It makes it bearable.

The storm clouds rise and swirl like time-lapse photography and you just want to find shelter before the cold rain comes pelting down in big, thick drops. When it rains, it pours. The clouds turn black and you pull your coat closer, the thunder sounds and you shudder, the lightning strikes and you jump, the rain gushes down and you shrink in your seat like a crumpled paper cup.

Life can be heavy like a damp blanket, overwhelming like a messy apartment, and murky like the dark morning hours when the light bulb burns out. It’s days like this that make me want to hang my head, make me want to cry out into the night, that make me want to curl up and have someone tell me it will all be okay. Sometimes the phone rings and you don’t want to answer. Sometimes you don’t want to catch up with an old friend because the catching up means rehashing the past few weeks. And just when the burden is too much and you think you’re going to stumble and fall, you hear word from another far-flung friend and it’s more bad news.

Walk on. That’s what they sing, and that’s what I do. The only thing that keeps me planting one tired foot in front of the other is the warming light of the rising sun. There may not be a reason or a purpose to any of this, but there is a God somewhere in this world. There is a God who cares deeply about me, and so I somehow find the courage to crawl out of bed, to walk the dark, icy streets to the bus stop, to pick up the phone when the ringing shatters my humble morning. Life is not a bed of roses, and the knowledge of God doesn’t make the pain go away. It makes it bearable, and that’s all I can ask.

Mmm… victory.

Broomball is such a stupid sport. Hockey, minus the skates, and replace the puck with a miniature soccer ball and the sticks with brooms. Who would call that a sport? Only in Minnesota. I suppose you have to find some way to make January enjoyable. And I love it. Tonight I scored. Mmm… victory.

Jamie Overdosed

A few weeks ago someone found a good friend of mine passed out on their dorm room floor. We’ll call her Jamie. Apparently she’d overdosed on painkillers. Life had become a little too much for Jamie. Thankfully she survived, and now she’s in the psyche ward of some rural state hospital.

Anorexia and depression were the culprits. She’s a size 0, but that wasn’t good enough. She counted every last calorie she consumed, from half a rice cake, to a stick of Trident. She had all the excuses in the book, like “I had a big lunch,” and “I’m going out with friends later.” Everyone guessed she was anorexic, but nobody really did anything. She was seeing a counselor, and that was supposed to make everything okay. I wonder how the counselor feels now?

So Jamie spends her days under restriction in a far-flung wing of a hospital. When it’s time to eat she stubbornly refuses, picking at her food with disdain, mentally adding the fat content and calories until it makes her sick. If she doesn’t eat, they cram a tube down her throat and force feed her a can of Ensure. She figures the 200 calories in the Ensure is less than the meatless chicken nuggets she’d have to eat, so she wins this way. “And I don’t have to chew,” she points out. She’s also a Vegan, an extreme habit she hasn’t had before. A few years ago she became a vegetarian, but we all thought it was okay. She’d still eat dinner. She’d still come home from school and have a bowl of cereal. She ate strangely, but she ate. Maybe it was just practice.

On top of all the eating troubles, Jamie’s still suicidal. She says she swallowed the bottle of pain killers and any other drugs she could find because she was so sick of dealing with it. She knew what anorexia was doing to her body, how eventually her body would consume itself, how her skin and hair would become unhealthy. She knew all the facts, but it didn’t matter. She still wouldn’t eat. Somehow she decided killing herself could be a way out.

She still sees it that way. She refuses to eat, and if it kills her, so be it. She basically has no hope. Which makes my role pretty difficult in all of this. There’s no sense in reasoning with her. She’s so emaciated logic doesn’t mean anything. So I can’t convince her to eat. And how do you tell someone who sees no value in life that life is actually worth living? I guess I try with the small things. A phone call, a letter, a visit. Maybe these simple acts will show her that someone loves her. That’s really all I can hope for.

Now as I walk through the mall, stop at the bookstore, and ride the bus, I think about Jamie. Who told her she was fat? I see the magazine covers that adorned the floor of her room. I scan those covers in the line at the grocery store, the tag lines about looking sexy, losing weight, being thin, and snagging your man. It’s all one mental image. Thin=beauty. I see thin girls walking by and I wonder if they have an eating disorder. I wonder if they hate food, if they count the calorie of every morsel they chew. I wonder if they think they’re sexy because they can buy their clothes at Gap Kids.

I’ve always thought that the movers and shakers in society were to blame for this. It was a vast conspiracy between the magazine publishers, the makers of beauty products, and anyone else who could get in on the scam that if they make women think they’re fat and thin is beautiful, they’ll do anything to be thin and money can be made. That always seemed to be the case, but I really hoped it wasn’t true. I really hoped their was a better explanation. Yesterday I was reading an article that described how pop singer Jessica Simpson’s record label forced her to get an image makeover before the release of her latest album. Although Jessica has never worn clothes larger than a size 6, the image makeover required her to lose 15 pounds. Lose 15 pounds to sell a CD. You’re already skinny, but it’s not enough. The average size in America is a 12, but half of that isn’t thin enough, isn’t beautiful enough.

And I wonder who told Jamie she was fat.

Jamie, you’re not fat. You’re beautiful. And you’re beautiful at 90 pounds, you’re beautiful at 100 pounds, you’re beautiful at 120 pounds, you’re beautiful at 180 pounds. You’d even be beautiful at 250 pounds. Your weight does not determine your beauty–unless of course you weigh 80 pounds and you’re dead. Death is not beautiful.

Christians have a large stick up their

“Get down off your holy cloud / God will not deal with the proud” (‘Always’ by U2)

I’m convinced that sometimes Christians have a large stick up their ass. So many Christians are so sure they have all the right answers, so sure they know everything, so sure they have it all figured out. That’s such a load of crap. These Christians are afraid to say they don’t have all the answers because then it sounds like they’re being relativistic, and that’s the big no-no. So instead they pump themselves up with pride and effectively give the world the finger.

All in the name of Jesus. He must hang his head.

Writing Exercise #4:

“He’s suck a jerk,” Amy said, looking to the ground with that pouty face. God, she can be so much sometimes.

“He’s a jerk? Do you remember when you used to follow him around? You had his schedule memorized, didn’t you?” I started. “You know, I think they classify that as stalking today.”

She didn’t say anything at first. She always knows I’m right but never likes to admit it. So she’s stubborn. So is every 17-year-old girl.

“So what if I did,” she retorted, still practicing that lip curl, “People change. And he became a jerk.”

“Yeah, people do change,” I said. She knew where this was going. “You changed. I remember in eighth grade when you were having a slumber party and you all got up at some ungodly hour to make chocolate chip cookies. But rather than actually bake the cookies, you just ate the cookie dough. Do you have any idea how many calories are in one bite of chocolate chip cookie dough?”

Amy only glared at me. Her lip curl was turning to a snarl.

“Of course you do, you’re the anorexic queen, what was I thinking.”

“Oh fuck you,” she snarled.

“Yeah, I get that a lot.” I said with a smile. I can have such an annoying charm sometimes.

“So what if I changed. We’re not talking about me. We’re talking about him. About Aaron.” At least she was making sense now.

“Yes, we are talking about Aaron. Does it really upset you that much?”

“Well, isn’t he supposed to like me no matter what? Isn’t that what boyfriends do? He only wants my body, why should he care whether I eat or not?” she asked.

“You have a point there. I won’t try to defend the fact that he thinks with is crotch.”

“Why do all guys do that?” she asked, finally looking me in the eye.

“They don’t. A lot do, but you’re incriminating all of us. And that’s not really fair.”

“Who cares about fair? He dumped me because I’m fat.” Her eyes fell to the floor again.

“You weigh 92 pounds.”

“Look at me, I’m fat.” She huffed, finally throwing herself onto the nearby couch.

“You’re as fat as a bean sprout. I bet the scarecrows are jealous. Do you just suck up the schtick they feed you in those fashion magazines? Don’t you have a brain?”

“You’re so heartless.” Red hot tears of anger were beginning to well in her eyes.

“If I was heartless I’d be off with Aaron, thinking with my crotch.” She finally quieted for a moment, and I let the silence linger. I can only push her so hard.

“It’s just that I try so hard. But nothing ever works.” She mumbled between sobs. “And you want me to still like this guy after what he did? You’re so fucked up.” The silence lingered again.

“First of all, you’re the one that’s fucked up, remember?” I reminded her, as gently as I could. The reminder slowly sunk in and her swelling anger quelled. She didn’t say anything.

“Secondly, I’m not asking you to like him. He is a jerk. You’re not required to like jerks.” A faint smile appeared at the corners of her mouth. She likes it when I admit she’s right, even if it’s only in so many words.

“But you are required to love him.”

Writing Exercise #3:

I could stand to lose some weight. I’ve been thinking about it for a while, and I’ve just turned into a pig lately. It’s really just a matter of being healthy. I should probably start exercising, too. Just to get in shape. I hate being winded after climbing a flight of stairs. I really shouldn’t be that inactive. Maybe I’ll start running. And this time I’ll have to do it more than once or twice a week.

And I’ll look so much better if I just lose a little weight. I’ll be such a better person if I took better care of myself, was healthier, ate better, exercised. It’ll be a whole new me. A me people actually want to be with. Nobody likes the fat girl. Sure, she’s fun to hang around with and be friends with, but nobody actually pays attention to her. I guess it’s just time for a change.

If you could read her mind, that’s what she’d be thinking. Kind of sad, isn’t it? That’s what I keep saying, but nobody seems to listen to me. I guess we’ve all got problems. Her name is, well, I don’t know what her name is yet. That’s not important. She could have any name. Why don’t you pick one? Pick the name of a sister, or a daughter, or a cousin, or a niece. It really doesn’t matter, it’s probably happening to them anyway.

She’s been like this for a few years. It probably started as early as elementary school, as much as we all hate to admit it. They’re just kids, right? Yeah, but kids aren’t stupid. Kids see what goes on. And if the world is screwed up, they’ll just follow suit. She wasn’t always skinny, either. She was one of the biggest babies in the nursery at the hospital. Until she was about five she was a pudgy little thing. But then she started stretching into a green bean, and she’s been tall and slender since. Her hair’s brown and straight, lately it’s been looking like the cover of Cosmo. But I won’t go there yet. She’s 17 and has just about everything going for her. She’ll graduate in the spring and go off to the wonderful world of college. Right now it’s just the state school, and she’ll probably go into education like every other girl.

She’s outgoing and likes to hang out with other people. She’s been into party scene since middle school, and before that she was the queen of slumber parties. She has a gaggle of friends just like her, all of them probably have the same problems and the same hang ups. And of course they don’t talk about it. All of them lost their virginity in the back seat of a car with a random high school hottie — but the interesting part is they all did it in the same park, and not one of them has yet admitted it to the others. For our little sweetheart it was an awkwardly handsome young stud named Craig. They slowly worked their way up from sucking face, to feeling each other up, to Craig getting a little too excited on the back seat’s upholstery. Finally Craig learned to contain himself long enough for the two to consummate their two month relationship and stumble into the wonderful world of sexually active children. Luckily she came to her senses a few weeks later and dumped Craig. But don’t worry about Craig, he’s a real swift guy and picked up a friend of his ex the next week and consummated his back seat again. Apparently he discovered that you don’t get breasts with masturbation, so he had to find himself another insecure girl.

But Craig is so last month. She’s over him now. Not that she was into Craig in the first place, he was just an accessory. Like so much in her life, Craig was just something to make her look good. On the bright side, she is smart enough not to accessorize with cheap beer and LSD. One day that will be Craig’s downfall. It’s usually plentiful at the many parties she attends, but she knows enough to limit her consumption. She got plastered once as a sophomore and it wasn’t a fun morning at work the next day. Every customer who walked into the Gap seemed to be talking way too loud, and her supervisor seemed to find something wrong with everything she did. She spent the second half of her shift in the back room, away from customers, away from other workers, quarantined from all human contact. Her supervisor said something about dark eyes and bags don’t sell sexy clothes. What did she know?

Her parents are pretty clueless. Most parents are. If her father knew of her back seat exploits he’d have to commit himself. He still thinks she’s his sweet little girl, and he tries to ignore everything that says otherwise. The fact is he’s stuck in a marriage that hasn’t worked in quite a while, and he hopes having a perfect daughter will make up for it. If not he pleasures himself with porn on the Internet, just to be on the safe side. He needs to have something pleasureful in his life, and his wife definitely isn’t that.

Mom is another story. She could be her own story, I’ll have to see if anyone’s covering that one. Her marriage is a sham, and only continues because divorce looks bad. So sex is pretty much out of the question. She definitely has the same problems as her daughter, but hasn’t discovered a way to deal with it yet. Right now she gets by with repression and being pretty much completely repulsed with her body. The idea of her husband finding her attractive makes her ill, and she hasn’t let him touch her in five years, and then she was drunk. She works in a big office building for some national company and does some work that nobody really understands. It’s basically glorified secretarial work, but don’t tell her I said that. If she wasn’t so worried about what everyone else thought, she’d be scoring with the guy across the hall, the one that checks out her ass when she goes to make copies, the one who’s actually gay.

So it’s a fairly complicated life. Right now she’s finishing up with high school and beginning to understand that college is the same thing as high school only with more freedom and more ways to ruin your life. Prom is coming up, but she sees that as another show, another chance to make an impression on people who already have more than an impression about her. She’s hoping to lose enough weight to really wow everyone, leave them with one last image of her as the undying hottie of high school. At least that’s what she thinks. Half the girls there want the same title, and the other half think they already own the title.

Besides working at the Gap, she spends her time doing homework, figuring out how to look like someone she’s not (have a tighter ass, have slinkier hair-whatever that means, and make her breasts look bigger than they actually are), and believe it or not, volunteering with kids. That’s the one redeemable aspect of her life. She volunteers at the Y and leads an after school group of elementary kids. They do crafts and have snacks and play games. It’s basically after school baby sitting until the parents get off work, but it’s given her a sense of purpose. This is why she’s going into education, which really isn’t a very promising thought, if you think about it.

So that’s where I come in. It’s my job to keep our little friend from doing something harsh. It’s probably a little late for that, but I’ll do what I can. I’d hate to see her thrown in a psyche ward, or worse, lying motionless in the bathtub, wrists slit, eyes drooping back in her head and soul departing for another world.

Eulogy for my Grandpa: 1922-2002

My GrandparentsMy grandpa died last week. I pulled these thoughts together for the funeral, and read them to a packed house. I had the whole place laughing, and I think that’s the way Grandpa would have wanted it. The words may not mean a lot to you, but for me they capture my grandpa.


I remember spending summers in Kansas with Grandpa. I grew up in the suburbs of Detroit, and now I live in St. Paul and take the city bus to work everyday. Spending summers in Kansas was a bit of culture shock.

I remember waking up early and sitting around the kitchen table and listening while Grandpa and my mom sipped coffee and talked. The Hutch paper was always spread across the table, and inevitably, the conversation would turn to me.

“He probably fails all his classes, don’t he?” Grandpa would ask. A slow smile would spread across his aging face as his gaze shifted from my mom to me.
Continue reading Eulogy for my Grandpa: 1922-2002