I heard the news today, oh boy.

January 24, 2014 § Leave a comment

MPR is always on in my car. I love music for long road trips, but need the dulcet voices during my rush hour commutes. As I drove home yesterday, I heard more bad news coming out of the Catholic church. Now, on top of the sexual abuse, is embezzlement — to cover up acts of said abusive priests. Good grief! This makes me frustrated and sad. For the most obvious reason, I’m sad for the boys — and the families — who have been really damaged by this. I’m sure many of them have spent years trying to heal from what happened, and this opens the wounds fresh again. I’m also frustrated that this seems the only news coming out of the Catholic church — and out of the Church (to mean all churches) in general: sex and money. I’m convinced that Americans want justice just as much as we want some titillating scandal.

My first question is: why is it always the church? There’s bad stuff that happens everywhere! Why not report on the corruption in big government? Or of local businesses? But it’s no different. It’s just blaming someone or something else. Plus it’s just more bad stuff to hear about.

My second question (yeah, I have lots of internal monologues in the car) is: do I not want to hear about this? Is it that I don’t want it to be public? I absolutely want that truth exposed so that families — and the church — can deal with this. I want those priests removed from their position. (And let’s save that whole “is celibacy more damaging than helpful” conversation for another day.) But let’s be real. The news is a source of information for the masses. And if the only thing we hear about is gunfire in North Minneapolis and sex scandals in the churches — that’s soon going to be our truth. But it cannot be the only truth.

When I lived in Costa Rica, there was a news program — I think it was from 9-9:30pm every night — that only reported good things. Sure, in every other segment they reported on the bad stuff like we do (murders, gas line explosions, pirates), but in that half-hour they only talked of happy, bright things: coffee farmers donating their best beans to a local school, spontaneous (and dusty) street dances, of sea turtles giving rides to stranded dogs at sea. (Okay, maybe that just happened in Milo & Otis.) It also reminded me of a blog post that an acquaintance wrote about Facebook, titled: “What’s so bad about being positive?” We’re not naive. We know that craptastic things happen to our friends all of the time…because they happen to us too. Maybe we’re not necessarily trying to show off our perfect lives. Maybe it’s that we just want to share the positive stuff. Because there’s so much bad stuff out there.

Here’s my deal. I believe we are all capable of doing bad things. We hurt people everyday. Sometimes that seems like small stuff: an unkind word. Sometimes it seems like big stuff: a betrayal. Either way, we hurt people. I call that sin. We also are capable of pretty amazing things. We are capable of great love. Sometimes that is small: like a kind word. Sometimes it seems big: like forgiveness of a betrayal. I call that sainthood. The important thing here, is that we are both. You can call it what you want, but we are saint and sinner (did I mention I’m Lutheran?). There’s some truly awful stuff that some Catholic priests have done. There’s also some pretty amazing things that priests have done. (Hello, Pope Francis!).

I don’t want to live in a world wrapped in yellow cellophane and pretend that nothing is wrong. Nope; I know it. I just want to hear good things too.

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2013: A Year in Review

December 21, 2013 § 1 Comment

The year isn’t over yet, but I can’t imagine any breaking news — at least in my little world — that will happen in the next 10 days that will need to be accounted for in my annual review. Anything is possible, I suppose.

I want to remember days like this. Lazy Saturdays in the city. Some days filled with giggles and chatter about this and that, and talks of going to a thrift store in the afternoon. Other days filled with long drawn-out silences because an unkind word was spoken, and eventually broken with a warm embrace. And no matter what kind of day, we can always count on hot coffee and banana smoothies.

This Saturday, a Saturday supposed to be of packing and travel, is now a day for reading Hemingway and roasting coffee because of family sickness. We’ll see family soon enough, I’m sure of that.

We are in transition. Ben more than me right now. He hit send on his final paper last Monday, and so we went out to celebrate. We know we’ll be moving, but we don’t know where or when. I suppose anyone could make that statement and be truthful about it. Rest assured, we’ll make a grand announcement when we know where we’ll go. And until then — until we move — we’ll continue dreaming of chickens and goats and our Jardin du Durbin. And we realize it’s a big dream — and even a bit idyllic — but it’s our dream and I cannot wait to love an old broken down farmhouse.

We got married this year! I have to say being married to Ben is a whole lot more fun than dating Ben. I suppose a big reason for that is getting to live with him, rather than being four hours away and living in two separate worlds. For our honeymoon, we had planned to take a (romantic!) train to the arctic to kayak with whales under a midnight sun, but sometimes the reality of money gets in the way. And while “budget” and “honeymoon” usually don’t go together like “love” and “marriage”, we scaled back and spent two weeks in Wisconsin and Michigan and it could not have been any lovelier. We battened down the canoe, set sail in Lake Michigan for Rock Island, and got lost in the history of the old Viking boathouse. We tooled around his old home town and ate Subway sandwiches out by the lighthouse. We spent lots of money to go to Mackinac Island and learned of the old fur traders, witnessed a glorious sunset and an early sunrise, and smelled so much horse poop. Not without some drama, we nearly got stuck on a Great Lake in a great storm and eventually were rescued by reluctant vacationers. And so we went back to the log cabin to drink a bottle of wine and play Blackjack.

Work is treating me well. Clockwork is full of so many good people. Just being in their company makes me smile most days. My working hours are filled with emails and spreadsheets and staring at numbers in hopes of finding patterns and insights and things that will impress important people. All of this generally makes me glad to be doing what I’m doing, and often even energizes me. And when I come home from work, I do the sorts of ordinary things that lots of people do: sewing, exercising, and staring at some sort of screen.

I’ll be home with family in just a few days, and I’ll even have the privilege of meeting my newest niece, Iris Mabel. A little ray of hope, for the meaning of her name is rainbow. And it will be so loud and busy in that house, I won’t be able to hear myself think at the breakfast table. (Which is quite alright since thinking that early is not necessary.) There will be too much food, and presents we don’t need, but so much love. It will be magical. And best of all, I will get all of the hugs I want from those tiny children.

2013 has been a very good year. Of course not without some grief and heartache too — which is not discussed in Christmas letters — but not to be swept under the rug either.

This holiday season I wish you peace with your families, warmth in your homes, and a little bit of grace for those who offend and hurt you.

Get A Life

November 14, 2013 § 3 Comments

These three little words were some of the harshest — and most helpful — words that my ex-husband said to me.

Let’s set something straight before we get started. This statement is not meant to disparage Sam. (And if he’s reading this, I hope he doesn’t hear it that way either.) He spoke a lot of truth into my life and I’m grateful for that. A lot more truth than I wanted to hear at times. We’re a sort of friends (probably to the chagrin or surprise of friends and family) now — the sort that wish each other happy birthday, and have tea once a year to catch up on what’s happening in our respective families — because they used to be our families. And let me also be clear that it took me a good long while before I could get to this point: to be friends and to be thankful.

It was near the end of our marriage when he said this to me. We didn’t do a lot of things together. I didn’t want to do any of the things that he wanted to do and he didn’t want to do any of the things I wanted to do, but I wanted him to want me to do the things he did. Sounds frustrating and exhausting and unhealthy, right? Yeah, it led to lot of fighting. Until one day he said: Get a life.

You feel a little gut-punched don’t you? You remember when your older brother said that to you when you wanted to play football with his friends, or when your best friend said that to you in 8th grade when you couldn’t stop following her around like a lost puppy. It hurts.

I don’t think Sam said it to hurt me. I think he was sick of seeing me diminish myself to nothing more than a carbon copy of himself. I think he was sick and tired of not seeing (and living with) a whole person with her own desires and dreams.

A month later we were divorced and I started living life on my own. But his words would come back to me: get a life. I wanted to feel defensive, but I honestly didn’t do much outside of work. So I started going to book clubs (three different ones!), I took writing classes and met with a writing group. I signed up for a community ed Swahili class. I started going to church. I volunteered to teach English to Somali refugees. I swam and ran and started competing for the first time in my life. I said yes to every pretty much everything, and grasped for more. Part of my busyness was in efforts not to come home to an empty house, and in part I was escaping and grieving. So I got a cat. And I still wanted to do all of the things. For the first time in my 27 years of life (and I’m not exaggerating), I truly enjoyed being single. I got to come home to an empty house. I could do whatever I wanted! I could go places and sign up for stuff without conferring with another person. It was a gift. Or more accurately, I was able to receive it as a gift.

It’s been my experience this this is inherently a female problem. I see it in some men too, but mostly in women. The problem being is that we have such a hard time believing that life without a partner is not a life worth living. Or that our own life is not (as) valuable. We rarely dine on our own, go to movies alone, or cook for ourselves. We take cues from our spouses to plan our next move. I’m not saying that single life is better than coupled life, or that we should be autonomous beings for all of our lives. No, I don’t think that’s healthy either. But I think we ought to practice being alone. Being by ourselves. Becoming comfortable in our own skin. (Side note: I took myself out to dinner once. However, I did bring a book, so I wasn’t totally alone. It felt weird but good. Try it.)

But I’m married again. What of it?

love being married. I love being married to Ben. We have a lot of the same dreams and interests and lifestyle habits. We both like Thai food! And we’re really good friends. I will admit that that’s pretty freaking awesome. And yet sometimes I’m still tempted to align myself to him in where we differ. Hmm, perhaps I should care about football after all, I think. I mean, last year I signed up for a Fantasy Football league just because I thought it would either impress Ben or that I would be able to understand him better. It did neither, and I realized it was kind of a dumb. (Not inherently dumb, just dumb that I did it without my self really wanting to.) I would not trade being married for being single, but it takes a lot of intentional work to make space for oneself.

After all that, I have two things I want to say:

  1. You are worthy. Just you. Because you are you.
  2. If you’re unhappy, uneasy, or downright depressed: take up a hobby. Start running. Go to Grand Marais all by yourself. Or call me up for coffee.

2012: A Year in Review

January 1, 2013 § Leave a comment

Not six hours until the clock strikes twelve, and I’m sitting down to review this past year. How very like me to wait until the last minute to finish a task. I am just home from watching Les Miserables and my heart is a bit heavy, my eyes not quite dry, and I’m humming the final tune in my head. Gorgeous, moving, movie. Go see it tomorrow when you have nothing better to do. But, I have a bit of time before I head out to Jennie and Jimmy’s party, and so I will look back on the year and see what I have to say about it.

To wait. I began 2012 quite unsure of what would become of mine and Ben’s relationship. He had gone to North Dakota on internship, and I told myself I would wait and be patient. Wait and be patient. That almost seems like an oxymoron. And in the midst of the waiting, I trained for a marathon. Partly, because I’m spontaneous and registered for the Fargo marathon after an easy 8-miler on cold February morning. But mostly because if I don’t have an almost-impossible goal looming over my head, I’m not very motivated. Running is as much a mental feat as it is physical for me.

To expect. After training for 11 weeks, I expected to finish the marathon. And I did. Sometimes, you just need to do something you know you can do. After April showers, I did not expect May flowers, but they came.

To hope. Ah, to hope. Hope is the thing with feathers. Hope redeems waiting from its clutches of anxiety. Hope releases expectation from its prison. Do I sound a tad dramatic? I blame it on Les Mis if I do. The last few months have been ridiculously busy for me. Busy at work, busy making Christmas gifts, and busy planning a wedding. As Ben and I talk about details, our conversation often drifts to talking about life after the wedding because that’s what we’re most excited about. We dream of keeping bees, and having a garden. We dream of being close to the water. We dream of waking up next to each other. And to say we dream is to say we hope.

2012 has been good to me. Once again, I have made new friends, and grown closer to friends who were once acquaintances. I read a bunch of books (my favorite being The Geography of Time) and saw delightful movies (honestly my favorite being Les Miserables that I watched tonight) and ate delicious foods (but none compare to the meal in which Ben proposed). While the dream of studying linguistics is still alive, I leave you with this small word study. The Spanish verb esperar means to wait, to hope, to expect. All three. To wait is to hope. To hope is to expect. To expect is to wait.

Wishing you all God’s peace in this new year.

Lady Gaga, Mister Rogers, and Why I’m Voting No

October 3, 2012 § Leave a comment

He remembers seeing me across the church aisle and thinking that he should probably focus on the sermon rather than the cute girl. (Is that how you remember it, Ben?) I remember walking up to a boy in a yellow Carhartt hooded sweatshirt and shoving out my hand to introduce myself. I remember those moments after church, after we had gotten to know each other a little bit, when we’d say hello and talk about our weeks, perhaps ever so slightly longer than I would with a casual acquaintance. I remember strategically sitting on an empty couch at Bible study in hopes he would sit by me, and linger by the door a little longer so we could talk on our way out. And here’s where things get really steamy: we both remember sitting next to each other during an annual church meeting, talking about tithing, and feeling the sparks fly between us. (Clearly, we are meant for each other.) It was a couple of months before he asked for a date, and it just so happened our first date landed on Halloween. I was Lady Gaga, he was Mister Rogers. I remember riding in his car with my blonde wig, purple eyelashes, and dress made out of a mattress pad and bubble wrap and how strange it felt to feel so comfortable.

This is our story (well, just the story of our beginning), but it’s also a story about two people who fell in love, who decided they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together, and who are now planning a wedding and a life together. It’s the kind of story I want all of my friends to be able to share. Not just the straight ones, but the gay ones too.

I’ve been a supporter of gay marriage for years, but it wasn’t until the recent engagement that I experienced a sense of discomfort that some of my friends might not be able to have this same thing in their own relationships. Marriage is a good thing — and it should be a good thing available to everyone.

Please join me in Voting No and attending Ten Reasons to Go, One Reason to Give tomorrow night.

Don’t Be Afraid

April 8, 2012 § 1 Comment

I wrote a poem. Once a year, I have the distinct pleasure of writing a response to a biblical text for Mercy Seat’s Easter vigil service. (I love writing assignments!) This year, my response is to Genesis 50:15-20 (Joseph Forgives his Brothers). If you haven’t read Genesis (in a while, or ever), I highly recommend this drama filled book. Seriously, it has everything. But the part that spoke to me the most was when Joseph weeps. Here’s my creative response to the text. Enjoy, and Happy Easter!

A harsh word
The smell of your grandmother’s perfume
Seeing a photo of your old love with another
Hearing your friend say I love you
A hug from a child
It’s moments like these when the salt-water
springs forth from your tear ducts
and makes your throat constrict.
Otherwise, known as crying.

We don’t cry because we are sad
We cry because the unexpected happens
When our world is a little jostled.

The bronzed bare-chested
Donny Osmond
singing catchy show tunes
of life in Egypt
–that Andrew Lloyd Webber made so famous —
only carries us to the reunion
of Joseph and his brothers
And leaves us thinking happily
of Jacob growing old with his sons.

But the story doesn’t end there.
Joseph’s entire extended family
lives in Egypt for another 17 years
not in famine, but in plenty
watching babies being born, grow and marry
perhaps playing board games
together on Sunday nights
After all this
I doubt Joseph expects more deceit.

But there it comes
His father’s body barely
cold in the ground
When he hears the pitiful lie
And when he witnesses his brothers
throw themselves at his feet
Joseph responds with weeping.
He weeps because he hears the fear in their voices.
A fear he didn’t imagine still existed
after all this time.
And so each tear, as it runs down his cheek
and splashes the hard red earth, is saying:
Don’t you know that I love you?
Don’t you know that I’ve already forgiven you?

There’s another family
This one all daughters dressed in denim
When the little blonde girls grew into adults
— but didn’t outgrow their love for denim —
they invited their younger sister
Not to the fields, but to a day of shopping
And there at the Caribou Coffee
in the middle of the Ridgedale mall
Is where they staged an intervention
To tell their sister she was about to make
The biggest mistake of her life.

And so when they turned out to be right
two years later
She couldn’t bear to tell them because she was afraid
of what they might think
or what they might say
And when she couldn’t keep it in any longer
she trembled with fear when she told them.
“Just say it.
Just say, I told you so.”
But that evening at the kitchen table
over bowls of chili growing cold
they didn’t say anything
They just wept and embraced her.

Joseph dries his eyes and tells his brothers: Listen, don’t be afraid. For I know you intended to harm me, but God intended it for good.
On the third day, when the anxious women went to the tomb
and are frightened by the man in white, he tells them: Don’t be afraid. Remember, Christ has risen.

Amen.

Measured in Miles

March 15, 2012 § Leave a comment

Hello, world!

I haven’t here written in ages (in a year!) but I want to start again. Shall I tell you why I stopped? I shall.

Exactly a year ago, I was interviewing for my current position at Clockwork. In my last interview, my future boss would ask me how I was engaged online. I said the usual: Facebook, twitter (sometimes, but that I really didn’t know what to tweet) and that I blogged. “Oh, what do you blog about?” She asked. Well, I said, I blog about writing. And then I told her (and the rest of my interviewers) that I blogged about my novel — and if I was to be honest — my novel that I quit writing. My future boss, Nancy, then said, “I’ve totally read your blog!” Now, dear readers, at this point in the interview I was elated that a near stranger had somehow found my little blog in the giant sludge pile of blogs out there. I’m pretty sure I forgot that I was in an interview, and got all awkwardly jumpy and sweaty and asked her however did she find it? I couldn’t have been more thrilled, until I told this to my friend who said, “She’s the CEO of a web development company? She probably totally googled you and found your blog before the interview.”

Then, during my second week at Clockwork, one of the directors came up to me and said he enjoyed my second to last blog post. And also said he hoped it wasn’t creepy that he read my blog. I wasn’t creeped out at all! I was glad because PEOPLE WERE READING MY BLOG!

And then I stopped writing because people were reading my blog. A lot of my posts were about writing, yes, but a lot of other posts were about my job, my personal relationships, and life. You know, life with its messiness and existential questions that sometimes will cause family members to worry and pray. And even though I knew Clockworkers were about to become a new sort of family, I still wanted to keep some things out of my work life. I should have realized that being engaged online, and working with nerds who really love all things online, that they’d probably come find me. Oh, and the fact that I listed it in the “About me” section on Facebook. I wanted people to read it, but figured only serious stalkers should reap the reward from finding that link.

I’m comfortable saying things in my blog now that anyone can read – even if those words are sometimes scary and real. A while back I blogged about certainty and how much I hated uncertainty. Well, I’m working on embracing a new opposite of certainty: possibility. I don’t really have a plan for this blog anymore since my novel is dead, but oh the possibilities! And I know that I miss writing down my thoughts. One might ask (actually, my subconscious is asking me this very moment!), “Why don’t you just journal then?” I could, and I do. But knowing there’s an audience (albeit, a small one), I choose my words a little more carefully. Like a writer should. I realize this post is a little spastic, but that’s how I feel. And I haven’t been here in a year, so I’m feeling a little disoriented. Give me time to settle back in, and I hope I’ll have something good to say. Until then, some thoughts on time.

T.S. Eliot (or J. Alfred Prufrock, rather) measured his life out with coffee spoons. I’ve been thinking about how I measure my life. And the obvious answer is years, and months, and days. I’m thirty, and that number hit me like a brick this week. I’m thirty! When I was fifteen, I imagined I’d have a handsome husband and a few bouncing babies on my hip at this age. I suppose I could say honestly that I’ve had both, but I could also say that I don’t. But more than anything, it’s interesting to me that I picked an arbitrary number to be a guiding post in life.

I think a lot about time, and how I spend it. Because time is a currency, or at least that is how we Westerners see it. At work this is most obvious, as I measure my day into billable hours. My weeks are measured by meetings and check-ins with my team. And all other units of time are measured in phases leading up to the ever elusive launch date. When a project begins, the first date I add to the calendar is the launch date. And even though that launch date usually moves, it becomes an anchor, or a marker in which to measure everything else against. It’s no different in other areas of my life. I registered for a marathon that’s now nine weeks away, and so I’ve planned out my long runs, working backwards from May 19th. I have all sorts of future dates that again, are arbitrarily chosen, but it still helps me figure out where I need to be today.

But how do I measure my life? And what does T.S. Eliot even mean that Mr. Prufrock measures his life with coffee spoons. First off, what is a coffee spoon? Is it a teaspoon you use to stir sugar and cream into your coffee? Or is there such a thing as a coffee spoon? I’d like to ask Mr. Eliot this, among other things.

Right now, and perhaps for the last few years, I’ve been measuring my life with miles. To the runner, the mile is the great countable noun. I count the number of miles I run in a day, in a week, in a month, and the number of miles I run in a pair of shoes. I count the number of minutes and seconds it takes me to run a mile, to run three or to run 26.2 miles. I count the number of weeks until my next race. I excitedly count the number of calories I burn (and thus count the number of calories I can consume). I count the number of pounds I’ve lost (isn’t it funny we say lost?) and grudgingly count the number of pounds I also gain. These numbers that I count every day determine my level of personal satisfaction and general mood. If I am just one (one!) pound lighter on the scale, I zip into my skinniest of skinny jeans and feel slender all day long. If I have put on a pound, I’ll throw on a sweatshirt and barely comb my hair. If I run 14 miles in a day, I’m happy to spend the remainder of the day lounging on my couch reading a book, or napping or watching movies. (And no, I will not count the pages read, the hours napped, the movies watched.) But if I have not run even one mile, then I count those precious hours making sure to do something fruitful.

Being in a long distance relationship, I count the number of months we’ve spent apart (six now!) and the number of months we have left until he’s back in St. Paul (also six!) I count the days until I get to see him again (two!) and the number of hours it takes to get there (four!) and the number of cassette tapes of Shadow of the Wind I’ll get to listen to on the way (hopefully all eleven!) When I cross the border into North Dakota, I count the number of trains, and small towns, and minutes it will be before I reach Rutland. Before I get to wrap my two arms around him.

One summer I counted the number of words I wrote every day, trying to reach 500 like my writer idol, Graham Greene.

Some days I actually count the number of chocolate chips I eat. I particularly hate this kind of counting.

At night, I count my blessings, and it takes me a while. And then the world sort of just stops.