Teardrops & Tealights

Moist, wrinkled chicken drumstick in my hand, snot pouring from my nose. I try to steady my shivering haFrench trlnds and focus my blurred vision through hot tears. Careful not to draw my own blood as I prepared the poultry meal, but overcome by a wellspring of pain.

A quiet touch on my shoulder attempts to comfort me, but the sobs only grow deeper, longer, louder. My father calmly says “I love you,” and I return the sentiment between intermittent gasps for air. I begin to list off all of the reasons he has found me in such a state.

For the third night in a row, I’ve watched as some aspect of my mother’s declining health was on full display. Delusions of betrayal, revolving trips to the restroom at all hours of the evening, continuous pain emanating from multiple parts of the body at once.

It hurts. I hurt. My mother is suffering and watching her pseudo-exist in this state is draining.

While in Barbados, my mother made marked improvements in her health. She was more active, more relaxed and the most alive I’d seen her in years. But almost immediately upon return to the United States, we have seen a steady regression and the results are discouraging.

Being back Stateside has had its ups but lots of downs. We went from living a life of relative comfort (and even enjoying relative luxury) to crashing with family and searching for new ways to survive.

It’s not to say that we are without blessing or that every day is shrouded in defeat. But the days are long and the nights are longer. My mind is weary. My body is tired. My light is dim.Tea Light

But I still have a light. Some days it shines brighter than others, but thank God… it is still here. And I refuse to let sickness and circumstance snuff it out. So I will shine. I will glow. I will burst into flame above the eye of any storm I meet.

I am more than a conqueror.

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8: 37-39


My Life In Facebook Apps

I’ve always been a proponent of the literary concepts of analogy and metaphor. Life gets messy and sometimes we need simple, less complicated images to help us make sense of what it’s all about. Aside from the hokey pokey.

Recently, God has revealed to me how life is a lot like a collection of Facebook Apps. For my purposes, He used the example of Candy Crush versus Cookie Jam.

If you’ve ever been on the social networking site Facebook, then it’s pretty likely that you received a jellybean shaped life request from a friend for an addictive little game called Candy Crush. This game took the nation (or dare I say, the world?) by storm a few years ago and is still pretty popular today.

The object is fairly simple. Match at least 3 “candies” in a row or column to break whatever surface lies beneath. Each time you succeed in breaking a surface, you are congratulated by hypnotizing dings and bloops, stimulating the pleasure centers of your brain. With its constant attaboys, invitations to “Try Again” if you’ve failed, and opportunities to level up, the game has become highly addictive for some people. While I am not one of those people who became addicted to an online game, I – ahem – certainly see how that can happen.

Like many things in my life, I was a late adapter to this game. I didn’t have a smartphone for awhile and my PC threatened to implode if I tried to play the game online. So, as with most popular movements, I was missing out. Once I upgraded my tech resources and began playing games, I quickly noticed a disturbing pattern: I was dreaming about Candy Crush.

What prompted these dreams? Well, while I do not have a degree in psychology, I strongly believe that my in-game achievements are used as placeholders for real-life advancements.

Recently, my family and I returned to the U.S. after a stint abroad in the Caribbean. It’s a long story, so I’ll spare you the bureaucratic details. Suffice it to say that we took a chance, it was lovely, but it ultimately did not work out.

So now, we’re back Stateside. Back to where we started from. Back to the rat race and keeping up with the Karda– Joneses. Every day is filled with job applications, résumé edits and phone interviews. Meanwhile, medical expenses mount, health declines, and the desire to have a “normal” life for me to have a “normal” life increases.

So back to Candy Crush. Another component of the popular match-three games is the occasional visit down the wormhole. A side excursion which allows you to earn extra points and tools. These little games within games are neat departures from the typical school of play, but they are often more challenging than the original game and can create more stress.

One day, I received an invite for a new match-three game called Cookie Jam. While the concept is nearly identical to that of Candy Crush, I’ve found that the play is easier and I’ve yet to have any dreams (or nightmares) about this goofy time-waster. Maybe because I’m more successful at the game, that need to succeed at something is satiated and corresponding anxiety is quelled.

Now, Cookie Jam is a less popular game. The graphics aren’t as slick, the music less entrancing. But I like it. It works for me. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it meets my pedestrian needs. I may not have many people to talk to about it and I’m not sure I even want people to know I play it. But a game is a game. And if I must play a game, then sometimes I have to choose a game the works best for me, at which I can excel. I can’t compare my platform of preference to anyone else.

I’ve found that the same is true in life. Since returning “home” I’ve been pursuing a career in the hot, sexy, glamorous world of startups. After all, I am a millennial living in the Metro Atlanta area. I am supposed to work for a trendy startup company with unlimited vacation days and in-office happy hours (locally brewed beer included).

StartupSo I go out and get the all-important perfect startup interview outfit, polish my résumé — I even enrolled in a coding class! I apply for startup after startup. Rarely do I hear back. If I do, it’s either in the form of a rejection letter telling me I am great, but others were greater; or sometimes, they want to have a “casual chat” on the phone. Rarer still, after the phone “chat”, I am asked to come in for an “in-person meeting.” [Note: These companies often avoid calling anything preliminary an interview. I guess we’re trying to keep it chill? Super cas’?]

I press my bright pink pencil pants from my aforementioned 3386437_1381716248194-47res_500_500startup ensemble, get my hair and nails done and head to whatever gentrified co-working space houses the next big thing in technology. The interview begins. The interview ends. I interviewed well. I killed it. They loved me, I loved them. The only thing missing was the big purple dinosaur.

A few days go by. Nothing. I think Should I follow up at the risk of appearing dimpatient? Just as I am about to hit send on my subtle nudge email, the phone rings. It’s them! My heart and breath stop as I eagerly wait to hear the words “We think would make a great addition to our team and would like to offer you the position.” Instead, the voice on the other end informs me that while I interviewed very well and did nothing wrong… they’ve chosen to go with another candidate.

Disappointed and confused, I thank them for their time and consideration and hope they will keep me in mind for a future role. [Click.]

This pattern of rejection is becoming all too familiar. Yes, rejection is part of the job search. ‘X’ number of résumés sent out – ‘y’ rejection letters – ‘z’ interviews = ‘n’ number of companies that may offer you a job. But as searching for a job in and of itself is a full-time job, it can be hard not to let your morale drop to an all-time low. You just want a little reward for all of your hard work.

Observing my frustration, my father made a very good suggestion. One that in my earlier years, I would not have wanted to hear. He said “You are veering off of your path. You started out in a social services space and ended up pursuing careers in technology, et cetera. I know you want a job and those are the jobs that seem hot right now, but you need to stick with your strengths. The last thing you want to become is a jack of all trades and a master of none.”

Stick with your strengths. The last thing you want to become is a jack of all trades and a master of none.

This advice was hard to hear because I thought I had devised a master plan to get a cool job; a house in a hip, gentrified neighborhood; and the acceptance and admiration of my peers. But my dad reminded me that life isn’t about those things. Not for me, anyway.

Just like my relationship with Facebook games, I’ve had to reassess my career platform. While the tech startup world is exciting and cool and the game that everybody is playing, it just doesn’t work for me. I don’t excel there. I do excel in spaces where I get to help people. Where I get to tell stories. Where I get to be authentic to who I am.

So, just as I have done with Candy Crush, I will forgo the tech trek and pursue instead social solutions. I don’t know how long it will take me to level up and there may not be many boosters along the way, but at least I am reassured of my purpose and I can have peace during my journey.

Forget Comfort

Starbucks’ Holiday Spice Flat White

My family and I have been Stateside only a couple of weeks and already I miss my new home. Sure, it’s nice to breathe in the crispness of late autumn air. With the holiday season in full swing, I love to see the tree-lined streets illuminated with thousands of little lights. I enjoyed my tall Holiday Spice Flat White from Starbucks this afternoon. Visiting with friends I had not seen in awhile is good for the soul.

I suppose I thought that when I got here, I would fall madly in love with the place I called home for 16 years and find it difficult to leave. To my surprise, my feelings have run neutral on the matter.

In fact, the longer I remain on U.S. soil, the more I realize just how conducive island life is to the person I hope to be. The weather is warm, the sights are breathtaking, the food is refreshing, the people are… interesting. A warm countenance. A breathtaking compassion. A refreshing attitude. An interesting story. These are all characteristics I hope to possess as I mature into the woman God made me to be and I believe the Caribbean is an ideal place to cultivate these fruits.

Of course, a lifelong walk on the beach is not my sole motivation for returning to the island. I also see the evident progress my mother has experienced in the picturesque settings of Barbados. There is a constant stream of pure, uncut Vitamin D which shines through our glass patio doors. Every drive along the coasts offers stunning views of the Caribbean Sea to our west or the Atlantic Ocean to our east. Trips to markets provide access to the freshest fish and the most perfect produce, aiding in beneficial dietary changes. Every weekend, there are tantalizing cultural exhibitions that stimulate the pathways and neurotransmitters of a weary yet determined brain. The peace and contentment that washes over my mother as she watches the waves wash ashore beneath the setting sun is worth more than all the supposed comfort that familiar faces and fast food restaurants could provide.

I breathe a sigh of relief as my father relaxes in the peacefulness of a country where his ebony complexion is neither disdained nor revered, and different cultures are shared and celebrated. Invaluable is the ability to breathe and be as a man without the whispers of dissension and separation playing on 24-hour news channels as a broken record in the recesses of his mind. Comforting is the idea that his wife and daughter do not have to worry about him as much when he makes a late night ice-cream run. Reassuring is the limited access to guns and appreciation for a slower pace of life. Simpler is the new life his family leads. Exciting is the prospect of sharing his sunset years beneath a vibrant painted sky, conversing with diverse peoples from diverse lands, holding the hand of his beloved.

So with all due respect to the friends and the family that I love, I must confess that I am not torn between two lands or confused about what I want for my future. My heart is not divided by land and sea. Barbados is my home for the foreseeable future. It is where I live. It is where I thrive. It is where I belong.

The Unintentional Nomad

Original image credit: Spoonflower

As I sit here in a hotel room outside of Atlanta, my head spins. Sure, I may still be recovering from the madness that is JCPenney on Gray Thursday, but my disorientation began long before yesterday. Last week my parents and I found out that we would need to return temporarily to the U.S. to take care of some things. My emotions were mixed, but then the anticipation of seeing friends and doing some clearance shopping made the idea of a last-minute pilgrimage more enticing. For every stunning and star-studded event I would miss in the warmth of Barbados, surely an afternoon lunch with a gentleman friend or a night out on the town with high school buddies would make up the difference. I thought that perhaps I would be able to spend a few days released from the perpetual mental challenge that is caregiving and have a little millennial holiday fun.

But of course, my days have not been spent on lunch dates with dapper Dans and my evenings have not involved getting turnt at the club. I’ve shared how my fair-weather attempt at shopping went. My caregiving duties have been magnified under the illumination of instability. Even attending church on Sunday looks like a possible impossibility. In fact, very few of my tokens of contentment for this unexpected return have come to pass. Any opportunity I saw for fulfilling these pipe dreams seems to be slipping from my fingers as we just found out that we will be making yet another journey the early part of next week.

Some people thrive on the adventure of unpredictable travel and would love to have such a hectic schedule. I question whether I am one of these people. I thought I could be, but in just a few short weeks I am beginning to realize that I am not a nomad. While I love seeing new places and meeting new people, relationships are my oxygen. I need roots. I need to connect and develop and grow.

We’ve all heard it said that home is where the heart is. But what do you do when your heart is scattered across state lines and oceans?

I guess you learn how to breathe in this new atmosphere. You learn to give more than you take. You spread light wherever you go. You leave your impact on the hearts of everyone you meet, that their roots would be strengthened and their hearts would be filled.

So, as this holiday season gets into full swing and my coordinates are yet to be fully determined, I will do my best to seek out opportunities to make a difference. To shine a light in someone else’s life. To help make their lives rubescent!

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
Galatians 6:10