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Peach Splattered Love

26 Nov

Three years ago Dan and I started a new tradition called Pie Breakfast.  Thanksgiving is such an odd time, we have no idea what we are celebrating.  Columbus was probably horrible, and yet being actively grateful is a healthy, counter-cultural thing to do.  We noticed that few people have plans early in the day on Thanksgiving, and although eating poultry with our flesh and blood family is fabulous and full in every sense of the word, it seemed lacking.  For we are equally, at this stage of life, grateful for the presence of our friends, our larger community that comes through and holds us up repeatedly.

So we started Pie Breakfast.  Pie Breakfast consists of Dan and I baking twenty pies on Wednesday night and inviting people we love over to eat said pie for breakfast on Thanksgiving.  It is lovely.  We go through a pound and a half of coffee, and not quite twenty pies because, well, sometimes we should eat dessert first.

Between baking and hosting, it is one of my favorite twenty-four hours of the year. I feel like Dan and I make our own, self-sufficient family.  We started our own tradition, and it seems to tap into what the holiday is indeed trying to celebrate.  There is something so life-giving about sipping coffee, holding a bite of something sweet in our mouths to savor, taking time to start the day in the presence of goodness and friends.

Our most popular pies this year were Whiskey Apple, Pear Ginger, Cranberry Walnut and Peanut Butter Fudge. All the recipes came from a cookbook we received as a wedding gift of blue ribbon recipes from State Fairs around the US.  On Wednesday night, a few pies into the process, I sat with the super cool apple peeler at the table and watched Dan flip through the blue and white checkered cookbook.  I tangibly felt myself fall more deeply in love with him at that moment, as he flipped fairly untouched pages.  I realized that this was still the beginning.  I saw Pie Breakfasts for years to come flash before me, and I yearned for the pages to be marked up with post-it notes and spills of vanilla and Dan’s scribble.  I wanted to be twenty-three years into Pie Breakfast when we had our favorite pies and favorite people.  I wanted our relationship to be time-tested and worn in.  But I was simultaneously excited to live through each moment until then.  As amazing as it will be to grow old with Dan, to be worn-in and splattered and rough around the edges, we are not there yet.  We are crisp and new and uncharted. We opened the book and started getting it dirty.  We started to ever so subtly earn our worn-in-ness.  One pie at a time.  I feels like the beginning of a deeply tasty forever.

Why We Ditched the TV

10 May

On Saturday, Dan and I put our TV in storage and put our Netflix account on hold.  We rearranged our sitting room so that it would have a new focal point.  It felt good.  It was not that we were watching four hours of TV a day like the average American, we barely watched it at all.  We just did not want it to be our crutch anymore.  We wanted to make sure we could live without it.  So far, so good.

Here are a few of the reasons our TV took the plunge to storage:

1.  When we watch TV, we disengaged from each other and the world.  We start to live vicariously through fictional characters instead of living our own lives and making our own story.  We say that we work so hard that we need an escape sometimes, we need to wind down, we need to relax.  But what are we escaping from? Shouldn’t we instead focus on building a life that is sustainable, that does not require escape?  We want to fall in love with our lives, not the lives of people on the screen.

I have seen this fear of really living life with helicopter parents as a high school sports coach.  Parents are trying to live vicariously through their children instead of continuing on with their own lives to the detriment of the young athletes.  The kids often wilt under the pressure of making their parent’s dreams come true.

Similarly, my friend pointed out the other day how often graduation speeches charge young people with saving society. Grad speeches put all faith in the young generation, so that we do not feel guilty sitting numb on the couch passively ingesting reality TV.  The young people will change the world.  The youth are the future.  Let’s just watch one more episode and let them do the dirty work.  As long as we put all the responsibility on young people, we can sit on the couch numbly consuming media, letting others live our lives for us.  Young people are doing a lot, but they may just benefit from our energy as well.  But I digress.  We got rid of the TV so that we did not forget to live our own lives, being the actors, not the audience.

2.  I recently finished reading No Impact Man.  It is a book I would recommend that supports living intentionally.  The author has a hunch that we are so addicted to consuming because it lulls us to sleep.  It might be that we are so afraid to die that we actually forget to live, and consuming keeps us from real life.  I think he is on to something.  Dan and I do not shop much, but we do consume a lot of media, and that counts.  We have one shot at this life thing, and we might as well stay awake for it and not let consuming mass amounts of media comfort and lull us away from reality.

3.  In The Story of Stuff, Annie Leonard quotes Victor La Beau, “Our enormously productive economy…demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption…. We need things consumed, burned up, replaced and discarded at an ever-accelerating rate.”  True.  We are consuming at an alarming rate.  We do not have complete control over how many media messages we consume, but Dan and I wanted to take some control.  We are now consuming more music and books and each other’s stories as opposed to television.  With both of our jobs requiring more and more screen time, it was time to get rid of this screen and seek to fill ourselves with other things.

4. I just completed teaching media and marketing techniques to my teenage students so they would be more savvy consumers.  Product placement in television is pervasive, as are huge marketing campaigns geared to get at our souls.  Big time marketing gurus have interviewed cult members to try to get irrational brand loyalty from its customers.  Media is using spiritual language to try to fill a desire we have to find meaning in life with stuff.  And worst of all, it is disposal stuff that leaves a void luring back out to buy more. Nike commercials are about empowerment, not shoes.  Lexus ads are about inner beauty, not transportation. Gatorade markets bodily transcendence, not hydration.  And we are falling for it!  We act as if things will create identity, as if stuff will give our lives meaning.  We are more willing to align with team Caribou than team Catholic, Team Jacob instead of team justice.  Dan and I do not want to support this industry that tries to make us feel less than beautiful and powerful, centered on stuff to fill life with meaning.

I could continue, but I will just say for us, it was time for the television to go.  It felt subversive and exciting, and three days later, I can report that we are not missing it.  Sometimes it just requires one action that supports the life we want to build, and other things seem to fall into place from there.

The Christmas Letter

24 Jan

On Friday my spouse and I received, hopefully, the last of the Christmas letters.  I have found a few reasons why Christmas letters come late.  Some come from people who cannot seem to get their act together before Christmas, and those notes generally come with apologies.  Others try to save on postage and wait to pass it on until they see you.  Still others try to play off the lateness by calling it an Epiphany letter or an MLK letter.  Wouldn’t Dr. King be proud?  This whole Christmas letter thing is a new phenomenon for us.  It seems there are unwritten rules for Christmas letters, and one is that once two people are married and have a semi-permanent address, those two people become worthy recipients.  This year we were graced with thirty seven Christmas letters that found their way to our mantle for the season and then proceeded to the recycling bin.

Let me state my bias very clearly: I am not a big fan of the Christmas letter.  It seems odd to me.  I know that many love the tradition, but I do not.  My spouse thinks that Facebook has replaced the Christmas letter, but I refrain from Facebook for the same reason.  My argument is this: I believe both Facebook and the Christmas letter perpetuate our meritocracy that pressures us to become human doings instead of human beings.  Look at my cute kids!  Read about my accomplishments this year!  My life is on track!  I am moving swiftly toward the 2.4 children, a SVU and a white picket fence.  And gosh darn it, while we are at it, let’s make this super convenient for me.  If I send out a yearly update proving to you that I have earned the honor of living until next Christmas, I do not have to stay in touch with you for twelve months.

This year in letters we learned of houses bought, marathons ran, committees sat on, children brought into the world, dogs welcomed into homes, vacations taken, promotions and engagements.  These are all lovely things.  But when they are sent in a laundry list form, it just strikes me as bragging, and behind it a need to matter, to be impressive, to be living the American dream.

My friends have started to ask the question, “When is my life worthy of sending out the card?  When I get married?  When we start having kids? What big life change is impressive enough to earn me Christmas card sending status?”

My deep hope is that anyone in my life who I truly love and care for already knows what I look like and has some sense of how I spend my days.  And they have found this out by doing things like sharing a meal or picking up the phone.  I think we are obbsessed as a society with proving our worth by what we do not who we are.  We are preoccupied with spreading ourselves thinly and superficially instead of toiling with a few meaningful relationships.  And to what end?  So we can say we have 100 friends on Facebook?  How many of our Christmas card recipients really know how our hearts are doing?  And how do you write that in a Christmas card?

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