Thursday, July 30, 2009

Time for a Change

I have a new blog posting, but friends, it is time to convert. I have been back in the States for 8 months, so I really should move on from the “carmen-in-zambia” blog site. The new address:

Tales from an American Vicar


An appropriate title I think...

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

What up Queens?

Unequivocally, a cool day. Yesterday my friend Kekla and I snooped around Long Island City in Queens to seriously expand our cultural awareness. There is a building complex beside the subway line just as you emerge from beneath ground on the 7 train into Queens that is full of beautiful graffiti. I have always been curious about the place, so I recruited a companion and headed there with my camera yesterday. A row of rather unfriendly looking men sat in lawn chairs along a paint-laden concrete wall just outside the building and until we got a nod from a gentleman at the end of the line, I thought perhaps Kekla and I were going to get booted out of the place. As it turns out, a guy named "Meres" had a vision for this public art space years ago and it attracts artists from all over the world. Artists who prove themselves worthy are given a wall where they can paint anything they want for free. The better the art, the longer it stays. Meres, donning a stylish fedora hat and wearing paint smudged jeans, was the one that gave us the head nod to enter his fascinating maze of colorful tributes to life and art and crumbling fame and fortune.

We talked to a tall, lanky Irish kid who fidgeted with excitement as he stood before his palette, preparing for his second attempt at creating something worthy of attention. I was expecting him to tell us that his work was "subversive" or a "critique on modern social ills" or something like that. But instead he told us that his graffiti is about "becoming famous. I want people to know my name." So much for subversion.

We then headed to PS1, a modern art space that hosts a block party every Saturday. The space is beautiful and fascinating and worthy of a visit. Dark sun glasses bobbed rhythmically to the house music being spun in the courtyard while white wine and beer sloshed in the hands of pretty, sleek 30-somethings.

There were some interesting, interactive media exhibitions that Kekla and I had fun playing with.
All in all, a good Saturday.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

My sister is having a baby...

... any day now. I am thrilled. Pleased as punch. I love my two darling nephews and now we are adding a girl to the bunch.

But, procreation is something I struggle to wrap my mind around.

Clearly I get it, biologically. But this whole procreation thing is a miracle. An everyday miracle that people I know and love have achieved. One good friend meets another good friend. They fall in love and voila, 9 months later, a tiny, unique individual comes into the world. Two people become three.

The math does not add up: 1 + 1 = 3 (or sometimes 4).


Lots of things make me want to burst into tears. If society would allow it, I'd probably be a blubbering mess most days because the world can be so stinking beautiful. I walked past a dry cleaners that had this sign hanging in the window:

Redemption is all around my friends. All around us.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

I got nothing

I am in a blogging slump.

And it isn't because my life feels particularly boring.

My life has been interesting since returning to New York: seeing old friends from high school, going to dinner with fabulous people, playing softball on warm summer Sunday evenings (my team is really nice to me despite the fact that I am a disaster on the field), went to the opera in Central Park and watched a movie under the stars and the Brooklyn Bridge last week. Visited friends in Princeton and followed the "bridge and tunnel people" back to New York on a Saturday night (I have never seen so many pairs of five-inch heals in my life). Had a lovely time with my friend Tracy who was visiting from Chad (yes, THE Chad. THE Chad where less than 1% of the population has access to electricity and was deemed the most corrupt country in the world a few years ago), and got to talk to Cheryl, my dear friend from Zambia on the phone the other night.

So, what is wrong with me? Plagued by fantastic experiences and plagued by writer's block.

Maybe it is because life feels jumbled. You ever feel like this? Jumbled. Mixed-up. A little unclear. Fabulous and simultaneously a little un-fabulous.

I have just two more months left in New York and although there are two viable job opportunities on the table, I still feel a little .... mmmm.... jumbled.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Post-Vacation Flu

Does this ever happen to you? Just when your body begins to relax-- WHAM-- sick. I just got home from vacation, which was fabuloso, but now, here I sit in my underwear (the air conditioning hasn't kicked in yet), box of tissues in hand trying to figure out if I am hot or cold. I am breathing like an 80 year-old smoker on oxygen.

I just popped in a cough drop and am looking at pics from the last two weeks as Allison Krauss and her blue-grass band serenades me. My life is pretty darn great. Went camping with my fam over the weekend, went to the Oregon Coast, ate ice cream at the Tillamook Cheese Factory, swam with my nephews, built sand castles, stayed up late reading novels, saw whales in Depot Bay, went to the aquarium, worked out in the garden with my sister, ate halibut that just might be the best fish in the world, and laughed at countless hilarious things my nephews said and did.

I love vacation.

Right before I left this morning Tyson was strolling the "Practice Baby" around the house. My sister cleverly put a doll in a car-seat to prepare the boys for a baby sister, but the boys pile toys on her and "pretend she is a boy."

I am happily sunburned and refreshed after 2 weeks away from the craziness of New York City. Gonna go crawl into my cozy bed and hopefully sleep like the dead. I'm bringing the kleenex box to bed with me.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Welcome babies!

Welcome to the world baby Maddie and baby Laney! My friend Jess just gave birth to these beautiful baby girls and despite the fact that they were born into a pretty tough situation, mommy and girls are doing well. I got to visit them in the hospital while home on vacation.

Tiny, beautiful girls. I am so glad to meet you!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

a few days on the farm

I love vacation. Spending time with the fam can be stressful for some people, but I love it. When I stay with my sister I sleep with the windows open and you can hear the cows in the pasture out back and the rooster crow at dawn. I unabashedly listen to country music and wear overalls and boots to work out in the garden.

I have bruises all over my legs from my nephews who love to climb Aunt Carmen and nap in my bed and ram their bicycles into my shins. We have been to the library, swim lessons, to the park, to the batting cages, and I have read endless books on Thomas the Tank Engine. This morning I helped round up chickens to clip their wings (this doesn't hurt, all you city folk).

Life is good in Canby, Oregon.

We are going camping this weekend and I am crossing my fingers that the weather will be lovely so I can try out my new frog-green bathing suit. I'm dying for some sun. My sis and I will probably lounge around with novels because she is PREGNANT and the wee girl growing inside her is demanding more and more of her energy.

I'll keep you posted on the adventures...

Monday, June 15, 2009

Cheer from the New York Times

I love this picture. I was reading an article in the Times over the weekend and was charmed by the hand-scrawled bike and sunshine.

The world can be such a messy place. Just reading about Iran and North Korea and Zimbabwe and spending some time with clashes here at home can make one feel awfully small and awfully dreary.

But then there are pictures like this that remind us that the world is full of sweetness. A sunrise and a bicycle made for two. May the coming week be full of bright days, blue skies, and deep delight-- ice cream, a hand to hold, and belly-aching laughter.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Ode to stupid things

In the last week I have made a number of profound mistakes. Predominately around communication. I have misread some communication that proved earth-shatteringly embarrassing. I have said a litany of ridiculous things and worse, I have done a few ridiculous things that have made me pause and say, "Really? You did that?" And to top it off, I have offended a few people.

Almost all of this has been done completely by accident.

Some days are like that. Some weeks are like that.

Then I remember a little thing called grace. Something that I am not all that great at giving or receiving. I hold grudges. I endlessly critique myself and others. I can just hear my mother saying, "Be kinder, Carmen. Be kinder to yourself and be kinder to others." My mom has been gone more than 9 years now. I have nearly forgotten what it is like to have a mother who calls and writes and sends packages and cares about all the things that no one else cares about. But hopefully her words have taken root even more deeply than her DNA and one of these days I will grow a little more wise and a little more gracious.

And so I say goodnight with words my mother always used to say, "Don't worry, dear. Things always look brighter in the morning."

Friday, June 12, 2009

No sacrifice at all

It is 7:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning and I have been awake for almost 2 hours. This is a rare phenomenon. Even more rare is the fact that I really don't want to go back to sleep.

Last night I was having dinner with a friend, not so unusual on a Friday night, when I got a phone call from the church receptionist asking if I might step in at the shelter that evening because the volunteer for the night had failed to show. I felt inconvenienced, but as a martyr, accepted to invitation and gathered a few things before meeting the group of guys outside the church. As soon as I saw them any smug self-congratulation was squelched and replaced with the more accurate realization that this really was no sacrifice at all, but instead, a much needed reality check. The men were laden with "things" for when you are homeless, you carry all you own on your back or in roller suitcases.

As some of us went to the shelter kitchen to make sandwiches for dinner, one man carefully laid out his regiment of pills treating his diabetes and heart condition. Another man put in the latest Van Damme movie while another opened up his bed, pulled a sheet over his head and went to sleep.

"Lights out at 10 p.m." and our short evening together came to a close. I set out coffee and cereal and muffins in the morning and I received warm and insistent thanks as they ate and gathered their things for the day. Thank you nice, rich lady for sacrificing a whole evening of your time to make sure we didn't have to find a place on the street last night.

Not much of a sacrifice at all.

One gentlemen, let's call him 'R," was telling me about what life was like in Alabama where he was raised. His mama used to make him grits and eggs and cold cereal has been ruined for him forever. He said he was catching a bus later that day to go to Rockaway to fish for the weekend and I wished him well. I cannot help but wonder what it would take for R to obtain the dignity of a safe place to keep his clothes, his diabetes medication, a fishing rod, and a collection of goods for cooking grits. Wouldn't that be nice.

Here I sit, fingertips on a laptop, reading facebook posts from my lovely 16 year olds who are preoccupied with their clothes and shoes and parties and exams completely oblivious to R and others like him. I don't suppose I am all that different. But I should be.

Photo courtesy of a friend (Udo Wiegartner)