Thursday, November 29, 2007

Good week?

I think it's been a good week. My goal has been less what or how much I accomplish each day (I AM still working hard though!) and instead more about what my attitude is as I do it. I'm really letting go of the anxiety and doubt that paralyze me so that I can get to the business of living and doing what I need to do.

Today, though, I met with my advisor to work on some organizational issues for my thesis and the conclusion (which I was dreading) was that I still have a lot of work left before me: things I need to rethink, some more things I need to read and incorporate, things to rewrite. Argh. Even though my life has been consumed with it for the last year, it doesn't mean that I've actually done enough work to now say it's good enough, time to be done. Because it's not good enough yet. When I got home (it's about 2 hours door to door now), I laid in a nice warm bath and read a book. I haven't done that in forever.

So please keep praying for me through this process. I've learned so much: about myself, about the process of research and writing, about what I need to do to live and work effectively, etc. All good stuff. But I still feel frustrated that after all the mental and emotional turmoil of the last 9 months, I still don't have a finished thesis to show for it. I guess it's a really good object lesson for me as I learn not to get so worked up over everything, because it is absolutely self-defeating - such an outlay of energy without fruit. I know (well, at least I think!) it's all in God's timing, and that there were many important life lessons for me learn, but it's still been really hard. But that's life, isn't it. On my way to campus this morning, I was singing a song that says, "God is good, all the time and all the time, God is good." It's very simple. As I sang it this morning, I knew without a doubt that it is true.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Will somebody please put me to bed?

Why is it that I cannot go seem to go to bed at a reasonable hour when Dave's working all night? I was going to go to bed early, but then I had to finish some things, and before I knew it, it was 11:00. Then I decided for some reason (can one procrastinate in going to bed!?!?), I started reading some of the blog posts I wrote when I was in Tanzania. On a side note, I read a bunch of the posts from Kenya a few weeks ago and I was HORRIFIED at how many typos there were! I don't even have an excuse because I was typing on my own computer!! So now it's nearly midnight. This has happened almost every night this month! Dave's mom has always said that she can't go to bed early when she's all by herself, like at home or at a hotel, and I always thought that was a little strange - I would just relish the chance to go to bed early, since I was all alone. Shows me what's I know! Well, now I'm off to bed, since I do have to get up again to work hard and think hard tomorrow.
Just wanted to say I’m alive and kicking. I’m working hard and learning a lot. I’m learning to surrender my anxiety – to let God carry my burdens for me. I cannot bear them and He says they’re not mine to bear anyway. But it's a continual process of letting go and not grabbing them back. I’ve had some wonderful women at church helping me along this journey recently, and for them I am grateful. There’s so much more in my heart, but my capacity for words is consumed in the daily task of writing and rewriting. Soon it will be mine again to share. But in the meantime, know that I am well, but please continue to pray that God will daily be my grace, strength and wisdom.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Dave's reflections on the hospital in Malawi

I was looking for a file tonight on my computer and found these thoughts that Dave wrote about working in the hospital in Malawi that never actually got posted. I thought it might still be interesting.

5 February 2007

It’s getting near the end of my rotation here at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Malawi. The past week has been somewhat odd because I keep meeting people who haven’t really talked to me for the past five weeks and they are just meeting me for the first time. So I have to tell them that no, I’m really going in just a week and I can’t stay any longer. But it is very nice because they always look disappointed when I tell them.

I meant to write a while ago my first impressions of the hospital, but obviously I haven’t done so. When I arrived at the hospital the first day, it was much like the first day of any rotation in a new hospital. I was trying to find my way around (and getting lost several times), finding who was supposed to orient me, and attempting to perform appropriately as a student from the U.S.

My impressions of the hospital on the first day were also a bit muted I think thanks to the short trip Sarah had taken me on to see a hospital in Kenya. Were it not for that short trip, I think I would have been a bit shocked during my first visit to the surgical ward. As it was I was not surprised to see the condition of the hospital (it is the ‘best’ hospital in Malawi). During my first ward round with the physician, I was a bit shocked to see the condition and status of the patients. For example, there was a man there with jaundice. The only lab tests that had been done was a blood count. He had also had an ultrasound. So he was just waiting for the doctor’s to figure something out or do another test. For any of you familiar with medicine in the US, you know that this patient would have had a battery of laboratory tests (CBC, lytes, Ca, Mg, Phos, bili, alk phos, etc), ultrasound, CT (before leaving the ER), and possibly even laparotomy within a day or two and discharged within five. This man had been in the hospital for a week or more, and was receiving no visible treatment beyond waiting for tests to be ordered, completed, and interpreted. And there were several patients who were just there in the ward waiting either for a diagnosis or for surgery. Some had been there a few days, others a few weeks. They were just waiting.

The other part of the hospital that I was anxious to see on arrival was the operating room (or theater as they say here). And my first experience in the theater was not bad. In fact I was quite impressed. Sure the room was a little behind the times, with cracked windows, carts that were falling apart or welded together several times, and no climate control. But, the equipment was quite good. Anesthesia had a ventilator, full monitoring capabilities, and a wide enough array of drugs that the patients are always comfortable. The first procedure I saw was cystoscopy. The equipment there was in quite good condition and I have seen several successful cystoscopies in the five weeks here.

I should tell a couple of ‘fun’ stories about the theater. For the major operations, the drapes (reusable, cloth) are quite good, but for some of the minor cases, the drapes are a little lacking. Sometimes it looks as if you drape and create a sterile field with swiss cheese drape. One of the operations this week was one filled with statistics: estimated number of times this particular procedure had been done before in Malawi: 0. Age of the patient: 95. Number of insects on the sterile field during the procedure: 3 (two spiders and an ant). It was a remarkable surgery overall!

Last week the interns (in training just as in the US) decided to go on strike because they hadn’t been paid since August. It was a big deal because the interns do most of the work of running the hospital. They tend to bring in the physician (the attending or consultant) only when they feel things have gotten beyond their ability to deal with it. So, the consultant rarely sees a simple abscess or acute urinary retention, or even some cases that need surgery (the intern may just go ahead with the surgery). So, that was an interesting day. The interns got paid and so they came back to work the next day, but it certainly made a difference in how the hospital ran.

So, I guess that’s all about the hospital. Feel free to comment if you have other specific questions.


Sunday, November 11, 2007

The weekend and reflections on transition

I can’t believe the weekend is almost over already! On Friday night, some ladies from church came over for a girls’ night. Everybody brought something and we had a potluck dinner. Then they gave me some decorating ideas for the house – how to rearrange some furniture, where to put some pictures, what colors to paint the walls. We had a really good time. Now that a few more people have been here, I think we can make it a more regular event. I was going to post a picture, but they didn’t come out at all – someone looks really bad in every one.

Today after church, we went to pick up a porch swing that we bought off Craig’s list. I am SO excited. I’ve been wanting a porch swing, but had no idea where on earth you get one. Well, it occurred to me yesterday to try Craig’s List, and there happened to be a hanging cedar porch swing that someone needed to get rid of this weekend! And for WAY less than buying one from a store (I also found out from google yesterday that you can buy them at big box stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot as well as order them from websites that are entirely devoted to porch swings. Who knew!?)

(photo from

I think we’re getting into the swing of Dave working night shift. I’ve reordered my schedule a little bit so that I’m able to spend some time with him in the hour or two a day that he’s home and awake. It’s also made it easier to work on my thesis in the evening, after he leaves. We’ve started eating dinner at 5:30 so we can eat together. I still don’t like going to bed by myself, but I’m getting over the laying in bed hearing EVERY, SINGLE noise inside and outside the house. I trust God to take care of me and I know that nothing will ever happen to me outside of his power and control. He was working this weekend, but he has the rest of the weekends off in November – hurray!!! Then he works pretty much every day in December until Christmas, but we’ll take what we’ve got while we’ve got it, right? ☺

My thesis is almost done. I have a bit more of the draft chapters to rework and get to my advisor, then some serious editing and preparing my presentation. It will be SO good to have it all done. Then it will be time to try to find a way to go back to Kenya to do some follow-up work in the community, which is where I hope the real impact will be. In the last few days, I’ve actually enjoyed the process of reading, thinking and writing again, and I realize that I will miss being a student and engaging intellectually in an academic environment. But there are still lots of things to read about urban ministry/community development, and there are several people here with whom I know I can have in depth discussions about the work we do. It will be an interesting transition. I’m certainly ready for the thesis to be done, but I’m not sure that I’m ready to not be a student and have to figure out who I am again. I also unsure what my involvement will be with Africa once I’m done with my master’s program. I know that I’ll always be involved in my community in Kenya, but I’m not sure what that will look like in the near future. So, I will finish my master’s program (It’s about time, actually, after three and a half years!) and will be open to everything that God has next for me. I’ve never been good with transition and change, but I’m learning to give thanks for each season and I’m trying to learn to look ahead toward the next as an exciting adventure.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Summer Fun

I was going through some pictures from this summer for a cousin and I found these funny pictures of my husband being silly.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Encouragement to Iraq

As you know, my brother is in Iraq for the next 14 months and I’m looking for some fun and creative ways to encourage him. My plan is to write to him every week and include an encouraging Bible verse or quote on an index card (with fun colors of course!) My parents and I sent a package last week with a lot of things he requested and a few fun things. Dave and I put in a dozen or so packets of fire sauce from Taco Bell (he puts hot sauce on everything), some candy, a note from each of us, some family pictures and pictures with his cat that I took before he left. I also found a couple of those little rubber poppers that you turn inside out, lay on a solid surface and then they pop up in the air – remember those? I’d like to keep sending him small packages, but I’m not very creative and need some help thinking of ideas of things that would be fun, but not just junk that he has to figure out what to do with (though the poppers probably fit into that category!) One of the things he requested was some healthy snacks – any ideas of things that aren’t too heavy, aren’t perishable and would mail well would also be appreciated.

Please continue to pray for him – that God would protect his mind, body and spirit, that God would be his strength and his vision, and that God would show him in this time the plans He has for his life.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

It is good

At church, we’re starting a series on Genesis (we did Acts for the first 3 years of the church, so we’ll probably be in Genesis for the next 5!) and one thing Pastor said was that at the end of each day, God said, “It is good.” He challenged us to say the same thing – to see the various things in our lives and say, “It is good.” Don’t be hung up on yesterday or worry about tomorrow, but focus on today and thank God that today is good. I don’t know if I’ve explained it very well, but this was really big for me, because I have been in a season where I’ve really had a fairly negative outlook and have seen the difficulties of each day more than the goodness. He also talked about how we sometimes have seasons in life in which most of the season is good. But then the end of the season is really hard and we forget that most of the season really was good. That is absolutely my grad school experience. Most of it was really good. I enjoyed it and I learned a lot. I have some wonderful friends out of it. But, the last few months have been really hard – writing my thesis in the circumstances I’ve been in has been one of the most personally challenging things I’ve done in a long time and a different kind of challenge then a lot of other things I’ve faced in life. But, when I look at the process of grad school and of being a graduate student, I definitely have to say, “It is good.”

When I look at Friday, yesterday and today, I have to say, “It is good.”

On Friday, Dave slept for a few hours and then, while I worked hard on my thesis, put down insulation in the attic. R49 baby! I really hope that reduces our heat bill for the winter and allows us to use less energy. When you look out over the insulation, though, it just looks like a fluffy pink cloud and makes me want to run and dive into it like a pile of leaves or two feet of snow. Maybe I could make an insulation angel!

We finally found a couple dollar theaters around town and Friday night we went to see the Nanny Diaries at one of them. I really enjoyed it – between having been a nanny and also having studied enough anthropology to totally get the anthropology references, it was really fun. Then we came home, made popcorn and played a game. It’s definitely been a challenge to stay connected to each other with our current responsibilities and schedules, so this was much needed and appreciated.

On Saturday, we went to the bank to deposit a check. Now remember, we live in Detroit, which is not a place most normal businesses like to operate. So there are only four Fifth Third banks in the entire city. In the city where I grew up (Louisville, KY - a wonderful place), there are at least 17! And its only 2/3 of the size of Detroit AND its not even the main region for that bank. We would consider switching except that we just bought a bunch of new checks with our new address on them. So, we had to drive across town to go to the bank and the closest one happens to be on the east side near the river. We’ve been wanting to go check out the river trail, so after we went to the bank, we went down to the river and walked a bit along the river trail. The Detroit River (at least in that section) was actually very pretty – a nice bluish green - in contrast to the yucky brown of the Ohio River in said hometown. Plus, it was SO, SO good to be outside, especially in the beautiful, sunny fall weather we had. We walked to the Renaissance Center, which I had never actually been in. There are lots of shops and a few restaurants. I had no idea. So the trip to the bank: It was good.

Next we went to our neighborhood hardware store. They have just about anything you could need, in addition to wonderfully friendly and helpful people who run it. To me, it seems like a hardware/general store, and it’s almost like a mini-Target. I love being able to support a local, family-run business that specializes in the old houses in the neighborhood. We came home with furnace filters, an auger to unclog our tub, two rakes, a hand trowel, a few things to add a couple electrical outlets in the basement and a box of matches. I almost came home with envelopes, pens, an apple peeler/corer, screws, nails and a shovel, but we’ll save those for the next trip! The hardware store? Yep, it was good.

Today after church, we had a couple over for dinner before Dave went to work. They are close to our parents’ age. They’ve been coming to our church for a little while, but just made the move completely from their old church and I hadn’t really talked to them until the missions conference a few weeks ago. It was totally spur of the moment that we invited them over for dinner, counting on finding something in the fridge and/or cupboard to eat. It was really fun getting to talk to them and getting to know them better. We certainly have the most interesting people in our church with such a variety of experiences in life. On Friday night this week, a group of ladies are coming over to help me figure out what to do with my house and get some ideas to decorate (which includes helping me find a good place for my things from Africa). So Sunday? Yep, it was good.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

A swfit kick in the pants

I keep looking at other people's blogs and wondering why they haven't posted anything since their last post and then I looked at my own and realized it had been even longer! Man, the time goes by fast.

Late last week, my advisor emailed me and asked for a schedule of when I would send him draft chapters. He was "very concerned" about whether I would be able to defend this semester. Well, I'd been meaning to work on that schedule for a while now, but just hadn't done it. When I started counting back when I would need to defend, when I needed to have the draft to my committee in order to defend by then, when I needed to have all my chapters in to my advisor in order to get said draft to my committee, I realized all of a sudden that I had to have all my chapters in by the end of next week!! No more playing around. So now I have a really tight schedule and ABSOLUTELY FIRM deadlines, which means that I am finally getting some work done and making progress! Woohoo! I have 2 chapters in, have a third scheduled to go in today, then a few more to get in next week. So, while this means that I'm doing little else besides work on my thesis (and, not so occasionally, read blogs and play sudoku online), it also means that I will be done soon. I can do ANYTHING for a few weeks. When we went grocery shopping this weekend, I bought a number of things to be able to make easy, quick meals, and also got myself a few treats, (popcorn, chips and salsa and cashews) to munch on while I'm working. I also found this great website with PhD comics that remind me that I really am still a graduate student, which also makes me more motivated to keep working.

In other news, we had about 30 trick or treaters come to our house last night, including 10 or so from the adult group home down the street. We have just a few pieces of candy left over, which makes a nice treat, but doesn't give me too much temptation.

Today is a new month, so it means Dave switches from surgery to nights. He will spend most nights this month at the hospital from 7pm to 7am. He has this weekend off, though, so he will work tonight and then be off until Sunday night, which is when he will really shift into working nights mode. One of our activities this weekend will be to come up with some strategies for this new schedule, including making sure we actually see each other. It will also affect how I work and schedule my time. I had been getting up with Dave at 5ish, working out and getting to work, but there is no way I can (nor do I have any desire to) continue getting up at that unreasonable hour on my own. (Although I'm thinking of getting a part time job at Starbucks once my thesis is done, so I might soon eat - or drink - those words!)

Well, it's time to get back to work now...