Friday, May 30, 2008

Get "Philled" In

Nope, sorry guys, this isn't about Phil, the flying mouse. My friend just sent me a link to this hilarious commentary on youtube:

I like the way this guy thinks so I wanted to share it with anyone who reads this. Anyone who wants to poke fun at the Westboro Church's philosophy is someone I'd like to meet!

In other news, I can not wait for vacation! I would really just love to find a nice patch of green grass in the sun with a nice cool breeze and lay there for a couple hours. Soak up the sun, enjoy the smells and not have to think about the bills, the studying, the stress. Ah, the peace and quiet.

Thankfully, next week is vacation! Of course, peace and quiet are thrown out the window with two nephews age 8 and 2 and a niece age 5 but I like that kind of turmoil! Can't wait!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Too Quiet?


Maybe I'm being unreasonable but my landlords have seriously annoyed me over the past four months. It all started on Super Bowl Sunday when new tenants moved into the apartment above me. Okay, fine. I had new tenants move in next to me the Super Bowl Sunday the year before. I hoped that these new neighbors upstairs would be quieter than the previous occupants who had a three year old that loved to scream from the balcony and dump stuff off of it along with throw temper tantrums that echoed in my apartment with everything in dropped, kicked or whatever he was doing up there. So, understandably I had hoped for a nice quiet neighbor. But unfortunately it wasn't to be. I chalked it up to they were just moving in and they didn't have all their furniture yet. You see, the previous tenants, when they moved in, before they had a the bed moved in they slept on the floor in the bedroom above me. On the floor. Yep. They (my landlords) say that I have concrete soundproofing. But for the first several days I got the fun pleasure of hearing my new neighbor upstairs SNORING! You have no idea how happy I was that they got a bed! But for the next year or so that they were here I slept with earplugs in. Imagine my delight when they moved out and my ears weren't sore every morning!

But I digress, back to the current neighbors. The first weekend they were here I assumed they didn't have their TV stand unpacked yet and the TV was just sitting on the floor. I was half right. As the bass echoed through my apartment I'd literally be on the brink of insanity. It was like someone had trapped a dog in a cage and started blowing a dog whistle. If there is one sound I can't stand it's the sound of bass coming through the wall/ceiling or even a car driving by with their radio on too loud while I'm trying to study or get things done. So when it got too obnoxious for me to handle I pounded on the ceiling. Probably rude, yes, but I didn't know WHO was living upstairs other than a big dog which I had yet to see. And it worked. They turned down the noise and I went back to studying.

Since I'm not a big fan of confronting total strangers I went over and asked my landlords to have a chat with them about the volume of their music. When this didn't solve anything I talked to them about it again. I even called them during the day once when the noise was bothering me and they came over to my apartment to actually listen. Then they went upstairs to find out the problem. Turns out the new tenants have some fancy floor model TV with speakers on the bottom of it. So I get to listen to the reverb in my house. It doesn't help that after a car accident a few weeks after they moved in my ears seem to be even more sensitive than ever.

Anyway, when the noise didn't stop I went back to the landlords again. They assured me that the volume was not loud in the tenants apartment and that the tenant had taken measures to fix it. Apparently she'd placed a mat of some sort under the TV. Hmmm, yeah, that didn't work. I was still hearing bass. There are actually several people in the office and as I was talking to one another woman chimed in (thank you) to tell the other that a mat wasn't going to help. The TV needed to get off the floor. I'm sure if looks could kill there would have been daggers right through the heart of that woman right there! But instead of helping the landlord looked at me and said there was nothing else they could do. It's just because it's so quiet here that the neighbor's noise bothers me. If things weren't so quiet I wouldn't notice. Frankly, if things were any louder I'd have moved out a year ago!

Feeling rather defeated I figured my only other hope was explaining to the tenant upstairs what the problem was. I typed a nice letter to her explaining that it literally sounded like someone had parked a car on my balcony and left the bass on every time they turned on the TV. I got a nice letter back that stated now that she understood the issue she'd work on it.

I was psyched!

Until a few days later when the noise was back. It comes and goes but at 11 PM it's annoying no matter how long it's been going on! So pounding on the ceiling helped a little. Until the night they decided to pound back. I'd had an overall crappy day at work and wanted to come home and just relax in the quiet of my own house. But there was none of that as their TV was on before I ever got home. (Now, I'm not saying they shouldn't watch TV but you can't tell me they only watch TV between 10 PM and 1 AM.) So just to make sure I heard them right I pounded on the ceiling once more and had a responding pounding back.

Oh no, they did NOT just do that.

I figure I have two options here since there is absolutely no way I can ignore the sound and the fact that, where the heck else am I supposed to go? So, first choice: call the police and file a noise complaint which will take them over an hour to get there and meant I'd have to listen to their noise for that entire time. Or, choice two: I can strap my subwoofer to the ceiling and turn on a little "noise" of my own. Besides, the landlords said it was too quiet here. (Lesson here: Don't piss me off when I've had a crappy day. I'm in no mood to think reasonably!) So, I strapped the subwoofer to the ceiling and cranked up the music louder than I ever had in the past. They pounded on the floor but seeing as that didn't work when I did it to them, why would I consider turning down the music for them? A few minutes later mom (yeah, it's a mom and teenager that live upstairs) came downstairs. I was in absolutely no mood to be hospitable to anyone so I didn't answer the door. I played two songs. TWO. Less than 15 minutes. Turned it off and went about enjoying the quiet evening. Now was it really that difficult?

But this blog isn't really about the neighbors, or it wasn't supposed to be anyway. My lease expires in two months and I'd desperately like to move out. Unfortunately I don't have money for a down payment on a house so I'm stuck here until then. I got my lease extension five days before they wanted me to turn it back in. So glad they give you plenty of time to think about it. There are three options: 1) a year's lease, 2) an 8 month lease, or 3) a 60 day notice to vacate option where you give them a two months notice that you're leaving and also meaning your rent can increase every two months! Okay, so they're crappy options. I want to move! But the thing that really irritates me is that they've increased my rent based on what they call enormous utility cost increases. Funny, last time I checked I paid my own utilities. I don't think they need over $150,000 a year to pay for what small increase they may see in the cost of turning on a light. Not to mention I haven't seen any "enormous" increase in my utility bill. In fact, I haven't seen any at all or if there is one it's tiny.

At this point I start looking at my options. Sign it and forget it. Go over and talk to them which has never gotten me far in the past. Just outright refuse to pay the increase and continue paying the same thing I've been paying. Or move. So I talked to a friend of mine who is himself a landlord. I decided that I'd start by writing them a letter and letting them know that the amount of rent they're asking me to pay is more than their published rental rate on their website. As a loyal tenant for 3 years that seems downright unreasonable to me. So, that's what I've done. I'll keep you posted on how that goes. I'm guessing it will get me no where. At which point I decide if I want to continue paying the rate I pay now and risk being taken to court and evicted or if I suck it up and sign it.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Something Holding Me Up, Something Holding Me Down

I decided this morning to turn on the iTunes radio and listen to that instead of my own CDs. The first song that came on was called Jesus and Gravity. No, I wasn't listening to Christian music although I'm not a stranger to that. I was listening to a country station and this song is by Dolly Parton. The title of the blog is a line from the song and it talks about how she's got all she'll ever need. I'm not so sure how true that is. There's plenty of people out there who don't believe in Jesus but they still have something holding them up.

I met someone on my last rotation in pharmacy school who I now refer to as my long lost cousin (that's a funny story, maybe I'll share it someday). She's Jewish. Coming from the middle of nowhere Iowa, I'd never really had the chance to sit down and get to know someone who did not believe in Jesus. I'd met plenty of atheists and agnostics but most of them had at some point been Christian. But that's not to say I didn't ever have the opportunity to learn about the Jewish faith. I went to my church's college and I took a few religion classes while I was there. Believe it or not, I think "Music and the Church" was the class I learned the most about religions that were either Orthodox Christian or something other than Christian. I've always found it fascinating to learn about people and their faiths. They may not realize it but if they were raised in any sort of religion it has influenced much of their personality, even if it's spending the rest of their life trying to keep that upbringing from influencing their life.

It's also interesting to see how my generation, raised in Christian faiths, have tried to make sense of all the contradictions. I guess I see this more because so many of my friends are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. It puts a whole new spin on "love thy neighbor." Some have had their families, Christian families mind you, turn them away. Now exactly what kind of love did their God teach them? As I've made friends out here in New England, most of them being GLBT, I've also seen my definition of family expand. I have brothers that are not blood brothers but they watch out for me as if they were always there. It's almost like GLBT people are better Christians than the hardcore Christians. They don't judge you by how you love. They'd rather love and be loved than hate and be hated. I'm not saying that we're all angels in any way. Between my friends and I, we've broken pretty much all but one of the 10 Commandments. Being that I'm not writing this from jail and none of my friends are in jail, I'll give you a hint: no one has killed anyone. But we love the best we can. We tend to tolerate other people and their quirks much more. And we're not about to push our beliefs onto someone else. Maybe we've got a more open mind. Maybe we've been pushed around so much of our life that we've learned to see the big picture more clearly just in the effort to protect us from the hate.

Anyway, there was a point at the beginning of this and it may or may not have gotten lost in translation. Basically, I'm not sure there will ever be one right religion. Christian, Jewish, etc. all have the same foundation: love. Whether we believe in God, Jesus, Buddha, or Wankan Tanka, we all have learned to love, to hate and to live as best as we can. Which religion, if any, we pick to call our own is a personal decision. I don't hold it against anyone what they believe until they cross that line where their religious beliefs have started hurting others. If we could just funnel it all down to that simple core belief--Love--we'd all figure out just what it is that holds us up everyday.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Phil, the Flying Mouse

"You should write a book!"

That's what my mom said to me when I called her the other night to tell her about my adventures in Philadelphia. A couple coworkers/classmates and I drove down to Philadelphia to attend a review session for the NAPLEX which was being provided by our employer. Since all expenses were paid, they were putting us up in the Hilton and all we had to do was get there we signed up pretty much the day we got the invite.

As we all piled in the car to head to Philly, I asked if anyone had been there before. Nope, no one had. Oh, now THIS could be an adventure. To get to Philly you have to drive through New York City. I hadn't been to either and I had no desire at all to drive through NYC! But since it was my car it looked like I didn't have a choice.

Obviously since I'm writing this four days after the fact, we made it to Philly (in fact, I'm now home again). And the drive wasn't event he adventure I'd called to tell my mother about.

We got to Philly pretty late Thursday night and we were exhausted. And hungry. So we ate at the restaurant in the hotel and figured we'd find somewhere more reasonable to eat the next day. So Friday evening we ask the shuttle driver to take us to Ruby Tuesdays.

As we chat with him on the ride someone mentions they'd rather not eat at a franchise. His eyes light up and he goes, "Well, I have the place for you! Do you like steak and seafood?" We all said sure and we'd be willing to try some other place. So off we went to a local restaurant & bar. Our first shock of the evening was "Smoking or non?" Well now, that's a blast from the past, something none of us had heard for quite awhile.

We were seated in a room that had probably a dozen or so tables for four in it. There were three other tables occupied. The waitress and hostess were friendly. We ordered drinks and sat down to take a look at the menu. Hmmm, everything looked good. Eventually we settled on something and chatted about life in general and future plans while we waited for our meal to be served. Another round of drinks were delivered and dinner was going scrumptiously.

Then all of the sudden something goes flying between me and the lady sitting next to me and drops down on our table by our plates. My first thought was the scene in Pretty Woman where Julia Robert flings the snail across the restaurant. Oh, but no! It wasn't that at all. The woman beside me and I realized pretty much at the same time just WHAT had landed on our dinner table. She gasped and shot away from the table. I stood up and stared at it in disbelief. The other two ladies at the table were still trying to figure out what it was when I went "It's a MOUSE!" and at the moment the mouse rolled over and started scurrying around our dinner table.

No one screamed which in and of itself is amazing. The four older ladies at the next table didn't even drop a fork while they watched their dinner entertainment from less than three feet away and continued right on eating. The gentleman at the next table came over with a cup and tried to trap the mouse at which point the mouse decided jumping would be better and flew off the table to the floor.

At this point one of the ladies I'm with climbs on a chair and I pick up two of our purses on the floor so we don't take this furry, uninvited dinner guest home with us. The waitress has run off to find the owner and the gentleman with the glass somehow manages to trap the furry critter under it. The owner, embarrassed, sweeps out of the kitchen, scoops up mouse and glass and disappears into the kitchen in less than 15 seconds.

Sweating, shaking and a bit in shock, we're seated at another table and asked if we'd like another drink. OH YEAH! Make it something hard! We're no longer hungry and we're more than ready to leave but the shuttle won't be back for 45 minutes. After a half hour of looking over our heads, we decided we'd much rather be outside than wondering where our furry dinner guest's friends were.

We were commended by one of the older ladies for not screaming and when they came out of the restaurant they even thanked us for the free meal. Oh, yep, no problem, you're welcome! As we stood outside we laughed about the whole thing saying, well now we have a story about Philly. This is when we decided we should name the mouse and nothing fit better than Phil since we were in Philadelphia.

Soon our shuttle driver pulled up and we loaded up on board. He asked us how the meal was and we said, well, the food was good, the entertainment and dinner guests, not so much. And he stopped and looked at us in the mirror. We told him how this mouse had fallen from the sky (we're pretty sure he fell from the ceiling fan) and landed right smack in the middle of our table. He didn't believe us so we told him to go in and ask them! And he did. He comes out shaking his head, muttering "Never in 17 years!" We laughed all the way back to the hotel.

The next night we went to Ruby Tuesdays and had a rodent free, slightly less dramatic evening but the food wasn't as good!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Something To Work On

Yesterday at work I actually had a guy pull me aside and whisper to me "You're beautiful." I'm pretty sure I probably blushed. I said thank you and continued on with what I was doing. When I walked by again he stopped me again. This time to ask me if I was married and if he could get my phone number. I was more than a little caught off guard. But I thought it was kinda funny and I apologized and said no. When you work at a pharmacy, that's the last place you want to pick up a guy. It's like picking someone up at a mental hospital (and I know someone who's done that)!

Anyway, this was the first time a guy has actually hit on me since I've started going to boot camp. I'll give boot camp all the credit. I feel better and I've been told by several people I look good. This is what I need to work on. I've still got a long way to go but people are starting to notice that I'm losing weight and I'm finding the compliments, while very nice, a little strange. It's not that I can't take a compliment. I genuinely say thank you to anyone who mentions the change. I am truly happy that someone has noticed. But after years of telling myself all the bad things about me, I'm finding it hard to hear some good things from other people. I'm not one of those people who can stand in front of the mirror and go "I'm beautiful no matter what" sort of things. I'm trying hard to change the habit of putting myself down. And in the area of actually looking better I'm doing ok. There are definitely other areas that I still need to work on. Relationships for one. More specifically, believing that 1) there might actually be someone out there who would want to be in a relationship with me, 2) I deserve better than what I've had in the past, and 3) someone out there will actually like me for me and not want to change who I am. Yep, those one's still need a lot of work. Do you think there's a boot camp for that?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

My Body Hates Me

And frankly, the feeling is mutual. It seems that the harder I try to get into shape, the harder my body fights that. But then again, things sort of seem to be getting better. I think this is the sixth boot camp I've done. This one and the last one have been a challenge in more than one way. Apparently my body isn't completely healed from this car accident. If we spend an hour concentrating on shoulders my right shoulder gets so tired I can hardly move it after camp is over. But today was considerably better than last week when we did shoulders so things are looking up! YAY! I didn't end up at the chiropractor today or even really have too many issues at all. It's sore yeah. That's to be expected.

Then there's the allergies. Geesh! If this tree pollen doesn't go away soon I'm gonna have a full blown asthma attack in the middle of boot camp. Today was as bad as I think it's been. I was gasping so hard at one point I thought I was going to throw up. It's got to get better soon, right?

And after having a few days off work my foot was feeling pretty good. Not standing all day seemed to do it good. But I went back to work today and we ran a lot at camp and now my foot hurts again. Do not touch the side of my foot or I'll be doubled over in pain. Oh well, I guess it's not going to break anytime soon or it would have done that by now.

So let's see, my knees and elbows have all given me issues but looking on the bright side, they haven't this camp or the last one. The neck, shoulder and upper back seem to be getting stronger. So, while my body continues to hate the things I do to it, I'm working on actually liking it again by, well, making nearly half of it disappear :) Woo hoo! Just call me a magician! HA! On a serious note, I'm not giving up until I get to where I want to be! So fight all you want this body of mine but some of you are in your final days!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Writers Block

Have you ever had a ton of things running around in your head you'd love to write about but just can't seem to get them to straighten themselves into coherent sentences? Ugh. Well, one of these days I'll figure out what this jumble of thoughts in my head is trying to say. At the moment it's rather depressing and I'm not sure that I'd like to share some really depressing thoughts.

I was really happy, and rather surprised, to get a graduation card from my fitness trainers this weekend. The sentiment was truly appreciated and almost made me cry. I did get some really cool graduation gifts. My parents gave me and my two best friends solid silver (okay, 0.999% solid silver) coins engraved with our names (preceded by Dr.) and the date of our graduation. My sister and her family went to Build-A-Bear and made me a stuffed bear and got a white coat online with Dr. Stacie stitched on it (that one made me cry). I received cards and gifts from church people too and well wishes from friends and teachers at school.

I'm a little bit lost as now what? I feel like three years is done and I'm a little lost as to where I go from here. I can't actually practice as a pharmacist until I take the licensing exams later this summer or early fall (hopefully sooner rather than later) but I am still working. I have to study for those crazy exams too. Ick! Plus, I'd like to spend some time with my family and doing some traveling. It's a crazy summer coming up and my heads reeling from the thought of everything I have to do!

It's also kind of strange to have the house to myself again. I'd say it's quiet but that's not it as my upstairs neighbors are NEVER quiet! Even if I try to go to bed early I have to use ear plugs so I don't hear them and then I'm afraid I'll never hear the alarm at 4:45. I guess it's just more loneliness than anything else. And I'm not really sure why I feel lonely. I have three people that want to get together with me this week but I don't have time to. Maybe it's lonely because the people I expected to congratulate me on graduating have actually FORGOTTEN! WTH??

Oh well, I will lay down in bed and smile rather than cry as I think about my five year old niece helping my sister clean up the house. My sister had asked her to move daddy's shoes to their bedroom so being that my brother-in-law has clown shoes (size 16) she could only carry one pair at a time. As she was carrying the second pair past the recliner chair where he was sitting she heard her say "I wish you'd get off your fat ass and do this yourself!"

Friday, May 16, 2008

Looking Up

One of the perks of getting up at 4:45 every morning is that during this time of the year the sun is just coming up. I walked out of my apartment this morning and almost stopped dead in my tracks. In front of me was the most beautiful sunrise I've seen ever in this city. (Being from the country sometimes I wonder if nature can be beautiful in the city. I'm working on that.) The reds and pinks and purples had me breathless, or maybe that was the tree pollen, but it was fascinating nonetheless.

Sunrises, sunsets and stars. They seem to be something most people tend not to notice very often unless they hear about an eclipse in the news or a comet or such. I remember as a kid growing up reading some book (and if any of you know what it's called let me know) about a baby hippo who gets "lost." Except he's not really lost. He's standing on the top of a hill looking down at his family of hippos who are all wandering around looking for him. He's having the time of his life because he doesn't know that all their stirring around is because they think he's lost but eventually he figures it out and starts to wonder when someone will just look up. Such a simple thing to do and there he'd be waiting for them. But no one looks up for the longest time. It's very much like the world today. We're all busy "keeping our eyes on the prize" that we tend to forget the little things that we need each day. When was the last time you literally stopped to smell the roses? Did you notice the passing of the daffodils and the blooming of the lilacs this spring? Have you been so busy in your life that you haven't realized the grass needs mowing, the plants need watering and that the trees have pretty much unfolded all their leaves?

It makes me think about this song by Athens Boy Choir. He's a transgender FTM performer from Athens, Georgia and he writes spoken word poetry accompanied by music of some sort. I saw him live up in New Hampshire once and loved it! One of his poems/songs is called "Settle for a Hello." It's all about how people walking down the street don't talk to each other, don't really even notice each other and, if they do, they look through you when they're talking to you. Yep, we'll look anywhere other than into someone's eyes these days. When did that happen? It's never been a part of my culture to not look someone in the eye. If someone doesn't look me in the eye when I'm talking to them I think they've got something to hide. Then again, I'm guilty as charged. I have the worst time looking someone in the eye anymore. To many lies in the past, too many broken promises. It seems looking someone in the eye is a whole level of trust that I've lost. It's a huge inner struggle for me to force myself to look someone in the eye sometime. I catch myself looking over their shoulder or down at the ground.

Sigh, and now we're back to the point of the story. Look up!!! There's a whole world passing you by and you're missing it watching your feet shuffle on the side walk and not even noticing the ants scurrying around. LOOK UP! Maybe that person walking towards you has the most beautiful eyes in the world and you're going to miss it. LOOK UP! Did you see the falling star? LOOK UP! Watch the world live and be part of that living! LOOK UP! See the tears in the eyes of your friend struggling to go on after losing their best friend. We miss so many opportunities when we stare, glassy eyed at the world. Look up and find you in the people passing through your life.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

No Pain, No Gain?

Okay, for those of you who know me you would know that I'm overweight. Actually, I'm pretty sure I'd actually fall into the obese category. For way too many years I have used and abused and mistreated my body with food. I guess you'd say I had a rude awakening this past fall when I realized just how horribly I was treating my body and finally realized that all the health care education I had was showing me exactly what was going to happen to me if I didn't fix it sooner rather than later.

When I got home from New Mexico last fall I Googled fitness trainer and found an amazing program called Baystate Adventure Boot Camp run by two amazing fitness trainers. They don't yell at us or anything else you might picture from the military boot camp. Well, they don't stand in our face and yell until we yell back Ma'am, yes Ma'am or that type of thing. They do push us. How else would we possibly spend an hour working out without some sort of motivation? Granted, we all should get a lot of credit for getting up and being at the gym at 5:30 in the morning but it's the extra push of the trainers that get me going and it's their encouragement that keeps me coming back.

However, I was in a car accident in February which meant I was out of boot camp for six weeks while I recovered from that. I saw a chiropractor, a doctor and a physical therapist. I was in a neck brace for a week and a half or so. But I wanted to go back to boot camp after six weeks and no one said that would be a problem. I went back knowing full well that I was going to be a little behind where I was when I left and that it was probably going to be a little bit painful. It was two weeks before I'd even put my gym back with the weights in it on that shoulder. But eventually I started feeling better. I could turn my head pretty much as far right as I could left. But, the more I work my shoulders the more I hurt. Push-ups and working the shoulders with weights literally brings tears to my eyes now. I would have thought that by now, nearly three months after the accident that it would be fine. But I almost feel like it's getting worse. The weakness in my right shoulder should be getting better by now. The stiffness in my neck should be loosening up. But if I fall asleep on my back it takes a lot of moaning, groaning, abdominal muscles and pain to get out of bed in the morning. What's the deal?

To top it all off, my feet are killing me lately too. Not both really. Just one. I injured one when I was in track in junior high and I'm afraid now it's grown into full blown arthritis in my foot. So, my foot hurts, my shoulder hurts. Now what? I don't want to quit boot camp. The idea is that if I loose weight the pain will go away in the foot because I won't have so much weight to carry around. At least that's the hope.

As for the shoulder, I'm off to the chiropractor again. Hopefully we'll have a few days rest from shoulders at boot camp. And hopefully the weakness is just temporary and if I work through this annoying pain I'll get stronger. Hopefully.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Dancing in the Rain

As I've gotten older I've grown to appreciate rain more than I ever did as a kid. Maybe it's because of where I've been and where I was growing up. Rain as a kid often brought things like tornadoes which, as well expected, terrified me as a 6 year old hiding in the basement wrapped in a quilt.

Experience has changed my perspective of rain a lot though. Especially in the last year. It's not something I fear. It's more of a blessing now. While spending six weeks in the desert last fall I noticed something one day at the county fair. It was HOT! As it should be int he desert! The sun had blasted down on us all day and my friend and I had both forgotten our water bottles so watching the rodeo at the fair was on the brink of torture, at least for our thirsty bodies. As we stood in line for the BBQ at noon I noticed how all these people had umbrellas. Where I grew up umbrellas are for rain. These people were using them for shade. Something I hadn't really thought about when I saw them handing them out as incentive prizes on one of their Diabetes Walks. As we stood their parched, we noticed rain clouds in the distance. Not many, just a few that may pass or may go slow enough to drop some much needed moisture on these desert people's lands. As we inched closer to the front of the line the storm moved in. Large spatters of rain kicked up dust when it hit the barren dirt road we were standing on. The clouds moved over the sun and pretty much in one motion, the umbrellas all went down. People stood in their little groups seemingly unaware of the rain now pouring down over them. In the back of my mind I'm wondering why these people would put down their umbrellas in the rain. Isn't that what they were made for? But I was also thinking just how wonderful the cooling rain was. It was such a relief from the heat of the noonday sun that I couldn't help but stand there and just let it pour down on me. It only last for about five minutes. Enough to cool everyone off. Not really enough to make a difference to the gardens but maybe a little. Later I asked one of the local Native people about the umbrellas and letting it rain on them. She said, "We pray for rain in our dances. Why would we cover our heads from something we pray for?" What a wonderful way to look at a rainy day!

I've never really been the type to see rain as "liquid sunshine" but I no longer dread a rainy day (although several in a row kind of put me in a grumpy mood). Listening to music this morning in the shower a song came on by the Glengary Bhoys called "Alberta." The song has always touched me, even before I knew what it was about because the chorus has a line in it that I love: "Let's go dancing in the rain!" It turns out that this song was written as a tribute to a woman who was succumbing to Alzheimer's disease. My grandmother had Alzheimer's. It's sad to watch a woman who was so strong become a helpless child but I always remember how it seems that many patients with Alzheimer's tend to live in their happiest memories. So despite the nursing home and the missing dentures (which probably ended up in someone else's mouth!) and the sadness of watching someone slip away while still being right in front of you, I think of this song and the hope that it has. It's the woman's lover/partner/friend, promising to remember for her. It's kind of like that movie, what was it? The Notebook? It reminds me to take every day and LIVE because I never know when I may be the one with Alzheimer's and I will need my friends to remind me of the life I lived, of the memories we made and the laughter and fun. It's why I grab my keys and head to a great trail for a 5.5 mile hike despite the rain clouds I see on the horizon. It's why I get up every morning at 4:45 AM and work out. I want to live the life God gave me so that I can look back and live in the happiest times if it ever comes to that. Even on the bright sunny days like today, through music, through nature, and through friends I will go dancing in the rain!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Foiled By A Bum Sock

It's a beautiful Mother's Day in New England today. Well, at least my part of New England. So, on my way home from church today I decided to stop at a National Park and take a little hike. I've been driving a new route to church lately and it takes me right passed Minute Man National Park. Most Sundays I have homework to get home to or the weather isn't that great so I drive by and wonder when I'll get a chance to explore the wonders of this particular National Park. For the record, I've been to several National Parks and Monuments, along with state parks, in the past year as I've been lucky enough to travel across the country this year. Well, I finally got my chance today. I decided that after church I'd grab a water bottle from my car and hit the trails that I drive by every week. But first I stopped at the visitor's center since I knew very little about this actual park and have forgotten most of the history I learned about the Revolutionary War. I watched a movie and then head off on one of the trails. It was a great hike! I saw violets and lily of the valley (one of my favorites!) and, even better, saw very few people headed the direction I was going. I was planning on looping around passed the visitor's center and heading off on another trail to hike for about two hours. Unfortunately, my socks had other plans. I had to keep stopping and pulling up my sock because it was bunching up and giving me a blister, well, not yet but working on it. Since tomorrow starts another four weeks of boot camp I decided to call it a day and just head for the car. But, fear not! I will be back to explore the park on another day. With a better pair of socks you can bet on that!

Since I drive so far to church it also affords me plenty of time to think on a Sunday afternoon drive. And today for some reason found me thinking of the past. Past relationships but mostly a past job. It reminded me of working at the adventure/environmental camp up in New Hampshire. Mostly because I was noticing how the trees are filling out again with all their rainbow of colors. I got thinking about one day when I was teaching an environmental lesson and I asked the kids to take 5 minutes to count the number of colors they saw. After about thirty seconds a few of the kids looked at me like "That was easy. Why do I need 5 minutes?" It was these kids I was trying to teach at that moment. When the 5 minutes was up, I asked for a show of hands, "Who saw at least five different colors?" Everyone raised their hands. Then I asked, "Ten?" Still had everyone. After 15 I started losing a few hands. And the same kids that wondered why it took so long to count the colors were shocked when I got to 30 and there were still hands raised. Someone had counted nearly 40 different colors from where they were standing. The next question was just as simple. "Without killing or harming anything, point out something green." There were 10 kids with me and nearly everyone of them pointed out a different shade of green. Someone mentioned that the same color green in the sun is a different color green in the shade. It was moments like that where I felt like I'd actually taught them something. The ability to observe the tiny nuances of life is a powerful thing that many of us miss in day to day living. Open your eyes kids and really LOOK! That's the lesson I was trying to teach them. What's right before them is not always as simple as green, red, brown. It may be teal, sea foam, lime, cherry, sienna, burnt orange, etc. It just takes stepping out of the shadows (or into them) to see a totally different perspective.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Six Degrees of Separation Makes for a Really Small World

I grew up in a church that while small, is a worldwide church. Going to various meetings with my parents growing up meant I met other kids whose fathers also were ministers in my church. Later, when I headed off to college at the church university, I ran into these same people. It was like having a long lost cousin on campus with you. Kids I'd gone to camp with were in the rooms next door. I remember hanging out with one kid at a church meeting one time where we hid under the basement steps in a college building and yodeled. I never did get a chance to ask him if he remembered that but we were at college together.

As I got older and went to church meetings myself or family camps, I started running in to people who knew someone I knew or even knew my parents. People I grew up with who ran the district I was in are now world church leaders. I've sat down on more than one occasion and chatted with the president of my church. Once was even after a visit to a local casino! He knows who I am and knows my parents.

Having grown up like that I've always known that the world wasn't nearly as big as other people let on. I had church family in Africa, Australia, Europe, etc. There aren't many places I can go where I won't run into someone who knows someone I know. It's not even six degrees of separation.

It becomes a little more unbelievable when I start running into random people throughout the country who have connections to me. I first started noticing this in pharmacy school. Before I even started pharmacy school I was told pharmacy is a small world. Don't burn bridges in pharmacy because you'll run into someone who knew someone who knew someone. So, occasionally, I'll pick up the phone at work and it's someone I know on the other end at some pharmacy across town. Or, every once in awhile it's a pharmacist in another state who went to school with the pharmacist I'm working with. Small world, yes.

Then in March, like I said in my previous post, I went to South Dakota for a week. Pine Ridge Reservation is about seven hours from the Omaha Indian Reservation I grew up on. I didn't expect to meet anyone who had connections to me. I expected to feel a little bit like I was going home but running into people who had connections to me just stunned me! By the end of the second day there I'd met a cousin of my elementary librarian. My librarian's daughter was my sister best friend when we were on the Reservation. I was the bratty little sister who tagged along EVERYwhere and drove them crazy! So, I thought it was cool that I'd made a connection to my past. A few days later, while talking to this same person, I found out something that didn't quite sink in right away as to the impact it had on my own life. My parents moved to the Indian Reservation right before I was born. Indian Health Service hospitals don't deal with white patients so my parents would have to drive back across the state lines into Iowa to a hospital where I was born. The Missouri River runs along the Nebraska/Iowa border so in order to get to the hospital my parents had to cross a bridge. The bridge they crossed (unlike in cities around New England) was the only way to the hospital without taking hours of back roads to find another bridge. Well, it turned out that this same person, the cousin of my elementary librarian, built the bridge my parents drove across. He wasn't the only one who built it of course but when I stop and think about it, if that bridge wasn't there, wow, my life could have been dramatically different! I was born on a Sunday at 1:13 in the afternoon. About four hours before that, my parents were trying to decide if they should go to church. Just think, if that bridge hadn't been there, who knows where I might have been born!

A second random connection that happened on the reservation in South Dakota nearly left me speechless. As part of our trip, we drove around and toured some of the schools including Red Cloud School, a private catholic school. It has a museum and gift shop there. When we were walking through the gift shop I noticed a wall covered in beautiful quilts and decided I was going to come back and check them out after the museum. When I came back I asked if I could see this beautiful red, white and blue quilt. They all were the same pattern, the sacred morning star pattern, but they were all many different colors and sizes. The one I fell head over heals for happened to be a queen sized quilt which is what size bed I have. I decided I had to have it! I asked the sales lady if she knew who made it and she did not. A few days later, on the other side of the reservation, we were holding a health fair, checking blood pressure and glucose at an elders center. The elders center was serving meals for the local seniors and we were doing our thing when this woman walked up to me and started talking. Turns out she was the president of the elders center there. She also teaches Lakota language at the Head Start (preschool) and cares for her disabled husband. She had been there earlier to pick up lunch for her and her husband and taken it home. Someone called her to come back when they heard that the program ( we had come with had a donation for her group. This is when I met her. In her spare time (which I'm not sure when that would be) she makes quilts, the sacred morning star quilt. She asked me if I'd ever seen one and I said yes, I had bought one the other day at Red Cloud School. She told me that she makes quilts for them and so I described the quilt I had bought. Turns out she made it! I was speechless! I gave her a big hug, which I think made her think I was crazy but what I didn't tell anyone is this: My grandmother used to make all of her grandchildren quilts when they graduated from school. The quilt she made me when I graduated from high school was red, white and blue but it was for a twin bed. I feel like I was drawn to this particular quilt because I feel like it reminds me of my grandma and I graduate from grad school this month. I love it! I think of how we're all connected every time I see that quilt and remember my grandma. Somehow, I think that quilt was made for me and was there at that time and place just for me. It's kind of cool to think about.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Mitakuye Oyasin

I spent a week in March in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. It's an Indian Reservation, the second poorest in the country, the size of Connecticut. Just to give you a very brief intro to Pine Ridge, the average life expectancy there is 48 years old, the second lowest in the western hemisphere after Haiti. Half the population is under 18. The teen suicide rate is four times as high as anywhere else in the country and suicide in general is twice as high. There's a town just across the Nebraska border, 2 miles south of Pine Ridge, called White Clay. White Clay has a population of less than 100 people yet it sells 11,000 cans of beer a day. A DAY!! We went to White Clay. It's maybe a block and a half long and has a handful of businesses that all look like outbuildings on a farm. I found out yesterday that the day before we got there in March a Lakota man was found dead in White Clay. I don't know if he was killed or died there or what but it's a sad commentary that while we were there we never heard about it. It's not uncommon and it's not uncommon for a white man to shoot a native and get away with it if it doesn't kill the man. That's the short story of Pine Ridge, the side that you'd read about if you ever googled it.

The side that I remember, the side that stole my heart and made me feel right at home was their concept of Mitakuye Oyasin. It means "we are all related." Every evening our group would sit together in the common room and discuss what we called "roses and thorns." The good things and the bad things that we'd seen that day. The thorns were always about the living conditions, the homelessness, the fact that the white people who worked at the hospital lived in beautiful houses less than a block from the homeless shelter for children which was covered in graffiti and broken windows. The third world conditions pushed many of us to tears. But the roses almost always talked about the spirit of these people. While so many of them are basically destitute, the hope that they exhibit in their life and their work (despite the 90% unemployment rate many of these people are artists) was impossible to miss. Neighbors gladly opened their door to invite in a family who was homeless, leading to the staggering statistic of 16 or more people per 400 square feet of living space! They know if they don't help their neighbor who is going to help them when they themselves are down and out. They're a family, rather by blood or by dedication it does not matter. They stand side by side and lend a helping hand.

The last evening we were there we didn't do roses and thorns. Instead we talked about what we had learned while we were there and what we would give them if we could give them anything. I was one of the last to go. What I learned while I was there was that I had more family than I had ever met before, both the people who I had traveled there with and the people I had met there. It truly is a small world. While I was there I ran in to people who were connected to my own past. It dawned on me that had this person whom I'd never met before not been the person they were, my life may have been completely different. And this was before I even met them. The family I had found became family through a common thread running through our lives, the love of the very land we stood on, the belief in the sacredness of all things and a shared history of life on the reservations in the U.S. Also, a hope for a future that heals the wounds of the past and brings together a country, a broken land, to share in a world where all people are welcome to live, to believe and to love.