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.


Monday, April 27, 2015

Four Twenty-Seven Sixty-One

I miss you, Mom.

Everything hurts. Still so raw, this wound.

Healing, please. Heal my heart.


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Late Night Musings

Sometimes I can't sleep. I shift.
Sometimes I can't sleep. I turn the pillow over. Sigh.
Sometimes I can't sleep, and I cry for a bit until I'm sick of crying so I get up and eat a handful of jellybeans. I write. I eat some jellybeans. I pause.

One of the jellybeans looks rather demented, like it's had its appendix out. This little guy's had a rough go of things. What happened in the factory that this jellybean turned out so mangled and scarred? And a pink one too, my favorite. I eat said jellybean. It is extra sweet, perhaps due to its battered journey? I meditate on this sweet little candy.And I think to myself, I am that jellybean.

This, my friends, is why I should not be a pastor. I have a fierce, almost annoying call to ministry but let me tell you, all my sermons would end up like this. It's the 11th hour. Saturday night. Gotta preach tomorrow morning. (again? already?) Topic. Hmm. Topictopictopic. Could look to the Bible for inspiration but I feel like it's all been done before. Plus my Bible is probably not the right translation. And it's all the way over there. Hm.You know what always helps me think? Food. Easter was a couple weeks ago so all my inspiration comes in candy-coated pastels and rabbit shapes-- 50% off, don'cha know! I twirl a few times in my chair. Maybe it's not too late to get a guest preacher. My throat is a little sore, now that I think about it.

But seriously, all of my sermons would be last-ditch attempts to string together something memorable, faith-based, and food-focused. Hey, everybody eats, right? And they say my material isn't relatable. Next week's sermon: the alphabet according to Skittles. I'll roll out the trusty old acrostic poem for this one: SSSSS! Salvation Seems So Small, Sadducees! BS for ten minutes about that. Throw in a tangentially-related youtube video and end by rapping some DC Talk lyrics. Amen.

Maybe I should make this into a 10-part sermon series on why God could/should use anyone besides me to minister to other people. There'll definitely be one called "This sucks"... because sometimes it is the truest, most sympathetic statement you can say to someone.

My former pastor once did a sermon on "What have I gotten myself into?" That's what the idea of ministry feels like to me. Deep down I hesitate to even tell people about my call because it's like, Oh great, now I'm accountable to all of these people too. Better start praying more before everybody finds out I'm a fraud. What on Earth am I getting myself into! I know God knows me better than I know myself, but seriously. I can see myself standing in the sanctuary, staring at a blank piece of paper, praising God for all the improv lessons I took in middle school. "The thing about society today that really stinks is that we're all so sinful. All of us. All the time. Just sin, sin, sin, sin, sin. If you look up sinner in the dictionary, there's an emoji of all of our faces and the devil smiling. Let's throw up on the screen the interview with the creator of the "sinner" emoji." DC Talk. Amen.

Today I found out that in certain denominations you're not appointed to a church; you're selected based on a "call system," which sounds a lot to me like an audition. Too bad my beatboxing wouldn't impress in that situation. "Hello, I'm Pastor Emma, and I'd like to start with this track, inspired by JT but written by the original JT: James Taylor." And I proceed with the percussive Carolina In My Mind, as the big vaudeville hook drags me offstage, like when Peppermint Patty played the sheep in the Christmas pageant.

This is me wrestling with my call, wishing I were 13 again, and the call referred to a Top 40 hit by the Backstreet Boys, not some gigantic, life-altering mission that I try to put in a box and shove under my bed so it doesn't take over what little control I have in life.

But I know it ultimately will. Surrender Saves Suffering Souls, Silly.

Our Keeper will never slumber, but I ought to try. Night.


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

March of Power!

This is my sticker chart for the month of March. Every day I go to the gym, I get a sticker.


ok computers are stupid and it's not letting me put the picture of my sticker chart up. Buh. Anyway, I earned 14 stickers this month! Wahoo! My goal was 15, but I got very, very close! Feeling stronger in lots of ways. Also humbled by any class involving weights. But I'm hoping if I keep at it I'll be back to my old strength level in no time. :)
your totally fitness Barbie doll,


Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Science Behind Resilience

Hey! Happy weekend!

I just watched the most interesting TED Talk, and I think you'll like it. The part I connected with most is called "post-traumatic growth" -- like how my mom grew during her Live for Now Tour, and how I've grown since POTS and all its bumpy struggles. I'll let the video speak for itself, but the science is so interesting to me. Now I know why I get so happy when writing thank-you notes. It boosts my social resilience!

Let me know what you think!


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Wild Berry Zinger

Started class today. Environmental Biology. Feeling great about it. Syllabus makes the course sound interesting but also pretty easy. Thinking I can get most of the big assignments done next week over our Spring Break.

I am working out a lot and loving it! Next post I promise I'll include a picture of my sticker chart. :) Yesterday I did a serious weights class. Sore today but it's a good feeling!

Things are coming together and I can feel God moving. Wondering what the future will bring, the next few months, the next few years. I feel like I'm at a pivotal moment. It's exciting. Following Him every step of the way.


Thursday, March 5, 2015

Tulsi Jasmine


I love it here. What more can I say. A lot. But I also have a lot to do (ack!) that is slightly more time-sensitive than updating my blog.

Once I've decorated, there will be pictures. Once I have some chairs, I will invite people over regularly. For the moment, I've had some POTSie issues (dumb seizures) so I've stepped down from my role as youth leader at church. Waah, but also gives me the freedom to really focus on my health. Did yoga on Monday, got a massage yesterday, and made it through water aerobics today! My March sticker chart is looking colorful already. Mom would be proud. She IS proud! :-)

So yeah. Exercise. Salt. Water. LOTS of rest (typically 12 hours a night... that's grief for ya). Super foods. Relaxation. Breathing with my emWave program on the computer. All while trying to unpack and get adjusted! It's thrilling! I have a CLC class that starts in 12 days. Hoping and praying for the strength and focus to take (and complete!) the course. The best news about it is 1) my professor got great reviews and 2) It's 3:30-6:20 on Tues/Thurs. That means no early mornings and no late nights. Perfect for my sleep schedule!

God is working in this. I have a good feeling. And I'll still volunteer with the youth! Keeping my chin up. His timing is best.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Vanilla Spice

Today is Tuesday. Final walk-through and keys on Saturday. Lease begins Sunday. Movers move my furniture on Monday.

AHH!! So excited but also I have so much stuff to pack up and think about and get done and right now I just want to praise God because He is so amaaaazing!!

Breathe. Pack. Breathe.

A week from today I'll be in my new digs!

I can smell the freedom now,

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

English Breakfast Tea

It's all coming together! God is so good!

I am healthy! I am driving! I am working! I am moving out in less than three weeks! I AM SO HAPPY!

I want to post pictures of my baby (my rental) but I can't figure out how to get them off the website. At any rate, it'll be more fun when I'm in the picture!

Just waiting for the paperwork to go through and everything to be finalized. Then I have to pack up all my stuff! Whoa! I mean, my place is only 10 minutes away from where I currently live, but I haven't moved since I was 11! So I may need help figuring this stuff out.

Oh look! I got the picture to work! I'm the first floor unit. :-) Don't worry, aunties of the world. It's very safe. And I have British neighbors! :-)

More to come...


p.s. I took away the picture b/c it showed my address and wasn't too comfy with that. If you would like my address, just let me know! :-)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Tazo Passion

Today is Day 6 in a row of good days! No pre-seizures! Wahoo!

Back at church. Love them kids. It's great to be back working with them!

Days are still not perfect, but it's improving so much that I'm really not worried. I sleep maybe 9 hours at night and nap 2 hours during the day. Have some chest pain, but it passes if I rest and relax. God is so good! I am so blessed to be feeling better.

Looking at apartments to rent this Saturday. Please say a prayer that the one I love will still be available!


Friday, January 16, 2015

Egyptian Mint Green Tea

Today has been a better day. No pre-seizure episodes.

Good friends do for you what you can't do for yourself. They give you a different perspective. A more hopeful approach. They cheer you on and remind you how far you've come. They open the curtains to reveal the bright future that was there all along.

And maybe they give you some pizza or hummus to take home, because they want to make sure you're eating. :)

Everyone says the first year after losing someone is the hardest. So to make it a little easier, and to keep in touch with my mom's friends/cousins/etc, every Friday in 2015 will be Mom Tribute Friday. Today was Week 2, with our trainer and dear friend Val!

And here's from Week 1, our best gal pals Camee and Amy!

Or if we don't want that straw pointing at my belly button, the edited version!

Shout-out to my newest reader, MR! Love ya, girlie!

The days are getting longer. Keeping my chin up.


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

McNulty's Chamomile Tea

I've got a thing for chamomile this week, it seems.

Pre-seizure episodes three days in a row. Brief, but it counts nonetheless. [Insert your favorite expletive]. If Mom were here, she wouldn't let me mope. She'd throw me in the car and take me to the gym where we'd endure a grueling, sometimes (ok, a lot of times) tear-filled workout. She wouldn't let me get sedentary, complacent. She challenged me.

I wish I had the strength to challenge myself in the same way.

Trying to be patient and gentle with myself. But what if that's what's making me sicker? Around in circles I go. And back to the couch to watch "Call the Midwife" and cry, because I used to watch it with my mom, and every episode is about motherhood.

Today's sage advice comes from somebody. I don't remember who. "Get into community. They will lift you up. Plus it's good just to get out of the house."

Women's Bible Study this morning, Spirited Women tomorrow night. Check and check.

Keep breathing, baby emma.


Monday, January 12, 2015

Fair Trade Organic Italian Chamomile

My sister is back at school. The house feels far too big, far too empty. I miss my mom. My heart is breaking.

It's all I can do to just function. Eat. Sleep. Get dressed. Lie on the couch. Cry. Write a thank you note. Agonize over which birthday stickers to use. Cry some more.

Today's words of wisdom are from Lorraine: Take a shower. Everything seems just a bit more manageable one you've taken a shower.


Sunday, January 11, 2015

Evening in Missoula

Post titles will be whatever tea I'm drinking today.

Survived the worst days of my life. Loving friends and family members helped a lot.

Now sleeping a lot, a lot, a lot. Last night I slept 10 hours. Then I went back to sleep for two hours. Then in the afternoon I took a four-hour nap. This is not terribly unusual. But my body needs it.

Having trouble focusing. Sometimes I space out when other people are talking. Trying to be very gentle with myself and forgiving of the fact that I'm not functioning fully.

Taking others' advice, particularly those who have gone through grief before. Today's words of wisdom come from cousin Barbie: Eat your vegetables.


Sunday, January 4, 2015

2015 is here

My mom passed away on New Year's Day. Not ready to talk about it.

Just finished writing the eulogy I'll be giving. Don't want to talk about that either.

I love stickers. I love Downton Abbey. I love that my cousins are coming all the way from Hawaii to be at the wake and funeral service. I love that my mom loved return address labels as much as I do.

Now just to make it through the next 48 hours...