From Ramshackle to Shalom

(Published in the March/April 2011 issue of Prism magazine)

A large board covers the front door of 403 North Gray Street. Chunks of the white brick porch are missing, and brambles from a dead tree swallow up half of the front view. It’s difficult to tell how long the house has been vacant. Just six doors down, Belinda Ellis’ front porch twinkles with icicle lights and a bold Christmas wreath. Inside, her cozy living room is lined with family photos, suede couches, and children’s bicycles. Ellis proudly shows off her home, pointing out pictures of her eight grandchildren. She flings open the back door onto a spacious red deck and even more spacious backyard. That yard is the main reason Ellis lives at 428 North Gray Street.

The house was under renovation when Ellis first saw it in 2007, right after she got out of prison. “I just fell in love with it,” she explains, “’cause I knew it had this huge backyard.” The yard has since become a staging ground for her grandkids’ football games.

It’s unusual for former felons returning to Indianapolis’ Near Eastside to find quality affordable housing, but Ellis’ home was made possible by Englewood Christian Church, and Englewood isn’t known for following the norm.

Continue reading article “From Ramshackle to Shalom.”

Ode to a World Iced Over

An icy place not in Indiana

Since we live in the Midwest and the center of last week’s arctic blast, we found ourselves “iced in” for two days. It was like being given permission to play hooky. Also to breathe.

And when you’re given permission to breathe–because the world’s iced over, and everyone else is too, and there’s nothing else to worry about–you do.

You sleep in, at least until 8. You watch the snow (or ice) fall and hold your cup of coffee closer. And you find yourself thinking about your heating bill in a new way. You also discover yourself viewing your outside stairs as as a small glacier to conquer.

And you get to do these things at random hours of the afternoon and don’t watch the clock. Not like the weekends, which are far too structured.

You have friends over–the kind who tend to live a few doors down. You play board games. You make food together–the good kind, with spinach and pork and seasoning.

But best of all, you can take a nap at any moment of the day, whenever you so choose. But of course you don’t feel like it, because you’re allowed to.

The world is better, sometimes, when its iced over.