A Dark Night in Calcutta
Breaking news… Mother Teresa’s life was tough.Â Tough enough that she struggled, at times, to feel the presence of the very God she was serving.Â Surrounded by death and an endless amount of pain, Mother Teresa acknowledged that she struggled in her faith.
She didn’t brazenly stand in front of her order and flash a fake smile and use false words and slick catch phrases to convince the world that she was somehow closer to God than anyone else.Â She didn’t build a megachurch, promising her followers that if they just had faith, God would bless them with abundant worldly riches.Â She didn’t stand in the church and pray at the top of her lungs to make sure all would know how devout she was.Â Instead, she lived a life of faith through actions, professing the love and Good News of Christ to the poorest of the poor through her servanthood.Â And she struggled.
I get upset when I open my dryer and find my clothes still somewhat damp.Â I slam the door and huff and puff and storm up the stairs, frustrated that my freshly washed clothes would have to wait for another 30 minutes as I run the dryer again.Â My cycle is thrown off!
And yet, I have no comparison to the struggles Mother Teresa went through.Â When my shower runs low on hot water in the morning, I feel like the day is ruined.Â Mother Teresa was providing hands-on care to thousands on the brink of death and felt like God had abandoned her.Â But if you continue to read her letters, she identifies that very feeling with the feeling of Christ on the cross, and by extension the rejected of our society.Â Yes, Mother Teresa felt like she was moving through the deepest of valleys at time, but it was in those valleys that she was reaffirmed and strengthened to take on the very task she had committed her life to.
When non-believers see these letters and begin to see the humility and brokenness that God called Mother Teresa to, I can only hope that they see a clearer picture of the Truth of Christ and what He has called us to do… to do justice, to love kindness, and walk humbly with God.
To the false believers… the believers who stand behind a pulpit of greed, corruption, and vanity, I can only hope that their pride would be broken.
And to myself, that I can be broken just the same… that I can somehow realize the humility expressed in Teresa’s letters.Â That I could somehow realize the closeness that Teresa shared with God through her pain.
Turn the page… on softball
For the past 3 months or so, I’ve been playing rec league 12″ slow pitch softball three days a week (weather permitting). Two weekday evening leagues and a Saturday morning league to be precise. Chicago rec league softball is an interesting phenomenon… enough so that I don’t think I could do it justice with a small blog post. I will, however, try to build a snapshot of the type of players I’ve come across during this time. In other words, I’m going to make a lame attempt at humor by exaggerating the faults and idiosyncrasies of others. Good times.
The Roid-Raging 120% 24/7 Guy
When it comes down to it, almost every team has one of these guys. Somehow he missed the memo that this is REC LEAGUE SOFTBALL. He plays with the intensity of a kamikaze pilot and usually has the skill of a 4th grade little leaguer. You wouldn’t know it by the way he throws his bat after a strike out or grunts as he stretches to make the catch at 1st base (they almost always play 1st base). Typical uniform includes multiple sweat bands, a brace somewhere due to a high school football (or marching band) injury, and a well-worn baseball hat. Batting gloves? Only the top of the line pair that could be found at Target. Softball bat? At least one with a sticker price over $100 that he uses regardless of how well he hits with it. I have yet to see a player like this on either of my weekday teams, which makes me worry that I may be the leading candidate.
The Loud Mouth
No, they’re probably not playing the game… and no, they have no real knowledge of effective strategies or rules in slow pitch softball. Yes, they do have a lung capacity and a voice that will be heard, regardless of relevancy to the game itself. Bang-bang play at 1st base? Oh you know you’ll hear this voice being supportive if the call goes their way (“GOOD HUSTLE! LOUD NOISES!!”), or worse yet, even louder if it favors the other team (“I WILL SLASH YOUR TIRES AND KICK YOUR FACE IN, BLUE!”). Most of their teammates will shake their heads, but suck it up and accept this player on their team. They still represent a share of the team fee and probably won’t demand a share of playing time. Usually they also bring the beer.
The Player So Good He Makes You Feel Like Less of a Man
This is the player you hope and pray is coming up to bat when a game is close and there are runners on base. You know they are good for a big hit 4 out of every 5 at-bats and will most likely catch other teammates on the base path. You can identify this person the 2nd time they are up to bat if the opposing team’s outfielders move backwards 25 feet and hope the ball doesn’t get hit in their direction. Every successful team needs one of these players, and championship teams usually have 2 or 3. There should probably be a cap on players like this, thereby giving equal access to all teams. You can sometimes pick up a player like this by trading 2 wheats, 2 woods, and 3 bricks (sorry, nerd reference).
I’ll try to think of more later… maybe I’ll take notes during fall softball.
A long overdue review…
So, I’m almost three years behind with this, but there is no way I could pass up throwing my thoughts onto the heap of praise that already exists for Lonely Runs Both Ways, the Grammy-award winning album from Alison Krauss & Union Station.
I remember when it came out, I was pretty fresh in my role with Admission Possible with a very, very low cash flow, which meant buying the album would have to be put on hold. AK&US had put out a pretty huge number of albums already and I figured this would just be another quality record, but nothing so special that it required giving up a few Grain Belt Premiums with my commie friend Jake. Looking back now, I can do nothing but scratch my head and wonder what I was thinking. Why was I friends with that chucko and why did I let him convince me to drink Grain Belt?!
The album starts out with your typical blend of Krauss’ unique and soulful voice, and quickly blends with the instrumental prowess that has come to be expected from Union Station. Their cover of Woody Guthrie’s Pastures of Plenty makes me giddy and makes me feel like it should have been included in O Brother, Where Are Thou? (AKA: one of the greatest movies ever made).
The entire album from start to finish is so solid, the amount of accolades and awards compiled is unsurprising, but could have easily been so much more. It’s kind of sickening to see the amount of talent within AK&US and know that they will never share the mass media coverage and consumer appeal that so many other talent-less hacks seem to be given. I suppose this means I’m getting old. Pretty soon I’ll be yelling at kids to stay off my lawn and complaining about soup.
All this to say, I wish I could have found this album almost three years ago when it came out, but I’m glad Derek left his cds at my house so I could rip it onto my computer.
The Shedd is The Awesome
So apparently there’s this amazing aquarium here in the city that draws visitors from across the world to our tiny little village. People brings packs of children in 4-seat strollers to marvel at huge tanks of fish and caged penguins, all while getting pillaged by a non-profit charging almost $30 to enter and another $2 for a bottle of water. The place is filled with about a billion gallons of water, and they charge $2 for room temperature tap water in a plastic bottle? Quirky, huh?
Anyway, the visit begins with a long line that heads into a giant inflatable Komodo Dragon that smells just like what you would imagine the inside of a Komodo Dragon would smell like. Purposeful move by Shedd to make it more realistic, or result of a thousand people inside a giant, rubber inflatable on a 95 degree day with 95% humidity?
The line is cramped and people are grumpy because they are in a line and the line happens to be underneath a giant, smelly Komodo Dragon, and pretty soon your start hearing exasperated sighs and entitled suburbanites complaining about how they shouldn’t have to stand in line. Kids are jumping on the inflatable underneath a sign that says, “Please Do Not Jump on the Dragon” and parents are too busy complaining about the heat to care that their kids might pop the thing, leading to mass hysteria and a couple hundred injuries. All the while, those 4-seat strollers and their contents are being pushed to a secret “stroller-only” entrance, making me wonder why anyone would ever come to the Shedd without a stroller.
Once you finally make it into the Shedd, an entire world of salt and fresh water creatures awaits you… right after you pass the aquarium store and popcorn stand. But, once you pass the overpriced vendors, you find hundreds of species of creatures from the deep. Sadly, no Sarcastic Fringehead to be found. I mean, what kind of aquarium exists that doesn’t have a Sarcastic Fringehead? They would probably bring one out if you paid them, like, $15 dollars.
Now, while this may seem like a negative review of one of Chicago’s most important landmarks, it should be noted that there are some bright spots. For instance, watching the young beluga pup Bella swim with her family was pretty cool and heartwarming. If there was ever a “Saved By the Bell” audience “awww” moment, that was it. The penguins exhibit, featuring a constant squeegee attendant, was fun to watch simply because penguins pooping is one of the funniest sights in nature. I mean, their projectile defecation was not only humorous, but awe-inspiring.
There was, of course, a dolphin show complete with back flips and the like. I haven’t looked at dolphins the same since The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. What if dolphins really are from another planet and plan on leaving before we all get blown up to make room for an inter-galactic expressway? Also, Sarah saw a dolphin’s penis in an exhibit about how the staff cares for the dolphins. Fun times were had by all.
- Time spent waiting for the dolphin show – 45 minutes.
- Dolphin show, complete with introduction from friendly staff member asking people to not sit on the stairs and to scoot closer – 20 minutes.
- Number of times the guy next to me scooted closer to me – an uncomfortable amount.
In the end, I did end up getting to spend time with my girlfriend and her mom. I also snacked on some Swedish Fish and somehow ended up with a bag of free Garrett’s Popcorn.
That’s what we in Chicago refer to as a “jackpot.”