So you have a clue whose stuff you’re reading…
Mis Padres, and Traipsing About
Mom–an American translator who grew up in Costa Rica (my granddad ran a gold mine there). Dad–a Costa Rican writer, journalist, TV producer/director, etc. who has by now been married 7 times (I think). I first learned Spanish, then English.
Childhood was defined by travel, growing up between countries. Including a trip with my adventurous mom on a banana freighter from NY to Panama–unforgettable as we stopped along the islands–with a priest, a nun, my mother, brother, and me, as the only passengers. Another expedition took us to Peru, and mysterious Cuzco and Macchu Picchu. Mom worked for the UN. Time with my dad was spent bouncing around the Costa Rican countryside in the back of a jeep, interviewing all kinds of characters and photographing the landscape of faces and greenery and lush smelling richness. He taught me to love real people and get gloriously stuck (and unstuck) in the mud. (I really love getting stuck in the mud.) My unorthodox parents taught me to be comfortable with both presidents and campesinos.
My dad left us when I was about 4. He is one of my complicated heroes now, but when he left us, I felt the shocking emptiness of a disappeared dad. I think the pain of abandonment is the closest thing to hell someone can experience this side of death.
And then there’s the closest thing to heaven. One summer night during my 13th year on the planet, we were staying with my aunt and uncle… I slept on their sofa, right under a bookshelf full of those nice leather-bound book of the month gold leaf classics like Treasure Island and A Tale of Two Cities… I was restless. Something moved me, like my heart was caught in a tractor beam (how else to describe that pull?). From somewhere beyond my soul I cried, “God, I want to meet you. I have to meet you!” Such a deep yearning. The next morning, as my aunt and I were chatting at the kitchen table, I suddenly felt all wrapped up in the arms of God the Father (again, words fail me). A river of joy rushed through my back and out my chest. I sensed God saying, “Here I am.” Amazing love. A thoroughly mystical and thoroughly practical experience.
I know that might not make sense to you, but that is how I discovered faith. Or faith discovered me. Or we collided.
We had moved to Trenton, New Jersey when I was 12. Inner-city Trenton was quite the rough transition from running around the countryside of Escazú, Costa Rica, chasing lizards… Robbins Elementary (Ms. Charity Eileen Fogg was my 6th grade teacher, the best). “Jr. 4” the junior high. Then good old Trenton High, with constant racial tensions between Hispanics, African-Americans, and Italians. I’m pretty sure that’s where I got my considerable diplomatic skills.
When I was 17 we moved to Chile with the UN. Attended the most expensive school in the country, with diplomats’ kids, but that didn’t last long–I couldn’t stand what felt like detachment from reality. So I finished high school by correspondence and then studied theatre, in Santiago, during the Pinochet dictatorship. Hanging out with other actors under a brutal dictatorship was definitely an education. Oh and the vinito was amazing.
At 19 I joined the crew of the ship MV Doulos (run by a non-profit, Operation Mobilization) in Brazil. I was thrilled to be in a community of world-changers! We traveled the world, distributing educational literature – over 350 young people, full of faith, from more than 50 nations, working together. Multicultural is an understatement.
So this guy was on the ship… (the juicy details are in my blog posts from May and June 2009). Peter. South African, high energy, politically conscious, tons of fun, strong leader, pastoral heart. We courted, got engaged, got un-engaged, married, then fought and loved our way through having four kids and… wow, some challenging seasons… But, we’ve been married quite a long time now and we’re sticking with it. Peter and I have four amazing kids who are trying hard to grow us up. We own a software development company called 12 Skies Tech, and figure if we’re still on the planet, it’s because there’s work to do.
And, because awkward letters don’t write themselves, my daughter Linda and I own a communications boutique–The Awkward Letters Co.