Friday, April 29, 2011

If you're reading this

Thank a teacher.

And while you're at it, pray for school systems everywhere. Budgets everywhere seem to be decreasing. This prayer request came to me a few days ago from a friend who's a teacher in Austin, Texas. Please pray for the education of students in Texas and the hardworking teachers that already have or will lose their job because of the budget crisis. It's not just jobs that are being lost, but the bright futures of our children in the state of Texas that will be forever changed.

Who was one of your favorite teachers? Why? Here are some lessons I remember from some of my teachers.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

It's less messy that way

Coming into this year as a YAV I really envisioned being moved and changed as a person because of the service, volunteering, and "helping others" of this experience. That's not really the case. For me, this year has been about the people I've gotten to know along the way. Tucson is full of really neat people doing some really neat work, and if it weren't for this year as a YAV, I probably would never have known about them, much less gotten to meet and gotten to know some of them!

I'm currently reading Prisoner of Conscience, a memoir by Ken Kennon. This book sits on our library at BorderLinks, but for whatever reason, I hadn't picked it up until I won it earlier this month! At BorderLinks' annual event earlier this month, Ken, who happens to be co-president of our board, handed me ten raffle tickets and said, "it would be inappropriate if I were to win anything, so here you go!" Among other things being raffled, there was a Mata Ortiz pot, to a home-cooked gourmet dinner, to some original artwork. I decided to stick to the two things I wanted most to win out of the 20 items, trying to better the odds I'd actually walk away with something. I ended up winning both the things I put in to win! One of them was Ken's book, and a lunch with him. We're having lunch in a little less than two hours at Maya Quetzal. I'm really excited!

I also highly recommend you pick up a copy of this book and start reading. Ken is an ordained pastor in the Disciples of Christ church, but he and his wife regularly attend Southside. In the last 8 months I've gotten to know him and his wife, Mary Ellen, both through both BorderLinks and Southside Presbyterian Church. I don't want to give away the whole book, but it's about Ken's time in Federal Prison. I bet you didn't guess that one from the title! On a more serious note, it's really moving. The book is his journal from his days incarcerated, and scattered throughout are poems he wrote. One poem, paperwork, really jumped out at me.
"May 19
I received a poem yesterday afternoon inspired by noticing a case worker through her office window poring over her paperwork. That appears to be all that we inmates are in this system.
No little boys here
with bloody skinned knees or stubbed toes
No little boys here
healing hugs or wiping our nose
It's less messy that way

No wounded souls here
seeking forgiveness, grieving blows
No wounded souls here
reaching out, risking other noes
It's less messy that way

We are paper men
computer punched analyzed woes
We are paper men
just numbers in digital rows
It's less messy that way

We are paper men
more blips on society's screens
We are paper men
bytes of the statistical means
It's less messy that way" - Ken Kennon, Prisoners of Conscience, 141.

(apologies English teachers and MLA fanatics everywhere- that was not cited properly).

How many things do we do in our daily lives that seem like the easy way out because "it's less messy that way."

Thank you Ken, for really making me think- about myself, relationships, work, community, love, and what we do because "it's less messy that way." My gramma says that, when you're baking, the messier the kitchen the more delicious the treat. Maybe avoiding the mess isn't really the right path.

I'm really excited about finishing the book, sitting with the words, and sharing a meal with Ken at Maya Quetzal later today.

Ken signed the book, "Life is messy. Embrace it!"

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Grey to Good Day

I started the day looking at the weather. Grey, cloudy, duststorms, and about 20 degrees colder than it has been. "ugh," I thought to myself.

But, its a good day!

It's days like today that I enjoy.

Work was work. There was plenty to do, but not too much to do that I couldn't focus. Around 4:00pm you could smell the rain outside! Rainy days in the desert are wonderful. It made for a wonderful, breezy ride home from work.
All day I'd been planning on running after work. And then, as I'm sure many of you have experienced, the 3pm tired waves set in- and a nap after a cold beer sounded lots better than changing clothes, lacing up the shoes, and hitting the pavement. I decided I'd suit up anyways, and try and talk myself into it along the way. After much stalling, I finally, hesitantly, put on my shoes, and headed toward the front door to head out. Although, I was pretty convinced I was just going to walk to the store rather than actually go for a run. Ali was sitting on the front porch, enjoying the good weather with a book. I told her I was probably going to the store and asked if I could bring something back for her, then she decided to put on some running clothes and go with me. We ended up going for a nice run together after all- what a great way to enjoy the clouds and breeze!
Its the random, organic, unplanned moments of today that really make me enjoy it- in this case, a run with a friend enjoying both the good weather and each others' company.
We came back from our run, put on some fresh beets, and started cooking up a scrumptious dinner together. Now I'm eagerly waiting for the quiche to finish baking. It smells absolutely delicious.

And hey, Ali just yelled "dinner's ready" from the kitchen! Just in time! What a great turnout for what I thought would be an altogether grey day- both the sun and the mood.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Weapons of mass distraction

This past Friday, my housies and I headed to UA campus for a talk from a speaker series. Featured- Cornel West.

And- it was absolutely amazing. I found this blog,, about his publications, and it has some excellent commentary about what Dr. West shared.

One thing that really hit the nail on the head, so to speak, is how he talked about what it means to be human. The title for this post comes from what he said about current culture in the US. It's not common nor encouraged to examine ourselves, our roles, our collective humanity. Any nudge in that direction is masked by the massive push towards success and consumerism. We're in a culture making lots and lots of weapons of mass distraction.
I'm not going to try and re-cap what Dr. West shared on Friday- but following are some quotations that stuck with me.

He opened his lecture with a discussion about humanity. Among the quotations he shared were the words of Seneca, "He or she who learns how to die unlearns slavery."

Following are some excerpts from what Dr. West shared:

"As human beings we all emerge in the funk. & there's love in that funk."

"We all came into this world between urine and feces."

in talking about current "culture"-
"...a culture that specializes in weapons of mass distraction."
"[a culture of] materials, toys, and well adjusted to injustice."

"indifference to evil is more evil."

"Courage to go against the grain...not to fit in... we need more misfits."

"301 BILLION dollars on prison marshalls since 1975, don't tell me about your budgetary defecit if you can't get your priorities right."

"[we don't need to be] colorblind, but lovestruck."

"Don't be obsessed with your job, tell me what your life task is."

After the lecture, there was a question and answer period. A young boy got up and said something like "I'm in highschool, I'm 14 years old, and my mom's been taking me to these things for a long time now. I want to be a hiphop artist and shit and can I share this with you?" I'm not going to try and re-write the mini-rap he shared, but it ended with "Cornel West for president." To which, after Dr. West called the boy up on stage for a hug, he replied saying, "I'm a free man and you can't really be free in politics."

And he ended with saying, "It's all about us together...we all have a role to play."

He's coming to Texas Tech on April 15th. If you're near there or can make it out there, I HIGHLY recommend it!

Friday, April 1, 2011

The journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step

Or in my case, a foot on the pedal and a push forward.
It's (semi) confirmed that my sister and I will bike east together when I finish this program. She's been a committed cyclist for 10+ years in Brooklyn, NY, and I'm just a wee-beginner. I have a few months under my sleeve of riding just a few miles daily. Needless to say, I'm in for quite a change of pace coming up to prepare for a 300+ mile bike ride.

Now, I'd really like to say that me and all of my stuff will be heading east all the way from Tucson to Dallas at the completion of my time here in Tucson. However- I just don't think that logistically that is possible. With a best-friend's wedding a few weeks after I get back in town, and (hopefully) a job or grad-school to begin, I just don't think it'd be feasible. But- Tucson to El Paso should be feasible- if the heat or my three-speed bicycle don't get me first!

Any and all are welcome to join on this endeavor! We'll be hittin' the pavement mid-august. Come along for a day, come along for the whole thing. Join in!