Sunday, May 18, 2014

"You're In Good Company," Thanks for Reading

"You're In Good Company," Thanks for Reading

When I started this blog in February of this year, I was filled with equal parts exhilaration and fear.  Writing has always been how I made sense of the world, and now I would be placing it in a public forum where the words would remain and maybe, if I was lucky, make sense to other people as well.

There are many days when I sit down and have no idea what to say, consider that maybe my ideas are tapped out, and I want to move on to something else, but like anything in life, anything that moves you, drives you, fascinates you—you are compelled to do that very thing.  So I want to thank you, thank you for sharing in this compulsion with me by reading what I have to say, and commenting, sharing, and subscribing.

It’s with true surprise and more than a little gratitude that I share that I’ve been nominated for a Liebster Award from Faith, Family and Focaccia.  From everything I can gather, a Liebster (meaning “dearest” in German) is the People’s Choice of blogging awards because it comes from other bloggers who are out to discover voices that ring some truth in tandem with their own.  It is for bloggers who have an audience of under 200 and there are some rules involved.  You have to offer 11 facts about yourself, and answer 11 questions posed to you and then set another 11 for those you, in turn, nominate. 

So I, like my nominator, am unsure about the audience for the blogs that I have nominated, and am just offering them here because I discovered them, and I enjoy reading them and hope you will too.  

And I have to tell you, the first order of business, the presentation of “Facts”—well these have had me meandering and fidgety and on all sorts of avoidance detail, because this, well this is exposure.  Single light bulb kind, interrogation room reminiscent and hard to craft into something other than plain original flavored truth.  But here they are nonetheless, in no particular order.

A Few Facts About Me

1.  I believe in God and in Christ and call for an all-inclusive Church for which there is no separation from one another and plenty of room for necessary healing.  I believe that grace abounds enough in each person to see forgiveness for what it is, and that fear of what is unrecognizable to our own living is the only thing that divides us.  The command to “love one another,” is the truest, kindest and hardest call to action we have, but without it we are destined for chaos and all manners of ill.  We must combat fear that gives birth to ignorance and enmity with love.  (Galatians 3:28)

2.    I think Abbey Road is the best album of all time.  It is hard to imagine my life’s soundtrack
Buy Beatles
without one of those songs humming alongside of it.  I don’t care who you are and what you like, you need to at least listen to it.  It is in our cultural vernacular now.  And while we’re on the subject, I like listening to ‘80s music.  And I make no apologies for it.  Well except for “
Come on Eileen.”  I have no idea why that song was there or why everyone wore overalls in the video.  Howard Jones’ “Things Can Only Get Better” still makes me smile when I hear it on Sirius though as does Simple Minds “Don’t You Forget About Me,” if anyone tells you they don’t like it or The Breakfast Club or John Hughes, they’re just lying.  I mean really.  (Any of those tunes are a rarity for my hearing though because

I think the Curious George soundtrack has been 
jammed into my CD player since 2006.)

3.    I see grief as a sidecar.  My mother passed away from a rare cancer at the age of 57.  From diagnosis to death, she fought for 4 months before she was called home on June 9, 2004.  My life, my mirror reflection changed and moved.  Nothing grows you up like losing a parent.  My mother was the first great love of my life.   As an only child, I didn’t realize until she was no longer there that I had to fly without a net. 
"Happy Mothering Day to all of you far and near and dear.
And for those whose jagged edges are pierced sharp 
today with missing the heart that beat over or under yours, I hear you.
 You are so loved." 11 May 2014
Having navigated those grey days and since, I have come to realize that there is no “over” it.  And Kübler-Ross is utterly wrong.  What is grief?  It is a strange bedfellow and goggled passenger complete with white scarf and leather cap, racing alongside wherever I go.  Some days the bugger takes more room up than others, but it’s there nonetheless.  Learning to live with it is the true trick and that’s taken time.  It is what you see etched along with laugh lines around my eyes. 

4. I do not watch reality television.  I think it has completely
The BookFiend
discombobulated the world.  There are so many of these shows that I worry that the slippage between what is real and what is imagined has completely been lost.  I understand the impulse to be a voyeur.  But such illicit viewing is no longer a forbidden fruit when it is scripted and displayed in such a way that it mocks what we know to be true.  Take a look at 
Griffin & Sabine and be satisfied.  Then open a book.  And go on a bike ride.  And do something that has nothing to do with any kind of Kardashian.  Please. 

5. I am inspired by my people and great music. My friends, my family and the authors and mischief makers that
Jack Kerouac
offer me new truths at every step.  They set 
words to music and allow me to dance along with them.  I couldn’t write without reading them, sitting with them or listening to them.  There is no genre of rhythm that is safe from me, and I can find something in every kind of sound that moves me to write something that I didn't know was there.  And I am so lucky that God keeps me crashing into these points of reference at full speed…and often, loudly.

6.   I do not run anywhere so don’t ask me to, please.  I
 do not like to exercise, but I like how I feel afterwards.  I was about as small as a blade of grass for a looooong 
time.  Then I hit 30.  Then my metabolism was like molasses.  Thick and unmoving and just sitting there.  But  I do it because otherwise my thighs and I don’t get along It’s so much better when you get along with yourself right?  And a strong body equals a strong mind.  I’m really lucky because I have made some amazing friends who are all doing the same thing and we laugh with each other, and it makes everything better.  Even exercise.  I mean pretty much. 

7.    I am an introvert.  I used to be an extrovert and made friends easily, but on June 10th 2004, I found myself settling into someone who just couldn’t release well.  It was as though the grief took root and made me do an interior CT scan of what I could give.  And for a long while, it was only to my family.  As it settled into a dull ache, I was able to venture out more, but it isn’t my strong suit at present.  But it’s worth the time to bump into me a bit, because I’m about as loyal as Lassie and extremely reliable too.  It takes awhile to crack a nut I guess, and I’m as nutty as they come.  It’ll be worth it though, promise. 

  8. My husband, John, is the best man I know.  He is loyal and unwaveringly optimistic.  That is irritating, but regardless, he is kind and compassionate, an involved and loving Dad, athletic (thank you Lord, because had it been my genes solely, my children would have only been at home in the science club instead of thebaseball field; by the way, I’m the one in the stands with a book, it’s okay.  Come talk to me.  I look up luckily just when one of the boys stops to wave instead of fielding the ball properly.  So I’m cognizant, just really out of my element) and, on occasion, funny.  He’s helped me through more than I can care to count.  And supportive.  If I up and decided to open a parasailing business on the Connecticut River in January, he’d look up from one of the 3000 papers he reads with an eidetic memory (except for any lists I have), and say, “Hey that’s great, let’s do it.”  Without missing a single beat.  We’ve been together for ages.  And in a world where most is easily disposable, I’m mighty proud that we keep chugging along despite the roughest of terrains.  He’s a pretty big Fact of mine. 

9. I read.  A lot.  When my father took me to get 
my library card for the first time, it felt like I just stepped into magic.  Worlds opened and so did my imagination.  I read everywhere and anywhere, stayed up late, and brought my books to the table.  It got to be a problem, so much so my Dad banned me from eating and reading.  So that’s still the peach for me—to get to enjoy a book while eating something lovely with a perfect cup of Hediard tea.  I can’t decide on a favorite author, though I love many.  I have a beloved series of Anne books by L.M. Montgomery; I still re-read them, I think they are brilliant, funny, poignant and brave.  My favorite book is Montgomery’s The Blue Castle, and my husband got me a first edition for my birthday one year.  (I still have a much-loved paperback for emergencies though.)  My graduate degree is in literature but if I got to go back again, I'd pursue one in theology, with a specific emphasis on the double divine and the "Gospel" of Mary. 

10. I think the United States is an amazing country, filled with opportunity and an essential instinct to survive that is hallmark to its history.  I understand why my parents came here because it is a place where you can make your own future despite what you were anywhere else. 

The Smithsonian Museum of American History is my favorite
Reinvention is a hallmark of this place and it is a grand thing, especially when you think of how much censorship is prevalent everywhere else in the world.  Information is not accessible, and neither is opportunity.  There are places where your surname or your gender bans you from education, and the brightest may still find themselves without hope.  Where small amounts of medication are unknown and disease is rampant.  We have problems aplenty, but the upside is we have the power and the ability for change.  It’s written into the very laws here.  That’s awe-inspiring, isn’t it? 

   11. My family matters.    For them I go to any end and will listen to any critique 
and they hold all the keys to whatever is 
locked away.  To my incessant  surprise, I find myself more in love with them every day.  As challenging as motherhood is,    and no matter how many times I wonder      “what if,” I can see how they are     changing before my eyes, and it is humbling.  I'm grateful that I still have time to imprint some lessons.  My ship is secure if they are all safely on board and not fighting over the last piece of pizza or cake.  Or some combination thereof. 

My questions from Serena Gideon Rice of 

Faith, Family and Focaccia  

1. What does the word “faith” mean to you?  I think the only answer I have to that is in Hebrews 11:1.  It isn’t something to see but feel, not to touch but know.  Faith is as intangible and as enduring as love.  I would not be overstating the case to say that I would be lesser and lonelier without it.

2. Were you raised in a particular faith, and what meaning does that faith (or non-faith) upbringing have for you now?  I was raised in the Mar Thoma Church of India which is sister church to the Anglican Church and the Episcopal Church in the U.S.  When I married, I converted to Catholicism.  I was raised in a household where prayer was taken seriously and as a family.  This was a difficult alignment when I married as that was not my husband’s experience.  I did not reconcile the two until I went through the First Communion preparations with my oldest son.  In teaching Joe what was to come in the sacrament helped me understand it better than I could have in any other way.  I am proud of Pope Francis’ outreach to those who have felt marginalized in the past by the church, the hard line he has taken on the abuse that has all but broken it, and the call to healing.  It is a daunting task, but the conversation has begun.  It’s a different faith formation than when my husband went through it as a "cradle Catholic."  When Joe (and all of our children) reaches Confirmation, it will be his decision to continue as a Catholic or to seek a different church home, and we will support him in whatever decision he makes.  I tell my children that it doesn’t matter when you talk to God, as long as you talk to him because he is waiting with eager anticipation to hear from you. 

3. Assuming there is a God, would you want a personal encounter with God tomorrow, and what would you expect?  I believe there is a God, and I believe in the Trinity.  I feel like I do have personal encounters with God all the time.  It took me a long time to listen, and once I did, I could hear.  I know he wants the best for me, and that brings me great peace.  One day, I look forward to holding my mother again, and meeting the brother I never got to know, and the children we’ve lost.

4. What do you think is the best role that faith can play in interacting with culture?  The biggest mistake we make is imposing beliefs rather than listening to others.  My father’s best friend in medical college was a Muslim, and he was the gentlest man I ever knew.  Denominations, the church, these are man-made constructs that offer division and disagreement; compassion, loyalty, humanity, grace—these are gifts from God that belong to everyone.  Everyone is in.  Everyone has a place.  We need to begin there, talking from a place of interest rather than fear.

5.  What does the word “family” mean to you?  Safety and surety.  But it is not that for many.  I feel like with family I am allowed missteps, I am allowed to falter.  Since my mother passed away and my father’s dementia, my location of family has become necessarily smaller.  I am fortunate that I have cousins and my aunt and uncle that I can go to, but it is not exactly the same.  I feel like I cannot impose on them, it has drawn me into my husband and my children.  It has forced me to whip stitch around them and to lean in.

6. What is your first memory with your family?  My earliest memory is of my mother, I remember walking down the hallway of our apartment in Arlington and she was at the stove.  She offered me a wide smile and said, “Good morning kutta.”  I didn’t realize then how much of her world was pulled around me. 

7.  Growing up, did your most important influences come from inside or outside your immediate family?  As an only child, I was far too influenced by my friends than my family.  I wanted the close relationships I felt were missing from my life and that I attributed to siblings (even though I know now that having a sibling does not necessarily mean having a close relationship) so I allowed that influence to take over and, in a lot of ways, that was to my detriment.  My father was a functioning alcoholic, growing up in that home was not easy.  There was a lot of unevenness and emotional pain; I think it pressed me to seek sympathy or attention in ways that were dishonest.  I was bitter for a long time, but I can see now that it was a matter of survival, for my mother and me.  She did the best she could with a person who was broken and who she loved.  I’m trying very hard to understand that and learn from it.  I’ve been fortunate that the people I pushed away as I was trying to come to terms with it all have welcomed me back with such constancy, particularly close high school, college friends and sorority sisters.  I’m so grateful to have them back. 

8.  What role does “family” play in your life now, and why?  As I mentioned before, my family has become smaller.  I have an aunt who I have always been very close to; she’s always been like another mother to me.  We shared a love of books and were very close even before my mother was sick.  I’ve leaned a lot on her and my uncle for parental support that I haven’t had in many years.  Now my family really consists of them, my cousins and my own family.  Family matters the most, without that foundation, I don’t think my children will have the courage to try.

9. What does the word “culture” mean to you? I’m an Indian-American.  I was born in KeralaI am a minority whose parents immigrated from India at a time when there were not as many Indian-Americans represented here.  I went to a predominantly white school.  Further, as an Indian Christian, I knew nothing about Hindu religious customs or holidays.  I was far and away removed from it and could not answer the questions posed to me about it.  And I couldn’t really claim a space in those groups for Indian kids, because I didn’t speak Hindi or celebrate those holidays.  It was dual exclusion.  And it wasn’t easy.  Not American enough for one side and not Indian enough for another.  For me culture is indicative of what we experience both intellectually and organically with what is around us.  So where we are affects it.  We live in a pretty homogeneous upper middle-class area; there is some diversity.  But we live diversity; we affirm cultural difference in our day-to-day lives because of my upbringing and race.

10. How do you feel about the culture you were raised in?  I was raised in Northern Virginia.  My parents decided to settle there because of the school system, it is one of the best in the nation.  I loved where I grew up.  We were a stone’s throw from D.C., and I grew up thinking museums were free and everyone had tried Ethiopian food and knew what was happening in the world.  I had no idea how rich that experience would be.  At the same time though, I experienced a significant level of prejudice in both covert and overt ways.  From name calling and yelling at stores and in the street about our “dirty” race to school drama made crueler because of my racial difference.  I remember my high school biology teacher, Mr. Adams, telling me that he didn’t want to see me astride the elephant in the Natural History Museum when we went on a field trip.  I can’t imagine that happening today, but then it was considered fine.  It was tough, now it is cool to be from another culture or to be exposed to it, but it wasn't as I was growing up.  It'd be interesting to see what those classmates  had to say now about our collective memories of those years.

11.  If you had to live in another culture for the next three years, which culture would you choose and why?  My first thought when I read this was the U.K., either Ireland or England.  Probably Ireland.  My husband’s family hails from there—Counties Clare and Cahersiveen.  It is different enough from our lives here that it would offer the children a chance to see the world but it is familiar enough in that my friends who have been say that there is commensurate experience in having been colonized country that there is an understanding there of being marginalized that is hard to translate elsewhere.

Please check out Faith, Family and Focaccia while you're looking at blogs I mention below: 

Now for my nominees--I don't know about the followers, they deserve all the audience they do have though, so take a peek and stay awhile at:

Holli Long: Joy is the Grace  

A Modern-Day Margery Raves On

         Do a little Good

Should you choose to accept the nomination, please remember the following rules:

(The rabble-rouser that I am, I altered the number of the blogs and number of questions.  The whole purpose of the nomination and the award--and you have it, I gather, once you've been nominated and take on answering the questions--is to connect writers to other writers in this worldwide blogging community and give them increased exposure.  Serena explains it so much better in her post, so check that out for questions.) 

  • The nominated blogger must provide a link back to this blog.
  • You need to provide 11 facts about yourself.
  • You need to answer 11 questions asked of you. (I only asked 7, I think it's a good number.)
  • Choose more people and ask them questions of your choosing.   

1.   Why did you start writing your blog?
2.    What makes you the happiest?  Why?
3.    What would I be the most surprised to know about you?
4.   What do you sing when you are alone?
5.    Whose writing do you look up to and gather encouragement from?  Why?
6.    Who are you the most like in your family?
7.    What is the most important thing you want your readers to know about you?

So it's a wrap!  Thank you all for reading.  If you want to subscribe, you can put your email in the box up to the right ä.  

If you’d really like to but you don’t like having your inbox cluttered, consider subscribing via a reader like bloglovin'.  You can click on this button Follow on Bloglovin also to the right ä.

bloglovin’ is a reader service, so you get ONE email in your inbox that covers all the blogs you want to follow.  It’s a great solution to inbox clutter.  You can just type in my blog address: and add that to the blogs you wish to read.  Simple!  

However you decide to spend some time and have tea with me--thank you.  I am so grateful for you.  Cheers!


Holli Long said...

Hi Sara,

I enjoyed reading your responses to your questions. I love what you say about listening and an all-inclusive God...that really speaks to my faith and heart as well. Thanks for the nomination...I will have to yield to another blogger as I have accepted one in the past, but I so appreciate the kind gesture and am thrilled to connect with you via your nomination and the Momastery project. All the best to you!


sara said...

Thanks Holli! I've enjoyed reading your blog and appreciate your kind words! All best!

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