731. Thoughts on The Florida Project

Thoughts on The Florida Project.jpg

A couple weeks ago my husband and I went to see the new film, The Florida Project. When I first saw the film’s poster in our local theater months ago, I had made a quick mental note to see it. Being as I grew up in coastal Florida, I imagined that because it was a story of Florida, it would no doubt feature the white sand and beauty of the ocean, which I miss. By the time we went to see the film, though, I knew that it was about something else entirely.

The story follows the lives of small children and their mothers or, in one case, a grandmother, who live in motels along Route 192 near Disney World, all caught in poverty, bad decisions, some form of abandonment, and hopelessness. There's not a single beach scene. But the story line also follows that of Bobby, played by Willem DaFoe, the manager of The Magic Castle, the budget motel where the film’s primary child and mother live on a weekly basis. For all the reasons to see the film based on the story line and the outstanding performance of the 7-year-old Floridian, Brooklynn Prince, whom we will no doubt be seeing more of in years to come, it’s the story of Bobby that most captured my attention.

The film’s director, Sean Baker, had been on Charlie Rose in mid-October talking about his film. He described how he had researched for the film by talking with people in the area where it was shot. In particular, he spoke of a motel manager he met:

"We would go and see who was interested in telling their stories or giving us information about the Route 192, which is where this was shot. And this was—this involved us speaking to residents at the motels, the small business owners, some the motel managers, and some the agencies that actually provided social services to people in need in the area. And there was one—there was actually one man in particular, a motel manager, who really opened up his world to us. In a way, he was our passport in. He wanted—he felt that this was a story that should be told, … and he was actually managing one of these budget motels directly across the street from the Magic Castle Motel where we shot. And he was in a very tough position when he was actually working there. It has since closed. But he had compassion for the families and the kids who were there. He understood the struggles they were going through. And, yet, he, you know, had a job. He had to hold onto. And he knew that perhaps any night he might have to evict one of these families and put them out on the street if they couldn't come up with the nightly rate. So, it was a tough position for him. I could see this obvious—this compassion, but I also saw a distance that he would keep from them. And it was like a reluctant parental figure in many ways. I saw it not only with him but a few of the other motel managers we met. And I think it very much inspired our Bobby character."

DaFoe’s character captures an aspect of work that I tried to describe in Finding Livelihood: that of doing one thing, for which you’re paid, but that may be far from what you most want to do or feel “called” to do, while at the same time also doing something far bigger on another plane, maybe all the time and all along or maybe only for a moment, participating in a for-such-a-time-as-this sort of thing. Parallel realities. Bobby kept the books, he kept the rules, he kept the place clean. Job description met! But he also kept his people safe, he guided and cared, he gave hope, he loved. If you missed the movie trailer, hyperlinked in the first sentence, take a look now and you'll get a hint of what I'm talking about.

695. A tool for a spiritual and occupational journey

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With deep gratitude I have some links and brief excerpts to share from a couple reviews of Finding Livelihood. After years of writing alone at a desk it always feels like rather a miracle to find that those solitary words can go like an arrow into someone else's mind and heart and Voilá, there is human camaraderie on this journey.

The first review is written by Kenneth Garcia in a column in Notre Dame Magazine. I love that he starts out by stating he also has had a struggle to come to terms with "a spiritual calling that both demands attention and 'refuses' to come to fruition." I wish I could get a show of hands for who else can relate to that.

About one of the vocational quandries Finding Livelihood poses, Garcia writes:

"Nordenson admires the theologian Frederick Buechner's poetic phrase about vocation: 'the place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet.' She also finds the sentiment unconvincing. Why? Well, life happens. The need to make a living in tough times and the responsibilities one has to others exert their own call, and those calls obligate as much or more as one's 'deep gladness' and spiritual desire. 'Who but a very small minority,' she asks, 'can find that exact intersection [of one's deep gladness and the world's deep hunger] and from it feed a family?'"

Maybe you've had these thoughts and questions too. Here's the link and I do hope you click through and read the rest of Garcia's review.

The second review, written by Greg Richardson (aka "Strategic Monk"), is in the Presence Journal, a publication of Spiritual Directors International. Writing to readership of spiritual directors, Richardson calls Finding Livelihood "an insightful, personal tool for our work with people on a spiritual and occupational journey."

He continues:

"Finding Livelihood is not a how-to book filled with checklists and targeted goals. It is deeper and more rewarding than that, reflecting on deep truth. Spiritual guides will find this a useful resource, particularly while accompanying spiritual directees who desire to integrate the daily place where love and labor meet."

The image of this - my little book being used to help others "integrate the daily place where love and labor meet" - is thrilling and humbling. May it be so. Here's the link to read the rest of Richardson's review.


If you find my writing on this blog or in my book to be something that's good in your life, would you consider sharing one or both of these reviews, perhaps with someone who you think might like to read the book, maybe someone who is on a spiritual and occupational journey? Or would you consider writing your own review on Amazon?  Thank you for considering. I'll be back next week with something noncommercial. :)


[Photo: taken of a bulletin board at U of Chicago; don't call any of the numbers for job opening you see because it's several years old; does anyone still use "physical" bulletin boards to post jobs anymore?]

666. Gathering 2015: a review of this year's posts

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[NOTE: The links in this post are no longer correct]

I spent a couple hours this morning reviewing my blog posts from 2015. In The Art of Thinking, Ernest Dimnet wrote, “To keep no track of what one learns or thinks is as foolish as to till and seed one’s land with great pains, and when the harvest is ripe turn one’s back upon it and think of it no more.” I agree with Dimnet and so look back at posts, journals, book notes, and other evidences of – and learning from – this life journey, this blog being a piece of that. I believe in being a student of one's life.

But I also reviewed my posts in order to gather them together in one place with some kind of organizing structure for readers' use. New subscribers have come on throughout the year and may find this a handy list of posts, and even regular readers miss posts or may like to revisit posts. Here they are – well, most of them – grouped into categories. 

A couple preliminary comments: 1) this is the year that Finding Livelihood came out so that category got a heavy weighting; 2) these categories are fluid and artificially narrow - for example, most of the posts could be under a single category of "paying attention to your life" or "living with intention" or "living a meaningful life," and the posts for books could be distributed under multiple categories, and the posts "on hope" could just as well be listed as "on love" or "on pilgrimage."

I offer this list to you as a place in which to dip in and read, to peruse at random or with strategy, in the hope that whatever words you choose to read or re-read may come alongside you as you wind up your 2015 and launch whatever is next.

On astonishment and gratitude:

On pilgrimage and choices:

On love and community:

On leisure, rest, sabbath:

On books and the ideas they contain:

On writing and creativity:

On hope:

On Finding Livelihood:

On work: 


About this blog:

[Photo: taken of the Christmas day landscape. True color, no filter.]