Monday, December 28, 2015

2015: A Year in Review

My cousin Barbie wrote a beautiful, meaningful Christmas letter with all her exciting news of the year, and dare I say it's inspired me to do the same.


Last Dec 31, I slept over at my mom's room in hospice. As a New Year dawned, my mom began what most be the most peaceful and thrilling journey of all: departing her earthly body and entering God's eternal heavenly kingdom. I spoke at her funeral days later. The first few months of the year, I focused on my health and grieved deeply.

In February, with the help of many friends and family members, I moved into my own place for the first time ever! I love my apartment. It's in Vernon Hills, about 10 minutes away from my dad's house. It is all the things. Homey and lovely, and my cat Sasha is a great roommate. Several aunts and uncles have been able to visit this year!

In April I started going to Urban Village Church in Chicago. I love it! It is a young and vibrant congregation, and we meet in a theatre that is ever-changing. In June I marched with UVC in the Pride Parade, in solidarity with our LGBT brothers and sisters, as a part of the Chicago Coalition of Welcoming Churches. I have to admit, being in a parade was loads of fun. And being a part of this church is just an amazing blessing and challenge to my faith life.

In the spring and summer I mastered several courses at the College of Lake County including Environmental Biology, Intro to Humanities, World Religions, and Intro to Ethics. Humanities was the hardest, but also my favorite! In July I visited my mom's Howey cousins in North Carolina at Camp Meeting. I also got a chance to visit family in NYC and NJ in August-- my first trip by myself ever!-- and it was great. Saw a couple Broadway shows and visited a couple seminaries!

In the fall I decided to be a part-time student as I was offered an excellent part-time opportunity at a church. I served for four months as the Ministry Intern at Kingswood United Methodist Church, where I participated in worship, ran a one-day Vacation Bible School, worked to build a young adult ministry, and orchestrated a Blue Christmas service, during which I made my preaching debut. Kingswood has been a wonderful learning experience, and I'm blessed to have them as part of my journey.

Meanwhile I tackled choir, English 122- Gender and Sexuality, and my last math class of all time! Thanksgiving was spent with many Trevors in Rockville, Maryland, where all the fun was planned and the food allergies were respected by the one and only Barbie Trevor! We got to see Barbie again when she visited us in Chicago after Christmas.

In other news, I went on several first dates. Shrug.

I'd like to dedicate this post to the memory of Per K. Hanson, my mom's former law partner, who was always like an uncle to me. He read every single one of my blog posts, while I was sick and afterwards too. A great man who passed away suddenly a week or so ago. May you and my mom reunite on the other side of the sky.

So very thankful for my friends, family, and mentors for their love and guidance this year, which was a difficult year indeed. Bring on 2016!


Sunday, October 11, 2015

Salt & Fault

As a general health check-in, my dental hygienist always takes my blood pressure at the dentist. This time around it was 91/54. Ugh! So low! Not the lowest I can remember (73/37) but could definitely use some improvement.

So I'm on the Pickle Plan. (Let's face it, everything is more fun if you give it an alliterative name.) On the Pickle Plan I eat six midget pickles a day and continue to add salt to everything I eat. Made some homemade soup (vegetable quinoa, recipe from Joan B!) and just about emptied the salt shaker. Mm mm good. Get that BP up to a healthy range!

Haven't been keeping up with my writing. No good excuse, just a lot going on, priorities get shuffled around. My date to preach is officially on the calendar at the church I'm interning at. Scared out of my wits but trying to focus on how good and right and sacred it all feels. I got called "Pastor Emma" at least four times today! I'm on my journey toward that, toward me, toward ministering in some kind of effective way. I feel small. There's a lot of growth to be done.

This weekend we had several long days, setting up, running, and cleaning up from the church's annual community outreach event called Harvest Fest. I'm spent. Need to get some sleep.

dream of pumpkins, friends.


Sunday, September 13, 2015

Dating, or Just, Like, Not

Is it Lent yet? I think I need to give up online dating. It is honestly the silliest thing. I really wish I had a collection of "best of..." self-descriptions, photos, and captions from men's profiles. I could complain about money down the drain, but really I see online dating to a certain degree as an investment in entertainment.

This week I came across a young man, 23 or 24, who listed on his profile that he wanted to meet someone to be a devoted wife and mother. This did not surprise me. I see this more often than you'd think. But then he went on to describe how it's essential for his love interest to stay home and raise the chilluns for AT LEAST TEN YEARS. All I could think was, wow, I'm 22 seconds into reading your description and you're already asking for ten years? Not to mention popping out two or three or more kids! At least he's honest about his perspective on women's roles. Dodged a bullet you might say!
Today I went to a Meetup event called Nerds at Heart / Dating for Nerds. The term "nerd" is not necessarily derogatory anymore. You can "nerd out" over The Office, or Pixar movies, or loving Jeopardy, or speaking French. Nerds are people who are confident in their random trivia knowledge.
The best thing about this event was that there were more guys than girls, and the organizers wanted to encourage more women to attend, so it was free for me! Nice. Anyway, it was like, fun? Sort of? I mean it definitely beat sitting at home and cruising around my dating site du jour all afternoon. I met some great potential galpals. But the whole dating thing is just plain awkward. I may end up resigning myself to friends' set-ups. In the meantime I'll celebrate my singleness by eating popcorn and cracking up to some stand-up comedy.

Dumb blog won't let me post vids, but here's a link to Iliza Shlesinger talking about women's eating habits. Hysterical.

be well, and enjoy your relationship status whatever it may be!


Sunday, August 30, 2015

Grieving a House

Sometimes I'm sick of grieving. I'm sick of crying. I'm sick of feeling the absence. I'm tired of remembering days when I was too tired to even open my eyes. Grieving my POTS feels like it will never end. Grieving my mom's passing has only just begun. I went to a wedding and couldn't make it through dinner. Biting my lip, bitter, embarrassed, I fled to the nearest ladies' room and cried. My mom will never be mother of the bride.


I intended to write a post about the silly but necessary world of online dating. A dear friend recommended I chronicle all my first dates of 2015 .... and perhaps include a summary in this year's Christmas card? :-) I set out a few minutes ago to cheer myself up. But perhaps some days are meant for grieving. For listening to cello solos and Beatles ballads and making sure you're replenishing the water that is racing down your face, so tidy, single file.

Today we said our last goodbyes to my grandparents' house. It has been sold. It has been cleaned up. It is cavernous and empty. It is ready for its new life as someone else's home. I struggle to find words to express the sadness and betrayal stirring in me. It's like losing my mom all over again. You're relieved that your grandparents won't have to worry about the upkeep of a big house anymore. You're proud of them for all the work they've done to make this enormous life change happen. But then you're in the driveway and you realize THIS IS IT. You will never, ever be in this driveway again. Pictures of your mom and aunts will never hang in this house again. No more Christmases. No more Fourths of July. The end has come to this childhood constant. As my sister and I waved and drove away, I erupted, bawling, thinking of all the memories my mom would be sharing if she were here. I'm realizing my grandparents, I predict, will never have an Illinois address again. On Tuesday they will drive back to Florida for the last time. They will stay in their home there. They will visit us, and we will visit them. But the hearth and home where we'd always gather, our headquarters, is no longer ours.

Just another lump of coal in the fire of my grieving heart.


Sunday, August 23, 2015

Netflix and growth

I think I have a Netflix addiction. (shrug, whatever, I'm a millennial, who doesn't?)

I think I have a Netflix addiction, and it's affecting my writing. In that I need to write, but I don't, because I'm watching another episode of [fill in the blank] or catching up on all the R-rated movies that came out when I was a kid, or sitting through two-thirds of some Indie crap hoping it'll get better aaaaaany minute now...

Time to turn off the TV. Time to tune into myself. Time to invest the hours in thoughts, in words, in skills, in experiences that will shape me more than another season of Cheers will. (Norm!)

No. Yes, well. Away from the norm, and into an exercise of will. Write every day. Write publicly at least once a week. Go.

Today in church we started a series on anxiety, which proved to be quite timely given that at the end of the sermon our beloved pastor, Trey, announced that he and his husband, on account of his job, will be moving at the end of 2015... to the United Kingdom. Gasp. WHAT?! Speak truth, girl, I am pissed off. I'm sitting there thinking, "Are you kidding me? I just joined this church! I'm just figuring out my call now! That's pretty stinky of you to leave with hardly any notice, and to another country?! Well fine because I wouldn't want to visit you anyway." Four Kleenexes later, we're invited up for communion, and I just about don't take communion because I'm so mad at God for taking away such a terrific leader. With more than a modicum of attitude, I approach the communion station where Trey is NOT serving, and Mickey hands me a GIGANTIC piece of bread. I laugh.

Isn't that so like God? When I don't want even a piece of Him/Her/Them, She offers that much more of Herself. "I know you're hurting. My heart grieves right alongside you. Take an extra helping of Me. I will sustain you."

I light a candle and pray, with swear words, for the transition we are all facing.

Grief is a strange and sometimes familiar thing. You cry. You process. You avoid thinking about it. You throw your Bible across the room. You pick it up and put it back on the nightstand. You think about other jobs or friendships or situations where you left people hanging and you wonder if they're still pissed at you too. Or maybe they don't even remember you!

I hope we can all grow from this change. I have hope that our church will continue to grow and thrive and set the world on fire with God's love. But right now, I'm feeling my feelings. As T.J. Dettweiler would say, this whomps.

But perhaps something greater will grow out of it.


Sunday, July 12, 2015

Cleaning up

"It's a process." 

I find myself saying that a lot. Grieving, moving, packing, unpacking. Sorting out the worthwhile from the junk and the precious from the why-did-I-ever-hold-on-to-this? My grandparents are in the process (there's that word again) of selling their house, in which they've lived for about 30 years. They will be taking permanent residence at their home in Florida, which means every time I've over at Granddad and Grams's house, it's an Everything-Must-Go sale! The boxes and shopping bags and plastic bureaus that I've taken thus far could fill my little car a couple times over. I feel so blessed, and yet I wonder at what point does stuff become STUFF?

I don't want my possessions to own me, to wrap me in chains of clutter and dust. For the first time, I want to know exactly everything that I have and exactly where to find it-- and the goal is within reach, now that I have my own place entirely to myself. What exists within my boundary is mine, and what exists outside is someone else's. It's such a liberating feeling! It instills a certain purpose: if this is no longer serving me, I say Thank You and Good-bye. My grandparents gave me their whole CD collection. Ninety percent of it is now in the Goodwill pile, but I was struck by a couple things: some joyous bluegrass music that I just had to keep, and a couple tracks from the crooners. Nat King Cole's "Mona Lisa" has a special place in my heart; my mom's name is Lisa, and her godparents always called her Mona Lisa. I seem to recall her saying they'd hum the song around her when she was a little girl. That song, worth keeping. Worth the time to sift through.

Then a griefburst strikes. Tears spill down my cheeks. It wasn't too long ago that the tears were coming every day. Now it's once every couple weeks. It's a process. But I'm doing well overall. I think Mom would be overjoyed at the Marriage Equality ruling. I think Mom's proud of my adventures in a new church, including marching in the Gay Pride Parade with 125 fellow UVC members. Such an amazing, loving, life-giving environment.

I want to tell her all these little things, like how our cousin Tullie went sky-diving today, and threw up after. And Mom and I would laugh and high-five and congratulate ourselves on how we were probably the inspiration for Tullie's jump... oh, and when we jumped out of a perfectly good airplane we went barf-free! Hard to believe that's almost two years ago now.

There's a good amount of sorting still to do. I know God's with me, and my mom's here too. Keep only what's worth holding on to. Let go of what no longer serves you. Have patience, though. It's a process.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Next Exit: Discernment

I am grieving at least half a dozen heartaches. And I am fighting my call relentlessly. I'm just barely beginning to understand that discernment is very active wrestling. It's intensely emotional and spiritual and just plain difficult! Can I say unpleasant? Uncomfortable at best.

You know you're in a period of serious discernment when your soul feels like it's stuck on the spin cycle.

This is not a pleasure cruise, some tunnel of love, sashaying toward ministry. No, this is the messy, ugly, tear-stained, teeth-out, fisticuff brawling of trying to tackle who it is I am and will become, how God loves me even and especially when I don't love myself, how God is using my giant, obvious flaws and brokenness for good in His name for His glory. Uses the bad for good?! Consistently. Do I still doubt? You bet.

I feel nauseous a good chunk of the time. A lot of times I just want to punch somebody's face in, if only to externalize the turmoil that's transforming me (or at least it will if I ever let it). I feel like writing a symphony, dissonant as all get-out, with lyrics to make Bernstein blush. My soul is stirring like never before. I know it's a good thing, a sign that God is up to something in me. But it hurts. The grief, the scar tissue, the fragments of memories I'm just now piecing together, it's painful. It's worth it, I know it is; but the process ain't pretty.

Ask me in 10 years how I'm doing. I know-- spiritually, emotionally-- I will be better than I am now.