Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Fall moments
The last couple of months have been synonymous with the season. It began with the end of something great, the warmth of summer, friends, and home; you know fall has arrived when the cold and dreariness begins.
Although it starts with an absence of summer goodness, it most surly holds change, and amidst the rain, and cold, there is the beauty of the falling leaves, crisp sunshine, apples and pumpkins.

Moving here was at first lonely, full of change and absence of comfort, but has drifted to filling with good people, new experiences, apples and pumpkins.

My highlights
Fall leaves- OK west coast, they have us beat. The diversity and richness of COLOR is astounding. I didn't get to go to the blue ridge mountains which is renowned for it's beauty, but even just on my walk to duke and back I am constantly aghast by the foliage.

SOUTHERN COMFORT- no not that southern comfort, the most southern difference I have found is the food. I do complain about the amount that is fried, ( mostly 'cause i don't want to eat too much of it)- but they really have a knack for frying and making great comfort food. So i gathered my new found friends/ food lovers together and had a potluck. We had a great time sharing recipes, music and each other's company.

my mom visited and we made a desk, out of an old door- yeah we're that cool.

DUKE basketball- so this is a big deal here. I guess this is common knowledge to most of the world, but I didn't have the slightest, so I figured I should partake of it and learn. Except to get a ticket is ridiculously expensive and sold out, and the student tickets are handed out in a lottery that the students sleep in tents for months to be entered into. So no schmoozing, money, or body parts would get me a spot.
But who you knows makes the world go round. A favor for a friend, the friend doing a favor for a professor led to us getting tickets!!!
The stadium and the fans are what Duke basketball is famous for. Here's some more info in case the curiosity about the history and fame is unbearable.

Originally the largest indoor arena in the South, Cameron is today one of the smallest in the nation. Nevertheless, its stature grows from year-to-year. Sellout crowds, top 25 rankings and championships of every variety have become the norm. The "creative harassment" of student spectators has given Duke the honor of being known as "one of the toughest road games in the USA," according to USA Today and any visiting team that has ever played in Cameron. In its June 7, 1999, issue, Sports Illustrated rated Cameron Indoor Stadium fourth on a list of the top 20 sporting venues in the world in the 20th Century, ranking ahead of such notables as Wrigley Field, Fenway Park and Pebble Beach Golf Club.

Duke's men's basketball teams have had a decided home-court advantage for many years, thanks to the diehard students and fans affectionately known as "Cameron Crazies" for their aggressiveness, tough catcalls, bleacher jumping and other actions used to create loud noises (for example, in the 02-22-09 showdown vs. Wake Forest, the arena reached 116 dB, similar in volume to jet engines at takeoff, louder than a jackhammer, and nearing the 120 dB threshold for pain[5]) and rattle opposing offenses. Typically, the seats near the court as well as standing room is reserved for students who wait hours in order to access those areas come game time.

For access to major games, including those against the University of North Carolina, students tent for months in an area outside of Cameron known as "Krzyzewskiville." The hardwood floor was dedicated and renamed Coach K Court in February 2001, in recognition of head coach Mike Krzyzewski's 500th win at Duke.[6]

Although it was no South American soccer match, it definitely had charisma a whole lot of of blue and a highlight of my fall!

So as I settle into winter, I am looking forward to less change and more comfort; knowing even in the stillness of winter, I am always in it, the whole messy lovely living process of me.

Monday, October 26, 2009

i love the sea and the sea loves me

If you know me, you know of my love for the ocean. If my poetic streak would flare I would write an ode to its unfathomable greatness.
I can now say I've encountered the North Carolina's Atlantic and am still smitten. I met my brother and his house mates at the outer banks- one of the "must see" attractions of NC. The outer banks consist of overgrown sand bars, overly developed with many skinny houses on stilts. Except the last island, ocracoke, which is just sand, ocean and a little fishing village, for us there was no other option.

For the first time, while driving there, I saw glimpses of the south I had created in my imagination. There were blossoming cotton fields and tobacco leaves fading yellow in the sun. picture little kids barefoot in overalls holding kittens ( no really) in front of houses overgrown with ivy. Dilapidated mansions, crumbling from their grandeur, spotted the fields along side rows of trailers. I had to take a ferry on the last leg and saw a dolphin fin ( the dolphin was under water) I have no photo to collaborate or second eye witness, but a fin I saw. other randomness: they have flocks of pelicans that dive into the water for meals, an impressive sight, given their size.
I forget how good it is to be with people who know you, and care about you. Cj and his groupies live deeply connected and with so much care and love for one another.

It was revitalizing to be included in all the lov'n. We camped strolled, built fires, played in the nightly bio- luminescence ocean, swam, and net fished ( above photo).
Michelle and I tried it in the ocean (its meant for a calm bay), and had little success besides entertaining the beer bellied fisherman near by. In the bay the next day, with netting success, we reveled and gawked over all the sea creatures we could capture. Cj's website, http://www.catchlightart.com/ has it well documented. We watched in awe and shock as a crab (who had vengefully attacked Cj moments before) cut a fish in two and ate it.
Two weeks later I returned to the ocean, with a group of strangers. Yup, I broke all the rules, I talked with strangers, got into a car with strangers, and let them take me away for the weekend. I did it all for the sake of community. :)
If nothing else my vagabond state this past year has stripped me of any fear of people I don't know. I can gather the life story of a rock and love doing it!
Luckily I had some nice people to talk to and wasn't left talking with rocks. The group was made up of other young adults who were connected with a church I had been visiting and the weekend was focused on learning about community. The Church is going through a lot right now and in general is a little...hmm. lets say pastel, ( not nitty gritty or in the grime of living, too much suburbia for my taste) but it's heart is in the right place. I met many people with different passions, and felt welcomed.
Its all about picking quality strangers :)
It was quite a treat to be swimming, sunning and playing beach volley ball in late October. I'm sheepishly looking forward to a mild winter; I'm growing broccoli and spinach outside still!

The time in between the ocean visits have been about finding my rhythm and role in my internship and with all the people I have been meeting. Currently I'm looking for a job, as my internship is free labour, and I like clothes, gasoline, and food too much to survive without money!

The leaves here are GORGEOUS. I have never seen colors quite like them before, its hard to believe they exist in nature. I'll try to capture some photos.

May you all have a chance to embrace a loved one in the crisp fall sunshine, sip cider and watch leaves drift ( i want a photo if you are able to do it all at once)!

Cheers Loves!!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

An ode to Autumn, the year's last, loveliest smile.”

Ah, 'tis then I love to wander,
Wander idly and alone,
Listening to the solemn music
Of sweet nature's undertone;
Wrapt in thoughts I cannot utter,
Dreams my tongue cannot express,
Dreams that match the autumn's sadness
In their longing tenderness."
- Mortimer Crane Brown, Autumn Dreams

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Hot chocolate vs the avalanche

My internship has been getting underway, each day building on the one before. I like the hospital setting with all the people, possibilities and bustling. 25,000 people work at Duke hospital, to give you a sense of its size. If I try multi tasking while walking I quickly find myself exploring new units, wings and floors, as I try to wander my way back to where I was going.

I hesitate to say much for reasons of confidentiality about my internship. If you were locked on a psych ward ( or your loved one was) what would you feel comfortable having the social work intern posting about it on the world wide web?
I'll try to paint a generalized picture of what we do. I think i can best describe mental health struggles as an avalanche. Some people have the resources, skills and people to see the warning signs and avoid getting caught in an avalanche, others get caught in small snow banks, but have family, Drs and tools to get out, or be quickly retrieved when crisis overtakes them .

I spend my 30 hours a week, listening to many people discuss, share observations and solutions of 18 patients who have been catapulted, swept out of the control and safety and buried in an avalanche ( in some cases for years) of the most terrifying, debilitating crisis of life.

If they have made it to us, the adult acute care psychiatric locked ward, they have tried to kill themselves and failed, or are acting in bizarre enough ways that their family, friends or law enforcement fear they are a danger to themselves or others. This sounds intense and dramatic, and in one sense it is that extreme. But by the time they reach us they are sedated, or soon will be, so mostly the patients spend their time eating, watching TV, attending activities- taebo, crafts, life skills groups ect... and sleeping while on the ward.

I see us as trying to find them admist the snow of jumbled, tightly packed, sometimes vast field of symptoms and variables. We poke, questions, analyze and try to create an air hole so they know which way is up. The goal of their stay is for the treatment team to find a medication that can give them enough of their mind and function back to make them capable of being in society and making sure they have someone on the outside who can continue to assist them once they leave.
We stabilize, not heal. We do not delve into thier past, do therapy, or discuss the pros and cons of thier choices and its outcomes. Someone else comes in and does DBT ( a form of therapy directed at changing behavior). Duke is known for its advances in ECT treatments ( electric shock therapy) so they are sometimes sent for this. If we do our Job, we offer an airhole, a way to know which way is up, a glimpse of hope when it seemed the crushing weight of the mental illness that coccooned you into this state, is all life will ever be.

As my supervisor puts it, if we didnt do this who would?. It sounds like a disservice, when someone is suffering so much that all we do is offer meds, but in reality, this is a solution they can afford and maintain.
I have very little contact with the actual patients at this point. I go in and listen to the Dr's and med students when they interview them daily, I help contact resources in the community that can be helpful for them when they leave. Some stay for a day, others for a month, rarely more than 3 weeks. Average is about a week and a 1/2.

It would be easy to be depressed seeing such hopeless, hurting people and knowing my role, or what I can do it so minimal given the size of their struggle, but When we are dealing with these basic of life issues, the need for love and the way to provide it seems pretty clear. I see my role as kinda like the one who hands out hot chocolate to the rescue team on the avalanche rescue, it doesn't do much directly for the one we are searching for, but every small things can make a difference. What I have to offer them is a smile, support to the nurses- the ones digging in the snow day in and out, while the Dr's observe and direct, make suggestions and with the client's offer eye contact, respect as people even in their crazyness.

If I wanted the glory and control, I would have become a psychiatrist, ( ive defenintly been contemplating if Ive made the right choice in this mileu) but I know i make some pretty good hot chocolate, and its not what I do, but how and why I do it, that can make all the difference in the world.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I'll think about that tomorrow"~ Scarlett O Hara

I have found living space. I have a real bed and roof and address!
its 2701 Sparger RD Durham NC 277055

I have started my internship and it will be a learning experience; as always, navigating the channels on interpersonal ego relations, will be the first dance steps to learn. For example DO NOT refer to the Attending as the "real DRs", When trying to decipher between Attendings and Residences. Don't worry, I'm cute,and they seem to have forgiven the faux paux :). I also caught a BIG oversight before it was disasterous that an Attending made and the resident got to take credit for it ( rightly so) , so I think i'm back in thier graces. ( Way to loong and anticlimatic story to tell).

Weekends have been spent scouring thrift stores for furniture that is cheeep and cute and fits in my car, so far I have found a coat rack for a dollar and a very sturdy chair; desk, shelves and the rest to go!

This rest of this blog is the rambling tangent of me who has been living alone in a sunrooom, with a chiwauwa, I feel like a have a squirrel on a leash when I take it for walks- which translates to too much time in my head-

It has all worked out, not perfection but pleasent all the same. I say not perfection, because it's not the ideal and being less than ideal is something I'm always striving to find the balance in.
You see I'm learning how much easier it is to look at what everyone else has and wish, want desire that. I wonder if I should have kept looking for housing (or--- fill in the blank) or been satified with what I have. It applies to so much more than just housing; it's a internal dialouge I constantly have. Is this good enough, although its not "great", am I settling or is there something more "out there"? And then that lovely God element comes in, is this "what He has for me and I therfore I should be satisfied", or do I need to be "faithful" and wait until God provides something that "feels right"? I feel like Im playing a battle ships board game with christianesy catch phrases,- which launched advice bombs will hit the right battle ship answer?

How do I be satisfied with what I have, but be open to somthing better? I cant figure out how to be committed to where I am, if I'm always looking to change it? Again this applies across the board in so many different areas of life, from Job, living, relationships and beyond.

I realize others envy my life, I am the epitomy of free. I have no one relying on me, my ambitions, pursuits, time, choices are my own. Few people ever have the chance to fully experience this. But to be this free, I am alone. Everyone says I'm brave. Why, what other option do they see I have?

And although I have always experienced aloneness, here, in a far off land, without a built in social network, lonliness has a heavier calaminity to it. I am fighting to not fill it with activities, random people, or pity, but am getting to the place where I am trying to just go slow enough to experience it, not fight it but find the good in it, in the solitude. Like being alone, with myself.
It inst natural, nor all together negative.

I'll end on a lighter note-
my room mate is a lovely lady who is an ER nurse and owner of the chiwauwa and house.
I found some amazing "southern veggies" to experiment with at the farmer's margret- such as thick skined HUGE grape like fruit things, miniture round green and white eggplants, Crazy looking tomatoes, and eggs as big as my fist- for real!!!
The people here are ridiulously kind and im learning to talk reeeaalll slooooow and polite like.
I revel in the accents!!

I'm reading and loving Confederates in your attic ( compliments of my father) to enhance my southern experieince. SO facinanting.

May you all feel blessed by what you have and what you live without.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

you all are my web of salvation

I am lonely and in a new place where I only know a few people's people. I definitely spent a good amount of my forever long drive asking myself what possessed me to decide to pick the farthest place away from all that I love, to live for an awkward 9 months and not think about how difficult that would be?!??

So I need to be searching for housing, setting up my life, getting on top of my forever long to do list, or at least updating you on all the fantastic and sordid things that life has held these last couple months.

But I cant because the only thing I can keep mulling over is how profound people connections are. Networks and connection have been my saving grace these last couple of months, they define so much of what I experience. The only difference between me and a homeless person, is who I know. Yes my social, economic, family, race, religion all influence who I know and therefore who I am connected to, but the money I have, or what my religion is isn't what keeps me from being homeless ( or a millionaire) its the people that I associate with because of these parts of my identity.

I see it on so many levels. who I choose as my friends at Smith, although varied and I thought I was open to all, I ended up being with people mostly similar to myself. There is a whole conversation to be had about the reason we gravitate to those that we are like. We are similar on many levels, but diverse on others. I leave that thought line there, so as to get to my point....

My entire trip across the country I relied and was cared for by the hospitality of others. Dear friends, allowed me to show up late at night, sleep in their beds, eat their food, and leave again. I had several friends I didn't get to see because I had options of several different people in the 3 state area I could stay with. Although there is some sense of "we are friends, of course they want me to stay", and " if they are friends with me, they know I am unpredictable, time optimist, who has no concept of when I will be there, or be leaving and love me anyway and want me to stay". But I realize this is alot to ask, and am blown away by how kind and welcoming all are.

Then there are friends of friends. This is a stretch, with more anxiety, need for common graciousness, but still within in the reach of normal asking of I know you, and them, you are both are the type where this is not big deal, great! there were awkward run ins with the roommate, but a free bed and bathroom made it worth all social awkwardness. In reflection, I would do the same, ( offer my home, my space) but how phenomenal of a complete stranger to say to another complete stranger, of course, here is my home, enjoy use what you need, you are welcome here?
IN Ireland a lovely couple i met there emailed their friend's in Durham and that couple although they no longer live in Durham have been a huge resource of information of churches, local info, and offered several housing options.

Then I arrive in Durham. One of my nearest and dearest calls her nearest and dearest and says, I have a friend coming to town can she crash? Of course, comes the response!
But now that stranger is me, and I miss calculate distance and arrive in the middle of the night ( "no problem- we'll leave the door unlocked"), "how many nights would I like to stay?" a couple, I need pick one of the housing choices I have, I say. But before I meet them ( married couple) all my known housing option fall through and I have no where to live and am staying with beloved of beloved, but I have never met them and now neither of us know how long I am welcome to stay or need to stay!

And so yesterday I was faced with letting go of my last housing option because of a ethical delima, so I called my family and asked for prayer, as to give this up means I have only a couple of stranger's air mattress or a few people I could ask if I could stay some time, but really hate being sooo desperate, and helpless.

Instantaneously, a social network webs spun across the continent to form a safety net. An email my dad sends to a Portland friend asking if he knows anyone brings about a man here in Durham who is willing to contact his church family which produces two people who say I can stay with, all within a matter of hours.

my sister- in law jumps on line and finds churches with housing classifieds, as my Internet isn't working, so frantic searching isn't available to ease my mounting stress, and of course when I return home to dinner with my friend's friends they say I can stay as long as I need.

I am pretty sure there are several others contacts from my program that if I was in a bind would offer me a to stay.

As I searched for community of believers to live with ( my ideal for current living, although not what it looks like is going to be what happens) I have been reading Bonhoeffer's book on the topic this morning. It talks about our need for Christ being what creates the community, the common need to have God's truth, and our belief of our need of Christ, our common understanding how helpless we are on our own, spoken to us by others.

How powerfully I experienced the true sense of community of believers. its not just who I live with, but who I am relation with, who confirms that I don't need to make ethical compromises, or those I don't even know who reach out to others to meet a need without hesitation because of their experience of truth and love.

So as I search the Internet and hold back tears of helplessness and frustration, and sleep on air mattresses and get mad at myself that I am having to live off the handouts of others, I experience God.

I have community that is not bound to a house, a town, Continent or world, but to a God who although does not promise to make everything smooth, (Im sure I would have had a worthwhile experience if I ended up being homeless) God would still be good.

I started to say i am thankful that I am not homeless, than realized no I AM homeless. I am thankful I have people who have experienced grace and love and are willing to offer it to me through sending emails, meals and air mattresses, so that in my homelessness I am clean and safe!

Don't panic family, just pray I find a place where I am filled with peace when I think about living there. :)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

and the beat goes on

For the last month and a half I have read, talked, thought, read, written, and then sleep a bit, eat, and occasionally take on a laundry mat, swim and bike ride. Actually I'm doing more playing than I should.., too many great people to know and play with! I've backpacked, hiked, biked, went to concerts, and had many great conversations.

The rain has kept the humidity away up until this last week, so I'm beginning to appreciate the dreary days of the last month, they really make studying 15 hours a day much more feasible than the sunshine and hot humid afternoons.

I'm going to post some of the articles I've been reading to let you all in on the clinical social work world.try google scholar to search for them, I dont think the link will work. I cant figure out how to attach documents to blogs, so i cant share my writing on the subject. I'm learning lots about social justice, individual development, policies, thearpy techniques, diagnois and all the implications, ins outs, up and down sides, backs, fronts, shadows, past present and future of it all.

I think the best analogy for the experience is summer camp... super fun, great intense, connecting with many different people, lots of little bits of fascinating things... or maybe its best described as being held underwater for 10 weeks, where you struggle, panic, think your going to die from all the stress, unable to learn,process, internalize it all, then enter into a state of peace with it, at which point they yank you out and send you out into the world to be a social workers.... maybe a little of both- drowning summer camp.

I'll head back to my beloved west for packing up and road tripping my way to North Carolina mid august, where I begin my internship at Duke University psych ward starting september 8th!

The vagabond state has me shedding belongings and living in creative ways of cheapness, trying not to panic about the details ( like where to live or how im going to pay for cost of living) I just cant find time to take care of. I choose instead when I'm riding my bike to class, dancing to the reggae band, reading/attending lectures to wrap my mind around the health care system and possible ways to make policy change, to I notice my life is an incredible blessing full of people, experiences, options, information and privilege- life is always uncertain, bumpy, not quite all I thought, and pretty amazing because of it. I hope you all know how much I like/love/miss you and hope you have a moment where life feels life an blessing to great to comprehend... in between all the chaos.

If you do nothing else, look up the philidelphia kinsington homeless movement of women. Facinating social movement

DeJong, P., Berg, I.K. (2001). Co-constructing cooperation with mandated clients. Social Work , 46(4), (pp 361-374)
Schlosser, L.Z. (2003). Christian privilege: Breaking a sacred taboo. Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, 3, 44-51.
Deegan, P. (2002). Recovering our sense of value after being labeled mentally ill. In Adams, M. et al (editors). Readings for diversity and social justice. NY: Routledge (pp 359-363)

McIntosh, P. (2004). White Privilege: Unpacking the invisible knapsack. In M. Andersen and P.L. Collins (Eds.) Race, class and gender, (5th ed.). Belmont, CA : Wadsworth. (pp. 103-108).

Miller J. & Garran A.M. (2008). Social identity formation and group membership. In Racism in the United States : implications for the helping professions, (pp.103-133) . Belmont, CA : Thompson Brooks/Cole.

Karger, H. J. & Stoesz, D. (2010). American social welfare policy: A pluralist approach (5th ed.). Boston : Allyn & Bacon, (Chapter 13 – Mental health and substance abuse policy, 338-367). HV95 .K354 2010 [on print reserve].

Zamora , M. F. & Moffit, R. E. (2007). Does America need national health insurance? (pp. 45-62). In H. J. Karger, J. Midgley, P. A. Kindle, & C. B. Brown. (Eds.). Controversial issues in socialpolicy (3rd ed.) . Boston : Allyn and Bacon. HN59.2 .C66 2007 [on print reserve].

Sunday, June 14, 2009

One of these things is not like the others

Although I know blogs without photos are not as fun, I will keep writing to continue to be inspired to add photos later.
This is another one of those difficult things to try to begin as I'm in the middle and where it started and how it will all end isn't clear yet.

I am here in Northampton MA. The "vibe" is alot like a pocket of the northwest on the east coast. Earth friendly, crunchy hippie, laid back, free loving living. I feel very at home.
I am starting my third week of class, which puts me into midterms at Smith. We do a year of work ( two semesters) in ten weeks.
My room is working out swimmingly. The house was built in 1716. I am living in the back corner, the rest is a museum. The lady who I am sharing the apartment with is kind, and my room is swell. I have had the place to my self for two of the 3 weekends and have been able to have people over. There is also a kitchen garden I get to pick lettuce, carrots and berries from!!

Intense isn't a long enough or weighty enough word to describe the experience thus far.
There is an Identity to being at Smith, I was completely unaware of. Its feels like a preacher who joins the Vatican, without ever really knowing that much about the Holy Catholic Church or the significance of the Vatican. At Smith there is quite an identity of belonging to something bigger and greater than yourself, encapsulating a lineage of history, a standard of excellence that pays tribute that history of Smithies who have defined the field of social work. I didn't know much about the field, let alone Smith's role or contribution. I feel like I'm wearing the robes, but its not going to take much for the others to see "that one of these things is not like the others".

In areas of social justice, and anti racism, I would never consider my self ignorant, but the more I am learning I just might be.
We have been learning about "white privilege". The fact that I am white, upper class, heterosexual, christian means that I am part of the dominant class, which means I have the privilege to be unaware. If you are male, Christian or agnostic (both are dominant) you are even more "privileged". This would all still be theoretical learning for me and something I may only cognitively process, if I wasn't in Northampton.

Here at Smith being a white, heterosexual, Christan makes me a minority and thus I have experienced a minute sense of what minorities experience. If I was male it would be even a smaller population ( entering class has 13 men and 97 women). At least half of the women are lesbians ( Smith undergraduate is an all female college).

Its totally different to accept and love when someone is the minority, anomaly, but when I am the minority and they are the majority its a whole another boat, " sexual diversity" is a very important topic here, yet I haven't yet formed any solid stance or beliefs on the matter ( that would be a bizarre concept to vocalize here);. It would be like saying I'm not sure what my thoughts are on rain, if its wrong or in God's plan... while everyone around me is doing the rain dance, in the rain forest. And I'm questioning it because.... shhh- I'm christian, talk about feeling the need for a closet to hide in! Most would be resistant to me if they heard I was a Christan because of the stereotypes, or experiences they have had with Christians.

Although I still cringe when I say christian ( instead of follower of Christ, or another progressive term) I feel like I shouldn't hide or change the title to make it more socially acceptable. For better or worse, I belong to the hypocritical, close minded, sometimes racist, broken, hate filled church, ( if we are being honest, at some point I am all of those things too) because they follow, believe and need Christ and I say I do, so despite what a horrible rep Christians have earned, I am one of them ( this belief is a part of a bigger philosophy of a little radical wearing a sandwich board on a soap box in my head, I can share more at a later time).

I am getting it, in a room full of people few have the same ideological beliefs and views of life, I look for people that are the same as me, so I can feel comfortable and know that its ok to be me, there are others like me.I find myself being wary of the large group so many identify with, for I don't know how to interact, and don't want to be offensive.

Since this is barely a taste of what it means to be a minority, I get it; my ability to be oblivious to racism, not have prejudices against me for most of my life, be like most of the people around me, means I am a part of the privileged class. I have little concept of how race impacts others, and its not right to be so oblivious to the suffering of other religions, races and the vast majority of people in the world, specifically the USA, just because I am not one of them. Thank goodness I'm going to the south, where I will continue to be a minority, on so many levels so I will continue to learn this lesson.

So while learning that, trying to make friends, settle into a new town, coming to terms with living in poverty ( another sandwich board wearing radical guy rant, I'm embracing) , I am doing my masters. How amazing is it to have my sole occupation and purpose be to sit around and read about the most fascinating topics to me and be surrounded by others who are also passionate about reading and learning those same things? Its alot, at least 500pgs a week to read and be able to apply to five different classes, and several papers, group project on top of that. Every night there are lectures, documentaries, and activities I am able to attend as well.

Its alot like yoga, you grunt moan and sweat your way through it, sure your body wasn't meant let alone is able to bend or get into those positions. If you continue to practice, breath, focus on balance, and try, the pain and challenge of all that is new, molds you into a stronger person who becomes capable of accomplishing things you weren't even aware were possible for people to do.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

I wanted to keep this going, but I have neglected to write as I wanted to add pictures, but I discovered I left the cable in Ireland, and well the sequencing story goes on from there. If you don't know the theory of sequencing, look it up, its the story of the woes life.

My past two months, April and May, were sooo full of all that I love calling and coming home to.

I will add photos... at some point . Now I am going stick to a list of run on sentences of event-please forgive me if I overlook something and add it in comments!

One week with my dear mom road tripping the eastern land from Dc to Penn, Conn, Virgina, Mass, NY, Delaware, RI, and some other indistinguishable states in between. We ate mostly ice cream and coffee, followed whatever little line on the map we fancied and bunked in funky B&B's. I was inspired by Abe Lincoln, found many quaint barns, was debunked in the search for Amish, (they do NOT, mill about in Lancaster, nor do they clog the freeway with their buggies for my photographing pleasures ( they only come to market on Tues and Saturday for tourist; it was a wed). A drive by trip to Smith to see my school and panic about my lack of housing, led us to the eastern coast for more ice cream, white sand and bonding at a B&B. A wonderful mom I have!

Home, sweet Oregon HOme!

So I'm bias, but no where in the world smells as good as Oregon, it is indescribable, I'll keep an open mind, but Oregon still hasn't been topped in its greatness.

My dog- who knew you could miss a furry, wiggly, four legged lump so much?

My brother and wife and baby in the belly- love them and being with them and talking and laughing and being a part of them.

A week at the coast- I hope the ocean never stops capturing me and grounding me every time I visit and stand at sunset in silence.

My time was blessed with visits from my mom, grandmas and aunt, then my dear life long friends who challenge, inspire, laugh and loves me. I got to see another set of the same with another baby in a belly.

Many people, family and friends I was able to have coffee, lunch, tea, a hike, an evening, a phone call with and reconnect to all who make life meaningful.( yay to having a cell phone again!- then it took a suicide plunge into the ocean)

A weekend with my parents at wild horse canyon for life 101. My first time back since I graduated highschool- it was enriching, challenging, great to see my parents in a different setting and the rugged weather, time scoured hills and plains of gorgeous eastern Oregon. I could watch the sun color the hills in ever changing ways for days.

I made a quilt!!! For three years I promised my brother a t-shirt quilt at Christmas and his birthday and before his 29th birthday ( with help of a certain mother with a knack for cutting straight) I finished it! In case you were wondering what I did in between all my wanderings I thought I would keep you from worrying about me being a lazy, unemployed bum.

And then....

My dad I set the last weekend before I went to school for our BIG adventure. We had been planning and training and psyching ourselves up for...... a trip to Napa for wine tasting and fine food. Very similar to the mountain climbing we pre-bragged about.

The mountain climb was decommissioned due to a belly situation. You see a certain baby was still in a sister in laws belly, and some of us still had a belly ( okay all) that would keep us on solid ground. So we decided to embrace our bellies, and treat them to wine and chef's my dad and I would have few chances to ever experience again.

I won't go into detail as I would hate for you all to be so jealous you refuse to speak to me, or judge me. :)

But it was all you could ask for - GREAT food- ( i will never again be able to afford to please my tastebuds), and A fantastic wine experience. My dad let me show him how to travel cheap to make up for the... ahem... elevated style of living. He slept in a railroad car, we drove there, ate leftovers and restrained wine purchases. He was considerate of my concerns and vows of poverty ( social work degree from elite school=poverty) and took them in stride. I bought the coffee both mornings. For the finale we skimmed the redwoods on the way home and even just an hour or so of gazing had me redefining majestic


I became an AUNT!!!! ( ok so its has little to do with me or my doings but..) This is when I really wish my camera was working, you can't believe how gorgeous she is, again I'm bias, but not blind, nor going to lie. SHe is perfectly golden, round, loong, puckered lipped, darling. No misshapen newborn- Ive been growing in a uterus upside down and just gone through 24 hours of life giving / endangering trauma- look . Really NEVA Ann is oh, oh so so precious.

With greeting my niece off my to do list I decided I best be off to school. So I sorted and gave away most of my remaining belongings and headed east.

I'll add pictures, but if you ( anyone) honestly reads ALL of this, the coffee is on me next time!!!

Smith/ being a Smithy/ NoHo/ friends/ rooms/ life inbetween clinical social work books/ white privledge/new churches to come...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

April 15th
I made it stateside! a car, 3 buses, 1 plane, 3 trains, and a final car ride has taken me to DC ( you gotta love the adventures of economical travel). That was two weeks ago.

I spent 4 days with CJ in Washington DC. My time was tranquil. I slept, went to city things ( aka cultural e events) in the evening with my dear bro. A poetry reading at intimidatingly cool cafe ( maybe I have been living among mountains, trees, farmland and sheeps too long, everyone was ethnic, gorgeous and uber hip ( see, I don't even know the cool word for cool) ). The poetry was the same. We spent Saturday at a art walk in a "sketchy" neighborhood in DC. Antocostia is not a place where urban grunge coffee shops and vintage clothing store make it a place where white people can live in a "sketchy" part. Its where normally I would need to lock my doors and find the nearest interstate entrance. I was humbled in my stereotypes as I saw the beauty these people living in poverty and oppression, saturated in violence could create, the community support and identity they fostered.

I was able to stroll in the cherry blossoms, and free museums to add to the bliss stated above.

Easter was remarkable.
We, the ADAMS Family, known for our fondness of sleep, and time optimism actually made it to a sunrise Easter service on time!
The Parents joined Cj and I for the early morning trek to Arlington Cemetery before dawn. As the sun rose over the thousands of marble reminders of lost lives, we sang about and celebrated the hope we live for, creating a juxtaposistion that brought stillness to remember that the pain, confusion, and brokenness is not the end, He arose!
There were doves involved- I kidd you not.

The rest of Easter continued with good ol fashioned American traditions of lots of food and napping . A picnic at the Lincoln memorial with a phenomenal concert celebrating Lincoln's 200year legacy and civil rights movement ending with Colin Powell ( a 1st generation Jamaican immigrant- did you know that?) swearing in 105 new American citizens- my heart swells- I'm proud to be an American.
It was all too much to summarize, it almost is a disservice to try, but alas, I must not neglect my blog. :)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

heartbeats and deep breaths

Corrymeela and all the people within it have continued to teach, stretch and fill life here.
I led my first group two weekend ago. I was responsible for planning the team building activities and making sure everything was ready and continued to go smoothly for the group. The group was a team going to Kyrgyzstan with habitat for humanity. It was challenging and mostly successful weekend. I learned more about how to lead adults with experiential learning. Its not easy to convince a group of adults to "play along" especially so the can learn about themselves and how to be a team.

Another large group of school children( 60 -14-16 year olds) came and I helped with the ghost walk where we take the kids to a old Abby at night that is surrounded by an ancient graveyard. We read them a story about its sordid past beforehand, then other staff dress up in black and wander amongst the graves while we walk through. Its quite entertaining.

When I had a day off I visited the little island off the coast here. Rathlin has many claims to greatness and fame for its 6 mile girth. I enjoyed walking the roads in the persistent wind, savoring the rugged Irish scenes of stone cliffs, and shifting greens landscapes . I made sure to embrace the moment and read Irish poetry to my comrades, much to their chagrin as we strolled.

The week skipped past to the weekend where we had the opening of the volunteer housing, the Coventry. This was quite the event, which was attended by the president of Ireland, we all were able to shake her hand. I learned that Prince Charles, Mother Theresa, and the Dali lama have been their other building openers. They have their eye on Obama for the next one.

To make sure my days were fully used I had 3 other groups on Friday, the day of the presidential visit. I worked with a group of polish immigrants who are homeless in Belfast. A homeless agency raised funds so they could take some of them away for the weekend and give them some respite and health screening. It was humbling how thankful they were for the opportunity to be warm and dry. The one thing they kept saying over and over was how much it meant to be respected. So much of life I take for granted.

As the polish men were leaving a group of school children arrived for a day of cross community work. I spent the afternoon painting foam eggs and playing games in hopes of having the children speak with each other( protestant/ catholic schools) .

My last Corrymeela group arrived Friday evening. 35 kids from Belfast (cross community work) and 20 from Glasgow Scotland ( additional sectarian issues). I spent the weekend running games, washing dishes, making tea, perfecting my ghost act and sleeping any spare moment I found.

Sunday afternoon after waving goodbye to the last bus, I spent the afternoon in the most beautiful spot I have ever seen on a picnic with a newly dear friend. It is on a low cliff edge, surrounded by cherry blossoms, oak trees, and the remains of an ancient church. An idyllic way to reflect on my journey thus far.

As I reflected, I realized Monday meant I had to come to terms with the fact I was leaving. This morning after playing scrabble and talking waaaay to late into the night I packed my luggage eager to be heading home, but with a heavy heart to leave so many great people.
I am in Dublin tonight and with a hope and a prayer I plan to be back in the US of A tomorrow. I will be spending the weekend with my brother in DC ( easter yay!) and then will be finishing with a trip to Mass. with me mum to check out Smith and places to live amongst other details that arise when you move across the country.

Recognizing how long this summary is, reminds me how full life has been. I feel like this time is so far from a closing as its more a part of an unraveling.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Adventure of every shape and size

The days here have been continuously diverse and overflowing with people and experiences.
Here are some snippets.
I went to the Giant's causeway; the main tourist draw on the coast. To summarize; crazy rock formations the locals blame giants for. In the photo I am laying on the giants boot. The other attraction is a rope bridge to a little Island that the fisherman used to cast their nets. Its amazing what tourists will pay money to do, walk across a sturdy, 50 ft bridge. So I did it and took a photo.
I worked with two groups this last week vastly different and equally exhausting.

The first were two schools from Belfast, one catholic and one protestant. The purpose was cross community connections. We did team building exercises, and group discussions, where they explored stereo types and were able to ask questions of each other. It was fascinating to here what they assumed about each other and their thoughts on the current political things. Most worked hard to be politically correct but eventually were more honest. We ate meals with them, played games and had a talent show. Only on the last day did they begin to mix on their own. It was eye opening to hear things like how they felt the peace walls were necessary to stay happy, or how terrified to see the other sides flag. As the token American, I spent many meals and walks explaining how very few, if any Americans live like MTV shows, to the hopeful young girls.
The second group was women and children refugees from Zimbabwe, Sudan, Somalia, kamaroon and the Irish women and children that also live in the government housing with them. The women come here to have a break from life and create connections with each other. So the task for myself and the 4 other volunteers was entertaining and keeping the 40 kids alive. These kids are not used to having supervision, rules or someone paying attention to them. I thought often of my friend Danielle, in Portland, who lives and works with refugees and I have decided I will nominate her for saint hood. It has been a long time since I have been that exhausted. From 8am to 12:30am, Friday- Sunday we herded chaos with games, cookies, music and whatever else we could think of. It was of course rewarding as well to love on these kids and their moms. There were interactions throughout that made every hair pulling ( literally and figuratively ) moment worth it. I was able to rock beautiful black babies while listening to their moms sing their native dancing, and calling songs, and the Irish women sing their folk melodies in turn.
Another time, I was sitting with the two most difficult little boys who refused to tell me their names, and only knew profanity and how to hit each other but by the end I was able to coax them into making mother day's cards.
I am continuing to spend time with the volunteers. It has been great getting to know them and do fun activities together; like mock speed dating, going to karaoke, doing dishes or cooking meals. We all went on a day outing and besides a windy viewing spot ( photo above) we went to a farm where lambs were being born!!! It was amazing to see all the day/ hour old lambs.

The people and life stories here are plentiful, which as you all know, is just my cup of tea.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

So a bit late, but a happy St Patrick's day to you all from Ireland!!

I must have brushed against some Irish luck because I got St Patrick's day off, which means I was able to take a trip to Derry, the second largest N Ireland town with 2 other volunteers.

The recent tension in the country made us pause, especially since there was talk of a missing 300lb bomb in Derry, some small riots, and the fact that "bloody Sunday" (yes, the U2 song was written about it) happened in Derry. It is a mainly Catholic town and the center of many of the "civil rights" movements of the troubles. But after contacting a local Derry resident who didn't feel there was any real threat and memorizing the names of streets to avoid we decided we had to go. When will I be in Ireland for St Patricks day again; it was an event not to miss!!

I did ask myself, if I were to get into trouble, and my family was contacted, would it be a "what was she thinking?!" type moment for them? I decided you would all understand that rumors and "what if fears" should not be the basis for missing out on an adventure.

I am oh so glad I went. My earlier comment about St Patricks Day not really being celebrated here was incorrect, as my information came from Protestant Irish. The Catholic Irish DO celebrate St Patrick's day in a MAJOR way. They are all out of school and every woman man and child in Derry were dressed from hairspray to toenails in Orange, Green and White. THey had leprachaun costumes and St Patrick ( think green pope) get ups. We went to a parade, saw some Irish dancing, and watched the masses as we did the tourist ventures.

There were signs of strife in the graffitti on some walls and paint smeared on churches. That was the extent of the conflict that we saw.

The city itself again has a facinating history and story, but too much to write here. It was surreal to go to museums dedicated to a conflict that was still taking place.

We had a fabulous time visiting the pubs that night, where we spent several hours elbowing for space ( let alone a pint) in a throng of celebrating Irish. Chatting didn't work as loud music, hundreds of people in a space made for 25 and thick accents made the conversations short with lots of shrugging and nodding.

We rode the train back to Ballycastle early the next morning grinning in our green tiaras, as a St Patrick's day in Ireland was truly had.

Several have asked when I return to the states, it will be the 11th of April. I can't believe my time here is almost up! I know every day has been fully lived, and yet it seems too incomplete to be nearing the end.

Thank you for all the emails and comments, It makes my day to hear snipets of life at home and know you are checking in on me!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


To tell you a little about the place I am staying;it is called Corrymeela and is the largest faith based center for reconcilation in Nothern Ireland. There are some paid staff, although the programs are organized and run by volunteers. There is a set of year long term volunteers ( LTV) who recieve training and then coordinate and run most of the activites for the groups that come to Corrymeela.The volunteers staff the kitchen, housekeeping, matienence, reception in addition to the facilitating the programs.

The LTV's are from all over the world, Sri Lanka,USA, India, Turkey, N ireland, Germany, El Salvador, England to name some. Then there are mid term ( germany, switzerland, and me!). The short term are people who live near and help on the weekend, or those that come for only a couple of weeks.

There really in no classification for the groups that come to Corrymeela. Every age group comes, some come with their own leaders, other groups ask for a program to be organized for them. Some are huge ( 100+) and long term, others are only a couple of hours and a few people. Diversity is definently the theme.

In the last week and a half, I have done everything from wash dishes, clean bed rooms, make tea, start coal fires ( that was an adventure and I still have soot in my hair!) , and participate in ice breaker games and tourist outings. I will begin to be with the groups more in the next couple of weeks as well, which I am excited about.

My favorite thing to do is watch the storms roll in towards the cliffs across the ocean, and then be swept back out ot sea when they are spent. The weather has been everything from blustery, sunny, hail, raining, all in one day, or cycling through these several times a day. It snowed my first day, which is rare, but it was on the ground for most of the day.
You can see Scotland across the ocean too!
I have taken day trips on a rusty bicycle or on foot to the surrounding sights when I have time off. The near by town is darling, with great pubs and fish and chips.
Everyday I am learning somthing new about what this place does and is, as well as the people and the country it is in. So life is good!

Now I have been to Northern Ireland

A night in a pub and a tragedy have cemented my Northern Ireland experience. Thankfully they are not related.

In case the news hasn't reached the US, for the first time in 10 years two British soldiers were shot and killed here in Ireland. The group taking responsibility are an extremist group off shoot of the IRA. It happened on Friday in a county about 20 mins from here. On Sunday a police officer was shot 10mins from there, by another extremist off shoot, of the IRA. The original IRA involved in the troubles whom now runs 1/2 the government, has been VERY against these shootings.

If you are interested look up the town name where the shooting occurred, it is a town the government built and put both Catholics and Protestants in together ( government housing makes up 60% of the homes). It has no history, no roots creating a very fascinating dynamic.

Some small riots have broken out, but most of the country and leaders are united in seeking peace. It does make the reality of the work and this place more real. I have had really enlightening conversations with the LTV's who are from countries that have unrest and conflict as well, like El Salvador and Sri Lanka about the similarities and their experiences.

On the more positive end I had the greatest night in a pub! 3 of the volunteers and I went to a local pub ( one of the 5 oldest in Ireland). The Guinness here is incredible, it is smooth and tasty. We talked up the bartender who showed us how to Irish dance and much later sang us some Irish ballads, with the Irish group that was playing. They were a collection of locals who had a pint, joined in with their instruments and then moved on, it created a constant flow of people and Irish music. I ended up talking to the owner for quite some time. The bar had been in his family since the 1600's! I asked him what has changed since he took over, he said he had to allow women in the bar! and having beer on tap. He showed me a beer he bottled in 60's when they use to bottle the beer from the barrel at his bar. It was great to hear his stories and opinions of Obama ( every one wants to talk about Obama here!!!!!).

Being here while the conflict is occurring makes all that I have learned so relevant, and meeting locals and being in a real pub was a taste of Ireland at its heart; good resiliant people.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

When the expectations are low...

Its not one of those top ten must see cities everyone is dying to travel to. Actually I think its one of those places people specifically avoid traveling to.

I had a ride and it was on the way to Corrymeela, and thus I decided to spend the night there and see the "tourist attractions".

The pride and joy of the city that millions are being poured into to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of is....... the Titanic. It was built in Belfast, and one of the great accomplishments of the city. If one gingerly mentions the fact that its most famous for sinking, the response is "it was floating when it left here". Oh what resilient people, they have to take pride where they can get it I guess.

The political murals is the other large tourist attraction. These date way back and are all over Ireland, but the ones in Belfast are the most famous. I was lucky enough to be shown the murals by the christian renewal centre's director and his wife, who were raised in Belfast. It was fascinating to hear the history of how 5 years ago it wouldn't of been safe for him to drive down some streets, and share how the town was divided, and the shame in the hatred displayed in the murals.
He showed me the "peace line", which is a humongous wall that runs along the divide. It has lasted longer than the Berlin wall. They still shut and lock the gates at night, both sides agreed it is still necessary.

I spent the night in a hostel, walked the hostel mascot dog in the botanical garden, ( I'm sure summer does wonders for the landscape), wandered around the university district and finally had a cup of GOOD coffee!!

I saw the oldest pub ( the third main tourist attraction) on my walk to the bus station the next morning and the newly renovated city hall, with a huge Ferris wheel set up for the titanic celebration ( 2012).

As it was my first city to conquer alone I was surprised to find it wasn't at all threatening and quite enjoyable to wonder around in silence without an agenda.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

When life isnt limited by punctuation and grammer

Being succinct has never been my strong suit, so I have been avoiding writing about my experiences, as how do I sum up, yet relate all I am learning, seeing, doing; I have therefore been procrastinating writing anything thus compounding the problem ( kinda like this sentence).

Ahem-the list of the events of last two weeks:

A group of 20somethings came to CRC for a weekend of connection. Connecting with God and each other. I was able to pray and be a part of their services, spending time getting to know them. It was neat to be able to see what was similar in their lives and interactions to the US ( the boys constantly jump on, jostle and joke with each other, and make a drum out of anything - makes me miss my brothers-, same worship songs, worries and questions) and what was different ( how they pray, their slang, everyone lives at home until they marry)

I climbed one of their Mourne mountains- Slieve Martin. It was all that you hope for from a rugged Irish countryside. I could see the ocean on two sides, I forget i'm on a island, even though there are many palm trees ( no really!).

Spent the week reading, praying,walking, being alone and with the lovely 65/70 somethings getting beaten badly at scrabble, cleaning and praying.

28 men recovering from drug addiction came for the weekend for seminar of sorts. I mostly served tea, smiled, washed dishes, set tables and smiled some more. Of course I was dieing to know their lives stories, but I only heard second hand. There were several intense moments I witnessed, such as a leader of the IRA, realizing the speaker used to be a high ranking orange man, and both wanting forgiveness from each other, crying, embracing; both huge tattooed, worn hard men. Everyone was in tears. The other was listening to them all sing praise songs. a melody of male voices who embody what it means to be saved, and in such celebration of it... I really haven't wrapped my mind around watching that... it seemed too intimate to just be in the same room.

My last couple of days I spent walking and cleaning. I walked to the memorial for the man that burned the white house down, it looks exactly like the Washington memorial in DC. The guy was born in Rostrover. I thought it was quite funny; its very well maintained.

So those are my list of run on sentences of the happenings; although it doesn't capture my own experience in the slightest.

Then there was Belfast...