Dispatches from The Stateless Wanderers

A quick note to start — I used to write a blog that satirized the (g)aw(d)ful narcissistic, self-indulgent, “cutesy” ramblings of  twentysomething newlyweds. I quit because I had to marinate in a puddle of cynicism and criticism in order to come up with new content. Thus, the birthing of this blog — one that forces me to dwell and linger on things that made me happy, rather than things that piss me off/annoy me. I guess, in a way, it’s my very informal (and more superficial) version of counting my blessings. 

I have had many blessings / encounters with things that are superhot these last few months, but haven’t made the time to write about them. But, here I am again — this time with a pledge to update content on a weekly basis.

Let’s go! Onward to the sweethottnesses!

When I was in college, I came across this website.

Goodbye, Waffle Maker was an online yardsale of a peculiar kind (buyers name the price), featuring a (young?) woman’s attempts to sell all of her possessions in preparation for moving to a rural, impoverished county in Alabama to an ongoing support sustainable housing development project. What she didn’t sell, she donated. And she really got rid of everything — 576 items, including a toothpick jar, hair product, an oven mitt, a plant stand, misc. DVDs, an unopened package of confetti, Steve Madden wedges (very cute, actually), numerous Shakespearean plays.

The brief descriptions of the items, er, products, themselves weave a pithy narrative: Crafty teenage girl interested in teenage girl things — fashion/beauty, entertainment, etc. Teenage girl grows up — studies design & political science in NYC, becomes disillusioned with materialism/consumerism, decides to devote her life to a worthy cause.

Some vignettes:

  • “One stack of Taste of Home magazines. Acquired during my learn how to cook phase.”
  • “Good, cheap, well-traveled AIWA headphones. Most commonly used during family vacations from Michigan to Virginia.”
  • “One dried carnation. Dried in April of 1997.”
  • Chasing Grace, a novel about growing up Catholic. Purchased by a Lutheran in 2005.”
  • Sex & the City game. Gift from dear Lindsey. Forever love.”
  • “Pirate pants. Roll at knee and wear an eye patch. Parrot on shoulder and you are golden.”

Reminds me of Hemingway’s oft-quoted, masterful 6-word story: For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

What do our possessions say about us? If I were to sell all of my schhtuff — lay it all out on the worldwide web for strangers to view and potentially purchase — what assumptions would be make about me? What story would it tell?

Probably not a very interesting one (For sale: workout shorts, never worn).

Really, the part that makes Wafflemaker girl interesting is not her actual stuff, but the fact that she gave away all her stuff. If Wafflewoman were still trying to host a regular ol’ internet yardsale, then I really wouldn’t give a damn; I can skim my personalized Gmail ads if I wanted to access a narrative centered on consumerism patterns (reads: BORING). But here, the broader, deeper tale is about (Version 1) someone doing a crazy thing according to our cultures standards, or, (Version 2) someone doing what the rich young ruler (presumably) didn’t have the balls to do.

However you come at it, Goodbye, Wafflemaker is an interesting story.

The ending (or beginning, depending on how you see it): Mystery girl purged, moved, went to serve a long time ago.

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A few months ago, a friend of mine recommended that I read Dispatches from the Stateless Wanderers, a monthly column published on McSweeney’s that is so hot right now. The winner of the website’s 2011 Column Contest Winner, Stateless Wanderers features the writing of DLM, “a home-schooled pastor’s kid, a real life Bible-college educated evangelical in the middle of Portland, Oregon. Currently living in low-income housing with a bunch of Somali Bantu refugees, a husband, a baby, and a very cranky cat, DLM writes about her missionary dreams and cross-cultural schemes while ardently striving to put the ‘fun’ in fundamentalism.” As a home-schooled pastor’s wife who reads McSweeney’s on a regular basis and has a penchant for serving the poor, I knew DLM and I were cut from similar cloths.

DLM writes earnestly and without pretense. Much like the effect Merida is having on the world previously claimed by Woody, Buzz, Nemo, WALL-E, and Remy, it’s refreshing to at long last have a female voice re-enter (a la Mother Theresa, Dorothy Day) the male-dominated press-fueled public realm of Christians who are talking about living with the poor (Shane Claiborne, Chris Haw, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, John Perkins, Eugene Cho, Chris Heuertz, et al.).  As a woman, I don’t really see myself in those men. For me, they’re windows, and DLM is a much-needed mirror.

A snippet (from “Woman’s Work,” published in early May):

“Jesus talked about us needing to be like children in order to enter into his new world, a place where power and possessions hold no sway. I think of my childhood, full of small pleasures and blessed assurances and sunburned noses, when I wasn’t tainted by the hierarchy of the world. I think of my own small daughter, blond hair wildly sticking up, chin pointed high in defiance, eyes so sure that the world is mostly wonderful. And this is what propels me, makes me carry my physical self, flawed and unique and female, into the places where the kingdom of God still needs to come. And while the church still argues about who can and can’t bring it, it is already coming. I have seen it with my eyes. I have tried in my own poor way to tell you all this time: it is already here” (DLM, 2012).

I devoured these columns when my friend first led me to them a few months ago. Oh, and good news: she’s still writing them, so there’ll be more to come.

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