You know, I have some really cool friends. They come from really cool, diverse backgrounds. They do really cool things, personally and professionally. And when you put us all together, we are the most unlikely cast of characters. I think that is my favorite thing about friendships; the unlikely transpires the likely.
For instance a few years ago, I made an unlikely friend. In fact, it took me years to even put his name and friend in the same sentence. He was arrogant and demanding, well read and well spoken. His presence commanded proficiency and focus and he brought out just about every professional insecurity I had ever had. Thankfully, he worked at another school and we only had to work together a few times a year, mainly in the summer.
I was still a relatively young teacher, maybe five years in, but I had found a rhythm with Ninth Grade Literature and so had he. We were paired up together to help create some professional development for other teachers in our county. What I didn’t tell him at the time (or even now) is that he really challenged me. Why did I teach that a certain way? Why did I choose that text over the other? Why is that my approach to that content? I would leave each work session exhausted and annoyed. One day in some not-so-professional angst, I’m pretty sure I called him a jerk and said, “I feel sorry for your wife.” Without even flinching, he responded, “You know, you and her would probably be friends.” “Yeah, right,” I thought.
Little did I know, he was right. Dang it, I hate it when he’s right! That wife of his would later become one of the most transformative friends in my life.
A few years after our professional partnership had ended, I heard a rumor that my principal had hired his wife. “What?! Great. Is this going to be awkward? Did she know that I thought her husband was a jerk?” I guess only time would tell.
Whenever we talk about that first encounter, we remember it oh so very differently. She remembers me being warm and friendly. I remember being anxious and on edge. But like I said, he was right. She is chill and stylish, has fun tattoos and a hip Bohemian style. She’s a quoter of Shakespeare and of Monica Gellar. And she’s the only person I’ve ever met who has DJ Shadow on her iPod. (Anyone? Yeah, I didn’t think so). Like I said, she’s cool and we became instant friends.
We share a lot in common; our love of Anthropologie (but never the price tag), Starbucks (I’m a latte, she’s all Chai), French inspired foods and markets (Paris Market, Savannah GA), and women’s conferences celebrating Jesus Christ (we’ve attended three now together).
In four quick years, I’ve stayed at her parents’ house twice in Savannah where her dad never fails to entertain and her mom’s hospitality is only matched by her warm hugs. But my favorite thing about this dear friend is how much she teaches me without ever really knowing it. In fact, pretty much every cool thing I have come to learn and love these past few years has come from her. Let’s face it. She’s on the forefront and “in the know” and I’m like “hang on, what is that?”
I could literally make a list of authors, products, companies, and nonprofits she has introduced me to. But instead, I want to share my latest obsession and maybe even provide a little whimsy into your summer inspired by my dear friend.
“Do you listen to podcasts?” she asked last spring while driving to the Atlanta Brunch Festival. Just two weeks post D & C, here’s another reason why I love her. She made me get out of the house and do something fun.
“Uh, not really my thing. I guess.” Maybe that was my response, but that was at least what I was thinking. I didn’t really even know what a podcast was but just the thought of listening to someone talk at me did not remotely tickle my fancy.
Eventually she taught me that purple podcast button on my iPhone served a purpose and that what lied beneath were stories waiting to be told.
I wasn’t an instant fan. The addition began slowly as I’m sure most do. However, what started with listening to a few episodes of one show (The Happy Hour hosted by Jamie Ivey) while getting ready for school a few days a week turned into a rabbit hole that I hope to never climb out of. I now have a slew of podcasts that I struggle to keep up with. Some are inspirational. Some are geared towards writers. I’m even listening to some now regarding business. But I must confess, the majority are a different genre altogether. I’m almost embarrassed to say it but . . .
My guilty genre: Crimecasts.
Now, before you roll your eyes and get all judgy, hear me out. Or better yet, hear them out! When your voice is the only one in your head, that can be an awfully dark place. My other friend and I call this headspace “Dark and Twisty.” (I just learned that Meredith and Christina on Grey’s Anatomy say this too). These podcasts were (and still are) a great distraction in a time of deep confusion.
My goal for this blog has been to provide some hope and healing; some kinship to those also caught-up in the mix of waiting, regardless of the wait. And clearly, I want to add a little more whimsy, especially in my own life where planning, control, and predictability are more comfortable.
So sticking to the theme of whimsy, I’m adding a new segment that I’ll be coming back to from time to time entitled What I’m Loving this Season (#whatImlovingthisseason). I’ll be sharing with you what I’m loving in the hopes that you’ll respond back to me with what you’re loving too. Seriously. Give me something to investigate, try, and love.
So without further ado, here are my top favorite Crimecasts. (You’ll thank me later!)
If you haven’t heard about Serial, don’t worry, it’s never too late! Having heard Jamie Ivey (The Happy Hour podcast) and a guest talk about binge listening to season one, I was intrigued. I mean, I like mysteries. I like cereal. Ok, wrong word but I was still intrigued. While traveling home last fall from St. Pete where Jason was soaking up professional development and I the sun, I convinced Jason to not only let me drive but to let me control the music as well. I plugged in my iPhone and turned on Serial. It only took one episode and we were both hooked. We spent the entire ride home (all 514 miles) listening to the 1999 Baltimore murder of high school senior Hae Min Lee and the conviction of her once boyfriend, Adnan Syed. You might think this cross-cultural star-crossed romance borders on cliché, but you’re wrong. This is not a romance but a compelling investigation into the criminal justice system, strategy, prosecution, and what can go oh-so-very wrong. Jason and I were probably hooked because this murder and investigation took place when we were also high school students so talks about pay phone and cell phones, beepers and pagers had us reminiscing.
Season one was so well received, that season two (which is equally great about PFC Bowe Bergdahl and his five-year POW Taliban detention) was quickly interjected with Adnan hearing updates for post conviction relief (called PCR, yeah I’m down with the lingo). I was so moved and intrigued by Adnan’s case that it didn’t take me long to find out more info. Which brings me to my next Crimecast.
Ok, disclaimer: You must have listened to Serial (season one) for any of this to make sense or even be of interest. Undisclosed begins by picking up where Serial left off by taking a deeper look into the prosecution’s case, court transcripts, witness testimonies (you know, all the things) from the trial of Adnan Syed. With over 59 episodes (over 64 hours!) digging into the minutia of details, Undisclosed not only investigates wrongful convictions but leaves listeners advocating for a better U.S. criminal justice system as well. Now I haven’t listened to their most recent seasons but don’t you worry, I plan to! So if you want to know what went wrong in the case of Adnan Syed (or what’s happening to him now), then listen to season one.
In the Dark.
I’m not sure how I even found this podcast. It probably popped up one day when I was Googling Serial (told you, slippery slope!) and putting faces to names (you’ll want to see what they all look like too). In the Dark focuses on the abduction and murder of Jacob Wetterling in 1989. Yes, the story of this child abduction is dark and the mishandling from the rural Minnesota law enforcement is enraging but fortunately this case has a silver lining. Not a spoiler alert but Wetterling’s murder led to the national sex-offender registry and has raised effectiveness and accountability regarding crime-solving and child abductions. With just ten episodes, at about 30 to 50 minutes in length, this is an easy binge listen and one that will leave you appreciating good police work.
After In the Dark, I was on a role. I began searching for more investigative podcasts and CrimeTown quickly came to the top of every search. Who knew that coastal little Providence, Rhode Island was the third largest pocket of organized crime? I didn’t! Following the history of major and “Prince of Providence,” Buddy Cianci, this hometown hero goes behind bars, back into office, and back behind bars more times than I could count. With a line-up of real life characters better than The Godfather trilogy (but as you’ll hear in their interviews, their accents are the same), some of these stories you might have to Google to believe. All episodes have been released so this is another one you can enjoy all at once.
From the same producers as Serial, I was subscribed for S-Town well before it debuted. (Yeah, that’s right. I’m now becoming a cool kid . . . or a nerd. You decide.) With all the episodes released at once, I literally binged-listened to this podcast in one weekend while deep cleaning. When an Alabama native emails a New York City reporter and asks him to investigate the son of a wealthy timber company owner who is bragging about getting away with murder, someone does come up dead but it’s not who you think. This seven chapter podcast has it all; rumors, lies, deceit, corruption, a maze, a hunt for hidden treasure, and more than one funeral. And it’s all true! You won’t be able to listen without looking up real images of this town and these characters. This podcast was so popular that the host was on Jimmy Fallon just a few months back. I’m just saying!
Up and Vanished.
Y’all, I’m in this one deep. Having been listening since this third episode released, I am hooked, line and sinker, wanting to know who murdered 1999 Tifton, Georgia beauty queen turned high school teacher, Tara Grinstead. Boasting the largest unsolved murder case file in Georgia history, this podcast has literally cracked open the investigation and after eleven years, two arrests have been made within the last two months (one just last week!). What originally began as a true crime documentary, host and creator Payne Lindsey has not only shed new light on this unsolved crime but has inspired the GBI to take a closer examination at their own practices and procedures. Legal loudmouth, Nancy Grace is even a fan. With just two episodes left in this season, I will continue to follow along until a conviction has been made.
Inspired and co-produced by Up and Vanished creator, Sworn just began last week, toppling iTunes charts with a two-episode release. With familiar voices and somewhat familiar format, Sworn begins by looking at the 2014 Lake Oconee, Georgia murders in the swanky Reynolds Plantation community. Having stayed there the last four winters at the Ritz on Reynolds, I know that community all too well and was shocked to hear of these brutal murders (one a beheading). Marking the three-year anniversary of the death of these wealthy retirees, Sworn hopes to continue the trend set by Up and Vanished knowing that the truth is out there, if only someone will speak up.
Ok, I know this was a lot and maybe even a bit random even for me. But hey, what are friends for than to encourage and share the random?
Now regardless of my job title, I will always be a teacher. That means I’m giving you homework. It’s simple. And fun! Hit that purple podcast button. Give it a try. Search and play anything. When sometimes music is just too much I now drive, clean, cook, and fold laundry with stories nearby. Jason even walked into the house last night with “What are you listening to now?” (I ignored the sass). But your homework is two fold. Tell me what you’re listening to or what you’re loving this summer. Give me some homework and stayed tuned later for What I’m Reading this Season (#whatImreadingthisseason). Don’t worry, it’s not true crime . . . well, only one was!
The Big Bang Theory, Series 03 Episode 23 – The Lunar Excitation