Greyhound Social Justice

My dear friend and former roommate Jen called me and told me that she and her new husband, Ismael, who is a man from Niger, (I just learned how to differentiate a person from Nigeria and a person from Niger: Nigerian= from Nigeria, Nigerien=from Niger.) were buying a car in Portland. She told me that Ismael, who lives in Mt. Vernon, WA would be riding down on Greyhound and  she would be flying in from Las Vegas, where she is teaching, and could I pick her up from the airport and him from the bus station? Of course I said yes because that’s what I do. You call me? I show up.
To add some background to this story, I happen to loathe the Greyhound Bus company. I am not alone either, just google “greyhound sucks” and enjoy.  I am certain they exploit those who can not afford other means of travel by offering false departure times and available space on their buses. They force those who are “fortunate” to get on a bus, to ride in conditions that are often below those of city bus standards and use bathrooms that have not been cleaned in this century. Their stations are often in disrepair and their employees are anything but helpful. I hate anyone and anything that takes advantage of people due to their economic status.
As part of my theology, I believe that salvation isn’t just about a future in heaven but also about redemption for today. I believe Jesus cares about our situations  and it’s our job as believers to get involved to help make their plight less difficult in the name of Christ’s love. Social Justice is a blanket term that was coined based on the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas. It is an overwhelming problem and difficult to determine where and how to be involved in a solution.
So back to Jen and Ismael, on the day they were to arrive, I received multiple text messages from Jen regarding Ismael’s arrival time. It went from 4 pm, to 10 pm to 9 pm , then 12 am. As I picked Jen up from the airport at 10:30 pm, she told me that poor Ismael had left at 9 am from Mt. Vernon, had gotten onto a bus bound for Seattle and had been waiting in the Seattle station since 2 pm. He had been forced to buy an additional ticket, due to the fact that the ticket he originally bought, on a bus that would have had him arriving at 10 pm was full when it arrived and they wouldn’t allow a transfer to another bus even though it was Greyhound’s mistake that there was no space on the bus for him. He had been waiting in the Seattle station for 8 hours to get on a bus. Now Ismael being Nigerien, English is not his first language. Being that he is an exceptionally smart human being, English isn’t even his second language, it is his sixth language. So here is poor Ismael trying to make the 5 hour trek to Portland and it is taking him almost 14 hours. When I picked Jen up from the airport she told me that Ismael would be arriving at 4 in the morning in Portland. That is nearly 19 hours of travel time for trip that should ideally only take 5-6. My innate sense of justice was fuming and I looked at Jen and said, “We’re going to get him.” She protested and I explained to her that it was ludicrous that her poor husband who she hadn’t seen in months, would have to wait two more hours to get on a bus at midnight that would deposit him in Portland at 4 am when we could drive up and back to get him in the same amount of time. So that’s what we did, we headed to Seattle and intercepted Ismael at a bus station in Centralia after chasing him down the freeway because his bus driver wouldn’t stop for him in Olympia. His poor nightmare saga would end with him purchasing a car in Portland so that he will hopefully never have to deal with Greyhound again.
I tell you this story to let you know that you don’t have to make large sweeping changes. You just have to make changes. You have to stand up and say, no this isn’t right, in the situations that the Lord puts you in. Find ways to right the wrongs that have been accepted by our culture and do it in the name of the love that never fails.


Quote book

As a communications major, I started keeping a quote book when I was in college.  I thought it was something that only I would find useful or important.  I loved writing down sayings, proverbs, and jokes that made me stop and say, “Huh, that was well said.” I didn’t think it was all that remarkable until one of the most brilliant men I have ever shared a room with came into my advanced writing class. His name was John Patrick and he said, “Once you have heard something said well, it is lazy to say it poorly.” and then he asked if anyone was in the practice of keeping a quote book. I was surprised to be the only person who raised her hand in that class. So needless to say, its has been something that I have tried to keep up over the years and have recently went back to. Here are a few submissions that have made the quote book:

From a Protestant minister who works with Shane Claiborne in ecumenical ministries in Philadelphia:
“Jesus is coming back and we got to get it together because He’s coming back for a bride, not a harem.”

“If you want to go fast; go alone. If you want to go far; go together.” African Proverb

“What is this?! Horseville? because I’m surrounded by nay-sayers. WORDPLAY!!” Tracey Morgan, 30 Rock

“I am the dog you put to sleep,
as you like to call the needle of oblivion,
come back to tell you this simple thing:
I never liked you–not one bit.” Billy Collins from “The Revenant

“As you ramble through life, whatever the goal, keep your eye on the donut and not on the hole.” From the thai donut shop on Sandy

Twenty seven I wanna go to heaven….

From November 18, 2010… Not sure why I didn’t publish this.

Monday was my birthday.
I am now 27.
I don’t know how to feel about it.
I am lucky to have been lavished in birthday celebrations from friends near and dear over the past week and have felt nothing but loved as I’m attempting to age gracefully.
At one of my birthday dinners, someone asked me, “How do you feel about 26? Was it a good year?”
My initial reaction was yeah, it was a pretty good year. As I thought over the past twelve months of my life, I realized there were some very high moments: skydiving for my birthday last year, puerto rico this spring, celebrating weddings, birthdays, graduations. However, this year was also punctuated with many sad things as well: I worked too much. I spent time on relationships in which I wasn’t appreciated. I lost track of some people and had a hard time keeping in touch with others. I stopped running. I lost one of my best friends. My dear old dog died. My house that I have loved so dearly is no longer where I’ll be living. I made some bad choices and some good ones. I didn’t keep promises to myself and the progress I made seemed insignificant in comparison with years past.

All of this up and down, happiness laced disappointment, has made me yearn for heaven. Those feelings coupled with my desire to make good on my promise of reading the bible in the a year, has found me in Revelation and the images of heaven have captivated me more than before. I yearn for the day when I have one thing to do: worship the one who holds my heart in his hands. I am ready for no more tears, no more struggle, disappointment, heartbreak.. I’m ready for complete sanctification. I’m tired of making strides only to see how much farther I have to go. However, Revelation tells us that the road to that day is long and the journey hard and there is a significant mountain to summit before we reach our destiny. Yet, the hope that we have in Christ is so tangible to me these days because it’s so comforting to know that this world is not the end. It’s the only way to stay here and endure the tension, I consistently wonder how those without Christ make it through each day. Unfailing love has touched my heart as I’ve come face to face with my humanity and my sin.

So Happy Birthday to me, I’ll keep my head down and keep putting one foot in front of the other, my eyes fixed on the Eastern horizon.

Pretty close to heavenly

How I’m wired

Have you ever pulled the back off a TV or looked under the hood of a car and been fascinated by the trails of wires ? I’m often overwhelmed by the intricacies of the many things that have wires in our lives. It scares me that by the mere tweaking, crossing or cutting of one or two of those wires, functionality  completely disappears. When jump starting a car, if you put those cables on the wrong battery terminals, you’ve got a serious problem on your hands.
Like those cars and TVs, we become “wired” mentally in our ability to live our lives. We learn to not touch hot stoves, look before we cross the street and to avoid general evils because we become “wired” to do so. Our experiences become part of our operating systems that help us get from one day to the next. I’ve been contemplating my “wiring” lately as I’ve suddenly got the urge to uproot my life and change everything again. I can’t help but wonder why?

I like my job.

I love my roommates.

I like my house.

I love having my family close.

I’ve made plenty of changes to life this year.

Why the sudden urge to change things again? Why do I feel so stuck when the reality of my circumstances are that I’m anything but that?

It’s how I’m wired.

Some background: I’ve been part of the workforce since spring of 2001 when I was officially added to the payroll at my first job. I worked there until August of 2002 when I moved to Portland for school. This was my first two-week pay period, clock in, clock out, job. I held it for a year and half. Since that first job, almost every job I’ve had since then, I’ve held for a year, to a year and a half. I start looking for a way out at about a year and by a year and a half of employment, I’m out the door.

As of the middle of March (official date unknown) I’ve been working at my job a year. I’m starting to look. I’m finding the most ridiculous reasons to be unhappy where I’m at. It’s how I’m wired and I hate it. I have no reason to be unhappy at my job. Is it what I thought I’d be doing? No. Is it a job worthy of a reality TV show? Maybe. I didn’t get why the sudden unsettling feeling had come over me until it hit me recently. This is a pattern in my life of only working a job for a year to a year and a half. I don’t like it.  It’s comical to me that suddenly I have to fight with myself to be content. To find reasons to stay where I’m at is new since I’ve lived very much in the “bloom where you’re planted” philosophy. I’m wired to start looking at this point and I’m finding it difficult to change that wiring. In the same way I’d have no idea where to reconnect the wires from my car battery to the engine should I disconnect them, I have no idea how I’ll react to staying at my job. I’m going against the way things have been done in my life and it’s an odd place to be. My family will attest to the fact that the emails have invariable come at the year mark announcing the latest and greatest plan and for the first time, their in-boxes will be empty. However, I’m finding solace in the fact that for the first time in my adult life, the change is that there is no change.

A grown up show up

I don’t have a cape. I only wear tights because they are cute with my dresses. I screw up more often than I get things right but tonight my friends…I got it right.

I was a hero to an 11-year-old boy who is living a life that often robs him of his childhood experiences because there isn’t time for him to be a kid. He deals with so many things that are beyond his age and maturity level with such wisdom it blows my mind. However, tonight I was reminded that he is in fact, still a kid. Someone who still likes getting toys of out vending machines, who still needs to be read a story to go to sleep and someone who very much needs the adults in his life to show him how to get through this crazy thing called life.

This evening he had a program at school that he and the entire 5th grade were putting on. His brother had his wisdom teeth extracted today, his dog had surgery on his foot yesterday and his mother continues to battle a debilitating disease that makes leaving the house seem like Frodo’s journey into Mordor. Needless to say, once again, the poor kid has every right to feel a bit neglected. We piled into the car to head to the school for his program and he dissolved into tears.

“my dad is the only one who ever makes my stuff. Other people have lots of people come to see them but my dad is the only one who ever comes.”

[I was tired from trying to be of assistance to the others living in the house, canine and human, and was looking forward to heading home, when..]

“can you please stay and come to my program so I have 2 people there for me?”

[Insert heartbreak here.]

I attempted to explain what a good dad he has and that he at least has 1 person there while some of the other kids probably don’t have anyone planning on being there at all. I tried to make up some excuse why I needed to go home and failed miserably. He’s an understanding kid, so he graciously said,”That’s ok, I understand” as we finished the ride silently to the school. He wiped his eyes and got out of the car to my overly enthusiastic cries of “Good luck!”

I drove away hating my life.

As I was about to get on the freeway I remembered I needed to pick up his sister’s flip video camera from her best friend who took it to school and filled it full of messages [His sister is currently on a 6 month exchange in France]. As I went to finish my duties for the day, my gut was telling me, you need to go to that program. Clock out and go to that kid’s program.

So I showed up.

I stood in the back of the gym in the doorway with his sister’s video camera taping his program. He didn’t see me come in late, he didn’t see the bags under my eyes because I’m tired, but halfway through the second song, he looked back and saw me standing in the doorway.

I’ve seen some beautiful places and amazing looks on people’s faces but that one has got to be in the top 5. His face lit up with a grin as wide as could be and he tried to not look like a grinning buffoon in the choir of 5th graders but he definitely couldn’t help it. I smiled and waved discreetly as he belted out School House Rock’s “Electricity“. The program continued and  when the next song started, I noticed his face turning flushed and he started rubbing his eyes. The poor boy was losing it in the middle of his program. He wiped the tears from his eyes as he sang and did the motions for their extensively rehearsed songs about energy. The hot tears started welling up in my eyes as I realized how selfish it’d have been for me to just go home because I’m tired.

I remembered what it was like to not have my parents around for 5 years and what it was like at that age to look out on a sea of faces and not recognize a single one. Sure it’d have been smart to rest up and establish a healthy boundary for myself in terms of how much I can give to my job. However, that’s not what I’ve been called to do. I’ve been called to pour out my life for others. I’m a giver and that’s what I do.

Throughout the rest of his program, he looked back to see if I was still standing in the doorway and while I wanted to duck out since he saw me and head home, I stayed until the final encore. After the show finished, I headed quickly towards the exit so as to beat the impending traffic out of the parking lot. He, along with all the other 5th graders who were filing off backstage and headed for the gym to meet up with their parents, met me as I attempted to escape quickly. Running up to me he wrapped his arms around my waist and looked up at my face and gave me a huge smile.

“Thank you so much for coming.”

It has got to be one of the best thank you-s I’ve ever received.

So moral of the story friends: Remember what it was like to be a kid and to want someone to be there to see you sing some stupid songs about electricity. To be there for no other reason than you’re up there singing. Be a grown up and show up for the kids in your life.

Adventures in mom-dom: “Is that the kid that thinks Fatson is a word?”

Tonight my boss returns. I’m totally torn about it. Part of me is ecstatic to have my nights back but the other part of me is totally bummed because we are really starting to have a lot of fun. We’ve been playing games every night we’re able to and laughing a lot.

One of the things that’s tearing me up lately is the word “fatson”. For the 11’s homework the other night he had to turn nouns into adjectives [ cheese is cheesy etc.] The assignment said to use his “invented” adjectives in a sentence. He did it and when I went to check it here are a few of the 5 he had on the page:
NOUN                ADJECTIVE
Rat                       Ratty [which he later admitted they did in class]
Pat                       Pattie
Fat                       Fatson

FATSON?!?!? WHAT THE HECK? I almost died. I said, please use in a sentence and he said, “fat people are fatson.” I fell over laughing. His sister and I had to convince him that his teacher did indeed, not want him to make up words, and  that submitting fatson might cause him to fail the assignment. All night and the next day, if anyone said the word fatson, I was doubled over howling with laughter. His sister the 15 even put it up as her Facebook status.

So last night we went to the 15’s cross country meet and after it was all said and done, one of her friends walked by, saw the 11 standing next to her and said, “Is that the kid that thinks fatson is word?” My laughter was echoing across the stadium and the 11 turned about 18 different shades of red. I almost died.

After the meet, we were driving to dinner and we drove past a Spaghetti Factory and the kids went nuts. I couldn’t believe that I was setting foot once again in a Spag Fact. 2.5 years ago when I left that wonderful dining establishment, I threw my entire uniform off the 205 bridge as I drove home; just to paint you a mental picture about how I felt working there. So we ate dinner together for our last night at the Spag Fact and as the 11 got up to go to the bathroom, he got caught up in his sister’s feet sliding out of the booth and launched across the floor. It was just not the 11’s day but he laughed it off and was a trooper but again, I was howling with laughter.

Another note about the Spag Fact, I was sitting there eating food I hadn’t eaten in 3 years, not able to believe I had broken my vow to never eat there again, when who should walk by but my old manager. It was insane. I tried to avoid him all night, only because I knew he wouldn’t remember me and didn’t want to put the kids through an awkward conversation with my old boss, but on my way out he was at the host desk and saw me and my face. HE THEN FOLLOWED ME AND THE KIDS TO THE PARKING LOT. It was soo creepy. I am standing in a dark parking lot with two kids and this creepy man is hollering at me. SO AWKWARD. I wanted to die.

Adventures in mom-dom: The home stretch

I’ve rounded the final corner of my time as full time mom/farmhand/chauffeur… etc and everything has gone to hell. I’m so tired and I don’t want to do any of the many things I want to have accomplished by the time they arrive home. Part of me fears I’ll be fired on the spot, the other knows that I’ll no likely be washed in waves of gratitude. However, the house is a flipping s*$# show right now and I’m still in my pajamas.

The 15 is home sick and I was going to go have some normalcy and head into Portland today. The Stones keep playing in my head : “you can’t always get what you want…” and I feel as if it’s God’s way of showing me that He is the orchestrator of my days. Trust, trust, trust and when that doesn’t work, try trusting again is the lesson I’ve learned through all of this.

My eye is swollen and itchy and I’m not sure why. The dogs chased the coyote all morning but it didn’t leave. We had to put the poor geese and chickens in the small pen and they aren’t adjusting as well as we all hoped. The geese now run frightened when you go into the pen and we only have 3. When the bosses left, there were 6 and 8 chickens of which we now only have 3 as well. The dogs have seemed to forgotten the training we went through recently and all the growling in the world doesn’t seem to break their awful door opening habit. The house is then full of flies which land on you and it just grosses me out. I have become rather adept with a fly swatter.

I made the brilliant decision to document their time away and the movie has come out very nicely. I’m pretty proud of it but then again, I’m somewhat embarrassed that I decided to make a movie for a man who’s livelihood is made doing just that. I joked with his daughter and brother in law about it and they both assured me that he’ll love it. I know his wife will absolutely LOVE it. She deals with the feelings of missing out on her kids’ lives so much I didn’t want her to deal with it while she was away celebrating such a significant accomplishment. [20 years of marriage is great in anyone’s book.]

I’m sure this week will undoubtedly have its ups and downs and I’ll fill you in later!

to be continued…