Tag Archives: paris

I can’t do that anymore.

firsttheycameIn high school and college, I followed politics voraciously and closely. I was up for any debate. But then I slowly took a step back,  burnt out and disillusioned as the country and world became increasingly hostile and angry (as well as the lack of bi-partisanship, and frankly, aggression, between parties). I stopped following the news as closely, staying informed, but removed emotionally.

I can’t do that anymore.

It would certainly be more comfortable for me not to speak up. Many bloggers I know make the choice not to make their feelings on “issues” public (including myself). I get it; I have been there. At best, it takes a lot of energy to dialogue in a respectful way and at worst, it becomes mud wrestling in the comment section. Announcing opinions on the internet does not always leave room to change one’s mind.

Let’s face it. Who actually likes those people on Facebook who are constantly posting politically incendiary things, no matter the party? I don’t. I can’t. It’s like sensory overload. It’s easier to keep my opinions to myself, to close my computer.

But I can’t do that anymore.

You see, when I took a step back, I just expected other people to do the work. I expected others to course correct when a person or political party said something ridiculous or there was an absurd proposal. It’s not that I didn’t care. It was that sensory overload, an emotional exhaustion, and I just figured others could pick up the slack.

But I can’t do that anymore.

I can’t avoid online conflict because the fact is, whatever its size, this is a platform. And for me not to speak has officially become more terrifying than standing up for what I believe is right. Let me tell you why.

It started a few weeks ago, in the wake of the Paris attacks, when Trump* announced he thought there should be a database for Muslims (afterwards, he amended his idea to monitor Muslim refugees and “some” mosques).

Was this real? Could a front runner for president from our country’s two party system actually say (or perhaps worse, think) such a thing? My insides started to quiver. It brought to mind two instances–a hint, a faint whiff, subtle–where a group of people were monitored based on their faith or ethnicity: the days of Nazi Germany (it started as “monitoring) or what we did to the Japanese during WWII (they were forced to leave their homes, jobs, businesses, everything, to live in interment camps).**

When it comes to the latter, let me emphasize: we did that. Things like that can happen in America. Sometimes I think we–I know I do this–all believe we are a little protected because this is America. That word, this place brings to mind the Statue of Liberty, the American Dream, the Bill of Rights, and so much more. We believe we are the good guys and that we will always be the good guys.

But I can’t do that anymore.

Trump’s plan was only the beginning. Within a few days, over half of America’s governors signed their names to a document saying they would not accept any Syrian Refugees. When I tweeted my shame that governors in America did this, someone I respect greatly pointed out that whether refugees are accepted or denied is a federal issue. The thing is, I knew that. But I didn’t care. They signed their names to a document that said the people, the refugees of Syria, were not welcome in America. 

That’s shameful.

Writing about controversies here is not fun. As a blogger, in two years, I have maybe posted five truly controversial posts and then signed my name to those posts. I’ve had plenty of opinions but I haven’t written them here. I haven’t signed my name to them.

But I can’t do that anymore.

Then there was the mayor in Virginia who said this: “I’m reminded that President Franklin D. Roosevelt felt compelled to sequester Japanese foreign nationals after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and it appears that the threat of harm to America from Isis now is just as real and serious as that from our enemies then.”

My insides began to shake, not just quiver. Could this really be happening?

But then the latest plan of Donald Trump’s: “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”***

This is happening here. Right here. I understand that it’s a proposal. But he’s the frontrunner for president from the republican party and to not take him seriously would be a mistake. For a long time, when he said things I found absurd, I didn’t take him seriously because I saw him as the guy who put huge letters on the building near where I worked in Downton Chicago and told people, “You’re fired” on The Apprentice. I was wrong. It’s not just polls either. People I respect, people I go to for life advice, believe he is the best candidate. I underestimated him.

But I can’t do that anymore.

I know it’s nice to go about our days. I understand it is easier to go about life as normal and I would prefer to run my errands and shovel my snow and cuss that I forgot to buy milk at the grocery store, be wary of the laundry pile, wish my kid could sleep through the night, change the sheets on my bed and curse that damn fitted sheet (or whatever your version of normal is). I understand. I do. Because I am trying to move right now and everything in my life is a mess. I would prefer to handle that and only that.

But I can’t do that anymore.

If I don’t speak, if I don’t use whatever “voice” I have, to denounce all of this, then what? What is next? Each time one of these things happened I could not believe it and yet I never expected it to get worse. But it is getting worse, increasingly so.

And so I cannot be quiet anymore.

Recently, I saw a comment on Facebook. Someone was complaining about something that the federal government does–imagine taxes, insurance, all that pesky stuff that is annoying. This person’s complaints were not out of line but then this person said something like: I usually don’t like to talk about politics but this is really ridiculous.

It hit me that this translates to: I usually don’t like to talk about politics but this affects me so it’s different.

This person is not an anomaly. This person is you and this person is me. Even as I write this, I am trying to put my list of things to do (rental insurance, changing my address, packing, etc.) out of my head. We care when it affects us.

But I can’t do that anymore.

These are dangerous times.

Here is a story: I fell behind in answering comments and so a few days ago, I replied to a comment originally written about the post I wrote in reaction to Paris. She said something about how crazy it is and how sad, that she can no longer think when an act of terrorism will happen but only where it would be, that these horrible events feel inevitable.

Do you realize, I wrote back, that by the time I am replying there has already been an act of terrorism, a mass shooting, in San Bernardino?

These are dangerous times.

A man running for president, the canidate who has by far gotten the most media attention, and continues to be the front runner for one of the parties in our two party system has said that he will not allow Muslims into this country.***

Don’t worry though. If you are Muslim and already a citizen, he isn’t going to deport you or anything.

Don’t worry though. If you practice another faith, this won’t affect you either.

Don’t worry though. They’re talking religion. Your sexual orientation, your skin color, the amount of money you make, you won’t ever be affected based on those things.

I hope you sense my sarcasm because I don’t believe him. I don’t believe him–and people like him–at all.

I’m not suggesting this is the Holocaust.** But what I will say is that Hitler did not announce out of the blue that he was putting all the Jews, the handicapped, the elderly (and others) on trains to concentration camps where they would be killed in gas chambers. It never happens like that.

It happens slowly. It creeps along, hatefulness like this. Have you ever heard the anecdote about the frog? If you boil water and put a frog in, it will jump right out. But if you put a frog in some water and turn up the heat slowly, the frog does not jump out. I can’t say whether this is scientifically sound but it feels like we are all the frog, that the water is slowly warming.

I’m a Christian and everyone is welcome here. But I am calling out my fellow Christians: we can’t do it anymore. 

We cannot be silent. We cannot ignore the commands of Jesus. We cannot pretend that this is not happening. We cannot try and justify the policies of people in a certain party because we have voted a certain way our whole lives. We cannot raise our voices over abortion and not raise our voices over this. We have to seriously examine the intensity of the connection between claiming to be a Christian and not just defending the right to bear arms but an unwillingness to examine gun control in this country. We must recognize that according to the Bible we are sojourners here, that we are citizens of Heaven, and as such we are refugees too. We cannot ignore passages like this one, Jesus’s words, because it is just easier:

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’  Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ 

Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’  And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:31-46).

A part of me does not want to publish this. A part of me is afraid. In the past, that fear would dictate whether this actually was posted.

But I can’t do that anymore.
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P.S. I tried to cite everything and use a variety of sources (because it is important to me that I am informed by a variety of sources) but since some of the things I talk about happened in the recent past and every day there is a new headline, I did the best I could.

*I wrote this before Trump’s CNN interview. I have no idea how that is going to go. Also, this is not about Trump but rather a series of events that have had me examining my own heart and the Gospel. I hope that is clear.

**I am not comparing Trump to Hitler. I hope this is obvious but I am putting this here just in case. I find that argument to be insensitive to the atrocities that took place during the Holocaust when Hitler committed a genocide against a race of people.

***There are caveats to his plan.

Finally, Jen Hatmaker said it better than I ever could .

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To Choose Hope over Resignation.

parisTo ignore what happened in Paris past weekend and other cities around recently would be easier than addressing it. And yet to ignore it feels very wrong to me. I don’t know what to say or what to write. I know I am sad, horrified, disgusted, stricken, and a million other adjectives and yet this weekend I cozied up by myself and worked on my novel, playing in the world that I can control because staring what happened straight in the face made me feel raw. I had to disconnect from it. I was cowardly about it.

You know, I’ve done these seminars for two different companies I’ve worked for on the differences between generations–the traditionalists, the baby boomers, generation x, and the millennials (the latter of which I fall into). Companies do this because there are stark differences in ideology and approach to life and work and if one can recognize and work with those differences, the company is better for it. I’ve read whole books on being a millennial christian. And I’ve scrolled past constant headlines about my generation (I read them for a long time but I had to stop because they just upset me). Apparently we mesmerize and befuddle the other generations (our parents and grandparents). They study us like we are strange creatures (May I suggest their parent’s and grandparent’s generations probably felt the same way about them at times?).

In all those seminars and books I’ve read, there is something always pointed out by experts. Millennials are the only generation to know what it is like to live with terrorism on American soil that was specifically targeted at civilians. Just as we don’t know what it’s like to live through a draft and what that does to a generation of men, the other generations don’t know what it is like to be an adolescent watching the Twin Tours fall while they are sitting in Social Studies class. I’m not an expert. I probably wouldn’t have thought of this distinction if not for the experts themselves talking about it.

What does it say about me–about my friends and people my age–that I am horrified and shocked at what happened in Paris and what’s been going on in other cities for weeks and months, yet not at all shocked at the same time? I live in a world where extremists can take innocent lives and try to devastate a city. I grew up in that world. A part of me feels so jaded and I hate that (hence the quote above about staying soft) because I feel like if we just replace ISIS with Al Qaida and rewind a few years, nothing has changed and nothing will change. I keep searching for a word to claim my feelings and I think perhaps I found it. A huge part of me feels resigned. It is different than feeling defeated. But it is still not how I want to feel. I do not want to be resigned.

I cannot get one of my favorite poems out of my head; it’s Edna St. Vincent Millay’s Dirge Without Music. It’s been one of my favorites since I was too little to even understand it (weird, yes, I know).

I don’t know what to give or offer the world here on my small space of the internet. I don’t know what to say. So I will just leave someone else’s words instead. They are far better.dirgewithoutmusic1For me, this poem is grief embodied. It captures the pain and horror and hopelessness of losing someone(s). I have hope though. It’s in God. It’s knowing that because of what Jesus did, our bodies may turn to dust but we can know Heaven with Him. And yet, when in the midst of grief and sorrow, if we could only be so eloquent, this poem holds the words we might express. I ache by the end of it.


I wrote all of that and then I texted a friend who has lived and worked in Paris and now resides in Europe. I listened to my friend and then this friend graciously listened to me and spoke the Gospel over me. And I said that I believed it. I believe that God is good and that God will conquer evil and that He will be glorified. I believed it but I was still feeling resigned and I explained that I thought it was because I was paying too much attention to man’s response, which felt like déjà vu and also in some ways futile because this world we live in…man, is it messed up.

And so I find myself recommitted to looking to Jesus. He is my hope and my salvation. He is my anchor. I don’t have to know how I feel or worry over the world’s response or despair that this will happen again. He knows how I feel already. He is in control. And I remember His words, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

My friend said, “The Gospel runs toward pain.” And it does. It is. It can. Because in the world, there will be tribulation. But my heart can be full of hope and yes, even peace. Because Jesus has overcome the world.

So this is what I am actively clinging to from now on. This is what I am actively choosing to believe and trust and put my faith in.

All my Love,
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P.S. I wrote this before news broke on Monday that governors of 26 states (including the one in which I live) are telling the world that Syrian refugees are not welcome in “their” states (even though they have no power to make such a decision constitutionally; it’s a federal issue). That will have to be another blog post for another day but Lord, please have mercy. It’s shameful and such a disgrace that a country of immigrants would turn away immigrants, that people who claim to know Jesus don’t remember or live by this sentiment, which He expressed in many ways, at many times.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’  Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ ” (Matthew 25:31-40) And maybe, read the rest of the passage too…

Also, see Jen Hatmaker’s Facebook post which includes an article from the Economist which is pertinent any time anyone makes the argument that this is a security issue.

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Paris? Or the Ferry Building on a Saturday?

It rained again on Saturday or perhaps it just kept on raining. The drizzle, the gray sky–sometimes these things make you want to curl up under a thick duvet and read a good book, falling asleep just when you reach the best part. And sometimes, that gray sky and the rain–not quite enough for an umbrella but not a downpour either–magically charges you to go off on some adventure, to brave the elements and then huddle in a warm cafe, speaking in whispers over buttery croissants. Mom and I felt the latter.

The day did feel quite parisian. SONY DSC

Mom tried Blue Bottle Coffee for the first time. It’s famous in San Francisco. When I lived in a hip neighborhood during my sublease, there was a corner cafe that served Blue Bottle Coffee one day and the next day…didn’t. The person in front of me in line asked about this and the manager sighed as if this was just the saddest question. “Blue Bottle Coffee is now being sold by Bloomingdales and we don’t support conglomerates,” he told her. I just wanted coffee. Nonetheless, SF is famous for Blue Bottle Coffee and knowing my mom this was our first spot. Her verdict: “You know? It’s really smooth.” Why, yes it is, Maman.

Next:SONY DSCMaman never tasted macaroons before. Like Chelsea before me, I inducted Maman into the club of macaroon glory.SONY DSCWe tried Chocolate, Hazelnut, and Grapefruit (at the suggestion of the store). It was sweet instead of bitter and Maman tasted her first of many macaroons. The shop was too sweet not to peek into.SONY DSC

SONY DSCOn Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, the Ferry Building is transformed into an indoor/outdoor market. It’s where Maman tasted Blue Bottle and her macaroons and where we found produce that felt like art. SONY DSC

SONY DSCIf anyone knows what this is (I don’t), please let me know:SONY DSCFlowers upon flowers and tulips to make our hearts ache for Spring:SONY DSC

Since we felt the international vibe, I was charmed to find some Sweet William in the flesh. It’s what Princess Kate carried down the aisle, only I believe it was the white variety. I can’t imagine the Queen Mother allowing such brights (although does anyone remember that yellow outfit she tried to rock??)

SONY DSCThere was also a station called Poemgrams where you sat with a poet and the poet’s typewriter and after speaking with you for a few moments the poet wrote you something. There was a line so we bypassed this, although it was charming.I’m telling you…we could have been in Paris. But for this beautiful man in the background:SONY DSC(I have a soft spot for the Bay Bridge…maybe even a crush.) Though Paris has her charms, I love San Francisco and I love these little pockets of wonderful whimsy that can take up a rainy morning with Maman.

Au Revoir,

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Paris is Always a Good Idea.

Speaking of birthdays…today, a certain number of years ago, a lovely babe named Chelsea was born in a small town in Illinois. Don’t worry; I won’t be doing birthday shout outs every day but I have been wanting to share another Chelsea + Nina Adventure and her birthday seemed like the perfect day.

in Paris

in Paris

I heart Chelsea for many reasons but for my purposes here,  I have to tell you that Chelsea is often my partner in adventures. These, typically, are not-on-purpose-adventures. Some might call them  accidental, mistakes, or even misadventures. For many years, Chelsea and I called them this, living in denial.

Oh yes, the time we were supposed to road trip and we thought we broke the car door…I think we both cried. No one understood how a thing like that could happen. But it did! It happened, guys! Can we focus here? And then we dissolved into crying again. But somewhere along the way, we accepted the fact that if Chelsea and I are in a car, supposed to be somewhere, we will get lost. Or run out of gas. Or have a flat tire. We don’t cry anymore. We shrug and accept that this is just how things are. This is the way the world works, like physics. Which for the record, Chelsea and I are really good at. (Not.)

Can you see Paris in a six hour window, starting at four o’clock in the afternoon? Some people would say no. No, you cannot. This is an impossible thing. But to those people Chelsea and I say: yes, you can. I think it can safely be said that some of our greatest mistakes-turned-adventures begin with Chelsea and I looking at one another, shrugging, and saying: we can totally do that.

Notre Dame...one of the few clear photographs my camera/I/Chelsea took

Notre Dame…one of the few clear photographs my camera/I/Chelsea took

Which results in bizarre craziness that no one believes really happened.

You can’t predict these things. You must shrug and accept them. You must accept and live in the chaos.

Background: a few years ago, Chels, was living abroad in a suburb of Paris. I visited her but because of scheduling we ended up with only a half day of sight seeing in Paris for me before we flew to my family in Rome. When I tell you we ran around the city, I am not lying to you. We literally ran. We did the things you aren’t supposed to do–like trying to track down this amazing french market that turns out is only closed on Tuesday afternoons, which if you are wondering is also a common theme for Chelsea and I.

Oh, that thing you planned on doing? It’s only unavailable when we show up. So for this market we definitely went off the beaten path, saw some unsavory characters, and went on a wild goose chase before we saw the standard sights.

Chelsea took me ice skating...bet you didn't think we had time for that, did ya? Booyah. Bet you didn't know I used to figure skate.

Chelsea took me ice skating…bet you didn’t think we had time for that, did ya? Booyah. Bet you didn’t know I used to figure skate either.

Grace with the photography, please. I had no idea what I was doing and something funky was happening with my camera which reinforces my point. Oh, Nina and Chelsea, you’re in Paris sight seeing? Boom, your camera is out of focus for some unknown reason.

See? Weird. And that was the best one.

See? Weird. And that was the best one.

But then you get stunning photos like this one?

But then you get stunning photos like this one?

Can you see why I explained my early picture taking as just completely accidental?

Can you see why I explained my early picture taking as just completely accidental?

l'arc de triumphe

l’arc de triumphe and le tour d’eiffel

Not gonna lie..We could have died taking these pictures. Parisian driving...? Here is the Champs-Élysées

Not gonna lie..We could have died taking these pictures. Parisian driving…? Here is the Champs-Élysées

The Holy Grail of Macaroons...

The Holy Grail of Macaroons…

But let me keep it real and tell you we ate them waiting for the metro, exhausted, damp, and happy. Exactly how one should be after an adventure.

But let me keep it real and tell you we ate them waiting for the metra, exhausted, damp, and happy. Exactly how one should be after an adventure.

We did other things but the pictures just did not turn out. We saw the Louvre. We ended up eating pizza even though we were flying to Rome the next day. This is another example of Chelsea + Nina Adventures. You think, well, that’s dumb. To which we say, when you’re flying around Paris and it’s raining and you’re on an adventure and you’re not très riche, you may end up eating pizza. And you’re happy.

To my co-adventurer…Happy Birthday!Screen Shot 2014-01-13 at 3.51.38 PM

Love you so much,

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