December 14, 2005

I've been thinking about the holidays a lot recently.

I know that seems like a pretty normal thing to do, considering that we are smack dab in the middle of the "holiday season."

December 13, 2005

December 9, 2005


I have made a decision.
This is it.
I'm not going to spend any more time right now trying to fix my foot. I'm going through with the orthotics and the new shoes. But after that, no matter the outcome, I am done.
For now.

I know that there is another surgery pending. That it may make all the difference in the world.

However, there are so many "if's" tied to this surgery that, right now, it's just not worth it for me. I need to get away from this place I've been in. And I'm not just talking about this town. I'm talking about the mental/emotional state I've been in for the last couple of months. I've been fighting this battle against this depression almost since the day I realized I was coming back home.
Some days I won. Other days...I didn't even show up to fight.

Before the appointment at Mayo, I was contemplating starting a business here at home. My dad was willing to financially back the venture, and I had already done a lot of preliminary work on the business plan. It was never something I had planned on doing at this point in my life, but if it turned out that I needed to stay here for another extended period of time, I knew I needed something to do.
Something unbelievably time consuming.

I was so reluctant to start doing actual planning and work on it, though. It felt like I was giving up every single dream I had for my life right now and resigning myself to an 70 hr work week and an exhuasted, lonely life in a place I didn't want to be.
It was so much about location in my mind. If you gave me the option to open the exact same business in a completely different state, it would have appealed to me 100 times more. There was no adventure in doing this next door to where I'd lived over half my life.
And honestly, I'm not sure I would have been physically able to do the job.
It just wasn't a very practical idea. But I was holding onto it for dear life about a month ago because that's all I had to hold on to.

So much of the last couple of months have been about me realizing that I am not going to be able to live the life I was preparing myself to live. And I needed to do that. I needed to let go of those expectations. But somewhere along the line, while I was trying to accept this new reality for my life, I began trying to make myself believe that meant I was going to have to live a life I didn't want to live. That I was going to have to resign myself to these new limitations I had. That my wanderlust was going to die and I was going to be stuck at a desk job forever.

But this isn't about giving up. This is about adapting.
About working with what you've got.
So I have a little problem...I'm not going to be able to climb mountains every week, or ever wear heels again, or even be able to walk around the mall without dealing with pain. So what?! That doesn't mean I have to give up on what it is I want to do with my life.
I'm going to go to Italy. I'm going to find a job where I can work outside. I'm going to continue to travel and dream and do all those things that are on my list. I am going to find a job where I can wear jeans every single day of the week if I want to. Sure...I may be moving a little slower down the Camino de Santiago than your average pilgrim, but I am still going to do it.

I've applied for jobs all over the place in the last week since I made this revelation. My foot is going to be a problem no matter where I live. It can hurt just as much in Montana as it can in Tennessee, so why stick around?
My new "special kid" shoes arrive next week. They have to be tweaked and fitted and all that good stuff.
But after that...I'm outta here.

I mean..I'm going to stick around for Christmas and all that good stuff.
But after THAT...I'm outta here. :)

November 23, 2005

Mayo Land

I am leaving the Land that is Mayo in a few hours. This entire town is centered around the clinic and caters to the hundered of strangers that descend upon their streets every day as they come from all over the world to visit their famed buildings.
Coming to Rochester this week is the first time that I've ever traveled to a location where I was completely on my own to get transportation around a city. Even in Guatemala, I had someone picking me up or a car at my disposal. It has been mostly confusing, inconvenient, and expensive. But I have survived...even though I ended up at the airport almost 3 hours before my flight.
I decided I should take advantage of this down time and free wireless internet to try and muddle through exactly what happened in the last 24 hours and figure out what I am going to do next, so that I can collect my thoughts before everyone starts asking.
First: The Diagnosis
I was seen by an orthopedic surgeon and his minions yesterday morning at the Clinic that is Mayo, after a round of x-rays. He was, quite possibly, the most blunt doctor I have ever encountered in my life. No mincing of words, no easing into the situation, no caring if what he said was going to be devastating. Just Bam! Here it is, this is what I think.
And this is what he thought: I have a screwed up joint/foot. And it's not ever going to be normal and it's not ever going to function normally. I have early-onset arthritis in that joint (that was new info for me). I have extremely limited upward flexibility in the joint. In normal feet, it's like a 75 degree angle, I have a 17, maybe 18. I should have never had the surgery I had. I have a great deal of scar tissue that is holding up the joint, but there is no good way to deal with that. Removing it by surgery will just create new scar tissue while I am trying to recover from the surgery. There is no explanation for why the pain started, or why my left foot, which is also stiff (also new info), doesn't hurt.
I have compensated for that stiff joint by have an over-extended joint above it, and I also have a spur on the top of the bone (that was a new one for me as well). He wasn't impressed with either of my earlier surgeries or recovery times (the ones dealing with my ankle). Kept asking questions about why it had taken so long and what exactly had happened. He didn't understand why I had had the bunionectomy or the screw removal. He was the first one to not be opposed to the cortisone shots, although he asked a lot of questions about them.
All of this was said in about 20 minutes or so. He poked and prodded and measured and stressed, and then said all of that rapid fire. He then launched into my options.
I have two. Kinda.
One: Get a new orthotic. Actually, it's a modified shoe. One with a rocker bottom on it, so that I am able to walk without actually having to flex my toes. I'm sure they come in many stylish colors.
Two: Another surgery. This one is for a condition called hallux rigidus (which basically translates into rigid big toe...clever, huh?). They go in and remove part of the bone so that it can move upward more. This surgery has about a 80% success rate. BUT (of course there is a but), they've never done it on someone who has already had the surgery I've had. So there goes any guarantees. And it will whittle down a bone that has already been whittled down considerably by the first surgery. And, of course, create more scar tissue.
And that's it. Those are my options. Actually, I have to try the shoe first and then if that doesn't work, then they would think about doing the 2nd surgery.
He actually said to me, "You aren't giving us much to work with here."
I was too dumbfounded to even respond. I felt guilty, like it was my fault all this had happened to me. But then I snapped out of it.
And he was gone. They gave my back all my x-rays and medical records, and that was it. My long-awaited appointment at Mayo was over.
So, it's now the next day, and this is the first time I've actually sat down and thought through all of that again. I'm still not sure of the ramifications yet. It doesn't seem like this will be over any time soon. Actually, I don't think this is ever going to be over. The orthotic isn't going to fix anything, it's just going to allow me, hopefully, to walk less painfully. But it isn't a permanent solution. And the surgery doesn't sound so sure-fire either.
I don't know what I'm going to do. I have another appt with my TN doctor next week, where I will relay all this and he will get the results from my physical therapist. I guess we'll go from there. I don't know if he's going to want to continue trying anything or if I still have to go to PT.
I just don't know.

November 17, 2005

Jump Start Anyone?

Three times a week I get hooked up to this machine to have a steroid zapped into my foot.
So far...I can't tell a difference.
But the machine it pretty cool, nonetheless.

November 11, 2005

The Big 2-4

Moments after Turning 24.

I looked a lot happier last year.

It was such a weird birthday last year. No one I actually saw that day acknowledged that it was my birthday, but I received tons of emails from home.

Today, I have been home, and have receieved phone calls from many of my friends and family, but it's been a lonelier birthday than last year's ever was. I guess it has a lot more to do with my current state of mind and situation than anything else.

I'm so not handling this all very well anymore. Physical therapy (the latest attempt to fix the pain) is kicking my butt all over the place. So far, it's PT-3, Tori-0. I have another round tomorrow, which I am totally not looking forward to. I know it's all "no pain, no gain" and everything....but sheesh.

Oh well. Here's to a new year of life. I'm thankful for the last one, even though it didn't go exactly according to plan, and I'm looking forward to whatever this new one brings (mostly, so long as it doesn't involve too much more PT). It's all just part of the big adventure, right?

November 2, 2005

The Rest of the Story

As I sat in a high tech exam room in the Orthopedic Clinic of the UW hospital in July, I can remember trying to catch my breath from the blow that felt like it had been physically dealt to me by this quiet surgeon. I'd waited almost 4 hours for him to come in and give me his verdict on my case. His PA was in the room also, a young woman who reminded me a lot of my oldest sister. She was very good with eye contact, something I'd noticed immediately, but at this point, I was looking anywhere but her eyes. The doctor was finishing up his little speech, his eyes glued to the x-rays on the light board over my left shoulder. I just stared at the travel magazine on the rack over his head, blinking and swallowing rapidly, trying to stop my eyes from filling up.

After reviewing my pre-op x-rays and looking at the series that were made that morning, he came to the conclusion that almost everything I've done to deal with this issue had been more harmful than helpful. He thought I should have never had the surgery I had...that it fixed what seemed to be an obvious problem, when in fact, it wasn't ever the cause of the pain. Not only had the surgery been wrong, but the cortisone shots (7 over a 2 year span) were widely discouraged by most doctors, especially on such a small joint. I should have never had one...let alone 7 injected. I had lost a lot of flexibility in the joint because of the surgery and had a great deal of scar tissue from the surgery and shots.

And to top it all if that wasn't bad enough news...he had no clue where the pain was coming from or what to do about it.
That was the physical blow part.

He sent me for an MRI the next week, and thus began the chapter of this story that I am in now. But that day...walking out of that clinic without dissolving into tears was so incredibly hard. I made it all the way to the parking garage before they came. I had called my mom, and as I started to talk, I lost it. It was so much worse than anything I was expecting to hear from this appointment. I couldn't believe it. All of that for nothing.

Well, fast forward a month. The MRI didn't reveal too much...the screw had caused too much disturbance. It did show some inflammation around a bone on the bottom of my foot, but they weren't certain that meant anything. Their advice was to take the screw out. Sometimes they can cause post-op pain, and it's a simple procedure. So that's what we did. Only, I had to come home to do it. And that fact right there has been my undoing.

I've been home for 2 months now, I found a new doctor...again, and they took the screw out at the end of September. And tomorrow, I am going back to the doctor with the news that it didn't change anything.

I cannot begin to adequately convey my frustration with this situation. It would be one thing if I were dealing with all of this while I was working or in school. But that's not the case. I am at home, just waiting for this to be resolved. Due to the joys of health insurance, I can't work full time nor can I change companies. Basically, I am stuck pulling part time shifts, living with my parents, and I am still dealing with the same amount of pain. Every. Day.

And I'm about to go completely insane. This was not supposed to happen. I wasn't supposed to still be here. I had a job offer, at a place I love. I had a career picked least temporarily. I had the yearnings to travel again and seriously contemplated moving to Italy after Christmas. I had all these possibilities in front of me...all I had to do was come home to deal with my foot for a month and then I could get back to deciding my future.

It would be easier to deal with if I knew what I was up against. But now, with the screw out and no change, this has turned into something I don't really know how to deal with. I finally got an appointment at Mayo, for the 22nd. So, if my TN doctor can't figure out a course of action tomorrow, then I have to wait 3 more weeks before I can get any other answers.

Part of me just wants someone to tell me that they can't do anything about it. That it will just be a chronic pain issue, and to buy some SAS orthopedic shoes and deal. That way, I could at least make a decision about what I'm going to do next. But this hopping from one doctor to another, hoping that someone will fix this just leaves me hanging.

I wish I could tell you that I've used these last 2 months of unexpected vacation to do great productive things. I wish that I'd made a difference in the world by donating all my free time to charities and helping people. Instead I've become a master of filling up days with nothingness. For so long, I just thought all I had to do was get past the surgery, and then I could go and join the human race again. But in the past month, as it became more and more evident that it hadn't fixed anything...I just went to a really dark place, where watching The West Wing and drinking a lot of Diet Coke seemed like the best use of my time.

It's just so disappointing. All of it. The situation and how I've reacted to it.

Maybe tomorrow will bring more answers. It's more likely to bring more frustrations and tears, but I have to hope that it will be more than that. It's all that I have to get me through this.

October 3, 2005

Foot Gallery

This is my foot after they put the screw in.
This is my foot after they took the screw out.

I was up and walking only a day after this last surgery. I'm a big fan of this procedure. I have no clue if it's going to fix the problem, but if you have to have surgery, I highly recommend the "removal of painful hardware" one. It was a breeze. No cast, no crutches, and a complimentary bottle of pain pills.

September 12, 2005

Amen, Brother

Thomas Merton's Prayer
My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.

I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end.

Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you, and I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing.

And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road although I may know nothing about it.

Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death, I will not fear, for you are ever with me and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

September 8, 2005

A Rolling Stone...

Every night I get to this point.

A blank email page open in front of me, the To: box filled in with his name.

And every night, I write an email. Some nights it's a forced casual tone, other nights, it's angry rantings. And at least a couple of times, it's been just plain pathetic.

Up until now, I had yet to do anything beyond save them to my draft box. However, tonight, I erased them all, because I just had this completely irrational fear that they would some how get sent out on accident. At the same time, I've also contemplated actually sending them but claiming that I'd pushed the wrong button and it was just all a whole big mess, and how embarassing, guess you have to talk to me now to at least straighten this all out...yadda, yadda.
But that's so playing the game, and I'm not pyscho enough to go there. Some lessons have been learned, thank you very much, Jon.

I hate that I am still so caught up in this whole thing. I need to get a life. Pronto.
I miss him, sure. I miss his friendship and his conversation.
But I think what I miss more is the idea of this relationship. The hope. The expectation. The excitement.

I was talking to my old piano teacher this afternoon about how fast time flies. I told her that I turn 24 in 2 months, and she commented she was married by that age. We laughed about it and she asked me if I even had anyone on the horizon. I smiled, and said, yes. And then I remembered. So I shook my head and said, well, actually, no. Not any more. But for a brief time, there was.
And I miss that.
But maybe it's good that it ended so quickly. The brief time that it was is obviously something I'm having a hard time getting over, and if this had gone on longer before it ended, I'm sure this part would have been worse.

I asked someone's advice last night on whether or not I should contact him. She was wise, indeed, and asked me to explain why I would want to. What was my purpose?
And if I'm honest with myself, it would be to see if he's changed his mind.
To see if he's handling this better than me.
To see if he regrets the decision he made.
To make him explain it to me just one more time.
So, even though she said I could call if I kept it short and just asked the specific questions I needed answers to, I don't think I'm going to do it. It just doesn't seem quite fair.
And it seems like it has the potential to prolong the suffering, so to speak. I don't really want answers to some of those questions, because then I'd have to live with that knowledge, one way or the other.

In the attempt to make myself less of an emotional deviant, I've tried to not shut down about this. To allow myself to be upset by it, to deal with it while it's happening and not pull my normal tricks of denial and avoidance. But I still haven't figured out where the line is between allowing myself to feel things and dwelling on things I can't change. I think maybe I've let this one run its course as much as I can. So, it's time to toughen up, shut down, and stop thinking about it all the time. I don't know if that's necessarily the "healthy" thing to do...but given where I am now, I've got to do something. My reaction, maybe even my over-reaction, to this is not something I am enjoying very much nor am I impressed by it. For trying so hard to be mature about things, I've definitely wallowed just a bit these past weeks.

So, here's to moving on. May it be swift and painless.

September 5, 2005

Great Expectations

About a week before I left camp, I had this crazy dream about a guy and a marriage and a fight and a baseball game. It was a typical dream for me--full of minute details and vivid scenes. However, it was one of those dreams that was so vivid and detailed that it had convinced my brain that it was reality. It wasn't a happy dream, so I woke up with a chest tight with emotions and pain. It literally took me a full minute or two to realize that it had just been a dream. I sighed with relief, and as my chest relaxed and my anger abated, I fell back asleep.

I hate that feeling, when it feels like someone has placed a bowling ball, or perhaps a small elephant, on your chest and you have that dry, gut-wrenching sobbing effect going on. I can only remember one other dream that woke me up feeling that way and it happened when I was having those nightmares about my friend dying last fall. It's a horrible way to wake up, that's for sure.

I was thinking about the baseball dream last night, as I sat on my bed trying to recover from another full day of being Aunt Tori. (My sister and her kids are still here, our own personal Katrina refugees.)
In the light of day and rationality, the dream made for a great story. But it was a very telling one for me. Because despite the ridiculous nature of the dream, of a guy having to get married because of a contract and an apathy to fight it, what was most real about the whole thing was my reaction to it. I was literally devastated by the idea that I'd lost the guy in the dream--hence the emotions I woke up with. Later on, I was proud of myself and a little scared by the idea that I had allowed myself to get attached enough to this guy that a stupid dream had had such an effect on me. Despite the sad nature of the dream, I was willing to take it all as a good sign.

I was so wrong.

Last week, just about the time that I had finally relaxed into this friendship with the guy and was having fun thinking about the possibilities it held, it abruptly came to an end. Just like that. One night we were talking, sharing those stupid embarrassing stories of mistakes made and lessons learned, and then 36 hrs later, I got a phone call. I guess I knew it was coming, because before he even said what it was that he had called to tell me, I had already started crying.
Talk about a shock to the system. Not only was the guy saying goodbye, I was CRYING! ON THE PHONE!! Oh, the horror.

And honestly, while I made him explain it all at least twice, I'm still a little confused about what happened exactly. I've tried to guess what was going on with him that caused him to want to bail so badly--maybe I scared him off by being honest about my expectations for dating, maybe the long distance thing was too much, maybe he really just didn't think through any of the changes that were going to happen when school started, maybe the age difference mattered, maybe he'd fooled me with his maturity all summer, maybe he had learned something about me that he didn't like, maybe he thought it would be easier to date Moody girls, maybe, maybe, maybe. Truth is, I may never understand what went through his head that week, especially since he decided that our friendship ended last Saturday night and I haven't heard a peep from him since.

For an entire week, every time my phone rang, I thought it was going to be him. Every email that showed up in my inbox disappointed me because it wasn't from him. I am pathetic, I know. But I've finally stopped expecting him to change his mind. I told him he couldn't change his mind as I sat there on my bed doing my best to just hold my shit together long enough to get through that conversation without crying or yelling. I know I shouldn't have made him promise that, but it was simply a knee-jerk reaction from ghosts from my past. And I know he wouldn't go against what he promised me, but my heart still held on a little while longer than my brain.

It's just...after all that we went through that last month...I just always thought it was going to be me and my baggage that screwed this up. And we'd gone through so much and I'd been winning all my battles against my fear and my past...I just never thought to worry that it would be his battles that held us back. I had finally started to relax and I was getting ready to enjoy this friendship and it's future. The fun was finally coming. I know that maybe I have it all backwards, that the fun and excitement should be what the beginning is all about. But I had to get through some stuff first before I could let the fun happen. Maybe that's my problem. I held back for too long. I don't know.

It has not been a fun week and a half. With so many things in my life not going the way they should, this friendship had been such a bright spot for me. And when it ended, I was so sad. Hurricane Katrina happened and dumped most of my Mississippi family on my doorstep, so that has been a big distraction. But it's not been enough to totally overshadow my melancholy.

Multiple times through the course of conversations that last month, we both assured one another that no matter what we were going to be thankful for whatever we got out of this. That we would be fine no matter the outcome. And I know that is true. I am thankful for so many things that happened and for the experience. And I am going to be fine, I know.
But for now...this still sucks. The disappointment is tough.

August 17, 2005


I spent last week on a canoe trip to the Boundary Waters. I really need to take the time to write down the stories from that week, but I don't have the time right now. Life will slow down considerably for me in about week, once I leave camp and go home to deal with foot stuff. I'm planning on playing catch up then. Until are a few pictures from the week.

July 21, 2005

Laughing Instead of Crying

All those things I was scared about happening at my doctor's appointment happened, and it actually was worse than I ever imagined.
But I am not quite ready to talk about it yet. So here's a picture of me attempting to swing dance. Notice the completely exasperated look on my partner's face.
I'll be back when I've figured out just how I'm going to cope with the foot stuff.

July 20, 2005

X-Rays of the Soul

Laying on the end of my bed tonight is a large mailing envelope full of x-rays. It has been branded by the markings of 3 doctor's offices, with ID numbers and dates that mean nothing to me anymore. It holds about 30 or so x-rays, of ankles and feet and toes. The dates start at April of 1992 and continue to May of 2004. The first one shows the x-rays of a 10 yr old girl's ankles and the last one shows, in startling clarity, a 2 inch screw in the foot of a 22 year old woman.

Tomorrow I will be taking this package of x-rays to a doctor in Madison, WI. I spent today tracking them down and taking them from the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, where they were sent in hopes of getting me an appointment, and bringing them back to Wisconsin. I have almost given up hope for getting an appointment at Mayo. I knew it was a long process to get in with them. But I can't wait any longer. I have to have some help. Now.
So, I will be going to a doctor in Madison tomorrow, with the hope that I will walk out of there with some answers, and not just a new pain medicine to try.
I want to know why. I want someone to do something about it. I desperately want someone to tell me that they can make it better. I don't want to just manage the pain, I want it gone.

It's been a long and frustrating day. I found out that my x-rays didn't get sent in time for my appointment in Madison, so my only alternative was to drive to Mayo and get them. I drove for 3 hrs to get there, waited for an hour, picked up my package, was told to not worry about getting them back soon because it was still going to be a long time before they needed them, and then drove 3 hrs back to work.
Things have been stressful at work lately because of some situations that have come about with the staff and I spent the majority of my time on the road thinking about those situations and trying to figure out what their resolutions looked like.
But when I got back, I pulled out the x-rays from the big manila envelope and starting looking through 13 years of pain and frustration. I was in the lobby showing them to my boss and explaining how the x-rays fit into my life chronologically. As I watched her, I saw the understanding and sympathy hit her eyes as she grasped what my life had been like while I dealt with my feet. She's only been around for this last surgery, so the rest of this stuff wasn't something she really associated with me.

I've been doing this for a long time now. It used to be such a huge part of me. But then I got a break for a couple of years at the end of high school and early college, and I learned what it was like to be able to just do whatever I wanted and not worry about my feet. Even when this thing with my toe became a problem, I just viewed it as a minor inconvenience. The cortisone shots helped me pretend like nothing was wrong, since I couldn't feel the pain anymore. Going into the surgery, I still had the mindset that this was just going to be a quick little procedure, and that it was going to set me right back into the lifestyle that I had only enjoyed a little while. Life without orthopedic surgeons and casts and pain medication.
Unfortunately, it didn't do that. And I may be wrong, but I think tomorrow I am going to find out if I get to keep that mindset, or if I'm going to have to revert back to what life used to be like. Part of my problem this summer has been that I haven't been taking enough precautions and saying no to doing stupid things that I know will cause problems. I've tried to live my life like I don't have a medical condition that limits what I am capable of doing.
I just really liked those few years when I had a break, and it's hard to let that go. I've tasted freedom and it was good. I want that back again.

I know it sounds like I am just whining and having a pity party(...and why am I only writing this summer about my stupid feet!? I know, I know. I'm sorry! I'm so self-absorbed this summer!).
But in all honesty, I'm so freaking nervous about tomorrow and what this new guy is going to say. I'm so scared that if he tells me that he has no answers, or if he hands me a prescription for pain medication and admonitions for taking it easy, I'm going to lose it. I already broke under the weight of this thing once this summer. I hit rock bottom that day I wrote and I don't know what it would look like if I went there again.
So, I guess the only way to find out is to go to sleep and let tomorrow come. I hope I have the strength to deal with whatever it brings with it.

June 28, 2005

Unsatisfactory Results...

"Sucess will be based on many things including realistic patient expectations."

That's my problem. I didn't have realistic expectations. I naively trusted my doctor when he told me that surgery was the next step in dealing with my problem. I thought I had no other options. I thought it would take away the pain. I thought it fix everything.

It didn't.

Today has sucked on so many levels. I had such great plans for this day off. I really needed a day off this week...a day to recharge and rest and to think. I really wanted to think to day. I know that sounds stupid to say, but I can see that I haven't been processing all the events of this last year in a healthy manner and I really need to get some perspective on it before I can more forward. In my life and my faith and in my future.
I really needed to think today. I really wanted to.

But instead, I have cried all day. I made one phone call this morning to check on some x-rays I have been trying to get up to Mayo for the past month, and it ruined my whole day.
My whole stinkin' day. I've been on the phone with so many doctors and so many clinics. I cried on the phone with my dad, which I don't think I've ever done. I sat in an emergency room for hours to get an x-ray done.
And now, it's late and I'm tired and I have a headache and I still can't stop crying. And I know nothing more than when I started all this mess this morning. No answers, no explanations for the pain, no help in sight. Just more waiting.

My mom said that it's ok to grieve my pain. That it's not complaining and it's not feeling sorry for myself. That it's ok to grieve what I've lost and how my life's changed because of it.

I've been dealing with this pain in some form or another for almost 13 years. 13 years.

I think I'm grieving all 13 years in one day. Leave it to me to try and over-achieve at even this.

It's getting to me. I have tried so desperately hard to be a good sport about this situaiton. I have tried to be patient and understanding and tough. But I can't do it anymore. It's been so bad the last couple of weeks. And I don't know why. If I knew why, then maybe I could deal with it better. I just want to know how to make it stop.

I'm sorry for whining.

June 23, 2005


I know, I know. It's been so long...and yet, you people still check here on a regular basis to see if I've written anything. I feel guilty for not writing, yet, I never seem to have the time to write.
Fact is...I do have time to write, I get breaks and I have a day off each week, but the inspiration has been thus far lacking a great deal.
Processing leaving Guate was and is a weird thing to do. Added to the fact that I seem to work all the time and have taken on 10 college age people whom I have to mentor/be in charge of...and well, my mental capacity has just not been enough to sort through all that yet.
But I'm trying to work on it. I won't promise a post any time this weekend, cause I work hardest Wednesday-Sunday, but maybe on Monday (my day off)....just maybe I will force myself to sit down and process. I know I need to do it and I know you are just dying to read about it. :)

June 16, 2005


I've been back in the States for 36 days now. It has been the fastest 36 days of my life. It still feels like I just stepped off that plane in Nashville last night. Life has been going at this insane warped speed for the last couple of weeks and I feel like all I've been able to do is just hold on while it flies by. This

May 3, 2005

Welcome to the World, my Gabby girl. Posted by Hello

Lessons in Failing

I was sitting around a camp fire in the Fall Creek Falls State Park about 4 months ago, letting these women psychoanalyze me. I was freezing, because no matter how mild a night it was, it was still WINTER, and I’d been living in the Land of Eternal Spring for the last 3 months. But the company I had with me and the millions of stars that looked down on us while we talked made up for any temporary discomfort I might have experienced due to the cold.

I don’t remember all of our conversation from that night, but I do remember what was going through my mind almost the entire night. It was during those weeks I had at home over Christmas that I was hoping to figure out my future. I desperately wanted answers or guidance or advice or anything so long as it involved someone else telling me what to do next. I’d had the talk with my parents about not going to seminary, and I’d survived it without breaking down. I even learned that my parents are almost completely clueless when it comes to understanding just how hard I’ve tried to please them and not ever let them down.

But still, I had no answers about where I was going next. As we settled down by the campfire that night and began talking, I kept thinking—This is it. If they can’t help me figure out what’s going on with me, then I don’t know who can. I did feel bad because all I wanted to do was talk about myself and my situation. The radio station in my head was turned to worry, all day and all night. I was so freaked out by my future that I was pretty much an obsessed, self-absorbed, walking pity party.

So, I waited my turn, listened as well as I could, and tried to find the words to explain to them just what was in my heart. I finally found some way to bring it up in the conversation, I don’t remember how, but I’m sure it was a well-timed and subtle segue-way. You know, like yeah, I think that’s a great idea for our canoe trip, it reminds me of that time when I was trying to figure out WHAT IN THE HELL IS GOING ON WITH MY LIFE. PLEASE HELP ME!!
But in the way of truly wise friends, they didn’t tell me what to do. No suggestions, advice, or handbooks were given out, much to my utter disappointment. Instead, I found myself at a fireside therapy session. A few well placed questions later, and I was diagnosed. The verdict: I am afraid of failing. At the time, I thought, Well, duh. But why aren’t you telling me something useful?! Why aren’t you giving me the answers?

4 months later, I am finally beginning to understand what they meant.

I failed here in Guatemala.

I know many people will tell you otherwise. Even my boss, who I feel I disappointed the most, won’t tell you that I failed. But, in my mind, if I were to be completely honest with you about this experience, I would tell you that this feels like a failure. And that’s what matters more than the factual reality of the situation…I feel like I failed.

And to be honest, that feeling has been around for a long time. I’m not sure I ever stood a chance with myself. I have had such positive job experiences in the past, that my expectations for myself and for my reception here were ridiculously high. The moment I first felt that I wasn’t the right person for this job came within the first couple of weeks, and it sabotaged almost any chance I had for success. This wasn’t going to be Jasper, where I had been “the best intern they’d had in a decade.” And it wasn’t the coffee shop, where my boss immediately trusted me with great responsibility and said that they would have never made it through the first 6 months without me. And it certainly wasn’t like any camp job that I’d ever had, where I’d usually bide my time until I eventually became known for being a good counselor who worked hard and was trusted.

Looking back, I am surprised my head was able to fit on the plane coming down here.

The truth of the matter is that I haven’t ever really flopped majorly before. (Except for maybe something piano related.) When it comes to working, though, I can usually be counted on to do my job and do it well. School was easy, my parents instilled a good work ethic in me, and I’d just kind of coasted along until I got here.

I wasn’t the right person for the job. I don’t know if that is my fault or if it’s my boss’s fault or if it’s really anyone’s fault. But the fact remains, my personality was not the one needed to do what was supposed to be done here. And regardless of whether or not it was my fault, because I had been hired to do this specific job and I wasn’t able to do it, I felt like I was failing.

I could have told you all this last December. I could have told you that I wasn’t right and that I felt horrible that I was letting my boss down. I could have told you that it was bothering me that I couldn’t do what they wanted me to do. And I could have told you that it made me miserable to be here because of that.

But what I am beginning to realize is that this experience isn’t about the failing. Did I succeed in doing everything in my job description? No. Did I convince my boss and the people I worked with that I was a hard-working talented person? No. Did I accomplish any of my personal goals in taking this job? No. Did I learn how to be a youth minister? No. Did I stick it out and come to work every day, even when I felt like I wasn’t accomplishing anything and that I was ill-equipped to handle any of the challenges given to me? Yes. And that’s what matters. I may have failed at 99% of what I came down here to do...but at least I showed up to play.

They were right. I hate failing. I take it really hard. It’s made the last year incredibly frustrating--probably unnecessarily so in some cases. It’s taken huge whacks at my confidence in myself and my abilities and talents. It first manifested itself in my doubting my ability to do youth ministry and it’s continued to sneak it’s way into varied aspects of my personality as the months have passed. It’s at the point where I can’t tell anymore if my doubts come from valid conclusions or ones that have been tainted by the failure I’ve felt here.

I’m going home next week, and I’ve been trying to reflect on my time here in Guatemala. It’s hard to do that without being completely removed from the situation yet. I know, however, that my ability to process this is going to be greatly hindered by the schedule that I am going to have to keep once I step off the plane. It’s also hard to do with this lens of failure I have been looking through.
In many ways, this has been one of the most enriching, life-altering experiences of my life, and it seems incongruous to call that a failure. If I separate the two experiences—the living in a foreign country and the internship, then I have two very different tales to tell. Living outside the US, even for this short period of time, has opened my eyes, my mind, and my heart in ways that I am just beginning to understand. I will probably continue to see the effects of this experience for years to come. I hope so. I don’t ever want to forget what it was like to step out and get a new perspective on the world I thought I understood.

Someone asked me last week if I was glad that I came to Guatemala. And I was able to answer them with a resounding yes. They then asked me why I was so emphatic about it. And I was able to tell them: Because I learned how to fail in Guatemala.

April 26, 2005


Here's a reason why I'm not sad about only have 2 weeks left in Guatemala... Posted by Hello


And here's a reason why I am sad about leaving. I'm going to miss these girls! Posted by Hello

April 21, 2005

Shot Heard Round The Block

Last night, a man was shot across the street from where I work.

When I pulled into work around 6 last night, there was a crowd gathering at the corner. There is usually a couple of food stands that set up there during the day, but this crowd was obviously not waiting in line for a churro.
As I parked my car, two ambulances came roaring in, and I noticed that my boss and another woman from church were standing in the street.
I found out later that a man had walked up to another man, shot him 5 times, point blank in the chest, and then ran away. He ran into our parking lot, hid behind the car parked next to mine for a while, and then ran out.
I don't know what happened to the man who got shot, but I doubt that he survived 5 gunshot wounds.
As for the guy who shot him, I'm willing to bet that he ran up a couple of streets, got on a bus, and went home.

I have less than 3 weeks left in Guatemala. Some days that makes me really sad. But last night, I wasn't sad at all about leaving. I have been so lucky to avoid any kind of violence in my time here, and it makes me forget that it happens every day, all over the city. How sad.

April 14, 2005

Thursday's Child Has Far To Go

The plan had been simple. Drive to the beach. Lounge around the pool all afternoon. Drive home. That’s it. That’s all we wanted to do. Not a complicated ordeal.

It should have been a breeze. It should have been a relaxing day

It should have been a lot of things.

But what it ended up being was something vastly different from what it should have been.

A 2 and a half hour drive became 6 hours.

A decision between going straight or turning left had consequences of epic proportions.

It became a day of small victories. Of battles fought and won. We waged a heroic fight, and eventually, overcame all obstacles. We may have lost our sanity, I may have messed up David's last day in Guatemala, my muffler may never be the same again, but by golly, we made it to the beach.

We didn’t let the protestors stop us. No! We charged on. Damn them who say driving into oncoming traffic is dangerous. We didn’t care! We were determined to go to the beach, come hell or mobs of Guatemalan protestors.

And who cares that our directions left a lot to be desired. I’d made the same drive just a short 4 months prior while sitting in the backseat of someone else's car. Surely the details that were left out of the directions I could make up for with my excellent memory.

It also didn’t matter that my cell phone lost service 45 minutes out of the city and I lost my opportunity to call people for better directions. And no need to tell David of that fact. I didn’t want to make the poor guy worry about it. Besides…everything had been easy since we passed the protestors. How bad could it get? We'd be sitting on the beach in a short 2 hours and then I could tell him that I had no way of getting us any help if, by some crazy turn of events, I had gotten us lost in southeast Guatemala.

So, I pressed on, without good directions and no way of getting better ones. When we passed the sign for the turn off to Escuintla, I took it. I don’t know why, and less than 5 minutes had passed before I realized I probably shouldn’t have. But oh well, we had Escuintla on one set of directions, so I figured at worst it would add 30 minutes to a our trip.
30 minutes. Big deal. Who cares about a lousy 30 minutes?

We kept trucking along. By then, we knew for sure we were following the “longer” route on the directions, but still eventually finding all the right cities. The Guatemalan countryside was beautiful, Jack Johnson was “La da da da da da da da da-ing” on the radio, and I was still feeling fairly confident that we were heading in the right direction. Not totally confident since I knew we were taking the longer route, the route I didn’t know, but I was still trusting that we were going to make it.

It all began to unravel during the Taxisco fiasco. On our directions it said to turn left to Taxisco and go to La Avellana. Once again, sounded simple but ended up being impossible. We drove straight though Taxisco without seeing any kind of sign for La Avellana or even another road. It was a small town with only one main road coming through it. Having no alternative, we took the road leading out of Taxisco, even though we had no idea where it was going to take us. After about 10 minutes, we passed through a small village. Checking with our map (THANK GOD FOR THE MAP), we realized we were heading straight for EL Salvador. Now, had we had our passports with us, that would have been a viable option. Sadly, sans passports, it just meant we were going in the wrong direction. Determining that we made a left when we should have made a right, we pulled a quick U-ey and turned around to head the right direction.
Or so we thought.
Actually, once we passed the road we had made our "mistake" at, I began to get a funny feeling. While one patch of open countryside is not readily identifiable from another patch of open countryside, I had a bad feeling that we'd already been here before. I consulted David (who I later figured out doesn't pay a bit of attention to landmarks, signs, or buildings while driving) who disagreed and didn't think any of this looked familiar. Left with no alternative but to keep driving, I kept on going. After another 20 minutes or so, I think I may have let out a loud "SHIT!" (I'm not absolutely positive that shit was my expletive of choice at the moment, but you get the idea.) We had just passed a sign for the Guatemalan Drive-Thru Safari. I am not sure what a drive-thru Safari is, but I was quite certain we had passed this exact same business an hour ago when we were still looking for Taxisco. Some how, we managed to just make a huge circle, and were now heading back to Escuintla.
It was at this moment that I was almost gave up. I was feeling horrible about wasting our morning. I felt stupid for not calling someone for better directions before we got on the road. I had no clue how to get us to the beach and I was beyond frustrated. I think it was at this point that I started apologizing every 5 minutes or so.

That was probably pretty annoying for David.

We ended up back in Escuintla (I think), where we found a road that was headed for Puerto San Jose, which we knew for a fact was on the coast. Road CA-9. It was supposed to be our salvation.
Like so many things that day, it did exactly what it was supposed to do but only in some kind of sick, twisted way. It got us to San Jose, yes. But it was this horrible road that was in the process of being repaved. At least, that's what all the signs said. However, it looked like it had been unpaved for a very long time and was going to remain that way for a while yet.
The worst part about this road wasn't the bumps and gravel and general malaise of the was the brief stretches of intact paved road that totally messed with your head. You'd reach one, and think perhaps that the worst was over. From here on out it would be smooth sailing and San Jose was just minutes away. And then BAM! the asphalt would end and you'd be back to driving 15 miles an hour, dodging potholes and goats and trucks overflowing with sugarcane. It did this over and over until I couldn't handle it anymore and let David drive.

Eventually, we did make it to San Jose. And EVENTUALLY, we made it Iztapa. I think maybe I have blocked out this part of the trip because I don't remember how we did it. I just know it involved turning around a lot on a narrow, sketchy looking road and eventually asking the guard to Aqua Magic to help us. By then, I didn't care anymore. I'd given up hope that we were going to make it anywhere before sundown. I began thinking about how to get back to the city without having to go anywhere near CA-9 again.
But somehow...we found the dirt road that took us to the ferry we needed. Once we made it to the ferry, I knew we were going to make it. One left hand turn, 20 kms and we were there. Oddly enough, I wasn't very excited. Relieved? Yes. Excited? No.
But I think the day had taken it's toll on me by then. It was almost 3 o'clock--6 hours after we had set out for the beach. I still felt horrible that all of this had happened. I know we tried to make it sound better by saying that at least we got a good story out of it, but I still think I would have chosen the short, direct route over the good story. But only because my actions had involved other people. I can go back to the beach anytime, but this was David's chance to hang out on the Pacific coast of Guatemala and I kind of messed it up. Yes, we made it eventually, and we had a good time spending 3 hours hanging out by the pool and in the hammocks...but it was only a fraction of how good the day could have been.
But OH WELL. It's still a good story. And not a day I will soon forget.

Setting Sun on the Pacific Ocean Posted by Hello

April 9, 2005

Tikal and All

When I found out David was coming, for real, to Guatemala and that it wasn’t just a passing comment, I was equally thrilled and nervous. I was thrilled because it meant regardless of how he and I got along, I was going to Tikal finally.
Yes, I know it sounds like I was using him…but that’s only because I was using him. Give me a break. I’ve been here for months and I’ve done all the traveling I have the guts to do by myself and I am running out of time. I was willing to deal with anyone, so long as they would take up the seat next to me on the plane and tour bus.
I was worried because I’ve never spent more than a couple of hours at a time with David, and it was usually with a large group of people or at a party. I was nervous that we were going to run out of conversation topics by the time we left the airport, and that it then would become this unbearably awkward permanent lull. I even figured out which would be the best hostel in Antigua to send him to if he got too miserable.
With all the worrying I was doing, you’d think I hated David or thought he was the most annoying person on the planet. Neither of which are true. In fact, I’ve always liked David and got excited when I knew he was going to be in Georgetown or at one Jenny’s parties. Jenny is the only college friend I know that successfully merged her high school friends with her college friends on more than one occasion without any fatalities. Those crazy kids from Glasgow were a lot of fun and I always enjoyed time spent with them. So, in actuality, besides all the pointless what-if-ing I was doing, and the fact that I was desperate for company of any sort, I was really looking forward to time spent with him. If nothing else, I was going to see if my impression of him held up once we spent time together mano y mano. Or mano y womano. Or one on one. Or David and Tori, without Jenny. Or whatever. You get the point.
Most of my fears disappeared the moment he opened his backpack and pulled out the biggest stash of Mt Dew I have ever seen. Even if the week sucked, I could be so buzzed out on caffeine that it wouldn’t matter. It was amazing. I have no clue how he managed to bring me that much Mt Dew, and yet he never checked any luggage and he didn’t smell by the end of the week. If nothing else, the boy knows how to pack.
Monday was a low-key day. With all the traveling he’d done already, added to the fact that we had to be back at the airport by 5AM to catch our flight to Tikal, I decided to not drag him out of the city. We drove around a while, checked out the grocery store, and hit a few highlights, before I had mercy on him and let him take a nap before dinner. We spent the night at the house hanging out with the girls I live with. (Who, by the way, are completely in love with him now. Not an hour has gone by since he left that they haven’t brought him up in conversation around me. They even drew pictures of him last night and wanted to write him an email.)

Hi! I'm David. I am very cute, aren't i? "Tapioca! Tapioca!"  Posted by Hello
Tuesday morning came way too soon. I literally couldn’t sleep all night long. I don’t know if it was because of being in a different bed, or if had to do with the fact that I was so excited. Either way, I got up at 4, exhausted and needing large amounts of caffeine. We made it to the airport and got on the flight without any problems. In fact, they never even asked to see any ID or any confirmation that we were who the tickets we handed them said we were at either airport. Either we look like very trust-worthy tourists or they just didn’t care one way or the other. Just so long as I didn’t try to smuggle at banana or mango past them and they were satisfied. So, if you are planning terrorist activity in the Peten, just make sure you don’t throw an apple in your backpack.
Our guide, an incredible man named Juan, met us at the airport and took us, along with 2 other tourists out to the park. Juan is quite possibly the best tour guide on the planet. He was hilarious and not afraid to use sarcasm. His English was wonderful and he was not afraid to throw around words like voracious or omnivore. He also seemed to know everything there was to know about the park and the ruins, and we were never able to stump him with our questions. In fact, I think his father or brother or great-uncle twice removed was one of the first people to find some of the ruins and was made into a park ranger. Or something like that.
The ruins themselves were overwhelming in how amazing they were. I’ve never seen something so incredible as those pyramids and temples that just rose out of the jungle. We climbed two: the Damascus temple and Temple IV. The views from the top were incredible and worth every one of the 158 steps we climbed to get there.

On top of ol' Damascus Posted by Hello
Gail and Charlie, an older married couple from Maine who were also in our tour group were very nice, even though Charlie kept taking pictures of me and David. I don’t really know why, although at lunch he did imply that he would give us his blessing if we ever wanted to get married. They had great Maine accents and I loved listening to them talk. And their Spanish pronunciation was hilarious. “Because,” as Charlie told us, “after a while you just pick up things like ‘polo’ is chicken” (instead of pollo, which sounds more like “poyo” and not polo). Anyway, it was awesome to have only 4 people total in our tour group.
There are many hilarious stories from the day, but in the interest of getting through this post before dawn, I’ll save them for later. That night we went down to 4 degrees north for dinner, and managed to get offered the “romantic” table, which was this awesome table out on the balcony overlooking the street. It was a little cold and my body was reeling from the extremes in temperature we’d been through that day (it was 95 degrees in Tikal and had 80% humidity), but the food was amazing and totally worth being a little cold for.
Wednesday we decided to go to Antigua, which is one of my favorite places in all of Guatemala. I’ve pretty well explored the city as much as possible by now, but it was fun to show it all to David and watch him take it in. My favorite part of that day was the conversations we had while wondering through the beautiful cathedrals of the city. It was the first time I’ve said out loud any of these things I’ve been dealing with lately, and it felt kind of weird to be doing it in these beautiful old churches, but at the same time…if you can’t talk about God in church, where can you talk about him?
By Wednesday night, I was exhausted and my foot was killing me. I didn’t sleep well for the rest of the week because of the pain, but I figured a day on the beach on Thursday would be the perfect remedy for that.

If only I had known.

No matter how many drafts I make, I will never, ever be able to capture Thursday in words. It’s just not possible. The day was made up of a thousand stories and images that will never be done justice by a blog entry.
The TLC protestors blocking the road out of the city. The decision to jump the median and drive on wrong side of the road just to see how far we could get. Realizing that we could get around the roadblock and still go to the beach. Accidentally taking the road to Escuintla instead of going straight. Getting to Taxisco and not finding the road to the beach. That damn Safari place that confirmed my suspicion that we had just driven in a huge circle and were again GOING THE WRONG WAY. Finally finding CA-9 and the sense of elation and relief that I prematurely let invade my senses, only to be jarred back into the nightmare once we hit the road work and that horrible, god-forsaken road.. Driving for 45 minutes down an unpaved, uneven road that destroyed my muffler and turned my car from an unassuming alto into a gravelly bass. David mercifully offering to drive so that I could remain sane. Feeling like the road was going to be a dead end and the feeling of dread I got when we went around the second road block of the day. Feeling like I was ruining David’s trip by being such a stubborn idiot and getting us lost in the middle of Guatemala. Trying to keep my cool and keep my insanely stressed out status as hidden as possible so that at least I wouldn’t drive him insane with how frustrated I was.
Finally getting to Iztapa, which was where we had been trying to get all morning. Seeing the sign for the “real” CA-9 intersection I had been looking for all day. Knowing that we were going to be able to get home in less than 3 hours. Aqua Magic and that road that finally dead ended at the ferry we should have been at 4 hours before. Finally knowing exactly where we were. Pulling into the Utz Tzaba parking lot and standing up for the first time in 5 hours. That insanely sour limonada and walking into the Pacific Ocean for the second time in my life, which made me relax for the first time since I woke up that morning. Playing in the pool and lying in the hammocks, listening to the ocean beat upon the shore and letting the wind tie my hair into knots. Getting back into the car after only 3 hours spent on the beach. Still feeling bad that I’d messed up what was supposed to be a relaxing day, but appreciating the fact that David hadn’t once tried to bite my head off even though he deserved at least one good sucker punch.

Utz Tzaba, FINALLY Posted by Hello
Like I said, it was an insane day. But fortunately, David was a good sport about it all. And in the end, days like that always make for the best stories. Right? It was all worth it because now we have crazy stories to tell. Right?
Lord, I hope so.

The rest of the week was spent either hanging out with the girls at the house or sitting around watching David fall asleep if there was more than a 5 minute lull in conversation and a place to sit down. I used to think Ali was the “nappiest” person I knew, but David is in a league of his own.

All in all, this was probably the best week I’ve had in Guatemala. It helps, of course, that I didn’t have to deal with work or Paul almost all week. But mainly it was because I had someone to share all of this with. I’m sad it’s over, but it was fun while it lasted.

March 23, 2005

Seyler, Party of One.

I am so much fun to hang out with.
And, I should know, I've spent the last 48 hours with me, and I'm having a blast.

I have this entire week off from work, and the family I live with is gone on vacation until Saturday. Which means...yup, you guessed it. I get to be completely alone time for the first time since October. It's amazing. I've read books, I've watched tv, I've cooked all my favorite things, I've walked around in my pajamas for half the day, I've laid out and gotten a nice burn on my back. Basically, I've been lazy as an overweight teenage boy...minus the role playing computer games. I've also had to deal with one hell of a yappy dog, but it's a sacrifice I am ok with making since she's the only other thing I have to share the house with this week. She drove me insane last night, but we have an agreement for tonight. If she barks for more than 10 minutes, I'm throwing her out into the street for the night. We'll see just how yappy this ball of fluff gets when she has to rough it.

It's Semana Santa, aka Holy Week. In the States that means you may or may not get Good Friday off and you get to look forward to the Easter Bunny visiting soon. In Guatemala, it means the entire city takes off work and heads to the beaches and resorts.
And I am not exagerrating when I say the entire city. Even the street vendors and peddlers were scarce today. I only saw the guy who gargles gasoline and then spits it out through a lighter. And that guy...I think maybe he's swallowed just a bit too much excess gasoline. He's burned off his eyebrows and has this slightly charred look about him.

I left the house for a couple of hours today to run some errands. As I was pulling out of the neighborhood, I glanced at the clock, realized it was 12:45 and groaned. I was heading straight into the worst part of the lunch traffic. Only...there wasn't any traffic. There was hardly any cars at all. It was like driving around the city after midnight. I got to go above 40 in daylight for the first time. It was so much, that I just drove around for a while, relishing in the light traffic. It was insane. I know I've complained enough about traffic that you'll understand just how eerie it was to fly down the main streets, only have to stop for the occasional stop light. I made the big loop from the house to the church today trying to find a street vendor selling phone cards. It took me 10 minutes to do what normally could take up to an hour. It was so cool.

As much as I like and appreciate the solitude time, I am kind of bummed that I have to spend my only vacation time by myself. Most of the friends I have here had family plans for the week or are otherwise occupied, and I never could convince anyone from home to quit their jobs so that they could come visit. I would like to just take off by myself, but there are a couple of problems with that. 1) It's not safe (the Guate mantra) and I'm not gutsy enough to ignore that, 2) It's lonely to go sight seeing by yourself and, 3) Semana Santa is the most expensive time to travel all year long and I am relatively broke. I have some travel/souvenir money set aside to spend these last weeks...but there is a slim chance I might have a travel buddy soon, so I'm holding on to the nest egg until I find out what happens with that.

Well, my chicken/pasta concoction is just about finished, so I'm going to go see how it turned out.

Soundtrack In My Mind

Homeward Bound

In the quiet misty morning when the moon has gone to bed,

When the sparrows stop their singing and the sky is clear and red.

When the summer’s ceased its gleaming,

When the corn is past its prime,

When adventure’s lost its meaning,

I’ll be homeward bound in time.

Bind me not to the pasture,

chain me not to the plow.

Set me free to find my calling

and I’ll return to you somehow.

If you find it’s me your missing,

if you’re hoping I’ll return.

To your thoughts I’ll soon be list’ning,

and in the road I’ll stop and turn.

Then the wind will set me racing

as my journey nears its end.

And the path I’ll be retracing

when I’m homeward bound again.

Bind me not to the pasture,

chain me not to the plow.

Set me free to find my calling

and I’ll return to you somehow.

In the quiet misty morning

when the moon has gone to bed,

When the sparrows stop their singing,

I’ll be homeward bound again.

March 11, 2005

2 Month Mark

2 months to the day.

It's with mixed emotions that I hit this benchmark. I've been back here for 2 months since my Christmas trip, and I'm now half way through the 4 months I was facing the day I got on that plane in Nashville. The last two months have flown by, but this past week has dragged on unmercifully. I can't believe it's only Friday night.
I miss Sascha. He helped make the time go by so much faster, and now the next 2 months seem to loom before me without the hope of a social life. But, he's been gone a week now, and even though he doesn't seem terribly happy to be back in Germany, the fact remains that he is staying there and not coming back to rescue me from boredom.

2 months.
There are so many things I still want to do. So many places I haven't been yet. I have been here for 6 months and I have barely left the city. I know it's my job to be here and to be working, and not acting the tourist. But these are the last 2 months I have in Guatemala, possibly for the rest of my life, and I at least want to see some of it. Besides, I am so OVER this city. I could use a break from it for a couple of days.

Wow. 2 whole months left.
I know that the day I get on the plane to leave here, my heart is going to be excited and sad, all at the same time. Life is going to start moving at such a rapid pace very soon and I'm just not sure I'm going to be up to processing it all fast enough. I don't want to miss out on learning all the lessons I have to learn here; I don't want to waste what has been an amazing, albeit hard, experience for me. I'm trying really hard to keep my head here and focused on the task it hand. It's hard to do that, especially when my calender for the days I'll have in transition at home are already getting too full. I'm not going to have time to decompress until I hit Wisconsin.

But, it's going to be okay. I'll figure this stuff out as I go, and I'm going to try to absorb as much of this adventure as I possibly can in the 2 months I have left. I know I'll regret it if I don't, and I don't want to live with that. So, here's to you, the 2 months I have left. May they be amazing.

March 6, 2005

Just One of THOSE Weeks

Some days, I wake up, take one look at the bright Guatemalan sun and think how amazing it is that it is that I am here.

Ok, so maybe once every 2 months I do that. But still, the sentiment is there sometimes.

There are other mornings when I roll over and think, "Why in the world is that damn peacock making so much noise?! Who ever thought having peacock for a pet would make for good relations with the neighbors?!"

And then, there are those mornings, when the alarm goes off, and I roll over and think, "What the...? It's still dark outside. It must really be 5 in the morning instead of 7. Cause it's the dry season and we all know it doesn't get cloudy and rain in the DRY season." But one look at my watch and another glimpse out the window, and I discover that indeed, sometimes it does rain in the dry season.
That's what happened last Monday morning. It hasn't rained in almost 4 months, but it rained a couple of times last week. I should have taken it for the omen that it was and refused to get out of my bed all week. But stupid, unsusperstitious me had to leave the security of my bed and launch into this crazy week.
It all started out harmless enough. I was invited over for dinner Monday night. But somewhere between that evening and around 8PM on Tuesday, something went horribly, horribly wrong with my stomach. After 5 months of putting up with Guatemalan food and germs and bacteria, my stomach revolted. I won't go into details, cause we all know I'm not a big fan of the bodily functions, but suffice to say that I lived off gatorade and soda crackers for the next 4 days. I like to call it the Guatemalan diet.
Secondly, my friend left this week. He is now back in Germany where he belongs, and I am stuck in Guatemala for the next 2 months without any social life on the horizon. I was sad to see him go, but such is life, I guess. I knew he was going to be leaving eventually, but I don't regret getting to know him or sharing the time we had together. I knew it would make it hurt worse to say goodbye, but it was worth it. I don't know why God puts these seemingly random people in our paths for such short periods of time, but for whatever the reason, I am thankful.
Thirdly, I was supposed to go to Tikal on Friday with some people I know from home that were here on a mission trip, but somehow, my reservation got dropped and there wasn't any space for me. That really didn't help my already depressed state. But I did get to see them again at the airport before they left to go home, so I glad. Even though it was a short visit with them, it made my day to see a familiar face and get a hug from someone I know cares about me. Being down here, isolated from all my friends and family and community of support, can be really tough some days. I'd like to deny it and say that I am superhuman and that it doesn't bother me, but I can admit to the loneliness and how you feel like there is no one here who really knows you or understands you. So, the Q20 I had to pay for parking two days in a row at the airport was worth the hug I got.
Lastly, work is crap. That's not new, but on top of these other things, it just made this week harder.

Anyway, enough of the pity party. Next week is going to be busy and hopefully will keep my mind from dwelling on all these things. I have such a short amount of time left and I know I don't need to spend it feeling sorry for myself. I'll save that for August, when I am home and broke and still don't have a job!

February 22, 2005

I'm Gonna Bring You Home to Momma

Yesterday, I was at work when the intercom rang. I picked up the phone with my normal greeting of "how-dee."
(I know it is terribly Southern cliche-ish to say "howdy", but from my first day here, they have been terribly disappointed by my light Southern accent and lack of typical Southern to appease them, and to make the secretary laugh, I always answer the phone with a gutsy "howdy!")
It was the secretary calling me, and she asked if I could come down to the office for a minute. So, I got up from my desk, and jumped down the stairs and casually sauntered into her office, expecting a question about the schedule or the bulletin since that is our normal Monday afternoon routine. Instead, I walked right into the lion's den.
She had kind of a nervous look on her face and it took me a second to realize there was someone else in the office. She cleared her throat and said, "Tori, I'd like you to meet Juan (actually, I don't remember his name, but we'll stick with Juan for now)." So, I smiled at this guy who looked to be in his early to mid 30's and shook his hand. He didn't go in for the Guate greeting with the kiss and such, in what is normally an attempt to look American.
And then it got quiet.
He was just looking at me with this wide grin, and I was looking at the secretary waiting for her to tell me what she needed, and she just sat there reading the newspaper, not looking at either of us.
It took me a second to realize that I had been paged downstairs to talk to this guy, but I eventually figured it out, and so I turned my attention to him and tried to figure out what he wanted with me.
After the questions about how I liked Guate and about my home in the States, I began to get suspicious. It only took him a few more questions to proclaim that we both had a lot of things in common. Obviously a lot in common, you know, because we both liked dogs, and he used to own a horse and I went to school in Kentucky--where they have a lot of horses, and because he learned English in Michigan and I've been to the airport in Michigan. I started getting really nervous then. The secretary was giving me no help, and was staying out of the conversation almost entirely, except for when Juan needed help translating a word. I had no clue how to get myself out of this situation that was steadily becoming more and more obvious. I tried to be nice and just answer his questions as honestly and as succinctly as possible, without giving away that I was totally at a loss as to how to handle this situation in a culturally correct way.
It was when he started asking about my schedule and what was my least busy day that I knew I needed to get out of there and fast. But before I figured out how to make that happen, he told me that he wanted to give me a tour of Guatemala and that he wanted me to meet his parents.

I swear my mouth hit the floor at the point. I may not know a lot about Guatemalan culture, but I knew that this kid was jumping light years ahead of asking for a date. !!Meet his parents!! I just looked at the secretary and even she had stopped pretending to read the paper and was staring at the guy. I don't rightly remember what I said at the point, but I'm pretty sure it involved a lot of fast mumbling. I then shook his hand and told him I needed to get back to work, said mucho gusto, and then proceeded to bolt back up the stairs to the yenta-free zone that is my office.

Later on that afternoon, when I was sure Juan had left the building, I went back downstairs and demanded to know who he was and what in the world had just happened. The secretary just sat there and laughed at me. She said she had no idea what he had wanted from me. Apparently, he'd seen me once before and asked her who I was. She told him and he asked for an introduction. She then apparently forgot about it, but when he came in today to get something, he asked again. So, she paged me to come down, and that was that. So, I can't blame her for trying to be a matchmaker, but I told her she had to set up some kind of code so that I'll know what I'm walking in to next time.

Maybe something along the lines of "There is a creepy, desperate 35 yr old man in the building and he wants to check out your birthing hips. Can you come down to my office for a few minutes?"

I'm thinking that may be a little too obvious, but I'm working on it.

February 14, 2005

She's A Star

Welcome Back

The Best Day in Traffic EVER

I spend at least an hour a day in traffic while I am manuvuering around the city. There are no real predictable patterns to the traffic here, so you never know if you are avoiding "rush hour," or if you are pulling right into it at 9:30 AM or 8:15 PM. Traffic is just one of those things you have to accept as part of life here. I try to find things to keeping track of the most random things people sell on the street or trying to translate billboards. I also bring my camera with me everywhere I go now so that I can capture the sometimes hilarious things you see in traffic.
Last week, I had the best day in traffic since I've gotten here. Here are just a few examples of the great things I saw:

NKOTB Posted by Hello
I wish I had stopped laughing sooner so I could have taken a better picture. Unfortunately, he was moving you'll have to take my word on this one. The guy on the motorcycle is wearing a New Kids On The Block jacket. How awesome is that?!

Goat Crossing Posted by Hello
As I was leaving my Spanish classes the other day, I had to wait to turn so that this herd of goats could pass. I'm not exactly sure why there is a herd of goats in the middle of the city, especially since it is the dry season and grass is hard to come by around here. But whatever the reason, I truly enjoyed hanging out with these kids for a few minutes.

Kidnapping in Progess Posted by Hello

You can't tell very well because of my tinted windows, but that is a man's head sticking out of that back window. It is a life-sized pinata of someone from The Incredibles (or in Spanish, Los Increibles).

I also saw the bicycle man and the guy who juggles oranges on stilts on that same day, but I didn't have time to take a picture. Next time, I promise.

Care Package from Kentucky

This is why Carrie rocks my world. Posted by Hello

There was a Gtown group that came to Guate last weekend for some random school project. And since I have the best friends in the world, Carrie managed to sneak a care package into their luggage. All I had to do was show up at the airport and I got a goodie bag.
The Orbit gum is important because I got addicted to it in college thanks to my friends who always had it in their backpacks and you can't buy it here. The burned CD is the only way I get new music. The candy is random and I think possibily confused with someone's favorite, but appreciated nonetheless. And of course, the Mt Dew was the focal point of the whole package. I don't know what the tylenol is for, except for maybe my caffiene headaches for when I come back down off the high from the Mt Dews.

Even though my plans for the Gtown crew didn't work out the way they were supposed to, and even though I didn't know any of them very well, it still made my month to see people from home. Now, if I could just get some of my friends to play hookie from work and come for a visit, I'd be a happy girl.

February 3, 2005

How I entertain myself in traffic Posted by Hello

Turning the Table

So, I just checked my SiteMeter, which I haven't done in a while, and there is a certain someone who must check my blogger every day. Sorry to disappoint you about the infrequent posts of late, but since you have all that time to read, maybe you should update yourself!

January 31, 2005

So long 2004

Since I am already a month into the New Year, I figure now is as good of a time as any to recap last year. I correctly predicted that 2004 was going to be a big year for me. It wasn’t that hard of a prediction to make. The huge life changes that were inevitable and inherent with the whole college graduation thing made it easy guess work.

I am not disappointed in 2004. It was a good year. I am maybe a little disappointed in who I was during that year, but it’s not 2004’s fault. I look back on some of the decisions I made, some of the things I said, some of the things I didn’t say, some of the stuff I did, and a lot of the stuff that I didn’t do…and it makes me wish I had a do-over. But that isn’t an option this side of the movie screen, so there isn’t much I can do about it except tuck it under my belt as experience gained and try to learn from it.

I just know that some things happened like I thought they would and other things completely threw me for a loop. Sitting on the couch last year, whining about my surgery and itchy casts and crutches, I would have never guessed that a year later, I’d be ringing in the New Year with all my college friends, minus one (which is definitely a failure of 2004), in an apartment in Louisville. I would have never of guessed that it would have happened while I was on a vacation from my life as a youth intern at a church in Guatemala. I would have never of guessed that I would still have no idea where my life was going. I certainly would have never of guessed that I was rethinking entering into the ministry full-time. In fact, I am pretty sure the whole scenario was completely beyond my comprehension.

In a way, I find that comforting given my current mindset. I keep trying to figure out where 2005 is going to take me, and every scenario that I can imagine seems far-fetched or upsettingly boring. So, the fact that my current life was beyond imagination a year ago somehow gives me hope for the future.

This all sounds very despondent, which should not be the theme for last year. Last year’s theme has to be CHANGE. A lot of it certainly happened, so it seems a fitting title.

To begin with, the shape of my right foot changed. Now really, how many people get to write that? It makes me special. It also made for quite a few unplanned trips to the ground during an icy KY winter, but even those were mostly laughable.

My status changed. I can no longer write Student under occupation. When I had to fill out the paperwork for entering Guatemala, I wrote down student under occupado automatically. And then tried to figure out if I should get a new form cause I didn’t want to get caught lying to the government, even if they could care less. (FYI, I left it there. I know. I’m a rebel.) College graduation loomed, happened, and is now in the past.

It doesn’t always feel like it’s in the past. It still kind of feels like I have just been on a really long summer break. But it is over. I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in Religion and a minor in church music. I’d like to be able to show you the diploma as proof; however, between the moves from KY to TN to TX, I lost it. I’ve been living out of a suitcase almost since the day I moved out of college, and somewhere among all the shuffling, I lost my college diploma. Not exactly my proudest moment. (I also thought I lost my passport, but I ended up finding it 4 months later in the top of my closet. I then proceeded to clean out my entire closet in hopes of finding the diploma, but no such luck.) I wonder how long they will laugh at me when I finally swallow my pride and call the alumni office at school and ask for another one.

Anyway, back to the theme. My relationships with my college friends changed. No longer can I walk across the living room or up the stairs and be guaranteed listening ears and a kind heart, or a person who will simply watch Pirates of the Caribbean with me and laugh when I do my best “Argghh!” Ah. Good times. Since I pretty much stuck with the same group of friends the entire 4 years, at graduation we all headed off in different directions. At least initially…until they all wussed out and moved to the same two cities! Punks. I’m still holding that it’s important that I move some place different so they can come visit me on vacations. It wouldn’t be terribly exciting to pack for a week across town, now would it? But even someone like me, who needs a large amount of alone time to function, can admit that it is amazing to live so close to such an amazing group of friends. I miss them a lot.

My address changed. No longer do I get to go check my little 4x4 box, praying that Jenny put an orange card in there that morning. I don’t even get to check my mail. It gets couriered over from a PO Box in Miami to the church, where I usually find it laying on my boss’s desk, 2-3 days later.

My family has changed. I lost my first grandparent while I was home for Christmas. I haven’t dealt with this fact and I will continue to stubbornly hold out on dealing with this fact probably for a few more months. I almost had a crack in the wall this past weekend, but I am having a hard time overcoming the anger and guilt I feel about this man and I’m just not ready to let it go yet. I know that is a sin. I know. I know it’s only hurting me and that he is beyond hurt now. But I am not ready yet.

There are a lot of things that have changed over the last 12 months. Those are some of the major ones, but it would take me days to cover all the things that have changed.

I’m sitting here on the couch, overlooking a bright, colorful Guatemalan afternoon, while listening to Josh Kelley sing Home to Me. And I am in awe. In awe of life. In awe of God. In awe of change. In awe of music and the ability it has to reach deep into our souls and move us. In awe of the amazing amount of noise the peacock the neighbors have can make (at ALL hours of the day…just try to wrap your brain around how freaked out I was the first night living here). When I was younger, like most teenagers, I hated change. But now…now, I’m just in awe. 12 months isn’t really that long of a time in the grand scheme of things, but so many things can be packed into it.

I am worrying a lot about my future these days. The decision not to go to grad school this fall becomes final tomorrow. Things like that freak me out. Some days I know to expect the freaking out to happen, but some days, it just jumps out of no where, and before you know it, I am consumed with worry and stress…all over something I can’t really control and something I daily try to give to God. I usually can make it until about 2-3 in the afternoon…but by then, the caffeine has worked it’s magic through my system and I am awake and alert and my brain is really kicking into gear for the day (I never claimed to be a morning person), and I then snatch it back out of God’s very capable hands and try to carry it around for the rest of the day. Makes for a heavy load some days.

The change of the past year is still catching up with me. But this I know for certain: I am sure that wherever I am on December 31st of this year, it won’t be where I expect it to be.


January 26, 2005

Oh, Bother!

An email I just got from my big sister:

Just as an FYI - Josh saw the commercial on TV for the new Winnie the Pooh movie and the FIRST thing he said was "Aunt Tori go with me to see it". (Because we went to see The Polar Express over Christmas) So you need to know that you are expected here on or after February 11th to take him to see it. I tried to tell him you were busy, but he said you had to get the popcorn and his Sprite, so I think he's pretty much expecting you to take him. Think you can swing a trip home for that weekend?? ; )

If only I had wings...