Saturday, October 30, 2010

It's Personal

I actually wrote this last week during the agony/ecstasy of the final game of the NL play-offs and sent it to our San Francisco NPR station, KQED. They picked it up and invited me to come to the studio to record it. It aired on Thursday on KQED's Perspectives segment. If you've read it already, sorry. You get more Giants love today! If you want to give it a listen, you can click on the link below and hear it online.

I learned to speak baseball from my father. Dad worked in the yard with a transistor radio in his breast pocket, scratchy Giants baseball buzzing in the air around us. He translated for me. Double play. ERA. RBI. Sacrifice fly. Radio baseball hypnotized me. Mays and McCovey played better when I listened, I felt certain. A thin thread connected us through the small crackling box in my Dad’s pocket. It was personal, this invisible game, and I knew that my faith in the Giants paid off at the plate.

Occasionally my intrepid parents piled all six kids into the station wagon and headed for Candlestick. We never quite made it into the park for the first pitch. Stuck in gridlock at game time, my Dad would mutter “Scrud!” and turn on KSFO. Fine by me--radio delivered baseball in its purest form. By the top of the third, we would make it to our seats. The brilliant green infield and the sing-song chant of the concessionaires distracted me. Was this about baseball or frozen Carnation malts? Then the crowd would erupt for the home team. Our shared passion for the game and the guys who played it electrified me. It was personal--to all of us. We believed in the boys in orange and black.

This week I will somehow carve twenty hours out of my life for baseball. It’s not the high-tech, sexy entertainment-event or Gilroy garlic fries that draw me to the game. No. The irresistible thread hooked me forty years ago, in rasping low-tech play-by-play on AM 560. How we watch or listen to the Series will vary. Why we watch probably aligns pretty closely. We believe in our unlikely grab-bag team: the unproven kid and the “washed up” veteran; the Freak and the Panda and the whole roster of likable guys who don’t grab the spotlight, but who get the job done. It’s personal. We’ll tune in because we love to see nice guys win. And we’re pretty sure they play better when we’re listening.

With a perspective, I’m Jerie Sandholtz Jacobs

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Yesterday I found the nubby blue almost-scarf that I started knitting in March 2007. Last month’s selection for book club sits on my nightstand, a bookmark sticking out somewhere near the middle. Half of a poem, scribbled on the back of an obsolete to-do list, fell out of my purse over the weekend. It will slip out again in a few weeks and nudge me to close the loop on the musings that prompted me to jot it down in the first place—I probably won’t.
I’m OK with unfinished. That sounds blasphemous as I say it, seditious somehow. My Puritan ancestors with their much-touted work ethic must spin in their graves at my confession. Thanks to them, we live in a culture consumed by a model of success that focuses almost exclusively on end results. Unfinished things represent sloth or weakness or failure. “Produce,” our forebears whisper from the dust. So we do, without examining the product.
The mentality reminds me of the Play-Doh Fun Factory that held my interest for about fifteen minutes on Christmas morning the year that I begged Santa for it. I crammed the Factory full of the artificially-colored substance provided and pushed the handle as hard as I could. Voila! A uniform and utterly useless rope of Play-Doh extruded reluctantly from the other end. Period. That was it—a finished product that was neither meaningful nor beautiful. Sound familiar? How often do we cram our days full of whatever society tells us matters and squeeze as hard as we can, strangling the life out of life, determined to finish what we start? Is it any wonder when the outcomes are neither meaningful nor beautiful to us?
“Life is too short. You can’t do it all.” my parents often told me. As a teenager I knew better, naturally. “Hah!” I secretly thought. “Maybe you can’t do it all. Watch and learn, folks.” It took a few melt-downs and miseries before I would acknowledge that every book was not worth finishing and that all deep thoughts did not require the symmetry of verse. I realized that I can’t do it all. Now, I don’t even want to.
I will never finish knitting that blue scarf, but I’m not ready to throw it away either. It reminds me, like a snapshot, of Joan. She sat in her hospital bed with me beside her and patiently taught me to cast on and knit and purl. The business of guiding my awkward hands distracted her from pain and the fear of dying. My knitting was never about the scarf, not even a little bit. Joan talked as we worked the yarn—talked about things she loved. We laughed together and we wept openly. Eventually Joan came to peace. For a month the scarf took shape, but it never mattered. The process mattered.
Process matters to me. I exist to become, not merely to produce. Choosing what to begin is no small trick. Recognizing what is worth finishing is even more difficult. When I find myself pushing hard toward an outcome that holds nothing for my spirit, I allow myself to lay it down. In the end I suspect that the things we have abandoned along the path will explain much of what we have become. I’m OK with unfinished. Just consider me a work in progress.

22 Responses to “Unfinished”

  1. heather y. 27. Oct, 2010 at 7:41 am #
    Say it like it is, sister! Thanks for the reminder. Especially going into the holidays, as I unconsciously start hyperventalating over Christmas craft projects, baking and all those fun little Martha Stewart “tips” that look so easy and ‘only take a minute to do’ (Ha!)
    • Jerie 27. Oct, 2010 at 10:29 am #
      The holidays! Maybe what you describe was the subconscious prompt behind this post. I’m getting better at simplifying, but it’s good to be reminded. Martha-Schmartha. If I had a 15-man kitchen staff to follow me around and wash dishes behind me, I might do it all too. Might. :)
  2. Alanna 27. Oct, 2010 at 8:13 am #
    I think I’ve spent the last week or so hyperventilating over a to-do list that has at least 50 items on it, most of which I will need help to complete, and so have felt powerless to do much of anything. This is exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you for sharing these thoughts and for expressing them so eloquently, also. I feel like I can breathe again.
    • Jerie 27. Oct, 2010 at 10:34 am #
      Breathing is good, Alanna. I recommend it. I know that powerless feeling you describe. I wish I lived next door and could walk across the lawn with hot pumpkin muffins and we could sit down and eat the whole pan and drink hot cider. Then we’d get your list out and I would help you mow through it. I wish.
  3. Julie 27. Oct, 2010 at 11:14 am #
    I know about unfinished. Unfinished laundry, unfinished dishes…. I’m never seem able to finish all the housework. :o )
    • Jerie 27. Oct, 2010 at 12:23 pm #
      I hear you!
  4. annie 27. Oct, 2010 at 12:08 pm #
    i’m re-learning the “i can’t do it all” lesson this week. ugh.
    but i love this idea of process, rather than the end result, being the product. so much of my art is about this idea, but it’s difficult to articulate in the final result to be hung on the wall – like the fact that there are actually 3 paintings beneath the outer surface that you see. i’m still working on how to deal with that in my art and in my life.
    beautifully put.
  5. Jerie 27. Oct, 2010 at 12:26 pm #
    annie-i wish i could see your art. i love it that your art is about ideas that you can identify. it seems like a lot of so-called artists skip that step andjust represent . . . stuff.
    as for not doing it all, i think we have to learn that repeatedly.
    • annie 27. Oct, 2010 at 9:56 pm #
      is it totally shameless rude to send you to ? it’s my website. try to ignore the “writing” section. it’s kind of whiney. but i feel good about everything else, artist statements included.
      and i agree about the artists who just represent. a lot of them do much better than we thinkers. sigh.
      • Jerie 27. Oct, 2010 at 11:14 pm #
        awesome! i’m going to go visit your website right now. thank you!
  6. Robbie 27. Oct, 2010 at 12:52 pm #
    Two weeks out from defending my thesis, I feel the final product like a Play-Doh rope in my hands–pressed out to be pressed out, but neither meaningful nor beautiful. But the process was good. Here’s to becoming. Thanks for that.
    • Jerie 27. Oct, 2010 at 5:34 pm #
      I bet you’ll read your thesis in a month when you’re no longer sickened by the very sight of it and you’ll find it meaningful. And yes, here’s to becoming.
  7. Craig 27. Oct, 2010 at 12:56 pm #
    I interpret this as a classic example of systemic / non-linear thinking, with what the cultural studies people call a “being” orientation. This means that you tend to see components as a whole system, and the sequence of facts are secondary to the story they tell. You appreciate the system and the story it tells, and you get great satisfaction from the story itself.
    This is in contrast to the general trends of sequential / linear thinking and “action” orientation that are generally common in American culture. This is in large part why Sun Tsu’s “Art of War” holds such mystique among American businesspersons – it represents that same “alternative” worldview that you perceive. And quite frankly, the play-dough fun factory is a perfectly fitting analogy for my opinion on the matter.
    Great job :)
    • Jerie 27. Oct, 2010 at 5:39 pm #
      Thank you for describing my random thinking with such legitimate-sounding terms. “Systemic/non-linear” sounds so much better than “scatter-brained.”
      Interesting definitions from a socialogical and business context. Thanks, Craig.
  8. Blue 27. Oct, 2010 at 5:20 pm #
    I have a million unfinished projects. Ok well that may be an exaggeration. So I have many unfinished projects, many of them began while visiting my grandmother for a week or so when I was a child. She would teach me to knit and I would begin a scarf, she would teach me to crochet and I would begin a rug, she would teach me to cross stitch and I would begin a dishtowel. I would work diligently while there and then lose interest once I returned to my regular life at home. However, I don’t regret a minute of it. I loved spending time with her, loved picking out the yarn and the fabrics, and then sitting with her and working on my project, It was perfect for how long it lasted. I always felt guilty about not finishing but maybe I can let go of that now…
    • Jerie 27. Oct, 2010 at 5:45 pm #
      Exactly! You could have been making a tin foil ball with your grandma, for heaven’s sake, the project wasn’t the point. What a lovely gift you each gave the other–focused time together, being present. Priceless.
  9. Liz 27. Oct, 2010 at 10:39 pm #
    This reminds me a bit of the song I sang as a kid in sunday school “He’s Still Workin’ on Me.”
    • Jerie 27. Oct, 2010 at 11:11 pm #
      Love it! I would love to hear the rest of the lyrics, it’s the story of my life.
      • Liz 28. Oct, 2010 at 11:56 pm #
        Sure, It goes…
        He’s still working on me
        To make me what I ought to be
        It took him just a week to make the moon and stars
        The sun and the earth and Jupiter and Mars
        How loving and patient He must be
        ‘Cause He’s still workin’ on me
        There really ought to be a sign upon my heart
        Don’t judge him yet, there’s an unfinished part
        But I’ll be better just according to His plan
        Fashioned by the Master’s loving hands
        repeat chorus
        I especially like “don’t judge me yet, there’s an unfinished part”
        • Jerie 30. Oct, 2010 at 8:55 pm #
          I love this! I’m going to look online and see if I can find the tune. What a great old hymn. Thank you, Liz.
  10. Allison 29. Oct, 2010 at 12:58 pm #
    It is so soul satisfying, somehow, to be unfinished. it keeps me relying on God.
  11. Jerie 30. Oct, 2010 at 8:56 pm #
    Amen, sister. And He keeps me from getting discouraged about all the things that other people do, that I don’t. It’s beautiful, isn’t it?

Originally posted on The Peanut Gallery Speaks