Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Back Home Again

Here I am. Back "home" in Guatemala City. This is my third trip back and, yet again, I feel as if I've returned to my heart. It's still difficult to describe the ghetto when you see it in person. It's not just the devastation of poverty, but also the sadness, oppression, spiritual destitution. I have not been to Guatemala in 10 months, and as I viewed the slums of La Limonada once again, there was the return of that familiar feeling. There is just so much need.

How do you even tackle something as big as La Limonada? With somewhere between 60,000 to 100,000 people living in such poverty, how do you handle that? Thankfully, Tita did not let the gravity of the situation daunt her 16 years ago when she began her work in the ghetto. I often wonder if my faith would have been as strong as hers, to know that me, as one person, can make a difference. Perhaps it is an insecurity on my part, or a lack of faith in my God, but it can be a conscious effort sometimes to remember that me, as one person, can make a difference.

I believe it was "God timing" that I am currently reading Richard Stearns' book, "A Hole in Our Gospel." The current president of World Vision, a Christian aid organization, Richard has been faced with this same feeling since he began his tenure. This morning, as I sat and read, feeling tired from a night of restless sleep due to my mind being unable to shut off from thinking about the ghetto, I read a familiar story that I desperately needed to be reminded of.

Richard spoke of the story of a man who was walking on a beach, seeing millions of starfish that had been washed up by the waves. Without their ocean environment, they would die. The man considered trying to help, but became discouraged by the gravity of the situation. "Even if I try to help, I can't help them all," he thought. Then, he saw a man walking down the beach. Bending over, then straightening up, bending over, then straightening up. As he drew closer, he saw that the man was picking up the starfish and throwing them back in the water. "What are you doing?" he called to the other man. "There's no way that you can help them all. It won't make a difference!"

As the man picked up another starfish and tossed it into the ocean, he replied," It made a difference to that one."

Monday, September 13, 2010

Back Home Again

Here I am again. Back home in Guatemala. It's almost funny how comfortable I am here, considering that I've only spent 3 weeks here, combined, over the last 18 months. There's just something about this country that speaks to me on a level that most other places I've been to just don't.

My time here thus far has been simply to relax and do a little sightseeing. Tomorrow... my first full day in the ghetto since my very first trip here. Since I spent my last week in Guatemala at an arts camp at the coast, I didn't get to spend any time in the ghetto. I can honestly say that I missed it, and as much as I loved my time at the arts camp, I knew after that that my next trip would mean my days being spend in the ghetto. I just needed to be there. I'm a little anxious about my time here, mainly because I'll be teaching dance for 4 hours a day, after almost an entire year sabbatical. I know that I'll love it and it will go smoothly, but there will probably always be some kind of sense of restlessness when I teach in this environment.

I am also selfishly anxious about my emotional reaction to being back in the ghetto. I know that I will return to the Lemonade House completely drained each evening. Even though it is beyond worth it, it is an exhausting experience.

I will try to update you during my time here to share with you more stories from the ghetto. I know that they're not always easy to read, but they are filled with truth about the experiences of other living in much less advantageous circumstances. I beg for the audience of your attention and time...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Experts at Not Thinking

I realized something today. Since my recent relocation into center city Philadelphia, I have spent the last 5 days intentionally avoiding drinking the water out of the faucet. I simply don’t trust the water to be as clean and tasty as I might want it to be. This also got me thinking about the things we take for granted. Which, as anyone who takes a few minutes to think about will realize, is a lot. As a culture, we’ve become experts at not thinking about all of the conveniences that we have at our fingertips. Experts at not thinking. What a strange statement to make, when you really think about it. And yet, it’s very true. We don't think.

We don’t think about how we turn a knob and water comes out. We don’t think about how we push a handle and a toilet flushes. We don’t think about the fact that we can afford trash removal, and thus keep our streets and lawns clean. We don’t think.

What a shame. What an utter shame that we don’t think while there are people out there without clean water, without running sewage, without trash removal. Without food, and medicine, and hope. We don’t think.

I leave for my third trip to Guatemala in 3 days. I plan on thinking a lot over the next few weeks. I plan on thinking about all of my blessings, on a job that pays my bills, on easy access to the necessities of life. And then I plan on thinking about how I can make a difference in the lives of people who don’t have these simple things.

I plan on thinking.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Reason #127 I Feel Like a Mom

I've been puppy sitting for the past few days. I love animals, and have always wanted a dog, so this was a particularly fun prospect. Now, remember, I have two cats. And a small apartment. Mix in a 3 month old huskador (or is that labsky?) and it was a recipe for a very interesting few days.

There's the age old advice that if you're thinking about having kids, get a puppy first. I can tell you from experience, this is in fact accurate. Now, I realize that I don't have kids, but good Lord, it certainly feels like being a mother to human children must be something similar to this. My house has looked like a bomb went off, there are toys littering my living room floor. I can't keep sharp objects on the edges of tables. I get nervous taking a shower for fear of what I might find in puppy's mouth when I am done. I can handle hew chewing on most things, as long as it's not one of my cats' legs or anything. I've chuckled at myself more than once in the past few days, recalling things my sister has said about motherhood and realizing that I've been feeling the same way about my 4 legged furry charge. The things that have come out of my mouth have been strikingly similar to utterance of my sister to my nieces and nephews. Things like, "get that out of your mouth!" "Stop chewing on the furniture!" "Do NOT eat the cat poop!!!!" *sigh*

Having a puppy in and of itself is really not so bad. Sure, it's a considerable amount of work. You have to drag yourself out of bed 45 minutes early to feed the dog, walk the dog, and play with the dog so that you don't come home to find your bathroom totally trashed. I don't think my landlord would appreciate my toilet having a hole chewed it in. But when the living space is so confined and there are 2 cats involved.... yeeeeeaaaaaaaaaah.

Bella, being the scaredy cat that she is, has spent the past few days hiding behind the curtain on my bedroom window sill. I've seen her approximately 4 times in the last 3 days. Oliver, on the other hand, is way too curious for his own good. And also stupid. He definitely wants to know what this thing is that barks and runs around. However, little puppy just wants to play with him, which he will have none of that. The ensuing chase has to have my downstairs neighbor pulling her hair out, as it happens at least 3 times an hour. It most sound something like a stampede from her vantage point. Maybe I should write her a note and apologize....

I think that Reason #127 that I feel like a parent this week just about any mother can relate to: I get terribly concerned when it's totally quiet. Either someone has chewed on something they shouldn't have and are silently choking to death. Or some kind of bad mischief is going on. So, for goodness sake puppy, please make sure that I can hear you at all times. Seriously.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Conversation Phobia

I've recently come to a terrible conclusion: I'm one of those people who never returns phone calls. Seriously. It's bad. Unless you're family (or practically such) most likely, if you call me and I don't pick up, chances are you won't be hearing back from me. I really and sincerely don't do it on purpose. I just really hate talking on the phone.

I just remembered this evening that I have yet to return a phone call from someone with whom I haven't spoken in quite some time. I have no idea why this person called. They left a very vague message. However, I can tell you with absolute certainty, that it has been 2 weeks since I received the message, and I haven't even been able to remember that they called, let alone actually return the favor. It's terrible. I'll be the first to admit it.

I'm not sure when or why I started to hate talking on the phone. I honestly think it's some strange social anxiety. I'm not actually a socially anxious person, but I do have this odd phobia about being able to keep up conversations. I've been like this for years. This phobia is one of the main reasons that I always hated casual dates. What if I can't think of anything to say? What if there are those horrible awkward pauses in which there is no words to fill the void? Aaaaaaahhhhhh!!! Yes, these thoughts to actually go through my demented little brain. Color me strange, but it's just the way I am.

I am now remembering all of the phone calls that I've received in the past few months that haven't been returned. I'm slightly ashamed of myself. If you are one of those people who are awaiting a return call, you may want to just text me. Really. I'm almost guaranteed to get back to you that way.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Where, oh where, has my motivation gone?

I really hate to admit it, but I think its time: I have an ever so slightly addictive personality. I mean, not addictive in things like substance abuse. I don't drink beer everyday or sneak cigarettes. No, this addiction is much less harmful on the physical side, but does perhaps have repercussions on other ends of my life. Such as, the productive side.

I've mentioned in the past my obsessive nature when it comes to fiction novels, which is why I tend to avoid them. It becomes an addiction. I should also avoid things like, oh, say the TV show "24" because I suddenly find myself watching multiple episodes every single freaking night instead of doing something productive. Like, cleaning. Or writing. Or making art with those records I purchased for that very reason. Or finally put together the mixed media piece that I bought canvases for 8 months ago. But, instead, here I sit. On episode number three for the evening. I did manage to work out a bit and do the dishes. When I left work, I had full intentions of starting to sift through all my junk in the basement in preparation for my upcoming move. Instead, I did nothing. Granted, I do have a pulled back so I can't be lifting or bending too much at the present moment. But still! Geez!

I seem to have lost my motivation for most things productive as of late. I can blame it on all sorts of things, but really, I am the culprit. Maybe I'm using all of my creative energy up at work. I think I really just need to get my patoot in gear.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The City or Something Just Like It

I get ashamed sometimes when I look back and realize how long its been since I've written. Sometimes I try to make myself feel better with the reminder that the better part of my work day is spent staring at words, so maybe it's ok if I slack a bit on my fun writing. But, really, its just inexcusable.

My last month has been filled with some pretty major life changes, not the least of which was a rather sudden decision to move. Signing another year-long lease in Philly wasn't exactly part of the plan, but, last I checked, life rarely goes as planned. So, really, I shouldn't be surprised. I discovered that my current lease, which I had originally been told when I moved in would go month-to-month after the initial lease expired, in fact would do the exact opposite. I would have to either sign a minimum 6 month lease or be out within 6 weeks.

Again, not part of the plan. My entire reason for staying in my suburb-y apartment in the 'Yunk was that my lease was going month-to-month. With it verbalized on no uncertain terms that this would not happen, the hunt began. I hate apartment hunting. I know that it should be exciting, the beginnings of a new adventure and whatnot. But it is stressful. Like, yikes! My lease discovery was made on a Friday. On Saturday, I looked at my first apartment in.... Rittenhouse Square. *sigh*

I love Rittenhouse Square. Sure, it might be a little hoity toity, but it's so pretty and fancy and close to all things city. My favorite restaurant is in Rittenhouse Square. There's a farmers market there every Saturday. It's within walking distance to all the good shopping. There's a Barnes and Nobles and Anthropologie right there. How can this possibly be bad?

A mere 6 days after my search began, I found my almost dream apartment on the prettiest street in center city. I say "almost" because the kitchen is teenser, the bathroom has pink tiles, and there is no washer and dryer. Yeah, my rent will be going up, and my overall cost of living is guaranteed to increase. But it's the city and I feel like for the first time in a very, very long time I'm doing what I want to do just because I can do it. To other people, it might not seem like the smartest decision, but at least I won't have regrets about not living in a downtown area. At least I'll look back one day and know that I made a decision for me for once.

I have a feeling that I'll be inspired just by being there. The excitement, the hustle and bustle, the controlled chaos... It's going to be good. Now, let the packing commence....

Sunday, June 6, 2010

I Think I'm Obsessed

I don't read fiction novels very often. I used to be, in a sense, addicted to them in my younger days. Mostly silly romantic novels that filled my head with inaccurate ideas about how life would turn out. Boy, was that ever dumb. I sometimes wonder why my mother let her 10 year old fill her head with such nonsense. I suppose she was just happy that I was voluntarily reading in the first place, rather than having my eyeballs glued to the Nintendo or other such silliness that destroys a child's imagination. Of course, when you're an adult, it's perfectly acceptable to spend hours on end playing Lego Star Wars on the Xbox. Not that I've ever done that or anything. *ahem*

As I matured, I found myself leaning heavily into non-fiction picks, mostly about heavy subject matter, like how much Iranians really do hate the United States, or child soldiers in Uganda. I do feel that the masses are blinded to the realities of the world and are choosing to ignore the harshness of others' mentalities and existence. The written word is a powerful weapon in unveiling these circumstances, and I discern that my free time is best spent learning about such things. However, let's just be honest, the cruelty of the world is sometimes too much to bear and we need a little lightness in life. So this is where I turn to fiction.

My hands haven't touched a fiction novel in months. Perhaps even a year. Several days ago, I decided that the time had come to pick one up. I went to my bookshelf in eager anticipation.... and discovered that I literally did not have a single lighthearted fiction novel that was unread. I was quite devastated. So, I decided on a classic that I had yet to read. Lord of the Flies.

I quickly remembered another reason why I tend to shy away from fiction. I become obsessed. Literally. I'll sit and read for hours, neglecting other important tasks, you know, like eating, just to get in an extra few pages. It's a serious problem. I once read a 500+ page book in approximately 26 hours. I'm pretty sure someone should have admitted me into some kind of self-help program or something, because that is nothing short of absurd. The McDonald's gratification of movies is why I suppose that so many people enjoy the cinema. 2 hours. In, bam, boom, done. You have the entire storyline handed to you in less time than it takes to pluck a rooster. Or at least I would imagine so. I've never actually plucked a rooster. Anywhoo, there is a lot to be said for the quickness of film. You don't need to invest hours upon hours of your life, crazily turning the pages of a bound beauty to find out if Dick or Harry ends up getting the girl in the end, or if Jack is ever discovered for the accidental murder of his lover's former boyfriend.

Granted, reading keeps my mind alert, my eyeballs exercised, and my vocabulary stretched. I will just have to work on the obsessed part now, and maybe it'll all work out for me in the end. Oh, and in case you're wondering, Lord of the Flies isn't really a lighthearted novel. It's actually pretty disturbing. And I did manage to take my time with it. It took me 2 whole days to read.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Respect the Semicolon

I don't have very many pet peeves. Though, I'm sure I have more than I'd like to admit. One of these said pet peeves is poor grammar. I loathe it. Its like fingernails down the chalkboard, the fork across a plate, the grind of a dentist's drill. I hate it. Its another stark reminder of our failure as a society to properly educate the younger masses to communicate properly.

I understand that some people are just not as prone to the appropriate usage of the English language. We all have our strengths, and lord knows, our weaknesses. Don't ask me to do fast math in my head. Its just not going to happen. Its not my strength. On the other hand, my wonderful boyfriend has a head for numbers and can compute mathematical problems in his head with more speed than I can even remember the elementary way to figure out the solution. However, his spelling isn't the greatest. And his grammar is lacking. Typically, this would drive me insane. However, all of his other redeeming qualities far outweigh the constant asking of how to spell things. (I love you, honey)

So, this being said, we all have our strengths. Which means that certain tasks should be left for certain people who happen to have an affinity for said occupations. As most of you know, my career in marketing leaves a large-ish chunk of my day immersed in writing and editing and other things of the like. I definitely do not claim to be Tennyson or Austen, or even Dan Brown for that matter (who, in my opinion, couldn't write a decent book if threatened to have acid poured into his eyeballs). However, my sentence structure is decent, and I like to think of myself as a mediocre writer. I do get paid to do it. This would leave me to believe that other non-professional marketing masters should probably leave the writing to the pros. This, unfortunately, does not always end up being the case.

I work with several people who, for some reason completely unbeknownst to me, try their hand at writing when, clearly, they should not. It doesn't seem to click in their little brains that someone at the company's job is to write. Maybe, just maybe, they should leave the writing to them. Instead, my eyeballs are subjected to such awful writing that they sometimes start to bleed. Seriously, its that bad. And then said persons actually question me and look at me as if I bore two heads when I remark that the piece needs to be rewritten. I really do not understand how they can't tell that its awful. Truly and sincerely awful.

I suppose that part of my job description should be to not laugh in the face of others who have no command over the English language. Instead, I just fix their mistakes, defend my positions, and then pound my keyboard in frustration over their inability to see their terribleness of work.

And please, for goodness sake, respect the semicolon. Learn how to use it.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Dustbunnies Gone Wild

I used to love hardwood floors. Like, love them. I sincerely thought they were beautiful and every home should have them. My, how things have changed.

When I was apartment hunting for my big exodus to Philadelphia, I stepped into my soon-to-be new abode and instantaneously fell in love. I'm pretty sure I recall myself actually commenting immediately to my mother about the gorgeousness of the hardwood floors. Sure, they were a little old, in need of some repair, what with the gaps between the boards and all. But still! Sigh. I may have even batted my eyelashes at them. I love them that much.

On Moving Day, I remarked to a good friend about how excited I was to have hardwood floors. Considering that she had many square feet of the glorious flooring herself, I was certain to receive a supportive comment back. I mean, really, how could one have hardwood floors and not love them? I probably scoffed a little when she gave me the "just you wait" lecture, declaring that hardwood floors are really nothing short of a total pain in the butt, nearly impossible to keep clean, and the roadway to many'a'dustbunny tumbleweed afloating on by. Pashaw, I thought to myself. It couldn't possibly be that bad. My magic microfiber duster will take care of any tumbleweeds that go blowing through my house!..............right?

Wrong. Along with more dustbunnies that I care to even count, there's the cat liter that gets stuck in the cracks between floorboards. I could probably use my "magic" microfiber duster every 10 minutes and still not keep things clean. Oh, let me tell you. There's no getting rid of it. I could probably crawl on my hands and knees with a straw, sucking at said cat liter, and it wouldn't budge. Those little buggers get in there and get in there good. And its not just the dustbunnies and cracks. There is cat liter everywhere. All the time. I can vacuum the entire apartment and within 2.5 seconds, its covered again. I don't know how it happens. I only have 2 cats, but I swear to you, they multiply temporarily or have invisible demon twins or something. I'm not entirely sure how they do it, but they manage.

I'm considering tying miniature vacuums to their tails. If they're making the mess, they may as well clean up after themselves. And, since they both loathe vacuums, all the running around trying to escape would be sure to mean a much cleaner house for me!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Futility or Something Like It.

Life. I find the ridiculousness of it to be absurd at times. I mean, seriously, it seems to be nothing but sheer insanity and any "downtime" that one thinks one will have is bound to end up in 3AM condo painting sessions instead of exploring the nightlife of a new city. Or something equally as unexpected. Perhaps not every opportunity at relaxation ends up in life happening as it usually does, but it certain does appear that most do.

As of late, I've been ever increasingly finding myself wishing to spend my days wrapping wire around yellow antique glass beads to make a new and exciting pair of earrings or entertaining myself with writing blogs about whatever my little heart desires rather than wasting away behind a desk, trapped between the three barren walls that is my existence inside a cubicle. I blame this feeling mostly on my damnable creative side that has lately been dying to be expressed. However, I suppose that most feel as if their true passions are eating away at their insides.

I spent a bit of time on an airplane the other day reading an article written about how most people find themselves unable to make true time for their passions until after retirement. How tragic, I thought to myself. It does seem that the unlucky ones, who just happen to make up the majority, spend their entire lives working for a paycheck and not able to do that which makes them feel fulfilled. What kind of a crappy life is that? It seems that existence at that point is merely an exercise in futility with no true sense or purpose.

Sigh. Why can't a book contract fall out of the sky or some fabulous boutique in Philly approach me with a too-good-to-be-true offer to wholesale my craftiness. I suppose that it would help if I would put myself out there more, but that is entirely too frightful.

But, I suppose the alternative may be much scarier in the long run.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Time, Why Do You Punish Me?

So, I actually have a few minutes of downtime, which seem to come further and fewer inbetween these days. I'm not really sure what takes up all my time, but I suppose between work, driving back and forth to Delaware, running, making food and sleeping... There's really not much time to do much else. Hence, why my blog posts have become scanter and scanter. Its sad really, how life seems to take over to the point that the things that you enjoy go by the wayside to such an extent as to become essentially nonexistent. *sigh*

I have come to the conclusion that life is entirely too busy, and that more time needs to be spent smelling the roses and all that jazz. I can count on 2 fingers the number of weekends that I've had free since November. Granted, life has taken a turn for the much better and I've been happier than I've been in years. However, making dinner at 9PM really isn't my idea of a good time. I have so many ideas and things that I want to accomplish, but I can't even find a Saturday afternoon to sit at Borders with a good book and a latte.

I have nothing spectacular to say tonight. My few minutes of freedom are over now and I must away to bed so that I don't cry when my alarm goes off in the morning. Perhaps I'll be able to steal a few moments in the near future to regale you with tales of running socks or life plans.

Until then, peace be with you.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Caffeine- Friend or Foe?

I find it odd how us humans intentionally torture ourselves. We watch that movie, even when we know is going to make us cry. We read the news everyday, even when we know is going to make us angry. We run that extra half mile, even when we know our bodies will hate us the next day. I do something similar each and every day. I drink caffeine, even when I know that I'm going to have caffeine letdown. Perhaps I should get my sanity checked.

Caffeine letdown is serious. At least when you have a job that finds you sitting behind a desk each day, and not up and about and active. Its nothing short of a extra hand in the impending doom of sleepiness that occurs each day right around 1PM. My caffeine letdown also coincides with the post-lunch lethargy that is also inevitable. Its nearly cruel, really. Who in their right mind would do this to themselves on purpose? I suppose I never claimed to be intelligent, which is fortituous, considering the intended annoyance I put myself though on a daily basis.

Oh well. I suppose caffeine letdown is a small price to pay, when never waking up in the first place is the alternative. I guess I should learn how to sleep better, so that I can let go of my addiction at least a little bit.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Lessons on How to Turn a Bathroom into a Movie Scene

Its been shamefully long since I last wrote. I don't even want to look at when my last post was for fear of wanting to stab myself in the eyeballs out of disbelief. I realize that this would be a poor choice of reactions considering how eyeballs really do help in proofreading. I may have to think of another alternative.

Because I have nothing better to write about, I figure I shall regale you with a tragic comedy of my day 2 Saturdays past. February 20 started off as most Saturdays, with a bit of sleeping in and relaxing. Sadly, that was not to last long. 4 days prior I had dropped off my little monster at the vet to be declawed and deballed. Its a terrible way to phrase it, perhaps, but true. My little man went in to have his manhood taken away and entered the world of androgyny. I hear its all the rage now. I mean, seriously, who needs a gender? Its the 21st century! (ok, for all of you who don't know me well, that was sarcasm)

One of his paws had been giving him problems, so the vet had kept him an extra 2 whole days. Now, considering how much that little former man impedes on my sleep, one would think this a blessing. However, the mommy in me felt horrible that he was as the nasty wasty vet and not home with his mother. I take much better care of him than anyone else can, after all.

So, to shorten a long, and rather disgusting, story, upon our arrival home, dear mommy opened the crate to discover that the nose curling stench that she smelled on the way home was not the normal vet smell that she thought, but a doozie of a poop. That now covered half of the crate and most of the backend of the little former man. Sweet mother of God.

The next hour or so was spent corralling the little beast in the bathtub, attempting to clean him while trying to be very cautious of his little paws and his... area.... *ahem* It was quite dreadful, as one might imagine. After cleaning off most of the crap (literally, crap), I decided that it would be a good idea to take the cone off. Now, I had instructions from the vet to not take the cone off, because he was likely to go after his stitches. However, his poor back end was drenched. Mommy= -1.

Worst idea ever. For future reference, if your vet tells you to leave the collar on, for the love of God, leave it on. The little former man ripped a stitch. And bled, and bled, and bled. On attempting to stop the bleeding with slight pressure, which I know must have hurt, he managed to blow a stitch in the other paw from all the struggling. Which then also bled, and bled, and bled. For hours. Now, I'm not talking a little blood. I'm talking he would shake his paw and a spray of blood would cover the cabinets. It was like something straight out of a bad slasher movie.

I waited, I think a rather reasonable amount of time, before completely freaking out and taking him to the little former mancat doctor, also known as the emergency vet. Never in my life did I think I would be taking my animal to the emergency room. However, after seeing a bathtub covered in blood, it was just more than I could handle. Plus, there's only so much of that stuff in something as small as a cat. In the back of my head, I was pretty certain that he was going to bleed out and die or something. Yes, I realize that that may have been a bit of a dramatic reaction. But, seriously, think slasher movie. There was alot of blood.

Anyway, the little former man recovered from his plight and bleeding wounds. Mommy, on the other hand, suffered from emotional trauma for the next 5 days. I believe that I am on the road to recovery as well. Its entirely possible that I may need some serious counseling. There may never be another declawed cat in my future. Ever.