Tuesday, September 29, 2015

This reflection comes a little late, as my dear friend Michelle Tooley passed away several months ago. But, as we all know, grief is a process- sometimes I long one. This past weekend I finally watched a recording of her memorial service and felt inspired to continue writing my own reflections on her life and death.

In the winter of 2008 I decided to leave school for a semester and live in Tucson, Arizona with Michelle. The majority of my college friends would be studying abroad that semester and I began to have some deepening spiritual and vocational questions. Of course, as she did with young people year after year, Michelle offered a room for me in the duplex she would be renting as she spent time writing and studying the US-Mexico border. Michelle had been a part of my life since I was a newborn in Louisville, Kentucky, but this would be the longest amount of time I would spend with her thus far.

During this time I found myself in a dark period of depression in which I would not sleep through the night for more than 6 months. Loneliness surprised me, as it was a state in which I had never found myself. I cried a lot and at times felt that even this woman I had known my whole life could not deal with my extreme sadness. But I was quite wrong, and I have only recently realized the reality and depth of her care for me during this time.

Michelle did not pity me. Yes, of course she listened, and provided hugs and encouragement. But I think, for her, wallowing was unacceptable. Instead of saying this, she showed me her way of healing. We saw the world around us. She took me on hikes so I could be reminded of the beautiful desert in which we lived. We went almost weekly to the Mexico side of the border and helped at an aide station for recently deported migrants. We served food early in the mornings at Southside Presbyterian Church. And I began to find meaning and passion and joy again. Perhaps she wasn’t aware, but I believe she knew what she was doing.

I recently returned from Quetzaltenango, Guatemala where I was studying Spanish and about the violent history and resulting realities of the people of Guatemala. Michelle previously attended the same Spanish school at which I studied and had a huge space in her heart for the Guatemalan people. She definitely was an impetus for me to go to Latin America and engage in the beautiful culture she loved so dearly. I was fortunate to go and visit Michelle in Berea in April before leaving for Guatemala, because she completed her life’s journey while I was there. It was difficult to be away and unable to attend her memorial service. But the truth is, I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else.

In her homily, Cindy Weber revealed Michelle’s desire for her own departure: “ I want to breathe in, breathe out, and then float away, like a butterfly.” Of course I did not hear this until recently, but I know that her butterfly spirit floated through Berea, and to many places, but specifically to the Guatemalan villages and mountains, and perhaps even to me, standing on the terrace of our school in Xela. And for this I am so grateful.

Michelle has taught me to find healing in caring for others. She showed me that I can hold anger and joy in both of my hands. And from her I am coming to agree that pausing to see small beauty is just as important as a persistent and unyielding fight for justice. Thanks be to God.
view from the terrace at PLQE in Xela

Michelle and I and her dog Toby in Tucson (2009)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Ricola wrappers and tissue stuffing...and a flaw.

You guessed it- week one of trash in a quart and I got a nasty cold... And, I learned something: sickness creates unwanted trash! Now my bag, at a week's end is stuffed with cough drop wrappers, Klenexes (which  I've learned perhaps can be composted), and medicine wrappers (also learned that medicine like alkaseltzer for cold doesn't even really work). I tried to accept the challenge with no tissues on day one of the cold by using an old sock (I don't have a hankie). That quickly became rather gross and so I gave into "America's leader in facial tissue softness"....
Overall, I was thinking my baggie for a week was going pretty well. Everything besides flushed toilet paper and work trash (due to health department requirements I can't exactly be eco-friendly... but we'll see what more can be done on that note at a later time) was fitting into my bag. Then today I realized there has been a flaw in my plans. ..
I live in a house with 9 other people so we share all of our food (or most of it at least). So, some of the trash that I would normally consider "mine" I was subconsciously considering my housemates'. So, I go to the kitchen and grab a few chips. I don't finish the bag so I don't need to deal with the trash. BUT- if I was doing this project in a house all to myself.... that would be my trash, right? OOPS! So, needless to say, I'm now going to be spending the afternoon in the kitchen. You can recycle the box that cereal comes in, but not the bag inside the box; same with crackers. Chip bags usually aren't recyclable. So, here's to granola and cracker making!
Here's a photo.. even though I cheated a bit.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

In a quart

This Thanksgiving my friends and I gathered to eat a wonderful vegetarian meal. We began discussing very uplifting things such as wasting water, global warming, and trash. Someone referenced a story about Plastic-Filled Albatrosses (check out the link), and this really got me thinking about how much waste I produce and where it is going. So, out of these conversations and some more thinking I came up with a New Year's plan for myself. I will be putting all trash I accumulate over a week into a quart-sized zip-lock bag. That way, for one thing I can see what trash I use, and I can monitor, because I will only have limited space.

Thursday, Jan.3
I began on Tuesday,and this has been more challenging than expected! I've been researching what can be recycled much more frequently... did you know that you can't recycle Dixie cups? I have candy from Christmas that I wouldn't normally have.. Candy is wrapped in plastic and foil that can't be recycled, but I have the challenge of what to do with it... I put it in a bin on our kitchen table to share with my housemates. So, really I'm cheating a bit, but there trash isn't mine right? ;). Right now I have Q-tips, a band-aid wrapper(damn blister), a candy wrapper, and a receipt (you also can't recycle those). So, I'll check in again with a picture at the end of the week to report on how my project is going.

Just found this too:
recycle candy wrappers...


Lately I've been thinking about separation. It began a while ago when I was watering our garden out back. I was using water from the rain water catchment and because we live in the desert and rain water doesn't come daily, or even monthly for that matter, I was much more careful. I paid close attention to where the hose was, how much water each plant got and that I sprinted back to the catchment when the watering was complete. And then I thought, why am I only acting this way with the rain water? If I were using water from a faucet, why would I be more likely to waste? It's not as if there is a limitless supply of water in the world. And then I realized that i's because perhaps when I turn on a faucet I don't SEE where the water is coming from, or SEE i being depleted.
So, when I can't see the results of my actions or the source of my resources, it makes the usage less personal, and less important. Which is extremely unfortunate because the majority of our resources- food, water, oil- seem to come from nowhere- or at least somewhere unknown. And if I can squeeze a handle and fill p my gas tank and every time it works- here must be this land full of oil where happy people squeeze it into tubes that go straight into the pump to my car, right? Or, because I walk into a beautifully organized produce section at a grocery store, there must be carrots, peas, and apples grown next door and somehow magically reproduced by the thousands every week...? But obviously, even the most disconnected person would know this is not possible. But the problem is that we don't have to consider these things. Right now, most everything is at our finger-tips. We have such a strange "pleasure" to be separated from the sources of our needs and wants. But, just as I experienced with the water, when that separation occurs, we don't think, and we waste.
In the same way that we don't have to consider where things come from, we also don't see where things go when we are finished with our consumption. We have trash cans and drains, and garbage men and pipes that carry away our vast amounts of waste. But perhaps, if we had to be the source of our own staples, and decided what to do with our waste, we'd waste less and consume less. I think we'd find ourselves more connected- to each other because we'd inevitable have to work together, and to the earth- the firs source of all our being.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


I see into you with eyes anew
Once you said what you said-
What you said was true.
For you found me far
Away I was.  And through
Layers of skin, saw hope for love.

My presence had drifted
Until you said what you said-
When you said, I lifted
Up away from the ground
If just barely
Like a hair pulled only by a fairy.

My hand fell steadier upon your chest
As you said, and I heard, just what you said.
And said you where our bodies lay rest
Closer words to perfection within
Me wrapped in embrace.
For said things wilt unless grown in grace.


Outside, inside
Black, white.
Glass in between
You and me.

Here, come in
Inside the glass
Into the space
Out of the out.

No, outside she stays-
Inside is sane
Who? It’s hard to tell.

We’re separated
Or so we think.
By what? Glass?
Yes, if only to
Keep you out.

But a face is a covering
A faux, an image.
Who, what, lies in the skin
We don’t care-
You’re out, we’re in.

Maybe we’ve failed
A true test of time
The answer
walked away
From the glass of divide.

Monday, April 23, 2012


I decided not to read the magazine
Just to hold it over my head.
It seemed silly to read - words make me sweat
So instead they will do what I won't regret.

Because if I keep on reading
I might know more.
Tiny shapes called letters form life altering lines:
Letters of love, lyrics for soul, purposeful signs. 

So why put them in my head,rather than on top?
Would I wish the risk to shift
my views, plans, my pure white skin?
I feel wise in this decision, but then again...