There\’s not going to be anything to eat there … better bring some pocketfood, man.

Haiti April 30, 2012

Filed under: faith — pocketfood @ 10:50 pm

See, I am doing a new thing!

Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?Image

I am making a way in the wilderness

and streams in the wasteland.

Isaiah 43:19

I needed to get this down before the marks from Haiti faded from my body — the scratch on my arm from a fence in the tent city, a scrape on my knee from the roof of the Terre Noire church, mystery bruises from who knows where, a dozen mosquito bites.  And I needed to get this down before the memories dulled, before a busy life flooded back into the space created by our time there, and before, frankly, I forgot what happened.

There isn’t a one word answer to the question, “How was your trip?”.  The first time someone asked, I burst into tears.  The second time, I paused to consider each of the answers available to me — good, great, wonderful, amazing, fantastic, beautiful, incredible, profound, sobering, complicated, troubling, convicting, difficult.  It was all those words and none of them at the same time.  So I say it was incredible when people ask, but that’s not what I really want to say. This is.

There’s nothing holy about poverty. Being poor can rob you of your humanity, but it doesn’t excise your human nature—having nothing doesn’t exempt you from jealousy or rage or lust or ill will. Yet … it does seem to narrow the space between you and God.  If you do not have the means to build your life up as an altar to yourself—the education you got and the job you got with it, the house you bought, the car and the TV and the pile of possessions that grows up around you like tall grass–you have precious little to tear down so you can catch a glimpse of Christ. He’s right there, just there, and all you have to do is take a step forward. If your hands are already empty there’s nothing you have to drop so you can grasp His hands.

There’s a woman at our church named Katherine Wolf who had a massive brain stem stroke at 26—her story is truly a miracle and her faith is a beautiful thing to behold (you can read it at http://www.hope-heals.com).  Today, she walks with a cane and one side of her face is paralyzed, her voice weakened by a frozen vocal cord.  In a video they showed during Easter service she said something that stuck to my ribs: “I’m showcasing on the outside what everyone feels on the inside, which is brokenness and hardship and pain …”

Those words came rushing back to me in Haiti, after I’d taken one more photo of yet another tent city we’d passed and felt despair again over the awful conditions tens of thousands of people were living in, had been living in, and would continue to live in for the near future and maybe much longer.  And not just the Haitians but hundreds of millions living in similar conditions around the world. I thought about Katherine’s words and the parallel hit me in the face– the exterior poverty in front of me was exactly the same as the inner poverty back home.  The hidden conditions of our hearts made visible.


There is a lot of progress being made in that country. Thankfully we had people on our team who had visited last year and could speak to it: several tent cities gone, roads paved, traffic lights installed, a school where there wasn’t one.  There are many amazing organizations like Haiti Outreach Ministries (who we were there with) working to bring medicine and education and clean water to the people who desperately need them, and no lack of short term teams like ours from all over the U.S. and abroad willing to help rebuild churches, schools, clinics, houses.  God is at work in Haiti, He is on the move, and His presence is palpable—it seemed like you could hardly walk a foot without bumping elbows with Him, brushing against His sleeve, catching His glance.

Something can and will be done to remedy all that lacks in that beautiful and broken country, but what of the different sort of lack in ours?  You can’t send an NGO in to relieve the poverty of the heart.  You can’t bring a team in to silence the cultural din drowning out the voice of Christ.  You can’t take up a donation of any amount of money for a fund that will get people to stop for a moment, be silent, and acknowledge what lies within–the rubble and ruin and barrels of burning trash, the open sewers, the leaning tents made of sticks and old tarps, overrun by half naked children and skinny wild dogs. In Haiti, every good thing is a small (or sometimes large) miracle–a roof without leaks, clean drinking water, enough food to fill your stomach–and it’s perfectly, beautifully clear that every last thing you have is from God.  Here?  We are our own gods, and our good things are our own creations. Maybe our lives look pretty great, or maybe that inner tent city is bleeding through, but it’s there regardless.  And most of our culture is wrapped up in trying to distract us from noticing it.

I knew (and told my team several times) that it would take a while for me to process what I’d seen, and I guess as I’m writing this out I’m a little surprised by what’s come out of the process.  My heart has been broken in witnessing the raw need of the Haitians, and I’m committed to doing what I can to alleviate it.  But the pressing hope I feel for their country has left me a bit frightened for my own. Our needs are much, much fewer and yet in some ways so much greater.  And I can’t tackle that with tools and paint brushes or donations to worthy causes, I can only pray and love people.  It’s sobering.  But ultimately, I’m thankful–SO thankful for this eye-opening experience and the things that God has and will continue to bring out of it. It was quite an amazing thing to witness what can happen when people pray that dangerous, wonderful two word prayer: Use me.


my top ten albums of the aughts August 19, 2010

Filed under: music — pocketfood @ 10:08 pm

A lot of people came out with their ‘Best of the Decade’ lists right at the beginning of 2010, but, look.  I am a dyed-in-the-wool procrastinator and clearly my blog is not something I regularly pay attention to despite repeated claims that I will do better about it.  But it wasn’t ALL laziness/busyness … so much good music came out of 2000-2009 that it was almost an impossible task to choose just ten.  But I forced myself to do it, almost as more of an exercise in figuring out what music was most significant to me as I navigated post-college life, my mid- to late-twenties, and on into 30.  My music choices both fed into and were fed by the person I am today, and when you think of it like that … well, you can’t really blame me for taking so long to write this out, can you?  You can?  FINE.

In no particular order …

Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002) Wilco made great albums before this one and they’ll make them again, but Yankee Hotel Foxtrot remains their master work.  I vividly remember buying this album at the Best Buy in Skokie, Illinois on a cold gray day.  I realize that sounds as old-timey now as ordering a player-piano reel down at the general store, and how sad is that?  No one is going to remember when they DOWNLOADED an album!  The friction between front man Jeff Tweedy and multi-instrumentalist Jay Bennett (who sadly passed away last year) makes the documentary of the making of this album, “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart,” riveting to watch, and the song of the same name starts the record off with a caveat.  “I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t easy … I am trying to break your heart.”  And they do.

Over the Rhine – Ohio (2003)  Who makes double albums anymore?  Now that we’re almost strictly digital, probably no one.  But shortly after I moved to Los Angeles, this double disc set arrived in the mail.  I love everything about it — the dreamlike photography of the liner notes, the CD art, the scope of the 20 song track list that leaves you feeling like you’ve been punched in the stomach and then kissed on the mouth.  It’s like they set out to write the mythical Great American novel and ended up making this album instead.  It’s sprawling and specific, exploring faith and doubt, love, death, and the state of the world, all pouring out of singer Karin Bergquist’s golden throat with the grace and beauty of a ballerina spinning slowly on a stage.  (Full disclosure: Over the Rhine is my favorite band, forever and ever, amen.)

Fiona Apple – Extraordinary Machine (2005) Fiona Apple is a bit of an enigma in the music world.  She’s probably crazy, but aren’t most geniuses?  I drove down to the Tower Records (RIP) on Sunset Boulevard to see an in-store Fiona did a few days after this album came out, and it was incredible.  She clearly carries all of her emotions right there under her skin, and while that might not be so great for a person’s sanity, it sure does help her write amazing songs.  There is a playful side to Extraordinary Machine, but it’s no more lightweight than either of her previous works.  There’s still plenty of anger there, but there’s also maturity, and a sense of maybe not taking things quite so seriously nowadays … somewhere in the midst of the craziness, our little Fiona has found herself some balance.  And it made this album practically perfect.

Radiohead – Kid A (2000)  I wasn’t ready for Radiohead before this album.  I’d heard them, but I hadn’t heard them, if that makes sense.  I know you may not believe me when I tell you that Kid A transports me to the back lounge of a tour bus, where a bunch of roadies and I used to sit in semi-darkness drinking hard ciders and listening to this CD.  I don’t remember what we talked about.  But I remember the feeling these songs evoked, and I guess I’d finally gotten to the point where I really got this band.  It’s an interesting phenomenon when you find yourself growing into a band rather than latching onto them instantly, but it speaks to the complexity of the band’s sound and songs (or … maybe just to my own simpleness?) that it took me a while to fall in love with them.  Kid A has a special place in my heart as the gateway drug that got me there.

Emmylou Harris – Red Dirt Girl (2000) When I was growing up, my dad used to listen a record of Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton, and Linda Ronstadt singing together.  We used to mock my father’s musical choices, because we were somewhat douchey children, so imagine my surprise when I ended up becoming a fan of Emmylou’s as an adult.  She’s maybe the best harmony singer that ever lived, and on her own she’s a force of nature.  The title track, a sad story of the road not taken, is the definition of haunting.  As one of the reigning queens of music history, Emmylou never makes a bad album.  But there’s something epic about Red Dirt Girl that’s going to make it tough to beat.

Arcade Fire – Neon Bible (2007) There’s a vaguely street-prophetlike feel to Arcade Fire’s frontman Winn Butler, in his suspenders and floppy hair.  Which makes sense, because there’s something vaguely post-apocalyptic about Arcade Fire period … you can pretty much guess it just by reading their album titles.  But if this is what the end of the world sounds like, it’s going to be a lively time.  Funeral was a tough debut to eclipse, but somehow Butler and his merry band of percussion-playing misfits managed to do it with Neon Bible.   This is going to be a band that I will follow until I am very old and very grey (though clearly still COOL).

Feist – The Reminder (2007) Even though the Apple ads did their best to ruin “1 2 3 4” for me, I still love it, and I love this set of songs it belongs to.  “I Feel It All” remains my favorite song of all time to drive to … if you ever spot me driving down the road, singing and beating time on the steering wheel, there’s a good chance this song is playing on the stereo.   Leslie Feist has a gorgeous voice and knack for singing songs that make you happy.  One look at my top ten list can tell you that’s exactly what I need.

Neko Case – Blacklisted (2002) Blacklisted sounds like a transmission from a previous era … or a future one.  Neko Case makes music that’s both timeless and immediate.  She calls her style country noir, and there’s no better label for it– neo-murder ballads, cautionary fables about crazy people, mournful odes to love lost–it’s country all right, but it’s not country-country.  Her lyrics are sparse and poetic, never longer than they have to be but never coming right out and saying what she means, either.  I think she’s one of our greatest living songwriters, and the fact that many people still don’t know who she is is nothing but a stone-cold travesty.  If I could only listen to one song for the rest of my life, “Deep Red Bells” would be a strong contender.

Cat Power – The Greatest (2006) Chan Marshall has one of the best voices in existence and she made a basically perfect album with The Greatest.  There’s really not much more to say.  She recorded it in Memphis and backed herself with a band of blues musicians, and the organs and muted trumpets sprinkled throughout serve as a callback to a different era.  Marshall has a husky, beautiful voice that she uses to the fullest on these songs, and if I ever get tired of listening to her song “Willie” off of this album, it’s probably because I have lost my mind.

Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago (2008) If I shut myself in a remote cabin after a painful breakup, I would have produced a pile of used kleenex and an entire DVR’s worth of watched “The Millionaire Matchmaker” reruns.  Justin Vernon shut himself in a remote cabin after a painful breakup and produced this album.  It’s a beautiful debut, joyful in places and heartrending in others.  I’m still not tired of listening to it and it’s been on heavy rotation since I got it almost two years ago.  It’s almost shocking to me that a debut album could turn out to be one of the best of the decade, but this one was a no-brainer.  He had me at his first beautiful, wearily sung lyric, “I am my mother’s only one … It’s enough.”

Runners up: Rosie Thomas – When We Were Small, Neko Case – Fox Confessor Brings the Flood and Middle Cyclone, Andrew Bird – The Mysterious Production of Eggs and Noble Beast, Sufjan Stevens – Seven Swans and Illinois, Lauryn Hill – MTV Unplugged, Over the Rhine – Drunkard’s Prayer, Elliott Smith – Figure 8 and From a Basement on a Hill, Patty Griffin – 1000 Kisses, Impossible Dream, and Children Running Through, Radiohead – In Rainbows, Coldplay – Parachutes and A Rush of Blood to the Head, The White Stripes – basically all of the albums they made in the 2000’s, Ryan Adams – Heartbreaker, Demolition, and Love is Hell, Rufus Wainwright – Want One, Josh Ritter – The Animal Years, Gillian Welch – Time (the Revelator) and Soul Journey, Aimee Mann – The Forgotten Arm and @#%&*! Smilers, M. Ward – Post-War, The National – Boxer


Conversational movie titles inspired by ‘Did You Hear About the Morgans?’ December 17, 2009

Filed under: miscellany,movies — pocketfood @ 5:32 pm
Tags: ,
  • Good Lord, Did You See Dateline Last Night?
  • Did I Tell You Your Aunt Pat Is Having Foot Surgery?
  • Well, I Guess the Weather Forecast Was Wrong
  • That Subway on the Corner of Stewart and Long is Moving
  • Did Your Dad Tell You We’re Having the Carpets Professionally Steam Cleaned?
  • Remember That Kid Steve Who Was Your Physics Partner in High School?  He Has Cancer.
  • Isn’t It Funny When City People Go to the Country and Interact With a Cow/Horse/Bear/Bumpkin and Learn Something About Themselves?

I like this movie better when it was called “For Richer or Poorer.” (no I didn’t)


why am I the world’s worst blogger? October 17, 2009

Filed under: Mandy,miscellany — pocketfood @ 1:10 pm

I never have been able to successfully keep a journal, even as a young child.  If you pick up the Hello Kitty diary I was given when I was seven or eight, you will find a few days’ worth of entries and then … nothing for a year or two, then an entry talking about how I forgot about the diary, then another year long gap, then a poem about pumpkin pie written in the style of Shel Silverstein.  Followed by nothing but empty pages.   Sans the poem, it’s the same story with the three or four other journals I’ve started at various points in my life.  Why?  I love the idea of journals, and I’m drawn to them in the store.   “Maybe the problem is that I’ve never had the RIGHT journal,” I’ll think.  “Maybe this exquisite leather-bound one with the creamy smooth pages is just the thing I need.”  It’s a pack of lies, though.  The journal does not exist that I will ever be able to maintain, and I’m not sure why I thought a blog would be different.  It’s easier, in that it takes far less time to type than write.  It’s public, which you would think would encourage me to put stuff out there (“Think of your FANS!”).  But ultimately, whatever it is that keeps me from reflecting on things by writing them down in journal format seems to be the same thing that prevents me from regularly updating here.  Is it laziness, or stubbornness?  Is it a short attention span?  Is it an overwhelming feeling of having nothing of particular interest to say?  I do believe it’s that last one, or maybe I just prefer that answer to being straight-up lazy.  Regular, every-day life does not seem like something worth memorializing, and even as I say that I realize how horrible it sounds.  We all fool ourselves into thinking we will remember things forever–this sunset, that summer breeze, those hikes in the woods on a fall day–but I’m really spectacularly good at fooling myself that way, and really, how stupid of me.  We live in a culture of overshare but can’t I be bothered to write down some words to just share a little?  Can’t I take a moment in this space to mention that I harvested a little crop of red hot cherry peppers and poblanos from my patio garden and it looked like a handful of Christmas?  I could make a resolution right here to blog regularly, just as I have many times before, but maybe I’ve been going about it wrong.  Maybe I need to resolve instead to forget less, and the only way to do that is to write it down or take a picture.

Yes, that’s the ticket.  Remember to forget less.  It’s so simple, I can’t believe I never thought of it before.  Now if you’ll excuse me, this afternoon nap isn’t going to take itself.


small acts of bravery June 2, 2009

Filed under: creepy animals — pocketfood @ 8:14 pm
Tags: , ,

Today I was taking a shower, just innocently washing my hair, when a HUGE spider just crawled out of the shower curtain like it owned the place.  Remarkably, I didn’t scream and kept my cool, used the shower head to spray the beast off the curtain and into the tub and drowned it to death.  It was the size of a quarter.  That’s right.  I didn’t swear or scream.  It’s OK.   I’m not a hero, I’m just an ordinary girl who just goes about her business like it ain’t no thing when a tarantula-type spider just drops by while I’m washing my hair … and saved the freakout for when I turned the water off and had to dispose of the thing.

And, still freaking out, hours after it occurred.  <shiver>  WHY DOES THIS HOUSE HAVE SO MANY SPIDERS, I ASK YOU.


state of the union May 10, 2009

Filed under: miscellany — pocketfood @ 1:22 pm
Tags: , , ,

Oops, I’ve been neglecting the blog again.  Well, you know how life gets– work gets crazy, you’ve got relationships to maintain, TV to catch up on, errands to run, life gets overwhelming … and the next thing you know you’ve left your baby in the dressing room at Macy’s and then don’t even remember you have a baby until much later when you trip over a stuffed dinosaur on your way to the refrigerator .  (Note: the baby in that illustration is this blog.)

Let’s see.  The last movie I saw was “Adventureland,” which was OK, and before that “Sunshine Cleaning,” which was great.  I’m reading “Watership Down” right now, but I’m only a few pages in and still adjusting to the fact that I’m reading a book about rabbits.  The BFF and I are trying to (finally) get our Etsy store up and running, and I have resolved to try and get into the habit of writing regularly so I can get back to my novel.  Oh, and the latest Insufferable License Plate award goes to ‘CHEMSTAR’, because what?  I don’t see how you could have that plate and be a person I would be interested in knowing.  I know that makes me sound judgmental, but I’m just fine with that.

Anyway, mama’s so sorry she left you at Macy’s!  She won’t be doing that again, probably, at least in the very near future, why don’t you just have a cookie and let’s change the subject.


This is an outrage! March 19, 2009

Filed under: food — pocketfood @ 8:41 am
Tags: ,

I did think they’d gotten smaller, but didn’t realize HOW MUCH SMALLER: