Go Ahead and Have the Damn Children!

3724627479_62ac89a307_mI was working from home a few days ago, on a day when both of my children were sick, a day that teetered back and forth between writing memos and proposals at the dining room table and wielding the digital thermometer aloft as I re-tucked the covers around hot little bodies.

It was the end of the day and I had turned to random housecleaning when I happened to hear, on the public radio program Marketplace, the latest installment of the show’s series on “first jobs,” pegged to a new book out called First Jobs: True Tales of Bad Jobs, Quirky Coworkers, Big Breaks, and Small Paychecks. In it, a young man named Jesse Kovalcik talked about his first job as a gravedigger at the South Florida pet cemetery where his father was working.

Aside from the built-in oddity of the job he described, the story was compelling for the family portrait it provided: The reason the family was in South Florida in the first place was that the father had gone there to enter a rehab program, and the pet cemetery job was the position he was given on release. [Read more...]

My Rainbow Connection, Disconnected

by Chad Thomas Johnston

2067021449_5fea38708a_mIt was a Saturday night and my wife, Becki, wanted to stream the documentary, Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey, on Netflix. As a new father, I protested. Our seven-month-old daughter Evie carried with her the promise that Elmo would invade our house soon enough—but this was too soon.

I also protested because I lost much of my enthusiasm for puppets when Jim Henson died on May 16, 1990. When Henson’s silver cord was severed—a phrase the writer of Ecclesiastes uses to refer to death—the rainbow connection Henson sang about as Kermit the Frog was disconnected for me.

People said Henson’s death could have been prevented if only he had gone to the hospital earlier. In my eleven-year-old mind, I thought this meant he had given up on living, much as people give up on hobbies they no longer love. [Read more...]

When We Die

4837682207_f99b2224d6_mA text from a friend: “What do you believe happens when we die?”

She’d recently lost her son. He must have been no older than his late twenties, maybe early thirties. Over the years, she had told me enough about him that I knew he was troubled. I didn’t really know what kind of trouble. I knew she worried about him, about his ability to take care of himself. I don’t know how he died. I can only imagine.

But I cannot imagine what it feels like to have lost a son or daughter. I want to comfort my friend, but I don’t know how. [Read more...]

The Soul of the Law

e7eccc8e1b84a088At the beginning of the old Norton Anthology of English Literature (4th Ed.) appeared this account from the medieval chronicler Gerald of Wales:

The Lord of Chateau-Roux in France maintained in the castle a man whose eyes he had formerly put out, but who, by long habit, recollected the ways of the castle, and the steps leading to the towers. Seizing an opportunity of revenge, and meditating the destruction of the youth, he fastened the inward doors of the castle, and took the only son and heir of the governor of the castle to the summit of a high tower, from whence he was seen with the utmost concern by the people beneath. [Read more...]

Back to the Drawing Board

colorbookTo say I can’t draw myself out of a cardboard box is to assume I know how to find the opening in the first place. I’m not spatially oriented, to say the least. I’ve always struggled to transfer any sort of mental vision to physical form, whether it be drawing, floral arranging, or applying a streak of eyeliner. I’m stymied by reading (as well as refolding) maps, folding sweaters, or closing Chinese takeout containers.

[Read more...]


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