Sunday, December 16, 2007

stealing thoughts:
I read the following article a couple weeks ago when i was beginning to contemplate how I felt as through God wanted us to go about communicating with others this coming year. should we continue blogging? if so, how much? for what purpose? under what conditions? we're not traveling anymore, and really - that was the sexy appeal to reading of our ramblings.

so here is my adaptation of the article cited earlier to help explain and put structure to these tangential thoughts and musings.

"(with many personal adaptations - just thought I would put the quotes here to make sure you all know that I am not this fluid with my words - these are mostly the words of others) Back when "blog" was a typo, I journaled. Since taking up this little bit of writing as means of sharing my thoughts on matters, developing ideas, and seeking to generate discussions on matters of love, community, poverty, politics, etc., I'm journaling substantially less. In fact, I'm really not journaling at all.

Lately though, I'm feeling the need to journal prayers because blogging is a little bit like public speaking: there's only so much you can write before it becomes an unhealthy dumping ground, which we all know I have utilized this space in the past for. And the very act of limiting disclosure creates an even greater necessity for a platform where one can be honest with God. The Psalmist calls this pouring out his heart. And the Psalmists, both David and others, did it well. The full range of doubt, fear, anger, praise, rest, trust, gratitude, awareness of beauty and ugliness, pain and healing, are all expressed, directly to God. I wonder: if David had known his work would be published, would he have been as open?

The danger with blogging instead of journaling, or keeping facebook instead of having people over for supper, is that these pixel and byte sized versions of ourselves can easily become confused with our real selves. But they never are.

My real self right now is profoundly moved by the beautiful early mornings, before the sun is up, because the air is invigorating and cold, and the hints of impending long winter genuinely create joy within. But I'm also profoundly aware of my own struggles and doubts right now, mostly centered around feelings of inadequacy for my calling to love my neighbors as much as I love myself. I know the right answers; know that God's strength is made perfect in our weakness. And yet... I just feel awkward, even though I'm truly excited about the ever increasing communication and small miracles being demonstrated and the potential behind it. I'm also simply just experiencing an indescribable joy in response the out-pouring of grace, love and honor that has been given to both of us by our family, friends, neighbors, students, clients & co-workers. We also have been learning how to live within and gain energy from the struggles, anxieties, worries, grief and brokenness of those same very people. This area is affecting me more deeply than I'd care to admit, because I'm finding myself desperately wanting to make each day stretch longer, involve more love, be able to give more, give better. Yet, its precisely because of this that I have been biting off too much that seems 'important'. When I do this two things happen: 1) I feel so overwhelmed that I'm not certain what to actually do in the next moment. Long 'to do' lists of 'things' having a paralyzing effect on me sometimes, and 2) Relationships suffer. This bothers me, and I'm in the midst of talking with God about it.

That's why I'm going to begin limiting entries like this one today, with an effort to make them a rare platform and more less a sharing ground for you to see pictures and enjoy the light of our lives. I want to talk with you all more often, and if not talk - write personally. All other things, it seems to me at this time, belong in a journal. I'm thinking of the story of Moses, when the children of Israel, having been delivered from Egypt, are complaining to Moses because they think they're about to die. (Exodus 14) He speaks boldly in front of Israel, but it's clear that when he's along with God he pours his heart out, which apparently included his own doubts Moses isn't being two people - he's simply being discreet about where he expresses certain things.

I'm not even certain why I'm writing this entry, other than a desire to share with you that this isn't the platform where I'm going to pour my heart out any longer. I am different than movie and book reviews, ideas about the kingdom, politics and economics, hiking trails (although there are times when I feel most at home and like who I was created to be when I am hiking). I'll still blog because I think talking points on matters where love and God intersects life are important, and because I want to share what I'm learning through various experiences in hopes that others might learn too. But I am not my blog. I refuse to have a deeper relationship with a box and keys than with you."

On a side note:
We decided this year that we were going to gift our neighbors with love. making dozens and dozens of various flavors, types, combinations of muffins to give. Books are also flooding in for the kids; a couple other randoms for others including $10 worth of lotto tickets for Abuela; and amaryllis indoor growing kits for our widows, not to be confused with windows.

A couple pictures for the past month:

: jake's brother jason came down for a visit to pick up his new bike, not to be confused with our new bike covered up in the backdrop :

: yes, we went thrift store shopping. yes, I got a pretty dress & yes, jake bought a real chicago fireman jacket. his reasoning, "why wouldn't you buy a jacket that's wind proof, water proof, fire proof & high visibility." right. :

: Edgar & Jiaya on a lazy Saturday afternoon :

: the kids have been doing things around our home and for the neighbors to earn money for Christmas gifts. now i am beginning to see the perks of having kids of our own. for only $2 we got our entire 10' X 10' kitchen floor swept & scrubbed. we paid another $2 for the bathtub and toilet. yes, we had them clean our toilet :

: flip it yourself if possible - Christmas with the DeBoni's. Motorcycle jackets that honestly keep me toasty - a hard feat - and hot chocolate. Thanks parents! :

: Christmas lights at Lincoln Park Zoo :

: ...with the kids. and note: upon arrival, you receive these... :

: ...which allow you to see this! :

: and then there was Santa. A really skinny Santa :

P.S. We've also attempted to be diligent in "forgetting" our camera. sometimes memories are better left inside the imagination i believe.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Posting from this time last year:

Although the "Holiday Season" has begun to manifest itself through most every human possible means (this is of coarse a guess, I am living in an Arabic community!)... I was just thinking about alternative possibilities to giving to others, outside of any material gift (again - I do have to admit, we did send our families gifts this year)... here are a few ideas I thought you may be interested in-

Sewa-Ashram is a Christ-centered community dedicated to the practical application of spirituality to the reality of suffering, present amongst the poor. Their mission is to provide long-term holistic care and professional treatment for the sick and dying destitute of Delhi's streets.

International Justice Mission is an organization that works to defend the poor, the widow, the orphan, and the slave. With just a small donation you can sponsor a day’s wages for an investigative worker ($50), legal advocate ($70), or social worker ($40). You can find these, and many other ways to give under the GIVE index, found in the top right corner.

World Hope International works to relieve suffering around the world by offering a care package to a woman who has survived sexual trafficking ($60) or provide a microcredit loan ($100).

Mennonite Central Committee offers a Christmas Giving Catalog which includes possible gifts such as giving $26 to provide kitchen supplies to a displaced family in Cambodia.

Samaritan’s Purse offers numerous opportunities to give to others in third world countries. One example of an offering is by donating just $9 you can feed a hungry baby for a week.

United Methodist Committee on Relief works to serve others by offering financial support to others. Their gift catalog includes offering $37 to a child in South Sudan to feed them a meal every school day for six months.

World Vision offers a number of opportunities to give through their Christmas catalog.

Catholic Relief Services - Wow! Withe just $13 you can immunize a child in the developing world against measles, diphtheria, whooping cough, polio, tetanus, AND tuberculosis.

Alterna works with and advocates for immigrants in situations that are often egregiously unjust. Immigrants are not allowed to acquire driver’s licenses, yet they are allowed to purchase cars and get jobs they need to drive to. One working poor immigrant has paid over $2,000 in fines for simply driving without a license. Help Alterna turn what is exploitation of the poor into an act of civil disobedience and solidarity! Donate $1-$150 to help immigrants "Drive in Peace." To order this or other gifts, email or phone (706-302-9661) Alterna.

Hope each of you are enjoying this beautiful Advent Season...

additional P.S. - if you have a specific "type" of organization you would like to give to but have idea of where to begin looking, drop us a note or an e-mail and we'll do our best to help you out during the most beautiful season of giving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thoughts from a Chicago-based ESL teacher...

Happy Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 16, 2007

calls often.

he just got his first pay check for playing the Oscar Meyer Weiner and bought a PSP.

when we were getting off the phone right now (10 pm) we told, as always, that we love him.

Edgar's response, "yeah, I know you do."


Thursday, November 15, 2007

children of God = our God children.

the entire family - husband/father

the building mud pie dinosaurs


absolute joy

entire family + one photo-unhappy babe

if you have a little time & want a little fun take a visit to Free Rice

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

it's 7ish in the morning.

Carter is off to bed. Asheley & the babe are still in bed. Doug has chelloed off to his new job at the paper mill and here Maya & I sit watching Sesame Street.

Breakfast has been had and I'm just awaiting the moment Asheley comes down and says, "Let's make some coffee."

Watching Maya is amazing. I wonder if she knows how much she rolls around from one side of her belly to the next. How often she lifts her legs in the air and scratched her tenderonies. How often she reaches into the sky as though it was hers to control.

What happened just moments ago though trumped all the cuteness that has ever seeped from her skin & personality.

Just moments ago, as I was watching her eat her bagel and watch T.V. I witnessed her bend over in her kiddie-sized chair and let out the absolute longest toot I have ever heard. What followed though - unbelievable!

Maya, my precious god-daughter stood up,
turned around,
bent down,
put her face to the chair
and took a big ole' sniff of her own fart up into her nostrils.

Big ole' sniff of her own omitted gas.

She is absolutely amazing & I can't say I wouldn't have done the same if I didn't know the median of cultural norms. Oh to be a kid again.

Friday, November 09, 2007

A wee little neighbor of ours would like to play you a song.

Jake and Jess

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

hide & go seek.
it's been ages.

yet, tonight, that's what i play. it's who i am.

after sunday's melting, jake and i decided that i need a night. one night each week that i have no one over & rest. rest my mind. rest my hands. rest my ears.

although this task may seem quite easy to some, in this household, for these walls - hiding is not an easy task. jake and i have both heard statements leak form the mouths of babes & adults alike, "i saw your shades were up, so i knew you were home" to "jessica! the lights are on in your house, i know you're home." - i was, just on the toilet when they came a knockin'.

so tonight i play. hide. it's their turn to seek.

i came home to a dark house with my husband waiting inside. after a much desired kiss he took me into he kitchen where dinner was in mid-preparation and the water was hot - ready for tea/hot cocoa. at that time a flashlight was placed in my hand and his familiar voice asked me to "have a good night." that statement has never fallen on my ears with such weight. such release.

the kids came a knockin' - so i crawled around our apartment, with hopes that they wouldn't hear the floor boards creek or see my shadow dance on the walls from the neighbors flood lights (ah - light pollution, how i hate you!). I listened to the variety of songs our plug-in door chime has & dashed around our apartment, ensuring no sounds were made to clue them off as to my existence, my trick, my hide, their seek.

they left, seven rug-burn minutes later.

tonight i'm taking a night off. maybe a night for a movie. maybe a night for...

regardless, this typing in the dark is making my eyes bleed and this portion of my night must end.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

thank yous.

you see, i have a stack of thank you cards. literally a stack.
a good big toe (measured length wise) size in depth.
all fully written thank yous.
well, 95% written out.
95% addressed (all addresses obtained months ago).
only 10% with postage.

all of them over 3 months due, and that's being quite liberal in the turn over rate of gift given and a one month leeway.

garbage side: they're still not out & that, as an unintended consequence, makes me feel like a big glob of applesauce.

pleasant side: because i'm negligent in sending these initial well intentioned notes, i think of each and every one of you almost everyday. really.

worst side: one of these letters in a sympathy note. on that note, i think it may just be the best one to delay. so often i have found people get inundated with cards immediately following the death of their loved one and one week/month later, their loss is often slighted with everyday everydayness.

ugh - i am my mother's daughter.

edgar is over. looking up stories of validation that his high school is haunted.
we love him. so much.

p.s. related to toes: new found glory. where were these when i was wearing trouser socks everyday?

Monday, November 05, 2007

something new.

it's a bit campy - but it works for the "right now."

working with a daily (read: semi-daily) inventory. i know asheley, i know.

it's a messy process. so messy in fact that it's not even addressed until Step 10 in the 12 Steps of Recovery.

still, i know i need to do this. i need, at this time in the "right now," to take time and give myself and my beloved an assessment of where i am. so i've started here.

for the next "while" - whatever while
really means i'm going to answer the following questions, with trust in God and a hope of honesty placed within this "self" that through this daily inventory i may be lead to understand a little bit more where this "self" is going through all this messiness.

  • what is frustrating me now?
  • what am i angry about?
  • what am i scared of?
  • what am i dreading?
  • what am i anxious about?
  • what concerns me?
  • what is the smallest thing that i feel dumb about even writing down but it is actually stressing me out?
  • what am i looking forward to?
    • today?
    • tomorrow?
    • this year?
so we'll see what happens.

only God knows - maybe. this whole free will thing just may be getting in the way of His ability to know my future.


Saturday, November 03, 2007

sorry about the deep-press.

i'm going to have to try something new.

in the 12 step program they give this definition of insanity - "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

summary - i'm insane. really.

i have to force myself to rest. i also really need to force myself to blog more often - when things are good. not deep-pressing. sorry about that, i'll do better. Insha'Allah.

i've been feeling whipped lately. i think it's all part of a greater pulse pressing on all sides, beginning to vibrate all that i have found makes me who i am.

i haven't figured anything out yet but i figured this: i am still grieving. ugh.

i believe i have shared this not so profound thought before, but after my melt-down on saturday, with it's fresh pain still a little too close for comfort, i figured it may be worth it to mention it once again.

so with that "once again..." let me give a little e-d-u: probably the most well-known authors who speaks of grief might be from Elizabeth Kubler-Ross who wrote "On Death and Dying." in it, she identified five stages that a dying patient experiences when informed of their terminal prognosis.

the stages Kubler-Ross identified are as follows:

stage 1 ± denial - check. "i'm not crazy. everyone else thinks this way, don't they? please, someone tell me i'm not alone in all this. please tell me you think these thoughts too. please!"

stage 2 ± anger - check. "why do i feel so absolutely crazy?!? why do i hate cars, hate money, hate clothes, dishes, the availability of water, the abuse of energy, the bickering of intellects, the idols of fashion. why do i feel angry simply allowing myself to be angry!"

stage 3 ± bargaining - check. "maybe i won't feel so ape if i give all my money away, make all my own clothes, eat only what's 99 cents or below & give all my time to my neighbors. yeah! that's it! let the craziness be gone!"

stage 4 ± depression - check. "i'm done. i still feel unhinged & unzipped, nutty & unbalanced. why do i care so deeply but feel like it's slowly destroying me. ugh. i'm done."

stage 5 ± acceptance - check. "saturday. not fully here yet but feeling more at rest with where He has me at this time. still feeling a little unstable, but i guess that comes with the territory of me allowing the messiness of Christ's blood to flow inside me."

although i'm not dying (thank you God - although let it be known I would be okay if i was...i think) i, thanks to the help of pastor Guizar, have come to discover once again that life is just one continuous messy sequence of events & experiences that dance in the abyss of celebration & grief. time and time again. we all are in a constant state of celebration & grief. not just to be pinned on those who are physically dying or grieving the loss of someone who has physically died, but everyone who breathes & loves, letting their bodies, soul, heart and mind experience life to it's fullest capacity, which i - by the way, have by no means done.

on that note: it's a grilled cheese and tomato soup night and my beloved is due home soon.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

a slurry of jumbled thoughts.

as of late i have been confronted with a slurry of thoughts, tears, realizations, confrontations, questions and hopes.

i have realized that i make decisions in partnership with Guilt.

jake & I bought a motorcycle today. in fact, at this moment he is driving his Suzuki V-Stom home from Minneapolis, MN. We've been putting this idea around for a number of months now. weighing the pros against the cons - setting into motion the ever developing conflict within regarding the stewardship of finances and figuring out what not only what works best for us, but what works best for His Kingdom. in reeling through the demons gawking and babbling in my mind i was given the discovery of that nasty "G" word - the word that keeps so me so often immobilized from objective decision making = Guilt. my affair.

i take short showers (most of the time) because my neighbors in Africa are dying due to lack of water. i don't buy "stuff" anymore not wholly inpart because i don't want to but because I can't bring myself to spend money in such a way when women on the corner of cicero & armitage sell their bodies, their spirits for just enough money to feed their children. widows next door are hungry because our promised social security is not enough for her to live on. because day laborers here in Chicago, IL only receive $50 a day. that's just over $18,000 if they work 365 days, no days off while their wives & children live without the paternal figurehead of their home. because every tues. morning cute messy men comb through our garbage cans looking for wood, cooper, and food.

this is how I believe I have in part trained my brain to practice discernment, conviction, discipline. In part out of empathy, in part out of pain, in part out of hope, at times out of conviction and because Jesus says to love your neighbor as yourself. now i have realized in part because of the guilt i feel and experience each day in response to making decisions, both big & small. for some reason, i feel a part of this entire messed up system i guess, and with my decisions i don't want to short change anyone. i'm not sure what balance will find it's way into a lifestyle of mindful comfort or cease the raging unquenchable restlessness that feels so deeply buried within the fibers of my spirit but i somewhat long for the day when i can walk into the corner store to buy a loaf of bread and not think about how much better that money could have been spent of feel like i should give that money, in equal amount, to someone who really needs it.

what i do know is this, i am no different than each and every man and woman i talk with each day either on the street corners, around the neighborhoods or at Garfield Counseling Center. each day i find myself within the presence of beautiful men and women whom i know i am no different from.

i am absolutely no different from Sofia whom uses heroin as means to stitch together the deep sever of loss and grief from loosing her two only children within three months of each other. her son from an accident and her daughter from an aneurysm. her husband left her not long after. she uses because no one has yet given her permission to grieve. she needs, she longs for a friend to rest with. heroin is the perfect choice.

I am absolutely no different from Willy who has two college degrees. one in pharmaceuticals. the other in computer science. diagnosed with cancer six years ago he was forced to quit his job as a phar. sales rep. soon after he found out that he had congestive heart failure. his wife left him. he later began to experience symptoms of depression, one of which is inability to fall asleep. he then began using heroin. it was the only thing that would bring him rest.

Ruby grew up in the projects and in her words, "in a home and community of extreme violence." raped, molested, shot at, tied up, stolen from, pregnant at age 15, two children at age 17, dropped out of h.s. because her mom refused to care for her children, physically, sexually & mentally abused by her common-law husband for 17 years. of coarse she uses heroin. she now has HIV is homeless and lives off Jesus. she loves Jesus. I am absolutely no different from her.

some may question my sanity when they read that i believe that i am no different than Sofia, Willie or Ruby. because let's be honest today - i am different. i was given the tools to be different. my parents raised me in a home and community which was different. i attended a school and a church which opened my eyes to difference. yet - i know, without question or hesitation, that if i were in their situations, growing up within their homes, their communities, their schools and churches, i would have seen no other choice than to deal with loss, pain, guilt, grief or even joy & celebration for that matter, without heroin, alcohol, cocaine, marijuana, sex, potato chips or pop/soda. i digress.

so here is to gratitude. gratitude for an education and home where knowledge was nurtured and growth was encouraged. gratitude that despite my unfaithfulness, God has continued to pound His unceasing heart within me. gratitude that despite these demons dancing within - i know they are dancing within a transparent cell of serenity in which guilt can be nurtured and used as a temporary means for growth toward a deeper relationship with Christ, a deeper relationship with my neighbors, my clients and these beautiful radiating children.

pict. 1 - the kids couldn't handle getting their hands dirty and at first were making their way to the sink in between ever hand dip into the pumpkin to clean it's guts out. we stopped this madness after the third or so hand washing. kids these days!
pict. 2 - the final result, this really should be at the end. oh well.
pict. 3 - yummm. a gift form the rents - a handwoven basket from Ghana filled with squash & apples.
pict. 4 - jake & ethan. i think it may not be an exaggeration to say that possibly jake enjoyed gutting the pumpkins at first more than the kids.
pict. 5 - they finally got what it's all about. afterward i spent approx. 15 mins. cleaning pumpkin off the walls, chairs table & floor. we're still finding seed scattered about.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

i got bit by a dog this afternoon.
first time in my life.
oh dogs.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

so. i hear that there are some of you who continue to check in and watch this silly platform we stand on. you've been waiting a long time and nothing has happened. at least you know about jermaine though, and his allergy to chocolate.

yes, we are still here.
yes, we both have full-time employment (jake + 1/2 time).
yes, we are finding ourselves wicked occupied with lovely children and delightful neighbors.
yes, we are enjoying finding people we can do life with.

and because of all of the previously mentioned entertainers of time juggling through the air, no, we have not been writing. evidence provided by the date below in the last up-date.

i have to share with you though - i hate not having written to each of you in so long. i hate the distance of time that has passed since last up-dating you on the happenings not only in our life together but in the lives of our neighbors. john & elena. eddie & nora. pedro & abuela. edgar, eric, giovanni, jeremy, ethan, jermaine, kaylanie, destiny, justin, serina, kayla, stephanie, andre, etc. lani & pablo. grandma & irene. i wish that i would make the time to be more diligent in sharing their lives with you. their lives are worth talking about. much more than mine.

john & elena are doing well. now that summer is fading they aren't outside as much, i really just need to take some time and knock on their door. regardless though, they both claim to be doing well and keeping busy exchanging broken coffee grinders (elena) & trying to stay out of elena's mentally challenged son's path (john).

yesterday eddie spoke with one of the christian missionary girls who come into the inner-city from hammond, IN to "save" people and recruit them to come to their church (one hour on a bus) on sunday mornings. eddie asked one girl if she thought she was a better lover of christ than him because she was part of a congregation on sunday morning and he likes to stay home and watch football. she was silent. he asked if she thought god loved him less because he does not go to church. for all reports, she remained silent. eddie shared with her a fraction of his life and showed her the tattoo he has on his chest of Jesus with text, "only God can judge me." the missionary girl asked for his forgiveness. he accepted. she asked him if he would come to church with her after football season. he shared then basketball season would begin. she inquired about after basketball season. he said yes, in july he will go. we told him we'll be his date. later that afternoon eddie invited us up to his apartment. he wanted to show us something. in his bedroom, with pictures of 3/4 naked girls strewn about the walls, directly before his bed was a shrine set up with crosses, pictures and literature he had been given in prison. the picture alongside adored the center of his sanctuary. he shared how and why he can relate to this picture so deeply. he then led me to his devotional and showed us some verses by which he tries to life his life by. he had made notes & stars, lines & highlights by them all. eddie knew where to find what he was looking for. he had poured over this book daily as all evidence shows. he asked me if i wanted to take his book home to look over it. i told him no thank you, i didn't want to take his book away. he insisted. i asked him if he wanted to take out the sheets of paper inside on which he wrote notes. he said no. i told him i was going to read what he had written. he said that would be okay.

i am sure that eddie loves, trusts & understands the love of Jesus more than I could ever comprehend. I still have to battle the demons within me that tell me if i cuss Jesus is angry.

here is eddie though - ex-convict, 3/4 naked women hanging in his bedroom, street "square" selling, lost, found, redeemed, joyful eddie who gets the love of Jesus, knows scripture and exercises forgiveness consistently.

i hope to become more like eddie i think. aside form the 3/4 naked women hanging up in my bedroom - i think he is most whom Jesus would like for me to be. i think.

ugh - i got carried away. later, more on those mentioned above. until then...

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Jermaine allergic to chocolate. not necessarily allergic but rather, when he eats too much he has serious, in his words - "dookie". I say diarrhea.

a number of weeks back we had a cookie making party for the neighbors. i want the kids to know their neighbors and likewise. i want them to gain an appreciation for each other and their life together. therefore, we bake cookies together and give them away (p.s. this photo is two years old, but Jermaine is so cute in it).

throughout the cookie baking process each kid was given permission to eat two cookies each, double chocolate chip cookies (cake mix recipe of coarse). Ethan smeared more chocolate on his face than took inside his mouth. Destiny snatched her two up and made her way into the computer room to read. Kaylanie, the ever more becoming pacifist, helped mix the batter, took her cookies and decided it was time to leave. Jermaine grabbed his two, sat at the table and enjoyed each bite as his looked out the window and gazed. i, on the other had, got a bowl of bran flakes and began munching as i made my way around - watching and kissing all of the wandering hands throughout our apartment. Preventing what i could like play-dough being mashed into our carpet and letting go what in the long-run simply just doesn't matter, like kids sneaking extra cookies from behind our backs.

each little child asking what i was eating and if they could taste. with excitement in my breath i answered with a resounding "YES!" and preceded to tell them what bran flakes were, why they are good for you, what fiber is, what food fiber is found it etc., and in the end offering them a little bit of knowledge (because they like to talk about this stuff) that fiber does indeed help you go dookie when it feels like you need to go but can't. i told them apples help you go dookie too. they laughed, fell on the floor laughing and preceded to eat up the rest of my bran flakes.

upon returning back to the kitchen i saw that Jermaine had eaten his two cookies and noticed a couple more gone. oh well - thinking he'll understand tonight why he should listen and why it's important to obey.

well he did experience the consequences of eating too much chocolate, he did indeed. The next afternoon when i went to pick him up Coco, his "dad", told me he had diarrhea last night. i giggled, we talked about how it was probably from too much chocolate and i told him i would make sure no cookies were dispensed that day. he said okay.

when we returned to our home i pulled Jermaine aside and asked him how his belly was feeling. he said okay. i asked him if he had an serious dookie last night. he said yes. i asked him if he thought it was maybe because he ate too much chocolate yesterday. he said no. with a hint of surprise in my voice i asked, "you don't? why do you think you had an overflow of dookie then?" his response: "well, i didn't tell my mom this, but i think it was the bran flakes. i'm not going to tell her because i don't want to stop eating bran flakes."

giggling inside i kissed him, turned him around facing away, slapped his little butt and sent him into the living room.

i'm not telling her either.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

how will we ever make time for work?

God is healing me, just thought you would like to know. sorry we're lame in continuing to provide up-dates, but life here has just settled and we're intentionally seeking to bask in it before the storm of employment begins next week - yes, next week.

presently jake bas been working mon. - thurs. evenings teaching at a local community college down the road. it has been such a blessing. enough to pay the bill with a little left over to spare. yet, being the stud that he is - he was offered a full-time position with Chicago Commons, one of the oldest social service agencies in chicago. he will be doing what he does best, teaching ESL full-time.

because we go everywhere together i was waiting in the car wednesday when he stopped by to fill out some paper-work. jake shared with his potential employers that i was reading in the car and they asked that i come up and meet the gathering crowd of employees (i believe 6 in total at his location). sugar, spice and sass were served up with a most warming welcome. God is so good.

i, on the other hand have been offered two jobs and will need to make the decision this afternoon by 12. one is with Youth Outreach Services as an addiction and life skills counselor for adolescents on the north-side - the other, with Garfield Counseling Center as a treatment counselor for adults at a methadone maintenance (mm) clinic located in West Garfield Park.

i think i'm leaning toward the mm clinic. it's where i'm feeling led to be - i believe personally it will be more challenging in so many different ways that i can feel my brain already start to take action, creating new ways of practicing and loving those I believe He loves best. I'm excited about the possibility of both but anticipating accepting the one that i feel best fits for where i'm at during this time of transition.

we've been so very much enjoying the time we have here, bathing in the conversations and opportunities for loving and being loved with our neighbors. Eddie, whose 9 years in prison and history of drug trafficking and use has lead him to take on the role as my addiction adviser, has been a God send. John & Elena, two hippies in their late 70's - well John actually is 70 while Elena is 79 with bright red dyed hair. we spent this past sun. afternoon talking on their front porch for hours and walked away with bags of fabric for crafts and "junk" they wanted to get rid of. p.s. Elena volunteers to work with the seniors at salvation army two days a week. yeah. Lani, a friend next door, started baby-sitting more to earn a little extra income, which is exciting. without papers, her ability to work is so limited. i've also met a great gal down the way... geeze louise, there are some many more most God given opportunities we have had... i must wait to share the rest.

and then there were kids. our numbers our ever increasing which is gladly leading to an increased contact with their parents/grandparents. Praise God! every day from typically 3ish to 7ish, our home and front porch are filled. in fact, yesterday Justin, who just last week told me i was ugly, stupid, amongst other choice words after i asked him to pick up the trash bin he pushed over, came over and asked when he could come over for dinner. I told him anytime. he asked if i would serve him ribs. i told him probably not. he asked about steak. i shared again, probably not. i loved him, he gave me a now & later and left. with a visible smile and kind words on his lips. in total, yesterday we had eight kids over. so many hands. so many feet. so much beauty.

the struggle - kids who don't have any boundaries, were born to mothers who smoke and drank when pregnant and the learning limitations that come with those two things. we're working on it, and thank God in the more pure sense for Jake. we trade kids often during homework time. lack of attention. lack of inability to care, listen and comprehend tasks makes it difficult at times. yesterday i almost lost it. Andre (5) pushed me, or truthfully speaking - i chose to be affected by Andre's behavior. I picked him up, had him put his shoes on, grab his unfinished school work and began walking him down the stairs toward home, where he wanted to go (to escape doing his homework for himself). mid-flight I sat him down, looked in his eyes told him (for my sake as much as his) that he was a beautiful child of God and lead him back upstairs. we finished our one page of homework, writing "G" & "g", one hour later.

so much work to do, inside me.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Google Earth

For those of you who know about such things and have Google Earth installed on their computers, you can go to these coordinates and check out a photo of Tatiwin, Morocco, Africa that we posted.

32.5912° -4.7651°

It is one of our favorite places, and we would like to share it.

Note: You have to have the "Geographic Web: Panoramio" checked as visible.


Monday, September 17, 2007

computers & celebration.

although i have a mind full of thoughts, questions and ideas that are just waiting for my legs to give out and my fingers to take the time and give them a voice. never-the-less, there are more important things in this life besides make-up conflicts, product snobbery, lack of socks, meeting jesus (literally) and successful interviews.

we have made the commitment to fast every from sun-up to sun-down, 9/23/07 - 10/14/07 in the name of our international neighbors (sponsored by Jubilee USA) as well as our immediate neighbors. our international neighbors are starving in the name of international debt. our immediate neighbors are being killed in the name of gang on gang territory wars.

edgar just came over. he is a 10th grader at our local high school, Kelvyn Park. he has been a friend of ours for a number of years and his family (Erik-13, Giovianni-5, Pedro-Dad, and Grandma-79) have been our refuge since moving back. recently we discovered that edgar, along with his friends, have been paying $3 an hour to use internet at the lab down the street. after some consideration we decided to set up a hopeful 2 computer (we only have one extra right now) lab here for edgar and friends to use for $2 and hour with the following promise - at the end of each school marking period they need to bring us their report card. if they get between a 3.5-4.0 they get 100% of their cash back. 3.0-3.5, 90% back; 2.5-3.0, 70%; 2.0-2.5, 40%; and anything under that - forget it. all monies that they do not get back will continue to be compiled into next marking periods cash. it's working well - after much initial cynicism, their locked in.

Lani lives down the street, doesn't have any papers and would like to gain an education but cannot due to her inability to pay for it without all of the gov. assistance one gets with citizenship. Although I haven't seen her in three days we're going to offer her one of our computers to take on-line typing (she wants to be an office assistant and/or computer tech.) classes, etc. we'll charge her $5 an hour with a full return when she needs to make the advance to take classes through a comm. college.

oh - there is so much more to share but the bread needs to be put in our toaster oven (it's our only oven), tomorrow is trash day - those who are homeless are out and about in our alley (ugh - edgar is reading over our shoulder and apparently is vehemetly opposed to feeding the homeless although jake did give him the invisible children DVD to watch the other day and he did. he has questions. good questions. he's growing up.) + we like to go alley shopping, and yeah - i have to get prepared for doing tangrams tomorrow with the kids, more-less Destiny.

oh man - i just introduced edgar to urban dictionary. nothing but bad news. i wish i was more like jake and taught him google earth - so much more productive and educational.

for/with some laughs and love.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Thanks to Cory on his Ramadan post last year here is a dedication to the beginning of Ramadan, sung to the tune of who really knows:

Ramadan time is here
the best time of the year.

fasting, not eating food
being nice, not being rude.

instead of watching movies all day
lets go to the mosque now and pray.

i can't wait to make my zakat
maybe 8 or twenty ducat

In honor though, of those who are more loving than us, we give you Rebecca & Hajo's thoughts on the beginning of Ramadan.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Here's how it went:

Arrival to Department of Human Services = 7:00am (we attempted to go yesterday but found cuddling in bed a bit too enticing)

Number of people in line at 7:00am = 15

Number of people in line at 8:00am when the doors opened = at least 75

Time waiting in line until application submitted = 1 1/2 hours

Time waiting to be called in by a case manager = 45 mins.

Number of white people in waiting room = three. us being two of them.

Number of minutes spent with case manager = 10

you ask...

Available for Medicaid? Nope. Gotta get knocked up, as Jacob says, before we are able to get insurance. so much for prevention America!

Available for food stamps? She wanted to go through it all and see but I told her not to worry about it. Too many people in the waiting room who needed it besides us. I didn't have the heart to take up their time and/or money.

So, you ask, what are you doing with all of your time?

Great question!

In addition to kids coming over basically everyday after school and doing homework/playing, I have been doing a couple home visits, tonight am going to a funeral for a dear woman who died on Monday and continuing the job search.

Ugh - the job search. I'm lowering my expectations and probably becoming more flaky as time passes. which probably means I'll be getting a job soon. Enshallah.

During the day though = Jake and I have been canning and preparing. Since Grandma (our neighbor) got hit by a car we have been care-taking her garden. Not wanting her to miss out on all of it's fruits (ha! ha!) we have been working to preserve some herbs, tomatoes, and beans for her return.

Boiling & Peeling




A snippet of the "before"


The unshelling

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

racism. sexism. & religion.

first = racism.

after now, officially, one month of unemployment, jake and i decided to bite the bullet and apply for medicaid and food stamps. not a big deal for us. we need health insurance. after one year of having our medical needs catered for over-seas where an appointment & prescriptions can cost a total of $10 - together, we know that being uninsured in the US is not a wise choice.

food stamps = wasn't truly on our radar. in fact - in all reality, we don't need it. yet, we are unemployed, often cooking and baking food for others (which we're not going to stop doing). food costs money - although very little money if you know where to go for the good stuff. it was at Pedro's suggestion that we apply, although according to the food stamp calculator - together we're eligible for a grand total of $70 a month. he assured us that we can get off of it as fast as we got on them. with the experience of applying, processing and having the ability to jump through some of the same hoops i often encourage others to jump through - we decided to go for it.

food stamps & medicaid. we completed the initial 10 page application (extremely simple to complete with only two members of the household who have no children, other household dependents, others forms of income, etc.) and this morning with optomism in my heart we jumped on our bikes at 8:10am to submit our requests and set up an appointment with a social worker (ahh. the idea of sitting on the other side of the desk). with the knowledge that it is post holiday with the first business day of the month, i had an intuitive feeling that it may be packed. and it was. jake sat outside with our bikes as i ventured inside. once inside a white handsome male asked me what i was there for, looked at me strangly when i told him, and pointed me into a long line in the waiting room for giraffes (hot! & humid!). yet, when i looked at the sign at the end of the line it said "appointments with case manager." since i was the last one in line i decided to check and confirm that i was indeed in the right line for submitting our application. instead of the cute, ear-pierced white security guard - a beautiful, actually, black woman was in his place. i apologized for interrupting (she was thinking - i think) and asked her what line i needed to be in to submit our application. she told me that they do not accept new applicants after 8:30am (it was 8:40am) and that we needed to get there in the morning at around 7:00am to get in line "like everyone else."

i had suspicions of her statement, but every organization has it's quirks and in the city of chicago i can see that this may be true. for social workers can only process so many applicants per day. there has to be a daily cut-off. yet, i pondered on our way home her statement, "like everyone else."

as we pulled up to our street our friend Eddie was sitting outside watching the construction crew tare up our sidewalks to help our backed-up sewer breathe. He asked where we had been and jake shared with him where we were and what happened. Eddie's response, "you were just the wrong color."

He continued, "play it by their game once, but if it happens again, go to the people over them. I don't think that what they told you was right."

tomorrow morning we'll see if the game is still in session.

now = sexism

*** graphic words contained in the following segment ***

last night we watched the movie "North Country," a movie about the first class-action law suit against sexual harassment. good. so good.

it made me wonder though, are there any women out there who have NOT been sexually harassed? Are there any women who have not yet encountered the gross disgust of men who get their kicks and giggles from sexually harassing women.

i have shared with jake, and now i'll share with you = there are three vivid moments i will not forget, in which i was the victim of sexual harassment. there was the time when i was serving and a cook looked at me and called me a "c**t" among other various and less than creative names.

then there was the christmas shopping season of 2003. preparing for gift giving i was pacing the mall, stopping by stores who presented to have enticing bargins, like those JC Penny "one time only half off" sales - that are held every couple months. yeah - those sales.

i had entered into American Eagle to prowse their clearance racks and spotted a couple of items that i thought my sisters would enjoy. since we are all relatively the same size i thought i would try them on to see how they would look and deem them worthy of purchase or not. packed dressing rooms proved to be the case and no attendant was on duty - only locked doors with potential AE victims inside and me (along with the 50+ some other shoppers in this small manipulative closet). i looked around and no rooms seemed to be available except one!

weary and cautious, since it was only a crack open i glanced below: no feet. i knocked: no answer. i opened.

inside was a naked man. a naked man perched on top of the corner shelf for purses or wallets, jeans or tops. a naked man getting his kicks from unsuspecting victims such as myself.

i wish i could say i was bold enough to confront the staff or even the mall security, but i wasn't.

i slammed the door shut as hard as i could, threw the possible purchases on the chair outside the dressing rooms and ran. i ran out of the store. out of the mall. out to my car. i ran.

four weeks ago my parents, jake and i were moving in. it was/is such a joyous time. to celebrate we dined at the local polish buffet and gorged ourselves in perogies, bacon wrapped this and that, apple and potato pancakes.

with full tummies and a heavy legs we decided to walk it off and see around the Polish Village. Our first stop: a small shop going out of business. good deals! my dad got a coffee maker for $10. us - cleaning supplies, paper plates for painting, toilet paper and a could latch-key tools. but there was so much to explore! the shop was a mess! everything was everywhere and there were corners abundant to explore! so that is exactly what i did - explore! i moved clothes racks, climbed over boxes and shelves, dug my way through masses of "stuff." i was not alone though.

a man i had seen perched outside of the polish buffet was following me back. i was aware. i wasn't in any danger - the store really wasn't that big. but i knew he was a creep and i was aware. it wasn't too long after i had given him "the glance" that he pulled out of his pocket an imitation of a penis. he looked at me, giggled it around, set it down next to me and left.

i gave him a look that made me sick to my stomach and stood there. i didn't tell me parents. i didn't even tell jake until a couple days later. i still have to wonder though, if i - i, jessica kathleen, am a victim of these three simple sexual harassments, how many other women encounter it on a daily basis, on a much deeper and consistent basis, and tell no one.

it's shameful for me to a degree i think. i'm not sure why, for "they" are the ones to be shamed. still... how many of us have experiences such as these and don't talk about it or stand up against it but flee from it, like me.

and for the grand finale = religion.

as you may have been able to pick up from previous posts - it's been a difficult time here. spiritual battles. emotional battles. mental battles. whatever.

but still - to my amazement (yes, i should have stopped being amazed at God years ago - but I can't seem to shake it) God has continued to be faithful. so faithful.

He has shared with me that I am not faithful nor willing.
i'm learning again.

He has shared with me that I am no longer free.
i'm learning again.

He has also shared with me this: "Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen." - 1 Peter 5:5-11

i opened my Bible for the first time in months. i'm sorry to all of those who thought i was better than that. i'm not.

and this is what he sent into my these eyes of dirty and avoidant flesh.

This passage has spoke more to me than what's simply stated in bold. yet, this is the promise He has given me to hold onto as jake and i continue to try and live.

it will only last a little while.

He will restore.
make us strong.

p.s. i had to interrupt this writing because some new kids just came and rang our doorbell (thanks Dad DeBoni). they played. i walked them home and just spent the last 1 1/2 hours talking with them, their family, a new girl i met and Eddie. God is growing and Jake's having left-overs for dinner tonight.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

i'm not healing.

i thought this awkwardness.
this uneasiness.
these sudden emotional gardens of fury, loss, grief.
this broken walking stick.
unbalanced see-saw.
broken wave of essence.
raging self-forgiveness. injustice. fear. God.
stretching unknowns.
this broken swing-set.
shouting silence.
inspiring curse.

i thought this would all be over by now.
yet, i think it's just beginning.

two sundays ago as we were singing in church.
a song of freedom.
i heard jesus tell me i am no longer free.
instead under the burden of


i truly am no longer free.
i am hurt.
i am lost.
most all the time.

i need a healer.

p.s. please read my husband's posting below - it's much more enjoyable and truly needed for your eyes after reading my most udder bankruptcy. although i did in fact make myself laugh using the word "udder" instead of "utter".

Chainsaw work

Jess and I are a little down today. I got a solid rejection from the job that I really wanted, and still haven't heard back from that other job that would have been pretty cool.

Jess has had two interviews recently and she just didn't feel like the interviewers got to see the "real" her. They may have gone well, and she may get one of them, but the feeling of confidence just wasn't there. In her words, "I just wish they could tear my heart out and see it."

So, in that spirit, today I began looking for jobs in Alaska. Why not?

The best job description I have ever seen. Really, I mean it. I found it on this morning. I could live forever with my job description looking like this.

Remote Flyfishing Camp Manager
Reply to:
Date: 2007-08-06, 3:59PM AKDT

Skills Required:
Mechanical Skills
Operate Chainsaw
Firearms use and maintenance
Operate Jet boat
Be able to lift min 75 lbs
Must be able to work unsupervised

Excuse me? Did you say operate chainsaw, firearms use and maintenance, and JET BOAT in the same sentence? That job has ME written all over it!

Now all I have to do is get out of my part-time teaching contract.


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Busy week on the block...

It was pretty crazy here over the past few days. Last Thursday we had some amazing storms that brought down over 1,200 trees in the area and killed power for many parts of Chicago.

Then on Saturday, just a few houses down the road, 2 homes burned completely down. I have heard two different stories, but both seem to contain a couple of the same facts. It seems that one of the houses was either grilling or deep frying something outside, but under a porch. When there was a flare-up it caught the whole back of the house on fire, spread to the neighbor's house as well as the garage. No one was too badly hurt from the homes, but a fireman was slightly injured when a power line fell on him while fighting the fire. The innocent house in the mix was also a day care service.

That same night we had a man (a husband and father) from the neighborhood shot and killed on the corner just a block away. Although the area has cleaned up, there are still problems. Regardless of whether or not he was involved with gangs or drugs or anything, his wife and his two children were not. It is a great loss.

And some still say, "that's just how it is in the city."

In good news, however, Jess and I have been meeting a lot of new people in the area. Some are on our street, and some are not, but they have all been pretty awesome people.

Life in the city moves on.


Saturday, August 25, 2007


I know we have had a lot of photos lately, but I guess we are just making up for all those times we did not have a nice, dependable, virus-free location to work from and post all the photos we wanted. We are really making use of this new internet connection...

Throughout our honeymoon and year of travel we have taken lots of photos. You have seen many of them here, or at least a nice, representative cross-sample. But one genera of photos that I have not really posted here has been of my macro focus work.

I call it work, like I'm a pro or something, but it really means that I saw something cool that was small, clicked on the macro function on my camera, stuck the lens up really close to the "cool something-or-other", and clicked the shutter.

I think the reason all of this work hit me a-new recently is that, in retrospect, that is what Jessica and I have done with our lives over this past year. And as I prepare to dive back into the photo archive and write stories that were forgotten over the past year, I need to be careful of my bias, skew, and view on everywhere we were and everyone we met.

For better or worse, through this blog, we have posted intermittent snap shots of the world around us in a macro-focus-kind-of-way. We treated every country unfairly because we could not express the true depth of anything we experienced.

Morocco got the shaft many times because we 1) only met a limited number of people, 2) had an even more limited grasp of the language, 3) shared very little of the lives of those who made the experience amazing, and 4) had some bad experiences that tainted our ability to view the country in an even-handed manner.

In India we were guests in a microcosm of disease, death, dying, and the natural reciprocal of that which is love, life, and the unexpected. How can we speak on any experience in India when 90% of what we saw existed in this little world? India is undergoing a major economic growth period, of which most people are not benefiting. But those who are benefiting, and those who have been doing well for generations know very little of this painful side of life. They live in sprawling cities, nice homes, eat good food, have lots of meat, talk on cell phones and drive BMW's.

Our experience reflects very little on this side of India, even though it is there. All we know is the other end of the spectrum; homelessness, rickshaw pullers, sewer cleaners, disease, unkempt wounds, untreated diseases, and death from preventable infections.

So when people ask us, "how was India?" We often times don't know how to respond. We really can't speak on the country as a whole, but only of our little world.

And Thailand, poor Thailand gets glossed over because, compared to where we had been (India and Morocco), it was nice, easy, clean, accepting, accessible, and "westernized". Is it really? According to a friend or two of mine who have lived there longer than we did, and did not come directly from a TB hospital in India, NO, it is not. It only seemed that way to us.

So just like this spider picture, our stories are only a glimpse of the world from a short focal length in a split-second in time. Looking at this photo you would have no way of knowing that just a few inches over, this identical scene was taking place with another spider and fly. You could not know that the day was beautiful, crystal clear sky, not a cloud in sight, with a light breeze and low humidity. You would never know that just 50 yards away, 12 men lay dieing from a preventable and treatable disease, and that 45 miles down the road lay a HUGE developing and thriving metropolis full of people driving everything from Mercedes and BMW's to Ox carts and rickshaws.

So with that recent knowledge and insight I feel as thought Jess and I need to be especially careful about who and how we talk about the past year. What we saw was so small. Significant, yes, to us at least. But not significant when it comes to having enough experience to be able to talk about a whole country, region, or even city.

I think what we will try and do is simply share some stories. We want to give you just a silhouette of more things that happened, people we met, and places we experienced.

Perhaps we can make you a "fly on the wall", or in this case a "gecko on the bed" for some important events during our past year.

And, perhaps, through all of this, Jess and I can make better sense of the things we have seen, you can gain a better understanding of what happened, and we can do it all without dishonoring the reality or the memory of the people and places that we were.

We hope you stick around to see what happens.


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

jake's at work. the kids aren't home. already stalked my other neighbors today. i've already done my job search quota for the day. really should write some of you back (and also write some long over-due thank you notes as well) but thought posting some long over-due pictures tonight would be just as well.

*jake and his dad blowing things up in the yard - what more is there to say*

*in between parents our dear friends at Indian Lake (yes, Indian Lake Papa lives there) threw us a lovely potluck. as an added bonus Krista, a kindred spirit, made a presence from Ohio with a miracle growing inside her belly! with her grandma, Lois, we had a ball together - enjoying the miracles of life.*

*i shared long ago that on our one year anniversary Jake and I became god-parents to a beautiful girl, Amelia Rene - daughter of Richard and Rene (my twinkie). we could not think of a better way to celebrate our first year of marriage together than to celebrate a new life in Christ. we are honored to now be part of a family we so much admire and receive much love (and laughter & sarcasm) from.*

*as an added bonus we were surprised at the baptism celebration with our very own "first anniversary cake" which we demolished in days. thanks Rene.*

*during our time at my parents we were blessed to have a number of good friends come and visit, rest, play, almost drown (wink, wink to you Longenbaughs)... sorry we don't have photos of/for all of you but here are a couple from a day with my dear friend Rona and her three kiddos (Anna, Andrew and Kate).*

*Home, finally.*

*our three-tier homemade dresser*

*our kitchen. yup, that's it.*

*and as an added bonus: although a little side-ways, my husband. all of you who really know him can attest, this is jake at his best.*

still, the best is yet to come.