Things Keeping Us Alive, May ’17

Things Keeping Us Alive, May ’17 May 18, 2017

Sometimes April showers don’t bring May flowers.

Sometimes the thing keeping you alive last month gets taken off Netflix a few short days after you say it’s a small joy in your life.

Netflix is a cruel, cruel mistress. RIP, Scrubs. 


I need to hear about small joys in peoples’ lives. I love it. Those small, seemingly trivial things that make people smile are meaningful to me. And hopefully to you too.


Sarah Walsh owns a small coffee company in Pittsburgh. It started as a hobby. Pro-tip: Don’t get a hobby. It will literally take over your life.  [She is as quirky as Elliot.]

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Roller-Skating. Photo by Christopher Sprowls Photography.

I started roller skating because one of my friends just wouldn’t stop inviting me. Turns out, I’m pretty good at it. Owing in no small part to spending many adolescent years at the roller skating rink just wishing some cute boy would invite me to couple-skate with him. It’s impossible to be sad when I have a pair of roller skates on my feet. We even picked up a pair of Pumas and turned them into skate-shoes. I go out almost every Thursday night and it’s basically therapy, but only costs $7. It’s a pretty great deal.

Listening to roller skating music. While roller skating, I’m reminded of embarrassing life stories. For instance, I know all the words to “Funky Cold Medina.” It’s played almost every week. I also now like the song “Pony.” The song that’s my new favorite is “Them Changes” by Thundercat. You know how some people who sing karaoke listen to music on the radio and think, “Oh, I could karaoke that!” Dude, that’s effing crazy. I would never participate in karaoke unless I’m super drunk. However, I do often think, “Oh, that would be a great song to roller skate to!” when I’m listening to the radio these days.


Marybeth Chuey Bishop lives in Annapolis with her husband and five children. And two dogs. And a lizard and some scruffy plants, but she’s pretty sure the hamster is gone for good. She likes to walk, wear socks with kraken or Poe on them, and check more books out of the library than she can possibly read. She frequently thinks about writing but is often interrupted mid-se [She is as prickly as Jordan.]
Reading The Chronicles of Narnia with my two youngest kids, ages 10 and 7 is my favorite part of the day at the moment. It’s been years since I’ve read the series and my memory is awful, so it’s like we’re discovering a lot of it together. Their gasps and “No! Don’t do that!”s, cheers and boos, and predictions of who might do what next wash a good deal of the dirt off my soul at the end of the day.

Wine and fries. This came about by happy accident. We went to Mass the Saturday evening before Mother’s Day, and the priest suggested thatwf we all go home, pour a glass of wine, and toast our mothers. One of my older daughters was also joining us for Mass for the first time in a while. This clearly called for a celebration, but of the it’s-6:00-on-Saturday-night-and-everything-is-crowded-and-expensive-and-we’re-already-tired variety. Lucky for us, there’s a McDonald’s right around the corner and a seedy boozerarium on the way home. I declared it a new Mother’s Day tradition, just to make sure it doesn’t die here—this combination is too good. I highly recommend Red Velvet Cupcake with McD fries, but feel free to improvise.


Rob Saler is the Research Professor of Lutheran Studies and Executive Director of the Center for Pastoral Excellence at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis. He writes about theology, literature, and music in whatever venues good people like to hang out in. [He knows his job title is impressive, like Dr. Kelso.]

The Necks – an experimental Australian jazz trio that have been at this for 30 years. All of their sets are 45 minutes of strict minimalist improv that draw from the acoustics of the room. They are the best kind of experimental jazz: non-didactic, erudite about the forebears without being beholden to them, and curious about where younger acts are taking the sound. Check out their album Aether for immersion into music that, when I first heard it, felt completely alien yet existentially familiar all at once. Check out a video of their show here. That’s me in the front row.


Maren Grossman lives with her family in Pennsylvania. She mostly only has time to read over meals, which explains why she will never finish reading Annie Dillard’s “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.” [She is as fierce as Carla.]

Books. I’ve always been a bibliophile, but that has meant different things at different times. Sometimes life doesn’t lend itself to reading new books and I reread the same Terry Pratchett and Madeleine L’Engle books over and over. This spring has found me reading lots of new books all at once: poems and essays and philosophy and books about dog training. It’s nice to be reading new things again.

Fungus. No really. It’s been an unusually rainy spring in our area and mushrooms and toadstools have been popping up everywhere. Almost fungusevery day there are mushrooms in a new place. My favorites are the clusters of tiny brown mushrooms that are only the size of pencil erasers. I’m fascinated by the fact that they’re entirely fragile but nonetheless spring up from not just the ground but also from solid wood. I can’t help thinking of Merlin trapped inside the oak or Ariel in the cloven pine.

Brian Jocks is Sick Pilgrim’s Dark Devotional illustrator, but his crowning achievement is that he once played the Tin Man in a school play, though he is actually a cowardly lion. [He is as unpredictable as Dr. Cox.]

Pinegrove’s album CardinalI stumbled upon Pinegrove and their new album on NPR’s Top 50 Albums of 2016 list and was immediately on board. Cardinal contains some of the most earnest music I’ve ever heard. It’s got emotionally resonant lyrics paired with indie rock music and some Americana elements mixed in; creating a formula my music-loving heart can’t resist. I’ve been obsessed from the first note and I’ve been listening to it almost daily ever since.

leftoversThe Leftovers, an HBO show that is wrapping up its 3rd and final season in the next few weeks and I will miss it dearly. It takes place after a worldwide rapture-like event and focuses on broken people trying to cope with unexplainable loss. There’s a strong focus on faith with a few other religious themes such as prophesy, resurrection, and the afterlife (also, there’s a chain-smoking cult that communicates using only paper and sharpie, thrown in for flavor.) The music on the show is fantastic with original pieces by composer Max Richter and an amazing, eclectic assortment of tracks chosen by music supervisor Liza Richardson.
“I think one of the most universal human experiences is feeling alone. You’d never know it, but there’s most likely tons of people feeling the exact same way. Maybe because you’re feeling abandoned. Maybe because you realize that you aren’t as self-sufficient as you thought. Maybe because you know you should’ve handled something differently. Or maybe because you aren’t as good as you thought you were. Either way, when you hit that low point, you have a choice. You can either wallow in self-pity…Or you can suck it up. It’s your call.”

That’s a quote by JD because of course it is.

Stay alive, guys.
-Matt Lafleur [Pest]

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