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Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year

Kicking Cancer

This is my friend Bethany.



In February, Bethany was diagnosed with lymphoma... cancer. It was in her stomach, lungs and neck. Her daughter, Tessla Meredith, was three months old at the time. Bethany thought she was a bad mom: constantly fatigued, losing weight (breast feeding will do that to you!), not enjoying time with her daughter. And then she passed out at work. And upon arriving at the doctor's office, she was promptly hospitalized for anemia, malnutrition, and a slew of other things. After much blood work and testing, the dreaded words were uttered: it's cancer.

Bethany smiled.



"I'm not a bad mom. I just have cancer." After a few weeks of receiving fluids in the hospital to normalize her system and the first round or two of chemo that eliminated the giant bulge in her stomach, she was healthier, her spirits had lifted, and her energy returned. The cancer began to die, and Bethany actually got well.

But the chemo treatments continued and Bethany got sick again. And we had the head-shaving party and brought gifts of wigs and hats and hair extensions and fake eyelashes.





And we cooked food and took turns doing dishes and washing laundry and holding Tessla. And Sunday school classes who didn't even know Bethany put her on their prayer list and bought her four months of a house cleaning service and sent money and cards. Bethany's wigs looked good and sometimes she had enough strength to hold Tess. Here they are at Easter.



Seven or so months after Bethany's initial hospitalization, we heard the good news. The cancer was gone. The chemo worked, radiation would seal the deal. We were home free! Bethany and her husband went on vacation. She sported a cute Jamie Lee Curtis look. She was promoted at work. Hooray!



But in November, it was back. In all the same places... the stomach, the lung, the neck.

Cancer is a bitch.

I knew that going into this process. One of my sister's best friends growing up, Johnny Cathcart, a.k.a. Hotpants was diagnosed with cancer in middle school. By then, I was in college, but I heard all the reports. This is him at 12 years old in Memphis.



He went through chemo at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and made three wishes with the Children's Wish Foundation. (You may have seen him in The Cider House Rules - one of his wishes was to be in a movie and since John was sick then, he appeared as one of the orphans in this great film starring Tobey Maguire. You can't miss him. It pans the orphans a couple is looking at adopting and there on the big screen is John's face. Pretty cool!)

And then the cancer came back. And he went through it again. And it was awful. But John lived.

And he wrote a book.

Bethany started a blog too when she thought her cancer was gone. It was titled, I Will Live and journaled the life of a cancer-free, but still healing cancer survivor. And then the cancer came back. Not two months later. And Bethany's blog became a sounding board for a whole new process, living with cancer. And living through treatment.

And this time, it will be much harder. Just as John did, Bethany will now recieve what is affectionately called, The Killing Chemo. Chemo that destroys everything in the body it is injected into. And to save the body? The person? A bone marrow transplant.

If I was scared the first time Bethany got sick, I tried not to show it, at least to her. I cried at church and pleaded with my friends to help out, but I tried to be positive for Bethany.

But I've read John's book. Bubble boy, is what I call the period of time when he underwent the Killing Cancer and the subsequential quarantine protecting his body form coming in contact with any foreign substances or illnesses that it will not have the resources to fight.

I've read John's story and it made me sick the first time though. Don't get me wrong. John is hilarious and his book will have you laughing through your tears. He writes, "My mission is to get my story out, to lift up the spirit of my cat, lift up people that are different, glorify distance running and unveil the joys of breakfast cereal." The Make a Wish Foundation says this of his book, "A simple yet profound message ... an inspirinig story of a young man's journey through cancer treatment... a tale about strength of character and the power of hope."

But now I will have to watch Bethany go through the same thing.



"I will be sick again." She said, remembering what she looked like and how she felt after the last chemo treatment. "But Tessla won't remember." And my hair hasn't yet grown out, so we won't have to cut it again."

"True," I said. Encouraged by her hope.

"And I'm so glad you quit your job," she finished.

I'm nannying almost 40 hours a week for her, or for Tessla, while Bethany continues to work (have to keep that health insurance!) as does her husband. She's glad Tessla has "family" taking care of her and that I can help out around the house and assist with other items that a normal nanny wouldn't do. And I'm glad too. Nannying is easy and fun, and the kid takes a nap twice a day! Brilliant! But I wouldn't say that somewhere inside I don't feel a little scared too.

And I guess that's why I'm writing this. To get it out. Because I believe it takes a community to cure cancer.

Johnny's sister (a friend of mine) dropped out of college when John's cancer came back.



She and her mom moved to Memphis to help Johnny through round two.

I'm writing so that you will join the communal fight against cancer. That you'll read Bethany's blog. And buy Johnny's book. And donate or help out through St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital. Or help out Bethany's family even. Who knows. I write to create awareness... in case neither you nor one of your family members are one of the 11,714,000 people in the U.S. who has cancer today.

Cancer's a killer. But we can kick it. Together.

I think. I hope. I pray.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

North Pole Gift Tracking Sheet

Santa's very organized...



In case you can't read the fine print...

PETS: Yes **Caution!!! TWO DOGS -- Janie and Sophie- (Sophie gets very excited, but is very lovable / Janie is very protective and cautious, but is a cutie) - both respond well to dog snack #2 and petting on bellies. Silencing dust will definitely need to be used on both.

TREATS HISTORY: Cookies, milk, cherry mash candy, fruit

SPECIAL INSTRUCTIONS: Warning!! Don't leave peels on roof and clean up ashes off of floor. These kids are very observant). Bedrooms are on second floor. Noise should not be a problem. Sound sleepers.

Friday, December 24, 2010

2010 Christmas

The clocks are all off in my house. It's impossible to tell what time it is. For example, I just set upstairs to put myself to bed because I thought it was well past midnight, Christmas indeed. But as I open my computer, I discover it's only 11:30. What's with the clocks in this house?

Earlier tonight I was scheduled to sing at the Christmas Eve service at my parents' church. 4:15 one clock read. "Mum, we've got to leave in an hour." "I don't think so, honey, it's just a little past three."

It's all a little off.

We didn't have to buy gifts for everyone this year. Well, mom and dad did because as Amy put it at Thanksgiving: "I feel bad about how much money we usually spend on Christmas, and ITE (in this economy) it might be better if we trade names and only buy for one person this year, except for mom and dad, because we'll still need presents from Santa." Poor Mike and Carol. But it was easier on the old pocketbook, as grandma would say, since I'm only employed as an almost-full-time nanny, but not quite.

And it's a little strange not buying presents.

I'm the sort of person who buys gifts all year long. Last year, in Chile, in May, I bought gifts for my mom and two sisters. If I see something I know someone will love, I buy it and store it away to give to them at a later date. And unlike my grandmother who will find presents she's stored in holidays past at the most inopportune time (usually way past the designated holiday), I actually give the gifts I've stored away. And I love that.

And I love shopping for people. Being clever. Buying what I think they'll like. Catering to personality, spiritual deference, and whim.

But this year I had one name. Well, two actually, since when I was "shopping" I had a boyfriend. So two. But two is much less than the usual number. And $50 for one person is much less than I usually spend at Christmas-time. But ITE... So the names were drawn.

And for the first time in a while, I didn't shop at the local Austin stores, supporting local business and picking out what's fun and unique. This year, I worried about practicality and buying my "person" what they might need, find useful, not what they'd think was sweet or cool or creative of me to pick out (and for them to promptly store in their closet). So truth be told, to get my person some of the things she had on her list, I went to Craig's List. Ebay. The Super Savings Sales. The Internet. Places I'd never shopped for Christmas items before.

My voluptuous pastor's salary always bought local, hand-made, or fair trade gifts. Rarely commercial America or (gasp) used items. But desperate times call for desperate measures and ITE, we gotta cut some corners.

I don't know if she'll love the gifts I bought. I don't know if she'll hate them. Hopefully the former, but who knows? The times are changing and as hard as I stare at the clock on my wrist or my phone or the microwave, it's becoming more and more challenging to disern where I am or what the times are callling for.

So this Christmas, here's to making the most of what you have, financially, emotionally, chronologically...? And maybe you, like me, have cut some corners here and there. But hopefully, you're making the most of the time and the resources you've been given. And for this, you will be very thankful.

Merrry Christmas. 2010.

Merry Xmas from WJC

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from William Jewell College!

Monday, December 20, 2010

X-Mas Mix Tape 2010

So one thing I miss about my job this time of year is Christmas songs. During the Christmas season, when there were several students home from college and several local college students who hadn't gone home yet, the FBC college group would have a Christmas party. And every year as party favors, I would make everyone who came to the party a Christmas CD.

I wouldn't want to brag or anything, but these CDs were kinda famous. Every year Lauren Greaves would text or email me... "What's going on the CD this year? I can't wait to find out!" and I'd write her back... "Oh girl, I found a Kristen Chenoweth song you're gonna love!"

The staff would always get a copy of the FBC Water's Edge College Christmas Mix CD too, and while I'm not sure how much they appreciated the ecclectic music, I know at the very least that Marshall Smith, FBC's business manager and resident mystic, loved them. He mentioned to me a few days ago that he was going to really miss not getting the Christmas CD this year.

So as I was driving 13 hours to get home to Missouri from Texas this weekend, I decided to make a "What I Would Have Put On the Christmas Mixed Tape If I Still Had That Job CD" in honor of MSmith and the FBC college crew...

In no particular order, here's some songs would have made it on the compilation...

Love Again by The Animal Beat
Baby It's Cold Outside by "Kurt" and "Blaine" from Glee
Follow the Shepherd Home by Mindy Smith
Jingle Bell Rock by Darrell Shepherd
Christmas Is All Around by "Billy Mack" from Love Actually
Christmas In the Sun by April Maybe May
Silent Night secret track by Damien Rice
O Holy Night by the David Crowder Band
River by Angus Stone
A Child Is Born by Rihanna
The Peasant King by John Perkins
Cherry Tree Carol by Emmylou Harris

On that list are a couple of songs that you can find already all together on an album whose ENTIRE proceeds go to charity. Check out Christmas Gift, a new album produced in the UK by the label Rainboot which even has a song on it by Austin artist, the Whiskey Priest. The money you spend on one song or buying the whole album goes to Save the Children an organization that provides food, medical care and education to disaster struck regions.

And if that really gets you in the Spirit, then here's another Christmas CD whose proceeds go to charity: Christmas for Kenya. This is an organization that one of the former pastors (Ben Dudley) at my old church (UBC Waco) helped start. The money raised from this CD (it's the third CD - so if you're feeling really generous or Christmassy buy the previous two CDs too!) goes to the Kianga Project, an organization dedicated to fighting HIV/AIDS in Kenya.

P.S. If you wanna know what songs made it on the previous five FBC College Christmas CDs... here's the latter three! (I'll have to find the others... when I get back to Austin).

College Xmas 2009
My Dear Acouaintance (A Happy New Year) by Regina Spektor, Deck the Halls by R.E.M., Jingle Bells by Lisa Loeb, Christmas Baby by G. Love, White Christmas by Katy Perry, The First Noel by Weezer, I Believe In You by Sinéad O'Connor, Cool Yule by Bette Midler, Lullay My Liking by The King's Singers, Come Darkness, Come Light by Mary Chapin Carpenter, Silent Night by Johnny Cash, The Christmas Can-Can by Straight With No Chaser, I Believe by Andrew Bocelli with Katherine Jenkins, Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) by Death Cab For Cutie, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas by Colbie Caillat

College Xmas 2008
Baby, It's Cold Outside, I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day by Sarah McLachlan, I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus by Jessica Simpson, I'll Be Home For Christmas, You're a Mean One Mr. Grinch, Ave Maria, Get Behind Me Santa by Sufjan Stevens, Carol of the Bells by the bird and the bee, Chesnuts Roasting On An Open Fire, Do You Hear What I Hear

College Xmas 2007
Little Drummer Boy by Sufjan Stevens, Sing We Now of Christmas, Grinch Dialogue by Jim Carrey, Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas by Hem, O Holy Night by Sufjan Stevens, Sleigh Ride by Ella Fitzgerald, Track 05 by Sufjan Stevens, All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth, River, Rudolf, the Red-Nosed Reindeer by Jack Johnson, The Friendly Beasts by Sufjan Stevens, Let It Snow by A Fine Frenzy, Holy, Holy, Holy by Sufjan Stevens, White Christmas by Aimee Mann

College Xmas 2005
All the Angels by John Perkins, I Wish You a Merry Christmas by Bing Crosby, Christmas Celebration by B.B. King, Christmas Time Is Here by Melissa Manchester, The Christmas Song by Nat King Cole, The Hallelujah Chorus by The Philharmonic Orchestra, Winter Wonderland by Aretha Franklin, White Christmas by Lena Horne, Let It Snow! by Ella Fitzgerald, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas by Lee Greenwood, O Come O Come Emmanuel by The Canadian Brass, 2000 Decembers Ago by Joy WIlliams, What Child Is This by Chris Rice, One Solitary Life by Hal Hotbrook, To Zion by Lauren Hill

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Dear 1985 Santa

November 23, 1985

Dear Santa,

How are you?

I'm doing grate.

School is grate to. In 2nd grade.

Here's what I want for Christmas A Porcelin doll, roller skats, An I can control dog, pussle, boy cabbch pachs kids, games, sume books.

Nov. 22 night we went to eat at sister's chicken after that we went to see magic Christmas. It was good.

Your freand From Ann Pittman

Complete with a pencil drawn picture of my family in between two Christmas trees. Awesome. I need a scanner so you can see why Santa should have brought me all those things.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends

I once told someone that my life is a community effort. And it is. Truthfully, I believe everyone's life is.

So, today, with Thanksgiving still waving in our rear-view mirror and Christmas Spirit opening its front door, I would like to say thanks to a couple of friends who have helped me out this year...

I get by with a little help from... Taylor. You may remember I had some issues with rain this spring... well, I arranged to have gutters put on my roof for a mere fifteen hundred odd dollars, but a friend in my Sunday School class at church got to thinking and said he had a better, cheaper idea.

For a month or so he'd show up on Saturdays or maybe Fridays and dig alongside my house. And after several full days of digging in the hard Texas dirt, I had a swale. A swale is a long ditch sloped away from the house that runs alongside the house and all the way out to the street. When rain falls off the side of the house, of course, it slip 'n slides its way on down the street... and not into my reading room.

Taylor saved me thousands of dollars and donated his time and architecture expertise to alter my landscape and help out a friend...

I also get by with a little help from... Paul. Now, this story may need to be confidential, because it involves the IRS. You see, I hadn't done my taxes since 2007. Truthfully, the IRS was probably happy I hadn't yet filed, because they owed me money. But taxes overwhelm me, and I never know what numbers go where, so I just hadn't gotten around to doing them... in a couple years. I'd paid the $1 for an extension, every year, just not gotten them done. But when my friend Paul heard about this one lazy afternoon in the park, he said, "Ann, I read the tax laws for fun. Every year. I can help you do your taxes." And sure enough, two late evenings and a carton of ice cream later, my 2008 and 2009 taxes were finished. And I had enough money to put (fake) hardwood floors in my house! No more dingy carpet! Hooray! My allergist and I were thrilled.

I also get by with a little help from... The Lawyer. He has a real name, I promise. And like Taylor, he attends my church. But he and his wife like to remain mostly anonymous on the internet, and since she calls him The Lawyer in her blog (she's the Librarian), so will I. A couple of years ago, I got el screwed-o by a certain groovy car repair shop in Austin. Ahem. Thousands of dollars and three letters later, I'd heard nothing from them about making ammends for the problems they caused... The Lawyer got on the phone and called the shop's lawyer, and long story short, this year I was able to recoup a small of amount of the money I lost thanks to The Lawyer's mad lawyering skills. (and he is seriously legit... his office building is awesome! - fountains and books and everything - because everyone knows the mark of a good lawyer is whether there's a fountain in his office building).

So I wanted to say thanks. Thanks to these three men who could do what I couldn't, and chose to help a friend And thanks to so many of my friends who help make my life happen... to Chris and Michelle who feed me, to my Mom who worries for me, to my Grandparents who send me money when things are tight, to Nicolette and James and the others who share their music when I need an accompanist, to my roommie, Amanda, who voluntarily helps with the housework, to Bethany who hired me, to Justin who encourages me... the list goes on and on.

My life is a community effort. And I'm thankful for my community.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

One Thing Ann Pittman Doesn't Need...

One Thing Ann Pittman Doesn't Need: A Reason to Drink Wine
By Sam Davidson... guest poster... or post-er... or writer. Whatever.


I've known Ann almost as long as I've known my wife, Lynnette. The two were pals in seminary. No further comment.

Since then, I have seen Ann at conferences, over dinner, at Disney World, and visited half a dozen New Year's parties with her in one night. One thing that's easy to pick up about Ann: she likes to find reasons to celebrate. And most celebrations call for wine. This is a good thing.

Don't worry, Carol. Ann doesn't think that every occasion demands wine - like fifth Sundays or every Friday or noon. But she knows when people need a drink. And I often raise my glass to Ann Pittman.

There's something for us all to learn here: we need more celebration in our lives. I think this is something that is especially true to remember when we find what it is we're passionate about.

I firmly believe the world needs more passionate people. This is why I wrote 50 Things Your Life Doesn't Need. Using the excuse of clearing out clutter, I highlight how getting rid of what doesn't matter can help us find what does. The same is true in reverse: when we find what it is we truly care about, everything else can fade into the background.

We don't do enough celebrating. And most of us don't drink enough good wine. The next time you see Ann - or find your passion - feel free to do both.

Other things (actually in the book) that Ann Pittman doesn't need:
#4 - Drama
#13 - Unpassionate activism
#36 - Noise

Sam Davidson is a writer, entrepreneur, and dreamer who believes that the world needs more passionate people. To help people find and live their passion, he has written 50 Things Your Life Doesn’t Need. He is the co-founder of Cool People Care and Proof Branding, and lives in Nashville with his wife and daughter.

Click on the link in the above paragraph (50 Things) and buy my friend Sam's book for everyone you know for Christmas. I really like his wife and daughter. Plus, I read an early copy of the book. I like it too. Check out the promo video below. Peace, Ann Pittman.

50 Things Your Life Doesn't Need from Point House Films on Vimeo.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Upon Discovering My Entire Solution...

Upon Discovering My Entire Solution to the Attainment of Immortality Erased from the Blackboard Except the Word 'Save'
by Donny Gibson

If you have seen the snow
somewhere slowly fall
on a bicycle,
then you understand
all beauty will be lost
and that even the loss
can be beautiful.
And if you have looked
at a winter garden
and seen not a winter garden
but a meditation on shape,
then you know why
this season is not
known for its words,
the cold too much
about the slowing of matter,
not enough about the making of it.
So you are blessed
to forget this way:
a jump rope in the ice melt,
a mitten that has lost its hand,
a sun that shines
as if it doesn't mean it.
And if in another season
you see a beautiful woman
use her bare hands
to smooth wrinkles
from her expensive dress
for the sake of dignity,
but in so doing trace
the outlines of her thighs,
then you will remember
surprise assumes a space
that has first been forgotten,
especially here, where we
rarely speak of it,
where we walk out onto the roofs
of frozen lakes
simply because we're stunned
we really can.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Live Music Capital of the World

is where I live, and this week, I experienced it in full.

Starting last Friday night, a friend had invited me several weeks ago to attend a show with him at a Presbyterian church in North Austin. Some "amazing guitar player" was performing, and after driving in from Dallas, my friend wanted someone who would appreciate some good music to see the show with him. I was happy to oblige.

We were the first to arrive at the "Open Ear Concert," and with five minutes to show time and only six of us in the audience, I was beginning to worry about what I was about to see. However, the crowd filed in at the last minute and the opening act joined us onstage. All the rage in the Netherlands, Matt Harlan was indeed a talented musician with good lyrics and a compelling voice. But he was no match for the main event: Corrine West and Kelly Joe Phelps.



"She's not exactly delicate," my friend said of Corrine when I remarked that the photograph on the flyer (not the previous picture) made them look like a bad 80s hair band. And while he was right, she was no budding flower onstage, this beautiful woman was a powerful musician. With eyes clenched closed she listened to her partner, a former Jazz guitarist, shimmy his left hand up and down the fret of his guitar accompanying her on songs they had rewritten musically after meeting each other.

And they are a match made in heaven. Their voices blend so well that at times it was hard to tell who was singing which note. It was like listening to honey. Thick honey. The kind from the comb grandma would buy at the apple orchard and bring over to your kitchen. The kind you couldn't just drip onto a bowl of Cheerios from a bear, but the kind that had to be spread onto bread with a knife. Thick honey. My friend bought me their only CD together, and I was thrilled to learn that River was on it. However, the song that most affixed me was Angels. I've always heard of people describe music as a spiritual experience and while I've always agreed with that sentiment, for the first time as I listened to that song, I felt myself almost separate from my body as if my spirit were so moved to dance that it couldn't be confined to the mass that is me.

Find these people when they come to your area and buy a ticket to their show. Their CD doesn't do them justice.

From St. Andrews, I said goodbye to my friend (who headed back to Dallas), and went to meet up with some more friends downtown at the Beauty Bar to hear one of my favorite Austin band's last show. Upon arriving I discovered there was a $5 cover charge and free drinks at the bar until 11. What? Um, awesome. The B. Sterling Band was already playing when I arrived at 10:05 and I joined B's prego wife in the front of the crowd to hear the show. Always a ton of fun, I love listening to this band whose vivid lyrics coupled with not only your typical band instruments but a steel guitar, flute and trumpet too always make for a festive evening.


However, what was also making for a fun evening was the... ahem... variety... of people at the Beauty Bar that night. Go north on Punk Rock and take a right on Hipster are my directions for how to get to this bar, so when it began to fill with big hair and big boobed girls dressed in all black and pumped up in stiletto heels, I began to wonder if it had been too long since I'd been downtown. First off, I didn't know Side Bar had closed (which used to be right across the street), but now Beauty Bar is the main attraction for 30 year old sorority girls from Dallas? As I made my way to the bar (for a second drink), I discovered the non-sequitor... Cover Girls, the main band of the evening, indeed consisted of thirty-something year old women from Dallas but with a catch. "I'll take a vodka in grapefruit juice please." I began to pull a dollar out of my wallet to tip the bartenders. "No need to tip, honey," the old man standing next to me said. "But the drink was free and they need to make money," I replied pre-judging him as some jerk-off republican. "You know the band that's playing next?" he went on. I didn't. "Well, my daughter is friends with them. One of the girl's husbands is a trillionaire. Trust me, these bartenders will be taken care of. Save your money." Hmm. I complied. I don't have a full time job. I will save my dollar for an equally needy bartender. I returned to Jess and our friends reporting the news: one of the band member's husband is apparently a trillionaire and had flown not only the band, but all their friends into town, rented out the Beauty Bar, paid for our drinks, and made the whole evening possible.

Awesome. Again, free liquor and five-dollar music. I love this town.

I did not love the Cover Girls.

They couldn't even tune their own guitars. If the bad blond hair and the fake boobs and leather clothing hadn't tipped us off, this did. We were in for a ride. And I hate roller coasters. Five Six Seven Eight, the struck their first chords. We groaned. And then, as if in a bad karaoke bar, we watched some blond bimbo sing "One way... or another... I'm gonna gitcha, gitcha, gitcha." To add to the terrible song choice, and the terrible costumes, the song was in a key way too low for this girl and she didn't have a good voice. When they switched singers for the second song and bimbo number two began her equally terrible 1980s karaoke hit, I left. Money may buy you and your fifty closest friends a trip to Austin and free drinks for an entire bar and band equipment and even non-band members to tune your guitars, but it won't buy you talent.

I had shut this event out of my mind when to finalize my live music week, I and two friends attended John Pointer's show at Zach Scott Theater on the set of Rent and I was reminded of the full week of music I'd already experienced. But what a juxtaposition. This show finished out the week with the same flair that it had been ushered in with. A-mazing.

I admit, I'm a huge John Pointer fan. It's probably because he covers Yo Diggity (I'd like to bag it up!), but even beyond this super fun cover song, John's musical versatility is really unparalleled here in Austin. A human beatbox (yes, you heard me correctly), this cello performance major from UT plays, nay, dances on the fret of his guitar creating a whole new music experience all the while singing in that same whimsical fashion, sometimes gruff and hard, sometimes falsetto and sometimes, well, as though his voice were a turntable, snare and high hat. Trust me, it's hard to describe. But John captured his audience's attention and you could have heard a pin drop when he looped a simple guitar strum and then bounded from the main stage to upstage right on the second level where his cello, a saw (yes, a flimsy saw) and his bow were waiting.


With those loops in place he returned to the stage, this time to the piano to play keys and finally add vocals to the mix. A good 15 minute spectacle, it was a real treat to watch. Because when John plays, he is also playing. He plays with the words, the music, the beat, the audience (yes, there's always much audience participation at John's shows) and the theatricality of each piece. It is a pleasure to watch him perform.



There was a summer or a fall or some season when every Thursday night you could hear John at Cedar Street, a local outdoor venue here in town. I miss those days of amazing live music - both originals and covers - and dancing to a cello and a human beatbox in downtown Austin under the stars.

Strange, I know. But birds of a feather flock together. And you need to hear John Pointer.

(Photography borrowed with permission from Charley McCoy).

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Secret Kitty

Squee of the day via Posh Deluxe. Check out this short clip from Jezebel...

ACL 2010

I realize that I'm backtracking. But I've been backtracking for a while now, so you'll be alright.

The weekend after the big I Ran Five Miles at Disney World brought yet another adventure: Austin City Limits. Hooray! It's my super favorite weekend of the whole year.

Why? Because I love the sun, the music, the food, the people, and I love that it's all in one place. One park. One entrance and one exit.

My lineup for this year consisted of some bands I'd seen before, others I'd missed in years past at the festival and some I'd never seen or heard ever. Highlights from this year were... Blues Traveler (yep, it's true), The Black Keys (as everyone expected, a great show), Dawes (who I couldn't actually see, but sang along to in the back of the crowd on my blanket) and The National (Oh. My. God.).

However, for this post I do not want to focus on the amazingness of the aforementioned bands, but on the kookiness of several of the other shows we saw. One of the fun parts of ACL is that the selection of bands is usually vast enough that not only can you hang with the pot-smoking hippies at The XX, the Christians at Switchfoot (whom I avoided) but also with the voyeurs who show up to shows like M.I.A. and the Flaming Lips and by voyeurs, I mean those who aren't really music junkies for fill-in-the-blank-band, but just want to be able to say, "Yeah, I saw them once." We are voyeurs of the eccentricity of musicians.

I had skipped MIA several years ago at ACL when she was here to hear Damien Rice I think. A smart move on my part, but still I heard her show was amazing. So after picking up her CD that year, I was ready this year to make it over, and in 2010, several years and several CDs later, Maya had a much more featured hour and stage on which to perform. And boy did she perform. Too bad we couldn't hear her. Her stage was cah-razy with a video for the backdrop and pyro-technics on Paper Plane.


Super awesome. The crowd was wild with singing and fist-throwing. But we could hardly hear her vocals! You could hear the sound, but you couldn't understand her. Even in between songs when she spoke, no one knew what she was saying. So with that uber disappointment, my crew and I voted to leave the park early and beat the end-of-show crowds having heard our favorite MIA songs already. We left Maya on top of her speakers having climbed up there mid-song.


The other show that I'd chosen against in previous years was Flaming Lips. Supposedly their show was really entertaining a few years ago when I had gone to hear Robert Plant or someone else instead. I remember thinking at the time that I'd made the wrong decision, but after seeing their show this year, maybe not.

The Flaming Lips are known for being... well... different. I mean, I'm different. But they're different. For example, it would never occur to me to put a giant painting of a woman in birthing position on the giant screen behind my stage and then come onstage myself, get into a giant ball and roll from the stage (and thus from the woman) onto the people who had come to see my show and proceed to crowd surf in a giant blown up ball.


Neither would I consider it creatively advantageous to have a man in a bear costume come out onstage during one of my songs. Even if I did consider this, I would not then climb up on the bear's shoulders and ride him like a bull while continuing to perform. What the...?





But even if I had chosen the theatrically precarious ball surfing or the just plain peculiar bear riding, I definitely wouldn't choose to ask my audience to do what Wayne Coyne instructed us in next. "Okay, if I say bird, I want to hear you chirp like birds." We all looked at him onstage like he was speaking alien. "F*cking chirp I said!" And a few people chirped. Then he called up his drummer to the microphone and said that he would willingly demonstrate and help us along. "If I say lion, I want to hear your roar!" Raaaahhhhrrr began the drummer and the potheads began roaring with him. The rest of us began looking at one another in disbelief. That's what i say to Chris and Michelle's 17 month old daughter, "Roar like a lion, Lauren," to which she replies, "rahr!" I digress. Then Wayne began performing the song, and with every noun he offered, we were to pretend to be that noun either vocally or physically. "Wind!" he shouted and people began blowing into the air and swooshing. It was like being in a high school theater class. Only worse. The sun was in our eyes, and most of us were high from either first or second-hand smoke. And our buzz was quickly wearing off. "Race car!" It was at this point that a wave of high schoolers weeded their way past us leaving the show. "See, they get it," I said to my ACL partner, Meredith Holladay.


They have to chase one another on all fours like crabs on a dirty gymnasium floor during P.E. class at school. They're sure as hell not going to do it at an ACL concert. And after Wayne asked us to be the ocean, we too left.

This experience was in part redeemed for me by getting to hear the Flaming Lips perform Vaseline, but Meredith never heard her favorite Pink Robots song, so it was with mixed emotions that we braced exiting the crowd. Thank God, I muttered, and began humming "Nothing" sung by character Diana Morales in A Chorus Line as we moved away from the insanity and toward the port-a-potties.

Austin City Limits. Always an experience!

Monday, November 08, 2010

Tagged By Joy

In her blog about being a doulah, Joy Kusek tagged me to respond to a post "A Little Something About Me." (as if you didn't already know enough about me). So here are my answers to the following seven questions...

1) What is your dream occupation?
Ugh. Please read previous two months posts. Um... I would enjoy being a professor, an actor, an itinerant preacher and a vocal performer. Please feel free to lend your hand or connections to make any of the aforementioned come true...

2) What is the best dish that you can cook?
Ha. All together now... Crazy Carol's spaghetti or Tuna and Noodle casserole. The only two dishes I know how to cook, unless of course you count cereal...

3) Have you ever been mentioned in the newspaper? What for?
Yep. I made my paper debut in the second grade when I dressed up like one of the founding fathers of our nation at Noyes Elementary school and some St. Joseph News Press photographer came over and wrote a story on us and took our picture. After that, I was in the local paper mostly for shows at the community theater in St. Joe. My favorite was probably the pic of me with a cat during the play, I Remember Mama. We had a real cat on stage. Awesome. I'll try to dig up some of those old clippings. My piano teacher, every time I was in the paper, would cut out the article and put it in her piano bench for my next lesson when she would pull it out and tell me she was proud of me. What a wonderful woman.

4) What’s the worst and/or most memorable job you’ve ever had?
Other than my three month stint at Applebee's in the ghetto of Wacky Waco, my most memorable worst job was at Morton Reed and Counts law firm in St. Joseph one summer. I was in seminary at the time, but had left Texas for the summer to return home and act in the local theater. I think we were doing Into the Woods that summer and I played the Witch. But to make money, I worked as a secretary at this law firm (at the time I tried to keep that under wraps from my seminary friends who would have died at the thought of me taking a secretarial position). Suffice it to say, I was probably the first and last feminist they hired to woman their front desk...

5) When you were a teenager, at what age did you envision yourself getting married? How old were you in reality when you got married?
I thought I'd get married at 22 just like my mom. And ten years later I'm still not married.

6) What’s your most hated household chore? What’s your favorite?
I hate putting sheets on and making the bed though I love sleeping in clean, new sheets. I do this chore frequently even though I hate it. Some of you who have been reading me a long time may remember this post and remember that I also hate cleaning the bathroom which, unlike the make bed chore, I rarely do. I usually wait for my mom to come into town and then she cleans it for me :) My favorite chore? Is that a joke? Maybe putting dishes in the dishwasher?

7) What’s your earliest memory?
It's a funny thing, memory. I have a memory of me eating a worm at age 2 in the backyard of our house on Folsom Terrace, but I think that memory is only from hearing my parents tell it so often. I remember the Hindery's basement, I remember spinning in circles to Annie in the living room of our first house. I remember seeing the concentric circles around my ankles as I spun faster and faster. I remember waking up and seeing orange peels on the roof outside my bedroom window Christmas morning (Santa liked oranges and apparently his reindeer did too). I remember yelling at Paul Kuhlman at school later that week insisting that Santa Claus was real because, like my dad would climb up on the roof in the middle of the night to put orange peels out... Probably my earliest memory though is a sad one. I remember waking up in the hospital after some procedure - tubes in the ears I think - and crying for my mom and watching a nurse come over to console me only to have me scream on anyway. I can remember continuing to cry and watching her walk away through the bars of the crib I was in. Weird.

So, now I tag: I sort of gave up reading blogs for a while. Weird I know, but I got tired. But I'll tag Sam Davidson anyway and also Patrick and Taylor (two seminary friends who occasionally read my blog).

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Shadowlands, a review

Shadowlands a drama written by William Nicholson and produced by Trinity Street Players at the black box theater on the fourth floor of The First Baptist Church of Austin Texas.

While it seems strange to review a theater troupe I started three years ago and a play I picked just nine months ago, I'm doing it anyway, because you need to see this play.

You need to see this play.

Why?

Many reasons. Namely, it's an excellent play. Well written, a fine piece of art. But put the words on the page into the mouths of actors and put the actors on the stage next to scenery and under lights and the art takes life. And art is, I believe, the most natural expression of humanity. Shadowlands as presented by Trinity Street Players is good art. But in addition to being a good play that is performed well, you need a good laugh, and you need a good cry, and you need to think about the issues this play raises.

Is friendship a lost cause? Is love worth it? Is pain God's megaphone to rouse a deaf world? Are we walking in the shadows of what is to come? Are we trying to be offensive when we put limitations on the heart, soul and minds of our companions on this journey or are we merely stupid?

Here's the thing about intellectual elitism. I can write this because I went to seminary with men who went on to get PhDs in Philosophy, Theology, etc. I was taught by such men in higher education courses. Men who never stepped into a pastorate but only observed it from afar with their academic posture guiding them through their relationships with their community and really through their relationship with God. And of course, there are those intellectual elitists who turn away from all religion because anything emotional that could be presupposed by our need to feel safe is simply an artifice humanity (or rather "man" as most elitists don't pay much attention to political correctness for indeed there are intellectual superior beings to whom enlightenment has been bestowed and if they happen to be men, well, why recognize anyone else?) has created... God, the ultimate figment of our imagination. The thing about intellectual elitism is that when we experience suffering, the playing field is leveled. It doesn't matter how thoughtful we are, how well we can ascribe language or theories to explain certain situations, how educated, how rich, how poor, how simple how unenlightened, how beautiful, how homely, how stagnant, how progressive we are. When we suffer, everything we know and believe about life - no matter how hard we try to intellectualize it - everything is thrown in limbo, and we all end up at the same place, on the same ground, asking the same questions.

I laughed hard at this production. The text is naturally humorous at times as any well-written play about relationships, men, women, friendship, love and sex will be. However, it would be lost on a naive or unprofessional cast. The balance that director David McCullars brought to the weight of the subject matter the audience already knew was both necessary and well played. Laughter too is a part of pain and a part of joy. And Joy. She was a smart, funny woman whom most of Lewis' friends resented, brought back to life by local actor Linda Miller Raff. Not a nuance was lost by Linda as she played the Jewish, materialist, atheist, communist Christian, Joy Gresham. And Jose Shenkner as Lewis, well, he was beyond remarkable. Check out this clip...



I cried a lot. I practically cried just watching that trailer again.

Maybe I cried because I gave up my job at FBC, gave up producing Shadowlands, gave up running this program, creating art and indigenous ministry in this beautiful theater that I once called mine. That's the apple we used in The Diaries of Adam and Eve, I thought as Douglas pulled it from the wardrobe. That's the chair Don York brought in for the witness stand in Inherit the Wind. That's the logo I paid my friend Joy Kusek to design to represent this unique theater. That's motor oil on that box - motor oil David loves to paint with, motor oil that Cathy Jones fell into four gallons of during Steel Magnolias. And the narcissist wept.

Maybe I cried because one of my former parishioners at FBC who happens to be one of my former actors at Trinity Street Players and one of my good friends, drove into town to see this play with her mother, a woman resigned to a wheelchair and also dying of cancer.... Like Joy Gresham, she too had her miracle recovery but this time, like Joy, she too will die. I could not watch the play without the keen awareness that I was experiencing the play too.

Maybe I cried because "everybody hurts... sometimes," and this play grapples with the profundity we all will experience at some point in our lives. Everybody loves and everybody loses. "The pain now is part of the happiness then. That's the deal."

Suffering, you can't escape it.

I know it sounds like a downer... but this play! In addition to Jose and Linda, Ben Eynon as Riley was spot on, if obnoxious. Joe Grady Moore the third, an FBC favorite, was the brother to Lewis we all long to have. And the innocence of eight-year-old Ryan Ramsey, a character in Lewis and Joy's story, but a metaphor for the loss we all experience in life.... Oh my God, the beauty of this play! To hear the words of scholar, novelist and Christian, C.S. Lewis, articulated in the context of his life with the academic, the religious, and the drunk dons at Oxford, is an extraordinary experience. Even if you aren't familiar with Lewis' writing or are not a person ascribing to faith or spirituality, his words will move you, startle you and compel you to wonder...

Shadowlands.

I'd share some of my favorite quotes with you, but I lent out my copy of the script to the director.

So go experience it yourself. Two more weekends. November 12-14 and 19-21. Call 476-2625 for reservations Mon-Fri or email trinitystreetplayers@fbcaustin.org now. And it's FREE!! "The best no-money I've ever spent," my new roommate said! (But take along some cash cause it's non-profit and theater is expensive). If you don't want to take our word for it though, read another review at Austin Live Theater.

Oh, and David McCullars, I want my script back, please.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Riders by Frost

The surest thing there is is we are riders,
And though none too successful at it, guiders,
Through everything presented, land and tide
And now the very air, of what we ride.

What is this talked-of mystery of birth
But being mounted bareback on the earth?
We can just see the infant up astride,
His small fist buried in the bushy hide.

There is our wildest mount—a headless horse.
But though it runs unbridled off its course,
And all our blandishments would seem defied,
We have ideas yet that we haven't tried.

Riders
by Robert Frost

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!!

Happy Halloween from the Pittman Family at 5406...


Shrunken Alice in Wonderland and the White Rabbit.


Zorba (Satan's Little Helper), dressed up as (are we sure about this?) a Vampire.


And my little Angel, Potter...

Happy Halloween!

And then I ran 5 miles

So the day my job ended, I flew to Disney World.

Some might find this to be frivolous, irresponsible, excessive, and I agree, except I didn't exactly have to pay for it. I traded in some miles and flew to Disney World for $25 (AA will charge you for everything including luggage, peanuts and trading in your miles). Once there I met one of my "other families," the family of the former Lynnette Ogle, now Lynnette Davidson. And the Davidsons love Disney. And by love, I mean lurve.

They are a little coo-coo.

And that's saying a lot on my end. I mean, I wore a Frankenstein hat while handing out candy to the trick or treaters tonight who were also able to listen to a sixty song Halloween music mix playing on the iPod I had hidden outside behind the bushes. I enjoy using my imagination. Disney is the place for me. But I've got nothing on the Davidsons.

They have a whole ROOM devoted in Disney in their parents' house.

Whoa.

So I arrived at the airport and with instructions from Luanne, the mom, or grandma (of Lindley) to head toward the Disney Express. No need to pick up my luggage, some "cast member" would grab it and usher it to my hotel for me. All I had to do was get off the plane, get in line for a bus, get on said bus, watch a movie about Disney World (my pleasure!) and then arrive at my hotel. The Boardwalk. Wow. Super cool hotel. On a Boardwalk. Need I say more?

Luanne greeted me and handed me my park pass card and my meal card (a drink, main course and dessert with every meal!) and a little plastic card holder to carry them in. Awesome. Her daughters arrived shortly after me. Much to their chagrin, I'm sure, they had to share a room with me, and thus share a bed with each other. (I got the couch).

And then the guest of honor arrived: Little Lindley.

Lindley is the protege of my aforementioned friend, Lynnette (two n's and two t's please) and her husband Sam. Sam's sisters, Molly and Maribeth, are the doting aunties who buy Lindley lots of useless but funny junk and are the two who would begrudgingly share a room with me, the newby.

And Lynnette's parents arrived too! It was a family reunion of the Davidsons, Ogles and... Pittmans! Something like that. But I got my "Family Reunion" button from the hotel desk anyway and wore it all weekend.

However, the point of this particular adventure to Disney World was not to celebrate my retirement from the ministry, but rather to race. Yes, the Davidsons are runners. Don't ask me why. I hate the very act. My sister ran a marathon and I printed off the pictures of her in the silver after-jacket, eating a banana and looking dead, and I put them in my scrapbook. I have no intention of EVER running a race myself.

But when Lynnette called me a few weeks before the trip and asked, "Luanne wants to know if you want to run the 5k," I was shocked.
"Run as in run?"
"Well, we'll be walking."
"I thought I was supposed to be watching Lindley during the race."
"Well, now my mom is."
"Um... I don't know... I've never run anything before."
"Come on Ann, even my dad is doing it."

This is me pictured the first day at Disney World with said dad. Yes, we were wearing the same shirt. Ugh, Lynnette. Way to throw the way-older-than-me-person into the anty. Geez.
"Well, if he can do it surely I can..."
"Great. We'll sign you up."

So the next thing I know I'm signed up for the 5k. This however, was not the main attraction. Despite my world being TURNED UPSIDE DOWN by the thought of walking a 5k, Lindley's Diaper Dash was actually the main event.

You see, there were several brackets. (Is that what they call them in relays?) The 3-5 year old 100 yards run, the 1-2 year old 50 yard run, and the under-a-year-old 10 feet diaper dash. The babies were supposed to crawl. Lindley could only sit there. So with both sets of grandparents and two aunts, one auntie and her dad cheering her on, Lindley's mom lifted her and toddled her across the mat and to the finish line. We were thrilled and very proud. And Lindley was happy to have a new chew toy.



Our 5K began the next morning. And I have to admit, it was actually FUN! First of all it was like nighttime when we started. Observe the background in the picture of me and Lynnette: So it was cool and while I am NOT a morning person (almost to the degree that I am NOT a runner), there was something to the magic of that morning. When the fireworks went off and we began our face-paced walk, I was embarrassed to note that about 15 minutes into our trek through Disney's Magic Kingdom, the exuberant runners began PASSING us to head back to the finish line.

Gah.

Well screw them, because do you know what was on the way throughout the park? Characters! Luanne and the others who were up ahead would text back to Sam, who travelled with iPhone in hand with me, Lynnette and her dad, which characters were coming up. At this point I would take off running with my camera to said picture spot, wait in line, have my picture taken, and then run back to catch up with Sam, Lynnette and Dad who had by then passed me. IT WAS AWESOME!!! I LOVED IT. And I got my picture taken with Cruella and Malificent.
Of course, I struck a pose between them and Cruella gave me a look that would kill. Amazing. I was born for Disney World.

At the end of the 5k we all took a pic together and I felt invigorated.
My first race! And I got a rubber medal just like Lindley!

Well, that night started another race. A serious race. Not some 5ker that sounds like a lot of miles but is really just 3. or something. There was a half marathon that would run from Animal Kingdom to Epcot. Of course, several of the Davidsons had signed up for this race as well. The exciting part about this race was that at the end you received a metal medallion, and at Epcot, the food and wine festival would be waiting for you!

Now, Sam, Lynnette, Molly and I had sampled the Food and Wine festival at Epcot earlier that day. And apart from being grossly disappointed with the downsizing of the champagne cups,
we were otherwise very pleased with our selections. So later that afternoon, when Sam announced that he wasn't interested in running his 5 miles of the 13 mile relay with his sister (who would run 8), before I could clap my hand over my mouth to stop the words coming out of it, I heard myself say, "I'll take your place."

WHAT?

I'll WHAT?

"Great," he said. "Done. You'll be Sam. Molly signed me up as a female runner anyway, so it's perfect."

O God.

I quit my job, I went to Disney World, and after walking a 5K in the morning I was about to RUN FIVE MILES that night?

I was delirious.

But I was stuck.

At 10pm, I found myself waiting in line for a bus with Molly and Luanne. Luanne, the wondermom, would run the 13 miles herself, whereas Molly and I would relay the 13 with 5 and 8 miles respectively. I began to get nervous. But after Luanne shared some of her goo with me (I have no other adequate word for this... it is literally goo that is packed with energy or something - I don't even know if this is possible - but it is happy goo in a little bag that you slurp up before or during your race), we were off.

And I had to pee.

So I left Luanne, running steadily along, and I made a beeline for the port-a-potty's. Gross. But I did my business and rejoined the race.

Without Luanne to distract me from this horrible mess I had gotten myself into, I turned to my iPod and Lady Gaga. And I began to sing. And not just "Paparazzi." "I'm Every Woman," "Love Shack," "Goodbye Earl," "Defying Gravity," and any other inspirational song I could find. Luanne later described me jogging past her singing, out loud, all by myself. But I don't care. At least I was running.

After all, Molly was waiting for me. And I couldn't wimp out. While I may have quit my job and submitted myself to a life of poverty, I couldn't let that affect my psyche. I needed motivation, not fear. And by God, I needed to finish that five miles.

It was hard. I'm not gonna lie to you. Grandmas were passing me. Old men with gimpy legs, were blazing past me. But with encouraging texts from my partner Molly, and a determination that I really could finish five miles if I just put my mind and legs to it, I ran.

And ran.

And thought I was going to die.

And ran.

And ran.

And saw the 13 mile handicapped wheelers pass me on their loop back to the finish line.

And ran.

And ran.

And saw the 13 mile speed runners pass me on their loop back to the finish line.

And I cursed their existence. And texted Molly my hate for the world. And ran.

And ran.

And when I reached Animal Kingdom, I found new vigor and I practically flew through saying hello to all the spots I love along the way: the safari ride, the theater where I saw Finding Nemo the musical, the restaurant we'd eaten at just the day before. And sure enough, I spotted Molly waiting for me at the non-baton-passing-mark (we actually had trackers attached to our shoes). And I slapped her hand and she took off and I stopped.

"Keep going honey," somebody hollered at me, and I realized Molly was waving me to come on as apparently we had to run 50 yards or so together. So I ran again, and then she went one way towards Epcot and I went the other towards... the bus. That would take me to Epcot. O God. I was done.

With my congratulatory bag full of shitty candy, gatorade and a banana, I sat on the pavement waiting for an empty bus to come get me and all the other slow runners. I munched on my food, marveled at my free food and drink vouchers for Epcot (they had to be worth $5 each!), tried not to throw up, and called my boyfriend.

"I'm amazing."

"I know."

I ran five miles. I quit my job, went to Disney World and ran five miles. "Who is this and what have you done with my friend, Ann?" a friend from seminary texted me. "I don't know," I wrote back.

i don't know.

But I'm off and running. Catch me if you can.

But only if you can run faster than a 12 minute mile.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Exactly.


Not that I'm thrilled with Obama. We're still meddling in the Middle East and giving thousands of naive Americans post-traumatic stress disorder. His administration, while posting videos telling teens it's okay to be gay, has still enforced anti-gay legislation. And that damn oil spill isn't cleaned up yet. Grr... But he's better than Bush. And sometimes it takes a long time to clean up big messes...

Remember when Amy and I as kids wrote on the outside of the house and on the patio in permanent marker? Yeah... so do I.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Ask-A-Reverend

"Ann, I need a consult."

My sister is a doctor and while no one has ever said this to me before, I assumed she needed advice or something and braced myself.

"Did Jesus say (in the Bible) that you're supposed to love yourself so you can love your neighbor?"

"No."

"No he didn't. I told you," she said to someone else beyond her iPhone. "Okay, thanks. Bye."

"Um, bye."

Three hours later my phone rang again. It was my father.

"Ann, I need your help..."

Apparently it's Ask-A-Reverend day. Who knew? But I'm glad I'm ask-worthy. The first ten minutes are free. After that it's a mere 19.95 an hour.

"My principal just walked into my room with his Bible," (my dad's a teacher...still...after retiring three years ago or something). "And I was making fun of him for carrying around his Bible on Parent Teacher Night, but then he turned to John 7 and said Jesus lied. And this is a man of real faith. So if I believe Jesus never sinned, did he lie?"

O lord. This would require more than the answer I gave my sister. Although my initial answer was the same. If you're curious, feel free to keep reading. If not, I'm here every hour of the day, seven days a week. First ten minutes of my curbside consultation are free.

"But there are parents waiting on me now, so could you just email me your thoughts? I have to run."

Sure. here goes...

My first answer is... if you believe Jesus was perfect, then no. Jesus didn't lie.

Why?

Truthfully, I don't even have to look at John 7 to learn why Jesus did or did not lie.

Which leads us to my second answer.... There are four gospels. That means four gospel writers. And in some cases (potentially John's case), a writing community. The earliest gospel (Mark) may have been written as early as 15 or 20 years after Jesus' death, but John, being the latest gospel, probably wasn't written any earlier than 60AD (more likely 80something AD). So, believing that the four gospels were penned by men, humans, one has to allow for the fact that one, they didn't remember everything Jesus said verbatim, and two, if they wrote that Jesus said one thing and then proceeded to "do the opposite" of what he just said, thus making him a liar, we are misreading the text. In other words, the point of John's story is obviously not that Jesus was a liar. He has a different point to make, so having Jesus say one thing and then do something contrary to what he said serves a point the author is trying to make. We generally call this rhetoric. And we use it all the time.

Forty years after Jesus' death, people began writing stories about his life. Why? Because all the eye-witnesses of Jesus were beginning to die. And someone had to keep the story going. Did John (or any other the other gospel writers) write down what Jesus said verbatim? No way. Why? It's impossible unless all four of them had aural-graphic (is that even a word?) memories. And also because they each wrote the stories down differently! And all four of them are in the Bible!

Were Jesus' last words, "It is finished?" or "Into thy hands I commit my spirit?" Who knows? Each of the eye-witnesses told it differently. Did Jesus overturn the tables in the Temple at the beginning of his ministry (John) or at the end (Matthew, Mark and Luke)? Who knows? They each told the story differently. Horray! God's story is told through humans! Humans who remember different things, rely on one another to help remember the story and who may even once or twice get the story wrong. But it's their story to tell.

And they use rhetoric and other literary devices to tell those stories. It is not fair for us to impose our proof-texts onto someone else's story. Especially if it's God's story. (that's very trickster-y of us) And especially if it's an ancient document that is at least 1970 years old and at other places 2800 years old.

That's my initial response not having read the text. I can research the text and get back to you if you want though... Love, Ann.

Dear family members, hope this helps. Amy, I need a refill on a prescription or two and Emily, well, I don't need anything from a second grade teacher in the hood right now. Mom, I need some help in my yard and Dad I have two auditions coming up, so I'm using all the advice you ever gave me as a kid. TTYL.

Your Punishment In Hell, a poem I could have written

I think this poem in hilarious and I feel its sentiment in cars while driving and sometimes at the post office...

Your Punishment in Hell
by Gary Leising

Someone will douse a cobra in gasoline,
light the sucker, and shove it headfirst
down your throat. It'll speed straight
through your esophagus, unfurl
its hood to fill your stomach
then begin to strike and strike and strike
and strike and strike: fangs pierce
your stomach, venom pours in,
the little burn of incipient ulcers
grows quick, paralysis sets in.
Your lungs stop before your brain,
before your hand, which lifts
to your mouth the plastic-lidded
paper cup holding the caramel
macchiato cappuccino with a double
shot of espresso and frothed soy milk
topped with two shakes of cinnamon
and no, NO (yes, you said no twice)
sugar that was made for you
slowly, while I, already running late,
waited behind you for a simple,
already-made black coffee.
You will lose all motion before
that drink reaches your mouth,
but you recover and the drink,
strangely, has vanished, and barrista
and cobra-douser-slash-lighter do it all again
and again. I know this because,
for my angry impatience,
I am behind you in line in hell
forever, the pot of black coffee
behind the counter steaming,
turning, I know, bitter.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Library and other poems

Here is a little pre-pubescent poetry by Ann Pittman circa 1988-1990. Please note, grammatical errors have not been changed (not that you'd notice the difference between then and now). Enjoy.

The Library (or BG as I like to call it... Before Google)
If you don't understand
What your suposed to do
And you need a hint
Or maybe just a clue
So you go ask your sis
But she gives you no advice
And you go ask your brother
But he's feeding his mice
Just when you think
Your as low as you could be
Your dad says "Come on"
And takes you to the library
He says that if you have a
Problem, you can find it in a book
So come on you silly kid
And let's go take a look.
You found your question right away
And found your answer rather quickly that day.

Feelings
People come and people go
Ask me why
I do not know
Babies come
People laugh and have fun
Peers die
People cry
People have feelings
Yes, they do
So this is why I'm telling you
If someone dies mourn for them
If someones born rejoice again
Have some feelings for a friend
Because if your nice
And pleasant too
They'll have some feelings
Just for you

Trees
Trees
Tall trees
Tall trees tower
Tall trees tower tulips

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I Wonder What Would Be On Yours

I have this bestie named Lynnette (two n's and two t's please) who I've known for almost ten years since we first met in seminary, unsure of our surroundings in waco as women in ministry and damn sure no men were going to intimidate us out of there.

when i wrote her to tell her that i had quit my job, she wrote me the following email...

"i see that according to FB you 'cannot believe [your]self.' i'm guessing this refers to your quitting your job. i just wanted to say that my hope for you is that you are embarking upon the beginning (or the discovery) of a mondo beyondo dream. for years i've been following this artist/writer/creative-type/soul-worker person named jen lemen. i think i secretly want to be her. or maybe just to approach life a little more like her. she's been writing a lot of stuff lately, well for years actually, about following your heart. she and a friend of hers created this concept a while back about mondo beyondo dreams. see here and here:

i want to make such a list. and then to live into it somehow.

i wonder what would be on yours."


Well, I began to wonder too and so made my own Mondo Beyondo list for myself because, why not? Right now I'm exploring who I want to be and what I want to do and how to accomplish the dreams I haven't quite realized. And because Lynnette is amazing and always knows just what to say and how to inspire me to live life to the fullest, I thought I would share this idea with you in case you could use some inspiration of your own. Some of my mondo beyondo dreams have been on my undocumented list for a long time now. People used to ask me what I wanted to do when I graduated seminary to which I responded, "Preach and be a lounge singer." Those are both on this list. Maybe it's time to cross them and some other things off.

1. Play Eva Perone, Eponine and Sally Bowles in productions of Evita, Les Mis and Cabaret respectively
2. Sing lead in a band (I even have our "name" picked out) that covers love songs and performs some originals
3. Record a meaningful CD of creative, lovely music that changes people
4. Take singing lessons from a professional Broadway-trained singer
5. Learn how to Lindy-hop
6. Take a ballet dance class
7. Be a lounge singer (at least for a night) and wear a long black dress when I sing (preferably one that sparkles)
8. Foster parent
9. Adopt a child
10. Have a swimming pool in my back yard
11. Drive a vespa and wear a helmet I designed myself
12. Write a book
13. Visit New Zealand
14. Be a professional preacher or public speaker
15. Teach at a University or College
16. Return to Paris (I was there once for only 24 hours)
17. Visit the grand canyon and breathe a little more broadly
18. Fall in love... again
19. Participate in a dance competition
20. Preach at my alma mater (William Jewell College)
21. Record a children's cd of lullabies and children's songs
22. Read books to children at a library
23. Wear a real diamond nose ring
24. Visit my girls in Temuco, Chile again
25. Catch up on all my scrapbooking and the scrapbooking I've wanted to do for others over the years
26. Renovate the house on the farm in Minnesota so that it is livable, and write a book there on the land and in the house
27. Make enough money to give a lot of it away and make a real dent of a difference in someone's life
28. Sing in an opera
29. Go camping with a boy i love
30. Own a pet turtle

And while we're making lists and exposing our hopes on the world wide web, what's one of yours?

Monday, October 11, 2010

I Quit My Job

August 15th was my five year anniversary at First Baptist Church of Austin, Texas. Three days later, I quit my job.

I officiated my first funeral when I was 10 years old. It was for my cat, Thisbe, who belonged to my parents when they married eighteen years earlier. Twenty-one years later, I officiated my second funeral for my uncle in Arizona who drank himself to death. Maybe I always knew I would be a minister. Maybe not.

At the dinner table one night, in those same years as the cat funeral, I announced that I wanted to be one of two things when I grew up: a preacher or president.

"Oh you can't be president," my concerned younger sister told me. "They'll kill you."

Well, probably. But not for any reasons that my sister understood at the time. All we knew as little kids was that of the four presidents we knew: Washington, Lincoln, Kennedy and Reagan (I don't think either of us could remember Carter), only one of them hadn't been shot at while in office. Presidents died. We, the people, killed them.

And If I were president instead of Obama or Bush I or II or Clinton or Carter or Reagan, I probably would be shot for being a socialist or a liberal or a hippie... and for being a woman I suppose (the only certifiable proof of the aforementioned offenses).

So I became a preacher instead.

Because in the pulpit it's okay to wear a nose ring and cowgirl boots, and say blessed are the peacemakers, and tell people they need to give 10% of their income away.

Sometimes.

Not always, but sometimes. And fortunately I was at a church where sometimes preachers can do that.

But now its time to fill in the gaps that I overlooked as a child. Mostly as a kid I think I saw myself making speeches. I loved listening to our preacher, a man who told the same stories over and over again for 30 years, and who ran marathons in short, pink running shorts. And I loved President Reagan because I knew nothing about him other than he had been an actor in the movies. And I saw his face on the TV screen and knew that I was an actress (there wasn't the PC term "actor" used universally for both genders or transgenders of performers yet), so surely I could act and make dramatic speeches too.

As an adult, I know there's more to ministering than preaching and more to the presidency than speaking in Congress, and so I'm choosing another route.

Operation Strange Bird has begun.

I know I am one. I'm an ordained Baptist minister who preaches peace, pushes gay rights, teaches Old Testament (with a little bit of American literature thrown in), acts in local theater (and once played a mini-skirt-wearing Mary Magdalene), writes blogs (both public and secret for the discretion of her family), has never married, but dated a long list of men that is almost laughable (and boy do we laugh), suffers but survives a mental health disorder, and who would someday love to be a lounge singer.

Do I belong in the church?

Yes.

Should I be running the church?...

I'm tired of running.

So I'm resting, and writing, and applying to PhD programs in Southern Literature, and officiating weddings, and reflecting, and auditioning, and exercising, and doing some guest performing, and hopefully visiting my grandparents and sisters whom I haven't seen since Christmas.

And most of this because I've learned so much in the past five years at FBC and so much in the past 32 years on this planet we call earth. And now it's time to spread my little wings, as patched together as they may be of ambitions and dreams and maybe-this'll-works, and try to fly. Even just a few feet would be okay.

And wherever I land I land. And then I will try again. And hopefully somewhere in there I'll get a little more perspective on my life and a little more direction. And perhaps with the help of some Wind maybe things will pick up enough that I'll actually soar, and someday land on my feet.

And if not, there's always the classifieds. Someone's bound to need a blessing for a dead cat.

Monday, October 04, 2010

A Fantastic Run

To recap...

In August I appeared in Trinity Street Players performance of The Fantasticks where I played 16 year old, Luisa. I was first introduced to this musical as a child. My father played both Matt and El Gallo in various productions. Rumor has it that as a young child, I knew my father's lines better than he did. However, when we were running them in Hawaii while on vacation, his memory served him pretty well. I was impressed.

I would practice my vocal warm-ups and songs by walking around my Great Aunt Ann's swimming pool (to keep my body moving - there was dancing in this show) and I would sing through everything as it played in my ears on my iPod. My father would sing along in his chair over in the shade with his feet propped up and a book under his nose. Occasionally he was off though, I had to cut him off and cue him from the pool when he could begin singing along "with" me again.

The show was magnificent. As a cast, we got along really well, hanging out with each other after rehearsals and performances. As a minister, it was a great opportunity for outreach, as an actor, it was refreshing to be a part of a cast who loved one another.

And the crowds loved us too. You can read our review here at Austin Live Theater Blogger!