Any advice for how to be 23?

Thanks for everyone that texted to wish me happy birthday yesterday! It legitimately made me feel so loved. Here were all y’all’s answers.

“Don’t forget how old you are. I still have to think about it when I tell people my age. Sometimes I catch myself about to say 21 and others I do say 22. 23 seems pretty forgettable for some reason.”

“Well you know it’s a different lifestyle when you are 23.”

“Nothing seems different. Someone asked me how old I was last week and I had to think about it”

“I think you’ll handle it fine 🙂 Remember, only boring people get bored!”

“Well, I’ve never been 23, so no experience to speak from. I would say be grateful, let go graciously, and be kind to yourself throughout the learning process, recognizing that change is not linear.”

“It sucks! 24 is better! 🙂 But enjoy the day. Eat some cake and walk a dog!

“Don’t plan out everything. Do things you enjoy no matter what everyone else I pushing. I try to live by that.”

“When it rains don’t use an umbrella”

“Have fun? Travel? You do those things anyway. Keep it up!”

“Enjoy each day; it goes fast. Pray for guidance and read Proverbs.”

“You can grow a lot. Fast. People view 23 as an adult as opposed to 22 which is baby-ish.”

“Stay young though you are growing up 🙂 And try new things, continue blogging , invest in people and make sure the Gospel is being heard hundreds of different ways of your life. It will change your heart. :)”

“Don’t regret the past, learn from it. Don’t be scared of the future, embrace it. And don’t sleep the days away, live them! 23 will consist of great city life, fun friend adventures in multiple states and great opportunities for you Miss Morgan”

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Twenty-Three about Twenty-Two (I-X)

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In the spirit of my birthday and reflecting, here are twenty-three anecdotes and details about my life that span my 22nd to 23rd birthday. Please read away and add the ones I’m neglecting in the comments. The next thirteen will be posted later this week. 

  1. For three months I collapsed onto the top bunk in an oversized classroom/storage room at Grace Lutheran Church, in New Orleans. My fellow staff member, Jocelyn, slept immediately underneath and my two boisterous, garrulous and most often, obnoxious male staff members also shared the room. (Yikes!) We had a blue tarp strung from the ceiling which they dubbed “the modesty curtain” and chastised anyone who attempted to trespass.
  2. Somehow, I finished half of Steve Jobs’ biography while simultaneously rising at 6:25am to lead staff meetings and crawling into bed at 12:25 after a debriefing phone call with someone to forget about the fact that the kitchen hadn’t been cleaned (again), the two churches we had this week weren’t clicking amongst each other, and whoops, remember that time I nicked adult leader’s car?
  3. There was a week when I read Chad Harbach’s 500 page The Art of Fielding. Oh and then, nine months later at Powerhouse books in DUMBO, I chatted with Harbach the plight of the Milwaukee Brewers.
  4. The day I met Harbach was also the day that I mistakenly believed my flight from Detroit to LaGuardia (via Chicago) left at 7:30. At 5:50 I groggy eyesed it out of bed to print my boarding pass, and lo! My flight was leaving in 10 MINUTES. (Quality time bonding with airport leather seats in the Detroit and Midway airports. Yuck. )
  5. One time I lived at a South Carolinian beach mansion for a week. And slept on second floor porch every night. All hail muggy weather!
  6. I met my closest friend in New York due to this combination of events: Go to the library after work, only because a Coro event is canceled due to the death of a friend of one of the Fellows. Observe that there is an event on cohabitation and given my obsession with analyzing relationships, attend. During Q&A there’s a girl who asks a question and discloses she’s commenting on  New York Times article and just happened to wander to this event. #MeantToBe
  7. Ben Affleck convinced me to watch movies or rather, his movies this year. Beyond Argo, the morally squishy, white, poor neighborhoods and characters of The Town and Gone Baby Gone once again disturbed my convictions of the notion I had of (my) America.
  8. I saw my father quite frequently this year. We survived the self-inflicted maelstrom of high emotions and Too Much Packing of graduation, hung out with the alligators in the Louisiana swamps, munched on Thai Food in Times Square, sang along with Phantom of the Opera and Evita from the second row (along with the rest of my family,) and dramatically debated what my future ought to entail post Coro. He’s coming for graduation in a couple weeks too. Love ya Daddy!
  9. I met Alice Le Blanc, an author and public health school administrator, when she offered me and my two Youthworks! kids picking up litter on Canal St., ice cold water on a stifling Fourth of July day. I watched Olympic volleyball on her couch and she made me lunch. And took a shower at her house since the showers weren’t draining back at Grace Lutheran…
  10. One time I was prowling around with Kevin and Luke on the Eisenhower jungle gym, err, roof. At one point we stood out on a ledge and at the same level as us, about 50 feet away were a bunch of students were treating the roof as a driving range. Eager to get some golf action, Kevin stepped towards them and straight into the air and plummeted 10 feet to where the roof height dramatically adjusted. Oh and then he went around campus telling everyone I pushed him. Thank God I have a blog to set the record straight. 

Cowboys and Patriots: Messy thoughts on the journalistic coverage

 According to yesterday’s USA Today staff editorial, 

“Investigators still haven’t said what caused last week’s horrific explosion at a Texas fertilizer distributor, but they seem to have ruled out a deliberate attack. The fire and bomb-like blast are looking more like an industrial accident made worse by haphazard oversight and the state’s notoriously lax zoning laws.”

Let’s pull out some of the key words in the passage above. 
Deliberate: Important as a means of contrast. Two brothers did not Al-Qaeda YouTube propaganda and rig homemade bombs through the plant. 
Accident: Some variation of “we can’t blame anyone” meets “it’s sad” meets “This could have been prevented.” 
Made worse: What the writers will list next did not actively or aggressively pursue malicious or nefarious outcomes for the people of West Texas.
Haphazard oversight: What oversight? 
Notoriously lax: EVERYONE knows that Texas sucks at zoning. 

Continued: 
“Over a half-century, the town of West crept up around the fertilizer facility until the plant sat near a middle school, a nursing home, an apartment complex and numerous houses that were destroyed or damaged by the explosion, which dug a crater 90 feet wide and killed 14 people.”

Crept up: People we aren’t allowed to blame for disaster because it emerged spontaneously: real estate developers, past mayors and city councils, people that wanted to be close to their jobs, people that didn’t think about where they were moving, owners of the plant, people that made money off the plant, Texas state officials, Hill county officials.

Last chunk:
“To the extent regulators paid attention to the plant, they seemed to have worried about lesser dangers. Texas regulators monitored air quality and truth-in-labeling. On the federal side, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration hadn’t inspected the business for worker safety problems since 1985, and the Department of Homeland Security didn’t know it housed the fertilizer that apparently triggered the explosion.”

Blah blah blah blah. The editorial concludes with recommendations about preventing the next type of fertilizer meltdown. I’m not sure of the compliance folks, Texan lawmakers and federal bureaucrats read USA Today staff editorials but sure, maybe if all three of those coordinate then the next time there’s a chance that a fertilizer plant will combust—it won’t! 

What drives me crazy about this story and so many other stories about the fertilizer plant in general and stories like oil spills and other environmental disasters is the extent to which journalists and editorialists categorize these events as accidents; that is, where there is passivity or inaction such as here with regards to state regulations that seem to have been loosely enforced (at best) writers dub them accidents.

 

Rarely is anything an accident. Especially when emulated by an entire agency, organization, or team, complacency enables.

 

Yes. Malicious is doing nothing. A sign of an individual’s character is not just what s/he accomplished but was not done, ignored, passed over, declared unnecessary. (Edmund Burke has some thoughts on this!)  

 

All of this is fascinating because the media is treating the Boston bombings from a completely different angle. In fact, while they’re not willing to step out a la Lindsay Graham and Peter King, they are willing to suggest that the FBI’s lack of actions caused the Boston bombings, they assert that the agency needs to lick the plate on the job a little better?

 

Here’s the USA Today Staff Editorial. I’m starting immediately several paragraphs lauding civilian and police efforts.

 

“But for all the reasons to be impressed with the response, some troubling questions are arising about whether more could have been done beforehand to thwart the attacks. Most notably, should the older suspect, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, have been under closer scrutiny by authorities?”

 

Should: Something should have been done and it wasn’t.

 

Closer scrutiny: Yeah, what are we paying the FBI for these days?   

 

What follows recaps that the FBI had awareness of Tamerlan, heck Russian intelligence had awareness of him, which is why after the FBI interviewed, he was eventually passed on receiving citizenship.

 

“Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., both strongly criticized the FBI on Sunday for failing to track Tamerlan after he returned, suggesting that he might have been stopped before last Monday’s bomb attacks in Boston.”

 

USA Today does go onto admit that it’s a bit early to claim that it’s the FBI fault per se.

“Before concluding that authorities fumbled, it will be important to answer many questions: How often does Russian intelligence ask the FBI to investigate someone? How many people like Tamerlan Tsarnaev are under scrutiny? How much does U.S. law constrain officials from keeping tabs on such individuals? And how much should it?”

                                                                                                

There’s 15 people dead from West Texas from a fertilizer explosion and thousands of others whose lives will bear scars, attesting to this impact. USA Today has every right to exhort the FBI to pursue excellence, perfection even, at every turn. But stop calling chemical blasts accidental. Put the blame on the people that caused it, the very people who themselves are change agents in preventing something like this from happening.

 

There’s even a chance that these people are reading USA Today. (Maybe that’s the reason they’re not named!) So we’re looking at you real estate developers, past mayors and city councils, people that wanted to be close to their jobs, people that didn’t think about where they were moving, owners of the plant, people that made money off the plant, state officials, county officials. Wherever you are, whatever America you inhabit, this should never occur again. 

Prayer (at 1:38am, so there)

With Kevin on the phone, on the porch last night. Roughly 10:20pm. 

With Heather on the phone, on the sidewalk and then the entryway. Roughly 12:10am. 

The social construction of prayer, or maybe it’s just Morgan’s monolith of excuses and no-focus. But I don’t wanna, and I don’t wanna, and God help me, but somehow just verbally spewing out all the crackerjack in my head to the oak trees and double parked red SUVs and Dora the Explorer backpack wearing pedestrians–I wimp out, pout, refuse to acknowledge the GLORY of God incarnate in the 7 TRAIN, the glazed-over 6am sleepyhead eyes, aquel panadería en la esquina, the mosque-Kingdom Hall-church lineup on la calle Nacional, yeah because my scarf is strangling my neck and I have my phone out my thoughts about where am I going to live in three weeks? where am i going to get a job? am i going to have enough money? what is enough money? have i lost my priorities? what is my purpose in the world? am i serving my purpose? wait, what is your purpose? and so I don’t deal, don’t chime in my thoughts to being whose existence POWERS the universe, and instead let the mundane invade My Thoughts, all those little men left, left, left, right, left. Ground troops of myopic little paradigms, why do I let myself be subject to you? 

And when I pray, when I say hey, when I vocally recognize this God, my thoughts, like pick up sticks that had spilled on the shaggy carpet of my brain, become parallel paths.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow.  Praise God all creatures here below.

Praise God above ye Heavenly Host.

Praise God, our Savior of the universe. 

What I read this week (I)

To those of you who would just love some documentation of the thousands (?!) of articles I sandblast you with, my archiving starts today. Hey readers, I know you have opinions. Can you post them below? Thxxxxx guyz. 

Head’s up Dove: “My primary problem with this Dove ad is that…it doesn’t really tell us that the definition of beauty is broader than we have been trained to think it is, and it doesn’t really tell us that fitting inside that definition isn’t the most important thing. It doesn’t really push back against the constant objectification of women. All it’s really saying is that you’re actually not quite as far off from the narrow definition as you might think that you are “

Seriously. That’ll be the day though when all I hear on Top 40 station is some guy crooning about his lover’s ambition, insight, brilliance, compassion, maturity, self-sacrificial love towards the world (not just to me) and so forth. 

According to the Atlantic, The Boston Bombers were Muslim and it shouldn’t matter: “The Tsarnaev brothers may have been Muslim, and that circumstance may have, in part, motivated them in their actions on Monday. They may have been Chechen. They may have been male. But that was not all they were. Their lives were like all of ours: full of small incongruities that build and blend to drive us in different directions.” 

I’m all with author Megan Garber’s thesis: unthinkable, horrific, terrible, unfathomable situations mess with our brains–they make it REALLY difficult for us to make sense of reality. The result? We use labels to rationalize, justify, make sense of a new reality that has never made sense before. The result? Acting on incomplete information, potentially ruining other people’s reputation, generalizations, generalizations, generalizations, and lazy, weak reactionary policy. Can we stop that now? 

H + M made a Coachella video. Yup, still want to go. I think I just want to people to see that California girl when they see me. (This may or may not contradict some of the sentiments that were expressed above with the Dove video. My bad) But seriously, who doesn’t want to be a sun-kissed, floral patterned, and crop-topped withering hipster? Mallory, you hear me? (Another side effect: Yes, you can count me in the group of people who know what’s up with music.)

Social Media whizard Brian Solis says that SF mayor Ed Lee is bringing start-up culture to city government. Is innovative government an oxymoron? Seriously, it’s not like this is a bad idea, it’s just that the government is late to the party. (More things change…the more they stay the same.)

Speaking of things that don’t change, try religions. Except, in this case, they do. Evangelicals are now supporting immigration reform. Marco Rubio, looks like you push this all you want and they won’t be fleeing your side come 2016. Snark aside, I’m glad to see the Christian (Evangelical) consensus move on this issue; immigration reform (or lack thereof) affects REAL people…people that I want to bring into the fold that I call America. Yes, all of us that had the blessing to be born here in the great US of A, can comfortably push for policies that keeps people here in the American wasteland for years. #LetsNotBeThosePeople

Dear Margaret Thatcher,  Here, your life is analyzed from a leadership angle: “What if Prime Minister Thatcher had learned to be more open to influence and selective in choosing her battles — could she still have had the tremendous impact that she undeniably had, but with a perhaps more graceful exit from office? Would her legacy have been remembered differently — more firm than rigid, more strong than stubborn, less polarizing and divisive?” 

The authors claim in this article that Thatcher’s greatest strengths and weaknesses were the same: Indeed, her resolution and conviction often looked less like character and more like polarizing rhetoric and policy. Or perhaps the other way around. That tight rope of resolve and amenability never looked fun, anyway. 

Betcha didn’t know you could connect White Privilege AND terrorism? Me neither. But. Now. I. Totally. Do. 

“As we now move into the official Political Aftermath period of the Boston bombing — the period that will determine the long-term legislative fallout of the atrocity — the dynamics of privilege will undoubtedly influence the nation’s collective reaction to the attacks. That’s because privilege tends to determine: 1) which groups are — and are not — collectively denigrated or targeted for the unlawful actions of individuals; and 2) how big and politically game-changing the overall reaction ends up being.”

(Oh, AND then this article came out the day before gun control failed and I was like DAAYUM. 61% of gun owners are WHITE MEN . Hard to pass anything that might cramp their style? Yeah, that ain’t happening.) 

But this article reminded me of the fact that Gitmo seriously is killing people. People that didn’t sign up for the death penalty when American authorities dragged them to Cuba. Seriously, Gitmo is killing him. Where is our compassion fellow Americans? Our dignity? Our pride? We. Are. Better. Than. This. 

Relationships are more important than ambition And hey Morgan, if you believe it, actions speak louder than words. 

 

Composting Food and Old Habits too!

When I dropped by tangerine peels into the trash tonight, I realized that designating a plastic margarine cylinder to be home to food scraps, would not have thrown off the existing garbage system, disrespected the home of los abuelos or tacked on an extraneous errand to my morning commute. 

Instead, composting not only would have fed earth worms, fertilized that soil, and decreased my landfill DNA, but also saved me a whole lot of cognitive dissonance about how green my soul really is.

(Let’s be honest here. You can’t really say that you’re rejecting cars, when practically most everyone of 8 million New Yorkers takes the subway most everywhere.)

Rather than bloat myself with the self-righteousness that only comes from obsessing over pithy and witty  blogs and Op-Eds, I might apply that screen time to tending the earth, my home. “They’re my role models,” which provides a wonderful rationalization of why I spend so much time absorbing and so little time doing. 

“It is easier to live through someone else than to become complete yourself.”

Dear Betty Friedan, you are so very right, about that and the personal being political. I want  my life to drive the discussion, so why to I find it so much more worthy to let my internet history do the talking?  

(The Violation of) One Fine Spring Day

There are days that ache for greatness. Ones where minuscule souls of blood, water and flesh aspire to transcend their expiration dates. Ones where these souls smile at weakness, exhaustion, frailty, practically bemused by mortality and age. Ones where humanity finds itself ever more intoxicated with itself, ever more self-assured, self-reliant, impenetrable, capable, sure.

Why the gods have become men today!

And there are days with no aspirations, no pretenses, but oh so many soft breezes, furry petals, pollen messes and floating—dreams, ambitions, laughter. They drift, practically melt, in naïve, spring air.

These lukewarm charmed souls glide towards the deities, an unbalanced equilibrium of devil-may-care and divine, the sun shines on my neighbor’s face, I observe my grin in his sunglasses and there’s a hotdog bun in between these fingers, ketchup splattered too, and I’m squeezing my niece’s hand and look up to footfalls, stare at them all chiseled, pounding the pavement in such mechanical and graceful pulses that when I’m not choking down my lunch, I’m imploring “Come on! You’re more than halfway done!”

And for everyone that does not pin the God-bib on for the day and labor for twenty-six miles, mirth and satisfaction abound in the oxygen. For the rest of the God-bibbed and twenty-six mile laborers, mirth and satisfaction abound in the oxygen. These days infused with greatness and happiness, may they not be just the stuff of my youth but the fiber of my American identity!

XX

And so there are souls that violate these days, that betray the greatness, that deceive the simple, that move with such ruthlessness as to pillage a moment in time so that it will never resemble itself again.

That horror cannot be unmade. The giant white spaces where your legs once where cannot be unseen. The bed that you slept in on April 14 still is unmade and I cannot nag you to make it again. The finish line, Copley Square, your identity as mantle of human accomplishment now must make space for a mantle of all of this blood and the fact that I just made an offhand comment to you about how the sun was in my eyes and drat my sunglasses were in the glove compartment and then you were gone. And then you were gone. And then you were gone and I had no idea that you were gone but how was I to know anyway?

The Triumphal Entry, yet 45 seconds later and forever the Corridor of Lost Innocence, the Hallway of the Assault on Camaraderie, and yes there I heard about those that ran towards the shrapnel and noise, but did they tell you that in years to come it was sobering stuff, like men with guns all over the place because people bought an allusion of security even though they knew its fraudulence.

XX

And the fine spring day was raped. And reckless abandoned cracked in half. And there were no gods, but only women and men and babies. And I ached not because greatness did no flourished (oh no, police and fire and paramedics and doctors and nurses and oh no, heroes were made that day too) but because we had been floating and now we had not even feet to plant on the soiled and defiled ground.

It’s been quite the decade with you.

Counterintuitively the vast majority of bam-bam darts from short to first, deep drives sailing off into the bleacher ocean, and fist-pump, two-out strike-threeeee calls have not lived on damp grass, in between malicious shadows or in breezes that in inexplicable haste carry balls out to the center field warning track.

Instead, they lurk in the spaces where the index and thumb squeeze the volume button of the portable radio, no sound coming out, and then—lemme check, turn, turn turn, up! and, yes, coast is clear, the cursed national anthem, a harbinger of loss, no longer sings. Play ball. Play ball. Play ball.

There’s an alarm clock in a master bedroom somewhere where surreptitious announcer voices emit at whisper level after 10pm at night. Sometimes, it’s just the bickering and bitching directed at game goats and lousy plate discipline. Infant opinions, heed the man irate on the radio, and emulate his relentless astonishment that the farm system is vacuous and the general manager undeserving.

And more recently, there’s a strong association with a screen, this performance a digital rendering of the crackle of the radio, and there is no crackle, but there is tape delay. Obsolete expression? Applied to modern media, no one claims confusion. But a crackle would be mean close, proximity to incarnate fans and a 40 minute car ride to the game. If only.

A decade in and already two championships and copious drag bunts down the third base lines beat out for infield singles all crowding to force old and grainy sac flies out of the brain. It all overwhelms she who wants to hold them all. There lingers summertime, dog days, almost-antiquated tears (drat that there’s still some from last October though) and the love, love, love of 162 and more, and of the men on the field, the pain and the Cain, and of a timeless tradition of an adolescent once lived, now cherished, still inspired.

Sometimes

Marielle and I bond in British bars, wilting over Irish accents, stuffing our faces with overstuffed Chipotle, and laugh, and talk too quickly, chatter, really, hoping to stumble, fall, and spontaneously find ourselves in a puddle of wisdom.

It is never that quick and rarely that eager, but joy, by itself, and with others, is its own form of knowledge, experience and virtue.