That is not the answer.

I am a Christian.

How many will stop reading this post because of that?

What if I said I was Muslim?

How many others would stop then?

I find it difficult to talk about my faith on social media, and so mostly, I don’t. My Facebook feed is divided: half people I go to church with and half I have met in my life as a young adult writer and screenwriter. A lot of conservatives, just as many liberals. I see both sides to every popular argument going on in America. I rarely add my own voice to the debate. Partly because I do not want to create more noise, and partly because I do not always know what I feel is right.

Christians say go to the Bible, the answers are there. But it’s easy to misinterpret the Bible based on my own desires, based on my own experiences, the environment I live in, the world I am faced with or wishing for. Ultimately, faith is personal and a journey and not easy. My path and yours are different, and therefor the way I choose to live is not subject to your approval. The way you live is not for me to discuss or diminish. My answer from God is not yours.

When I lived in New York City, I constantly encountered people that did not believe the same thing as I did. These people did not shock me or wound me. They were not my enemies because they were gay or atheists, because they were the children of a Muslim, because they ascribed to a different spiritual journey or lifestyle.

But still my faith was shaken. And it was good for me. It taught me who I really was, and it helped me learn true empathy, it opened my mind. Faith is not made sturdy without testing. I am no lesser now because I want to accept other people for who they are and what they believe, because I question things more freely, because I am willing to change. I do not care about a person’s sexual orientation, race or religious affiliations as long as they are kind and they treat me with respect.

That is the only thing that matters in a friend, in a world. How we treat each other.

I get tired of the fighting. I want very little from my friends. I want them to laugh with me. I want them to listen to me. I want them to be brave. I want them to respect my choices. These are all things we should be able to do, but more and more it seems we can’t. We think it is our job to show someone the light, and I don’t mean the Light of the World. We spend a lot of time arguing particulars. If someone doesn’t support the woman’s right to choose, they are trying to control women. If someone thinks abortions aren’t murder, they are compared to Hitler — Hitler, who slaughtered millions of Jews because of his own bigotry and fear. Bigotry and fear lead nowhere good fast.

I will not fight you on these or any other issue because for every horror story on one side of the coin, there is an equally horrible one on the other. There is no good answer in a world like this one. There are only more questions.

I have a very good friend that used to, after we had a few glasses of wine, always start up a debate. And I would always listen because her views and feelings were important to me. We would go round and round on the BIG questions of War and Death and Illness, Rape and Violence, and she would always ask me how I could acknowledge all of these things and still believe in God. I would always tell her the same thing, because I choose to.

For me it really is that simple. But this fight we are in all around the world, that is not simple. It is painful and nuanced, layered and eternal. I have learned there is no one answer to silence every voice.

Just be the very best possible version of the person you think you are meant to be. Don’t be an ass no matter your religion, race, gender or lifestyle. Don’t try to conform others to your liking. Be who you are and have a little faith that that is what you are meant to do, that is enough, that is your answer. Show don’t tell. Act when you need to, when it is right for you. Be willing to listen, be brave enough to speak your truth, and be kind enough to shut up when you are finished.

Faith-ish

woods

I have these amazing women in my life. Women that are bold and brash. Women that are gentle and maternal. Women with voices that can always break through the noise in my head.

I have a woman in my life that sends me Buzzfeed articles. She gets that I will always care about anything Harry Potter and not-so-secretly wish Hogwarts was a place I could live in outside my imagination.

I have a woman in my life that believes I am going to be a famous writer. She believes it sometimes when I do not. She believes in magic but not in a silly way. She is a unicorn.

I have a woman in my life that knows what it’s like to feel trapped by your own dreams. We chase those dreams, and also wonder what our lives would look like living easier dreams. She lets me bitch about. She joins in.

I have a woman in my life that has a new baby. We are in different stages of the same adventure. When I think of her as brave, I remind myself I am too, because we both decided to love a little person more than we love ourselves.

Tonight I was talking with a woman that came into my life through serendipity and became a conduit for miracles. I was telling her how I was scared and tired. How I was just looking for a moment to stop, to breathe because lately it felt like my lungs were full of water.

She told me to remember that we aren’t given more than we can handle, but sometimes the universe has more faith in us than we do.

Everything really comes down to that. Faith. Do you have faith to move mountains? Do you believe you are not alone in your fight?

Sometimes, despite all the women I have, and the husband I know I can lean on, despite my bravery and my stubbornness, despite knowing I’m not really alone at all, I find myself adrift. I worry. I sit on my computer and scroll through Facebook, looking for distraction. I wish I could bypass this traffic jam I’ve been stuck in for longer than I like to admit. I wish I could  just be different. Be settled. Feel easy.

I wonder if I missed something, somewhere on the life road map I keep flipping around hoping to make sense of. Because if I am in the thick of it — if I’m really doing life right — wouldn’t I stop feeling lost?

I’m going to venture out on a precarious limb here and guess that the answer is NO. Moments of clarity come only when you have already decided to believe. This is a problem people without a notion of Faith encounter. Faith is believing without seeing. It’s bang-a-rang. It’s closing your damn eyes and just stepping.

Faith can burn out. It can grow dim and hard to see. Fear can start to look like it, playing your emotions with logic and reason. Anger can mask your need for it. Longing can pull you away from it.

Here’s some honesty, guys: I’m terrified.

I am scared most of the time of everything I’m doing, but I can’t stop. The point of no return is a distant memory. I’m deep in the woods without a flashlight. I can’t get out without moving. I can’t move without faith.

And we know what this means. Raise your empty glass, prepare your handful of imaginary pudding. It’s bang-a-rang time.

Never Beaten

Last night, around 10:15 pm, I fell coming down from my third floor loft.

stairs

Footing lost, my back skidded along the edge of the stairs, my fingers grappled for something to hold, to stop the sudden motion, finding nothing. Propelled forward toward the floor, disorientation clouded my mind for a few precious moments.

My teeth slammed, hard — smack — into the wood floor and a shock of sharp pain reverberated through my face.

In the minutes after I couldn’t let go of my face, I could quite feel what was broken, what was in place. Was I shattered? Did I still have all my teeth?

My alarmed husband stood over me, his face a mirror of my own fears. I let go of my cheek and asked him if it was broken. He reached out to touch, but pulled back, examining instead with his eyes. Nothing yet, not even blood. Could I move my jaw? I could. I could talk and I wanted ice and as I began to shake, shock giving way to the pain, I began to cry.

This is the second time I have fallen in my home. The first time I busted the skin on my scalp, bruising and aching for days — but the harm was minimal, superficial. At least externally. For one whole day and into the night I faced down a longterm fear of dying from something meaningless, something stupidly mundane, accidental. You know…you hit your head, you feel fine — it’s just a bump, nothing major. Hours later you slip away, a coma and then a death. When I went to bed that night, all rationale said I was fine.

But when fear is involved, the mind becomes an unpredictable menace. I had to close my eyes anyway and trust that I would be able to open them again.

Last night, as I lay on the couch with an ice pack pressed to my already swollen cheek, I realized with sudden elation that I was no longer afraid of that death — that accidental one. I smiled — and then I winced — to realize I had overcome that hurdle, however small or strange, however ultimately insignificant. By grace, though not so gracefully, that monster had been squashed.

Then I went to sleep and dreamed about my ladder. The one I climb almost everyday to reach my writing nook. I was balancing against the stairs like I always do, unafraid, unencumbered, and then I looked down and there standing on the stair below me was a goblin. Small and brownish gray, with dangling wrinkly ears and wide jewel-like eyes. He wasn’t yet aware that I could see him as he slipped nearer my feet. I snatched him into my hand and squeezed, holding him tight to peer in his eyes. Non-plussed, he began to smirk. I squeezed harder.

Our lives are like ladders, or stairs, we ascend, we descend, and often we stumble and slip, we get tired of climbing, we settle for whatever level we are able to reach and pat ourselves square on the back. And on these ladders, there are traps. Little monsters made by self-doubt, by expectations, creatures of malice assisting in our certain demise.

Ten days into 2015 and already I’ve stumbled, I’ve fallen.

When I began this year, I was already weary. Worn out from the weight of last year’s shackles, ready to be free but still captive in some ways. There was a little monster lurking in the early hours of the new year, waiting to trip me up, hoping to mess me up.

This is not something I take lightly, the notion that I could fall so easily and that one day, I might just stay down. I might be defeated. So when I tell you this story, I am also telling myself. I am reminding myself that I can get back up, blubbering mess that I may be, and I can climb the stairs again. I am also telling you to keep climbing, even when you fall, even when you are weary. To snatch the little monsters and hold them tight, watch them squirm.

I could have been badly wounded. As it is, I am bruised and battered, swollen and aching. But not broken, not beaten.

Never beaten.

Goodbye, 2014.

anguish

These last few months I’ve tried to stay quiet. Scroll through my social media feeds and you will see reposts from Tumblr, some chit-chat about books I’d like, or my growing obsession with all things British, but you won’t see many personal statements save the occasional Holiday greeting or writing status update. If social media is a sampling of a person’s life, then mine should tell you one thing: I am processing.

Processing. It’s a word I use a lot to describe my need to riddle out difficult situations without being bothered for an opinion on the subject. Sometimes, I do it while writing, others by griping, and occasionally, by watching Downton Abbey or Harry Potter and taking quizzes online to find out what fictional city I belong in (Hogsmeade) or what literary character I am most like (Sherlock?). It’s necessary, healing, and made better with a very large cup of tea or whiskey, or whiskey in tea. I’m not partial.

This year has been hard, and not just for me. I would challenge you to find a single person in your life that would categorize 2014 as anything but rocky.

We live in a dark and broken world, one populated by people determined to wreck dreams, destroy lives, take lives, confine lives. It is a world where a young man is gunned down and then accused, not accused and then tried. A world where girls are stolen from schools or given away by their families, raped, brainwashed, lost. A world where schools are not safe places because bullying runs rampant, boxes are still built for kids to stay firmly inside, and bullets might fly, taking lives barely lived. It is a world where wars escalate, and death tolls rise.

But it is also a world where voices can unify across race and religion, for change, for justice, just to be heard for a moment, together. Where hashtags get the word out to #bringbackourgirls, to remind us #weneeddiversebooks, and for better or worse, start discussions about feminism, sexism, racism, and sometimes are the only way to follow stories being ignored by major media outlets. It’s a world where a teenage boy from Texas can independently produce a music video about gender stereotypes and watch it climb past 1 million views.

It’s a world where my son lives, plays, learns, and grows. Where he can pray to meet the Pink Power Ranger, and watch his prayers be answered. It’s a world where he knows, no matter what, his mom and dad love him, his mom and dad listen to him. Regardless of how bleak or bright this world may be at times, it is his world. It is my world.

This year was a batter-ram. It was a punch in the gut, a smack in the face, an ugly whisper in my ear. Sometimes it was like sliding down a rainbow to fairyland, full of fun and unbelievable blessing. It was the year I flew on an airplane for the first time by myself, and then got on three more planes, alone and changed. Where I got upgraded to first class when I shouldn’t have. Where I wrote another book, revised it into a thing I’m proud to call mine. It was the year I set out to write a screenplay and I succeeded.

But it was also the year my grandmother died. And her death forced my family to change.

It was the year I questioned everything.

It was the year where certain futures became impossible, where certain relationships became the past, where what seemed steady became shaky.

It was the year that I had to turn inside myself and find my own answers, and be okay with those answers, and trust my faith to carry me past all the questions, all the setbacks, all the loss — it is still carrying me.

And maybe that’s the ultimate answer. Being carried. Allowing yourself to breakdown. Taking the hand given to help you back up. Without that, we would be forced to declare darkness the winner. Yes, the world is filled with darkness, but I refuse to live in a world where it wins. I refuse to be altered by it. Instead, I choose to do whatever I can to alter it. I choose to let myself fall down, but not to stay down.

The kind of magic that exists in fantasy novels, the kind I write about and grew up pretending to wield — it doesn’t exist in this world. Real magic is an act of will, a step forward instead of back. Real magic is living, breathing, forgiving, loving without condition.

It is processing, large teacup in hand or not, and then it is moving forward. Forward is not about forgetting the past, or ignoring the problem. It is deciding not to accept more of the same.

2014 is nearly over. 2015 begins anew.

go

Who’s driving?

I could have lost my leg this evening. You may read that and think I’m being dramatic, or drinking again, and while I am currently nursing a gin and soda, light on the soda, no, that account is pretty accurate.

Today was a good day, and even though North Texas was shrouded in a cloak of storm clouds this afternoon, even though the heat was the kind that made you sigh when you walked out into it, even if I took my first Zumba class and confirmed that all things must be achieved through baby steps and blind faith, I had a sense of rightness. Oneness with my path. Destiny.

On the way home from my son’s art class, the storm hit. Rain pelted us, but we soldiered on, the promise of pasta and red wine (grape juice for Sam) on the horizon. I drove across a bridge, swept up by the wind and heaven’s tears — a fear of mine, one I am acutely aware of — because I felt sure that was the right way.

I don’t consider myself a superstitious person. Sure, I look for meaning in fortune cookies and chance encounters with valuable strangers, but not everything is a sign from On High. Though, I do believe On High speaks in signs and gets your sense of humor.

Life is a mixture of those things: signs, wonders, human error and kitsch.

When my son and I were driving we saw a deer running from the storm. She was magnificently close, her eyes wide with fear, her mind driven by instinct, and I thought, I’m like her, sometimes, afraid of where I find myself, exposed without warning and seeking shelter.

We arrived to the house, safe, sound and ready to eat that pasta. I jumped out of the car, and as I came around to the passenger side I realized I’d left the car on. I opened the passenger door and reached across to turn off the ignition. In that moment I don’t know if I hit the break when I leaned over or if the break had not actually engaged, but the car began to slide.

With my son still strapped in his car seat.

I didn’t think. I just jumped in.

Many things fly through your mind when you’re racing down an incline at a ridiculously fast speed, your leg hanging out, trapped beneath the bottom of the door, scraping along the rock drive.

My leg will be crushed when we hit the gully.

We can’t hit the gully.

I don’t want Sam to know I’m afraid.

I want someone to help me. Please help me.

As long as I can remember I have had this recurring nightmare. I am in the passenger seat of a car that is going too fast and no one is driving. When I realize no one is driving I begin to panic. When I panic the car begins to accelerate, careening uncontrolled away.

In the moment before we hit the gully I turned the wheel away and somehow, even though I couldn’t get my leg in the car before, it was in the car, bruised and screaming with pain, but not crushed. My eyes were locked on Sam, cocooning him away from his fear.

We slammed to a stop, not in the gully, not in the brush, fine, dandy, shaken beings. I am not someone who speaks often publicly of my faith, but this was a moment where that faith was enlivened.

Sometimes we fear things that are beyond our control to begin with. Sometimes that is a fear that will carry us off our path, into some chaos, away from safety. And sometimes, yes, you are hit with the thing you fear when you aren’t looking for it at all. You must jump in anyway, because often, there is something more important than your fear. Something like a little boy strapped in his carseat who doesn’t like roller coasters let alone backward speeding SUVs.

FAUBION-79 copy

 

The Power of Love

I fell in love with a turtle this week. That’s a strange sentence, and not one I ever thought I’d write. On Wednesday around noon I was coming home from working out and getting my hair highlighted (I know, my life is so hard, but before you throw tomatoes at me, it had been six months since I had the time to get my hair done. And I’m a marshmallow, so work out machines resemble torture devises to me.) when the corner of my eye caught on something moving in the grass by my shoe.

A baby turtle!

Without thinking, my husband and I gathered him up, and made a makeshift habitat out of tupperware and river rocks. We discovered the little guy is a red ear slider. Aquatic by nature. We live on a hill surrounded by woods. We have a mostly dry creek bed, because Texas has been in drought, but no real natural source of water anywhere close enough for this turtle to be coming from or trying to get to. There had been a storm, so our thinking is that the turtle was washed up into our yard and then got lost.

(OK, you don’t need to know all this. I do have a point. Bear with me.)

Needless to say, my husband, Sam and I have spent the last four days getting the turtle set up in wondrous aquatic habitat. Sam named the turtle Scout, which is his favorite name. We worry over the little thing like he’s, well, not a wild turtle I nearly stepped on, but a sudden, welcome member of our family.

The turtle hiding underwater.

The turtle hiding underwater.

We love him, for some reason, and we feel responsible for keeping him alive. He’s just a turtle, you say? He is, but that doesn’t change the fact that his tiny swimming self is worth loving.

Love is funny. It is quite possibly the most natural physiological and emotional reaction in life, and yet human beings are terrified of giving themselves over to it. No matter what kind of love it is. Love is dangerous and powerful because loving something or someone means they have some measure of control over you. They own a piece of you.

Even Scout, the turtle. Scout the turtle has the place in my heart reserved for amphibians. I didn’t know there was a place there for those, but unexpectedly there is. Scout has it.

We are so afraid of the pain of love, of the losing, or the hurt that can be caused by loving that it becomes very easy to shut off your aching heart from feeling it. Your mind from opening to the possibility of it. Your body from releasing the rush of adrenaline and oxytocin associated with the fierce instinct to protect. Rather, we numb ourselves. Or we lessen the validity of the emotion in order to protect ourselves from the possible, and often, eventual pain of losing something or someone we love.

As a mother, I gave up that right when my son was born. The daily anxiety I feel associated to Sam is tantamount to tiny panic attacks in my heart. As a wife, (7 years today!) I have no choice but to feel the fear and longing of being inextricably bound to another person. The last time I was free to wound myself without it affecting another person was…never…because before my husband and Sam, it was my mother and father.

Love is treacherous. Those you love take root in your soul. The power of love is supernatural, it binds and breaks and saves. It’s an incredible thing because it is the foundation that lives and worlds are built on. Pretending love has any less power than it does is sticking your head in the sand. Being capable of loving when you understand its power is superhero work.

So, I love a turtle. His little life has bearing, even if it’s small in comparison to my other loves, on mine. I accept that. When we love things — whether human, animal, aquatic, or other — we must acknowledge their power. Writing words is a love in my life. My nieces are loves in my life. God is a love in my life. My five brothers are loves, and those married have wives I love. Best friends, old and new…and so on, forever.

Loving gives them the right to need you, to want you, to take your time and energy, and very often, to cut you deeply. If you don’t love, and you don’t understand the potential in loving something or someone more than yourself, then you miss the fruit of having them love you back. Of having your son wake up in the morning, run upstairs and tell you you’re beautiful when you know —right then — you’re not. Of having your husband hold you when you’re crying because you just are and that’s enough of a reason. Of so much more that makes life, actually and only then, worth living.

That’s…the Power of Love. Happy Arrested Development Premier Day and my wedding anniversary. A special note to some other wonderful couples who got married today as well: Jennifer and Darren, Allen and Mindy, Violet and John —May 26th is Love day!

All I Want for Christmas, Part Two: To Believe

santa
I was not raised to believe in Santa Clause. My parents didn’t want to perpetuate a tale I would only one day discover to be false. As Christians, there was the concern that if I believed in Santa because they told me he was real and I found out they lied, what would I think about God. The logic is pretty sound, even if ultimately believing in God comes down to more than what your parents say.

My husband wasn’t raised to believe in Santa either. I don’t think his parent’s reasoning was a defined, I just think my husband and his siblings weren’t that interested.

Even though I didn’t believe in Santa as a real person, jolly in the North Pole with a gaggle of elves and flying reindeer, I loved Christmas. It didn’t hinder the mystery or inhibit my imagination in any way. I was, as you can probably deduct, a head-in-the-clouds type already. I didn’t need any help in that department. I loved Santa Movies. I loved my parents. Getting a present from them was more valuable than getting one from an imaginary fat man. (My dad has been silver-headed and heavy set as long as I remember.) I loved the manger story. I loved Christmas trees and Rudolph movies.

Sure, there was always the compulsion to tell an unwitting friend who did believe that it was a crock. In fact, when I was eight years old, I remember conspiring with a Jehovah’s Witness friend at school (who was slightly bitter about not getting to celebrate or believe herself) to break the news to our doe-eyed comrade that her parents were scamming her. I also waged a campaign that year for my Jehovah’s Witness friend to have a birthday party. I had a finite sense of justice. Not right and wrong — as is made clear by the fact that I did end up souring Santa for my naive friend — but justice. I also spent a lot of my time in trouble that year, and most years to follow.

This is a roundabout way for me to tell you my husband and I had decided not to do Santa with Sam. It wasn’t even a consideration in my mind. Up until this Christmas, it wasn’t a consideration in Sam’s mind either. But things change.

As you know, Sam is obsessed with Superheroes. My family is kind of hardwired for fantasy, so Sam’s existence in the Marvel Universe (or DC) is not shocking. He is drawn to the imaginary, the fantastical, the beyond-our-own-reality. Which is why, when his cousin told him Santa was real, Sam believed.

Much to my chagrin.

When he told me that Santa was coming on Christmas Eve and bringing him a Flash costume (The DC Comics Superhero) I was irked, but trapped. I couldn’t tell him no. I couldn’t sit a three year old down and say, “Sorry, honey, Santa isn’t going to bring you a Flash costume, because Santa isn’t real.” I’d rather not think about the psychological damage, or the fit, they would ensue.

Nor do I see the point in it. He has chosen to believe. Isn’t that what we want our children to do? We want them to make choices about their faith, or how they exhibit their faith, and it’s not up to us how that plays out. One day, he’ll learn Santa is a myth. (At which point I will direct him to his cousin to place blame.) Right now, his belief is a joy to him. It’s an expression of his willingness to accept the magic in the world, whether that magic is real or imagined.

I have chosen to believe many things in life, some with tangible proof, and some merely because I want to. Choosing to believe is a lifelong dance. I value these simple choices for Sam, these choices made by easy faith, and I revel that he is learning the tools to make greater choices one day.

Santa may not be real. Santa may not be my first choice. But it was his. And the Flash costume we ordered from Amazon that came in the mail yesterday will have a special note from Santa, written in handwriting oddly similar to Mom.