Emergency Music: Or, How I got out of “The Game”

Yesterday I posted this on my Facebook page:

So, there’s this thing going on where people want to know when it is okay to play Christmas music. And I have decided, in the spirit of all things not within my realm, that today marks the opening day of ” Josh Groban Season.” So, y’all, feel comfortable belting out that Ava Maria or, Heaven forbid, Little Drummer Boy. But for *&^%’s sake, enjoy what you enjoy when you enjoy it and don’t let anyone tell you it is too early, too late, too almost or whatever. Enjoy your dang life, y’all. (So I’m enjoying life so much I decided to go Texan on all y’all.)

And I have to admit that I am the one who may have actually started this thing, earlier in the week when I posted on a friend’s wall:

6:58 am, October 28. I’m officially out of the game.

Which referred to a “game” last year where you try to avoid hearing The Little Drummer Boy as long as  you can.  I didn’t last long last year, either.

After that post, many people chimed in and another friend (who is also now out of the game) asked for people to take a poll on when it is appropriate to start listening to Christmas music.  And that’s when I went all Texan.

In the post where I outted myself from the game, I told people who were incredulous that I was already out that I would blog the circumstances because I didn’t have time to write it all then.  So here is my really boring yet true accounting of how I came to be listening to The Little Drummer Boy at 6:58 in the morning on October 28:

I have had the same 6 CDs in my car’s player for the last two years, I think. Maybe longer. Two of them are holiday-themed CDs.  One is Peter Mayer’s Midwinter, and the other is Josh Groban’s Noel. The other four CDs are your every-day kind of music. Lately, when I drive, I am either listening to NPR or my iPhone. I keep the CD player loaded up with emergency music–music that has accompanied me through most of my adult life and will follow me to my grave: REM, Indigo Girls, Bonnie Raitt.

Somehow, over the last two years, Josh Groban’s Noel was added to the Emergency Music rotation. Maybe out of sheer slothfulness on my part (it’ll be Christmas music time in another 10 months, I might as well leave it in), or maybe out of the fact that I just love his voice. It soothes me. It’s like audible chocolate.

And so, there it was, in the CD player, in the rotation. I got in my car at 7:15 pm on October 27th, after 2+ hours on the commuter bus that takes me from Chicago to my home town. It is a 4-minute drive from the bus to my home, and when I got in the car, the CD-player kicked over to the Josh Groban CD, having just finished up the REM greatest hits CD.

My first instinct was to skip the disc and get to the next one.  But there it was, “Silent Night” and I had had a long day and had just a short drive home and I thought, “this is really pretty,” and so I let it go.  I got home, parked my car, went in to spend what was left of the evening with my family and The Blacklist and didn’t think another thing of it.

Next morning, I get in my car, turn it on and Silent Night ends and … Little Drummer Boy begins.  And you know what?  I laughed.  I thought of my friend who doesn’t ever want to hear it and I thought of my daughters who had, I was quite certain, already started listening to Christmas music, and I thought to myself, dang it all if it ain’t time for a little bit of Christmas.

And so, that’s my story of sound and sloth. And joy.

I don’t ask you to listen to music if you don’t want to, I just ask you not to poop on my party in the meantime.

Blessings to you–and Merry Christmas music season (whenever that starts for you).

My parents, my heroes

After spending a week with my mother and my sister, this post came back to me today. My father was with us this week; in our hearts and on our minds. As he has been since and always.

Tina L B Porter

This week is over for me. Tomorrow I get on a plane back home to my kids, my cats, my husband and the snow–most of which I am thrilled about.  And yet, I leave my hometown, and in doing so, must say goodbye to my father. 

My father taught for many years at a community college and in his courses he used what he called student facilitators who helped him teach.  Over the years he had many and in December, they gathered together for a reunion here at my parents’ house.  One of those facilitators called the other day while my mother was otherwise occupied and I took the call.  “He’s my hero,” she said of my dad, “and she’s my other hero,” she said of my mom.

Mine, too, I said.  Today, it is actually true—despite teenage years shouting just the opposite.  This is hard stuff they are going…

View original post 510 more words

Happy. Wealthy. Awed.

leavesThis. This is what I love about blogging. This is a re-run inside a re-run, the bulk of which was written nearly 9 years ago for a column I wrote for the Post-Tribune. I remember that day, watching those leaves, like it was yesterday. But I don’t remember what I wore to work just yesterday. What matters doesn’t always need to be written down, but when you do, it not only matters … it lasts.

Tina L B Porter

Today is a work-at-home day, so I was allowed to watch my youngest as she waited for the bus.  I stood on the other side of the window, in my bathrobe, holding a less than steaming but terrificly delicious cup of fresh-roasted Highlander Grogg, watching her.  The trees in the front yard were/are shedding their leaves rapidly this morning, a steady shower of orange, red and gold.  The big ginger cat sat at my feet, his tail twitching as he, too, watched the leaves drop from the sky.  Oh, he wanted to wrestle them, I saw it in his tail.

This scene reminded me of a column I wrote two years ago.  I found it and share it with you now.  I continue to be awed (and odd).  Enjoy your fall day.

October 30, 2005 

There is something about the fall that just awes me. I usually feel odd…

View original post 549 more words

Today, a prayer, I think

Tina L B Porter

Okay, God.  I’m listening.I sat in the sun and ate dumplings yesterday and the wind blew over and through me, much as it did that day I stood on a ridge near an old, old battlefield.

They are all old battlefieds, aren’t they God?  All the spaces we inhabit hold the old and new battles, the seen and the unseen. Those battles between classes, between races, between lovers, between parents and children, bosses and workers, even between friends. Those interior battles, too, I see, within the shifting, temporary walls that hold me in and in place.

The wind is the same and it holds that which binds us one to another, when we look, when we listen, when we feel. The sun warm on my face, the wind lifting my hair, the taste of plum sauce sweet on my tongue–you have my attention. And I thank you for offering me…

View original post 9 more words

A god of lesser things?

So, my sister saw my earlier re-blogged post about God and noted that she’d had a dream that God was named Margaret. Then I see that I’d already given God the name Eugene. In any event, lots of things have changed since this post, including I now have 3 daughters who know how to make a bed.

Tina L B Porter

Can it be that I have a 12-year-old child who does not know how to make a bed?  Oh, yeah, she is my child.  A Gemini, too.  Bed-making has never been an issue for me–and yet, when I do make the bed, when the sheets are all clean and cozy, well, there’s just nothing better, right?

So, we washed her sheets and I left it to her to make the bed and she comes out and asks, “Do you have to be a mom to figure out how to put these things on the bed?” She indicated she was having more trouble with the mattress cover than the sheet.  So I go in to help her, and I’m showing her how to ease it over one end, pull toward the other then, well, you know the drill, I’m sure.  So I’m in the midst of showing her and I say…

View original post 199 more words

“Can I Pray for You?”

More from the vault …

Tina L B Porter

So, I noted in my last post that I’ve been under a black cloud the last few days.  It’s been a rough patch here, and, as if the death of a friend/mentor/church leader and my father’s illness weren’t enough, I had an old wound rend open without notice.  You know, when you are vulnerable anyway and then a past grief finds its way into your heart all over again?  I think my grief immunities are super, super low right now.

And then, this morning, as I worked at home, the phone rang. It was my neighbor, wanting to invite me to an event.  In declining the invitation, I spilled it all out all over the place on her.  Here’s where I am, here’s what hurts, here’s what happened all those years ago, blah, blah, blah.  We shared similar tales of similar woes, and then she felt moved to say…

View original post 596 more words

The mess of righteousness

I spent the day reviewing old blog posts–feeling a bit melancholic, perhaps–and am reblogging some to remind myself of where I’ve been.

Tina L B Porter

Yesterday was a mess in so many ways and I won’t detail them all here.  But the day’s messes left me wondering: What are we owed?  When we choose a church community, when we live in a neighborhood, when we live as a family—what are we owed?

At one point in this day that seemed chock full of mess, I had two kids in the car who were angry with each other.  One because she is the middle child and she did, quite frankly, get the short end of the stick when it came to birthdays this year.  The other was the oldest child, whose birthday it was, but who has never quite figured out how to be inobtrusive on other people’s birthdays. They were bickering back and forth because one was upset because she got hosed on her birthday, and the other because the other one was making her feel…

View original post 684 more words

On doubt, faith, and God’s cell number

I just came across this post today, lying in my sick bed with that same fluffy cat across my lap and remembered that the house phone rang this morning and it WAS a four-digit number, but the phone I grabbed died in my hand before I could hear anything.

Tina L B Porter

We planned on sleeping in a little on Saturday.  We silly humans who make plans.  And the cats say “ha!”  My big fluffy tiger cat sat by my closed door and whined loudly for attention at the crack of 7:00 a.m.  I grabbed my pillow and then him and went downstairs to the couch to try to find a few more minutes of sleep there, with a cat purring upon me.

When I fell back to sleep, I had the weirdest dream.  I was out, at a party or something, and my cell phone rang.  I looked down to see who would be calling and all I saw was four digits … 2 7 7 9 (I think).  I answered tentatively, “hello?”

“Hi Tina, it’s dad,” came my father’s voice through my ear.  Distinctly my father’s voice. Not his timid, little-boy, end-of-life voice, as we came to call it. No…

View original post 664 more words

Nectarine Season

IMG_1878I was already dreadfully late this morning when I realized that my husband had finished off the coffee I had planned on pouring into my travel mug. I decided that people would rather see me fully caffeinated but a little later than half-caffeinated and just late, so I made another pot. As the coffee was brewing, I decided to make a sandwich because eating at my desk would make up for the being very, very late. I’m quite good at rationalizing.

I got out the turkey, and the spread and the bread and washed off a few limp pieces of iceberg lettuce. As I was making the sandwich, I was thinking how appropriate this sandwich is for this week: bland turkey on wheat-ish bread with soggy iceberg lettuce and a generous helping of Miracle Whip.  Ah, my comfort sandwich. This week of Robin Williams and Ferguson and the always present other news of people hurting each other with policy and projectiles–this week required a full-on comfort sandwich.

I don’t know that anyone would be surprised to hear that I have experienced depression in my life. I know there are people that I love dearly who would prefer that I didn’t share that statement out loud or online, but, frankly, it’s not a very well hidden secret and the tougher I think I am being in my battle with it, the less control I have over my reaction to the rest of the world. So, I’m making a declaration here that is scary in its public nature, but I hope will allow you to see that when I say I needed that sandwich, I wasn’t being just a melodramatic middle-aged white woman. I was being a melodramatic middle-aged white woman who got a severe gut-punch on Monday.

You see, I knew that Robin Williams took his own life when I heard the news that he was dead. I didn’t need anybody to tell me that and I didn’t even really want to know it. Monday night I sat quietly, trying to watch and not watch the news about it at the same time. My instincts were to protect me, because, well, lets just say I wasn’t in the best head place to begin with.

And then I spent the week watching and not watching, reading and not reading, starting to write and never really writing. People told me how I should talk about suicide and depression, and how I shouldn’t. All of it was, I’m sure, well meaning, but frankly, I just didn’t need the word police knocking on my door this week.

And then Michael Brown and Ferguson and militarized police. And that’s all I’m going to say about that right now because … I am a middle-aged white woman with an understanding of institutionalized racism and the politics of privilege and I just think so many people have addressed this so much better than I ever will and yet … yet it is important to be public about being a middle-aged white woman who is angry as hell that black men and boys continue to be killed and jailed disproportionately in this country at this time.

And so, I needed that sandwich. That bland and dough-y concoction that represents home on the day after Thanksgiving (or Thanksgiving night, after all the guests are gone and we have all tucked into the couch and turned on “Love Actually”)–that was what I needed.

I finished making the sandwich and poured my cup of coffee into my travel mug and then I looked around for something to accompany that sandwich at lunch time. And there it was: the Nectarine.

I knew as soon as I picked up that nectarine that it was perfectly ripe. You know how you know these things, you intuit it from the slight give when you pick it up and the weight of it that indicates it is full of juice and sugar and happiness. And I knew that if I packed that nectarine into something to take with me to eat with lunch that it would be bruised or the skin would tear and leak all that loveliness all over my backpack.

So I stood there, in my kitchen, with that nectarine in my hand, looking out over what promised to be a stunningly beautiful day with the sun shining on my deck and on all the lovely flowers, and I knew what had to be done.

I dug my teeth into the flesh of that perfect nectarine while holding the paper towel under my chin and as my teeth tore through the flesh, they released the juices which would have dribbled all over my chin if I hadn’t had the forethought and good teaching to just slurp those juices up while I ripped at that flesh. And the taste? Divine.

I stood in my kitchen, leaning out over the island, ripping and slurping with an abandon that was downright pornographic, but I didn’t care. The nectarine was perfect and it needed to be appreciated in its fullness. But more than that, I realized after I’d wiped my chin and washed my hands and was heading in to work with the taste still lingering at the roof of my mouth–lingering in a way that made me put off taking a drink of coffee because I just didn’t want to lose that flavor–I needed to eat it.

I needed to taste that taste that is the perfection of life–the fruit at its height of ripeness. I needed to feel that burst of flavor and color that is the exact antithesis to the eating experience I envisioned as I made that sandwich.

I needed that nectarine AND I needed that sandwich at the end of this week. I needed to be comforted and I needed to be shocked back into living in this real and complex world, this world that has rules we understand and those we don’t. This world that has spoken and unspoken codes by which we are supposed to live. One of my struggles with depression is not that I’m sad, but that I am expected to not be, because that isn’t “normal.” But really, it is normal– for me.

As I drove home, I thought about that nectarine and how I wanted to sing it’s praises for just being perfect and about how great fruit season is and all that. I thought about Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, which really was the start of my spiritual journey. I had to go look up the quote I was thinking about, you probably know it, it’s the one everyone knows:

“I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it. People think pleasing God is all God cares about. But any fool living in the world can see it always trying to please us back.”
― Alice WalkerThe Color Purple 

And I’m glad that I didn’t piss God off today by walking past that nectarine, but I’m even more glad that the search for that quote led me to this one:

“I am an expression of the divine, just like a peach is, just like a fish is. I have a right to be this way…I can’t apologize for that, nor can I change it, nor do I want to… We will never have to be other than who we are in order to be successful…We realize that we are as ourselves unlimited and our experiences valid. It is for the rest of the world to recognize this, if they choose.”
― Alice WalkerThe Color Purple
both quotes found here: https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/3300573-the-color-purple

This is my theology. This is what I (mostly) live by.

And this is my learning this week. Not that I should say this or I shouldn’t say that. Not that depression is what it is and it won’t ever not be that. But that there are ebbs and flows and that I needed to be jolted back into living, writing, and being and it took this little ball of fruit to re-anchor me.

We are all an expression of the divine. It is important to remember that of each other, but also of ourselves. It may not be enough to save ourselves from the diseases that pull at us, or from the learned behaviors that keep directing us to believe we are not a connected body. But then again, it may be enough, and for now, that’s where I’m putting my energy. Because “for now” is really all any of us has.

The Itty Bitty Living Space


I don’t want to rush in and comment about Robin Williams. I want to take my time as I roll his death around inside me–inside my head, inside my heart, and all around in my soul.

It is too much. He walked me through my life. Just like the first time I saw Steve Martin, the first time I saw Robin Williams on Happy Days, I knew I could not get enough of this man. As if there ever was enough of him.

Apparent suicide.

We don’t know yet for sure, but as soon as I heard that he was dead, I made the leap. I remembered reading that he had recently battled his addictions again.

How hard this life is. How hard it is to navigate.

How lucky we mere mortals had stars like him to light and lighten our way.

RIP, dear Genie, who has finally escaped this itty bitty living space.

8/12/2014: Updated to include the artwork created by Disney that so captured what I was trying to articulate here.