Thursday, November 30, 2006

I'm awake.

I was awake five hours ago when I was trying to go to sleep. I tossed and turned and must have finally fallen asleep.

But I'm awake now.

In my groggy state of waking and fading in and out of dreams I heard a soft meowing, repetitive. I woke up in a panic: Potter. I remembered wondering where he was when I went to bed and now five hours later, I had yet to be awakened by him. (How did my body know that?) I flew out of bed and began a frantic search hoping he was inside and not out - it was storming when I finally did fall asleep and now it was still drizzling.

Clothes closet: I had hung up my work pants and shut the door. Nope.
Refridgerator when I had grabbed some water before bed. Nope. Strange place to look, but nope.
I considered the cabinets since I've shut cats in them before, but I didn't put away dishes last night.
Spare bedroom: oops.

I'd brought in a plant from what is supposed to be "a cold front" moving in and shut the door to the spare bedroom to keep the cats from nibbling on it.


He raced out and I coddled him apologizing profusely. He ran to the food bowl, to the bedroom, tackled Zorba, ran back to the living room. Everywhere I went, he came flying after me, afraid he was being left somewhere again, I suppose.

And now I can't sleep. Not that shutting your cat in a room is keeping me up at night, but I'm wide awake with that I-haven't-slept=stomach-ache.

And the clock just turned to 5:30. Sheesh.

On anther note, the clock's not the only thing turning. So are the leaves in Austin. Finally. I saw a beautiful red tree two days ago and thought, wow, finally fall. Don't get me wrong, it's not like their are full fall colors or streets that people go walking on just for the fall leaves, but I'd say at the very least Austin is littered with leaves changing colors. If you keep your eyes open, you'll see a handful of beauty here and another patch there. It's nice. Except now my mind thinks it's time for Halloween. My seasons are all off down here.

But it's not Halloween, it's Christmas and with or without the snow, I'll have my first Cantamos Christmas Carroll performance tonight. Advent begins Sunday. Angels Over Austin runs in three weeks. And, I'm driving home to Missouri in less than four.

Can you believe it? I'll be home for Christmas. Me and the two cats, going home again.

I just hope I don't leave Potter behind.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Pittman, Ann
Christmas List
24 November 2006
Mr. Pittman's class

• Shrunken Button Down Cardigan – XS Red $39 1A-186-513 (Victoria’s Secret Catalogue 1A5167658)
• Bridget Fit Bow Pant – 30” inseam size 2 Khaki $39.50 IA-201-674 (Victoria’s Secret Catalogue 1A5167658)
• Blazer and Pencil Skirt – both size 2 Heather Camel $125, $59.50 WQ-201-769, WQ-201-773 (Victoria’s Secret
Catalogue 1A5167658)
• American Eagle Jeans – any pair size 4 regular or short, favorite fit
• Retro Shirt Dress – Small $159 Brown 4426VA (Boston Proper Catalogue V5667600)
• Drape Front Tube Halter – XS $59 3226VC (Boston Proper Catalogue V5667600)
• Raglan Sleeve dress – XS $119 3626VB (Boston Proper Catalogue V5667600)
• Vintage Kaftan Dress – size 2 $169 2626VA (Boston Proper Catalogue V5667600)
• Jewelry: any earrings, necklaces or bracelets: creative, pretty, colorful (I’m moving beyond my plain jane silver)
• Any cute shoes that have color (other than brown or black) unless they’re brown or black with colored beads or embroidery on them or something.
• Digital Camera
• Gift Certificates to Home Depot
• A Bulldog, either American or English, over 2 years old, preferably female.

Obviously I’m trying to improve my “work attire” wardrobe with dress clothes, shoes and jewelry. Otherwise, I just really want a digital camera, a dog, and a privacy fence (home depot certificates).

If you want an alternative to giving me gifts though, check this out...

my friends rock.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

i love it.

sitting in a room watching two women peruse pictures on the digital camara, passing it back and forth. four men pass words back and forth, brainstorming how to rip off band names. one plays with a wine cork. one rubs his head. another is stretched out but draws his body in to add motions to his thoughts or swirl his wine glass around. one sits forward petting the dog. another woman sits knitting on the couch occasionally swapping conversations with the man leaning forward. the man on the other side of the stitcher watches the women with the camara, smiling.

a circle of life.


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday and thank-you-for-staying-at-my-house-last-night-when-i-thought-a-burgler-had-broken-in-even-though-it-turned-out-there-was no-burgler-Frank, Happy Birthday to you!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Some of you may remember a post from two months ago concerning a man who fell through the ceiling in my bedroom. There was a context to that incident that included insulation, a breech of contract, former owners, Ann freaking out, the usual.

Suffice it to say that a month and a half later, there is no longer a hole in my ceiling, but the big brown spot doesn't match the rest of my white textured ceiling. And now it's been splattered with splatter that the guy who fell through the ceiling ran out of before he finished the job today. He also managed to splatter it all over my painted-with-organic-paint-wall and my carpet.

I just stood in my room with my hands on my head staring at it tonight.

"Finishing" this job came the same day that another repair man came to my house to put glass in a window to fix the hole that mysteriously appeared, shattering glass onto my game room floor.

And the green grass grew all around all around and the green grass grew all around.

I love my house, but really! A broken window, a broken ceiling, you must think I live in a dump. But I don't, I live in this great little home that needs a little tlc when large men fall through the ceiling. It's a great home and you'd think it was perfect except that there is a mansion going up next to my house making my cute little house look like a cute little hut. I have two qualms with what I like to call "the mansion." Number one it is five feet from my property line. (The very minimum it can be - and I know. Some friends and I snuck out there one night to measure and sure enough it's five exactly. Argh.) This wouldn't be a big deal except that I can practically reach out and touch the house from inside mine! Qualm number two: it's a two story house. The only one in the neighborhood. Probably the only one on this side of town. Ridiculous. My neighbors and I just stand and stare. Plus it has a long front porch and a bay window in the front upstairs bedroom. And did I mention it's a mansion? My friends say my property value will go up but I don't care. When I'm jealous, I get cranky and inconsolable.

So that's a slight exaggeration, but my description of the house isn't. Even Roger said it was huge.

And so tonight I will turn off all my chic little lamps and lights, brush my teeth in my nice white, shiny sink, put on comfy pjs and humbly retire to my couch where I will again be sleeping since my room smells like splatter and I don't want to breathe splatter all night.


From the splattered and stinky but salvific sanctuary of 5406, I bid you good night.

Monday, November 13, 2006

We rolled in around 12:20 this morning. My work day started at 9am yesterday. I was anxious to get into the hotel, check out the fitness room and hot tub (please!) and then check into bed. But as the elevator door slid open, I knew this was not going to be one of my top five hotel experiences. The stains on the hallway carpet alone were enough to suggest the mafia'd been here once or twice, but since I'm in Dallas and not KC or Chicago, I guess the help must just spill a lot of coffee.

I found my room at the end of the hall next to some sort of closet. Hmm. The woodwork on all the panelling was coming apart from door frame to floorboards to whatever, and the paint was, well, peeling. I opened my door and noted my 1890s dormitory remodeled 10 times over. And it was freezing. Looked at the heater/air on the wall "Will not affect air, see thermostat on wall." Thermostat found. Set to air-conditioning. Damn.

So I turned it to heat and turned it up. 40 minutes later I'm considering sleeping fully clothed. The air blowing out isn't hot (from me or the supposed heater).

The water in the bathroom is hot though. And it smells like a swimmingpool. The bathroom has been redecorated and is very high tech, complete with a sink that looks like an optical illusion (I actually put my finger into it to make sure it wasn't). The shower looks like tons of fun with a rainfall shower head, and if you ignore the windows typical of a 1920s movie palace dressing room or 14th floor apartment bathroom, it's a pretty positive experience.

So even though my body's cold, my face is warmed by the water and as I close my eyes, I actually feel like I'm in a swimming pool...except I'm not. I'm washing my face. And with what? Chorine? What's in that water?

If you ignore the WC, the room actually reminds me of being in a hotel overseas, Paris maybe. The old building, the wood panelling, modernized with art and a coffee maker. I could handle being in Paris right now.

Instead I'm in a room where the gap between my floor and the bottom of my bedroom door is so significant that any decent sized rat could slide under it, or a person's arm, whichever disturbs you the most.

And the "heater" with cold air just turned off again. Double damn.

I resign myself to sleep. After all, I have to combat the General Baptists of Texas tomorrow. That will require much effort on my part.

So clothes on, I will snuggle under my heavy (literally) blankets and pretend I'm in Paris. Awesome.

Bon nuit.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Um, does anyone else have their christmas wish list ready? Cause i do. Right on time. Let's go kids. Time's a-tickin'. Thanksgiving's the deadline...

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

This is Big Phil. Big Phil in 2004. On his birthday. My parents were in town that weekend because I had graduated. Even they were invited to his birthday party because Big Phil loves everyone. Actually that's not true. But he loves me and my parents.

Phil has a blog. Somewhere between seminary and real life Phil got smart. Or maybe spiritual. Maybe both. Not that he wasn't smart or spiritual in seminary (how ironic), but somehow he's focused and refined those qualities in himself post-Waco and is now producing some really quality shit (I'm quoting him of course).

Phil is about as foul as they come. I would not lie to you. But somewhere in all that vulgarity, if you peek beneath the bald head, the feminist tee-shirt and the tattoos (or even just look closely at them), you will find a large teddy bear with a brain and heart who not only hugs but actually sucks the life out of you. But not in a bad way. You can't help but spill your soul to Phil if you've known him for longer than 15 minutes. Again, I would not lead you astray. I can tell you stories of men and women he's befriended from psychos to deadbeats to the demon-possessed; he could make a Buckingham Palace Guard cry and confess his story. And then Phil would pass that Guard a beer, give him a hug, and tell him he loves him, wiping tears from his own eyes.

You'd think a man named Big Phil wouldn't cry. You'd think someone nicknamed "The Godfather" wouldn't weep. But Philip Shepherd cries. I would not tell a lie. The man cares about people and if you are real with him, he will really cry with you.

So check him out. His link is on my blog of course. It's titled Drive Thru Society. What the heck does that mean? Here's an excerpt... "In my journey the last several years, I've entered into many conversations with my community of family and friends on this question: how do we dine upon this life of the kingdom of heaven here on earth? Throughout these conversations I realized that the vein of Christianity that I grew up in is obese from feasting upon drive-thru spirituality. After I had this long painstaking epiphany, I started asking, "How then do I become healthy?"” And, "“How do we become healthy as a community?"” While I am still looking for answers to that question, one of the answers that I did find is the intentional spiritual formation practices of individuals and communities. Many people ask me to define what is spiritual formation. And this is the answer that I usually give: spiritual formation is the set of tools (if you will) that help us find God outside of our box. Spiritual formation is the practices and disciplines that help us exfoliate the kingdom of heaven here on earth, creating a rhythm for the Creator to illuminate through us."

So please, if you love me, you'll love Phil. If I appall you, you'll really like him. He's very spiritual and I tend to offend the gods.

And now may I introduce... Big Phil.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

I love election nights... flipping from channel to channel: local to national to colbert. It's exciting, disappointing, funny (Missouri wouldn't let Mrs. Carnahan vote!!), hopeful and devestating. I like the energy it generates inside me.

But I love cable too. Because cable allows me to watch Law & Order on TNT when I'm too cranky to watch the govenor give an acceptance speech.

As if I won't get enough drama watching the elections, I have to watch the fake kind. At least Jack McCoy is witty.

How did things turn out in Missouri? I never heard the final count on govenor or stem cell research.

Sigh. Come through for the nation Missouri, you can do it. You had it once, show us your spirit for justice and life once again.

Death or life? Pro-choice/life, end of life issues, stem cell research, the death penalty. What is life and what is death and who gets to decide?

We do. I hope you voted.

And we get to choose it too. Every time we choose forgiveness over a gun, peace talks over war, hospitals over hopeful home remedies, we choose life. And we make laws and rules and covenants to help people choose life every day and hold them accountable when they don't.

I too choose life.

And Law & Order.

Monday, November 06, 2006

"It was clean."
"It was what?" I had asked him how he thought the worship service went.
"It was..."
"It was clean? What does that mean?"
"Well, um, it means, he he, what I meant by that was..."
"I can't believe you just called my worship service 'clean'. That's amazing. You have problems."

The man is obsessed with cleanliness. Just a few weeks before this conversation on clean worship, the following had happened.

(me) "Gee, I've got to call my Home Warrenty people to get them to stick their wire down my bathtub."
"Why, what's wrong with it?"
"Well, it won't drain. (Just like all those other pipes - the washer/dryer pipe, the air conditioner pipe all needed to be drained but exploded instead into my house and now I stand bathing as the dirty water rises to my ankles. It's gross. Then it's always slimy stepping in because all my shampoo, conditioner, and soap suds have slowly settled to the bottom of the tub where they remain until I turn on the water for my next shower, step in, and feel the slime and grime under my feat. It's gross."
"Gross? It sounds disgusting. How can you live like that?
"Well I clean the tub every couple of days and try to remember to call the home warranty people."
"Ann, that is inhabitable. I've thought your bathroom's needed a good cleaning anyway, I'll take care of it tomorrow."
"You're going to unplug my drain? You have the equipment for that?"
"No, but I can buy it. I've always wanted to try it anyway, Plus you're bathroom's been driving me nuts lately. I've been wanting to clean it."
"No, you are not cleaning my bathroom."
"Yes I am."
"No you're not. You can stick that tube down the bathtub drain, but if you break something or make it worse, you're paying for it to get fixed." (I always give that line when I'm not convinced he really can complete a task successfully).
"Okay. I'll be here tomorrow. I can't stand the thought of you showering in that one more day."

I half thought he was joking, but mostly knew he wasn't. When I got home from work that night, I saw a sparkling bathroom with sinks, toilet and floor scrubbed. The next morning when I stepped into the shower, I could feel the actual texture of the porcelain. Wow. It was almost streaky clean. My feet were squeeking against the clean tub as I moved to reach for the shampoo bottle, turned to shave an armpit or rinse my hair. Crazy clean. I admit, it was great.

So the guy's got a thing with cleanliness, that's cool. I just need to wipe down the sinks and toilet when he comes over. No biggie.

Then two weeks later the first conversation ensued.
"What's you think about worship tonight?"
"It was clean."
"You have issues."

Today I met him for coffee as we both had work to do that is more fun done out of the office. He had recently caught poison ivy in his attempts to help me clean my backyard which might as well be described as a Jungle Junkyard. But that's a blog for another time. "How's the poison ivy?" I asked.
"It's better. The doctor said I took so many baths today that I've surely gotten all the oil off so it won't spread or be transferred to other people."
"How many times have you showered today? (Keep in mind it was only 4:30pm).
"You have problems."

Imagine if we all were so obsessed about cleanliness in our lives.
What if we live ecologically with Frank's obsessive cleanliness. We'd all recycle and we'd take the stuff they won't take at the street down to the recycling center. We'd clean our houses with ecologically friendly soaps and sprays. We'd buy solar cars and snub the poor folks in their hybrids (in a very loving manner of course).

Wouldn't that rock?

Imagine if we were so obsessed about cleanliness in our lives.

What if we live with a clean slate with Frank's obsessive cleanliness. We'd come clean with our business partners and start treating them as people, equals, with respect because coming clean with people means you lay it all out on the table and then you get your work done. We'd come clean with our friends and family. We wouldn't bicker like girls over stupid stuff. We wouldn't beat each other up (cause that can leave big messes) We'd live in a community of honesty, forgiveness and love. We'd come clean with our significant others. We wouldn't play mind games or think in manipulative manners. We would simply love honestly and commit to confess that love in order to make clean what living intimately with someone has inevitably made dirty.

Cause even though it seems that if you take two "dirties" (and by dirties, yes, I do mean people), and put them on a task, that task would end up unclean as well. But that's not what happens. Hardly ever. Two humans put their minds and talents together and they produce beauty. Six staff members brainstorm how to create creatively a worship service that reminds us of God's presence and then sends us back into the world; and when they seek to make it clean, God's sort of clean, and also lay it on the table clean (even if its our sin and isn't pretty) if we lay it clean on the table, it is actually made clean in the remembering, the forgiveness, the grace we receive when we trade what we've laid out for a piece of bread and a sip of wine. Clean. Nice.

And so perhaps my friend Frank is a little over the top with his cleanliness. So what if he cleans his apartment and then his maid comes in and cleans it again. He has also lowered himself to my bathtub filled with grime and has taught me much about cleanliness along the way...

Sunday, November 05, 2006

i'm excited about church tomorrow. yep, i'm one of those. i'm excited because i get to sing. i love singing in church. i love singing more than i love preaching. more than i love acting. more than i love art musuems. more than cats.

and tomorrow i'll be singing with the young (ahem) women's choir in church. and there's something very fulfilling about being creative with the beauty god has given you.

and that's why i love doing all the things in church i love to do. from acting to reading scripture to singing to preaching, it's not all that different is it? using beauty to communicate something about the world and most probably about god?

and it's good.

even when it's bad, it's good.

and so i'm ready to go to church.

to give back to god in the most honest way i can.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. This follows blessed are those whose spirits are low, blessed are those who mourn, blessed are those who are debonair, and blessed are those who hunger for what is right. All these previous beatitudes have to do with the status of our spirit, the way we view the world, what we seek from God, but in Matthew 5:7, the exhortations or “congratulations” (as we learned the first week that “blessed” could be translated) take a turn from our state of being to how we affect the state of the union, i.e. the people around us. Blessed are the merciful for they will receive mercy.

Do you know what mercy means? Compassion is what first came to my mind, but outdid me and added five other definitions to this word.

1. compassionate or kindly forbearance shown toward an offender, an enemy, or other person in one's power; compassion, pity, or benevolence: Have mercy on the poor sinner.
2. the disposition to be compassionate or forbearing: an adversary wholly without mercy.
3. the discretionary power of a judge to pardon someone or to mitigate punishment, esp. to send to prison rather than invoke the death penalty.
4. an act of kindness, compassion, or favor: She has performed countless small mercies for her friends and neighbors.
5. something that gives evidence of divine favor; blessing: It was just a mercy we had our seat belts on when it happened.
And as an idiom
6. at the mercy of, entirely in the power of; subject to: They were at the mercy of their captors. Also, at one's mercy.

The origin of the word has to do with “wages” which stems from yet another word meaning “goods.” Synonyms include forgiveness, indulgence, clemency, leniency, lenity, tenderness, mildness. And its antonym is nothing short of blunt: cruelty. Cruelty is the opposite of mercy.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Shucks to the cruel for they shall receive cruelty.

Now the text doesn’t say that, but that’s where my mind automatically went.

This text is about our behavior, and it warrants a response from God. Martin Luther may have pushed the ball into the other court when he spoke against works righteousness in the corrupt Catholic Church, but he did that seeking balance. Today though we may live in a world that might need to push back the other way. Today we are told to touch our television screens to receive the grace of God. When grace has become that abstract, perhaps we should re-evaluate the scripture.

So Ann, are you telling me that if I don’t do these things then I won’t get to heaven?

Actually, I’m not even talking about heaven. I’m talking about responding to God. For although the text says that when we are merciful, then we will receive mercy, just before that it says when we are run down, we will find God; when we mourn, we will be comforted; when we are aware, we enjoy the world around us; when we long for goodness, we will find it. And so when we are empty, we are filled by God. And the natural outpouring of that fullness are the following beatitudes.

For who, who has been broken by the world and healed by God, can not help but extend compassion to another broken soul?

For who, who has been convicted before God of stupid, selfish acts and granted pardon, can not help but pardon others?

For who, who has seen the beauty of a sunset, the awe of the Pyrenees, and felt the vastness of a Texas sky in their heart, not help but grant kindness to God’s other creation?

Me. Me. Me.

I am filled and then I spill. I eat and then claim hunger. I find peace and stir up disaster.

What else is new?

And so after our emptiness is filled by God, we are reminded in scripture to share that with others. And in verse 7, what we are to give is mercy, forgiveness, undue pardon, kindness, compassion.

And I wonder about what that looks like when I’m forced to vote on the death penalty. How do I respond to terrorist acts against me or my country? How do I help the drug addict who communicates his needs through brown cardboard signs while standing on the side of the road? How do I react to my neglectful parents or abusive ex-boyfriends or cruel neighbors or lying bosses or manipulative teachers who have hurt me in ways I can only express in a journal? These are hypothetical situations, but it’s not like we all haven’t encountered someone face to face or whether we know them or not whose sin has response from us.

So how do we respond?

In anger, do we ignore them? Punish them? Kill them? Hurt them? Forgive them? Guide them? Help them?

In the movie clip above, the protagonist, Jean Val Jean has just escaped from prison, lied to the priest in order to stay the night in his house and then slipped out before dawn, stealing the priest’s silver wear. The police catch him and return him to the priest because Jean Val Jean has again lied to the police by telling them the priest gave him the silver wear as a gift. At this point, the priest has a choice to make, he may again sentence Jean to prison by acknowledging his sin and pressing charges, or he may extend mercy. And in a beautiful act of grace, the priest grabs the silver candlesticks from the table and says to the policemen, “He’s correct,” and to Jean Val Jean he says, “But my good friend you forgot I also gave you these.” This act of mercy completely changes Jean Val Jean from a bitter man struggling to survive by any means possible to an honest man who ends up mayor of a town and surrogate father to a little girl whose mother died in prostitution. Now I know, this is a play, not reality. But every day there are stories of people who extend mercy when justice would be justified. And every day there are people redeemed by that mercy.

People like you and me.

People who have been down, but have been raised up. People crying who were comforted. People humble, who were given beauty. People hungry for truth who ended up satisfied.

And because we have received the mercy of God, so are we called to extend that mercy to others.