D.L. Mayfield

living in the upside-down kingdom

Filtering by Tag: chicago

Writing Round-Up: March Edition

I'm having a smashing good March, which is exciting. Right before my birthday we went on a little family vacation to Chicago, a city I had formerly only been to on business (shhhh, don't tell anyone but I used to sell beauty products in convention centers on the weekends all over America when I was in college. I was very bad at it). We did it up in our original style, which was cheap and fun. For people with kids who don't enjoy all sleeping in the same room as each other I highly recommend finding an airbnb place in a more colorful part of town. Cheaper, you get your own parking spot, and it feels much more legit. We also found $4 drive-thru gyro's which were delicious, found an out-the-way lebanese restaurant (we left entirely stuffed for $10) had chocolate cake milkshakes, took in a few museums, and made much use of the free conservatories and zoo. 

My birthday was lovely and now my parents are in town, spoiling both my daughter and myself rotten. I am slowly starting to feel better about my health and am realizing I really might have a full fat and happy full-term baby this time. As per my lenten discipline, I am exercising every day and while it doesn't affect my weight it sure does affect my mood. I have one more week of teaching (sob!)  and then I will get on to the business of hanging out with people and nesting (which, in my case, involves Konmari-ing everything to my great satisfaction). Yep, looks like everything is coming up D.L. these days. I am sure the sunshine and occasional 60 degree days have absolutely nothing to do with my cheerier mood. 

 

 

Anyhow, I had a few pieces go up over the past few week which I wanted to highlight here.

 

 

1. The first is one I worked really hard on--and as many writer's know, the ones we love the best often land with a thud. This essay was no different! I don't think anyone even read it, but I don't care. I went to the Minnesota State Fair last August and had a great and terrible time. This state really is so weird and so diverse and chock full of so many contradictions (Minnesota Nice/Minnesota Ice is REAL people). I'm still just an observer, taking it all in. It doesn't help my feelings of confusion that I definetly live in a neighborhood/context where it doesn't actually feel like I live in Minnesota at all (I have one, ONE friend who has the blessed MN accent). Anyways, here is the beginning:

The girl is wearing a tie-dyed shirt, comfortable jeans, her curly brown hair pulled back into a ponytail. Perched on a stool next to the calf in his pen, she is telling us how to get a cow to give birth at the Minnesota State Fair. It takes careful planning, especially if you plan to do it year after year. Here, in this barn, this girl is a star. Here, in this barn, we are witnesses to what she experiences every day: the rustling hay and the stink of animals, the sensible shoes and the awkward teenagers who water the animals. She is sitting on a stool, and she is talking about a cow she owns that has given birth here, at the State Fair, over thirteen times. That kind of cow, she says to everyone and no one in particular, that kind of cow is only good for ground beef. You can’t get any good steaks out of a cow that has had thirteen calves. I am staring at the white paper attached to the calf’s pen that describes when he was born (less than twenty-four hours ago, here in this barn) and his name: Ferdinand. I think: sometimes I eat ground beef.

I wander past Ferdinand to the larger pen just to the left of him. There is a large black-and-white spotted cow lying down, sides heaving. There are people milling everywhere, pressed around the sides of the large pen. There is a small set of bleachers, a mini grandstand to watch the action. And indeed, that is why everyone is here. This is the Minnesota State Fair, and this is the Miracle of Birth barn. There are flat screen TVs hanging from the barn ceilings, a loop of sticky legs and hooves and heads being pulled out of various birth canals. A gangly boy sees me and my friend hovering by the sheep pen. I suppose you want to pet one, he says, and hoists up a two-day-old baby lamb for us to fall all over, rubbing the soft ears. What kind of life is this little guy destined for? I ask him. He says something about wool and being used for breeding. At six months old, this little lamb (name tag: Cosette) can start having lambs of her own, over and over again for as long as she is able. As we leave the barn, my friend Jen whispers to me:Imagine that kind of life. Jen is a successful doctor, a resident of Minnesota, friendly and welcoming and always sporting the nicest smile. She is also a vegetarian, a self-proclaimed “nutrition freak,” and greatly interested in democratic politics. We are here because we are interested in the absurdities of this great state, this great nation, this great fair. We go, we eat, and we are blessed.

You can read the rest of the essay, The Sermon On the Plain, over at The Other Journal.

 

2. I wrote about trying to drag my child to the aquarium in Chicago and my ensuing realizations about both being and having a highly sensitive child. In retrospect, I just think my parents were super awesome and tried hard to listen to me--even as we lived a pretty transitory, certainly not-easy life. As I see our path spread out before us I see some similarities in my daughter's life, and the older she gets the more difficult it might be to explain our life choices (plus the amount of loss in regards to relationships one experiences when living in chaotic, under-resourced neighborhoods). Anyways, I am continuing on in my Anne Lamott renaissance and she did not let me down in this instance. Here is the beginning of the piece:

 

Recently I found myself engaged in another maddening conversation with my four-year old daughter. We were discussing the aquarium we were going to visit the next day. She wrinkled her nose and pronounced that she wouldn’t go.

“Why?” I asked, more than a little impatient.

“What if there are sharks? What if there are eels?”

I assured her that we would keep her safe.

“No,” she said, firmly. “I am not going to the aquarium.”

“Yes,” I said, “you are,” thinking of the tickets we’d already purchased and out-of-town friends we’d meet there.

She cried and flung herself onto the couch. “But the sharks! But the eels!”

I had no pity. My heart was a steel trap of already-made plans.

My daughter has a history of fixating on small worries in her life—every night there was a book or a toy I needed to take away, and so many questions about death and existentialism that I’m unprepared for. As she wades deeper into an awareness of life, I just try to get us through as best as I can.

And I really wanted to go to this damn aquarium.

 

Read the rest of the essay over at Good Letters. 

 

 

And I think that is all for today. Have a happy Friday, and as always, thanks for reading along with me. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Choosing a Different Dream: Guest Post by Diane Miller

I love that this series on Downward Mobility introduced me to Diane Miller. One can argue about terms and theoreticals and even theology all the live long day, but what really interests me (and, I suspect, everyone else) are stories of transformation. Diane is one of those people (and she is so very very nice!). I, like Diane, believe there are a whole lot of us out there who are being transformed with better dreams, visions that come from Christ himself. Diane gives a call that I would love to see responded to: are there others out there like her? It's time to share your story in this space, time to be mutually encouraged, time for a fresh wave of vision for the peace of God to come in all our neighborhoods. Amen! Choosing a Different Dream: Guest Post by Diane Miller

Most of us in the U.S. have bought into some version of the American dream. We get an education, a job and then we buy dream stuff--a widescreen something or other, a car, furniture, and then maybe a condo or house.  Along with that, we also seem to choose a destination-based community lifestyle, as we start traveling to our job, school, church, or activities.  We head out from our home in the morning and come back after our 9, 12 or 15-hour day of work, school and/or fun stuff.  No longer is most of daily American life spent in our home neighborhoods. Our lifestyles are now formed by the pursuit of our American opportunities and we spend more hours “going & doing” each day than we do living in our homes (sleeping doesn’t count!). I bought into this modern-day prosperity lifestyle for a few decades; however, I am now done with it! My dream routine left me with no sense of belonging in any one community and the “going & doing” became too downright exhausting!!

Our family has decided to intentionally live different. We’ve chosen a culturally and socio-economically blended neighborhood to call home and we are determined to base most of our life here. We’re not "going & doing" as much. We own one car and live on one income, which affords me, the mom, time to do all sorts of community activism and volunteer work. Our daughter attends a neighborhood public school, has become fully bilingual and is on track to head to her college choice.

We know that we have had privilege and entitlements being white, growing up in a quickly fading white dominant culture. We are highly educated and have more than our basic needs provided for by my husband’s corporate-type job. We could have chosen a “stacked wealth” area that appears more affluent, beautiful, comfortable and safe to live in.  However, we’ve resolved that those qualities no longer fit with our family mission of living with less and loving more.  So, we’re living and breathing deep into our chosen beloved ‘hood while building meaningful friendships with our neighbors--as many as possible!

Most days we find peace, freedom and joyful adventure in this life. Our neighborhood mix gives us opportunity to get to know folks who are immigrants from all over the world. The only thing homogeneous in our community is that we are all very different. Is that comfortable?  Well, not always. We have tolerated vandalism, tagging, alley arson fires, gang bangers hanging around and an occasional shooting. But, is it a place to see our God’s goodness, live an abundant life adventure and stand against the systemic injustices that follow gentrification in our nation’s cities? Yes, pretty much everyday! It is our family model for living and loving well with what we have been given. Besides, how did comfort, dream stuff and constant “going & doing” become more valuable than Christian love and servitude to others not like us in a neighborhood community?

We’ve been on this journey for a while and, being real, we’re still battling our old “dream” tendencies – so, we’re human! We also believe many others are making similar lifestyle choices and hope to connect with y’all and share stories, inspiring a different type of urbanization movement.  Are you folks out there? what are you doing?

Our dream is that all neighborhoods flourish with no stacked poverty or stacked wealth. . . communities where people live, belong and celebrate the good of all the different residents on their blocks. Neighborhoods where children are well known and have a sense of belonging, peace and hope. Where everyone has the freedom to sit on their front porch and dream big dreams! We see this neighborhood community as a beautiful witness to our God and all the great diversity of His creation--shalom as our new life-giving American Dream!

“When God called Abraham to bless him, and to bless all the nations through him, he employed the notion of “Shalom”. This Hebrew word, in time, came to mean everything good you would want for yourself and wishing that same quality of life for your neighbors and friends…” (Dr. John Perkins, Beyond Charity

on the porch_BWDiane is a former corporate America 70’s gal, who roared through the business world for 30 years. It took a move from her beloved, fast-paced urban lifestyle into California suburbia to shake her world. There, she was asked to be an outreach director at a large church. Her upwardly mobile, affluent Christian lifestyle became totally wrecked as her family started & continues on a journey of living different.

She is now a wife, mom & neighbor in the diverse Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago. She labels herself as a CCD Mama. That means a gal (not necessarily married or a mom!) who commits to live & love with God’s heart for seeking justice & empowering others in Christian community development. You can find her website at Connectingood, or find her on Twitter here.

For all posts in the Downward Mobility series, please click here.

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