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The Arc of Beads

Keepin' It Real with Cam Marston

Release Date: 02/17/2023

Squeezed show art Squeezed

Keepin' It Real with Cam Marston

Cam's phone has been ringing. It's a lot of his small business friends and they're experiencing similar things. They're feeling pressure. They're feeling squeezed. ----- When an orange is squeezed, orange juice comes out. We know this. We know that sun and good soil and water and maybe some fertilizer help that orange develop that juice. We know the ingredients, we somewhat control the ingredients, and we know the goodness that comes from a squeezed orange. What happens, though, when you and I are squeezed? What happens when life puts pressure on you and me? What ingredients are we drawing on...

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Lent show art Lent

Keepin' It Real with Cam Marston

Mardi Gras ended Tuesday for Cam. Immediately following Mardi Gras is the beginning of Lent and Cam struggles with what sacrifices he should make. ----- Lent. I struggle with Lent every year. How much suffering is enough to prepare my soul for the Easter arrival of the Lord? Is there enough? Who knows. There’s always someone suffering more; someone taking it to the next level. As a child it was ice cream. I gave up ice cream every year and dutifully reported it to my religion teacher as the assignment instructed. I love ice cream, vanilla especially. In fact, I’ve created an association...

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Dry January show art Dry January

Keepin' It Real with Cam Marston

On this week's Keepin' it Real, Cam Marston has thoughts about this upcoming weekend. Mardi Gras is on us down here in Mobile, and that leads to some tough decisions. ----- Dry January ended last week. Dry January followed soaking wet, sodden to the bone December. I’ve never done Dry January before and after sodden December, I needed to give it a try. Aside from one small drink to celebrate my daughter’s twenty-first birthday, I drank no alcohol for thirty-one days. I’m not sure I’ve done that since I was a teen. The net result? I lost nine pounds. I slept very well every night for a...

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God Stop show art God Stop

Keepin' It Real with Cam Marston

What do you call it when your certain plans are suddenly upended? They're changed with no warning? You call it a God-stop. On this week's Keepin' It Real, Cam shares his experiences with them.  ----- A friend told me a story about how he had applied for a job a long way from home. His potential new employer had said they were going to make a very attractive offer. My friend and his wife began discussing selling their home and moving their kids to a new school. It was certain to happen and then…it didn’t. The job offer never came. His calls to the new employer to get an answer or a...

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Twenty-One show art Twenty-One

Keepin' It Real with Cam Marston

Cam spent Monday evening at a big party for a small group of twenty-one year olds. To say the least, times have changed. Here's what he saw. ----- A moment after midnight on March 4th, 1990, I stood on a barstool and declared loudly to the packed bar that I had just turned twenty one years old. I was in Boulder, Colorado. A moment later the bouncer had me by the shirt and said, “That means you used a fake ID to get in”, which was true. I was nearly carried, my feet barely touching the ground, to the door and tossed into the street. Oddly enough, the same story happened to my wife, long...

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Resident Cynic show art Resident Cynic

Keepin' It Real with Cam Marston

My real name is Charles. But Chuck and Chas live inside me. Chuck was trying to get out this week. Chas had to try to keep in under control. ----- An icicle hangs from the roof of my house. I’m looking at it but still can’t quite believe it. Icicles are very rare here. Usually reserved for the freezer door that was left open overnight. A winter storm blew through and Mobile, Alabama is doing what it usually does when it gets below average cold – we’re freaking out. School is cancelled, quote, “out of an abundance of caution” for the kids. There’s no rebuttal to that phrase. It...

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Kids These Days show art Kids These Days

Keepin' It Real with Cam Marston

Storms blew through Monday night. It was tough weather. I survived. My daughter? It was the aftermath of the storm that nearly broke her... ----- My favorite oldest daughter is upset. “I just can’t deal with this. It’s just too much,” she keeps saying. She’s leaving for a bit. She needs to get out of the house. “I’m going to Starbucks,” she says. “I’ll be back later.” My wife and I say nothing. You see, the power is out. The big storms that cruised through Monday night left us in the dark. It’s now Tuesday afternoon and the power company estimates another thirty hours...

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God On Our Side show art God On Our Side

Keepin' It Real with Cam Marston

On New Years Eve, I watched a conversation in my kitchen that was exactly as I hoped it would be.  ----- A friend called this past fall. He said, “The Holy Spirit told me to call you and tell you the Holy Spirit wants you and me to make a podcast together. Will you help me?” My goodness. What do you say to that but “Sure. I’ll help you.” The podcast is about his spiritual journey. He brings his friends on from time to time to tell their stories. My job is to keep us focused on the topic, keep us at around twenty minutes per episode, and toss out a contrary opinion that will help...

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Solstice show art Solstice

Keepin' It Real with Cam Marston

Yesterday was the winter solstice. Brings back memories... ----- Yesterday was the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. Said another way, there is more darkness on December 21st than any other day. It’s also the day I got engaged many years ago. The story I like to tell is that my wife, who was then a collegiate volleyball coach, was watching VHS videos of players she was hoping to recruit. I asked her to stop the video and pay attention to me for a moment or two. She reluctantly did with a “this better be good” expression. I asked her to marry me. She considered the...

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Leena's China show art Leena's China

Keepin' It Real with Cam Marston

A family tree of photographs is at the top of the stairs at my father's house.  ----- A picture hangs at the top of the stairs at my parent’s house. It’s of my mother’s grandmother, my great grandmother. I think it’s Grandma Leena. My father and I were trying to figure out who it was. My mother had told me about the picture and about Grandma Leena for years. I never listened. There are a bunch of other pictures. At the top, near the ceiling, are pictures of my mother and father’s family and they form a family tree, coming together, picture by picture, generation by generation,...

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The value of Mardi Gras beads peak when they're under no ownership. It's part of the silliness of my favorite time of year.

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If you’re not listening in the deep south, you may not know that it’s Mardi Gras time for us derelicts and mystics living here on the top lip of the Gulf Coast. Ships from all over the world back in the day delivered a menagerie of people here where they threw their customs and traditions into one big gurgling pot and one of the results is Mardi Gras. The story I tell is that Mardi Gras was a time for people to dispose of food that would spoil during the fasting associated with Lent, which begins with Ash Wednesday next week, so they threw big parties to consume all the food. Is it the truth? I don’t know. It’s the story I’ve heard the most, so it’s the story I tell.

Folks from other places who now live here are fond of saying “I just don’t get Mardi Gras. It makes no sense.” And they’re right. It doesn’t. Don’t try to make sense of it. Just enjoy it. If you can’t enjoy it because it doesn’t make sense, stay away. L et us have our fun.

Take Mardi Gras beads as one of many examples. The value of a typical strand of Mardi Gras beads can range from a few cents per strand to a few dollars. So, for argument’s sake, let’s assume one of the strands I bought at the bead store last weekend for my parade cost one dollar. It was likely made for a few cents by some poor underpaid child somewhere operating massive machine and wondering what in the world these beads things are used for and why they need so many. Nevertheless, the bead store paid maybe forty cents for it. Its value shot to a dollar when I paid for it at the register. However, the highest value of those beads cannot be assigned a number and was not when it was owned by the manufacturer, the retailer, or me. The highest value of the beads was when those beads were ownerless after I had tossed it from my hand, and it curved in gentle arc through the air and began its descent. In those moments the beads were in the air, grown men and women, aggressive children, and people who are normally friendly neighbors saw the beads and used NBA style block-outs, tremendous jumps, karate chops and tae kwon do style elbows to friend’s ribcages to catch ‘em.

Once caught, the beads went around a neck for a short time. Or they disappeared into a bag already full of them. Or were tossed on top of a pile of other beads just like it. Or, they could very likely been given away to a complete stranger. Once secured and under new ownership, the bead’s value vanished instantly. In a week they’ll be in the trash.

It makes no sense to spend so much money buying beads, then give them away, only for them to ultimately be thrown away. No sense at all. But that’s Mardi Gras. If you try to apply logic to it, you’ll scream.

And, frankly, I can’t get enough of it.

I’m Cam Marston and I’m just trying to Keep It Real.