Tuesday, October 23, 2007

a few thoughts on working in Detroit

Okay, I promised I’d post more often, but this week I just haven’t known what to say. I’ve been checking other friends’ blogs a lot (who, judging by the lack of new content, must also not have not known what to say!), but I haven’t written a word of my own. I did write half a thesis chapter, though, which is a very good thing. Nothing seems that exciting. A few weeks ago, Dave worked 19 days in a row. Last night, I got an extensive biology/chemistry/medicine lesson as Dave answered an hour’s worth of questions about proteins and cancer cells and a million other things that happened to be on my mind. Unfortunately, only a few of our books are unpacked, so he couldn’t show me any pictures. I’m learning to drink my coffee without much sugar. My parents just got back from Italy and they brought us parmesan cheese, olive oil, espresso and chocolate. Scott (my brother) finally got to Baghdad.

There’s a lot of deeper stuff going on too, but I don’t know if I have words to explain it. Well, here it comes. I went to a Christian Community Development Association conference the weekend before last. Besides seeing old friends in St. Louis (which was wonderful!), the conference was good. I felt like I did a lot of spiritual healing and got some new tools and ideas for working in my community. This past weekend, we had a missions conference at church that was also really good. I wouldn’t say that I learned anything new, but I was reminded of a lot of things that I knew but hadn’t thought about lately. Between CCDA and the missions conference, I feel like my worlds (Detroit and Africa) are beginning to be reconciled a little. At CCDA, I heard a presentation by an Ethiopian woman who works in the slums of the capital city Addis Ababa, and thinking about her work (and mine) in Africa in the context of a conference that is still mostly about urban ministry in the U.S. helped me see that what I do in both places is really more similar than I thought. Well, it’s really more that I see other people acknowledging that it’s many of the same basic issues, values and strategies that are at work in Christian community development in both contexts. At the missions conference this weekend, we had a lot of focus on Africa, and to see so many people who are from Detroit and who work in Detroit be focused on Africa as well somehow made it seem a little less disparate. I don’t know if that makes sense to any of you, but when I explained it the other night to a friend who also is deeply connected in Detroit and Africa, it made a lot of sense to her.

It’s actually been quite challenging getting involved in ministry/community development in Detroit. I’m seeing a lot of my “rough edges” and weaknesses and it’s a very humbling process. Sometimes it’s so hard to see yourself as you really are, but it’s also the only way you grow. One of my biggest challenges right now is just keeping my mouth shut. This is the time to listen, observe and learn, but it’s really hard to do when I see things and have ideas that I’m dying to share. Some of the things I have to say are useful, but more often, they are lacking experience and understanding. Besides, I haven’t earned the right to speak yet. Somehow it seemed easier in Africa, probably because it was more obvious to me how much I had to learn. Being in Detroit feels more like familiar territory (heck, I’m in America!), so I feel more comfortable speaking and forget that I have SO much to learn about this community, its history and what is happening here now. I also realized at CCDA that I need to be very intentional right now about building relationships with people in my community and just getting to know people and growing to love them individually. Right now, I love the idea of my community, but I haven’t developed a genuine love for real people in my community, because I don’t know them yet. It’s easy for me to get caught up in doing things, because that’s the easiest and most comfortable thing to do, so I have to be very intentional in the next year about being with people and developing relationships. So, one of the things I’m trying is to do things at CDC (the organization where I volunteer) to be more connected with the kids and families in our program. I’m going to start volunteering with the weekly tutoring and cultural enrichment program tonight. Which means I better get a little more work done now. So much for not having anything to say ☺.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Thank You…

… to whoever found October and sent it back. It has officially dropped 30 degrees in the last 2 days, so it is close enough for me to what October is supposed to be. Fortunately for our checkbook, it’s not cold enough to turn on the heat yet. It is a pretty comfortable 65 degrees in the house, which is probably warmer than it will be all winter, unless we get some new windows, better insulation and a new, high paying job! Seriously, our windows are quite drafty and the best-insulated part of our house is the basement. The temperature outside dropped 30 degrees, the temperature in the house dropped 15 and the temperature in the basement stayed exactly the same! So much for keeping potatoes and such cool down there during the winter…

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Read any good books lately?

I'm working on my Christmas wish list for Dave's family and am wondering if any of you have any good books you would recommend - fiction, non-fiction, cookbooks, etc. - anything interesting, really.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Can I start over again?

I wish I could do the last 8 months over again. There are so many things I wish I could have done differently since coming back from Africa. I thought that I was doing great with culture shock, since I’m now very comfortable both there and here. My identity is well established and carries parts of here and there. Moving back and forth between the two is not much different than moving back and forth between two homes. So, I do fine with the cultural adjustments. What I did not do fine with was reentering relationships. I never really reconnected with friends after coming back. So, if you’ve felt like you’ve lost me in the last year, that’s why. But I’m still here. Email me. Call me. I’ve never been a good initiator, and I don’t even know where to begin now that I’ve been so disconnected for so long.

As mentioned in today’s other post, I’m still not done with my thesis. I thought that I would come home, work on it full time and get it done in a few months. No big deal, right? Ha! Well, I’ve certainly learned a lot about myself, how I work and what I need in order to function, let alone thrive. Here’s what I need: people time, changing environments, several different things to focus on (but not too many!), a routine with some external structure. What I’ve had: exactly the opposite – a lot of time all by myself, at home by myself a LOT, not enough different things to do, the responsibility of planning and scheduling every minute of every day with no one, ever, to tell me what to do/where to be when. Definitely wasn’t working for me. I know that I often cannot change my circumstances. But knowing what I need means that as much as I can control certain circumstances, I need to work as hard as I can to make those circumstances into those that work for me. Some days I do pretty well and some days not so much. Today is one of those not so much days. I got some good things done this morning, but then I got off track and haven’t seemed to manage to get back on. I think it’s time for a day out of the house. I’m going to go to campus tomorrow to work there and go to the Swahili table for lunch.

One of the reasons I kept working at home was that it cost roughly $10 in gas every time I went to campus to work. But, if I had gone to campus more often, I really think I would be done by now. I’m amazed how much I’m affected by places, or maybe rather my connection to places. I was on campus a couple months ago, after not having been there for awhile, and it was like something in me opened up again. I found myself thinking, “Oh yeah! This is that place where I read and write and engage intellectually. And I like it.” It was as if that part of me had gotten lost or shut off. I came home from campus ready to go again. I find that I’m a lot more affected by places, circumstances, relationships than I wish I could be. Sometimes it would be so much easier if I didn’t engage myself so much mentally and emotionally in things. But part of my journey this year has been learning who I am and accepting myself as I am, instead of wishing I could have the strengths of other people. This is who I am and I’m trying to learn to make it work for me, not against me. The things that make me feel weak and inadequate sometimes are the same strengths I see other times.

So, it’s been a journey. Hopefully I’m stronger for it. I really have learned a lot. But I’ve still got to get that blasted thesis done… ☺

Oh where, oh where, has October gone?

It is freakin’ 89 degrees outside for the 4th day in a row! It’s October, for goodness sake! Not even in Kentucky did it get this hot in October! But, I did hear the other day that President Bush finally acknowledged that global warming exists and that humans have something to do with it. Dave was joking the other day that when his family’s here at Christmastime, they’ll have to help us rake leaves at the rate we’re going!

I'm baaaaack

I’m going to start posting regularly again (yeah, I know, you’ve heard that before ☺). So, if you keep checking, I promise you’ll get something.

There are lots of things I’ve thought about in the last few months, but it never actually made it into a blog post. So, I thought I’d start with a few highlights, in no particular order:

1) I love our house. I love our neighborhood. I love our neighbors. I can’t believe what a great deal we got on this house. I love that we only drive 5 minutes to church (that is, if we don’t ride our bikes!)

2) God is taking good care of us – not only did we get a great deal on the house (including a brand new furnace that we did not pay a penny for), but we also got an amazing break on our car insurance and homeowners insurance. Our car insurance only went up $50, and by the time our agent gave us all the discounts she could find, we’re only paying about half of the original price (which was astronomical!) We were expecting our insurance to double by moving into Detroit, but it hasn’t. I also went to turn in a property tax form and found out that the assessed value of the house for tax purpose is about 2/3 of what I expected, which means that our taxes will be slightly more reasonable. Property taxes in Detroit are insanely high, so every bit is huge!

3) Dave’s grandpa died a few weeks ago. We haven’t really told anybody about it. It’s not a bad thing – he was 87 and ready to go. But still… We had most of Dave’s family at our house the weekend of the funeral, and it felt so good to be able to do that. We actually had a great time together, despite the reason. I just wish I could talk to him again and hear one more story.

4) I went to Chicago last weekend for a girls’ weekend with Dave’s mom, sister and sister-in-law. We had such a good time and it was so much fun to be back in Chicago, except that I couldn’t go see any of my other friends who are still there. We went to see Wicked, which was really good, had amazing weather, walked a lot, ate cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory (despite living in the area for 4 years, I had never been to the Cheesecake Factory), went up in the Hancock Tower, stopped for samples at the Ghirardelli store and, of course, bought Franco mints from what used to be Marshall Fields.

5) I am the only one in my immediate family who is in the country at the moment. My parents are in Italy, with 5 of my mom’s sisters. They’re supposed to be eating some good food for me. My brother Scott should be in Iraq now. He’s been in Kuwait for the last 2 weeks and should be either in Iraq or headed there in a few days. I went home to see him in September and had several good conversations with him on the phone before he left. Please pray for him – that God would transform him while he’s there and give him a vision for who he is and what his purpose is in life.

6) I still haven’t finished my thesis, but I’m getting slightly closer. At least everybody’s not asking me about it all the time right now. It HAS to be done this semester, and I’m starting the feel the pressure, which means I’m starting to move a little bit faster. Part of me wants to be done, but part of me doesn’t. I’ve learned a lot in the last 8 months, but there’s a lot I wish I could do differently. I think that will need to be a separate post.

7) I went apple picking this weekend with a friend and canned 14 quarts of applesauce yesterday.