Wednesday, February 27, 2008

My Grief (Stages) Observed as I Geo-Bach’ once again…

Okay, so I’m ripping off C.S. Lewis’ book title and good ole’ Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ work , but I’ve been grieving like a champ this week. Los going back to Iraq came out of nowhere, which is the worst kind of grief. When people have years or months to process things, a death, a change, whatever- it seems to allow for grace and the space needed to adjust. My neighbor had 18 months with her husband, knowing she’d have to say goodbye for the six months following. Not me, I had two days. NOT EVEN 48 hours! He was supposed to be home for good. Augh… Enter the stages:

1. Denial- this can’t be happening to me! To us! We had plans, my birthday’s coming up, and spring break. And we’ve never been together for our anniversary-isn’t that enough sacrifice for our country?! Dammit…

2. Anger- this is the stage where I said things unfit for a pastor-to-be. But then again, most pastors I know are fans of emoting, whatever that might look (or sound) like. This is also the stage in which I said if I ever met the guy who “had to take leave” and come home (hence, Los replacing him) I would punch him in the throat. In a more sane moment, I decided I would first ask if he had a good reason for coming home before said throat-punching.

3. Bargaining- This is where I scrambled to figure out what we could do before he left and he scrambled to get the latest flight out of CONUS as possible. We had so many “to-do’s” on our “we’ll get around to it eventually” list. Why do we do this? Why don’t we go for what we want, and do what we need to do, rather than put it off for tomorrow? I realize this is an existential question I’m not going to solve now, but people, we need to take Timmy McGraw’s advice and live like we’re dying here!

4. Depression- This is where I’ve been today. I dropped Los off at Sea-Tac wicked early, then ran/walked Burly around Green Lake in the rain, feeling sorry for myself and wondering how it was possible for there to be any joy in the world when I felt like this... I had no hood on, my curls were dripping in my eyes, I didn’t care. By the end I looked pretty pathetic/awesome. Then I went and bought comfort food at the grocery store (Sunmaid Raisin Bread, citrus fruit and Fudgsicles- yeah, random, I know). Then I curled up with my puggybear and we watched chick flicks on the couch all afternoon.

5. Acceptance- getting back on the proverbial horse. I’ve been avoiding my bedroom since this morning. I always do this when Los leaves- I do anything not to go in our bedroom and look at the bed where I will, once again, have to sleep alone. Hearing Carlos’ breath and feeling his heartbeat is just about, if not my favorite thing on earth. Not to have that is devastating; like half of me has been ripped away.
But tomorrow morning will come, the sun will rise, and it will be a new day. I will go to work in Bellingham, and have a good time. This weekend I’ll play Settler’s, go to school, have a meal and laugh with the Kissinger’s. As the days tick away, all will go on and be well. And God will be faithful to carry me, as he has unfailingly to this point. As my friends’ new tattoo says, “Do not fear! For I am with you.” It’s a good promise to cling to when we can’t see what is going on in this thing called life.
(but just for the record, don’t get me wrong, this still sucks, and I’m still pissed that we have to go through it- that’s the great part about these stages, you can be all over the place at once.)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Transitions, Defensiveness, Wholeness..

My time is winding down at the hospital. I am trying to savor each conversation with patients and nurses, not knowing whether or not I’ll ever have an experience like this again. Last week one of my co-workers remarked that she was surprised I haven’t wept with patients. I was aware of multiple reactions to her comment. My obnoxious default (that I’m trying to change) is to be defensive and reactive. That isn’t helpful. Justifying oneself never seems to open conversations.

My second unhelpful reaction, which I’m also trying to change about myself, is to compare. If I am not crying as much as others, what does that mean? Do I suck as a chaplain? Are my empathy skills lacking? Is everyone else better than me? Why do I care, if they are- what does it say about myself that that is threatening?

Oh, introspection… my constant companion. I no longer want to live in a reactive space, either by becoming defensive, or comparing and beating myself up. I want to be comfortable in my own skin and do things my way, not trying to emulate anyone else, or measure myself against them. We all have different gifting. I want to be confident in and use mine, not that of someone else. I know who I am, I know how my heart has been deeply moved by patients and families; and that impact can manifest in a variety of ways.

However, I tried exploring her question, asking myself if I am letting my heart be callous as a coping technique for imminent transitions. I have experienced a lot of transitions in my life. More than most people. And I have many to anticipate on the horizon as well. Moving. Jobs. Friendships. A lot of saying goodbye and starting all over again. Withdrawal can be a natural, almost subconscious tendency for self-preservation.

My lovely friend Shannon is in a similar space, and shared this weekend how she’s stopped her premature grieving processes, since they aren’t helpful. Rather than letting her live in the present and make the most of opportunities, her heart has many times been burdened and distracted by question marks about the future, which have robbed her of being present.

I resonate with her, feeling like I’m merely ‘treading water’ at times, rather than being purposeful about the time I have. I would like to follow her lead in soaking in all a place has to offer before transitioning to the next place. Everywhere we go and everyone we meet have such extraordinary things to offer, if only we are open to the present. So that is my prayer for the end of my time here at the hospital, for this season of life, and for all who can resonate with this struggle to stay present amidst the question marks of life. Amen.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Torres del Paine (Pie-nay) Part I: Awe

This national park is maybe the most amazing in the world. Hard to say, I don’t know if there’s a competition like that? But I have NEVER seen glacial waters so azure and clean. Joel’s photos will speak to a lot of the ineffable majesty we witnessed. It was breath-taking at every turn, to be honest. Our first afternoon we did a 3 hour horseback ride, looking at the Cuernos, a gorgeous range of glacier-filled mountains. Sometimes, though, it was hard to tell which took our breath away more, the beauty, or the intense wind? I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. My horse was being a brat, but it was amazing to watch Joel, Los and Cara canter away into an Ansel Adams-esque landscape… one of those times you are so filled with joy you want to pinch yourself to make sure what you’re experiencing is real.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Global Travelers

Next to our table was a map of the world and pins were placed from where diners have visited La Luna (the restaurant). Though Punta Arenas is literally at the bottom of the world, the map was covered!! That was so encouraging to see. Cara and I have been to 16, Los 21, and Joel 35 countries so far. It is so awesome to meet others with similar passions and global-mindedness. The more we see of God’s creation, the more wonder we are filled with, and the more we grow in appreciation for different people groups and places. Traveling is such a high priority for us because of how it teaches in an unparalleled way about the (country and) world in which we live. Anyone wanna go on another trip? Holler…

Friday, February 15, 2008

New Hair and Valentine's Day

On the other hand...
At least I have awesome new short hair.
And I had a great Valentine's Day evening with my two little Valentines, a heart-shaped pizza from Papa Murphy's (we went with the Cowboy), which is destined to become a new ritual for us (as long as we're in the United States).  And my prince brought me two dozen amazing white roses.  Love them.

Scripture and Farting... what a day.

Taking a momentary break from posting our South America blogs... to say: which is worse... the fact that in the past 24 hours-

a) I flushed 1/2 the toilet-paper holder spring thing down the toilet at work b/c I was too mortified to reach my hand in there to get it, so I buried the other half in the trash...

b) I got my first speeding ticket in 9 years today, and it's steep.

c) my last patient in the hospital today was an old, bossy, bearded, Schizophrenic woman who kept farting while I was reading her the Scripture she requested.  Loudly.  Awesome.

I was torn, but I might go with option c.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Fish and Chips, Beers and a Pisco Sour

Another specialty of Chile is the eponymous Sea Bass. Cara made the good call to stop for fish and chips while we were in Punta, before heading up to Patagonia. We all ordered the fish, which was among the best I’ve ever had. For the potatoes, I tried (and subsequently have had 3 times, because I became obsessed with) the Pure Picante, which is mashed potatoes with amazing spices in it. I am determined to find out what combo to add, so I can replicate this at home. I am by no means a mashed potato fan, even at Thanksgiving; but I heart ‘pure picante.’ The Flory’s and Los also tried domestic artisanal beers, whereas I tried Chile’s most famous drink, the Pisco Sour. Love it, in a way it reminds me of my good friend, the Margarita…

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Johnny 5

The next morning we flew down to the bottom of Chile, Punta Arenas, where we picked up our rental SUV. We weren’t sure what to expect, but shortly after receiving it, we found all kinds of pieced together parts, and Carlos affectionately named it after the robot on Short Circuit. The pictures will speak more loudly than words, but in less than a week, one of the mirrors fell off and the back stopped opening. It has gotten us everywhere safely, but it is a real piece of work.

Joel has been driving, and says that while it works on the gravel roads, it is awful on pavement. Then again, it is so stinkin windy down here that he practically has to steer it hard one direction just to go straight. No telling how high the wind gusts have been, Los says 30-50 mph; suffice it to say, not our normal driving conditions. Other than the wind, though, the weather has been pretty good here, considering that when we flew down, Cara mentioned the 15-day report said RAIN all but one day! All in all, Johnny 5 has been our white knight in shining (albeit patch-worked) armor.

Santiago de Chile: Part Two- Vino, Astrid y Gaston

We took a cab in the afternoon to Las Condes where we went wine tasting at two places chock full o’ local vinos. Since we were only in Santiago for a day, we didn’t have time to go to all their amazing wineries (another trip), yet we got to sample a good handful there, and purchase some for our trip. The Flory’s are way more knowledgeable about wines than we are, and we had a fun experience talking with people at the stores (La Vinoteca y Mundo del Vino). Chile is known for it’s Carmenere and Argentina is known for it’s Malbec, among other things; we are excited to eat and drink our way through South America.

So why not begin with the best? I mean, you only live once, right? After wandering around the city all day, Joel discovered that the acclaimed “best restaurant in South America” Astrid y Gaston (which began in Lima, but is in 6 S. American capitals) happened to be close by in Providencia. We were exhausted and grimy, but gave it a shot. Luckily, South Americans don’t even START showing up at restaurants until 8 and aren’t in full swing until 10, so when the four of us rolled in at 7:30, they mercifully let us in (though upstairs, next to the bathroom, hidden from the main dining floor). Hey, we’ll take it.

Thus, we dined lavishly our first eve, the guys on sumptuous pesto-encrusted Patagonian Lamb Shanks (a regional specialty), and the gals on Lomo Saltado, an amazing cut of beef. South America is known for both, Argentina boasting the best (all free-range/chemical free) beef on earth. The entrees were coupled with great wine and we enjoyed a complimentary hors d’oeuvre of Peruvian corn on thinly sliced ahi. We look forward to experiencing two weeks of our dollar stretching far here for great meals!!

Santiago de Chile

After we got our bags (always a relief to see everything in tact) we made our way through the fog of jetlag and the vulture-like cab drivers to take a pre-paid ride into the capital. As far as aesthetics go, Santiago has a lot lacking. I hope I’m not putting too much pressure on Buenos Aires to be phenomenal, but Santiago left us in want. It turns out that a lot of cities in South America are like this; rather than remodeling neighborhoods once they start getting decrepit, they just expand their borders and build new things elsewhere. There were some nice areas (Barrios Bella
Vista, Providencia, y Las Condes), but over all, we weren’t too impressed.

Our hotel (Galerias, which we liked) was close to the Central Mercado, and we took a quick walk through an area where people go to buy certain foods or goods. Standing at a bar with about 40 locals, we bought $1 cheese empanadas, which were hot off the press. That was a fun first food experience.

After walking around for 2 hours, and exploring a market Joel recognized from the tv show The Amazing Race, we stopped in the colorful neighborhood Bellavista to get some gelato. When we turned around, we were surrounded by 5, then 15, then 25 8th graders from a local private school (dressed alike in uniforms). Their ringleader, Jorge (a short and chubby, boisterous cutie-pie) began firing off questions and trying to engage us in conversation. We felt simultaneously inadequate in our comprehension of the language (man, can 14 year-olds talk fast!) and like movie stars for how we held their rapt attention (a tough feat with 14 year-olds!)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Hablas Charades? (1st in a series of 18 S.A. blogs)

One week ago today we and the Flory’s were being dropped off at the airports (Seattle and San Francisco, respectively) by our loved ones. We had no idea what adventures lied ahead. We packed minimally, forged dutifully through the security gates, endured airplane food and stale air, while flying uneventful flights (the best kind, if you ask me) over night to Santiago, Chile’s capital. Fortuitously, we landed at the same time.

I have studied Spanish for 15 years of my life and was stoked to practice Wouldn’t you know, it only took me one minute interacting with a Customs Official to make my first of many translation mistakes thus far. When he asked Carlos his occupation, I heard vacation (like, are you here for vacaciones, not occupaciones?) so I told Los to say, “yeah, vacaciones,” to which the man gave us a quizzical look. Oops, though to be honest, I wouldn’t mind if our job was to take vacations☺ 15 years turn out not to be that helpful, thank God for the universal language of charades. That has been key for communicating.

South America/Patagonia Photos Up!

Okay friends, the Flory's finally had time to sort through the 2000+ photos from our December South America trip, and made a slideshow you can find here!

I'll start posting the blogs I wrote during the trip and attaching photos to them:) Woo hoo!

Friday, February 8, 2008

One Month and Counting

I am now starting my first countdown of 2008. I know there are a few more to come (countdown to graduating, to moving out, to renting or selling our house, to having a baby, to moving across the world…) yet I hate living in that space. That constant, anxious glance at the calendar and clock. That anticipation. Rather, I just want to live in the present, today, where I am. I want to savor and soak it all in while it’s still here.

My first countdown is to finishing my chaplaincy work at the hospital. I am both saddened and relieved when I think about it being done. I am relieved only because there are so many other competing factors in my life right now, and the addition of free time will be much appreciated. Yet I feel guilty about feeling this relief, as though in some way it negates the deep appreciation I have for my experience at the hospital. It has been an amazing time of examining myself and walking alongside others whom I would never have met if not for this season.

I feel sad because working here may be the most profound ministry I have ever experienced. Not in some terms, as building lasting relationships is a high value to me, and I don’t get that in an ICU or ED. But in terms of entering into peoples lives at such times of acute pain, grief, anger and sorrow, questions and wrestling over choices. To live, to die, to compromise, to have integrity. The hospital is a sacred space and I have been so blessed to be a part of people’s lives there. Though I know my countdown will end soon, I pray that I take and keep applying things I have learned at the hospital, about myself, about humanity.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Africa and Wii-ing: a Night of Opposites

Friday night, we had a homemade curry meal that was so good just thinking about it makes my mouth drool, with fabulous friends. Lindsey’s parents were there, we love seeing them, since they currently work with Young Life in Malawi, Africa, as was a new acquaintance Megan, who is from Tahoe, but has spent the past 3 years in Tanzania with the Peace Corps. We shared lots of stories around the table during the meal, it was a holy time, with Swahili rap and tribal music playing on the iPod in the background. Classic.

After dinner, we played Settlers and had great conversations about differences of life in the States and Africa, and discussed what contributes to a high quality of life.

Lindsey’s mom said something that stuck with me: “Americans have all kinds of clocks and time-telling devices, but have no time, always rushing from here to there. Africans have no clocks, yet have an abundance of time.” Something in my spirit tells me this isn’t right. I want to feel ‘leisurely’ in my life. Whether a day is full of appointments or not, I want to have a sense of holy leisure. I’m not there, but that is my hope.

When we were done playing Settlers, most people migrated to the living room and began playing sports on the Wii. Now call me a Neandrothal, but I have never seen the Wii before. The second classic comment of the night came before I entered the living room. I overheard Linds saying that her arm was sore from playing tennis. Playing tennis?! It’s 40 degrees outside, I thought, there’s snow on the mountains all around us, who plays tennis in this weather? And I couldn’t think of any local indoor courts, either; so I rounded the corner to ask her where she’d been playing, when I see people swinging these remote-controls in the air, apparently ‘playing tennis’ on the tv. I chuckled to myself and thought, oh, technolo-wii… You never cease to amaze.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Top 10 Trips I Want to Take: Part II- Around the World

St. Augustine (4th century CE) said that "the world is like a book, and those who don’t travel read only a page." I love that quote. Here is another list from my head of places we want to go globally.

1. Greece and Turkey
2. Israel and Palestine, and Egypt
3. SE Asia (Thailand, Cambodia, etc.)
4. India (and the Maldives!)
5. China
6. Brasil and Antarctica
7. Scandinavia (Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark)
8. UK (England, Wales, Ireland, Scotland) watching a football game somewhere.
9. South Africa and elsewhere above it (Botswana with the Pendleton’s? Malawi with Wood’s? Uganda with P.Scott?)
10. Tropical reefs to snorkel (Caribbean, Tahiti, Seychelles, anywhere, really…)

Friday, February 1, 2008

Top 10 Trips I want to take: Part I- in the U.S.

Since my mind is on traveling, here are some lists I have in my head. I have been to 45 of our glorious 50 states so far, and maybe 20 capitols; I’m ambitious, but not hard core compared to my friend Catherine’s dad. He has driven the perimeter of the contiguous 48 states and climbed to the top of the highest point in almost every state! He has also been to EVERY county in the U.S. THAT is hard core. He’s kind of my hero.
All I’m saying is that before I die, I would like to:

1. Do a rafting and houseboating trip on Lake Powell and in the Grand Canyon, AZ
2. Drive from Chicago up to Mackinac Island, MI and kayak
3. Ski Killington, VT, and/or Jackson Hole, WY (the only 2 good states I haven’t skied)
4. Go to Alaska and climb a mountain (preferably not Mt. McKinley, I’m thinking small, more like a hill…)
5. Go to Hawaii to snorkel, or ride a bike down a volcano, whatev.
6. Hear the Newport Jazz Festival in Rhode Island
7. Explore Maine in the summer
8. Have a second home at the beach (Los Osos, probs) or in the mountains in CA (Mammoth, my heart)
9. complete a triathlon, and maybe a road race with Los (St. George in UT, or Rock ‘n’ Roll in CA)
10. Go to a college football game in the South (at Texas, or Florida preferably, who along with Cal are my adopted teams)

Here’s to making them happen! I wonder if any of you keep such lists in your minds? If so, I’d LOVE to hear about them…

Frickles, “As American as Apple Pie”

Can I just write a whole blog about food, yet not feel like a glutton? Let’s see. I’ll be honest, we love to eat. It’s a good time. And as a globally-minded citizen, I must say that I appreciate wine and food from everywhere. We probably eat Mexican (I could never have enough salsa or avocados in my life), Thai (lime, peanuts, lemongrass and coconut milk, yum!), and Indian (savory curries and naan) the most. But we love all things Mediterranean (French, Italian, Greek, Moroccan) and many other types of ethnic food.
It got me wondering, what is American food? I love Alice Waters, Tom Douglas and creative ‘fusion’ cuisine, but I wonder what do people think of as distinctly American? I now know that the Argentines dominate the world of beef. But when people around the world think American, I cringe if all they think is McDonalds, or hot dogs...
Today we were wandering around Georgetown (one of the cutest neighborhoods I know of in D.C. with great little boutiques and interesting architecture everywhere). Since we were with people we met in Texas, we decided to go to Barbeque for lunch. Now I don’t know, technically, if D.C. is above or below the Mason-Dixon line; if it is considered to be part of the North or South? But this place took their barbeque seriously, they had SIX kinds of bbq sauce, did you even know there was that many?!
Memphis- sweet/smoky, molasses-based
Carolina- thinner, vinegar-based
Savannah- mustard seed-based, good on chicken
Texas- spicy
Kansas City-tangy
And one more, so many, I couldn’t even remember them all…
This got me wondering if this is the most distinct American food? Moving to the south gave me an appreciation for southern food (Lo’ Country Boil and all), since it seems to be the most unique in the country. I mean I know we have salmon in the Northwest, and New England has clam chowder and lobster; but on the whole, it seems like the south has the most distinct variety of ‘American’ food. I could be wrong, and am open to people’s opinions…
But we feasted on appetizers of mini- corn bread muffins with honey butter, chicken wings, frickles (yes, fried pickles) and fried jalapenos, pulled pork, brisket, mac ‘n’ cheese, collard greens, sweet tea and all kinds of goodness. I know most of you reading are on the west coast, and this may sound repulsive to you- it would have to me at one point- so you’ll have to take my word for it. It was awesome. If you ever go to the south, promise me, you’ll at least try it. After all, it’s as ‘American as apple pie.’