Sorting Socks

Part of my problem with sorting socks is that my kids don’t mind wearing non-matching or nearly-matching socks. I wish wearing mismatched socks was a trend when I was a kid.

I know it’s Election Day. I woke up feeling confident that I would win. Er, I mean, my man Obama would win. So while I’d like to blog about the 2012 election, I thought I’d post about finding happiness a little closer to home.

Yesterday, I was super excited to declutter. Crazy, right? I sorted more than 50 pairs of socks and it took me hours! These socks had hung around the bottom of the laundry basket for several years, years when my kids’ sock sizes grew from child to adult-sized.

At the bottom of the basket, I found toddler socks. Yes, it’s been a while since I dug down that deep.

My kids are teenagers. So after a momentary fling with nostalgia over those cute little toddler-sized socks, I tossed them away.

I’ve never enjoyed sorting socks. People say, “Do it while sitting in front of the TV at night.” But I don’t watch TV.

I found inspiration for this boring activity from this blog post, 29 Ways to Declutter. It seems Deb Smouse is saying that there’s a spiritual side to decluttering. I like that. Her post begins with this quote:

Clutter is a physical manifestation of fear that cripples our ability to grow. – H.G. Chissell.

When I left my job six weeks ago, I thought, “Great, now I’ll have time to do all those things I’ve always wanted to do, like sort those damn socks in the bottom of the basket.”

Yup, I’m finding satisfaction in getting to the bottom of the barrel and finding my kids’ childhood.

Incidentally, I’m renaming this blog, To Pursue Happiness and I’ve rolled all my blogs home here.

With starting up Boot Camp For Writers and kick starting my freelance blogging career, I just don’t have the time or energy to post on all four of my blogs, so find me here! For the month of November, I’m posting every day.

Living Simply

I was really psyched that my friend Lorenza stopped by last night and my daughters got to meet her.

Lorenza Andrade Smith journeys around North America, voluntrarily homeless, offering kindness and communion to the people she meets. She and I met after the United Methodist Communicators (UMAC) conference last fall. I’m glad she’s loving New York and its beautiful diversity. She has to leave NYC at 5 pm today, arriving in Texas two days later via Greyhound bus.

Lorenza inspires me because of her simplicity, her non-traditional life and her ease with people.

She travels with one backpack and one rolling cart.

photo by Catherine Jones

We talked about Facebook, (of course!). We talked about how we use our phones to take photos. Lorenza talked about having her iPhone stolen at a $3/day hotel in Mexico. We talked about not being able to find Cath’s iPhone somewhere in the house.

We looked at and laughed with Lorenza about her Facebook photo folder, “Tall People and Me.” She may be small in stature but she is a superstar to me.

We talked about camping. And how the kids and I are planning a camping trip to Fire Island in a couple of weeks. We have no idea what we’re doing. We wished she’d come camping with us. She invited us to camp with her on the streets.

After such a nice relaxing conversation, it was time for Lorenza to go. She wasn’t sure if she’d be sleeping again in Central Park. I wondered if Riverside Park might be better. In Central Park, the previous night, they’d turned on big lights and hustled people awake and into the middle of the night. Lorenza thought that was due to the Tony Awards nearby. But I think they do it all the time.

I walked her to the subway station where she was looking for a single woman she’d met earlier. (She can engage in conversations better with women when their men are not around.)

I felt sad to see her walk away from me. I worry about her. This is one problem (of the many) when you love people. You worry about them. (She said she worries about herself too.)

Not long after I returned home, Char said she liked hearing Lorenza’s stories. Even though the stories are not easy to hear — they are honest and inspiring. Stories are what keep us going.

Lorenza connects with people, sometimes by telling stories and sometimes just by listening and laughing.

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Giving it all up

The best part of travel is not the places you go, but the people you meet when you get there.

Lorenza Andrade Smith, Kathy Noble and MB Coudal talking about technology while waiting for the commuter train in Albuquerque. (Photo by Neill Caldwell)

After the conference, I was on the Rail Runner train with a dozen old and new friends, including Rev. Lorenza Andrade Smith. She was our keynote speaker at UMAC (United Methodist Association of Communicators). I was glad to get to know Lorenza on the commuter train trip for an hour and a half between Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

In her address, Rev. Andrade Smith had told us how she went to prison to stand with immigrants who were rallying for legislative passage of the Dream Act in Texas.

She went to prison wearing her clerical collar and heels without stockings. At the prison entrance, she had to turn in her heels, “Because they could be weapons.” Every time she sat in the prison cell’s communal toilet to pee, someone would kneel beside her and ask for prayers. She had to learn to pray while peeing.

Finally, when she found space alone in the cell, she fell asleep, cold on the floor. When she awoke, she was wearing a coat and socks. (Sometimes prayers are answered, even when we don’t know we pray them and we become covered in someone else’s warmth.)

Lorenza is a veteran and a pastor. After our conference, she was visiting a homeless Facebook friend in Boulder, Colorado, then returning to San Antonio, Texas to live among homeless female veterans for a while. She was given a bus pass on Greyhound. Lorenza has renounced her salary and her belongings to live among the homeless and to advocate for immigrants. She has speaking engagements all over, but looks forward to a silent retreat months from now.

She wears a long, but somehow-stylish, black or grey tunic-type outfit that seminary students have made for her. She keeps all of her belongings in a small rolling cart. In it, she keeps a change of clothes, a sleeping bag, a wool blanket and a small amount of toiletries. She said she uses panty liners to preserve the wear of her undies.

“That’s probably too much information,” Lorenza said. Not for me. I love TMI!

She also carries a communion set, a plate and a chalice, but was refused admittance into one shelter because, “It could be used as a weapon.” (Communion cups and high heels, you see, are dangerous!)

So that night when she refused to give up her communion set, she slept on her favorite bench in the park at the Alamo in Texas. She slept too late, and was ticketed for camping. At the courthouse for the hearing, the judge fined her 10 hours of community service to be served at the shelter, coincidentally the one that had turned her away for carrying the communion set.

Lorenza has a smart phone and updates where she is and where she’s going on Facebook. Her bishop had insisted she do this for her safety. I have befriended Lorenza Andrade Smith on Facebook and suggest you do too.

Being a huge fan of sleep, I asked Lorenza if she sleeps well on the street. She answered, “No,” with a laugh. It takes two nights of sleeping safely, like in a hotel, before she can sleep through the night. The nights at the Albuquerque Hotel were restorative, she said, yet they reminded her, as many such opportunities do, that she is privileged and cannot escape her privilege.

“The sleep deprivation is the hardest part,” Lorenza said.

Every time she speaks to groups, she is asked the same questions –

“What’s in your bag?” And sometimes she empties her bag to show them.

“How does your family feel about this?” She speaks openly about being in the process of separating from her husband whom she had already lived apart from. “People who are homeless have to be open and so do I. I have to live honestly.”

Wow. I was blown away by Lorenza. Talking to her has made me question myself, my attachment to my things, my place of privilege and my honesty.

When she decided to divest herself of everything, “The big things were easy to give away, but the small things, like the photos of my son when he was little, those were the hard ones.” She found a home for her photos with extended family members, who, by the way, are supportive.

Lorenza chats with Lester under a bridge in San Antonio. Photo by Mike DuBose.

I asked Lorenza about this photo, taken by Mike DuBose. I have been lucky to work with Mike on assignment and we always have a lot of fun. Before Mike took the photos, Lorenza asked if the people minded being photographed. She said that two out of three of her friends were agreeable and even spruced up a bit before the photos were taken.

Mike has an easy-going, friendly, and respectful manner with everyone. Mike DuBose is one of my heroes. And so, too, is Lorenza Andrade Smith.

Keep It Brief

For greatest impact, when writing a blog post:

  1. Say it simply. “Hello.”
  2. Then get out. “I must be going.”
  3. Use short sentences. “Just do it.”
  4. Keep the words to one syllable. “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” – Ronald Reagan
  5. Use short, punchy sentences. “In modern war… you will die like a dog for no good reason.” – Ernest Hemingway

Maybe this is why Twitter is so fun. I have to be lean in my writing. I have to convey a lot with just a little — 140 characters.

I love Twitter. I love its brevity. I love getting to know a person just from their short status updates. The man who says good morning from Japan, the woman who lists what everyone’s reading, the writer who posts opening lines for short stories.

I like to skate on the surface and sometimes click on the link and go deeper.

But sometimes — like right now, there’s not enough time to go deep.

This photo has nothing to do with the post. I took it at Bossey Ecumenical center in Switzerland.

There’s profundity in simplicity. So keep it brief.

Hello. I must be going.