Season 6, Episode 1: brand new day

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Eff you, 2016!

What can I say about 2016 that hasn’t been said already?  It was a trash year.  But amidst the steaming piles of bullshit, some cool stuff happened.

I spent a week in Haiti, cuddling babies, drinking Prestige, and falling in love with a beautiful and broken country. I saw the Dixie Chicks perform live with  one of my favorite people on planet earth.  We sang, danced, got drunk on wine that we smuggled into the venue, and basically had the best time.  I road tripped with 2 of my besties to Atlanta to go to a Stevie Nicks concert.  I don’t know how, but Stevie appears to be aging backwards, and she sang better than she did when I saw her almost 20 (holy shit) years ago.

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Mom, Judy and me.

I went to the WhyChristian conference in Chicago.  I got a promotion at work. I went to a con in Tampa and BREATHED THE SAME AIR as David Tennant (the 10th Doctor.  MY Doctor).  I read 75 books.  I started revising my novel.  My mom and I met FREAKING JUDY BLUME (one of my author crushes) at her bookstore in Key West.  The Heretical Feminist Book Club celebrated three years of reading, hellraising, and drinking.  I had the joy of voting for a woman for President of the United States.

Oh yeah.  And I saw HAMILTON. In Chicago. On my 35TH BIRTHDAY!

I cried through the whole first song while holding my friend’s arm in a death grip.  I was so excited that my brain blocked out most of the performance.  But I remember it being amazing.  And feeling like a dream.
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Young.  Scrappy. Hungry.

Best.  Birthday.  Ever.

It’s good to remind myself that not everything sucks.  That even in the midst of arguably one of the shittiest years, some genuinely amazing stuff happened too.  And I’m super grateful.
But 2016 is over (thank GOD Herself).  Like it’s officially done. *raises praise hands* And as I head into this next year (it’s gotta be better, right?  RIGHT?!?), I’m thinking about all the shit I want to get done in 2017.
I want to be a better friend (which means I gotta start picking up the damn phone and calling some folks, also initiating hanging out with people IRL).  I want to keep writing.  I want to read 80 books.  I want to sew and learn how to to play the guitar.  I want to continue to invest in my lip color game, because I gotta tell you, it was poppin’ in 2016.  I want to give zero fucks about the things that don’t matter, and give all the fucks about the things that do.  I want to love better, and be more generous with and to myself.  I want to be angry.  I want to fight to decrease the suck in the world.  I want to do the things that scare me.
Every year I like to have a word, a principle to guide my steps.  I think my word for 2017 will be WONDER.
The word wonder, for me, evokes a sense of openness. A willingness to be awed (in a good way) by the world around you.  I feel like humanity has a hard road ahead, and I know I’ll need all the wonder I can get to keep my head up and in the game.
On my drive to my parents’ house for the holidays, I decided to take the long way.   I listened to “Long Way Around” by the Dixie Chicks on repeat, and sang at the top of my voice.  Perhaps this will be my new theme song.

 

Oh I just take my time, I won’t lie down
And take the long way around

Well, I fought with a stranger, and I met myself
I opened my mouth, and I heard myself
It can get pretty lonely when you show yourself
Guess I could have made it easier on myself

But I, I could never follow
No, I, I could never follow

Well, I never seem to do it like anybody else
Maybe someday, someday I’m gonna settle down
If you ever want to find me, I can still be found

Taking the long way
Taking the long way around

It’s true, I’m not where I thought I’d be in 2017.  My life looks nothing like I imagined.  And I suppose there are things I could’ve done differently.  But here we are.  I took the long way round.  But I like where I’ve ended up. . . and maybe even where I’m headed.

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Season 5, Episode 41: a short poem about spring

 

In the spring

flower petals fall like snow.

And so does pollen.

My car (and the streets.  And everything) is covered in it.

The world is painted in electric yellow.

Until it rains (which it does frequently.  And with feeling).

 

It’s almost beautiful here

until I can’t breathe,

and my my head feels like it’s going to explode.

(I wish it would.)

Even then it’s still beautiful.

Season 5, Episode 40: giving up

I gave up not writing. I gave up self hate, apologizing for myself, self-righteousness and self-justification. I gave up being ruled by fear. I gave up saying no, and not paying attention, and living to please other people.

What I got was words and love for myself and others. An old friend, some new friends. I got brave and humbled. I saw. I went.

Sometimes giving up is good.  Really good.

Season 5, Episode 39: good

This Good Friday I remembered the death of Jesus by going to the Miami Open tennis tournament. For the past four years I’ve gotten my dad and I tickets for Christmas. It’s about the only thing my dad and I do every year that’s just us.

My dad is a weird guy. He’s quiet and a bit ornery and stubborn. He’s grumpy. He likes music and he likes tennis. He’s very particular about things. Basically he’s the older male version of me.

Perhaps that’s why we fight so much.

I’ve always thought that I was more like my mom. She’s feisty and fiery and fun. She loves and hates hard.

I’m made in the image of my parents.

It feels strange not being in a church today. Not being in mourning. But it makes sense too. This Lenten season has been unexpectedly and almost unfairly good for me. It’s been hard, there’s been a lot of heart work, but this has been an overwhelmingly good season. I don’t feel like I say that often.

This season has provided opportunities for me to reflect upon and celebrate blackness and woman-ness and Jesus. I struggled a bit before going to Haiti and then I had an incredible trip. And now I’m here with my dad watching our favorite sport. Doing the only thing we can do without getting into a petty argument.

This all feels sacred. This whole season, the timing of it, feels especially preordained this year. For me.

So if I’m mourning anything today, it’s that this sacred moment is coming to a close. The space that we make for the Divine during this season is shrinking. Or it’s all filled up.

There’s a temptation to want to replicate the magic of this season year round, but I think that goes against the nature of seasons. Seasons last for a time and then they’re over. And the next season brings with it something new and unique. I’m trying to look forward to that and not just look back at all that God has done through these last almost 40 days.

I was listening to an interview with poet and magician Nikki Giovanni the other day and she said that something has to die in order for something new to be born. Jesus died to establish a new covenant, a new way to be human. I wonder what has died in me during this season, and what new thing will be born as a result of that. And I wonder if I will have the courage to allow that birth to happen.

I hope I do. I guess we’ll soon find out.

Season 5, Episode 38: normal

Today I ran errands. I went to the fabric store, and the book store and Target. I bought some groceries to make my family dinner. I bought wine and beer.

I slept in.  When I finally got out of bed, I wandered downstairs to have a depressing (and lengthy) conversation with my aunt about certain members of our family. My favorite way to start the day. She talked (and talked and talked for nearly two hours) and I ate my bagel and drank my coffee and tried desperately not to scream. Or cry. It was difficult.

Finally I escaped to the safety of my mom’s car and South Florida traffic. You know it’s bad when you’d prefer South Florida traffic to being around your family.

I turned on the radio and listened to the same songs. Then I listened to a podcast. After my errands were complete I found my way back to the house. My aunt was on the phone talking someone else’s ear off.

Sidebar, Do people in South Florida not have jobs?  Because the mall here stays packed. It was teeming with humans. At like 2 in the afternoon. What a charmed life.

I sent some emails and responded to some texts. Later I’ll pick up my mom from work, cook dinner and drink Prestige, a vain attempt to hold on to Haiti a little bit longer. I’ll watch CBS shows with my mom, or read, or continue catching up on podcasts.

And that’s it. Back to normal.

Season 5, Episode 37: orevwa

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Coming home is weird. Being home is weird. It’s nice (AC! Clean water! Publix! Reliable internets!) but it’s also weird. Having to explain why the things that were/are important/meaningful to me about this trip is weird. Also impossible. Looking through my pictures of the kids is wonderful and painful. But it’s good pain. It’s the kind of pain that reminds you that you feel something.

It’s hard mustering up the energy to care about things. Emails and Facebook and responsibilities. It’s like, who cares? The world just got a little bit bigger for me. And smaller. There are literal kids I know by name who were abandoned by their families. Pardon me for not giving a shit about whatever right now, you know?

It’s almost like that feeling you get when you finish a really good book. The story’s over. And no matter how many times you reread it, it’ll never be the first time. It sucks. You grieve.

But it’s still a great story. This was a really good story.

Season 5, Episode 36: baby, baby, baby oh

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On my last day in Haiti I snuggle a baby. Not the baby pictured above, but a baby none the less. He’s small and cute and has long eyelashes and big brown-black eyes that are sharp and clear as marbles. His lips are those perfect Gerber baby lips. He has a few rolls. And good hair.

I spend my morning alternately feeding him and rocking him to sleep. I sometimes make him smile. I sing Justin Bieber, old school worship songs and some Indigo Girls tunes to him as he slow blinks fighting sleep.

I love the sound of little kids speaking Creole. I mean, kids speaking in any language is stinking adorable. But there’s something about kids being able to speak this language that sounds kinda like French but isn’t. Their speech is silky. It’s not as clunky as English. It’s like music.

And the way they pronounce the American missionaries’ names? It’s the cutest thing in the world. My heart cannot handle it.

I want to steal them all. I want to take them all home with me. But my house wouldn’t really accommodate the nearly 50 kids that are here, a number of whom have special needs. Now that I think about it, my finances probably couldn’t handle that either. Neither could the one me. But I would if I could.

We’re having dinner in one of the child homes tonight. I guess I’ll have to be content with giving them extra snuggles and kisses then.

I suppose that will have to be enough.

Season 5, Episode 35: don’t tell me it’s (almost) over

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It’s our second to last night in Haiti and we’re sitting at a friend’s house. These new friends have fed and beered us nearly every night that we’ve been here. I’m sitting at their dinning room table while others cook. I’ve had a Prestige after an exhausting day (a trip to the Citadel, which was both breathtaking and trying…we were with a large group of Americans). I’m overwhelmed by the hospitality and kindness.

The food smells amazing, and I’m so hungry and a little bit buzzed. We’re talking about traveling, and one of the kids is having a meltdown because we’re having peanut sauce and she doesn’t like peanut sauce.

God.

I’m ready to go home. I’m ready for AC and clean water and sleeping past 5:30am (which is about the time the sun rises). But I will miss this. I will miss all of this so much. The kids, the mountains, the random livestock wandering the streets, ALL THE BLACKNESS, the clear skies, did I mention the babies?!

I’m (kinda) ready to go, but I’m looking forward to coming back.

Season 5, Episode 34: beautiful things

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Whenever I start to despair about humanity, I hope I will remember the kids I’ve met. Kids who’ve been discarded like trash and still have the ability to love greatly. I hope I’ll remember cerulean skies and blue green water and the joy of three friends sitting on a rooftop, drinking beers and watching the sun sneak behind the mountains.
Staying up late and playing cards with new friends. Singing Disney songs at ear splitting volumes on the car trip back to the compound.

God is still making beautiful things. In the world and out of us.

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Season 5, Episode 33: is she Haitian?

image.jpegThe question on every Haitian’s mind on reference to myself. I guess they don’t get a lot of non-Haitian black volunteers here? The kids are uncertain of the black lady that doesn’t understand them or speak their language. All of the nannies ask my friend Courtney, who speaks Creole, if I’m Haitian. Or African. She looks Haitian, they tell her.

Even though I look the part, I’m an outsider. I don’t speak the language don’t know the culture or the rules.

I’ve been thinking a lot about outsiders and insiders and whether it’s ok? The best? Beneficial? When outsiders come into a place to make it better. Does it matter? Should it matter? As long as the job gets done, right?

I certainly don’t advocate perpetuating human suffering, but I think there’s something to creating a system in which the “insiders” are the agents of their own salvation and rescue. Where their success is not contingent on outsiders swooping in to save the day. Something self sustainable.

I don’t know. It’s tricky. But it’s definitely something worth thinking about.