camp’s choice of theme.)

Sitting here, the day after our citizenry (or at least those of age who decided to vote and are not restricted by law from doing so) went to the polls and elected a man who has shown callous disregard for so many different groups of people, I feel between. We’re obviously moving forward, at least in terms of calendar time, but it’s also clear that we’re in the middle of something big.

While there were likely many people who voted for Donald J. Trump out of animus for specific groups and peoples (Blacks, Muslims, Mexicans, Immigrants, Jews, even women), I suspect that that population alone would not have been enough to propel Trump to the presidency. Instead, there were many who simply turned a blind eye to this part of Trump, taking an “It’s not that important” stance to these issues and focusing instead on his anti-establishment rhetoric and their dissatisfaction with the political status quo when dealing with their (economic) lives.

Whatever the reason citizens opted to vote for Trump (who appears to have not even received the most votes overall, just enough in the right states—but that’s a topic for another day), our country will soon know the leadership of a man who embodies a white supremacist and xenophobic framework, supported by an electorate who at worst find this trait positive and at best find it negligible. (I’d be remiss if I didn’t note that I believe failing to condone such oppression is unacceptable and as good as promoting  that oppression.)

For me, this time—definitely this day, likely the next two months, but perhaps also the coming four or more years—has all the feelings of what I envision for La Frontera. It will be a time of struggle as we figure out where our country, full of a vast number of peoples with a vast number of beliefs and ideals, goes from here.

How can we create a land where all people are able to live in peace and comfort and seek self-fulfillment? How do we heal the wounds that (not only this election cycle but) our history has given so many of us? How do we listen to one another and recognize that my ability to live a full and valuable life does not depend on others suffering, and vise versa?

There are no easy answers, and (as always) the outcome of this election, no matter who had won, didn’t make these questions any less relevant. After all, it takes more than a president to change a country (see: Barack Obama).

As we move through La Frontera, it is important for all of us to ask ourselves what our role will be in the healing future of our country and its peoples. If you’re seeking a place to start on this first Wednesday after the first Monday in November, I recommend it be there.

The Greatest Love Actually Take Down Ever

Sunday 22 December 2013

Perhaps with the 10th anniversary of the “classic” movie Love Actually upon us, you’ve seen some of the variety of cons and pros and cons about the movie and other general articles about its applicability. And what it’s all about.

But last week i discovered this one on, and I just had to share:
I Rewatched Love Actually and Am Here to Ruin It for All of You by Lindy West

It is priceless, and you should read it — but I also wanted to share it with those who haven’t seen the movie or don’t want to read the full thing. So below, check out some of the awesome amazing quotes that work just as well even if you’ve never seen the movie and (until the end) are completely lacking name/relevant plot points and spoilers. Enjoy!

[AAA] falls in “love” with [BBB] at first sight, establishing Love Actually‘s central moral lesson: The less a woman talks, the more lovable she is.
None of the women in this movie fucking talk. All of the men in this movie “win” a woman at the end. This goddamn movie.
[XXX] falls instantly in love with [YYY], which is understandable, because she hasn’t yet exceeded her Love Actually attractiveness word quota. (Twenty-seven. The quota is 27 words before you become Emma Thompson and must be destroyed.)
This is a movie made for women by a man.
To be perfectly honest, Liam Neeson is really acting the hell out of this movie.
…but she doesn’t know he exists. Probably because he’s been hanging out with the men of Love Actually too much, so he just sits around being a self-pitying douche instead of FUCKING TALKING TO HER LIKE A HUMAN BEING.
Hey, idea: Could someone respect a woman for one second in this fucking movie? Or could we at least confine the misogyny to women who are actual characters in the film?
This entire movie is just straight white men acting upon women they think they “deserve.” This entire movie is just men doing things.
Thanks, Love Actually. Thank you for telling a generation of men that their intrusiveness and obsessions are “romantic,” and that women are secretly flattered no matter what their body language says.
[XXX] decides he needs to fire [YYY] because she’s 2 tempting 2 believe. Then he has this Actual Conversation with his secretary:
Secretary: “The chubby girl?”
[XXX]: “Would we call her chubby?”
Secretary: “I think there’s a pretty sizable ass there, yes, sir. Huge thighs.”
Can we not refer to a woman who worked her way up to a job in the prime minister’s office as “the chubby girl”? Also, can we fire the entire government for sexual harassment?
[QQQ] is still totally stumped about the best way to force [RRR] to love him against her will. I mean, he’s tried everything. He tried staring at her, he tried never ever talking to her, he tried complaining

Love Actually puts a lot of stock in the idea that people are either good or bad. People either love or they don’t, reciprocate or they don’t. The grander the gesture, the greater the crime of not reciprocating. LOVE GOOD. NOT-LOVE BAD. It’s a pleasant fantasy, I think, because if you accept the difficult truth that people are more than just good or bad, then you have to question whether or not happiness really exists. Because if people are more complicated, then happiness must be more complicated, and at that point is it really happiness?
Oh, god, why am I bothering. Actually.


So he abandons Christmas dinner with his loving family and flies back to France. The one expression of genuine love in this movie and [AAA] peaces-out to go hump a stranger.
He’s like, “I am here to ask your daughter for her hand in marriage,” and the dad is like, “Say what!?” because he thinks [AAA] means his other daughter, who is fat and gross, and that would obviously makes no sense, because women who are slightly larger than some other women deserve to be alone forever unless they’re the size-6 kind of fake fat like [YYY]. Then the dad offers to pay [AAA] to take fat daughter off his hands. [AAA] is like “Ew, no. I only want to purchase/marry HOT women I’ve never spoken to in my life.”
Once the truth gets sorted out, fat daughter says: “Father is about to sell [BBB] as a slave to this Englishman.”
Oh, also [QQQ] has now chased [RRR] all the way to the airport, where he’s broken through security and is leading TSA agents on a “wacky” chase to the gate.
I feel like this scene would have been way less wacky if that was a brown kid instead of a white one.
When they get there, [BBB] looks horrified and is like, “What the fuck are you doing at my work!? I don’t even know you, dude! Get out of here! Oh my god, I’M TRYING TO RUN A RESTAURANT HERE. GO AWAY, YOU CREEPY ENGLISHMAN.”
No. Just kidding. She agrees to fucking marry the guy. Forever. Even though they have never spoken.
In a painfully fitting finale, [ZZZ] returns from America with the woman he got. He literally brings her back to England with him like a fucking airport souvenir. But don’t worry, [WWW], HE IMPORTED AN OBJECT WITH NO AGENCY FOR YOU TOO. HERE, PUT YOUR MOUTH ON IT.
That’s love, kids.
Oh, wait. Actually, it’s shit.

dad + daughter duet

Monday 23 September 2013

In case you were wondering, this is the kind of dad I will be some day (though perhaps the song will have lyrics with a slightly less odd implication):

In The Heights (I’m Home)

Thursday 3 December 2009

This past Monday evening, I had the pleasure to attend the Broadway musical In The Heights (winner of the 2008 Tony for Best Musical) in New York City.  It has some great music, but the story itself got me thinking again about home, a topic I discussed in the fall of 2007 on another blog post: home IS where the heart is.  In that post, I discussed how as I travel around, I take people with me in my heart, always bringing “home” along for the ride.

In The Heights got me thinking a bit more about how much that fact is or isn’t true.  I may get the love from many places, but what location feels like home?  In In The Heights, the main character’s parents emigrated from the Dominican Republic, which he feels to be his homeland and wishes to return, but really he, along with many of the characters, are in a struggle to reconcile the lands they or their predecessors came from with their attachment and feeling of “home” in the Washington Heights community of NYC they have become a part of.

Jumping around from place to place the last 2 1/2 years, never staying for more than about six months in one place (often less), it’s been a long time since I’ve felt any location or community as a true “home,” at least in the ways In The Heights creates such a feeling.  Thus, I am taken back to the place I grew up, NW Ohio, and the place I went to school and spent two years following, Chicago(land).  When you’re in a place that long, you develop a lot of connections not only to people but to the location and livelihood involved.  Thus, attending this musical got me thinking deeply about returning to my “homeland,” one of those two places.

However, it also reaffirmed another commitment within myself in this job search, and that is making a commitment to whatever community it is I find myself in next.  It’s been too long since I’ve really been able to commit to a location, but that’s one thing I’m thirsting for as I seek my next job.  At one interview, I was asked where I saw myself in 3 years, and I said I saw myself doing whatever it was I ended up doing next (in that case, that specific job). I see my next step as a longer term commitment than I’ve made for a quite a while.  I want to connect with a place again, something I’ve only tangentially done the past 2 or 3 years.

So while I have two settings that, deep down, feel like “home” to me (along now with multiple houses/residences), I think there is room for more.  While I think there would be some comfort to returning to Ohio or Chicago, I also believe that embarking on a new adventure in a new city/location has the ability to create a new “home” for me, wherever that might be.

I’ll just be waiting expectantly (the topic of my next blog) to find out exactly where that might be!

a few poems

Tuesday 8 September 2009

As I continue to look and apply for jobs on the East Coast around in Non-Profit work in areas of Youth or Organizing or Activism or Advocacy or Volunteerism (any leads for me, please let me know!), I spend most of my writing energy doing cover letters.  I have hopes of getting a series of blogs together with lessons I’ve learned form my time this summer as a gardener, but for now I’m culling my personal archives to bring you some writings from the past.  Here are a few poems I wrote many years ago (note the dates) during college that I hope you enjoy!

Love May Be A Word (28 Nov 2000)

Love may be a word, an emotion even
but can it be described                        —No—
Love is an UNdescribable feeling
(maybe not according to Webster, but to me it is)

Is love What it is?

When I think about her out of the blue?
When I smile when I see her face or hear her voice?
When my day turns around in her presence?
When that thing with her right hand on the side of her face as she tilts her head that way
and sort of smiles and says “aww” just makes me want to kiss her?
When I stay up until two just to be in her presence a little longer?
When something happens and I want her to be the first to know?
When I write a poem about how I feel and wonder if it is love?

The Snow (1 March 2002)

It was snowing,
just like in the movies.

The kind of snow that sticks to the
actors’ hair and clothes in a way you
know it’s not real snow.

The kind of snow that you see so much
in the movies that you stop believing it
actually exists.

That’s how it was snowing;
and it was beautiful,
just like you.

Easter (I know that my Redeemer lives!)

Sunday 12 April 2009

To be truthful, most days — maybe all days, actually — I go around thinking about and picturing Jesus as a pretty great guy. After all, he did a lot of great things and spoke some amazing words that resound very deeply within me. Jesus was the man who proclaimed forgiveness to the sinner and hope for the hopeless. He commanded us to give up all our earthly things and trust fully in God. Jesus said to be weak is to truly be strong, and to be poor is what allows us to actually be rich.

Jesus’ brand of justice was different than the way we think about it today: it was a justice where we all get what we need; it wasn’t about people getting “what’s coming to them,” or “what they deserve.” Christ preached reconciliation and redemption, not retribution and retaliation. Jesus gave the greatest commandment as such to love all as if they were no different than us. True love is grace — unconditional and without requirement or reservation.

But that view of Jesus falls short, because if that’s all that makes Jesus special, he’s hardly any better than others we might look up to, like Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr., or maybe even someone you know living today. Looking at Jesus as “a pretty great guy” misses the point of what makes Jesus stand out in the first place: Jesus is the Son of God who died and rose again, conquering death and the grave so all might live eternally.

Today, venturing to Easter services, hearing hymns of praise and the story of followers finding the empty tomb of Christ, was a good reminder to me of what sets Jesus apart, and why He is truly worthy of praise, honor, and adoration. It’s a fact of Christ I need to remember on a more regular basis — something I’ll have to work on.  For me, it’s surely the “great guy” stuff that draws me to Jesus, but what sets Him apart — and why I choose to follow — is what I, and millions around the world, celebrated today: I know that my Redeemer lives!

“I Know that My Redeemer Lives!” by: Samuel Medley (alt. for hymn)

I know that my Redeemer lives!
What comfort this sweet sentence gives!
He lives, he lives, who once was dead;
He lives, my everliving head!

He lives triumphant from the grave;
He lives eternally to save;
He lives exalted, throned above;
He lives to rule his Church in love.

He lives to grant me rich supply;
He lives to guide me with his eye;
He lives to comfort me when faint;
He lives to hear my soul’s complaint.

He lives to silence all my fears;
He lives to wipe away my tears;
He lives to calm my troubled heart;
He lives all blessing to impart.

He lives to bless me with his love;
He lives to plead for me above;
He lives my hungry soul to feed;
He lives to help in time of need.

He lives, my kind, wise, heavenly friend;
He lives and loves me to the end;
He lives, and while he lives, I’ll sing;
He lives, my Prophet, Priest, and King!

He lives and grants me daily breath;
He lives, and I shall conquer death;
He lives my mansion to prepare;
He lives to bring me safely there.

He lives, all glory to his name!
He lives, my Savior, still the same;
What joy this blest assurance gives;
I know that my Redeemer lives!

giving thanks (again)

Thursday 4 December 2008

I meant to post this last week (on Thanksgiving proper), but I guess I hit the wrong button.  So here it is:

I’m never quite sure why people read old blog posts or how people even find some of them (though the stats wordpress gives me tell me some of the more popular old posts are found through various kinds of searches).  So it was somewhat surprising to see last week someone had clicked on one of my posts from last November that, when I saw the title, I didn’t know what it was about.  It was good, though, because it got me to read my own post again and realize that the same feelings rang true, almost a year later.  The post was a reflection for Thanksgiving upon that which I was, and still now am, most thankful for.  So if you don’t mind, I wanted to just point you to that post again, encouraging you to give thanks for that which is most important to you as you read what is most important to me.

giving thanks

Happy Thanksgiving, wherever you might be.