Thursday, December 9, 2010

budding gumshoe

The office is tucked away between a few fenced lots and a couple shady storage units. It sits on the other side of the railroad tracks, so close actually that when a train rolls by, I have to reach out and steady the office supplies and decorations that are within my reach. There is no window in my back room, but I imagine if there were, it would let in light that would cast a sepia-type glow to the entire room. There are stacks and stacks of dingy papers that are covered in chicken scratch and lawyer jargon. Pictures of repeat offenders. Cartoons about process servers. Confiscated goods, and a nice collection of guns, which are most likely real and range from palm size all the way up to shotguns with sawed off barrels.

This is my new job. I work in the back of a private investigator's office. I'm the detail girl. I run background checks, track down car tags, and social security numbers, warrants and offenders. I report to the boss who is a tall skinny man who doesn't like people and always rubs them the wrong way. You would too if you've been kicking people out of houses, and finding people who skip out on their loan payments for the last 30 years. There is always work to do, and he works as hard at chewing the cigar that is always in his mouth as he does finding the person he has been hired to find. He requires you to do everything his way, no matter what it is. He dictates everything into his voice recorder, doesn't waste words, and changes the way he wants things done everyday. Most people get frustrated and give up rather than take his abuse. But I've always known him as Poppy, my best friends' grandfather. So each berating message just makes me roll my eyes, laugh, and get back to work.

I spend all day recording people's bad decisions. Some days all I do is enter arrests and evictions into databases. I see everything from stalking to prostitution, exceeding the maximum speed limit to rape. Some days I can handle it, some days I can't. I play a game to keep it from getting too tedious, I try to find the best name of the day. Xavier Mandragon won yesterday.
The game keeps my mind from thinking about the bad things that are actually happening out there. Or even at how, after two weeks I've become rather hardened, surprised really when someone's record is clean.

This is what is keeping me busy now. It's like professionally facebook stalking someone. At it always peaks people's interests when I mention that I'm working at a PI's office.

And don't worry out there.... I'm not checking up on anyone. At least not yet. I'm still too worried I'll uncover some deep dark secret that will ruin everything. So you're safe. For now!

Monday, November 8, 2010


Have you ever seen a one trick pony in the field so happy and free? If you've ever seen a one trick pony then you've seen me,
I come and stand at every door, Then you've seen me, I always leave with less than I had before, Then you've seen me, bet I can make you smile when the blood, it hits the floor, Tell me, friend, can you ask for anything more?

I've never been very good at sitting still. I've always needed to be moving. Whether that be on to the next bigger thing, or walking the dog, or just finding something to do while watching t.v. It's not odd I don't think.

It's hard to explain to people why I feel so unsettled when I am by definition settled. Adjectives just don't do the feeling justice. It's like nails on a chalkboard to me, or chomping ice with super sensitive teeth. Grating.

Most people, when I explain my situation tell me how wonderful life must be. I have absolutely no deadlines, can sleep in all morning, stay our late or go to bed early. I have nothing to do, absolutely no reason to even get out of bed (don't worry, I am. I'm even showering everyday....impressive no?)

So why is it that I am absolutely miserable?

I'm being pulled in three directions but none are strong enough to make me move off the couch. What is my hesitation you ask? No idea. I've got the pros and cons list made for every single place and not a single one sticks out.

My adventures now consist of chasing geese with my dog, and finding long lost tennis balls in the river. Where will my new adventures take me, you ask? of now, nowhere.

These things that have comforted me, I drive away, This place that is my home I cannot stay, My only faith's in the broken bones and bruises I display

Wichita Day 7

Snapple "Real Fact" #762:
A duck has three eyelids

This is what my life has come to. Being blown away by the fact under the snapple lid. Wow.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Why'd you call me today with nothing new to say?, You pretend it's just hello, but you know what it does to me to see your number on the phone...

I was engaging in my one T.V. weakness tonight (it's one of those shows that it is so embarrassing that I'm not even going to disclose the name, i'll just say that it is produced by Morgan Freeman, which seems a little below him...)
The mother on the show is giving a teary expose on the failures of her family. Her speech is captioned, but I catch the Spanish that is peppered in with her English.

I'm in love with languages. Any language really. And culture. I would be perfectly content to spend the rest of my life people watching, and listening. I fell in love with the sing-songy portuguese language and recently i have always find a smile on my face when I'm speaking with someone who has learned english as their second language. I'm in love with how spanish always found its way back into the conversation. Most often the conversation would start in English and then seamlessly transition into spanish, which could explain the topic easier than the previous language.

My favorite, however was everyday conversations that were in english but every preposition was spanish. The 'pero' and 'luego' and 'entonces' somehow made the conversation deeper. It made it flow quicker and easier from one sentence to the next. It was like the periods and commas weren't needed, spanish prepositions were used instead. No need to translate them really, just let them fill the space between the english and do their job as spacers.

Maybe I don't realize these types of ploys that we use when speaking only english because I don't have to think about it, but when another language is involved, you are forced to think about each and every word. To mull each one over, taste it, see how it feels, and then move on to the next one.

Tasting words is the kind of thing i could do all day.

What do you want me to say?, That I'm content? That I'm on the fence? That I wish you would've stayed?, Oh baby what do you want, what do you want, what do you want from me?...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Boxes boxes boxes

Today I took on the storage locker.

If you all remember, the contents of my life belong in this storage locker, my car, or a small closet at my parent's house. I've come to terms with it, don't worry about me or my sense of belonging...

Anyway I approached the fifteen by five foot locker with the idea that it was me against the world. Or at least a mountain of boxes and furniture. I opened the lock, pushed open the door and got to business.

My goal was to find my winter coat. I had a relatively good idea of where it was. In a wardrobe box, tucked in the very corner of the locker. I pulled out the chairs and the bike, climbed over a box of glasses, shimmied along the mattress, crawled on top of the dresser and finally located the wardrobe box.

It was there in the corner gleaming menacingly. Daring me to approach. It stands approximately five feet tall and has a bar running through the top of it so that clothes can hang while they've been in storage.

I removed the boxes of dishes and a tennis racket and leaned down to open the box, from my perch on the dresser. The bar was full of clothes and as i pushed them out of the way, I saw the holy grail. My jacket was folded neatly at the very bottom of the box. At this point, however the bottom of the box is five feet below my post.

I bent down and reached into the box only to come about two feet short. Trying again, this time I tucked my head under the bar, and reached a little further, straining to find the bottom of the box. My arm stretched and the fabric of the coat teased my fingers.

I stretched again, this time reaching the coat, and then in a flash, my feet slipped and I went headfirst into the box.

Yes. There I was. Stuck headfirst in a wardrobe box. I can imagine anyone watching would see just a pair of legging bedecked legs and a pair of boots sticking out of a box. This thought made me laugh even harder at my current situation.

Luckily the box wasn't meant to hold up a 140 lb 5'11'' frame, and there was a shelf there to catch me.

And I found my coat.

What a day....what a day....

Monday, October 25, 2010

how about now?

That rebel moon is shining, Those stars burn like diamonds, Hell bent on chasing down, that crazy spark...

There's something soothing and wholesome about nursing a cup of coffee. I ask for it super hot so that I can sit and just hold it for awhile. It's finally at the point where my fingers can wrap around it and actually stay without the thermoreceptor nerves in my fingers sending screaming messages of pain to my brain.

I've been in Kansas City for five days now. Five days and I have still yet to figure out my life. But I wasn't expecting answers. Maybe just some peace.

In Texas I'm wild. Like a horse yet to be tamed. I'm free to come and go as I please. I don't have to answer to anyone, I get to do what I want. No fences, no one to rely on, just me.

In Kansas City you would expect it to be the same, but there is something different. Maybe it's the urban setting, maybe it's the people. But the longer I'm here the more I feel the whisper of domestication.

This wild filly has found herself a horse whisperer. The whisper gets stronger and yet I still see myself sitting on the fence. Getting only close enough to enjoy the comfort of presence, but not close enough to get roped and caught. Far enough to be able to turn and run at a moments notice.

I guess I just have to decide when that moments notice will be...

I ain't here to do anything halfway, Dont give a damn What anyone might say. I just want to freefall for a while...

Friday, October 22, 2010


Your fingertips across my skin, The palm trees swaying in the wind, images, you sang me spanish lullabies, The sweetest sadness in your eyes clever trick

I'm back in a world that measures its success by the percentage one has earned on a test, and the school they have been accepted to. I'm fifteen hours north of my new home, in a land where the leaves change and ice coats the ground in the brisk mornings, and I'm not sure I belong.

My life for the last summer has been one where I've translated everything into spanish and measured success by happiness and relationships rather than grade point average.

I'm back to not thinking about borders or even breakfast tacos for that matter.

I play life by ear. I like it that way, and yet it's hard to explain to people here the fact that I don't really have a job or that I live in a church. Or that I'm not using any science. Or that I like it that way.

I always knew my life would center around other people. I was raised, being taught to put others first and to reach out to those who are marginalized. For the longest time it was going to be through medicine, and then my heart tugged, adventure called and I realized I couldn't plant my feet in one place for that long. Or give up the relationship side of helping others just to learn science terms and prescriptions. So I ran to Texas to see what this whole other side of life was like. The social service side if you will. It's tiring, it's demanding, even exhausting, and yet this is what trills me. This is what makes me roll out of bed in the morning.

One day, maybe I'll decide to go back to science. Maybe I'll find the perfect job that combines my two loves. And my hatred of settling. But until then, i'll wake up, but on my boots, and keep on keeping on.

Goodbye my almost lover, Goodbye my hopeless dream, I'm trying not to think about you, Can't you just let me be?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

one ring to rule them all

hey i'm a wildflower. growing in the sunshine, soaking up the way of life i was raised in, running barefoot blooming in a summer shower, ponytail dancing, i cant help it...i'm a wildflower.

Dear World,

Can you all please stop getting engaged? It's kind of making me sick.

Great. Thanks


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

cucumbers and brine

I see the hunger burning in her eye; Any fool could see there's something wrong. You keep pretending not to care, But I will hear you sing a different song...

I've gotten myself into a pickle. In more ways than one.

I've thought it over, talked it over, slept on it multiple times, even prayed about it, and I'm still in a pickle. Usually answers just fall in my lap. Usually I don't have to chose one path or the other. Usually there is only one option.

For someone who is accustomed to freedom and independence, it seems kind of silly that I can't make up my mind as to which direction to go. Playing life by ear is easy to do when there is only one story to listen to.

So instead I wait. I'm going to wait, wait for the wind to blow and awaken my gypsy spirit. Or maybe I'll wait here in Eagle Pass. Or maybe I'll wait back home. Or maybe I'll wait in Colorado.

Either way. I'm waiting for answers. A way out of the pickle. Preferably one without the brine and extra dil.

Friday, October 8, 2010

You're not in Kansas anymore....

This is the sound of one voice, One spirit, one voice, The sound of one who makes a choice, This is the sound of one voice...

The minute she opens the door and ushers me in, she begins to apologize for the mess and disorder. The deer heads on the wall have a dull, half paying attention look taxidermied onto their face and the cabinets have no doors. The door has been cracked open all day, even though they haven't been home, so that the dog, Chiquita, can come and go.

Instantly I am at home. The arm chair sucks me in and cradles me close, threatening to swallow me whole. The wine numbs my soul.

This is Eagle Pass. This is the home of someone who has never left town. Always Eagle Pass. Always home.

The home that is full of corruption and politics. Drugs and murder, and yet at the same time, houses those who have hearts longer than the Rio Grande and more open than the Chihuahuan desert.

The rumor around these parts these days is that I'm running for Mayor. I laugh it off, but know in the back of my head that the connections I've made here are very powerful. In my phone are the numbers of County Commissioners, Ex-Mayors, and a Judge or two. And we know each other on a first name basis. There is no way I would win. Because I'm white. And a woman. But the fact that these men know who I am means I can push my own agenda. One that isn't corrupt or political in the least. One that fights for those who cannot fight for themselves. One that would flip this town upside down.

Maybe that's why I was sent down to Eagle Pass.

Maybe that is why this place feels more and more like home.

This is the sound of all of us, Singing with love and the will to trust, Leave the rest behind it will turn to dust, This is the sound of all of us

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Last night, I had a dream, about a place I'd never been, Shinin' sun on fields of gold, could be heaven for all I know, I close my eyes and then go back again

I'm house sitting this week. I've set up camp at the Dinning room table. I take up space in the fridge. I leave my shoes in the hallways, and I sleep in the big guest bed with a huge hairy chow named Bea.

Sleeping has been rough this last week. I've been waking up in sweats from the nightmares. Walking a thousand miles without ever leaving the bed, and having dreams that mash memories and fantasies.

Last night I dreamed I was walking back to Kansas City. I had only my shoes on my feet, the clothes on my back, and a backpack with a textbook that needed to be returned. I met many people on my journey. Brad Pitt helped me climb down a mountain (because we all know that there are mountains between me and home). Octamom had me carry two of her kids for a couple of miles. And I ran into an old long lost friend who walked a mile with me and discussed the adventures we had in Spain. Then I woke up and found Bea circling the bed trying to get comfortable before tucking her large nose under my armpit, and stretching the length of my body.

I close my eyes again and am transported to a table in the middle of a Plaza. Portuguese swirls, the ice in the sangria tinkles and at the table with me is a lobster, lost and unable to get home. I tell him to take the 10:15 to Cascais. This time I wake to the creaking of the fan. Bea is long gone. I save the comforter and close my eyes again.

This time I'm sent to an old well-loved blanket in an open field of waving grass. The blanket is backed against a tall mesquite tree, one that I have seen many times before on the side of a well traveled road. The tree stretches his branches over the blanket and keeps a lonely watch over the field. I sit on the blanket, waiting. I'm not sure for what, I just know it or they aren't there yet. And that whoever is coming will be there soon. Just as my eyes are opening I see him crest the hill, the golden sunshine reflected in his face and hair. My smile widens and he quickens his pace. He wraps he in his arms and leans his head back to laugh as he spins me off my feet. He puts me down and leans in, just in time for me to open my eyes to see a large dog staring curiously, inches from my face.

On the wind, I feel the warmth, like the town where I was born, Blowin' down a two lane road, it rides just like the one back home, I close my eyes and then go back again

Monday, September 20, 2010

seed bank

I know what I know, A wind in the trees, And a road that goes winding under, From here I see rain, I hear thunder
Somewhere there's sun, and you don't need a reason

The breeze travels down the street, past the Courthouse and the church steeple before caressing my skin and gently playing with the hair on the back of my neck. I sit on the steps waiting. The cool is like a long lost friend, the feel of cloth beneath my knee is a forgotten feeling. The cool brings with it refreshment and a relief that hasn't been felt in months, and yet the undertow is something strong and unsettling. It's pulling. Asking me to run, telling me it's time again.

I tuck my feet underneath the wide leg of my sweats to fight off the chill and sit a little longer. I watch as the trucks pull into the lot across the street, open the gate, and go home to their families. A little seed of thought was dropped nonchalantly yesterday into my brain, yet it took off like mad. It needs to be pruned and cut back. Maybe even transplanted. It's not ready to bloom yet. Better yet, I'm not ready for it to mature.

So instead I put the seed into a seed repository cryobank where it will stay frozen until I'm ready for it to be planted again. Until then I'll fight with the message of the wind and sit defiantly and watch the sunrise.

Little bird, little bird, Brush your gray wings on my head, Say what you said, say it again, They tell me I'm crazy, But you told me I'm golden


"Even in war there are rules. And in any conflict there are protocols or guarantees to the warring sides, to safeguard the integrity of the journalists covering them. Therefore, I reiterate, gentlemen of the various drug trafficking organizations, explain what you want from us so we can stop paying our infringements with the lives of our colleagues." -

This is what Mexico has fallen to. Living on the border is a completely different world. While I feel completely safe on this side of the fence, I also know the stories of what is happening on the other side. I hear stories of grenades being thrown in front of police buildings, journalists being killed or blackmailed, trucks and SUVs being stolen at gunpoint, police helping the gang members escape. And all of these coming from a completely different world that is three blocks to the south of where I am now.

Residents live in fear of being caught in the crossfire. Of losing their families, their homes and their lives.

If this isn't a time to start praying for God's intervention, I don't know what is.

I wasn't going to share the website that reported what a paper in Juarez wrote to the druglords and cartels, but the article was moving. This type of news doesn't normally make it further north. Usually the story stops on the border, but not today.

I heard a story today of two small children living on the streets in Piedras. Recently they witnessed the death of their father, mother and grandmother by one of the gangs here in town. The children were then left to fend for themselves. None of the orphanages will take them because the gang issued a warning, that these children were left to pay the debt of their killed family members. If someone takes them away, the gang will track the children down and bring them back using whatever means is necessary.

The money that Eagle Pass gets from the Border tolls is down by 83%. Residents of Eagle Pass that were raised or have family in Piedras don't go to Mexico. Families are getting out, coming back to the United States where it is safer.

It makes you wonder why the United States isn't fighting this battle. Of course, the real question is how would you even start, but like I said before if you aren't praying for intervention..... start.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Viva Mexico

This week marks the 200th anniversary of Mexican Independence. Which translates into epic party for Eagle Pass and Piedras Negras, lots of yelling, and fantastic food.

We started the week with a quaint little parade and ended it with shots of tequila from the Mexican Consulate. Okay maybe a lot of shots with the consulate.

I spent Thursday in Laredo with other transplants working the disaster relief scene. We sat down to lunch and immediately they started complaining about how they hated Laredo. Granted these were well-off gringos with families back in Houston and Austin and would never choose Laredo, but they didn't like anything about it.

The biggest complaint was that they were stared at all the time. This is a common thing down here, mostly because if you aren't hispanic, you're a misfit. They wanted to be greeted when they walked in a store, thanked when they left a restaurant, and generally accepted. I sat silently at first, because this type of thing doesn't bother me. I mean I'm always stared at. If it isn't because I'm the wrong skin tone, it's because I have mile-long legs, and if it isn't that it's probably because I'm doing something stupid. The Austinites just couldn't handle it and couldn't wait to get back inland to where they belonged, and didn't have to hear spanish.

I realized as I was driving home that I felt the same way, kind of. The whole day I couldn't wait to get back to Eagle Pass. I wanted to see people I knew. I wanted to be the misfit in this little town. I am okay with the crazy gringa title.

Crazy.... who would of thought this would be where would I be.

But really, if you think about it, who would want to pass up a town where you can spend the night in boots drinking tequila with Eagle Pass royalty?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Ramped up love

It's a long long way from Myrtle Beach to LA, Anything could change her mind, one sunset, one regret, she could turn around, come back, and be mine. Then everything would be just fine, Happy Endings happen all the time....

I have a new job. For the state of Texas. An official one.

One that comes with a laptop, blackberry, copier/scanner/fax, milage reimbursement, and a big girl salary.

Yet with all this it's hard to think about tearing myself away from the families here in Eagle Pass. The ones that wouldn't make enough in a year to afford the technology that is going to just be handed to me.

At church yesterday, some of my new friends came to visit. The Pimental's are a couple living in a bright pink trailer. The windows are broken out from a storm in May, there is no electricity, no plumbing and no indoor toilet. Guillermo had a stroke and cannot make it up the stairs into his trailer. He has to crawl. When you walk through the trailer you have to avoid the soft spots that would give way if too much weight is applied. The left wall of the trailer rests precariously against two rotted beams that hold it up. If you apply too much pressure it will fall away from the body of the trailer. Volunteers at the church spent the last weekend building a ramp so that the wheelchair and Guillermo can get into his house. The Volunteers also promised to come back and build them a real house. One with wires and pipes and handicap accessibility. Guillermo and Juanita cried the whole weekend.

After all of that they were at a church that doesn't speak their language. And they brought with them their neighbor and her two children. They wanted to show how grateful they were for the help.

We are so used to being comfortable and staying in our comfort zone that many of us would never even think about going to a church where you won't understand anything. Or standing up in front of the congregation and telling everyone how much your life has changed in just a week. All it takes is a little love, a willing heart, and capable hands.

Now I have to remove myself from stories like these. Not because I won't be helping anymore, but because I get to share this love through many more neighborhoods and towns. It's exciting to see this spread...

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

devestation and detestation

Yesterday I was approached by a woman who worked at an agency downtown.

They asked if the Methodist church could help a women who was pregnant and had seven children under the age of 8.

She was doing all the right things, just ran into some hard times, and couldn't be placed in housing for another month.

The Catholic church turned her away.

Because she wasn't married.

Because her husband left.

The Catholic church told them to try the Methodists.

Anger isn't even the start of it. I'm stuck today wishing there was a huge cache of money somewhere to help all the people in need down here. Everyday I see the poorest of poor. The ones without running water. The ones who use the restroom outside and have to decide between feeding their children or paying the electricity bill. Sure there are people here who just take advantage of those who are willing to help, but then there are women like this one who just can't get on her feet.

A person who needs help is a person who needs help. It doesn't matter their education level, their family ties, who they know, or even their legal status.

When do we all learn that we are called to look out and care for people like this?

Monday, August 30, 2010

clean fruit.

My official job title: Gopher

Normally this would be a little frustrating, but it means i get to do all sorts of things. Take my exciting adventure Sunday morning....

I was leaving the house at 9:30 to run to H.E.B. (the grocery store, also affectionately called Ham, eggs, bread or some guys name) to pick up a fruit and vegetable platter for a reception after church. As I'm leaving the pastor pulls up and asks me to take her car so that I can run through the car wash.

So i'm off with a signed blank check, in the pastors car and decide to go through the car wash first. I'm not a big fan of these things because they always give you that weird vertigo that makes you think you are moving when in reality you aren't and then i'm just confused the rest of the day.

I run into HEB after making sure the car is definitely not moving. Find the pre-made platters that were ordered and go to pay with a blank check that I of course didn't sign. Now you can get away with pretty much anything in Eagle Pass. No one parks on the correct side of the street. Left turns from the right lane happen all the time, and no one checks id's. Except this once at HEB. So I plead with the cashier and after a few skeptical looks it goes through. So out i run through the door, later than expected with two very large trays. I make it to the car, put the trays on the roof to open the door, and the fruit tray slides down the rear window spilling its contents. This is definitely not vertigo.

Long story short (ha) there is white fruit dip all over the back of the car and pineapple and strawberries flying off the back as I'm cruising through E.P. So not only did I fail with the clean car, i ruined the fruit tray.

Just another day in the life...

Sunday, August 22, 2010

take it

I woke up in a dead sweat yesterday.

I was probably somewhere I shouldn't have been, but that wasn't what woke me up. I realized that it doesn't snow here in the winter.

How unsettling.


I have been adopted into the Eagle Pass culture. I kiss cheeks when I meet up with people. I know my way around, and about half the people at any restaurant we go to. I can hold my own when discussing Border Politics. I know that refried beans go with just about anything. And most importantly I'm on a first name basis with the taco stand man.


that's it. Welcome to my life.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Fala Fala Fala

I've taken a hiatus from writting.

I could blame it on the mounds and mounds of donated clothes that I have no desire to ever see again, but that's not quite it.

It seems that in times of transition, that middle period between coming and going, when I am actually settled, I lose all desire to write. There's no creative spark, no ideas, and no adjectives.

And then there are those days where I wake up and it takes every fiber in my being to keep a pen out of my hand. Usually those days are full of adventure and excitement. Not full of folding and sorting clothes.

I live for adventure. The kind that takes your breath away and makes every little hair stand on end. The kind that pushes you past every last one of your comfortable boundaries.

The adventure bug bit again. For some reason, a year later, I'm back to dreaming of Portugal with interuptions every now and then from Eagle Pass Border Patrol. What happened to being content where I was?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Can't help it if I'm full of fire.

I've been put down, pushed around, apprehended and led downtown. An' I can't help it if I'm out of sight, 'Cause I'm restless tonight.

Sometimes running in circles is the best you can do.

Sometimes being stuck is the only acceptable thing.

But then again, sometimes it's okay to be angry at the sticky mud that has been holding you.

It's okay to be done embracing the feeling of it sucking your cute boots under.

Friday, July 23, 2010


She was a girl on a wagon train, headed west across the plains, the train got lost in a summer storm, they couldn't move west and they couldn't go home, then she saw him ridin' through the rain, he took charge of the wagons and he saved the train, and she looked down and her heart was gone, the train went west but she stayed on....

The train comes through almost every thirty minutes. For five long excruciating minutes the horn blares incessantly. At first it was no big deal. I didn't notice it. But now every time the horn goes again, my eyes roll and my anger grows.

The train tracks are a block and a half from my bedroom. They cut downtown and the border off from the newer commercial side of town. There is one bridge that passes over the tracks. All the other streets make you wait for the train to pass.

Today the train didn't move. It rolled into town and decided not to move out.

Maybe it's foreshadowing my decision.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

At the table

This week I found myself sitting down to share a meal with many different people at many different tables. I was always struck by the hospitality and openness of my new friends. I mean, I have been here all of two weeks and yet they were more than willing to share their lives with me. Whether it was a group of Methodist ministers, on a couch squished between two anxious dogs waiting for leftovers, or at a table full of women who spent their free time finding things to do so as to keep from worrying about their border patrol husbands and whether they would come home safe. Sitting at these tables lets me listen, and boy the things I have heard!

I spent days sorting clothes and caulking windows. Tearing up linoleum, and handing out donated food. Camouflaging supplies so they could be smuggled into Mexico, and working on my limited spanish. It's been an exhausting week. I have new jobs and have met a gazillion people. I've gotten really good at asking for people's names... again....and again.

I'm still fascinated by this world down here. Spanish is heard more often than English and one of the most interesting things is that most will just start speaking spanish to me, whether it is in the checkout line or at the church. I follow along fairly well, but when it comes to responding it's like jump starting a car. I sputter. I laugh. I choke out some awful concoction of spanish that probably makes no sense, and then resort to english.

I have yet to cross the border. (yes mom, I listen...) But I have heard some interesting stories of what has been going on. Another interesting thing here is the amount of information that doesn't make it past the border. I hear the true stories from the border and the violence occurring there and they are nothing like the stories that are actually being reported. The government has a very strong hand in what is said down here and they have gotten really good at covering a lot of things up. Mexico is on the verge of imploding, and it is so clear when you hear the stories, and yet no one further north can say anything more than Drug cartels and gang violence.

I have a new job. I am the official point of contact for the Eagle Pass Long Term Recovery committee. Sounds official no? The flooding caused by the swelling of the Rio Grande has caused this committee to be formed, and I get to be the person who sends out all the information to everyone else, as well as tracks down more people. I think I got the job because I am young and savvy and may be the only one comfortable enough to use excel. Who knows but it'll keep me busy, force me to meet new people and teach me first hand about emergency response. Let's just say I've gotten really familiar with the phone book down here.

The real reason I'm down here is of course for the Women Shelter and it is still coming along. We are waiting on tile and a toilet and then we'll be ready to be up and running. Things run differently down here. We call it Eagle Pass time. When someone says meet me in ten minutes, you better give them thirty. And if something is going to be done in a week, you probably should give it two. So there's no saying when we'll be up and running, but we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Monday, July 12, 2010


In Eagle Pass, life revolves around the border and it takes all conversations with it. The conversation started over coffee, continued through a Mexican buffet, past the chocolate cake and then through a second round of coffee. It covered the border, the gangs on both sides, and the recent captures of 200 lbs of marijuana by the Border Patrol until finally it landed on talk of the new Arizona Law. I was wary to interject my opinion, because I didn’t know where my two companions stood on the matter, but it was very clear that they weren’t happy.

I got the impression from their tone that they felt the people in Arizona need to suck it up and deal with it. I’ve had a hard time reading people politically down here. One woman feels strongly against illegal immigration and yet has a bumper sticker that reads, “NO BORDER FENCE.” The mentality down here is totally different than I’ve ever experienced. It’s one based on doing what it takes to survive, and yet following the rules at the same time.
The conversation heated up when talk of Washington suing the state of Arizona came up, I heard, “We can’t even leave town without being asked if we are legal.” The comment smacked my perceptions in the face and before I knew it, I was lost again in stories of captures at the checkpoint.

The checkpoint is about twenty miles north of town and staffed by Border patrol, complete with big ferocious looking dogs and semi-automatics. It’s just another stop for residents leaving town, but for someone from the Midwest it’s another new experience. The checkpoint is a set up in hopes to catch whatever made it through the border that shouldn’t, and they do, but it means you add an extra twenty minutes to your trip out of town.
This is life for Eagle Pass. For now I’m sweating it out whenever I see Border Patrol or the Police, soon enough, much like those in Arizona I’m sure it will become just another part of life.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Lonesome Dove

The house was set off from the street about ten feet and protectively shaded by a limby tree that has spent its life surviving through the scorching, relentless heat of the desert. The steps that led to the house gained elevation gradually so that you nearly didn’t notice the short climb to the strong wooden door. Standing sentry were two gorgeous clay pots with creeping vines that spilled over the edge, reaching for whatever freedom they could find from their prison. The door opened as we reached out to knock and behind it stood a shockingly gorgeous 91 year old women. She stood tall and strong despite what age and adventures had done to her body. Her hair gleamed silver in the fading sunset as she ushered us in. If it had been let down from the knot at the nape of her neck it would have reached the floor, but it was put in its place and expected to stay much like the contents of the house and the perfectly groomed garden.
Stepping into the house was like being taken back to a glamorous Western movie. I expected to see John Wayne step in from the backyard, hang up his hat, remove his boots and start in on how he saved a calf on the ranch that day. It was glamorous and yet rustic. It smelled of hardwork and ginger. The house was full of classic antique furniture from the ranch across the border, including a table made from a horizontal slab of a tree that would have been a sight to see when it was still standing.
We were ushered into the kitchen with windows that opened up to the beautiful garden. The window sill was full of multi-colored jars filled with cuttings from the garden. The table had more of the glass jars, blue, green, white, and opaque all filled with a single tapered candle.
After a brief conversation we headed back towards the door, but a picture caught my eye. It was a picture from ages ago she said. Her husband used to take out his friends, doctors and lawyers to the ranch. It had four cowboys in various activities. Two held shotguns and looked slightly uncomfortable in their new boots and pearl snap shirts. Another stirred a pot boiling on the fire and the final one stood in the middle of the crowd with a cigarette and a striking blue shirt. His cowboy hat sat comfortably on his head. He was striking. Handsome and capable. He could have been the Marlboro man. That was her husband. She explained that he had died in the 50’s in an airplane crash. It made sense now why she stood so straight and strong.
I took one more glance back in to the dreamy home as we walked out the door. As I scanned the living room, full of pictures, books, and treasures, my eyes settled on the desk chair. On the back hung a cream colored worn-out cowboy hat. The one that was in the picture. The one that had been missing an owner for over fifty years. As we walked under the shade tree my dream of John Wayne turned to the mysterious man in the picture. The one who was missing his cowboy hat.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

one more stop

The breeze blew softly through the newly planted basil and thyme in the window boxes. The trees that lined the fence had been growing for only a few years and were still in their leggy stage. They were each wrapped in twinkling white christmas lights adding to the ambiance of the outdoor patio. The murmur of the highway that was two blocks away was slowed down and drowned out by the cooing music in the background. There were a handful of people in the bar having conversations ranging from the musical composition techniques of the masters, and the most recent royals game, to a new pair of high heels that matched an outfit perfectly. At first it was an entirely new experience. A bar that none of us had ever visited. One that was laid-back and tucked away so that only the devoted would find it. But then they brought out glasses of water. They were tall and cylindrical. The same type of glasses that were used all over Spain and Portugal.

And with a clink of the glass on the metal outdoor furniture I was off to the land of my dreams. The land that seems further and further away everyday. One I want to keep all my own, and yet share with everyone at the same time.

He pulled me back after letting me reminisce for a minute. He said, "I know that face. That is the face of remembering. What are you thinking about?" I smiled and let him know he was right, then dived back into the conversation on the importance of instant replay for the World Cup.

And like that I was back to the streets of Kansas City, sitting with friends, enjoying the cool of the night.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

leave it for the birds

I've always been infatuated by birds. In fact I have one on me, but that's a secret.

Barn swallows, geese, red wings, sparrows, even pigeons, I'm a fan of them all. Something about them intrigues me. I could watch them for hours, they are almost as fascinating as watching people. One of the things I find most intoxicating about our flying companions is their freedom. All they need is a little flap of the wings and they are off to a new and better place. Watching them glide effortlessly through the sky lets my heart find the freedom it needs sometimes. I don't like being tied-down, but sometimes life calls for it. I'm still wildly protective of what little freedom I have left and will often turn the dogs out when I feel like someone or something is infringing on those freedoms.

I was told Monday that I probably won't be allowed to cross the border into Mexico. I held myself together, but after the meeting I threw some things and yelled some choice words and let my heart break. I don't know what it is but something is pulling me to that border. How can a program that is trying to tear down walls and bring people together give into this boundary thing? It just didn't make sense to me. In all reality is was probably because I don't like being told what to do. Regardless I convinced myself that they were just doing the business part of the church's job. They were trying to keep from being liable for any issues, but that is one part of the church that I hate.

I hate to say it (actually I don't) but I am so over the church. At least our human definition of the church. The building and everything that goes with it has lulled us into complacency. A lesson can be learned and applied so much easier when instead of just listening to a sermon, you are getting your hands dirty. Tithing is a lot easier to do when you know you are actually helping someone and not paying an electricity bill. And sharing the gospel is a lot more productive when someone sees Christ in you, rather than shoving him down their throat. Don't get me wrong, I know a lot of these things are crucial to keep the church functioning, but what happened to the church in Acts where everyone shared what they had? Opened their homes, shared meals, served together, actively waited for the second-coming? That's the kind of church I live for and I feel pretty strongly that that church wouldn't feel the need to stay on only one side of the border...

*as a disclaimer...yes I know the risks and dangers that are happening in Mexico right now. I know it isn't safe. I'm not dumb. I'm just also, like those birds, not willing to be tied down and told where to go, or not go for that matter.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Hey-oh looks who's still in Wichita...

Restless would be an understatement. Frustrated would be much too weak. Unsettled wouldn't quite do it justice. Throw them all together and you would be getting closer, but still no cigar.

If you haven't picked up by now, I'm still in Wichita. Something about paperwork and insurance and yadda yadda.... translation: Still here.

So in an angry rage at the world, and because my dog ate my new shorts, I went out on the town. Wichita has some great gems including...

A store that sells caskets and urns in the west mall.

Water-logged bike paths

A store for all your home brewing needs

Enough orange construction cones to wrap around the world 30 times, or at least seriously divert all the traffic between here and China

A restaurant that only sells hotdogs, but does them about 60 different ways

Quality drivers who stop on entrance ramps to the highway


Gotta love your hometown, right? Right?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

great big gobs of greasy grimy gopher guts....

One year ago today I was returning from my first experience with a Portuguese beach. The sun, the sand, the people, the food, everything was fabulous.

Today I am back in Wichita, be it only temporarily, where the closest thing to a beach is the puddle on the side of the street from the thunderstorms last night.

Sunday I leave for Texas. Not so much beach there either, but definitely another adventure.

Just gotta say it's about damn time.

in other news... I was at the grocery store last night for a late night oreo's and milk run. I've spent the last week enjoying this delectable treat with a variety of folks. We have discussed the different dipping methods, and the optimal time for the perfect smooshy cookie. However through all of this I have always found someone to drink my dipping milk. When I was seven I ate some oreo's drank my milk, then threw it all up. My mom blames it on the fact that I had strep, but I know the real culprit is the gritty grimy milk full of the oreo's discards and leftovers. Well after receiving much teasing over my inability to drink the milk, I gave in and drank it. Yes, for all you skeptics out there I drank the oreo milk. I didn't like it but i drank it. And the whole time I just kept thinking about the song we used to sing when we were little...

Great green globs of greasy, grimy gopher guts
Mutilated monkey feet
Chopped up baby parakeet
Great green globs of greasy, grimy gopher guts
And me without my spoon

It made the milk go down a lot easier...

Monday, May 31, 2010

bridge to who knows what

My calves screamed. My lungs pulled in the sticky air in heaves, and yet my legs continued their steady plodding. My Ipod turned off blocks ago and every muscle wanted to join the dead ipod, but I kept running, listening to the steady beat of my new purple shoes slamming the pavement, and the matching pace of my overworked lungs. I forced myself to go just one more block. Just to the next light pole. To the bridge.

As per the rules in high school, bridges are for walking, but after crossing the third one of the evening I was too busy watching the baby geese chasing after their mother to think about walking. Then I was across the bridge and only a block from home. But I was on the wrong side of the river, a toxic river not meant for swimming.

So I another mile and a half to get to the next bridge. Only this time I was too busy thinking about those physics problems about two trains approaching each other on the same track. One going 30 mph and the other going 45 mph and how soon they would meet, and what the calculated force of their impact would be. And before I knew it there went another bridge and I had no idea how far I was from home.

I knew exactly how far i was from my old house. Sixteen blocks. A mile and a half, if the blocks are long. But my parents moved four blocks east and I was way west. So that would be 20 blocks. A mile and three quarters maybe. They moved four short blocks.

And then I ran into another bridge. This time I walked the entire length of the bridge and realized I was a college graduate. I didn't have to think about how a group of geese is called a gaggle, or the formulas needed to calculate the velocity of trains, or how many blocks make a mile. Nope, don't have to do that anymore.

That thrilled me, and scared me all the same.

Then I ran home the long way, and avoided all the bridges...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

rain and redemption

She walked into the restaurant two steps behind him in an oversized t-shirt and sweats. Her hair was cut short and was meant to stick out in all directions, but instead, due to the pouring rain it lay plastered to her round oval face. It acted like an arrow, immediately drawing one's eye to the fading mark on her upper cheek. It was still black and blue, but rimmed with the yellow that comes with time. She acted as if nothing was wrong, yet there was something unsettling about the way she interacted with the man she walked in with. She stayed at least an arms length away from him. She picked the seat as far from him as possible, while still at the same table. She was skittish and flighty. Or maybe it was all in my imagination.

The mark on her face made me think about what I'm going to be up against. It made me wonder if she screamed when it happened. Or if the tears she shed were from anger, or pain, or a combination of both. It made me wonder if she took the person back into her life. Or if maybe she was just clumsy.

It made me wonder if she knew that for every man out there that hits and beats a woman, there is another who wants to whisper sweet nothings into her ear and hold her close.

For every person causing a bruise, a broken bone and a shattered heart, there is another waiting to soothe, heal and pull together the pieces. One who accepts, who encourages, who loves.

One who sees beauty when all we see is brokenness and weakness

It scares me to think that this is what I get to fight against this summer, but I think I'm ready.

They fight with fists. I'm fighting with something much more powerful. I'm fighting with love... well, lvoe.

Friday, May 7, 2010

for all you nerds out there....

This story requires a couple of sidebars. I couldn't decide if it was better to put them next to what they pertained to or to at the end. So they are at the end. You can decide to read it however you wish.****

I found it fitting that I spent my last class of my undergraduate college career surrounded by freshmen. It was a Calculus 2 class. It's a requirement for me to graduate, and while all of my peers found ways to fit it into their schedule in the early years of their college experience, i couldn't find the space until this semester. I've always been one to live on the wild side and wait for the last minute anyway. And besides, who doesn't like taking four year hiatuses* from math before trying to pick it back up again?

We went over the test we took on Wednesday, worked over some examples, and then reviewed a little for the final. The last example took only five minutes. We went through step by step a rather complex problem requiring a few derivatives, a couple theorems and a handful of algebraic tricks. As we neared the end of the problem, i realized the answer was going to break all the rules**.

So I realized. In my last math class. We were about to divide by zero. I sat up straight. Put both hands flat on the table, and clenched every muscle as the professor started putting a zero in the denominator. I'm pretty sure i even closed my eyes in anticipation. After a few seconds of silence, i opened them slowly, looked around and tested to see if my language predominately involved the third letter of the alphabet.

It didn't. I lived. And divided by zero.

Take that Mrs. Herter.***

*this is in fact the appropriate plural form of hiatus. I had to look it up. College hasn't taught me everything.

**I was one of those kids that never questioned math. It always made sense to do exactly what the teacher said. I was trusting and willing to believe them. So when I was taught never to divide by zero, i knew that meant to NEVER divide by zero. It was one of those things that could bring the world to a screeching halt. Like a tower of babel type situation that resulted in everyone's language, everywhere to be only words that start with c's. If we divided by zero, we would all be saying... car cotton clamor conundrum, which literally translated would mean, what the hell did we get ourselves in to?

***Mrs. Herter was my third grade math teacher. We did mad minutes and learned our times tables. She told me never to divide by zero. Because it wasn't allowed. She also pointed at things with her middle finger. It was kind of unsettling.

****who explains blog posts? .....however I do need to note, for all those who know math. Dividing by zero actually is not valid, however it was applicable in this case seeing as we were taking the limit and applying L'Hopital's rules. So dividing by zero works. But only in that case. Still awe inspiring. Or at least a cause of self-implosion.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

when the words don't come

As I sit down to write what could possibly be the last paper I turn in for a non-science class at Jewell, I find myself drawn here to express myself rather than the cold empty page on which my assignment will be turned it.

It's an odd feeling to be sitting this close to the end.

I've drawn away from those who still have years to put into this institution. I can see their immaturity from miles away. It's something I've never noticed before.

The reflection process is something strange to begin. As I walk through the buildings that I've called home for the past four years I find myself remembering small memories of things that happened in certain rooms, people who have occupied them, even the crazy things I have thought in them. It's almost like i'm floating through this dream world, picking items up, taking in their worth and saying goodbye before setting them back down.

Goodbye chair, goodbye lab where I put in hours of heartbreak and sweat, goodbye favorite pipetteman that fits in my hand perfectly.

The library is humming tonight. No voices raised in laughter or small talk, just the hurried rushed voices that feel the stress of the impending deadlines. It sounds a little like a beehive. Work is being accomplished at a dizzying rate by people who haven't been in the library all semester. And still my paper has a few lines splattered on it in reference to the first journal I have to review.

Goodbye rocker that held me every time I cried. Goodbye awkwardly large toilet bowl, goodbye bricks worn smooth by the trudging of college students. Goodbye bell tower...

The library siren beeps, pulling entire groups away from their presentations and papers. False alarm. The work continues... and still I have two lines.

Goodbye favorite toilet. Goodbye plug-ins in the Perch that I fought administration for tooth-and-nail, goodbye not-so secret Senate office.

The deadline looms closer, and yet I can't pull my thoughts from the silly unimportant things here that will be missed. Maybe you have to start with the little things before you can begin to say goodbye to the bigger ones.

Maybe you just have to tough if up and rip the bandaid that covers it all off.

here goes nothing.....

Friday, April 30, 2010

Always the cowboy

He had been locked out by a gust of wind and an automatic latching door: no phone, no keys, and no shoes. We walked the two blocks to my house to find him something, a screwdriver, a crowbar, or even a hanger, to help him break back in. We made it to the start of the gravel driveway, when he pulled up short and stopped. He was nervous about walking barefoot down the gravel. I slipped off my sandals and handed them over, but he just laughed and rejected my gift before saying he never went barefoot growing up. He was a cowboy he said. Cowboys always wore boots.
We both spent our childhoods playing Cowboys and Indians. He was raised in Missouri, I grew up in Kansas, but the rules were always the same. Track down the other group and have a battle with sticks, plastic guns, and imagination. The last group standing wins.

He was always a cowboy. He had a quick draw and stead aim. He dreamed of duals in dusty streets with a pair of pistols, a trusty stead to carry him away into the setting sun, and a sturdy pair of leather boots with spurs to protect his feet. Cowboys always wore boots, even when they were running down neighborhood streets, hopping fences in small town Missouri searching for the illusive Indians.

I, on the other hand, always knew I was a long lost Indian Princess with an Indian Brave out there, who had been searching for me his entire life; he just hadn’t found me yet. I could jump fences and weave through overgrown backyards without leaving a trail. I knew how to dodge a Cowboy’s bullet from an imaginary pistol, track a trail with ease, and disappear down a gravel road without shoes. Because Indians didn’t need shoes.

I walked down the middle of the gravel driveway, watching him pick his way carefully between large rocks and chunks of concrete, while mumbling profanities under his breath. His uncalloused feet unwittingly move the rocks as he passed. I tracked each of his footsteps, the way I did as a child. As I ran to catch up with him, not caring about the sharp edges of the rocks pushing into my bare feet, I knew that there was no way that this Cowboy would survive the fight if his gang were pitted against mine.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

holding on for the ride...

I've spent my day being reaffirmed. Little comments not meant to be heard, notes written on white boards, even an occasional compliment. Despite all these I'm still reminding myself to put my big girl pants on and to be strong.

It's time for me to stand up. Time to fight. Time to face those things I've been sweeping under the rug.

No more Miss Nice Girl.

It's time some people started paying attention to me. Not in the selfish, I'm all there is kind of way. But the, hey, you, I exist, I'm competent, and i'm tired of being ignored kind of way.

It might get messy. It might get crazy. It sure as hell isn't going to boring.

Here's to the craziest week so far. It'll only be out-shadowed by next week, but we aren't looking that far ahead....

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Someday lady

The chords reverberated into the night, drowning out the constant sound of the spring bugs. His golden curls shone as the light illuminated the room. The red plaid fedora sat askew on the back of his head, getting perilously close to falling off. His fingers moved gracefully around the frets, bending at just the right angle, applied with just the right amount of pressure. He was lost in his mind, while I was content to just watch. The chords were interrupted every now and then to allow time for a story, or an explanation, or a song he sings with his Kindergartners. They brought a smile to my face and a peacefulness to the evening.

He played his favorite song. The one whose words may or may not have been written for me.

Later as I drifted off to sleep, the lyrics ran through my head, inviting me to even try and say no to what was knocking at my door. Change, uncertainty, and adventure. I wasn't worried about what was to come, just at peace with what was happening.

I don't know where I'll end up or even if he will be there.

I just know the gypsy wind will blow warm some night, the night will be starlit, and the time will be right....

Thursday, April 8, 2010


The note spoke of broken dreams and heartbreak. Of frustration, failure and insufficiencies. It came out of nowhere and yet it was all too familiar. It ended up being an apology for not finishing a gift that was planned. A gift meant for my high school graduation. Instead a check and a line begging for forgiveness.

I had every intention to write about how my family is crazy, or how i'm not the favorite grandchild, but I can't make it right. It sounds as if i'm a three year old complaining about only getting one cookie instead of two. So instead imagine gloriously crafted lines and fill in the blanks leading up to this...

So this time around, four years later, the family that I am celebrating with isn't the usual grandparent's, aunts, uncles and cousins. Yes they will be proud, but the people I want to be with, are the ones that don't need an invitation to know I'm graduating. They are the ones who know what is going on in my life and want to be an integral part of it. They are a group of Asian middle school girls, a seven year old with an all encompassing smile and big round grey eyes, a woman who does wonders with my ignored hair, a tall hippie friend planning on studying economics who helps me get into trouble, my second momma who knows her plumbing and salad dressing, the residents of 920 Porter, a cheering squad of people with slow southern drawls and big open hearts, and the friends who have walked these past four years with me up on the hill.

That, to me, is family.

And that is sufficient.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

San Fran

The hills of San Francisco sprawled out before me. The number of girls in leggings and european garb were innumerable. Brown suede boots stomped over cable car tracks and languages from somewhere in my distant memory were spoken freely on the street in front of me. The taxis honked, the smells overwhelmed and my legs had the same sore feeling that i lived with for an entire summer.

Oh dear lord. I've fallen in love. Again.

The beer is good. The coffee is cheap. The people are interesting to watch. There's no snow. That's about all I need.

Monday, March 15, 2010

grey eyes and curls

The sunshine radiated off of the winter wheat casting a golden glow around the entire interstate. The clouds weren't the normal flat missouri clouds, but the fluffy fat ones that my photography professor swears come around only once a season or so. He says when you see them you have mere minutes to grab a camera and get the perfect picture. I didn't want to risk seeing them disappear so instead I set the cruise control on my car and let the clouds glide by above me, oblivious to the world beneath them.

The drive was a pleasant one. It cleared my head and let me think about the enormous amount that is on my plate, but despite the pressures and stress, I kept coming back to what I had left.

I drove my car away from a friend's house as she tried to hold in the tears and emotion that were pouring through her soul. I had spent the afternoon in her chair while she cut my hair and discussed life. She had heard about my new plans, my graduation, even brought up to date on my social life. Most would assume that these conversations were surface level, but my friend was one who had known me before my hair needed cutting. Back in the days where it was wild and crazy. She knew me through my days of bangs and short hair, through the slick and straight hair that wouldn't hold any curl, the crazy mistake of a perm that turned into a jew fro, even with the wild bright red streaks from Louisiana. She did my hair for prom, she was at my graduation party, and at every holiday dinner, by now it's just easier to call her family.

After an hour of cutting and chatting, and another hour of styling she walked me to my car. She commented that I needed to go on a hot date with my new hair. I smiled nonchalantly as I dug for my keys. As I turned to go, she looked me in the eye and asked if she could ask me a question. Expecting something about my graduation or a current event I turned and saw the hurt flash across her eyes. She pushed it down a little further and struggled to get the words out. She was worried about who would take care of her daughter if something were to happen to my friend. Her daughter is in first grade this year, with big round steel-grey eyes and a ponytail the flounces all over the place, trying to keep up with its owner. In between the tears, my friend asked for me to make sure I would take care of her daughter if something were to happen, because everyone needs family to look after them, even if they are fifty.

I wrapped my arms around her and held her tightly. Her head barely reached the crest of my shoulders. Her tears soaked my collarbone as the words spun through my head. She knew I would take care of her daughter no matter what happened. She didn't even have to ask, but the verbal confirmation is what she needed to be able to walk back into her house and be strong for her daughter, as her life was falling apart.

I drove away in a contemplative mood, running through situation after situation in my head of the future. I've always said that this is a time in my life where I can be selfish. I get to choose what is best for me and make decisions that really only affect me and no one else. No family to take care of or someone who is relying on me, but I think I'm wrong. While we still have to be strong and go where we are called, I think we have to know who is waiting for us when we come home. They are the ones who are rooting for us, the ones who fight for us, and the ones who keep us strong. These are the type of people you never what to forget, especially in times like these.

The Kansas City skyline abruptly pulled me out of my thoughts, but I still can't help but wonder how a little grey-eyed seven year old fits into my new equation...

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Walking with Faith...

The words haven't been here. The comfort from writing hasn't come for the past week. The addiction hasn't come calling. I haven't noticed, not until tonight. I've been too full trying to find extra hours in the day so that I can get everything done. I've been on the borderline of a breakdown for far too long. Spring break is calling, but tonight is different.

It is full of hope.

Full of excitement.

Full of promise.

Here's how I know....

The rain dragged me down on the way home. It weighed down my already weary and beaten body. I had twenty minutes to pull myself together, get dinner, and get back to campus. The tears were to close for comfort. I peeled off my wet clothes and shivered in the dark as I fumbled for towels and clothes and forgotten light switches. Normally I enjoy the rain, but tonight it was just a nuisance. As I was running back out the door, I realized I had forgotten the most important part.
My heart fluttered with the anticipation as I opened the box. I hadn't seen it since Portugal. I wore it everyday as a reminder of the things to come. It was too precious to my heart to remove even for the shower or the beach. But the chain hadn't hung around my neck in months. My fingers shook as I removed the chain and opened the clasp. I wrapped it around my neck and reclasped the necklace. It settled into its place like a long lost friend, and at that moment it was like the pieces were being put back together. I heard the whisper of the ocean, the laughter of my landlord, the smell of strong coffee, and the promise of new adventure and excitement....

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


The memories are swirling in my head. Left-overs from Portugal, from Shreveport, even from good ol' Billy Jewell. I need one of them to tell me what to do. To tell me it'll be okay. I've been waiting all week to crash from exhaustion. I guess this is the night.

Was your journey far too long? All the voices that are spinning round me, trying to tell me what to say...
Can I fly right behind you? You can take me away...

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

After midnight...

It's late. The little closet-sized room I'm in is stuffed full of science. Centrifuges, microscopes, incubators, pipettes, test tubes, and sterile hoods. All the science and the small surface area takes the temperature in the room to a comfortable 37 degrees Celsius. The radio croons in the background singing of lost loves, wide-open country and Ford pick-up trucks. I'm approaching the fifth hour in this closet and have slowly shed nearly every layer to keep the heat from pulling harder on my already heavy eyes. Security came through hours ago. There's no one here but me, the cells, and the radio, but I welcome the peace and quiet. There are twenty minutes left on the centrifuge and tabletop is looking more and more appealing.

It's been a long time since I've been here this late. I'm looking forward to not having to do it much longer.

Here's to May 16th...

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Jewell reflection

I learned in a rather unconventional way that the future is always changing, in the largest of ways, by the smallest of things. While reflecting on my time here at Jewell I was struck by the truth in this statement. I have stories about growing up, dealing with life’s hardships and being completely knocked down by life, but these events aren’t the ones that taught me invaluable insight into life or pushed me beyond what I thought I was capable of. While Jewell taught me how to search for the answers I was seeking, I discovered that the times that immensely changed my life weren’t at Jewell. They were opportunities that I received and was brave enough to take because I had walked on this hill, but they were as far from this place as you could get. They were big adventures, but the little lessons I found in them left lasting impressions.

After spending two rather stagnant years at Jewell, learning the basics of science, and college, and how to thoroughly procrastinate, I was ready for something different. The summer after my sophomore year found me in Shreveport Louisiana. I spent an entire summer sweating from places I’d never sweat from before. My friend Krysten and I filled our days caring for kids from the poorest most neglected neighborhood in Shreveport. We spent our days playing basketball and kickball, climbing trees, and making chocolate chip pancakes for 32 hungry bellies. I learned a lot of little things that summer. I experienced community, became a master of connect four, and learned that scrapes heal better when covered with twenty bandaids. I learned that the church wasn’t meant to be buildings with huge crosses out front, but that it can be a house on 68th street next to a drive-thru daiquiri store. A house that lets kids be kids, and give them the attention they so desperately crave. I learned that even when you think your heart is full and you think there is no more love to give, God could send one more forgotten child to the doorstep who is content to just sit in your lap, and in the process, melt your heart. I learned that family isn’t something that is defined by chromosomes, genes, or skin color, but by the blood of Christ. And I learned from the tight grip of the smallest little girl, with the largest smile, that love is a messed up imperfect thing that despite its imperfections has to be freely given to all. These little things added up to change the entire way I looked at life and my future. I knew I wouldn’t be content sitting at a desk for the rest of my life. I needed to be out with people getting my hands dirty.

Returning to Jewell with this new vision however rocked my world. I came back to a lifestyle I wasn’t familiar with. I went from spending time with children who didn’t have fathers to one’s who were thoughtlessly spending every penny of their daddy’s money. I went from being the out of place Yankee without a slow southern drawl, to blending in seamlessly. Despite the challenges I spent the next year at Jewell thinking I had my life figured out. I worked on my Spanish vocabulary, grew enormous amounts of bacteria, on purpose, and was pummeled with benzene rings, functional groups and steric hindrance, before taking my next adventure.

I left after the end of my junior year for a summer internship in Lisbon Portugal. It was a job where I studied membrane receptors and cellular death in response to amyloid beta, the protein responsible for Alzheimer’s disease. But really I spent the summer dissecting rats, drinking coffee, and falling in love with the Portuguese sun and sand. I was taller than the entire nation, loved their pastries and beer, and earned the title of elegant redneck American. During that summer I fell in love with my newfound freedom, and the Portuguese language. I was proposed to over a turkey leg, and attended many an elegant affair in a cotton sundress and sandals. The future changed again that summer. My five-minute walk through the hospital everyday convinced me that after dreaming of Medical School for 15 years, that I didn’t want to go. Five minutes of watching patients receive a number and a bandaid before being sent back out the door without a second thought to their deeper need dissuaded me from my long-term goal. At first I was impressed with the efficiency. Then I saw that the patients were reduced to their ailment. I had no desire to practice medicine in that manner, and I didn’t want to be part of a culture that did.

So whether it is a tiny girl slipping her little fingers into mine, or a five-minute walk through a hospital, small things in my past have changed my future. And I’d like to say that despite the fact that Jewell wasn’t the place of these changes, I know that it has given me the skills and tools to seek after the things that make my heart happy. I’m content not knowing my future goals or the endpoint of my destination. I just know that I’m perfectly happy not being tied down. I know that a certain messed up irregular love is what will keep me standing, and that people are deeper than the cuts that they show on the surface. Adventure must be taken head-on and thanks to Jewell and these lessons, I’m brave enough to take the risk, and willing to chase after the small things that will change my future.

Monday, February 15, 2010


My creative writing professor asked if I loved him. I wrote about him because of the humor, but I can see where she would get that question after reading the last piece i wrote for class...

The fado singer in the background crooned in desperation every now and again with Portuguese songs about the motherland and lost love played from the old record player. The wooden chest I sat on and the art magazines with too many naked women with odd body language that covered the chest didn’t cause me the discomfort that they usually do. The last of the Lisbon sunshine filtered into the room giving leaving a slight orange glow. Hugo was shinning like a god, and the smoke from his last cigarette worshipped him. In a sort of dream-like motion his hand flipped the lighter open and with a perfected technique from years of practice he lit a new cigarette and brought it to his hungry mouth. Inside his lungs were screaming for the nicotine fix, but in the room there was only another song in Portuguese with the occasional popping and scratching that comes with the records. The cigarette was held perfectly between his beautiful full lips. So much so that I needed to reach out and touch it to make sure the scene was real, but I kept myself firmly on the wooden chest and let my mind play games with me. With the first inhale of his newly lighted cigarette his face relaxed and a smile of sated contentedness took its place. The room grew hazy with the smoke he exhaled. It crossed over the freckles that splattered across his dark skin, then traveled past his brilliant piercing blue-green eyes, flowed over his perfectly messed-up hair before drifting over to the wooden chest that held me. The smoke and his gaze caressed every part of my being. They both moved down my long tanned legs, past my bright yellow dress, up my broad shoulders to where my nose waiting anxiously for the smell of smoke to ruin the perfect setting. But as I recognized the smoke smell it was different than ever before. It was warm and inviting. It was dark and sensuous. It held mysterious that were just longing to be uncovered. The smoke was nothing like the cigarette smoke from the United States that made me feel dirty and in need of a shower. This was one that smelled of adventure and newness. One that would cling to my clothes and hair, making me feel deeper and more profound. A smoke that though never inhaled directly, I came to need. An addiction that left me at the whim of another. One who needed the nicotine fix, and I just needed him.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


It's closer to midnight than the morning sunrise when my alarm clock goes off. It's nauseating just to open my eyes. Everything moves in slow motion like a fog has moved into my brain clouding my thoughts and motions. It's a fight just to figure out how to untie my sweatpants. The impending adventure is what keeps me moving. The fact that in eight hours I will be closer to where I belong. Near a large body of water with an high temperature of 90 degrees. Blows my mind. At this point in the dead of winter in the frozen tundra, I can't even imagine what 90 degrees feels like. Do you even need clothes in 90 degrees?

As the drive to the airport rolled by with only minimal obligatory skunk smells, and the check in process at the airport is completed I'm closer to the sunrise than midnight, but it is still pitch dark outside. The antiseptic hospital like smell of the airport clears the fog and leaves me to my thoughts. I have brought with me things from past adventures that make me a little nostalgic. I have packed my black sandals that have been nearly worn through by the portugal pavement and sand of Cascais. I packed the same shirt that I got off of a plane in Malaga wearing 10 months ago. My heart and body know what is coming. I'm like a child on christmas, one who can't contain the anticipation and excitement, even if it is five in the morning.

Oh adventure, how I have missed you.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Repost from Creative Writing....

Growing up, I hated writing. I remember sitting at our kitchen table, shedding tears over the frustration of choosing the right words, the anger at the letters for not forming themselves on the page, the fear of failure. My mother, in her infinite wisdom would just stand at the sink with a halfway scrubbed dish in her hand and a sympathetic look on her face. She opens her mouth as if to impart some lasting insight, but all she manages is, It’ll come Kelsey, it’ll come. And it did. But it took a long time for the joy of writing to overtake me. It was in the same broken down state of helplessness that I realized that I write because I have to. Because there are times when there is no other way to make sense of the world around you. Because expression in the fullest is what everyone craves. It started on one of my most recent adventures. I was in a foreign country, by myself, without knowing the language. It was a day where the beautiful sunshine was grating on more emotion-filled soul, a day when I should have stayed in bed with the shutters closed. I had worked all day on experiments that failed because of mistakes that I made, and I had no one to come home to, to spill my frustrations. I was on a street full of people. I didn’t know what anyone was saying. No one looked familiar. No one knew that all I needed was someone to understand that the inflection in my tone was desperation. Or that my sarcasm was just a ruse for my passive-aggressive anger. That my red-rimmed eyes and rosy cheeks weren’t a sunburn from the beach but from hopeless tears that could no longer be restrained. My distraught came from my failure. From my inability to be understood. From the changes that I had to make to my language just to be followed. No one could follow my jokes, or sayings, or know the origins of my movie quotes. No one could follow my basic English. They just though that I was a crazy elegant redneck American. So I wrote about it, because clearly the tears weren’t cutting it. I wrote because I could use the adjectives that were just too difficult for non-native English speakers. I could pose questions that were grammatically correct and wouldn’t have to repeat myself. I wrote to play with the words that I couldn’t play with. I wrote to be understood. I wrote until I had nothing else to say.
So now having returned from my adventure, I write because it is an addiction. I write to have the thrill of picking the right adjective. I write to figure out life. To fully express myself. To chase down the illusive smile from the reader, and to bear my soul when spoken word isn’t strong enough. I write for others, I write for myself. I write because my mother told me a love for writing would come, and it did.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Summing up the lies

My social experiment has been over for a few days now, but I have been unable to put into words what I learned. My mouth runs fast. Too fast sometimes for my own good, but my biggest struggle was with writing and changing my story just enough to make it not quite true. Whether it was through exaggeration or metaphors or little tweaks here and there that made the story jump from the truth track onto the not-quite-so-true track. It wasn't until I ran into another struggle after the social experiment expired that I found my answer...

I've been debating whether or not to drop my creative writing class. Here's the answer that slapped me in the face. The funny part is that it is the wrong book for the class. Wrong book for class, right book for my heart. This is what it has to say,
"Literature is where I go to explore the highest and lowest places in human society and in the human spirit, where I hope to find not absolute truth but the truth of the tale, of the imagination and of the heart"

So tell all the truth but tell it slant-
success in circuit lies
too bright for our infirm delight
the Truth's superb surprise
as Lightening to the Children eased
with explanation kind
the Truth must dazzle gradually
or every man be blind-
-Emily Dickinson

I'll stick around for a while I think. Hopefully the right book is just as insightful

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Spice up your life

I was a pretty reasonable small child. While other girls were falling in love with Leonardo Dicaprio's character Jack in the Titanic, boy bands, and Pound Puppies I was out beating kids with sticks and falling out of trees. I remember girls fawning over Johnathan Taylor Thomas and how he would be their husband. My remark was always, "he has no idea you are even alive." I was a cynical child what can I say?

So when the next best thing came around I would just roll my eyes and watch with disdain at the oodles of adoring fans that mean absolutely nothing to the next up and coming star. That was until the beginning of my Junior year of college...

We were introducing the new freshman class to the RA's of Melrose and there was no better way to do it than as the Jewell Spice Girls. Laugh if you must but Perch Spice could compete with the best of them, and anyone would want to be rocked by Responsible Spice...she had the whole borderline dominatrix role down.

The only problem was that there was nothing in my wardrobe that could even remotely be passed off as spice girl material. Sure I had some high heels that made my legs for days go on for even longer, and a few sun dresses, but Victoria and all the other spice girls would think I was a Protestant the way my sundresses covered my knees and shoulders.

There was only one solution and our ever-fashion savvy Spirit Spice had it. Leggings. Even better yet, matching leggings that would pull the whole ensemble together.

So I gave in to the fashion crave and bought my first pair of black leggings. They went under a shirt that in honor of the Spice Girls was not associated by a pair of pants (just the leggings, which we aren't considering pants....I'm not that fashion forward, unless we were in Europe)

We rocked the leggings, we rocked the choreographed dance, we rocked the introduction. We even danced for the entire freshman class on the Ely triangle. I mean you couldn't have accepted the fashion fad any better.

And needless to say, those black leggings were just the start. Now I have an entire drawer devoted to leggings, tights, leg warmers, and big socks, but every time those black ones come out I sense my childhood cynicism falling away piece by piece.

So thanks Spice Girls for taking the cynicism out of me and seeing that the world can be a better place if you just spice it up a little....

Monday, January 18, 2010

cookies and coffee

I went to church for the first time in a long time. I was taking a sabbatical from church. I was going with the wrong intentions and was waiting for that to wear off before I headed back. I don't know if it's gone, but I went.

This is the place that I did a lot of healing and growing from the various adventures that life has taken me on. It helped put the pieces of my heart back together after multiple people threw them to the floor and smashed them, it healed the heartbreak over leaving 30 children in Shreveport, it tried to heal my heartache for Portugal.

It was an experience last night. Normally I'm overwhelmed by visions of Portugal from my daily life there, but for some reason I kept being pulled back to the Momma's house in Shreveport. It was a vivid memory of every part of the house. It was so strong that I could smell the cookies made with butter flavored crisco baking in the oven, with the faint tickling of Community Coffee in the background. I could hear the heavy worried footsteps of my favorite cross-eyed White Cat. I could nearly reach out and touch the white wicker furniture that held me in the mornings when the sun was coming up and then again in the evenings when the sun was going back down.

I walked through the house in my mind. Through the den, past the kitchen, into the dining room to the entryway of the bathroom. From there I couldn't go any further because the weight of a friendship rests in the bedroom to my right. It is different in my mind then in reality, just like that friendship.

A reality that I can't bring myself to face.

Good Morning little School girl

With a dreary brain and heavy eyelids I push my foot out of bed. I put on a pair of shoes, drag my keys off the table and walk out the door.
Too tired to think about a coat.
I haven't seen this hour since last semester and my body doesn't like it.

The car starts, the heat doesn't.

Normally I would realize that I didn't have my contacts in, but the oppressive fog, like the sleep that is clinging to my eyes doesn't let me see past the drive.

I make it to campus before my fingers have lost all their heat, but just barely.

Collin shows up to unlock the door and gives me a really long one over.
He asks, "rough night?"

It's funny because it wasn't. I was in bed by midnight. But as he was leaving I realized I was in all sorts of disarray, made all the more clear by the mismatching sweats and rumpled t-shirt. The two different shoes, and hairdo that tried to pretend it was a ponytail.

Luckily it was way too early for anyone else to be on campus. Unfortunately I wouldn't be done until right when the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration was getting ready to start.

It's college. It's okay. I have one more semester of this acceptable disheveledness and I'm going to relish every minute.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Day 1

Success. It was a lot easier to avoid lying that I thought it would be.

That sentence kind of hurts a little. Is the whole goal to avoid lying? or to not lie?

The hardest lie to avoid is the one centered around exaggeration. I love telling a good story and making people laugh. Sometimes you have to exaggerate a little to make it even better. This week unfortunately my stories will have to be truthful and without exaggeration. Maybe a little more ordinary, but still exciting.

So now it is Day two. I'm optimistic and excited for the day, though it could just be because there are homemade cinnamon rolls in the oven.

-a thought did strike me while I was falling asleep this morning. Is a metaphor a lie? Technically yes right?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Lies.... lies.....lies.....

What's the difference between a story and a lie? Is there any difference? I mean those stories that you tell kids at bedtime, or the fables that you grow up listening to, or even the story plot of movies. All lies. Or stories. Or both?

Where is the line drawn. If I told someone that I had a million dollars, everyone would agree that that is a lie. Clearly I am a frugal college student that only has two coins to rub together because it was just christmas, and Santa was good to me. But if I told you that I got onto the roof of the union the other day and signed my name behind a water spout. Story or Lie? Or both?

Can lies bleed into stories, and stories into lies? Sure we all exaggerate to make the story better, but if you think about it, isn't that a lie? Now it's a stolie or a liory. It's a bunch of crap.

So I'm starting a new experiment. I decided my life needs to be just a little more interesting, so I'm putting myself to the test. A new standard every week, that I will try to hold myself to.

This guessed it. Lying is getting scratched off the list. I have seven days, starting tomorrow morning in which I will try (that right there being the key word) to not lie. No exaggerations, no white lies, no nothing to make myself look better. Just good ol' me, telling the truth, like we are all supposed to do.

Don't take this as a time to ask me anything you want. I feel like applying mom's rule of "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say it at all" is definitely applicable. So no, I will not talk about how much I hate the neighbors next door, or love everything about William Jewell or enjoy this cold weather..... or do I?

I guess we'll find out tomorrow....
wish me luck

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Swesian Pirate

My cousin described her as a pirate Swesian. The Swesian part made sense. She was half Swedish, half asian....Swesian. The pirate part eluded me. I wasn't there with the rest of the family when she was born. I didn't get to hold her hours after being born. I had to wait ten days. Ten excruciating days, but yesterday the day finally came.

She wasn't longer than the length from my elbow to my fingertips. Her new little head rested perfectly in the crook of my arm and her body balled up seeking the tightness of my arms wrapped around her.

She slept. Didn't move. Just slept, but somehow I couldn't take my eyes off of her. I couldn't keep up with the conversation going on around me. I was fascinated by the new baby.

She kept her eyes closed and made all the involuntary faces that new babies make. Her face squished into half its size. Her eyes moved back and forth under her closed eyelids like she was dreaming of traveling through tunnels a quarter of her size.
Her perfect plum lips opened to show off her little tongue, then closed revealing one little dimple on her right cheek. My heart melted each time.

She made little squeaks and squawks periodically that made my heart jump before melting again.

As I was getting up to leave and hand her back to her mother, she opened one eye. Only one, like a pirate. Looked me up and down. Smiled, then went back to sleeping.

The Pirate Swesian strikes again.
She could have my heart any day.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

chasing squirrels

My dog chases after squirrels. She pushes her way out the door and bolts from tree to tree, stopping only long enough to jump as high as she can, sniff a little, then off to the next one. She lets the squirrels' scent to take her all the way around the block where she runs into her friend Margot. Sometimes she forgets to come home.

I think this dog is a lot like I am. I chase after squirrels of my own. Running from tree to tree of whatever catches my attention, sometimes forgetting my way home. Sometimes home isn't exciting enough for me.

Sometimes it takes me five hours to convince myself to get in the car and drive home.

But then again sometimes coming home is just what I need.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Snow Drifts.

My heart hurts. Palpable pain that makes me long to crawl back under the covers and keep everyone away. To put the Please Do Not Disturb sign outside my door and slip into the torrential waves of my mind.

I don’t know why, but I don’t want to face the world today.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


I've decided I like being on campus when it is "closed"

You can wear the same outfit three days in a row and not run into a single person who would know the difference.

You get to stomp through the snow that hasn't been cleared from campus, unless of course you are traveling from the President's house to his office, in which case it is impeccably clean.

You get to see teachers at their best. Showing up in sweats and bedhead hair, embarrassed to be running into a student who is dressed exactly the same.

You can get up to no good with a certain set of keys, and no one will know... (shout out to my friends KP and CC)

You get to hold glorious hour long conversations with Sharon the security guard. She'll even drive you home

Then the week is gone and people are on campus, and the snow is shoveled, and the teachers are back in appropriate business clothing, and Sharon can no longer drive you home. It's kind of like growing up, you can't fight it, just have to accept it.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Blizzard 2

The kitchen was warm from the radiating oven, the warm bodies, and the delightfully disconnected conversation. There were three people in the house which was more than the temperature reading outside. Dinner was on the table, complete with Portuguese beer tracked down and smuggled back from Boston. The beer slid down my throat slower than the kids racing down Browning Bowl, but just as smooth. It brought back all sorts of smoky memories that had been stored away for a day just as this.

There was the beautiful petite Portuguese photographer who rocked the gladiator boots, the quick trips to Pingo Doce to satisfy the craving for more beer, the Super Bock beer slushy from forgotten frozen beer, the overflowing broken washing machine, the uphill trek with a ten kilo bag of dirt, Largo do Mitelo, the boys with creeper stashes matching shorts and greased back hair, and the familiar freckled face of my landlord with his head-thrown back in laughter at the crazy american.

This last semester has helped me settle down and readjust to life here, I even thought that the roaming gypsy spirit that haunted my soul for so long had been put to rest. But as I sit after a wonderful night of laughter, friendship, and espresso I am restless to the bone. Gypsy is pulling harder than I've ever felt, to the point where my usual getaways aren't going to sate her.

So here-in starts another adventure. Who knows where I'm headed, all I know is that I'm going...