Things Keeping Us Alive, March ’17

Things Keeping Us Alive, March ’17 March 27, 2017

How’s Lent going for you, pilgrims?

The 40 days of preparation before Easter is typically a time of somber reflection on our own mortality – you know, Catholic. Our Protestant famille likes to celebrate only the joy of the Resurrection, the empty cross. But we Catholics have Jesus’ bloody body on our crosses; we symbolically focus on what came before the Resurrection. Lent can be symbolized by the crucifix.

So in this time of fasting, what small joys can we find in our lives right now? What soothes us, like temporary balm on the road to Gilead? Some sick pilgrims gave me a glimpse of the small joys in their lives right now. So sickies, what’s keeping you alive?


Annette Paulsen really likes The Walking Dead and she wants you to know that. Her husband has a habit of feeding all of the stray cats in her neighborhood. This does not amuse her.  She cusses like the fantastic Mr. Fox.

ojThe People vs O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story.  I love me some Cuba Gooding, Jr., but he looked a little small to be playing OJ.   This led to reading The Run of His Life:  The People v. O.J. Simpson by Jeffrey Toobin.  Great, fast-paced read.  Still need more Juice?   We recently added Sling TV to our viewing options and I discovered it included ESPN, which I could not care less about, but they had the 10 hour series OJ: Made in America on demand.   I now think I have a much better understanding of why the jury voted the way they did.  Having served nine of his 33 year sentence for kidnapping, armed robbery and assault with a deadly weapon, he has his first parole hearing this summer.


Russian piping tips.   I have them in the house but haven’t had the time to break them out yet.  My partner in crime Dede and I aare going to get together and bust these bad boys out and make some cupcakes.   Even though our timing is off, the master-plan has been set in motion and the day is coming and that is enough to keep me getting up and moving forward.  Just looking at the box of tips makes me happy with anticipation of the crazy, jacked up mess we will be making and eating.



Cashel Rodriguez is what happens when drama queens grow up, in a good way.

The theatre. Sometimes I love just sitting in an empty theatre, imagining all of the endless possibilities that could come to life on that 17495791_10155153481512855_422135610_nstage. And then to be on it! Outside of the Eucharist, there is nothing I have found more fulfilling than the feeling of being up there, feeding off of the energy of the audience, and immersing myself in the life and struggles and joys of someone else for that short span of time. And then, just like smoke, it’s gone to live on in the memories of those who came to be a part of it, taking a part of me with them.



17467607_10155153484997855_1827796262_nTiny arms wrapping around your neck, little legs curled up into your body, and a head tucked into your shoulder as that whole miniature body conforms to yours. Joy is gentle pats on the face from smooth hands and soft lips pressed to your cheek (sometimes like butterfly wings and sometimes like a horse tongue.) It is smiles and giggles and outlandish statements that no one that small should be able to muster, delivered with absolute gravity, leaving the whole house doubled over in laughter. It is watching them grow and discover the world around them and living through the newness of it all in their eyes. And every time that beautiful phrase “I love you” leaves their lips, it never fails to bring as much joy with it as the first time it was uttered.



Rebecca Bratten Weiss’s first response to two things keeping her alive was “One shot of bourbon, then another shot of bourbon.” That awesome answer is worth repeating.

5557311485_f41f52d341_zGardening. It ranks pretty high, and not just because it provides our family with a good bit of our food. It’s early season work now: digging potato trenches, putting in onion sets, planting peas. Inside, I’m getting my midseason seedlings started in trays, under grow lights that I hope don’t bring the DEA down on me. Being in touch with the living world, and all its intricate processes, you stay, curious, interested in the lives of the tiniest creatures who if they are happy, ignore you, you giant interloper. There’s a lifetime’s worth learning, about insects alone. The red velvet mite, for instance: if you haven’t seen this comic about the red velvet mite, in The Oatmeal, go look now.


This YouTube playlist, of Johnny Cash performing the works of other artists (because there’s basically no song that isn’t a little better if Cash sings it). T.S. Eliot said that we can’t bear too much reality, but we can’t bear to be deprived of it, either. I think, maybe, this is one reason some of us like to throw ourselves into experiences of art in which the sense of reality is pointed, heightened, dizzying as cathedrals – in which, maybe, the art itself causes pain. So, I’ve been listening, as I plant, to this list. The first song is U2’s “The Wanderer” – a quintessential Sick Pilgrim song, and one that says a lot about trying to survive in America, right now. Rooted in the soil. But also wandering, perpetually homeless.


Chris Kirby is pink and marshmallow-y. He can wave his flippers and make his round body float in the air, and he swallows anyone he disagrees with whole and can then steal their powers.

My 4-year-old daughter’s grace and forgiveness. I became a father a bit later than most do. For years I 17496364_10211065004355478_1966223849_ndidn’t want to be a dad due to the overwhelming fear of failure or replicating my parents mistakes. My wife and I both work hard and are typically tired in the evenings. This translates to me falling short in the parenting department more often than I can count. I anguish in guilt when I snap at her but she is quick to move on and give me unlimited hugs. I don’t deserve this beautiful gift.
250px-Beatles_-_Abbey_RoadSide B of Abbey Road. It’s impossible for me to put what this means to me in more than a few sentences. It is the greatest collection of music from start to finish in the history of rock n roll.
Gabriela Abascal Bollich brings that Guatemalan spice to southern Louisiana.

17505632_10155203978793331_1187669328_nThe caramel/vanilla almond milk Mochasippi with an extra shot of espresso (long shots, which makes the shots stronger) and easy ice. For your birthday, my local coffee shop C.C.’s gives you one of their signature frozen drinks. This year, I took Julian, my three-year-old, with me on a date (he got a “mini-sippi”). It’s not the first time we go get “coffee” together and it is usually a messy ordeal which begins with the kid spreading the whipped cream all over his face in an attempt to eat it and ends with him attempting to jump on one foot and breaking down a fence (very frat boy of him, I know). He also shares all his fears and the things that make him happy with all the eloquence and complexity of a three-year old.

Sissy Spacek reading To Kill a Mockingbird. I love listening to a good read on Audible while doing boring duties around the house, like dishes, laundry, changing soiled diapers, wiping butts—you get the picture. In my current listen, Spacek has the most beautiful southern accent and I absolutely love the way she says “Miss Maudie” and the way she makes Scout say “Atticus.” Bad readers can ruin a book. However, good readers, like Sissy Spacek, extract me from reality, which is all right with me because I’d rather find out why Boo Radley won’t come out of the house than constantly worry about the color of my child’s poop.


Looks like Cashel, Chris, and Gabriela need to arrange a proud parent play-date. For their kids.
Have a good rest-of-Lent, pilgrims. Remember, Easter is a-coming.
Stay strong.
Your pal,

Browse Our Archives