Thursday, July 22, 2010

Dear WORLD, You Can Do Better. Love, Eva

Disclaimer: I enjoy reading WORLD magazine. And to some degree, I hesitate to even write this post because for as much as I enjoy WORLD, I don't write about it very often (therefore I rarely say anything positive about it) but now that I got annoyed by one measly little article, I am going to post about it. So....take this for what it's worth.

That being said, I am really annoyed. And they need to be accountable for their stories - both the content and the writing - so I am going to critique it.

There is an article in the July 17, 2010 issue of WORLD about hosting foreign exchange students. The journalist apparently interviewed a (conservative Christian) family who has hosted several foreign exchange students to find out their motives for doing so and what rewards they have reaped from their experiences. The article also plugs a particular program that connects exchange students with families who are willing to host a student.

Here is the first excerpt that bugged me:
Since host families choose students based on website profiles, wise host families learn to read between the lines. Their German student turned out to be very independent and surprised when she discovered that the Odums expected her to obey a curfew and eat dinner with the family...In retrospect, Odum says maybe the girl was giving signals about her independent streak when she expressed on her profile a love of hip-hop music.

Stop. The. Train.

Are we still stereotyping people based on the kind of music they listen to?!?! That is soooo 1989. I thought we had moved on to much more advanced stereotypes that pitted the Christian t-shirt wearers against the Harry Potter readers and the homeschooling families against those who are secretly liberal. But hip-hop lovers vs. family dinner eaters? Puh-lease. We are way too mature for that.

Newsflash: Hip-hop is NOT the new independence and I can just about guarantee that the exchange student was not secretly hoping that you would pick up on her independent "signals" in her profile. Chances are actually pretty good that she simply likes hip-hop music. Period.

Gripe #2: The article ends with this quote from the Odums, in reference to their exchange students: "We try to keep them safe and love on them the best we can."

Love on them? Really?

Compare that sentence to this one: "We try to keep them safe and love them the best we can."

Do you notice the significant difference in meaning?

Me neither!!

So why do you add the extra word???

To my knowledge, people have been loving others since the beginning of time, but we have just begun to love on people in recent years. I do. not. understand what concept was sooo lacking in the idea of loving someone that necessitated this addition.

It doesn't change the meaning. It just sounds Christianese-y. And ridiculous. So don't use it.


I love you, WORLD. You are a legitimate Christian news source with respectable journalism and high standards. And although I will continue to love you in your rare moments of poor writing and editing, I refuse to love on you because I know you can do better than that.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Tears for the Broken and Beautiful

Wow, this is powerful.

The pain, the brokenness, the hope, the truth, the beauty.

So many tears, I don't even know what some of them are for.

Most of them are for the hope.

(p.s. The video is not 10 minutes long. Only 4:30. Not sure why it says that.)

Cardboard Stories from The Austin Stone on Vimeo.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Day I Didn't Dance

There was a flash mob in Rochester tonight.

And I knew about it beforehand.

And I had the chance to participate in the flash mob.

But I didn't.

Because I had to work.

Now, you may not understand the severity of my disappointment, but let me assure you - I was dis.a.ppoint.ed. Being in a flash mob is absolutely, totally, positively on my bucket list and this may be the closest I ever come to being able to participate.

I got the details from a friend who was in it and was able to coordinate my dinner break at work so that I could go downtown and watch (which, I must admit, did not help at all with the whole "I really wish I could have done this" thing). Part of the montage included the song "I don't wanna work, I just wanna bang on my drum all day," and in that moment, I could not have agreed more. I didn't wanna work. I just wanted to jump into the mob and bang on my drum. Well, that might be where the analogy breaks down. But you get my point.

On the shuttle ride back to work, I was thinking about how very extremely bummed I was that I had to work today. Now, I want to be sure you understand that I LOVE my job. And 99.5% of the time, I love going to work. But, on a very rare occasion, I can get a little resentful about having to work. So far, in my four year medical career, those moments of resentment have been reserved for "days-that-my-grandmas-die" and "days-when-there-is-a-flash-mob-in-Rochester."

So, really, quite rare.

But today was one of those days and I was in a little bit of a foul mood after not dancing in the mob.

But then I went back to work.

Back to my sick little toddler who was all smiles and giggles; who has all kinds of nasty bugs roaming around in his bloodstream making him very, very sick; who was born prematurely and, through no fault of his own, lost almost all of his bowel to necrotizing enterocolitis and now needs a new gut; who developed severe liver failure secondary to the treatment he was receiving for his bowels and now needs a new liver as well; who loves tractors and trains and balls; who we are trying to keep healthy enough to get multiple major organs transplanted early next week; who wasn't wanted by his own mama; who lives with a foster mom that is one of the most amazing, loving caregivers I have ever worked with; who gets disconnected from all tubes, cords and treatments for three hours a day so he can "just be a kid." For three hours a day.

Back to work where I sat on the ground and played trains and tractors for an hour before my little buddy crawled up in my lap and asked me to rock him.

Back to work where his sick little body fit perfectly in the crook of my arm; where I rocked him to sleep and then rocked him for another hour just for good measure; where the weight of this precious boy felt so good in my lap; where his peaceful little snores rumbled comfortably against my chest; where I rocked, and rocked, and rocked.

Back to work where my resentment escaped with a soft little chuckle as I laid him down in his crib and watched him snuggle in with his elbows out and his hands folded behind his head, just like the old man he will probably never become.

I may not have danced today, but I still rocked, and that's good enough for me.

Visa Days

You know what I love even more than tape days?


My Nigerian visa was granted today which means I am OFFICIALLY going to Nigeria in 55 days.


The first time I sent in my visa info, it was sent back to me with a whole checklist of things that had not been included (or HAD been included, but not in adequate form - for example, I needed a letter of invitation from my host and apparently the letter I sent in was not a letter it was "just a note." Hmm. Okay.).

So I called the consulate, clarified a few things (mostly about the difference between "notes" and "letters") and tried again.

When I got home from work last night, I had a slip from the post office saying I had a package to pick up from the Nigerian Consulate. When my first package came back, my roommate suspected that it had been rejected due to the speed with which it was returned. Well, this second package was just sent off last Tuesday and it was already returned by Wednesday morning, so I did not take that as a good sign.

I spent most of the night trying not to be hopeful. I actually had two different dreams where I opened up the package to discover that the visa had been granted (it looked different each time and neither one was what it actually ended up looking like) and by the time I awoke this morning, I was fairly convinced that I had to have gotten it, mostly because I could not figure out what else I could possibly do to meet the requirements. I actually scolded myself a little, thinking, "You are being SOOO optimistic. The paperwork was only at the consulate for 4 days. Visas don't get granted in 4 days. You better cool your jets or you are just going to be that-much-more disappointed if you didn't get it."

I drove to the post office hastily, waited impatiently in line and picked up my near-barren package which felt much, MUCH too light and non-bulky to have all of that returned paperwork in it. All I could feel was my lonely little passport.

Loneliness has never felt so good.

I tore open the package and found a visafied passport. My optimism was not misplaced after all!

That was the next-to-last piece that needed to fall into place. I am vaccinated, funded, visafied and ready to go.

Now all I have to do is rip up the rest of that paper-chain...

Tape Days

I love tape days.

Tape days are the days when the link I tear off of the paper-chain is the one that is taped to the mantle thereby causing a whole loop of links to fall.



I feel like I countdown a whole 8 inches worth of time on tape days and it makes me feel oh-so-much closer to the greatly anticipated trip to Nigeria.

And then for at least another week, maybe more, I patiently persist in the slow, arduous climb back up the hanging loop.

But I am not going to think about those slow-progress days today.

Today is a tape day.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Cut Loose

I love stories. And music. And live performances of any sort (i.e. theater or sporting events).

So when a bunch of actors get together and tell a story through music, I am in my happy place.

I guess what I am trying to say is that I. Love. Musical. Theater.

Therefore, during weeks like this one when I get to go see TWO shows, I get pretty excited.

I went and saw Footloose at the Chanhassen with a few of my favs last night. It was fun. The last time I was at the Chan, Mr. "2-4-6-0-whaaaaaaaaaaan" ruined Les Mis for me forever, so I was a little wary about going back. I am happy to report that the music exceeded my expectations (which isn't saying a whole lot since I purposely set the bar about as low as it could go).

But really, it was good. I would even go so far as to say that the Chan redeemed itself last night. I was impressed not only with the quality of the performance (as compared to Les Mis) but also with the depth of the cast. The leads were decent, but the supporting roles were even more vocally impressive, so that was a huge plus.

I also enjoyed the fact that it was just a fun, laid-back musical to enjoy with fun, laid-back friends. By the time I got the theater I had already cried 5 times that day (can you say super-duper-hyper-emotional?!? That's unusual, even for me!). They weren't bad cries. They weren't even sad cries. Well, one was a sad cry, but it was in response to a situation on So You Think You Can Dance, so that probably qualifies more as "pathetic" than "sad." One was in response to an inspiring So You Think You Can Dance dance that I have already watched approximately 7 times, two were in response to inspiring blog posts about people overcoming tremendous obstacles in their lives and the last was while singing along to Les Mis on my way up to the Chan. Not sure why, but the music at one particular part of "At the End of the Day" gets me every single time. So, it was a nice break from my hyper-emotional self to just "cut loose" and enjoy a (mostly) light-hearted show.

Even better than the show itself was the company. Emily seemed to be a little worried that we wouldn't have anything to talk about at our table. I unknowingly averted that disaster by bringing along one of my new favorite books to read to my fellow table mates during halftime of the show. I am not entirely sure if my table mates were laughing at me, the book, the seamless segue with which I introduced the reading or the speed with which I hid the book when the waiter came around but, regardless, I guess I would consider the reading a complete success on all counts.

Now I get to look forward to seeing Into the Woods performed in somebody's backyard on Friday. I had never heard of the show before this past weekend, but a friend of mine gave me the soundtrack to listen to and I already love it! It was written by the same guy who did Wicked, so I guess I should have expected that.

What a great week.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

My Hitchcock Life

Some of you may know that my sister often refers to her "Seinfeld Life." What she means is that the sort of things that happen to her on a semi-regular basis could easily pass as Seinfeld episodes. And generally speaking, it's true.

Well, I have determined that I have a "Hitchcock" life.

It was Saturday morning, 4th of July weekend. The sun was shining, the air was cool and I was out for a lovely morning run along my usual running route. I was just about to hit the half-way point when I suddenly felt like there was something in my hair near the crown of my head. Before I had a chance to even think of what it might be, I heard a loud "CAW! CAW!" just above my left ear. I simultaneously ducked and turned my head to see a crow-sized bird grabbing at my hair with his dirty little claws.

At this point, I was both frightened and disgusted.

The crazed bird flew up to the telephone wire where it rested for about 5 seconds before it jumped off again, wings spread, dive-bombing straight for my head. I screamed, ducked and covered my head (elementary-school-tornado-drill style) until I peeked up to see the bird once again perched on the telephone wire, cawing angrily at me.

What. The. Heck.

It seemed that as long as I was facing the bird it was content to merely caw angrily from above, so I walked backwards to the corner (20 yards?) where I finally felt like I was a safe distance away to resume my run. I made it about three steps before I realized I had a severe case of post-adrenaline-rush-shaky-leg syndrome and I proceeded to walk the rest of the way home with a dirty I-just-had-a-bird-in-my-hair feeling. Ick.

I spent the entire walk thinking about that stupid bird. I could not figure out what I had done to provoke its attack. My first thought was maybe it wanted to make a nest out of my hair. My second thought was that maybe I had a worm in my hair. Realizing how irrational (although not entirely improbable) that thought was, I amended it to thinking there might be something that looked like a worm in my hair. Thirdly, I thought for a brief - or a not so brief - moment that maybe satan sent the bird.

(This is not the place to discuss my tendency to overspiritualize things, but up until that moment I was having one of the most intimate times of prayer and Scripture recitation that I have had in a long time and after the attack, I did not pray any more the rest of the way home. I just thought about the bird. This led me to think that maybe satan sent the bird to distract me. Turns out they actually just suck as creatures.)

I returned home having still not settled on a theory of what provoked the attack. I didn't even know what had attacked me. I did some research that afternoon and discovered the perpetrator was a red-winged blackbird. Here is a visual:

Apparently these birds are extremely territorial and fairly aggressive. They are known for attacking larger birds (including birds of prey and herons and, um, humans) that come into their nesting area. Also, they usually attack from behind.


Over the next few days I discovered 5 other people who had been dive-bombed by these birds in the past two weeks. I was very disappointed by this information. I was hoping my experience was just some freak thing which I could expect to never happen again. Instead, I found out it is just the nature of these birds to attack and apparently I run right through their nesting area.

Again: Awesome.

Fast forward to Tuesday morning. I was due for another run. I awoke that morning in a state of firm decision to not let one stupid little experience ruin my perfectly convenient summer running plan. I suited up and took off on my running route keeping an eye on the surrounding telephone wires. I walked about 30 steps before I spotted a red-winged blackbird perched high above at which point I promptly turned around and ran across the yard back to the house.

I stood in front of my garage for a solid 5 minutes in complete indecision about whether or not I could make it all the way around the 3-mile block with such paranoid fear weighing me down. I finally decided that if I didn't go that day, it could be weeks...months...summers....before I ran that path again and I refused to let a 3-ounce bird determine my ways.

So, I took off on my run. Again.

I quickly discovered three things on this run:

  1. Red-winged blackbirds are Everywhere.
  2. Paranoia does not suit me well. I find it completely exhausting.
  3. It is hard to run in a straight line when you are looking backwards over your shoulder at a bird.

For the most part, things were going smoothly. Some of the birds were ignoring me. Some appeared to be indifferent to my presence. And the two that seemed to be cawing in my direction were avoided by a mere crossing of the street.

Before I knew it, I was back at Saturday's battle ground. I quickly scanned the telephone wires all the way to the corner and everything looked clear. Free at last! Maybe it was just a freak experience afterall!

Then, suddenly, out of nowhere, I see a red-winged blackbird flying straight down the path toward me, eye-level, wings extended, heading for my face.


(Oh, I should probably mention that in my research I also read that if you are attacked by these birds, the best thing to do is look them in the eye. I thought that was the most ridiculous thing ever. You can hardly even see a bird's eyes. Ok, back to the story.)

I got in my best fighting stance (picture high school wrestler at the beginning of a fight) and stared right into his beady little eyes and when he was a few yards away, he relented and swooped back up to the telephone wires. He rested for less than a second before taking a second dive at me, this time from above. I stood my ground, stared right at him, and off he went, back to his perch.

And then I ran away.

I started sprinting back up the hill in the direction I had come, half looking over my shoulder, half running backwards as I went. He dove a couple more times but never came too close.

At this point, I knew I wasn't going to make it through the gauntlet, so I took a detour through the nearby senior living center. I was ever-so-slightly on edge at this point since I was basically just running along the other side of the grassy marsh where this bird (and maybe others?) had his nest. My eyes have never scanned a field so quickly or so frequently.

At one point six red-winged blackbirds flew up out of the brush nearby. SIX! Seeing six of them together startled me as I began to realize how much more terrifying it would be if multiple males were trying to defend their territories at the same time. I began to wonder what a group of red-winged blackbirds would be called. My inner monologue went something like this:

Wow. Six of 'em. What would it be like to have six of them diving at you? What would you even tell people? "I was attacked by a - what - of red-winged blackbirds." A gaggle? No, that's geese. A herd? Nope, cows. Hmm.


I was attacked by a legion of red-winged blackbirds.

That must be it.

I made it past the field unscathed and continued my run home. I am proud to say at this point I had not had any sort of an adrenaline rush whatsoever, even when I was staring at the bird while it flew right at me. I felt prepared for the standoff and I thought I handled him pretty well even though I did still run away. But not until after I stared him down twice. It was a Camp Lebanon tie.

I continued to remain extra-alert (and by "extra alert" I mean "at no point was I not watching the trees/telephone wires/sky/fields for red-winged blackbirds"). The few blackbirds I did see I simply kept my eye on until I felt like I was a safe distance past them. It was exhausting, but it was working. I was nearing the end of my run and I was proud of myself for using my stare-'em-in-the-eye knowledge to ward of further attacks, yet I was becoming increasingly annoyed by the exhaustion that comes from being super-uber-hyper-alert to anything that moves and from spending approximately half of my run looking over my shoulder to prevent an attack from behind.

At one point, I actually thought the exact words, "This is no way to live!" (mildly melodramatic, I know) and I finally decided to stop letting a 3-ounce bird ruin my morning run. That one bird obviously had his nests over in that one grassy corner of the block and now I was on the opposite corner and needn't worry abou-BAM!

Bird in my hair.

No lie. I was being dive-bombed. Again. I screamed. I ducked and covered my head. I thought "Are you bleepin' kidding me?!?!?" And I felt the zingy rush of adrenaline coursing through my body. Attacked from behind, startled, and once again feeling the dirty bird-in-my-hair feeling, I began to wonder if I would ever be able to feel safe outdoors again.

I have not run since.

And I hate red-winged blackbirds.

The End.

(My hair has been called a bee's nest, a bird's nest and a rat's nest. Last year I got a bee stuck in my hair. This year a bird tried to grab the hair right off my head. I am not looking forward to 2011.)