And I am Cold

Silent_Night_Holy_Night_28The instrumental music to Silent Night plays and my tears begin to fall. It is a few days before Christmas and I am in Chicago, away from my parents for the first Christmas ever.

And I am cold.

I am a student nurse at a small school in the city. In the four short months since I have been here I have ballooned from a curvy teen to a size 16 – the chapatis, curry and chai of my upbringing replaced with midnight study breaks of trail mix and Chicago’s famous deep dish pizza. I have gone from cute to fat.

And I am cold.

I feel the strangeness of this city and the contrast between the life I have left and the one I am currently living. I have left family and community. I have left winter Bougainvillea and am now surrounded by trees with no leaves. I have left belonging and am now a stranger. I have left peace and I now feel conflict.

And I am cold.

My tears fall into the cold. It’s almost Christmas and even now my parents are gathering for the annual Christmas pageant with Christians in Shikarpur, Pakistan. They are making sure they have sweets to give all their neighbors, my dad making last-minute trips to the bazaar for mittai (sweets), packing them in square pink boxes. And I hope my mother is missing me.

I am so alone. And I am so cold.

And I think back on the story I have heard since I can remember. The story of a baby and a mom and a dad. A baby and a family away from their family home on that first Christmas. A teenager who is giving birth without her mom by her side; a young man who is walking by faith and that’s about it. A baby who has left, not only the womb, but something far bigger, and is experiencing the strangeness of a new place with a first cry, a first experience of cold and pain.

A baby who has left belonging and is now, like me, a stranger; has left peace and entered conflict.

In what can only be the comfort of the Holy Spirit, that mysterious third person in the Godhead, there is a breath of warmth, light, remembrance. Although nothing has changed, all of this feels different–And suddenly I am not so cold.

Five Cities, Five Time Zones, Five Kids

They are in five cities – Cairo, Egypt; Chicago, Illinois; Los Angeles, California; New York City, New York; Oxford, England.

They span three continents – North America, Africa, Europe.

They live in five time zones – EST, GMT, CST, PST, and Egypt time (which can’t really be described through an acronym)

“They” are my five children.

And it’s not nearly as glamorous as it may sound because I would like to have them all over for Sunday dinner. I can’t help but think it is sweet justice for my mom…. I now know how she felt with kids and grand kids in Turkey, Pakistan, Egypt and the United States.

Annie sits in the heart of Tahrir Square where history was made and continues to be the epicenter of events in Egypt.

Joel makes his home in Chicago, arguably the best city to eat in world-wide. Lake Michigan, the Sears Tower, and Navy Pier are all world-class tourist attractions.

 Micah and Lauren navigate the cut throat world of Los Angeles, home to Oscars and egos.

Stefanie, in an apartment overlooking Herald Square, lives life in New York City and can attest to the fact that it’s the city that never, ever, ever, sleeps!

Jonathan is in the hallowed halls and ivy-laden buildings of Oxford, England, where minds meet and mingle over high tea and classic literature.

At one time I worried that they wouldn’t have the confidence to travel alone. At one time I wondered aloud if they would have a desire to explore their world. At one time I thought that it would be impossible to raise global kids in a small town.

But now as I sit in Boston with their dad, I wonder when we’ll all be together again!

But for now we’ll text, and Skype, email and phone, praying all the while that bonds will tighten despite the miles and eagerly await opportunities to celebrate future gatherings.

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“My Name is Nwabudike and I am from Nigeria….”

Perhaps you’ve received an email like this: 

“My name is Nwabudike and I am from Nigeria. Please I would like you to keep this proposal as a top-secret and delete it if you are not interested and get back to me if you are interested for details as regards to the transfer of $24,500,000 to you. this money initially belongs to a client who died and had no next of kin in his account-opening package.”

Or like this: 

I am Mrs. Isabel Jose from Spain married to Mr. Joe Armstrong from Sierra Leone for eleven years now, we have three kids … I have a business proposal which I believe that will be a very Good opportunity for both of us so I decided to contact you on this business opportunity in our bank, the business is this I discovered an abandoned sum of 10.500m US dollars (Ten million five hundred thousand united states dollars) in our safety deposit vault that belongs to one of our foreign customer. Who died along with his entire family on 15th April 2005 in a ghastly motor accident along Valencia express way.

Or maybe an email with a more friendly and familiar tone, like this: 

Dear friend
I am Dr Raymond Chien Independent Non-executive Director of Hang Seng Bank Hong Kong I have a business transaction of $44.5 million USD to share with you,If interested contact me for more details via my personal email

We’ve all received them. They come from Nigeria and Spain; Kenya and China. They have a name, a promise of more money than most of us could ever dream of, and often a tragedy thrown in for good measure. They are the famous internet business proposals that we know are false. We laugh at them. We “tsk, tsk” at them. We hit delete. But how many of us have secretly thought, just once, that maybe, just maybe we could outsmart the sender. Maybe we could turn the tables on them and receive something for nothing?

A clever playwright in Chicago did just this with an internet business proposal. In 2009, Steve Gadlin received an email from a Kenyan gentleman. The email was an offer to purchase a play that a Mister Victor Gido had written. The price? $30,000. Thus began an email correspondence that one can guess went to and fro until ultimately Mr. Gadlin purchased an original play for $50.

Here’s how it happened:Mr. Gadlin took the most impossible plot line ever developed in the history of man and asked Mr. Gido to write the play. The plot line was this: “A Millionaire  named Quack Quack Quimby has forgotten the true meaning of the Jewish Holiday Tu Bishvat. His daughter goes to great lengths to remind him of its meaning and make him happy once again”. The result?  The result was “The Nairobi Project“.

I heard of this play through my son and daughter in law, Lauren. Lauren, an actor in Chicago, played the role of one of Mr. Quimby’s daughter’s, Avital. Much to my disappointment, I never saw the play but the idea is outrageously funny and clever. The business proposal ultimately entertained audiences in Chicago by providing an unusual and completely original play at the cost of a mere $50.

There are critics who claim that Mr. Gadlin is exploiting our Kenyan friend. To this accusation Mr. Gadlin brings up a fair argument – just who was exploiting who? One can assume that this was not the first email that Mr. Gido had sent to solicit customers for his writing skills.  Mr. Gadlin paid a man who willingly jumped at the opportunity (in fact, suggested the idea himself) a mutually agreed upon fee. In return Mr. Gido received name recognition for a play that was put up in Chicago, a major city of the United States and described as “America’s most flourishing independent theater hub” For an aspiring playwright this is amazing.  How many people wait for years to get their big break – to have their plays noticed by producers?

An anonymous ‘someone’ is behind every one of these internet proposals. They are not created out of thin air. Someone writes them, casting a net out into a world-wide pool of potentially desperate takers. So what if most of us delete them? All they need is one and the anonymous someone walks away happy while the desperate kick themselves as they go through the nightmare of trying to replenish their now empty bank accounts

So next time you get one of those emails, take a look! If Mr. Gadlin could turn it into a real-live money-making opportunity, there may be some hope!

What are some of the business proposals you’ve received via email? Share your favorites in the comment section! 

From Duplo to Foucault

Two Duplo and one normal Lego bricks, photo ta...
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As I write this I am ending a weekend in Chicago where I’ve had the opportunity to begin my role as an “almost Mother-in-Law” attending a shower for my son’s fiancée with the added bonus of a visit with my two older sons.

It is remarkable to reflect on two tow-headed toddlers, 14 months apart, initially inseparable as they played with Duplo,  advancing on to Lego.  Moving through life they developed distinct characters and personalities and the interests turned to guitars, video cameras, college textbooks and girls turning into women.  Just as it is amazing to be both insider and observer to the past stages of development, it is humbling to see the men they have become.  In a few short years they have gone from Duplo to Foucault and all the stages in between. They are deep thinkers and communicators, challenging me to analyze and articulate in a clearer way.

Joel is the philosopher and musician. He has introduced me to Foucault, Žižek, and Jazz. He challenges the cliches of religious talk, demanding authenticity. Joel is as comfortable talking to a professor as he is communicating with the homeless and has earned the title of “Mayor of Chicago” from his friends who claim he knows everyone in the city. If you head to the coffee shop where he works in the Wicker Park area of Chicago, he will make you an amazing coffee drink where frothed milk will create an artificial mustache on your upper lip.

Micah is the filmmaker and out of a shell of an idea can create a story on the screen. His work has a depth and creativity to it that has already earned him awards and encouragement. He has, throughout his life, lived at a different level than his peers with an understanding of faith and redemption that is beyond his years. Added to that is a zany sense of humor that brings Harry Carey impressions in living color to our home and earned him second place in a speech tournament during high-school. He is deeply in love with an amazing, beautiful woman named Lauren and they will start their life as a married couple this spring on April 9th.

The trip is made sweeter as I realize that the next time I see my sons we will be in Chicago for Micah’s wedding. I suspect that they will be almost unrecognizable in tuxedos as Joel joins Micah at the front of a chapel, standing up as his best-man. It has made me value this trip even more as I see the curtain fall on one more stage of life, and anticipate raising champagne flutes in a toast allowing a new act to begin.