Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Side Effects

When I am
with my family,
colors seem brighter.

I know that there are many other blessings that stem forth from the bold nature of unconditional, unchanging, unwavering

But on warm fall days,
nothing seems to beat a winding drive
through golden trees
with my family.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Mental Health Moment

As my bff so eloquently stated a few weeks ago:
" wowzee, using your brain gets tiring sometimes..."
Now while her own intelligence could be put up
for debate after a quote like this,
I think there is alot of validity behind the sentiment.

Which is why I am spitting out the following.
because "wowzee, my brain is tired".

1. I am trying to figure out how to construct myself into a giant donut for this tuesday's youth group "fall festival".
any mechanical advice on configuring an outfit of this sort would be much appreciated. (something to consider: I have to take the El to get to destination)

2. it is so freaking cold. while boarding the Western stop tonight after youth meeting, a "gentlemen" hollered at me from across the street, proposing "I'll keep you warm baby, yeah that's right..."
Had it been 2 degrees colder, I think I might have actually taken him up on the offer.
(mom. i am kidding, i wouldn't have...but if hearing real life stories like this makes you want to send me long johns, then i am ok with that....)

3. note to self. the night you wear pig tails, ratty sweater, and clompy boots, is the night a young, georgous brazillian literature professor will sit next to you and dial his sister to talk about that morning's church service. further note: the fact that he caught you in the middle of mowing down on a piece of roommate intended pumpkin pie will not play in your favor.
things to keep in mind, jensen...things to keep in mind.

4. school, i am coming to get you, sooner than you know. just wait for it. i miss you too.

5. in children's church today i saw an eight year old boy eat more goldfish crackers in a two minute period than i could ever hope to eat in my lifetime. it was pretty incredible.

this list is so lame.
i didn't even make it past five
and it is more a diary entry than anything.

but weather.com says it is supposed to snow tommorrow.
so i'll consider this my winter lament,
scold myself for a day or two,
and then move on.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Modern Day Wizardry

....Have we met before?
I feel as though we have-
yet I know not the time or place...

Did we stand and discuss in songs as we do this afternoon?
Composing lyrics of chess games and bird baths and steaming toys...

When the shop door opened just moments ago,
and the bell rang it's friendly, welcoming "DinG",
I could have sworn it was because you winked your laughing blue eyes...

Perhaps I saw you walking once,
perhaps we walked down the same tree lined street,
and you tipped your hat,
and hooked your thumb behind your left suspender,
and said "well hello there",
just as you did when we first came in.

The other two customers
have loud, expensive shoes that bang on your wooden floors.
The parrott in the corner started screaming at them.
I could have sworn it was because snapped your ink-covered fingers.

Or maybe at the bookstore across the alley.
Maybe I watched you from behind a novel,
and you pulled out your glasses,
and turned each novels page with expert deliberation,
and causally stuffed your pipe with smells of sweet plumb tobacco,
just as you are doing now.




Then again. Be realistic.

Perhaps Maybe Not.

So here we are to say goobye,
and thank you for the pleasure
and for the conversation and for the iced tea,
and for the pleasure of conversation over iced tea...

But when the shop door closed behind me
and I saw the gift like gold shining at my feet in the afternoon light,
I knew it was because your warm wrinkled hand had just shook mine.

I brushed the hanging ivy aside from the store front window to say "Thank You",
but you were nowwhere in sight.
just a steaming toy truck on a worn, threadbare rug.

photograph by sir james.

We are working on our 6th patient of the morning. The heat is unbearable. I am drenched with sweat. Scarlett’s duct-taped loops keep falling from her eyes and onto the patient’s paper towel bib. We work hurriedly and efficiently, not from lack of care, but because she knows the line is long and each patient most likely will have such significant amounts of decay that we will be re-constructing entire teeth, not patching up pin holes. I hold the battery-weakened curing light to the occlusal surface. We have 30 seconds to breathe and my gaze lands on her supplies, marveling at what she is able to accomplish with a literal tackle box of such few materials. I hand her the last of 3 plastic strips. We have already cut them in half. We can’t conserve anymore. She clears her throat. This means she is going to say something to me. “Yesica. Where are you? Tell me where you are. What you thinking?”

Scarlett is this way, one of those people able to see you when she looks at you. The first morning I worked with her I found it to be somewhat disconcerting…but throughout the week her discernment has become a rare form of comfort. I hand her the composite material. I have stopped asking what shade she needs because it does not matter here.

“I am thinking…how do you do all this…with… with so little…? And how do you not get tired?” Now the plastic instrument. We only have one. “Welllll…Yesika...I guesses I am just amazing, what can I say?” Her eyes laugh at me over her mask. Curing light again, equilibration, another minute of instructions, the patient spits into a wastebasket, and we say goodbye.

Scarlett rips off her gloves and looks at her watch. “One more.” As I begin to wipe down the chair for the second “one more” of the morning, she reaches over and touches my hand. I stop.

“Yesica. Listen to me. God blesses all in different ways. But He choose to bless you with opportunity. Opportunity we do not have here. I thank God for my life, for what I do, but there is more, there is much I desire, but not all will be. And I am tired. Very tired. But pressing on, always pressing on, yes?”
“Si. Yes, Scarlett”
“Cheque. Good. “Cool.”

She smiles and Marcus hands her his dental form. I stand to get the necessary anesthetics. This is the last vile of Lidocaine we have for our morning supply. As Scarlett prepares the patient and administers the first injection, she closes her eyes and sighs deeply. Now she is the one who is somewhere else, and I watch her quietly as she goes-watch her strong beautiful face, her strong beautiful faith, unwavering, in spite of all her broken dreams.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Images of Sickness

Today I am working in the pharmacy-a station consisting of two folding tables and seven or so trunks of donated medicines. We are sharing the same room as the nurses. Doctor Hector is set up in the corner. Screaming children bury their fevered cries in between their mother's legs. A few older men sit stoically along the wall in kindergarten school chairs. They have walked far and waited long for this-for all the nurses sitting before me, for the doctor in the corner, and for the hodgepodge of medicines they are trusting will alleviate their pain. I stand along the wall, prescriptions in hand, completely baffled. Several are written in spanish, some in scribbles, others have so many medications that I do not even know how to start filling them all. Meanwhile, the mothers watch with their unwavering gaze. Every time my hand reaches for infant Tylenols, or topical gels, or calcium pills they watch with intense hope. As the day continues on and I gain clarity towards my task, I begin to look up, to look out...and realize why.

There is a woman sitting 3 feet in front of me, talking to Julie about a skin condition on her neck. I watch Julie's face. It is evident she has never seen a type of infection like this. She asks the translator to have the woman explain how long it had been going on. I watch again as she talks, motioning to her neck, then spreading down her arms, her stomach, and to her leg. She lifts up her skirt over the edge of her kneecap and I stop breathing. The main portion of her calf is entirely blistered, scarred and black, an appearance completely unlike the "rash" that was plaguing the rest of the body. Julie asks, "What is this? What happened here?" The translator answers: "Her leg, she has had this infection for 8 years. Very painful. Someone tells her there are bacteria. To kill it, pour on the boiling water. So she did. Those are the scars."

Lunchtime. It is raining heavily. Over the din of the water on the metal roof, Anna tells me she has been massaging the muscles of a woman who makes up to 400 tortillas a day and barely breaks even. Her back is twisted and swollen and her hands are cramped and calloused from years of this work. This reminds us of another woman, who's scoliosis is so severe she stands at a 90 degree angle, all because she has swept the streets every single day of her life.

Break is over. Everyone is pointing for the liquid medicine, the one we have "guarded" on the far left table, for patients with worms. Jolene says they all have them, and that if we can, we should recommend dosage to everyone who comes through the door. She says they are often asking her for something to "kill the snakes", for "axes to kill the big snakes." She tells me of a little girl who feels them crawl up her throat each night out of hunger.

Hour after hour passes, and the apparent need for healing grows with the late afternoon shadows. Each prescription filled is done with a mixture of regret and gratitude. Gratitude that we are able to give them something, regret that this is not enough. This one vile will not heal, it will only alleviate for a short time. And these trunks of vitamins may help build up their immune, but their bones will still be weak, their children will still lack nutrition, and their parents will still endure back breaking pain. This muscle treatment may loosen each tendon for a time, but after we leave tomorrow she will go back to her job and right back into her disability.

Evening has come and the bus pulls away. The townspeople are waving goodbye. It is pouring now and I can barely see their faces through the sheets of water on the bus window. I cannot pray, and so I write:

Lord, Great Physician. It is clear that had we all the doctors in the world, all the nurses in the field, and all the medicine pharmaceutics had to offer-it would still not be enough. So please, do here what we cannot, restore all the broken bodies...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

She tells me her name is Alexandria as she stares up at me with her wide brown eyes and twists the fraying hem of her dirtied, pink t-shirt. I kneel down and brush her soaked, black, bangs to see her better. "Cuanto anos,Alexendria?" She hold up her hand. 6. She is 6.

Moments ago I had watched her from the sidelines of the room listening to the story with the rest of the children and a toddler on her lap. She struggled to keep him situated as he was too big for someone her size and someone her age, to be holding. I look around to see where he is at now and find he is being sung to by one of the translators. I point across the dimly lit, make shift room and her gaze follows. "Hermanos?". She nods and points to 5 other children, then over to a woman standing in the doorway, who is nursing an infant.

Alexandria beams as I lift her up onto the bench to start combing her wet, knotted hair. It smells strongly of chemicals and her hand is marked with a sticker. I reach for the lice combs. Her legs dangle over the edge, tapping the air with refrained excitement. So I begin...and as I do my mind begins to travel to a different room, one far from the the cement walls and dirt floors of this Honduran town, traveling instead to the carpeted hallways of my childhood Wisconsin home. I skip down the hallway with a book in my hand. My pink nightgown is clean and warm from the dryer and my shampoo smells like apples. I sit down to read and my father begins. My father is brushing my hair. My father...

Now I am back with Alexandria. She turns her head up at me and smiles again. As I smile silently back and begin braiding, the devastation of a culture who's fathers are absent, who's men are always leaving and whose women are always being left, becomes all too clear.

I had heard of the horrifying statistics at our nightly meetings...but now I understood what those numbers meant. Now I understood that one of my greatest blessings was one of her greatest needs.

Before saying goodbye I wrap each end of her shining hair in sparkling pink bobbles and whisper, "muy bonita". She bounds off the bench, glowing with pride and runs to embrace her mothers hips. The rest of them have all been waiting for her. Laughing, she scoops up her wobbling brother. As they walk back out into the pot-holed streets, I struggle to keep the tears at bay. We begin packing up and as we do, I find myself whispering a desperate prayer, one begging for God to provide for all the fatherless children,for all the lonely mothers...and for all the broken families.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Second Looks

Little red balloon girl,
always hovering just so,
far from the ground but further from heaven,
always getting caught in tree tops,
while aiming for the sky.

The winds they blow, she bounces around and comes back down, and gets caught in someone's tiny hand for a time. But only for a time. Because the grasp will always lapse. And it did. And off she goes again, wondering why she can't be tied down, why can't somebody tie her down...
please don't anybody tie her down.

She's the little red balloon girl in red coats and red scarves, wishing for everything while hoping for nothing, enjoying the view from above while envying all events below.

They tell her one day she'll meet a solid rock, and they will fall in "love" and he'll tie her apronstring to a shiny rock, "so you can still float, just never have to worry about getting lost".

But the days come and go and he never shows and she's at it again. The winds are awake and they don't let her sleep in.

Little red balloon girl just flew past my window and waved. I can't tell if she is smiling or crying. So I just wave and point her to the nearest park bench.

photograph by sir james.

*this post brought to you by a game temporarily entitled "give and take". My extremely talented photo friend James and I have decided to stretch our creative muscles together with image/text text/image challenges. The way it works is that we each send a piece or a shot that we want the other to capture via story or picture. Upon receiving the file we have approximately 2 weeks (excuse me, EXACTLY 2 weeks) to complete the project and post the merged creation. For example, I sent this blurb to James about a week ago with instructions to "find her". True to writer-ly form, I am taking all the time I can to complete my photo story assignment...merely because I am procrastinating...true to writer-ly form....

Look for more of these exercises in the months to come!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Start.
(1st in daily series for the week).

As the bus begins it’s long ascent up the Tegucigulpa mountain, I stare out the open window in silence. There is noise everywhere. Noise and chaos and not a single word or sign that I can read to help make sense of it all. I scan each crowded street and barred shack for a point of reference, something to jumpstart an adaptation…nothing. Motorcycles squeeze between cars and onto sidewalks, horns rage at each blind turn, starved and wild dogs are fighting in dirt alleyways. The air is heavy and smells of diesel and urine and sweat. The higher we climb the faster we drive and the faster the reel of foreign colors, questioning eyes, and littered streets play before me in a vivid, chaotic blur. They say this is South of America, but I feel as though I have arrived south of another world.

Just when I think the spinning will never stop, the bus screeches to a halt and awaits outside the entrance to our guarded home for the week. We are up with the clouds now and the sun casts a golden glow onto city, onto the now peaceful arena that truthfully, I feel I have narrowly escaped. I turn to jot a frantic note on airport napkin paper, a note about the feeling of sensory and emotional overload, a note on the sadness, on the ugliness, when suddenly a shimmer of light catches my eye. I lean further out over the bus’ edge and discover I am an arms length away from a man made wall. It is nothing out of the ordinary except that this one is covered with broken glass bottles that have been cemented along the top edge. Multiple colors of green, clear, and brown, all stand menacingly with their sharp necks to the sky to ward off theft. On our way up we had seen countless stretches of barbed wire, but nothing like this.

The bus lurches forward again. As it moves, the setting sun follows behind and splashes playfully through each broken shard. I whisper to myself that it is “all quite pretty”, scribbling “broken beauties” on my makeshift notepad. We pull up to our destination and are quickly ushered to our rooms where we are advised to get much needed rest for the challenging days to come. My head hits the pillow exhausted, and begins replaying image after fleeting image of the day, always only able to come back to the shattered, shining glass... Sleep soon finds me and so I rest, completely unaware that the image carrying me into my dreams is to be the same image by which God chooses to reveal His heart for the Honduran people-His heart for all of His broken beauties.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Things They Never Tell You .

The downside of attempting to be a so called "writer",
is that when it comes to returning from literal journeys in life,
the suitcase may be empty
but the unpacking is far from over.

So here I am, Lord,
before a Niagra of words,
holding out my little red sippy cup...

realizing this could take a while
and hoping that the force of it all doesn't drown this weary traveler.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Working with Love and Water

Ex. 1

Your kisses are like the waves.
Sometimes gentle and shy,
brushing lightly over sand
making these naked toes dance and curl with delight.

Othertimes, strong and daring
crashing passionly up the shore,
taking this wader by surprise and knocking her off her feet.

I wouldn't mind drowning in this sea.
Keep the waves coming.
I'll stay here all night.

Ex. 2
The day I realized that you were mine and I was yours, was on an afternoon spent secretly using your parent's pool.

You walked lazily in circles, chest deep, trailing me behind you on my floating yellow bed .We moved in slow motion, but spoke with eagerness about things like truth and morality and whether or not people are basically good or basically full of it..., all this intermitted with talk of Wolverine and cheesecake.

The past several years of our marriage has made us good at this- this water drifting summer day dance of meaningful conversation ,you brushing the bees from my toes, and me sneaking smiling glimpses of your smiling back brown eyes.

They say that love is when you have found the one you cannot live without.
I am not so sure. Everyone can go on living without some one.
This is not skepticism. This is science.

That afternoon, as you reached down your hand to pull me out of the water, and wrapped a towel around my shoulders
I realized that love is more simply this:

When you have found yourself in the best possible company imaginable.

I cannot imagine wanting to dance on the water with anyone other than you.
So I guess this means love.

Ex. 3.
To the Ocean:
I am sorry we did not get to see each other much during this trip.
I saw you through some Newport alley ways, but it was dark then,
and I wasn't in the drivers seat.
I have not forgotten you.
In all these year you would think your song would be a distant memory,
but that is far from the truth.
If anything, your absence has only heightened my awareness of your shore song,
and I find myself listening intently on crowded streets for traces of your notes...
A seagull in a parking lot, saltwater taffy in the local candy store, the roar of a plane engine,
sometimes even the treading tires on rain covered streets will guide me back to you and your lullaby.
I am hoping, romantically I suppose, that since it seems I cannot forget you,
that maybe your tides,
your ebbs and flows are closer to me than I think,
and that when we meet again, it will be ocean joining ocean,
not body meeting sea.

Ex. 4
The thing about being caught in the rain is that you have to let it fall.
It's so funny to me how rain can either make a girl look like a drowned rat...
or the most beautiful creature alive, depending on whether she chooses to fight it or not.

Rain has no competition. Not even when faced with waterproof mascara.
So it's best to just let it soak into your hair and dance on your skin.

*photograph taken by Beth Adams, Location: Nice