Wednesday, November 26, 2008

another post about community disguised in another post about Europe

This past Sunday, I bought a spinach stuffed pizza and glanced around the food court to find a place to sit. It's rare for me to eat by myself in public, but in the midst of coat-shopping prior to meeting some friends at Eye Masters, I had no choice but to eat alone. In the midst of families and teenagers, I finally settled at an empty table next to a middle-aged white couple. I realized that not only did I feel awkward eating by myself, but I also felt a little uneasy. I regret to admit that as diverse as my classmates are, despite having taken two diversity/multicultural classes, and in spite of the dozens of minority individuals and families that I have volunteered with and counseled, there is still a white girl from the 'burbs inside of me who sometimes feels uncomfortable eating by herself in the food court of a diverse mall :/ I subconsciously elected to sit by the white middle-aged couple, and as I forked into my stuffed pizza, it became apparent why I had chosen to sit by them. This couple strongly reminded me of my dad and stepmom. The husband was even wearing a law enforcement polo that resembles one of my dad's!

Despite the familiar comfort of this couple nearby, I was still feeling a little uneasy when I realized that in 6 weeks, I'll be doing exactly this in another country. Bam. I suddenly felt very silly. Why was I so worried about eating alone? In 6 weeks, I'm going to hug my mom good-bye and hop on a plane by myself to go to Europe by myself. Granted, I'll meet a friend over there, but still, I'm going by myself. Gosh, at the very least, I can be fine eating at a food court in my own hometown by myself! It's strange how I can feel confident doing something in a different country that makes me feel awkward and nervous in my own backyard. But the truth is, the few times that I have traveled by myself, I feel confident. I feel at peace, I feel capable, I feel at ease, I feel courageous. This experience is going to be good for the little girl from the 'burbs who gets nervous at the food court. BTW, I'm now definitely going to Budapest thanks to the magic of Easyjet.

Later that day, as I was driving to church, I started praying a prayer that I sometimes offer when I'm headed to be with my church community. I prayed that I would show love to those at my church. I prayed that I would be able to give to them. When I go to church or comgroup, I often feel such a need for others that praying this way helps remind me that the need is mutual, that we should be interdependent, that I want to love this family and bless them and give to them, and not just take from them. And I often find that when I want something from another, I often leave the interaction somewhat dissatisfied, but when I want to give something to another, I generally walk away more fulfilled. As I was praying this, I realized how I'd spent the past few days primarily talking about Europe with others, trying to decide whether to go, and then sharing my excitement about the decision. I felt somewhat guilty for some of these one-sided conversations, but soon felt gratitude. I feel gratitude that I have so many close friends and caring adults in my life who support me, who encourage me to pursue my dreams, who listen to me, who speak wisdom into my life, who give love. I feel gratitude for having relationships with people who not only cup their hands to receive my tears, but who also open their arms to receive my excitement, joy, and triumphs! Sharing my excitement about Europe has reminded me of this. Though a few have responded with some type of jealously, most have responded with pure happiness for this opportunity. And I want to be this for others, I want to rejoice and celebrate with my friends and family members when they share their joyful experiences with me! I want to give the same gift to those I love that I have received this past week and many times before.

Happy Thanksgiving dear ones :) You are each a wonderful, precious blessing to me, and I receive so much from you. I care deeply about you and hope to give to you and share with you in the ways that you give to me. Thank you.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

I did it!

I'm going to Europe.

January 4th-16th.

Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, and maybe Budapest.

Thanksgiving, turn in final reports and papers, Merry Christmas family and friends, Happy New Years, try on some bridesmaids dresses, buy a nice winter coat on sale after-Christmas, and hit the skies!

I've been wanting to go back to Europe since I went last summer, and the opportunity arose. Good deals on plane tickets, unexpected funds, a friend in one of the cities to show me around, and 5 weeks off for Christmas break this year. Yes, it's spontaneous, but that's one of the best parts! I spend a mere two days thinking, praying, and talking about it before I made the plunge to by the plane ticket. Honestly, I knew that whatever reservations I may have had, I would regret not doing this. I'm a young single adult, not tied down by a career or family, so I can do things like this! I don't have to just sit around and dream and plan, I can act on my dreams! And I did :)

It's going to be miserably cold, so I'll need to buy a really good coat, and bring lots of sweaters and scarves and things to layer with, but oh well. I went to New York in January once and managed quite well, the only time I remember feeling cold was standing in line to buy Broadway tickets, though it was probably sunnier there than it will be in Europe, but still. I'll bundle up and keep movie and warm myself in museums and coffee shops and restaurants when necessary.

If you've been to any of those cities, please comment, please email me, give me suggestions of what to see, where to stay, what not to see, where not to stay, etc. 6 weeks in the midst of finals and holidays isn't a ton of time to plan, but I know that planning for this trip in the upcoming weeks will be a wonderful distraction :)

Right now, I'm alternating between being so excited, that I can't stop talking about it, to just sorta being in a state of disbelief. Am I really doing this? Yes, yes, YES!!! Eventually I'll come down from this high enough to focus on other things and be able to hold non-Europe related conversations.

Europe is being young, being mature, being independent, being free, being cultured, being open, being awe-struck, adventurous, courageous, active, spontaneous, and alive. I am alive.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

weighing me down

I'd like to be Europe right now. Or the mountains. Or somewhere warm. Warm European mountains, maybe? They probably don't exist, at least not right now. Maybe Chile or Argentina has warm mountains right now, hmm.

It's that time of the semester again when I'm stressed. Stressed about finishing assignments, stressed about family, stressed about money, stressed about not having enough direction, stressed about not be able get into all my spring classes yet, stressed about not having enough sleep. Basically, I'm just letting it all get to me, once I get stressed about one thing, then everything piles on top of me. I need to say no to this pattern. I need to get a massage that I still have a gift certificate for.

Thanksgiving and Christmas stress me out right now. I'm looking forward to having a nice long break in just another few weeks, I guess. Advent begins soon. This will be good, I need to remember what I'm hoping for, and the hope and salvation and kingdom that already exists now and is coming.

I'm going to go eat some sushi. And study the WAIS-IV. And read some words of hope. And sleep for a solid 8 hours.

Europe still sounds really nice.

Monday, November 17, 2008

word vomit AKA 3 posts condensed into one

Self-compassion. It's the idea of realistically loving oneself. Not just self-esteem which could turn arrogant by only focusing on the good, but being humble enough to recognize one's faults and mistakes and forgive oneself, not punishing oneself, but caring for the self. Not self-indulgence, but self-care. I see so many ways that when I'm stressed or lonely or sad I become self-indulgent, eating ice cream, watching television, drinking lots of coffee, drinking alcohol, staying up late on the internet, many of those deliberate behaviors because, "I deserve this." When really, the most caring thing to do for myself would be to go to bed, eat healthier, exercise, and engage in activities that truly refresh my body and spirit, like prayer, journaling, reading. But often I choose indulgence because my flesh craves it, and these things seem to promise satisfaction, but they are empty and only occupy me for moments, and leave me still wanting. But where is the line between treating myself and enjoying life's simple pleasures and acting self-indulgently? Maybe it's the motivation. If I'm filling my body and mind with something because I think it will help me to escape sadness, stress, or loneliness, then it's probably self-indulgent. If I'm doing something because it's loving and caring toward myself, because it truly feeds my soul and refreshes me, then it's probably self-care. God, grant me discernment. My friend recently said that often how we treat others is how we treat ourselves. I want these two things to be congruent. I don't want to treat myself better than I treat others or to treat others better than I treat myself. I want to forgive others and self, and I want to feed and water and care for others and self.

An agent of change. Or maybe a conduit of change, a vessel through which real and transformation can occur. As a counselor, I want to be this. I'm great at being empathic, at providing a warm, safe place for others to share their pains and thoughts and feelings and feel understood and not judged. This is a great quality about me, and that's the first step. But I want to move from that, I don't want to be indulgent of my clients and those around me either, I want to help move them toward change. Which I don't really effectively know how to do. When I do see change in others, it seems random, and motivated by outside forces. I don't know. And it's frustrating too when so many people, myself included, don't really want change, but just want to feel better. I say that I want to change certain things about myself, my life, and my relationships, but often, the familiar is comfortable. Even if it's stressful and sad and disconnected and unsatisfying, changing it would be icky and messy and maybe this little pit will get a little more warm if I lay here a bit longer, maybe not, but the climb up is strenuous, why don't you make the climb first and throw down a rope and pull me up? I do feel myself growing and changing, but I also feel myself resisting the growth. What am I resisting? What am I avoiding? Responsibility? Accountability? Awareness that yes, I really am a dirty, ugly sinner?

Who reads this blog? When I started this over two years ago, I had this plan to stay anonymous. I'll be crackers and cheese instead of my name, and I'll post cryptic poetry that no one will ever know what events and what people in my life inspired the poems. But the anonymity quickly faded, and my posts became more personal, more real, more genuine. And I made friends through this blog, Martha, Ben, Anton, I'm so glad that this blog brought you into my life. I am thankful for you. And it's allowed me to keep up with old friends, Cara, Britt, and Laura especially. I love you deeply. And there are other friends, and I enjoy you too. But it's still stayed a tight, somewhat exclusive circle. I still don't use my name. I don't have a link on facebook. Until about a month ago, if you're reading this, it's because you have a blog too, and we're somehow connected in that way. Recently, my friend from high school, Emily, started a blog to chronicle her year in Bangladesh, and she started reading my blog. Since then, a couple of other dear, close friends who don't have blogs have discovered my blog and started reading. I never was deliberately hiding this from you, it just seemed so separate, this blog life, different from the life that I share with you. But it's the same in a way, so it seems natural and good and right that you are reading this now and that this blog circle is opening up more.

But I somewhat like having this blog stay somewhat exclusive. It gives me a freedom to write in honest, real ways that I might not if I knew that anybody who knew me on facebook would find this blog. But I do wonder . . . many of my church members, including pastors, have blogs. Occasionally I browse them, and recently found that a couple of neat girls who I really like also have blogs, so I added them to my google reader. But I'm scared to comment on their blogs, to open the floodgates for my brothers and sisters from church to read this blog. Somewhat, I'm afraid of what they may think when they read these words. Which is silly, because with this church family, for the first time I've really embraced openness and honesty and light and rejected darkness and secrecy and fakery (it's a real word, even if google doesn't recognize it). This church knows me more intimately than any church ever has, and I rejoice in that. When someone asks, "How have you been?" I answer completely honestly. If it's been crappy, I tell them that, and if I say, "It's been really good." or "I've been doing well, lately," oh believe me, I mean it, and let's rejoice and celebrate that together. But that kind of intimacy is still kind of frightening, and it's tempting to hide a little now and then or to worry that I'm sharing too much.

But mainly, I'm afraid to expand my blog community to include my church community because I compare myself to their blogselves. So many of their blog posts focus on spiritual topics that it seems like they write about godly things all the time, so they must be thinking about God more than I am. And I write about roach spray and weddings and weird dates and cultural identity and applications and movies and bars and music. Things that seem so worldly, so not-glorifying to God. I'm afraid that if you compare our blogs, I won't look like a good Jesus-follower. I somewhat take pride in being a good Jesus-follower, because if I wasn't, I'd be a bad friend, a bad daughter, a bad sister, a bad girlfriend, not worthy to give advice and counsel, not worthy to be a wife. Gosh, these have got to be lies, but they feel so true sometimes. That's probably my biggest fear, that if you read this blog, my final mask would be torn down, and you would see me as someone who isn't completely devoted to God, at least, not in the way that you seem to be. As I write this, I know this is a lie, that none of us are worthy, all of us stray, but it's easy to think that I stray further than you do, that you are closer to the Father than me, that you love Him more or better. And I know that God is in these writings about weddings and dates and bars and applications, because God is big and complex and I shouldn't limit his involvement in only things that traditionally seem godly.

As I write out these honest fears, I feel close to making the leap to include you, my church, in this blog life of mine. And I feel like I can do that without changing the content of my blog, while still writing what I want to write. So, if I do take that step and you are reading this, know that I love you, you are welcome here, you are welcome into my life.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Disturbing thoughts sometimes come to me while cooking

What if you mistook roach spray for no stick cooking spray?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Three Generations

My grandmother married
In a stylish suit
A full-grown woman
Already modern, ahead of her time

My mother married
In long white lace
A teenage girl
Rushing forward, unknown to herself

I will marry
In ivory or white
A lady in between
Confident, but still much to learn

The White Devil, Part Deux

I've really been investigating this the past few days - what cultures eat deviled eggs? White? Latino? Black? Asian-American? Southern? Northern?

I've started asking around, and here are the participants of my sample thus far, and their response to the question, "Have you had deviled eggs?" or "Do Latinos eat deviled eggs?"

  • Mexican-American Young Adult Female from Florida, "Yea, they're holiday food."
  • Black Young Adult Female from New Work, "Yes, definitely."
  • Latino Middle-Aged Male, "No, Latinos don't eat deviled eggs."
  • Girl with Latino dad and White mom, "I eat deviled eggs whenever I want to!"
  • Asian-American Young Adult Female, "Yes, definitely, doesn't everyone? . . . What, Edgar and Bea are actually kinda white - how have they not tried deviled eggs? They're like standard party food."
  • Every single white person I've asked, "Yes, of course!"

Not a great sample, but so far, 3 out of 4 Latinos don't eat deviled eggs. I need to find more black people to ask. Cara, get on that for me, and I'll edit this post. So far, I haven't found any geographic distinctions. I think that people from up north eat them too, unless they're Latino.

Also, last night at my church small group we were making a potluck dinner. The wife of the leadership team was making a taco salad, "or the white version of it," she qualified. When she started pouring Catalina dressing on the salad, several of my small group members had never heard of the dressing. I told her, "I use Catalina dressing whenever I eat Mexican food too!" Touching my shoulder she explained, "I think it's because you're white." Everyone laughed, and said stuff like, "Yeah, in case you didn't notice, you're white!" :: shakes head :: Silly white kids.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The White Devil

As I've mentioned almost a year ago, white culture is so pervasive that it's almost invisible. It really wasn't until this blog was created that white people as a whole began recognizing the unique facets of white culture. I definitely take my white culture for granted, and I assume that the foods that I eat are "American" foods, not "white American foods." Well friends, that assumption is sometimes proved wrong. Last fall, my cohort and I used to have many potlucks, and onetime, someone white made meatloaf, and it was the first time that two of my Latino classmates had ever tried meatloaf! I really couldn't believe this, but it was great fun giving them a cultural experience :)

This evening, I had another opportunity to share my white culture with another couple of my latino classmates when I offered them deviled eggs. Here follows a verbatim transcript of our conversation:

Me: Bea, do you want a deviled egg?
Bea: No thanks.
Me: Edgar, do you want a deviled egg?
Edgar: I don't know, what is it?
Me: Deviled eggs? You've never had deviled eggs?
Bea: I haven't either. What's in them?
Me: Really? You guys have never had them? Maybe it's a cultural thing.
Edgar: Probably a white person thing.
Me: Well, they're hard boiled eggs, and you mix the yolks with mayonnaise and mustard.
Bea: Sure, I'll try one. (passed her an egg)
Edgar: Ok, I'll try one too. (passed him an egg)
Bea: These are really good! Do they take a long time to make?
Me: Not really, once the water is boiled, you boil them for 10-15 minutes, then you scoop out the yolks, mix it mostly with mayonnaise and a little bit of mustard, and you can add onion and other things if you want. These have pepper sprinkled on top, but paprika is better, but I didn't have any.
Bea: Cool, thanks for sharing.
Me: No problem. I guess it's a white southern thing. My grandma used to make them all the time.
Bea: Yeah, remember, I hadn't tried meatloaf until a year ago?
Me: Yeah. Well, I'm happy to share my whiteness with you guys :)

I never would have guessed that deviled eggs would be exotic cultural food to my Latino friends. They just seem so every day for me, not literally, but I've had them so often, that I take it for granted and assume that everyone eats them. You guys eat deviled eggs, right? I like being white, and I like my deviled eggs.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

some matters of life and death

This past Wednesday as we were making the rounds in our geropsychology practicum, we discovered that one of my classmate's clients is probably dying, and her son was in her room, making arrangements for her end of life care. Our class escaped into a small, uninhabited dining room to discuss end of life issues. Our most politically astute classmate informed us that in Oregon, a proposition to legalized physician-assisted suicide was voted into law. We discussed how this could become an option for more older adults, and how this sort of thing already happens under the table. Basically, in hospice care, people are sometimes given morphine "to be made comfortable," but in addition to comfort from pain, the morphine dosages actually quicken death. No one can call it assisted suicide because that's illegal, but physiologically, that's basically what it is.

I feel pretty strongly that any kind of suicide for any kind of reason done by any means is still a suicide, and therefore wrong. I believe that it is up to our Creator to decide when we live and when we die, but that line isn't so firmly drawn in many cases. Working with these older adults and their families and considering the failing health of my own grandparents, I feel like I need to be aware of and sensitive to these controversial end of life issues. And who's to say that there won't come a time when I have a loved one, terminally ill, no recovery in sight, who might consider measures to end their life on their own terms?

Every resident in the nursing home either signs a DNR - Do Not Resuscitate order or a Full Code order. Full Code means that in the event that their life ends, their heart stops beating, they stop breathing, all measures will be taken to restore their life. DNR means that these measures will not be taken. Looking at their medical charts, many of the residents I see have a DNR. As a healthy twenty-three year old, the idea of having a DNR sounds so foreign to me. Why would I not want the doctors to do everything possible to continue my life? But for individuals in their 80's, 90's, and beyond, many of them feel that when it is their time to go, they will go, rather than fight death to continue to live in an unhealthy physical state. For them, DNR is the natural choice, and Full Code seems unnatural. In way, having the choice between DNR and Full Code does mean that someone is making a choice about their end of life and the terms under which they want to live or die. It might be a stretch to compare this decision to physician assisted suicide as one is a deliberate act to end a life and another is a deliberate choice to not save a life, but both are choices that people make about their life and their death.

Last night, I joined my roommates in watching this past week's episode of Grey's Anatomy, a show that I had only seen one episode of previously. (If you haven't watched this and don't won't spoilers, skip the next two paragraphs) One of the stories of this episode featured an elderly couple, the wife of whom was having a dangerous cancer surgery from which she might not survive. McDreamy (no idea what Patrick Dempsey's character's real name is) tried to emphasize how life-threatening this particular surgery was, and seemed concerned when the couple dismissively replied, "Yes, yes, we know what we're getting into with every surgery." When the wife signed the DNR, McDreamy asked them if this was the choice that they wanted to make. They said that they did, that if it was her time to go, that it was her time and they didn't want to interfere. Then, the couple lovingly kissed one another and said, "Good-bye love," explaining to the doctors, "We do this every surgery. We say good-bye, and then when she wakes up, we get to say hello again."

The wife did not recover from surgery. When her heart stopped, her husband began pumping her chest to let it continue beating, and started crying out, "Help, someone, please, help my wife!" McDreamy and another doctor explained the DNR, and explained her wishes that that she not be resuscitated. He continue pushing on her chest, crying, "Don't leave me, please don't leave me!" As I watched this scene, tears filled my eyes. I couldn't believe that Grey's Anatomy episode was making me cry. The man continued pumping his wife's chest and eventually realized that there was nothing they could do. She would die. "I just don't want to be the one to let her heart stop." One of the doctors took over for him, but it soon became apparent that she didn't want to stop pumping this woman's heart either. Ever the hero (eyes roll), McDreamy took over, and slowed stopped pumping, allowing the woman to die as her husband sat next to her. It took a lot of effort to keep myself from bawling.

Then today, I sat on the grass under the tree in my backyard and first read some scripture, from the prophets Zechariah, Isaiah, and Micah, all about the coming Messiah, the coming kingdom, how the king will reign, how Israel will be restored, how war and idolatry and jealously will cease, how there will be joy and rejoicing. These scriptures fill me with such hope, and sitting in the shade, I looked forward to the day when those things are all fulfilled.

Then, I read a chapter from a book I've been reading called Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott. The chapter was titled At Death's Window, and it's about her helping a friend with an assisted suicide and begins with the shocking first line, "The man I killed did not want to die, but he no longer felt he had much of a choice," and follows with a touching and delicate tale of a man in terminal stages of cancer who decides to end his life. I read several pages with mere curious fascination, until I read the line about how on the night he died, he asked his wife and friends to play his favorite CDs. Tears immediately filled my eyes, and I struggled to see clearly enough to read the last couple of pages describing the man's death. I finished, closed the book, sat still on the grass, gazing out at the leaves and trees, letting myself cry, pray, feel, and think. I tried to make sense of my strong reaction to this chapter and the Grey's Anatomy episode last night, and honestly, my emotional state is probably related as much to the time of the month for me (sorry guys) as it is to any other factor. The best thing that I could think of that made the most sense as I sat in the shade is that life is fragile, I am small, and God is big, but mostly that life is so incredibly fragile.

Monday, November 03, 2008

neighbor just isn't the right word for who you are to me

Can I tell you how much joy it gives me whenever I drive by your home and see you and your children out in the yard? I experience such delight seeing you guys sitting on the lawn, putting up that tire swing, loading in and out of your minivan, or even just seeing your kitchen light on, knowing that someone is still up, making sandwiches or reading or talking. I wish you could know that every time I see you guys outside or even see the light on, I want nothing more than to stop and join you, to swing on that swing, to help you unload groceries, to sit on the grass and leaves with you. But most of the time, I keep driving, to the clinic or nursing home, where a client or two or three awaits me, but every part of me longs to be with you instead.

Maybe I won't tell you that, but maybe I can thank you for letting me into your lives, into your homes, into your family. For letting me into your home both invited and uninvited, for the leadership, food, drink, violin performances, girl scout nut mix, hugs, tears, laughter, prayers, wisdom, and listening. For asking the right questions, for letting me wrestle and figure things out, for understanding my feelings, for advising me, for correcting me, for encouraging me, for being my allies, for accepting me, for being excited for me, for loving me.

In the few months that I've been a part of your life, we've learned so much about one another. You've seen me cry three or four times, and I've seen you cry once, and I've heard both of you curse. What a blessing is this kind of intimacy, this intertwining of lives. Maybe I will tell you that, the next I stand at your sink washing your dishes or at your counter grating your cheese. Maybe I will stop and join you on the tire swing next time.

My future family will thank you for all of this some day.