Saturday, October 15, 2011

For Steve

Ten days ago, I was incredibly wracked with grief over the passing of a man I've never known.

A notification popped up on my iPhone and my heart sunk. For just a moment, everything stopped. All the ambient sounds around me faded out into a quiet buzz as I read, "Apple says former CEO and founder Steve Jobs has died". I shouted to my husband who was downstairs in the family room playing Wii with our son. He paused the game after I told him the first time. "What?!?!?" he said. I repeated the news. He stood there for a moment, silent, while he absorbed the gravity of the words he had just heard.

This news came on the heels of Apple's unveiling of their new products and features, most notably the iPhone 4S. Around the technology community, the news of the 4S came as somewhat of a disappointment. Everyone had planned on heralding the reveal of the iPhone 5, but we didn't get the 5. We got the 4S. Even I felt disenchanted. After over two years with my iPhone 3Gs, I was ready to trade up to the almighty iPhone 5. I didn't want a 4S, I wanted a 5. I had spent my afternoon on October 4th watching several simultaneous liveblogs from the Apple event on my Macbook Pro in my kitchen while I cooked and cleaned, waiting with bated breath to see my new iPhone 5. I felt let down when there was no 5. The 4S was dazzling, a stunning revision of the phone that I've known and loved for two years and of course I wanted it...I just wished it were called a 5 instead. Despite my lack of love for the model name, I still knew that I'd be one of the many crazy people counting down the hours until midnight Pacific time on October 7th so I could snag one for both myself and one for Mr. Felicia. I was completely thrilled and overwhelmed with awe by the new option of a 64GB model. I reflected on my Facebook status that "My first computer had 64kB and took up a quarter of the desk in my childhood bedroom. My next phone will have 64GB and fit in my pocket. I know this makes me a complete nerd, but when I think about how far technology has come in my lifetime it brings tears to my eyes. It's just so damn cool."

I will confess: I am a nerd. I've been a nerd since I was a little girl. My first computer was a Commodore 64 that my parents bought me for Christmas. Well, I'm pretty sure that my Dad got that for me more than my mother. My Dad was and is still what they call now an "early adopter". He has always loved electronics and he enjoyed having the latest, greatest toys. My C64 had a cassette tape "drive" for memory, and Dad got me a TV that could be used as a monitor from Montgomery Ward. I wish I could show you a picture of me opening that gift. I was so was geeked out that I ugly-cried in my big, hideous, early 80's glasses. I spent hours on end for days sitting at my C64, plunking out tedious code just to see an animation of a ball bouncing across the screen for a few seconds. I adored that computer. As I learned more, I began to create my own little programs and I was incredibly proud of my programming. Those childhood frenzies of creation and errors, troubleshooting and testing made me feel inspired and brilliant and confident. By the time I got to high school, the computers at school were DOS-based PC's. In school, I learned how to do a little bit more programming in BASIC. That computer class felt like slipping on an old pair of Levi's. In my entire high school education, Miss Letourneau's computer class was my favorite and it was by far the one that came the easiest to me. In college, I helped pay for my tuition by working on campus in my school's computer lab. The machines in the computer lab ran on Windows 3.0. In the computer lab, I helped students and faculty with their computer questions ("Where is the any key?" "Why doesn't my keyboard have Roman numerals?") and tinkered with Windows. I've pretty much been a PC girl for the bulk of my geekery, but I have a bit of a confession to make: I never really loved Windows. The first time I saw it, I thought to myself "Basically, it makes a PC into a Macintosh" but I didn't say it out loud.

Throughout all of my schooling, my career after school, and into the current chapter of my life story as a stay at home mom, my nerdiness has served me well. I've adapted to and adopted new ideas, services, software and hardware. About six months ago, I ditched my trusty and clunky Dell laptop for a reliable and sexy, slick Macbook Pro. This thing is gorgeous. Without even realizing it, I had "switched" from PC to Mac. I didn't intend to switch teams. I had used a Mac sporadically when I worked for a print brokerage in my late 20's. I didn't think of using the Macbook as a change in loyalty, it was just a machine. I was fairly surprised when I noticed how much I loved the Macbook. I'm the girl who happily and quickly popped out of Windows to use the DOS shell for years. I'm the girl who used to sarcastically call Macs "Fisher Price Computers" because of their simplistically styled UI. And then I used and grew accustomed to that simple, clean, sleek, artistic, elegant UI and I fell hopelessly in love with it.

Ten days ago when Steve Jobs' passing was announced, the corner of my heart that's shaped like an apple cried. I credit Steve Jobs with bringing technology to the masses and making it beautiful. I credit him with revolutionizing the way people consume media content. Steve Jobs took a bookcase full of my CD's and put them in the palm of my hand. He gave me the ability to buy the one song that I really liked from other CD's for a dollar. (I refuse to admit, to myself or to anyone else, how much money I've spent on music via iTunes.) I'm pretty sure that Amazon looked at the iPod and iTunes and thought, "You know, I think we could do that to books too!" and thus, the Kindle was born. Steve Jobs: architect of the intuitive interface, father of innovation, genius.

As a person with half decent geek street cred, the imagination, inspiration, and innovation that Jobs brought to the world floods my heart with both awe and reverence. The emotional rollercoaster of the first week of October 2011 came full circle for me late last night as I experienced and explored the physical details, abilities, speed, and breathtaking beauty of my new iPhone 4S, which I dubbed Koko B. HardWare. I dressed him in a glittery aubergine suit fitting of the flair and showmanship of the WWF star he was named after. The sheer volume his 64GB of capacity awed me. His features and capabilities were even more amazing and overwhelming than they were via conference liveblog. I gazed down at this incredible feat of technology, design and development in the palm of my hand and the reality hit me as tears filled my eyes: the object that I held was Steve's swan song. It was the very last unimagined by the public but suddenly desired and instantly indispensable innovation that Mr. Jobs would ever create for the world. It was then that I recognized that it is quite fitting and not at all a disappointment that this permutation of the iPhone was not named 5. This iPhone is the 4S: For Steve.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Coming out of the closet...

For some of my friends what I'm going to tell you isn't going to come as a big surprise, because I've already talked about some of my thoughts and doubts and conclusions with you. I'd like to take a moment to thank those treasured and trusted friends for listening, for understanding and for encouraging me along the way. I am truly blessed to have friends with whom I can be totally honest and vulnerable, without fear. I cannot thank you enough for allowing me the liberty of being where I'm at without your judgement. M, B and E...I am so grateful to have you with me on my journey.


What up, blogiverse. Is that even a word? It is now, I just said it. Or typed it. Whatever.

I've been quiet for a long time, I know. I've been thinking. I've had A LOT to think about. I wish I knew what the catalyst was behind all of the stuff I've been working out in my mind. Oh, and before we go any further...I know what you're thinking this post is going to be about given the title, and before I say anything else I want to tell you that I'm sorry to disappoint you. I'm totally not gay. That said, I've been trying to figure out how to publicly "come out" with the many things that I've been thinking and a big part of me is bracing for massive rejection.

*deep breath*

I've come to the conclusion that I need to be okay with being rejected by some in order to be authentic. (This is still sounding like a gay coming out talk, isn't it?) I know I stand to lose some friends if I say this publicly. And I know that some of my friends won't just dismiss me, they'll do worse. They'll judge me, label me and condemn me, then they'll tell me that they'll pray for me because I'm so "lost".

So, I would like to assure you:

I am SO NOT lost.

I have NEVER been MORE found.

I do not seek to belittle what has been revealed to you as truth, so please offer me that same respect. If you want to pray for me, that's fine. Just do it as Jesus taught, and I'll even drop some KJV on you out of deference to your preference: "And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly." (Matthew 6:5-6)

So, the thing is...I'm a...Universalist.

There, I said it. Now you know. Hide yo kids, hide yo wife. And hide yo husband cuz god's savin errbody out there. You don't have to come and confess, he's looking for you. He gon' find you. So you can run and tell that, homeboy. (Did I just throw down some King James Version of the Bible and Antoine Dodson? Why yes, yes I did. I'm gangsta like that.)

How did I get here? Well, I was created as a logical and spiritual being. (Just like you.) As my faith has evolved since I liberated myself from the indoctrination of my childhood and allowed myself to understand and define my own theology, I landed here.

I landed here because a god of infinite love and grace cannot logically coexist with a god of judgement and punitive discipline.

I landed here because I cannot get on board with a theology that would condemn my non-Christian friends (including the atheists, humanists and agnostics) for not saying a magic prayer when they are some of the most moral, generous, kind and genuine people I know. They are more "Christlike" than most Christians I know. If Jesus came to show us the way, and they are actually living in that way even if they don't label it as following Jesus, aren't they still actually following Christ? And if they are, would that all loving god who craves communion with his creation really choose to send them to an actual lake of fire on a technicality?

I landed here because a god who creates all people, and loves all those people, can't logically just send them out on their way with a silent kitchen timer in the background...tick tock, tick tock...and god knows whether or not each person will accept or reject before their time is up. But god sends these people out into the world already knowing what they'll choose and god allows these people to make the choice that leads to eternal damnation? That is the opposite of grace as I understand it. That is, essentially, predestined damnation. No, no, no.

I landed here because the god that I know and love and serve today is not a bully. God is love, and love just doesn't do that. Like I said, I was created as a spiritual and logical being. So my faith has to speak to my heart, AND make sense at the same time.

I still feel called to minister. I believe that I have been called to encourage others to work out their own faith as I have and will continue to do. I know in my core that I was put here to do that. I'm still learning and I'm still exploring the breadth and depth that faith has for me. I hope to do that for the rest of my life. This journey of inspiration and revelation has been challenging. But I WANT my faith to continually challenge me - what good is a faith that doesn't?

I said to one of my friends via email back in June, "My faith was so much simpler when I believed what I was told without question and I really believed I had all the answers. That chair was so comfortable to sit in for so long. Then my foot fell asleep from sitting in that chair for so long that I had to get up and walk around. Now I've seen too much while I was walking around to ever sit down in that chair again. But sometimes I miss that chair. It was comfortable, familiar, safe. What I am going through now is so much harder than sitting in that chair. The realization that I will probably not have a chair ever again is overwhelming. I feel like the best I can hope for is to cobble together a mismatched sectional that somehow works together and fits me.

But I bet that's gonna be the best damn sofa ever."

So, Friends...that's my deal. And as I raise my glass to you, I offer a toast:

Here's to authenticity, even when it's difficult.

Here's to working out our own faith.

Here's to truth.




Sunday, March 27, 2011

On parenting, discipline, faith and forgiveness - how I got to show my son the nature of God while revealing it to myself too.

On Friday we had some of Moose's little friends over for lunch and a playdate after preschool. I was upstairs preparing lunch so I didn't witness the incident, but my friend was downstairs in the playroom with the children. And when I called everyone upstairs for lunch, Moose chucked a pretty decent sized toy at his friend's head and hurt his friend pretty bad. All I heard was a crack and his little friend crying, then Moose trying to flee the scene. When I heard it I made my way downstairs and asked Moose what happened and he kept saying, "I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry" but in that way that you can tell a person doesn't mean it, they're just saying what they think is appropriate to say. Like when someone asks "How are you?" but they really don't care how you are, it's just the socially appropriate phrase to initiate small talk so you can have the illusion of a social interaction without any real substance. While he was being fake-sorry I asked my friend if her son was okay, and what happened. When she told me what happened I was so embarrassed and really frustrated with Moose. I mean, what in the world??? He knows better! And his poor little friend is only TWO years old and he's chucking big, heavy toys at his face?!?! My son looked up at me and I told him, "That was a very mean thing to do. We don't throw toys and we don't hurt our friends. You're grounded from your Leapster." And I looked down at Moose and I said "Look how your friend feels. What should you do?" and once my boy's eyes really SAW the results of his actions he paused and genuinely apologized to his little injured playmate. Moose's attempt at an apology hug was refused as his friend was too much in pain to leave his mother. We all came upstairs and had lunch and then everyone played together nicely after lunch until our friends went home.

Later that afternoon, Moose asked if he could play his Leapster. And I told him no, because he was grounded from it and I asked him if he remembered what he did earlier. He said "Yes" as fresh tears rose in his eyes. And he looked at me as he blinked and the tears rolled down his fat little cheeks and he said, "But Mama, I sorry." And for a second, I thought about how he would perceive me as his parent if I backed down from his punishment. Would I be flaking out on him as his mom if I was inconsistent? Would he lose respect for my words and decisions if I didn't enforce his punishment?

And then I realized that if I did enforce his punishment, I would be doing exactly to him what I am so grateful that God doesn't do to me. I would be withholding forgiveness even after his confession and expression of contrition.

Is there room for Forgiveness in Discipline? I certainly hope so. If there wasn't, there would be no hope for me, or for any of us for that matter! That's when I decided that I would seize this moment to show Moose what forgiveness is all about. I had an opportunity to show my son a tiny little peek of the kind of forgiveness and redemption that God offers to all of us.

Moose was so sad remembering what he'd done earlier that day. He laid his head on my shoulder and wrapped his arms around my neck and quietly whimpered, "I'm so sorry Mama. I'm so sorry." I answered, "I know. You don't have to be be grounded anymore because I know you really are sorry and you will try to do better next time." My son flicked his head up towards me with a look of total disbelief across his face. The kid looked like he won some kind of lottery or something but his expression quickly clouded over as his relief faded into a look of worry. He said, "You not tell Daddy, okay? You please not tell Daddy I hurt my friend." I said, "Daddy already knows, but I'll tell Daddy you're not grounded anymore."

Moose said, "I not grounded anymore?" as the sun started rising in his eyes, the burden of his punishment lifted. I said, "Nope. You don't have to be grounded anymore. Do you want to play on your Leapster?"

And my son said, "No."

He added, "I just wanna hug you now."

And that's the story of the day I learned that:
  1. A child can learn more from forgiveness than he can from punishment.
  2. So can I.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Preschool: The Next Frontier

I just dropped Moose off at school for the first time, and I'm writing this from a Starbucks about a mile and a half away.

I am entirely too far away from my baby.

Except he's not a baby.

He's a boy, a fully grown boy, and he's taken over my baby like some kind of evil pod person from outer space, inhabiting the body where my baby used to be.

This suuuuuuuuuuucks!

But here's the thing that is messing with my head more than leaving my son in the care of someone else on a regular basis: I didn't cry.

Now if you know me, you know that I openly claim crying as my "superpower". I am a crier. It used to bug the hell out of my parents and they tried to get me to not cry so much as an emotional outlet when I was little. Of course, that only made me cry more. It wasn't until I journeyed through therapy as a young adult that I claimed my ability to be quickly moved to tears as a gift. I have the gift of a tender, sensitive heart. I love big and I feel deep emotions. As a result I am usually attuned to the emotional needs of those close to me. Coming to that realization made me a little resentful of all the times my folks tried to hush my crying when I was little. Instead of nurturing my sensitive heart and bringing out the best in my natural tendencies, they tried to squash them. That experience was a hurdle for me to overcome, all those years of being invalidated only to find that not only could I use my superpower of crying for good but also it was nothing to be ashamed of.

So anyways, I am quick to cry. Except not this morning. Even as I've traced over and over the morning: putting his things in his new cubby, showing him where to hang his backpack and coat, saying goodbye as he pretty much ignored me because he was playing with the other kids, watching him through the window as I walked away...I still haven't been able to muster up a tear. It's not that I don't care. I'm excited for him to transition into this next stage in life. I miss him. It is very weird to be somewhere without him. I feel very confident in our choice of preschool for him and I feel very comfortable that his sweet spirit will be nurtured and respected there.

I still feel like the Worst Mother In The World for not crying. All of my Mommy Sensibilities tell me that I should be crying. I can't recall how many people told me to bring tissues, everybody! But...nothin'. I don't feel like "Woo hoo! I'm FREE!" but I also don't feel like "WAAAAAAH, MY BABY, MY BABY!!!!" which I kind of thought I would. Or maybe I just thought that's how I was supposed to feel. But it wouldn't be the first time I haven't done or felt the things I thought I was "supposed to" in life. Still, I can't shake the nagging feeling inside that maybe I'm failing by not being conventional. But let's be honest: conventional is soooooo boring. I guess that in addition to the superpower of crying, I also rock the superpower of unconventionality.

What, my hair didn't tip you off?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

There's a possibility/the dogs days are over.

A year ago today, I was picking Mr. up from the airport. He flew home on a one-way ticket, BWI to MDW. He came to take me away from my hometown and all my family and friends, like some kind of Grim Reaper of happiness.

After the year we'd had previous to the move, I was full of insecurity and anxiety for the move. We arrived at our old house, where nearly everything we owned had been boxed up by me, my cousin Kim and my friend Chris. Everything was ready to be loaded into the moving truck. Only what we needed for the next few days was left out.

I felt like my life was falling apart.

I was walking away from everything I ever knew and loved for...for...for what, exactly??? For a blank slate that should have been pristine white, lit with sunlight and waiting for me to color all over it, but instead it was gray and cloudy and cold.

I will never forget putting my iPod on shuffle as I pulled away from the house after loading the trucks on the 14th and hearing the strains of the first song in the title to this post.

"There's a Possibility,
There's a Possibility,
All that I had was all I'm gonn' get. "

I cried as I pulled away. It felt like I couldn't breathe. Why couldn't "Jesus Take The Wheel" have played instead? (Because I don't own any country music.)

It was around June when I met one of the girls who I would learn is one of the most genuinely kind people in the world. I was just in the right place, at the right time and I met the right person. And Friend 1 introduced me to Friend 2, who is all kinds of awesome. And then several months later, I took friend 2 out to a random meetup one night, where we met Friend 3. (Meetup is where people like me, who want to meet people but are sick of being looked at funny for being friendly in the grocery store connect with other people online and then literally meet up in real life and hopefully the other online people aren't axe murderers.) Lucky for Friend 2 and myself, Friend 3 is anything but an axe murderer. Friend 3 is so sweet, I need extra insulin just to be around her.

And just like that, in a matter of less than six months, my empty social circle became full and better than anything I could have ever wished for.

I was thinking about that tonight, while I was out with Friend 2 and Friend 3, and their husbands, and their kids (we are fortunate to enjoy some kind of cosmic magic where our husbands all get along and our children all love each other) while we were all out for pizza together. And I felt like the Grinch, after he steals Christmas and then hears all the Whos in Whoville singing, because my heart was so full I thought it might explode. The only thing that could have possibly made the moment better was if we were eating Lou Malnati's pizza.

Then the speakers in the pizza place played the second song in the title of this post.

"Happiness hit her like a train on a track
Coming towards her stuck still no turning back
She hid around corners and she hid under beds
She killed it with kisses and from it she fled
With every bubble she sank with her drink
And washed it away down the kitchen sink

The dog days are over
The dog days are done..."

And that's the story of how nearly a year to the day after leaving everything I've ever loved behind, I've found the most incredible existence that I didn't even know - or believe - existed.

I am truly the luckiest girl in the world.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

All because two people fell in love...

I won't lie to you. I've spent the past year pretty much oscillating between hating my life and trying to make the best of what I had left. I've been depressed to the point where all it takes is a song on the radio or the sight of something that reminds me of my family and friends back home and I cry. We've found an "okay" church, but there's no place like HOPE. Our church community in Naperville set the bar pretty high for any church we would ever find in the future. I missed my family. The thing about my family is, we could go weeks or months without talking but if any of us needed anything we'd be there for each other. So even when things were smooth sailing, I always had the security of that safety net beneath me. Having that safety net of love that gives you a safe place to land is empowering and liberating. It means you can try more things and you never really fear rejection. Because even if they reject you, your safety net stands ready to catch you and clean you up and hold you until you're all right again. I've been out here all alone. I know that my whole support system was only a phone call, text or email away but that's just not the same thing as a hug, or a long talk over a cup of coffee. It's just not the same.

But gradually, it's gotten better. First I found a few really special people here. They are diamonds. They are truly some of the best people I've met in...forever. And I can't believe how lucky I was to just fall into knowing them. But with them, it's a little bit better. And then, I met the rest of my husband's family. Now, up until actually meeting them all I knew was what I was told by others about them. And some of it wasn't all that pretty. But we ran into each other online (Facebook rules) and chatted and they seemed cool, and then we met Mr.'s cousins and aunt. And wouldn't you know it, they were actually really good people. And I'm related to them. Who knew?

Yesterday, we hosted Christmas dinner for Mr.'s extended family. And it was perfect. It was fun and the food was good and the company was wonderful. I got to know them a little bit more and bond with them a little bit more too. It was one of my best Christmases ever. And as I stood in my kitchen finishing up cooking and getting ready to serve the meal, my brain did a little rewind of all the moments that led up to this moment...(insert montage of meeting and dating and getting engaged and getting married and having a baby and moving across the country here) and I couldn't help but feel very grateful for the journey.

At the end of the night, as folks were getting ready to go home we paused to take a big family picture in my living room. Or if you're from the Midwest, in my front room. If you're from Chicago, in my fronchroom. :) But the point is, we took a big, happy picture all together and all I could do was whisper a prayer of thanks for the gift of even more family to love. When I saw the picture after Mr. pulled it off his camera, one thing popped out at me: the phrase on the plaque on the wall behind us all (which is also the title of this post).

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

"I'll pray for you"

This past Sunday, there was a small paragraph in the church bulletin that changed my life. No, really. Changed. My. Life.

It read:

Prayers of the People (inspired by a prayer of George Appleton)

"Hold a name lovingly, trustingly before God , without diagnosing the person's need, or telling God what to do, leaving God to do, what in love is most needed.

The name may be repeated many times, on the lips, on the mind, and then held silently in the heart.

If Christ's name is added after the name of the one for whom we are praying, God's love is invoked to magnify our own human love."

And I sat in my pew with a heavy heart, having very recently learned of a friend's pregnancy loss. I lowered my head and quietly repeated her name as tears of grief fell in sympathy for her family's pain. In the past I would have directly asked God for what *I* wanted for her...comfort, peace, healing, strength. But after reading that paragraph on intercessory prayer I was struck by how ridiculous it is for me to tell God what to do, how utterly foolish it is for me to think that I know what this person needs. I know nothing except that I love them and they need what only God can give. So I sat and quietly prayed my friend's name. I focused all of my thoughts and energy on her with each breath. And gently with every heartbeat, with every repetition, a silent transaction took place. My heart released all the sadness for my friend's hurt and replaced it with hope for her healing. As I emptied the pain that I didn't even have words for, it was taken up by a power much greater than my own.

This was a very meaningful touchpoint in my faith journey. I've prayed before and I've never sensed the same release of my burden into God's care the same way. It was enlightening.

So from now on if I tell you that I'll pray for you, there's a good chance that I won't be asking God to help you find a new job or heal you from your illness or whatever. I will simply enter a quiet space where I can focus all of my being on your name, breathing you in, breathing you out, placing you fully in God's care. Isn't that where you want to be anyways?