Thursday, October 12, 2017

Joe's


I knew it was going to happen. I knew there was going to be a moment when I suddenly realized I’d moved to the other side of the country and there was no going back. But I didn’t expect that moment to happen the first night I arrived in LA. I did not expect to be sitting cross-legged on the cement ground of a park somewhere, sobbing on the phone to my best friend and my sister, hyperventilating as they tried to calm me down.
As I sobbed and sobbed and tried to grasp any leftover, coherent thoughts—all of which seemed to have disappeared in the last two hours I’d been driving in the glorious reality of LA traffic—several homeless people passed by. They seemed to shrug and say, “Well, at least my life isn’t that bad.”
Eventually I got up off the ground and went in search of food. I wandered into a restaurant called Mateo’s. I almost fled when I saw how empty it was. Fading into anonymous obscurity would be difficult to achieve in this quiet little bar with dark paneling, leather seats, and Sinatra’s singing voice wafting about. But I was too tired to try to find someplace else. I took a seat at the bar, and after staring at the menu for what must have seemed too long, the bar tender said I looked like I could use some red wine.
            How did he know that’s what I was about to order? Or would have ordered eventually, once I’d taken a nap—I was so, so tired.
            After a while, I noticed a small gathering of people at the other end of the bar. The one who stood out was a man with a very elaborate mohawk. mohawks are hard to pull off no matter how old you are, but this gentleman was close to seventy. And he was wearing his mohawk proudly. He said to his friends, “Joe likes my mohawk. Don’t you Joe?”
            “You’re a dumbass, Dot,” Joe the bartender replied.
            “Joe, you should try a mohawk,” said the older women beside Dot (Mary Jane, I later learned). “You’ve got great hair for your age.”
            Joe really did have great hair. He was also probably in his seventies and had a thick and puffy head of gray.
            A few other people wandered into the bar. They greeted Joe by name and took their seats. He immediately supplied them with drinks before they ordered anything and they each ordered food without looking at a menu. What I began to notice, as my fuzzy brain became less congested with the help of food and wine, was that ever person at the bar was over sixty. They were also on first-name basis with the bartender—and each other.
            A man who had come in after I arrived introduced himself as Eric. “We’re like that TV show—Cheers, I think it’s called. Only the old-people version.”
            I’ve never seen Cheers but I nodded and smiled like I had.
            We watched the Dodgers game together. The bar closed down around us, but none of Joe’s patrons made any sign of leaving, so I stayed, too. It was way past closing time when we all pealed ourselves off the barstools and headed for the door, saying, “See you later,” to Joe, who waved a disgruntled dishcloth in our direction as he cleaned up the remaining wine glasses.
            On the sidewalk outside of Mateo’s, I told Dot I liked his mohawk. “It’s taken me four years to get it this way,” he told me. Then he walked up beside me and looked deliberately down both sides of the street. “I’m going to make sure you get across the street okay,” he said.
            I went back to Mateo’s the following Tuesday. Tuesdays and Fridays are the nights the Cheers club gathers to poke fun at Joe while he takes care of them, knowing what they want before they ask and religiously filling their water glasses as they drink way too much.
            In a city where loneliness is an epidemic; these seasoned residents have found a place of connection. And during one of the loneliest moment of my life, I happened to walk in on their oasis. 

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Thursday, September 28, 2017

Sophia’s Last Ride

 From Alabama, to Mexico, to St. Louis, to D.C., Sophia has carried me on many an adventure. Her life has been long and her courage has sustained me through unthinkable battles with dragons and other dangerous creatures.

On Sunday, October 1st 2017, we will embark on our last adventure together. If all goes well, Sophia will carry my to her final destination—the place she will eventually find peace in a junkyard somewhere, when her heart finally sputters its last dying fumes.

Los Angeles.

When I accepted a job in LA, I considered retiring Sophia before making the trek from one side of the continent to the other. But circumstances called for us to enter this last battle together. So I’ll be driving Sophia, with all of her hard-earned scars, to sunny California.

Will she survive?

Ah, that is what makes this next adventure the most exciting of all. There is no guarantee that she will come through this encounter unscathed. This final journey could end with her in flames in the middle of the desert as I call roadside assistance from a cell phone I can only hope will have service.

So join us on our adventure by following Sophia’s journey on my Instragram @katherinespearing I will be announcing the times I will Instagram Live, where I’ll show you our current location and give you an inside peek into Sophia’s long life.

This is also a call for recommendations of podcasts and music to listen to. Use #sophiaslastride or comment on photos to give me your ideas.

Follow us on our last journey together and find out if Sophia makes it.





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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Dear Daughter

I think about what it would be like to raise a girl in this world. I’ve written many versions of a letter to my daughter, telling her all the things I want her to know about being a woman in this world. I want to protect her and keep her from some of these things, but I know I won’t always be able to. I pray she’ll be a warrior. I pray she’ll be strong and fight with grace, courage, and compassion. I pray she’ll be a healer. I pray she’ll leave behind things that flourish and grow and make the world more beautiful.

Dear Daughter,

With great joy and fear do I introduce you to this world. I have great joy because there are so many wonders I can’t wait to introduce you to. Season changes, mountain ranges, beaches, cities, people of every size and color, music, stories, and food. There is so much amazing food! I can’t wait for you to meet this world, but I also can’t wait for this world to meet you. You are a force to be reckoned with and I can’t wait to see what you’re going to make of this life you have to live!

But with great fear I also introduce you to this world. I dread the day you will find out that for all the progress we’ve made in this nation, life still is not fair for women. I dread the day you’ll discover that you will often have to work twice as hard to receive renown and glory in the work force. I dread the day the world will tell you your body isn’t good enough. I dread the time your friend will betray you for the cheap affection of a boy and the time a boy first shames you for not having sex with him. I dread the censure you’ll receive from other moms for the way you parent. I dread the struggles you’ll have in a dating world where the rules are ambiguous and the competition is thick.

I dread the day you’ll find out this world is not easy. But I hope that you’ll find out some other things, too. I hope one day, you’ll discover these things:

It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to weep. It’s okay to mourn. There are so many things in this world that are not the way they are supposed to be. It’s okay to be upset and wish things were different. The world will roll its eyes and say things like, “There goes that girl again. Crying all the time.” The world will shame your tears and tell you to keep it together. I can’t promise there won’t be times that you will have to hold it in. I can’t promise that there won’t be times your tears will cause problems. I wish I could tell you your tears will be accepted all the time. They won’t be. But that doesn’t mean it’s the way it should be. Your tears are a gift from God in a world full of sorrows. They are not weakness. Be sad for people who can’t cry. Because not being able to cry is very, very sad. 


It’s okay to fail. It’s okay to fall flat on your face for trying something new. It’s okay to fall flat on your face a hundred times. A hundred million times, if that’s what it takes. It’s okay to feel like you’re pounding your fist against a wall that seems as if it won’t budge. Because, one day, it will budge. It will crumble and fall. Maybe not in the way you first imagined. But with every failure you will grow stronger and every failed dream will produce an even more beautiful and refined dream that was better than the dream before it. Fail often. Fail daily. Fail extraordinarily.

It’s okay to dream. Dream. Dream. Dream. All the time. Have lots of dreams. Have big, crazy, outlandish dreams. Write them down and paste them on your wall. But know this, the older you get, the more you’ll be tempted not to dream. That’s because you’ll experience the pain of disappointed hopes and you’ll feel like it would be better not to dream at all. Disappointed hopes are some of the most painful things. It hurts badly. But that’s why we have tears. We cry for those hopes that died, and then we get out our pen and paper and make some more dreams. If tears make us human, so do our dreams.

It’s okay to be a woman. Scratch that. It’s AWESOME being a woman. There are so many downsides to being a woman in this world that sometimes we forget what a powerful, majestic, incredible force a woman is. As a woman, you are a human who embodies both grace and power, both beauty and strength. There are so many things in this world that a woman is told she can’t do. We forget all the things only a woman can do. You as a woman represent God. You are made in God’s image and represent a unique aspect of God. You will learn wonderful, complex, mind-blowing things about God by being a woman. You will teach the world attributes of God just by being a woman. There are things the world can’t learn about God without you. Your womanhood isn’t just important, it is vital! Woe to the world, the church, the individual that doesn’t acknowledge your power and your value as a woman.

With great joy and great fear do I surrender you to this world. With great joy and fear do I acknowledge that someday soon, I won’t be able to fight your battles for you. With great joy and fear, do I realize that while the world will leave you battered, bruised, and broken YOU will leave the world better than the day you met it. And one day, you’ll write a letter to your daughter, and tell her all the things you learned. And those things will be wiser and different than the things your mother learned. And you’ll introduce your daughter to the world. You’ll hold her up with pride and say, “Hey world, meet my girl.”

Love,
Mom
Photo by London Scout

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Sometimes, Life is like a Solar Eclipse

“It’s time for the world to end in FIRE.” Key ominous music.

The words of Firelord Ozai from Avatar: the Last Airbender circled through my head, as I carpooled with friends down to South Carolina to see the Solar Eclipse. A Solar Eclipse plays a major role in the Emmy Award winning TV series (It’s on Amazon Prime, if you’re interested). Up until Sunday, The Last Airbender was my only real reference to what an Eclipse even is.

Before Sunday, I was just going on a road trip with some swanky glasses one of my roommates picked up. Along the way, however, we listened to this cool podcast about Eclipse Chasers (seriously, it’s a thing), and learned what an incredibly unique experience Eclipse viewing is. Suddenly I was excited. This was a story I would record for my children—that time I drove eight hours (10 with traffic) to see the moon eclipse the sun. That time I experienced the apocalyptic sensation of feeling like the aliens were coming and the earth would never be the same, only to experience the life-giving sunshine as the sun escapes the moon, shining it’s bright light on all living beings from here until the end of time.

If I could go back in time, I wonder, would I rather have not listened to that podcast? If I’d known I wouldn’t actually get to see the Eclipse, would it have been better not to know anything about it? Would it have been better to remain lackadaisical?

Before that podcast, I was on a road trip with some cool people to see a city I’ve never seen and possibly eat some good food.

Before that podcast, I was Nero in the Matrix before taking the red pill.

Before that podcast, I was a normal girl who didn’t know she was meant to be a hero—and didn’t care.

Then I listened to the podcast and my world changed forever. I was about to be one of a fraction of people to see a Solar Eclipse, to experience this amazing phenomenon.

On Monday, my friends and I set up our camp chairs and lay out our blankets. Cloudy skies were predicted, but we would not let them eclipse our experience (see what I did there).

The sky was blue. A few wispy white clouds hovered over the sun, but we could still see it with our special eclipse glasses.

Then, just as contact between moon and sun was about to happen, a thick dark cloud circumvented our view. It moved in, bringing with it larger, and thicker clouds.

Then the rain started.

Then the rain turned to a downpour and we fled inside.

We watched the rain, hoping it would go away so we might see the Total Eclipse we we’d driven miles to witness.

Meanwhile the eclipse coverage was playing on TV. The cheers from the eclipse viewers grated on our experience. It’s like they were taunting us. Their excitement pushing us further into despair as lightning and thunder joined the rain in blocking out the sun.

A couple hours later, we stood in the garage as the rain continued to fall. The world around us grew darker—we knew the Total Eclipse had arrived.

A minute passed and the sky got lighter. We could see some clear skies ahead, so we jumped in our car and decided to chase them.

The moment we spotted the actual sun, we pulled over. We might just get to see the last half of the eclipse.

We stood in a muddy driveway with our eclipse glasses on our faces and stared up at the Sun.

The beautiful, round, un-eclipsed sun, with its background of clear blue sky. Not a moon in sight.

We’d completely missed the eclipse.

Sometimes, life is like a solar eclipse you didn’t get to see. Sometimes the story you thought you were going to share with your children turns out to be something different. Instead of sharing your super cool eclipse-viewing story, you tell a story of a time you jumped in the car with a few friends and drove for hours, stopping at random places and gasping at how cheap gas and food is compared to your D.C. world.

You share a story of sweating profusely in the Carolina humidity and walking down Rainbow Row, peaking in private gardens and watching sailboats bounce around the harbor.

You share a story of incredible seafood and the ambience that often accompanies incredible restaurants.

You share the story of watching Game of Thrones on a friend’s flat screen TV and having to reign in your screams of rage and terror so as not to wake the friend’s sleeping children.

You share a story of pancakes and coffee and chatting and anticipation.

You share a story of sitting in eclipse traffic, interpretive dancing to Shawn Mendez, and saying to your friends, “Remember that time we drove for hours and didn’t get to see the Eclipse?”

And then you all laugh.

Because, even though you’re disappointed, frustrated, and exhausted, in the end, the story you have is the story you’ve got. And even if it isn’t the story you were hoping to tell, it’s still a good story.

Who knows, maybe you’ll still be alive when the next one comes around.




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Friday, August 11, 2017

Spanish, Superpowers, and Honoring Childhood Dreams

            I love the library near my house. They have free events all the time. The other night they had a grown up game night, complete with Twister, Nerf gun wars, and a life-size game of chess.
            One of their offerings is language conversation groups. I attend the Spanish group on Thursday evenings. Those of us learning Spanish or keeping up with our Spanish sit around a table and discuss various topics. What I love is that we’re literally just talking. But because it’s in a different language, it feels super productive.
In the city where I live, where time is a precious of commodity, just sitting and talking with anyone is somewhat rare. And, as one who has led many a church small group, I know how difficult it is to get everyone to open up and talk or ask questions. In this context, everyone wants to talk. It’s the whole purpose of being there.
            All that to say, I’ve learned more about these people than I have learned about most people I’ve known for months. Because all we do is talk for an hour every Thursday night and the topics are usually very interesting.
            Last night, the opening conversation starter was, “Why did you want to learn Spanish?”
            The answers varied. One gentleman lived in southern Florida and had a lot of Hispanic friends. One woman just liked languages (she speaks nine of them, in fact). Several people needed a second language for work. One woman had grandparents from Puerto Rico who didn’t speak English and she wanted to be able to communicate with them.
            When it came time for me to answer, I said I wanted to learn because I wanted a superpower. Spanish is my superpower.
            This hearkened back to the early days of my childhood when missionaries from Guatemala visited our home. I learned to count to 10 in Spanish and thought I was half way to being fluent.
            That summer, my mom enrolled me in a Spanish camp. I could order pizza in Spanish and I knew I was practically a native.
            As a teenager, I visited Guatemala for the first time. One of the missionaries told me how to ask for napkins at a restaurant. I remember walking away from the counter with a pile of white napkins proudly gripped in my fist. For the first time, I’d communicated in another language with someone from a different country.
            I felt like I had just saved the world.
            It’s been almost twenty years since that first moment of triumph. While I’ve never regretted putting time and resources into learning Spanish, I often wonder what the purpose is. I don’t live in a Spanish-speaking country. I don’t attend a church or live in a community with Spanish speakers. My job doesn’t use it. Nobody in my family speaks it. I can count on one hand the number of times Spanish has come in handy since returning from a year long posting in Mexico.
            One of those moments was in seminary. I was writing a paper on Catholicism and trying to figure out from which direction I wanted to approach it. My preliminary research led me to several articles written by reporters from Mexico, which were all in Spanish. I printed them out and started to read.
            At one point while reading, I halted my highlighter mid swipe, looked up from the article and said to myself, “I’m doing research in a different language. This is so cool!”
            Though I’ve never regretted acquiring this superpower, when one considers the money and the time put into its acquisition, one does begin to wonder what the point of having it is.
I mean, I’m sure Clark Kent—pre Super Man—had to wonder why he had super strength if he just had to keep it hidden.
            Not that I’m comparing myself to Super Man (yes, actually I am), I just sometimes wonder. If I had known how much time and money it would take, if I had known how many tears would be shed and how many headaches from studying I would fend off with ibuprofen, would I have pursued it? Was the utilitarian purpose truly worth it?
            Last night, as I sat in my Spanish conversation group, looking around at the odd assortment of people—people from all over the world with life stories so different from mine—I realized, I don’t need Spanish to have a utilitarian purpose. Many of the attenders had a utilitarian purpose for their language study, but by the looks on their faces, most of them were attending the group because they enjoyed it. As one group member remarked, “We’re all such geeks. We’re learning Spanish for fun!”
            His words were a timely prophesy for my soul. Yes, my superpower has come in handy on occasion. Yes, I hope to use it regularly, and I pray someday I’ll be able to enroll my children in a Spanish immersion school. Yes, I can see how it might be useful and could very well open doors somewhere in the future.
            But for now, my seven-year-old self is smiling up at me, beaming with the wonder of a girl who’s just learned how to count to 10 in another language. She has no idea how difficult it is to learn another language, but she doesn’t care. She loves it. It brings her joy and opens her mind and heart to a whole other world. Her dream is far bigger than she could ever imagine: it doesn’t make sense and is rather impractical.
            She is completely unaware of these realities and that makes her joy that much more inspiring.
            It’s an honor to help make her dream come true.
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Mexico, 2014

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