use it

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This is a hard chunk of life.

It almost seems like grace isn’t enough for all of this. I don’t know what is enough for all of this. I could have a million words and it would not convince a person filled with such hate for another person.

I’ve been without my phone for a few days, which means I haven’t been keeping up with everything, all the time, everywhere. Some part of that is very liberating. But then I got home and turned on my computer and saw the things you saw and were already speaking out against.

It breaks my heart. I know it breaks yours too.

Your silence also breaks my heart. More importantly that some of you have that hatred in your belly, and while you don’t adhere to these practices, you live it all the time. Sometimes you teach your children or grandchildren the ways that you hate something and you plant an idea into their innocent bellies. No one is born with the knowledge to hate another.

So you are responsible for the love and hate you speak. Always, forever and ever.

If you are silent about injustice, you are not on the side of the oppressed.

No, you don’t have to hold up signs or go to rallies — but you can, with a small word or change of heart, heal something much bigger.

White folks — this isn’t about being a hippie anymore. It’s about doing what’s right. You love and pray to God for peace and for all things to be made whole?

Well guess what — it is up to you now.

None of the “world has fallen/man has sinned/we are forgiven” excuses that make you comfortable in your recliners at night. We don’t have time for that anymore. But you do have time to speak love and teach younger more innocent things what love is and what love can be.

And if you don’t believe in a God, that goes the same for you. Being human is a real thing. And we are seeing the ugly underbelly that never rests. Truth is, it’s always been there. Always will be there.

But, you are a light and you are a voice.

use it.

use it.

use it.

 

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grace and geology.

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It’s a lot of pressure, getting older.

Every day is like something of a honing steel, getting sharper maybe. Focusing on what you want to do. Who you want to be. My craft requires a lot from me. I’m sure yours does too.

When you’re a professional cook, and while some call me a chef, there is the constant pressure to perform consistently better and better. Or maybe that’s on me. I guess it should be on me.

The truth of the matter is that I will let someone down. And so will you.
But getting older, man. This sh*t is brutal sometimes.

I think often, that I am not big enough to do certain things. But I’m doing them, somehow. And I think that’s how everything works. You have no idea until you are immersed and come out on the other side. Maybe a little more worn, but you’re okay. That’s what becoming more of an adult feels like. Being okay with big things.

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I’m on the last year of my 20’s. A decade of my own becoming. Spiritual crisis. Marriage. Divorce. Moving. Death. Big responsibilities to my craft and my people. I am not alone.

What a huge decade. One that I look back on like a blur of loud and soft. Heavy and fizzy. Some days it feels like getting tossed off a merry-go-round that’s going too fast. Other days it is front porch sittin’. Sweet tea drinkin’.

And what I am learning learning learning!
Goodness gracious.
Life is full of pressure. I often compare it to geology, which is generally the study of pressure over time, on certain objects. Or at least that is what they said in Shawshank.

At night, I sink into my bed and try to calm down. I resist the urge to pick up my phone and numb the edges.

It is important for me to be calm. To be good. To be kind. I’m less worried about being book smart. Or needing to know how to solve long equations. I’m a little more concerned with grace. And maybe how to better feed my people.

I say pressure because cooking for people means they’re waiting on you. Over the course of a week, that’s hundreds of people waiting on you to feed them. Clean up after them. That’s a load of responsibility. I suppose, since I don’t have children of my own, that might be just a little bit of what parents feel like. A lot of pressure to get things right and on their time frame.

I submit to that pressure. I have to.

But I have loved my 20s. Since that seems to be my theme here, today. Thinking of my new normals and what ten years can do to a human. The world is full of pressure. Geology. Time. The numerous times I’ve been wrong or angry. The adventures I’ve jumped into and the times I’ve held myself back. Little do I regret, which is rare for some people.

All I ask of myself is to keep my heart open.

Work as hard as I can without compromising my own peace of mind. To have some control over how stressful this work can be and keep my hands steady on the plow.

This is what I know, and it is what I’m good at.

Above all, loads and loads of grace. For myself and for others who have asked it upon me.

That, after all, is the gift I receive from others.

Yeah, ya know?
Today, I’m thankful for grace.

marshmallows and steel

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The world is not a cold and dark place.

This, I thought, after I looked out the tiny window of the airplane and saw fire and amber and something that looked like eternity. It is truly amazing to see the sun’s light setting on them marshmallow clouds.

Yes. At the time I was cramming a bag of peanuts into my mouth, enjoying how very salty they were and wishing I had a cold beer. But I had plenty of beers the prior week and figured taking a break from the greatness that is Portland’s beer scene would be a good idea.

I spent the past week wobbling around (on one good foot) Portland, Oregon.
“I’m going [dramatic pause] to feed myself”, is what I told everyone.

Yes, food. Beer. Coffee.

The people. I’ve needed to connect with people there. Something about going after the holidays seemed too far and I was feeling too antsy. I wanted to connect before the holiday exhaustion set in. And I’m so glad I did.

I will not dive into the play by play, but I spent most of my days eating at my favorite haunts and spending time with people I’ve missed the most. I loved seeing my niece and nephew, and how big they are getting. Little P-Lu, especially. Chubby arms. Walking around on top of legos like they were nothing.

“She’s made of marshmallows and steel”, we joke. And it’s true. She is.

And W, still so bright and intrigued and silly.

I drove around the city a good bit and thought it’d be a good idea to give myself a lot of grace.

At least that’s what I heard being said in my belly. It brought me to tears, at one point, sitting in St. John’s Cathedral Park, breathing in the cold wet damp, and watching the lowest clouds stream through the trees like locks of hair being pulled through the teeth of a comb.

What a beautiful place this is. I remember the streets I walked down to get to work and thought, “Man, these were such sweet, sweet times.” I let myself feel afraid and acknowledged what made me feel anxious. My doubts about being a good husband. In my head, feeling like I had abandoned my people and left a career that was actually taking me somewhere.

No longer is it important for me to prove anything to anyone there. What happened, happened. I found myself experiencing some sadness from sitting in a place that once held heavy and heartbreaking conversations, and remembering always the sun-gold tomatoes that grew their vines around our old bikes.

What sweet and amazing and devastating things happened here. And I am alive. I am moving and movement is life, as they say.

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When my plane landed in New Orleans last night, I found out the Saints had lost.
I also found out about the riots and rulings in Ferguson.

My heart sank. It was all I could think about my entire drive home. How complex and angry and sad this made me and so many other people feel. How people I love and respect would disagree with one another. That’s sort of hard. We’re not very good at disagreeing, or seeing each other in a state of grace.

I realize I say grace a lot. And while that comes with a spirituality you may or may not want to be a part of, it can be universally understood. It is something I’m learning to understand.

When my plane was finally above all the dark and mucky stuff, I was able to see the sun setting far away. We were flying away from it, so I had to twist my head to see the horizon.

And there it was.

All sorts of warmth, even in the frigid blue. I thought that maybe I would be okay with this kind of heaven.

I leaned my head in the awkward space and closed my eyes. Traveling forward. Chasing a sky turning darker, and darker. All I could think about was chubby marshmallow arms and bright smiles. New normals. Fears and anxieties slowly laying to rest in the same ground from which they came.

Onward.

Into another horizon with the warmth of the sun licking my heels.

There is good, here.

And also in our hearts, especially where it hurts and feels the most dark.

Deep, deep down,
there is fire and amber and steel,
building a new heaven,
and a new horizon,
going on into eternity.

 

slow moves

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Gently, now.

Slowly pivoting as to not spill my hot tea and mess of scrambled eggs I have mounded on a tiny plate.

I grimace a bit, due to the misfortune of fracturing my foot at work.
I am not good at this. I am not good at this!

That is what I say in my head, and for most people who find themselves all of a sudden limited to what they can and can’t do. Even more so, as walking is a bit of a chore.

Soft.

How do I manage to move around this heavy frame so softly? I can’t say that I do so very well. As a matter of fact, I ripped off the towel rack in one of my best friend’s bathroom trying to save myself from a bad foot placement. Luckily, he laughed after I apologized. Thankful for that grace, indeed.

I fear for my high center of gravity.

Slow.

Slow moves. Robot-like. Sliding my gimpy leg as to not put too much pressure on broken bits.

I am not good at this.

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I move back and forth between my couch and my bed. My tiny bottle of pain meds sits next to my heater that can barely keep up the warmth in these old timbers. When I am finally warm, wrapped in my blanket, and the pulse of my right foot dies down to a low slumber, I am grateful for the rest. I happily slide into my worn down pillows and click off the tiny lamp that lights my late night wanderings.

The morning is stiff. A little bit better, I think. I would wake myself up in the middle of the night, jolts of electricity running through my leg from twisting my foot in an odd way. I sit up. Shake it off, and fall back asleep. Less so, now that I’m adjusting.

Sitting in the clinic, I think, “Of course I’m going to write about this!” Because that’s just what I do. I see myself in story.

I can’t help but to wonder when this great moment of clarity will come — when I will feel that all was for this one reason. I don’t think that’s how it will work. But I woke up this morning and felt like I had moved around some heavy things in my dreams.

During the night I would stir about, feeling like I was rearranging some heavy boxes. Much like the one I jammed my foot into. I was pushing them different places. Still able to be found, but in a way, making room for other things. Like new people. New feelings. New thoughts on God and love, giving my body the space to heal from all sorts of things.

It is never a bad thing, finding new light within your soul.

It is there, always, covered up by bombings and elections and having one’s heart broken into a million pieces.

Small moves.

albeit, heavy.

soft.

gentle.

making room for the light to get in.

I suppose when I think about cracks and broken spaces,

they allow room for exposure.

And I think that maybe, Rumi says it best:

The wound is the place where the Light enters you.

a thousand tiny pieces

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I am currently sitting here, watching my new printer spit out some words I’ve been writing over the past year or so.

It is certainly the shittiest of first drafts of something I might some day consider to be a book.
It is just so, so hard to do.

I can’t really say if I will ever get to the point where you fine people will be able to read it, but that is my plan, overall. Really, I just want to finish something. I owe that to myself and my story.

It is hard to dive back into that, especially as each day moves you further out. It is odd, at times, to see myself in such a painful reality that many of you are in — hell — that I’m still in sometimes.

For me, it revolves around a small moment from a few months ago, when I was playing cards with my nephew. At face value, it was a good ole’ fashioned temper tantrum. Kids have them all the time. I understand.

He had gotten frustrated and threw the cards on the ground — they went everywhere.

I knew this frustrated him even more, because now he had to pick them up. But he just couldn’t. He moaned and squirmed on the ground, while I noticed the amount of time it was taking for him to work through this frustration, he could have had the cards picked up in no time.

But kids get frustrated, man.

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After being told repeatedly to pick them up, he would start, and throw them down again. Squirm some more, maybe a few little tears. I felt bad. Not because he was being stubborn, but because I remember when those things got to be overwhelming as a kid. When you’re tired and frustrated, and can’t put a voice to it. So what do you do? You whine and moan. You say and do things out of anger.

So I began to help him.

“Come on bud, we’ll do this one at a time, okay?”

It took a little convincing, but I think when he saw me helping him, he started to pull out of that messy space.

I mean, what do you do when all your cards hit the floor, dispersing into what looks like a thousand little pieces?

You squirm and complain and to be honest, gotta cry for a while.

The chaos of what you created, and perhaps what was presented to you consumes your ability to take first steps.

But what I learned from this, and what I still learn every day, is that you have to start picking things up.

One at a time.

Your mess will still be there looking raw and disorganized and public.

Then, some people will come in and help you pick up a card or two. I have looked up on several occasions, choking on my own words, thanking people for getting on my level — for sitting in my hectic little moment for just a bit to help me through. I still have those moments.

I will always have those moments.

The idea about whatever it is I have coming out of that printer, is a mixture of what I experienced on that floor.

Having one’s shit together. Then losing one’s shit, and then picking it all up. With loads of help and grace and cheeseburgers.

T, who I still consider to be my mother in law, once told me, “to love is to suffer”.

And I remember it daily. When our friends lose their friends. When we get on the level of those who need a little more help.

That is powerful, yo.

You are powerful in ways you’ll never know. And in some ways, this thing that I’m writing, is a gift. To myself, and to whoever it is someday that will be able to know it had flesh on it. That this blog, in so many ways, was my way to squirm and moan and groan…and how I discovered in myself, through you, that life is all about the tiny pieces and how we get our knees dirty helping to pick them all up,

one at a time.

and for that, I say:

thank you.

 

life overflowing.

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I can feel these last tugs at my heart.

Like the last kicks of an animal,
or being just too tired to hang on.

I’d like to say that whatever it is I’m falling into, is good.

I never see a pit of despair or some endless road on a hot day.

It’s been a week, for me, though.
Sitting in the Social Security office working on getting my name changed back and having to sit over divorce papers yet again and to explain my situation.

“Oh, so you just want ‘Casper’ then, right?”

A few taps on the backspace button and that was it.

“Hmph…” I mumbled, as I do when I listen to people talk about hard things.

“You should be getting your new card within two weeks.”

And all of a sudden, things were back how they used to be. (On paper.)

I remembered our tireless conversations in cars. How hard it was to think through all of this. It really did make sense to take your last name too. I was proud of that. A lot of people were weird about it, the state itself, but it was challenging. It was a little hard to die to one’s self. Not that I mean that in a depressing way, but in the way we should all be giving and taking.

Thanks for your grace in that, too.

I’ve given up on having my shit together. Granted, in the kitchen, it’s a little different. It’s my job to have my shit together.

But when I’m sitting across from you, I’d like to think that I’m all yours. I also hope that you allow me to rest and say no from time to time. The balance of yes and no is hard. I’ve been saying yes a lot, because it gets me out of a lot of hard and lonely nights. But the nights that I say no, I find a way to keep moving.

Perhaps a text to a friend saying, “Sheesh. What do you do when you’re mad?”

Because that’s really important. That’s when other people shed a little of their grace on you, for free. Luckily it’s free to give — and is more valuable than anything in the world. At least it is to me.

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Yeah, I feel a lot of things in a day.
And also it’s been a really challenging week. It probably has for you, too.

You’ve felt too rushed. You said yes when you really wanted to say no.

Your heart is broken.

You ate your cheeseburger too fast.

Or maybe, you took a few steps out of your own hell because that’s how it works.

Just a few steps. Messy ones. Loud and clunky.

I lay my head back and examine my space.
I hear cicadas outside singing in rhythm to this hot day.

My own heart is making its rounds. Seeing people it misses and building itself up for a new day. It’s important for me to make this space for myself. I suppose it is sort of a luxury.

But then again, I have a lot of little luxuries in the form of hot tea and a place that I get to lay down my arms.

It always comes back to me being thankful. It takes time to get there, but you will find always, little pockets of helpers and lovers and healers. Let em’ fill you up.

Because today, my cup is overflowing.

 

little flowers.

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I try to pay attention when this crazy life slows down just enough.

Tiny themes. Parables. Accents to the usual ebb and flow of a day.

Today, as I was looking around my room, I came across one of those tiny themes.

flowers.

Which, for me, is sort of odd. I’ve really been into flowers lately. I realize that isn’t the most masculine or insane thing of me to say, but at this point, I don’t really care too much about that. Being a sucker for aesthetic, especially in the dining room, I’ve grown to love those floral notes and little bursts of pigment and how they make a room (and me) feel more alive.

This week, I received a portrait of a magnolia. My state’s flower and tree, believe it or not. I love magnolias. My favorite tree in the world has its roots dug in the front yard of my Me-Maw and Paw-Paw’s house — the giant magnolia that we used to climb as kids. Lately though, the magnolia has become a symbol to me in another way. Healing. I look to it as a place that I came home to slow down and feel okay for a while. To me, the magnolia is my home place. It puts me at peace, and I’m always looking for peace in small and big ways.

Being a sucker for making dishes pretty, I bought a packet of nasturtium seeds to plant. Nasturtiums are these lovely and colorful little flowers that are in fact, edible. I know that might weird people out, but I think they’re just dandy. I think we should be eating more of them, to be honest. I know it’s a little dorky to put flowers on food, but for the sake of my craft, I’m just gonna go with it.

Nasturtium paper

At work, I’ve made a new friend. Her dad grows flowers, plants and herbs and sells them at the local farmer’s market. I told her I didn’t have enough hands for them this past Thursday, so she brought some flowers to me in the midst of a leaning stack of dirty dishes in a stuffy kitchen. It completely made my day. I see them sitting on my nightstand, looking very alive and unique, greeting me in the morning time. I could make this a habit.

Most people who know me, know of my deep love of St. Francis. Albeit a very popular saint, I consider him mine. I once had a shaman tell me that he saw St. Francis near me one day. I can’t say that I fully believed the dude, but it gave me chill bumps. I learned a lot about St. Francis when I lived in India for a short time. I have these tattoos on my wrists that help me remember how inter-connected our world is. I have Francis to thank for that. Well, and a scruffy tattoo artist who worked out of a pawn shop in Jackson, Mississippi.

The Little Flowers were stories released after the death of St. Francis. I suppose it all brings me to feel a bit more holy in a tumultuous time. Faith to me feels a bit like swimming in a choppy ocean. A lot of ups and downs and treading, but ultimately surrounded by it all.

I like that we have little stories of faith, little reminders of miracles, and a way that we remember the tiny things that live among us. As I watched the birds land on my new feeder, they would dig their beaks into the mound of seeds and shower them on the ground for all the other little birds.

I can say that I’ve been on both ends of that, and recognize its importance. In some seasons, you are the one casting seeds, in the other you are sowing, and perhaps at the end, you get to see the fruit of your labor and give thanks with your fellow Beloved.

I am writing today because of so many people, and their daily works and thoughts and efforts.

And I am thankful,

always thankful,

for the small things, with great amounts of love.

light and angles

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I still get choked up when I talk about some of the hard stuff.

I do this thing where I’m in the middle of a word, and my nose starts to burn and I lose all the saliva in my mouth. Then I cough, regain composure, and finish what it was I was trying to say in the first place.

Usually something like this:

I really miss it.

By the way, don’t ever watch the movie, Her, if you’re in the middle of a divorce of any kind.
Or do, actually. I thought it was a beautiful, sad, and melancholic movie, but an important one. The computer asks him at one point, “What was it like to be married?”

‘Well, it’s hard for sure. But there’s something that feels so good about sharing your life with somebody.’

Sometimes it feels good to be sad.
To not having anything to say on the matter.
Just to sit in the wonderful melancholy of a good song,
or what it was like to hold hands on a walk,
and to see the sun catch her angle just right.

I really did like being married.

One of the hardest things, is seeing the people you grew with, still in theirs.

I ache because I feel like I should be with them in this process saying, “Yeah, marriage is tough right?!” while we sit around and drink too much wine and contemplate our next house project.

I feel like so many people are hurt in these things. I sensed it made my married friends hold more tightly to one another at the end of the night, and to be thankful they weren’t experiencing what we were going through.

You think about that a lot. What other people think.

Nobody can stop you from doing that. You will even tell yourself to not compare your relationship or failures or whatever it is you want to call it. But you will. And it is there you will have to meet yourself with some grace and humility.

oof. that was really loud.

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No one ever hops into a relationship to feel bad about themselves, or to break each others hearts. You do it because you want to experience that wild and infatuating type of love, where the idea of losing the other person makes you tear up. And then they fart out loud, and you laugh saying, “Sheesh…dude!”

Loving another human being deeply is always dangerous. I kinda love that. You’re making a statement that you aren’t afraid of what that will do to you. It’s an insane, kinda love.

When you have it, you know it.

And with that knowledge, there is always the tiniest little part that knows at any moment, the world could open up under your feet. But I’m reading a book that says love is staying together and choosing to stay together regardless, because it’s a promise.

Yeah, there are certainly limits to that rule, and many relationships just need to go their separate ways. We seem to think we are doomed, but really it’s about changing and shifting together. That’s hard. It’s the hardest thing to do besides figuring out which person is in charge of dishes, or cleaning the bathroom.

I lost a person in this whole thing.

I lost her touch and intimacy and willingness to grow alongside me.

But you gain things too.

That’s how losing someone or something works.

You gain humility. The light that is in good things becomes brighter. Sharper. Consistently wonderful. At times, painfully nostalgic.

You’re always, always, always learning.

The energy — the thing that brought you both together isn’t wasted, but it is transformed into a new trajectory. Like space jetsam and flotsam colliding — getting launched deeper into the cosmos.

It’s a balance of give and take.

I really liked being married.
There was something nice about spending your life with another person. And it is hard.

But sometimes, life creates an abundance of grace for you to waddle in when things go astray.

It is there that you will see the light over the horizon.

and you will drive, endlessly into it,

eager to lose yourself in its beauty all over again.

 

 

you did not fail love.

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We glorify the epic fail.

I’d like to think it is because many of us have never failed so badly in our life to receive such a label. Granted, there are worse fails than messing up a batch of cookies you saw on Pinterest.

I suppose I find myself a lot these days, moping around the neighborhood with a cup of coffee at hand, still wondering how this all happened so fast. Five years was an instant. The memories fast forward in my head like a VHS. The quality is about the same, as well.

Some days, I feel like a great big failure. I’m moving away from the place I called home. I’m leaving behind a community of amazing people. And a lot of my community resides elsewhere. In fact, all over the world.

My friend Jara has been keeping up with me since she was my coordinator for my travels in India back in 2007. She kept up with me and Hannah during our engagement, through marriage, and still supports me in the aftermath of such things.

She wrote me a letter, and I wrote her back. Her and her husband Kenley are some of the best kind of people I know. Truly.

I stayed with them when I was moving to Oregon, and we all still keep tabs on one another. (Plus, I just think Kenley is such a cool guy. Like, not cool. But like, when I think: ‘that dude is cool’, I think about Kenley. Straight up.

Jara emailed me early this morning saying this:

I had this thought for you while doing dishes last night – you didn’t
fail love.

that’s it. be well. travel safely!

And I think I read it five times.

Tears well up. I sat and took a few deep breaths.

Was she right? Maybe. Yeah.

Yeah! Hell yeah!

And it knocked me down again.

I sat in my brown chair and let it sink in, like sticking a pen to paper and letting the ink absorb and spread.

I did not fail love.

Most days, I certainly think I did. I mean, that’s what happens when someone divorces you right? You failed.

you failed. you failed. you f@#!$@# failed.

A big red circle with an X crossing through it.

A loud ERRRR! sound. Like on Family Feud.

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And then there was this grace that started to flow through me.

Words from a friend, gifted to her by a sink full of dishes. I am no stranger to dish therapy.

I am thankful she sent the word to me.

I didn’t fail love.

I worked hard for it.
For a second, I added a comma.

You didn’t fail, love.

And now it sounds like someone is talking to me. Someone who loves me and I am all of a sudden wanting a hug from this presence. Because who doesn’t like to be called love. What a term of endearment.

I heard it loud and clear.

It is okay to fail,
and you will inevitably fail at loving on a daily basis.

But what I needed to hear, was that me and love were still doing okay..

And you never know how or when a presence will find you and give you exactly what you needed.

thank you.