Happy Birthday, Josiah!

Today my second son, Josiah, turns 17 years old.  Let me tell you a little about him:

Josiah is a very smart, witty, and charismatic man. He spent a long time fighting the best in himself, but about two years ago turned a major corner. When he was young, I used to joke that given his personality he would either be President of the United States or the greatest criminal mastermind the world has ever known. 

I was wrong.

I now think Josiah has the potential to launch a movement that can really change the status quo.

He has a deep love of music, and I think resonates with lyrics in a very deep way. On his wall in his bedroom is a painted tree, and for leaves, Josiah posts meaningful lyrics from songs he loves. He's not a "reader" like the rest of us. I think he's a lot more like his Oma than he realizes. He can be stubborn (like me) or playful (like his mom). And he's got two brothers who love him to pieces.

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My Birthday Wish Goes Public

My birthday was Monday, May 17, but the celebration of my birthday has become more of a season than a day. I am blessed to have a lot of really amazing friends, and we are celebrating with mini-parties of 2-4 people at a time, going out for dinner, seeing plays, going to museums, and more.

The first celebration took place on Thursday, May 13, when my friend Kara took me to one of my favorite restaurants in Staten Island, Adobe Blues. Then, Friday I was with relatives for dinner at Beyoglu, Saturday was dinner (Thai) and a play (Falmouth Theatre Guild's "The Secret Garden") and then drinks and live music at Liam Maguire's in Falmouth (Cape Cod). Monday was lunch with my co-workers at one of my favorite restaurants in Manhattan, Simply Pasta, and then dinner with my two NYC-based cousins at Persepolis, which was a replacement for our original destination, which was packed with a long wait. (This was a fortuitous change of plans... I found out about Persepolis from my OpenTable iPhone app, and it was a wonderful dining experience. Their homemade rose ice cream - yes, I said rose - was heavenly.)

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The Plan

I don’t know a lot about Iran, but when my husband, who works for an international development organization, told me that Ahmadinejad won I said, “Well duh.  Of course he did.  It was rigged.” As tensions continued to rise today and more allegations are thrown around that it was indeed fraudulent, I couldn’t help but think of “the plan.” The plan is this ambiguous idea floating around that our lives should turn out in a certain fashion.  I learned at a young age that plans can shift and change quickly and frequently, so I created my own plan – one that relied on my own two shoulders.  This worked for maybe a second and then life happened and the metamorphosis kept going. I’m not sure what the plan is in Iran, but there is one and it is a plan that wants to be imposed on its people.

Everywhere you go there are plans, but in some places those plans are to just make it though the day alive.  You know a person grew up in a privileged home when it is expected that she or he live a long, productive life.  The life checklist keeps growing and finally when you’re 60-something you can kick up your heals and, as my father recently told me, watch your blood pressure come down and get some sleep thanks to retirement.  For a lot of people that was their plan too, but now retirement is no longer a hop, skip or jump away; it’s a marathon. 

When our hope is put in the plan we are set up for failure.  The plan is not worth living for. I celebrated a birthday last week and as I inch closer to 30, I am amazed at each year and how it holds nothing close to what I thought it would.  I celebrated with a heart to heart chat with one of my best friends talking about this very thing and then the conversation continued into the weekend with a group of friends over pizza.  How did we all buy into this plan and what happens when you’re life looks so different from it?

For my best friend, it is that time to “start trying.”  She wants to be a mom so badly, as do a handful of women around me.  She is at the point where her doctors have started bringing up fertility meds, but in her wisdom she said this to me: “What if my body isn’t supposed to? Then should I make it with pills?  That scares me.” People are constantly bombarding her with questions of when are you going to have kids?  And it makes her want to cry because she’d have one in her arms right now if it was up to her plan.  It certainly is not a fair world, but apparently with enough money, privilege, celebrity or political prowess our “plans” can become reality, whether that’s a rigged election or thousands upon thousands of dollars of fertility treatments.  It’s scary that the reality that could materialize naturally is being sacrificed on the altar of “supposed to” or “I deserve this.”

For my husband and I the question has morphed over the years from “when to have kids,” to “if we want kids.” I get accused of being selfish, not ready, and I’m also learning to deal with my favorite 2 responses: “Oh you’re young!” and wave their hand like I will most certainly come to my senses one day.  Or the silent look of disbelief and shock, “Really? You’d be such a good mom.” I might not even get a say in this plan one way or the other, but my hope ultimately is not in the plan.  My hope lives deep inside of me in the inner core of my being.  This life, no matter who you are, is not one of having your cake and eating it too, but it is a good life.

I hate that “good” can be used to describe chocolate cake and God.  Sometimes we need new vocab words, but God is good and if God lives in us, then there is goodness and richness in our lives; however that version of good might be found in cancer, in a lost election, or in infertility.  God’s goodness comes to us when we listen, and often it is when we are talking so loud to change the plan that we are miserable.

I imagine, as I have a heard a few times that Ahmadinejad likes to hear himself talk.  I understand that fertility meds have brought a lot of unique little persons into the world. I believe in the goodness of God and that “the plan” will work out for good, but I feel like sometimes we make God’s job a lot harder than it has to be by playing God or thinking that God is not truly good.  Our hope has materialized in a plan and not in God.  And I am certainly guilty of this too.  My desire to not have kids is definitely part of “my plan” right now and some days I am holding on tighter to my plan than I ought to. I had a plan for college, for my career, and for my wedding – they all changed and had imperfections everywhere, but they were all good things.  It is great to have a plan.  I love sticky notes and planners, but when that becomes the gospel truth – I have major issues.

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Turning 43: Midlife, No Crisis...

I rarely cross-post pieces between here and my blog at Beliefnet.com, but I have a sense with this one that I am supposed to do it,  so here goes...   

I have a birthday that stops people in their tracks. An elder Generation Xer, I was born on June 6, 1966. Yup. 6.6.66.
People at motor vehicle and police officers stopping me for speeding (call me 'lead-foot') would take my identification, read silently, look up with the same playful-yet-mildly-freaked-out expression and say something like, "Whoa, 6.6.66, huh? That's some birthday." Kids, who were not so polite, would say, "Hey, is that carved on your head?" (The Omen hit the big screen when I was about 10.) 
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