Things Keeping Us Alive, April ’17

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

Lent is over, and Easter is here. The time for mourning and sacrificing is over. The Church invites us into the season of celebration. After the pain and utter defeat at Calvary, He is risen. Alleluia, alleluia.

If you’re like me though, it’s not quite as easy as that.

I wouldn’t call it “pessimistic”; it’s not that simplistic. I’m just a little leery to expect undiluted joy.

And I don’t think I’m the only one who feels that way.

Rather than be overwhelmed by icy ennui, I chose to revisit a television show I’ve watched in its entirety twice already.

My small joy this month is revisiting my favorite show, Scrubs, which blended quirky slapstick humor with genuine heart seamlessly, on Netflix.

It hurts so good. (Note: Scrubs ends with Season 8 and the perfect last episode, “My Finale.” There is a Season 9, but with different actors, a different set, and a general lack of consistency. Season 9 is not Scrubs; I encourage pretending it doesn’t exist.)

I asked some other sick pilgrims to share the small joys keeping them alive right now.


Eve Alexandra, mother of seven, writes while hastily folding laundry and running errands for the local Girl Scout troop. She is a recovering veil addict and she recently put the “I’m aged” in pilgrimaged.

The luxury of a mani pedi. Not because my thrashed hands and feet look presentable now. But because of the girl who does it for me. She swears as much as I do, loves Prince, laughs deep and hearty, doesn’t go to church. She is real. She understands women’s ways. It is a privilege to be touched by her. And knowing that Jesus was a victim of toxic religion; betrayed by one of his best friends; accused of being in league with the devil for trying to do right. And it is the pagan guy, Pilate, who sees the truth. Kind of like my friend who knows women’s ways. I wonder if Jesus was oddly comforted because Pilate saw no fault in him, in the same way that I am more comforted in the presence of my nail girl than with my faith community.


Jen Morson occasionally takes breaks from writing sarcasm on Facebook to write sarcasm for other outlets. Sincerity may break in from time to time, and more of her work can be found here:

The cup of coffee my husband brings me in bed each morning before I have to enter the fray. It is the tiniest gesture, one not requiring that much effort on his part, really, and yet it is life-altering in that I no longer descend the steps uncaffeinated.

My garden. I deserve absolutely zero credit for its beauty, as the entire yard was planted and cultivated by the previous owners of our home, but by some small miracle I was able to keep most of the plants alive, and I look out my windows and see the brightest pinks and whites of the azaleas and the taut bulbs of the peonies which should open any day now, God willing, and my heart is happy.

Runner Up: our newest kitten. He would have made the top two if he didn’t insist on biting my toes. Let this be a lesson to him to treat me better.


Toby D’Anna, much like his late father, is in good shape for the shape he’s in. Currently in his 20th year of making old man sounds while getting out of bed, he still wakes up and enjoys his breakfast boudin like the rest of us. Nevertheless, he dreams of performing a moonsault off the top of a steel cage at Wrestlemania.

Pope Benedict XVI. I’ve heard stories of traditionalist seminarians dreaming of the day when Joseph Ratzinger might become pope. His fans and detractors called him God’s Rottweiler and viewed him as a theological archconservative when he headed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican office once known as the Inquisition, but this caricature never fit the Augustinian scholar who was just doing his job. The man was a holy teddy bear. As pope, Benedict XVI wrote encyclicals on the love of God and our salvation in hope before expounding on Catholic social teaching in Caritas in Veritate, a document so radical in its proposals that the theocon pundit George Weigel imagined a leftist conspiracy in the papal household. This conspiracy required the faithful to read a color coded version of the encyclical discerned by Weigel himself, gold representing the parts that were really Benedict and red representing the bleeding heart politics that must have come from another source. Did Weigel not know the Holy Father had a history of praising democratic socialism for its closeness to Catholic social teaching? The Pope Emeritus was an advocate for environmental stewardship, peace in the world, dialogue with secularists and adherents of other religions in our common pursuit of what is good, and, most importantly, the ongoing proposal of encountering Christ. I’m certain that the man who was humble enough to give up the chair of St. Peter is pleased with both the Franciscan papacy and the world’s response to Francis. There is a holy continuity between these two men, and the folks who don’t recognize it don’t really understand either man. Benedict XVI celebrated his 90th birthday drinking beer and eating pretzels, and this man and his birthday treat are keeping me alive in joy this month just as much as his teaching kept me alive in faith. I love my German shepherd, and I am grateful for encountering Christ through him.


Clarissa Brook enjoys meditating on small joys but does not enjoy talking about herself in the third person.

My 12 year old male cat, Laika. After living away from him for most of the past three years, I have gotten to spend more time with him than ever . This has been a very emotionally trying month and he has been there–head butting me, knocking things over for comic relief/attention, and just sticking by my side always. He is a little befuddled in this picture because I woke him up from his nap.



My camping hammock. I purchased it on a whim at REI a year ago and have used it a couple times for camping – the other day I had the stunning revelation that I could use it to laze around throughout the glorious park systems of Louisville, KY. This joy is compounded by being barefoot, as pictured.




Joanna Penn Cooper is a professional writer of lyrical micro-memoir. This isn’t really a profession. But she’s famous among about ten of her friends who think it is.

Poetry and literary community (specifically “melancholy mom” writer friends). April was National Poetry Month, and for the seventh year in a row, I participated in NaPoWriMo, writing a poem a day for the month of April. Being a poet means having license to take one’s noticing seriously (and not so seriously), and the poem-a-day thing is particularly heartening for me, as it reminds me to notice my life and surroundings just as both are emerging from winter stasis. This year, I swapped poems with a Facebook friend in rural Ohio, someone I’ve never met in person, the practice spurring us on and reminding us both of the centrality of art and creative practice in our lives, and I was reminded how many of my literary friendships, like this one, are with “melancholy moms,” as another writer friend and I call ourselves. It is almost alarming how sustaining such connections can be.



Trees. Seriously. I’m always remembering again how nature provides solace. Go take a walk if you can. (She said to herself. And to you.)




Theresa Marier Weiler is a musician and theatre educator in the Detroit area. She will still sing any “Ave Maria” you choose at your wedding and/or funeral, but the price has gone up because babies need shoes.

Itty-bitty tweezers. If you want to know how my life is going, check my eyebrows–not for my expression, but for stray hairs. As a working mom of four61wDeUvsGVL._SX522_ children, I am generally able to keep myself clean and dressed no matter how chaotic things are, but the finer points of personal grooming tend to fall by the wayside. Recently, my social media newsfeed has been filled with ads for brow fill products, making the process look quick, easy, and transformative, so on my last drugstore trip I tossed a compact brow kit into my cart. It was less than ten dollars, and came with a tiny dual-sided brush and itty-bitty tweezers. There is something satisfying about seeing objects replicated perfectly in miniature, and these wee tweezers make me smile every time I pick them up. Although my first couple of attempts at shaping and filling made me look like the love child of Eugene Levy and Joan Crawford in “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane,” it didn’t take long to get the hang of it. Now a clean, natural brow frames my face and makes me look more awake, and, more importantly, I can start my day with a small sense of accomplishment. My life may be hectic, but when I raise my eyebrows at my misbehaving children, I know they are on point. My eyebrows, I mean.

Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox. Sometimes I need to know that somewhere in an ugly world, people are still creating joyful, uninhibited art free of irony or cynicism. For that I have been turning to iMusic for these interpretations of modern pop songs, performed by a rotating collective of virtuoso musicians in a range of twentieth-century genres, range from heartbreakingly raw to gleefully corny. Having come of age in the 1990’s swing revival, my inner teen is primed to rejoice in all things retro, and you can’t hear “Bad Romance” accompanied by a jazz sextet and an actual live tap-dancer, without feeling like maybe one day you will be back on the dance floor.

Scrubs, nail care, coffee, Pope Benedict, hammocks, trees, and tweezers.




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