Let’s talk about the weather

It has been hot here in Seattle.  And when I say hot, I mean H-O-T hot!  We broke a record yesterday with temperatures reaching 103*!  For Seattle, where summer temps usually range in the high 70s to mid 80s, this current heat wave is not only unusual, but also particularly dangerous.  This city is not equipped to handle the heat.  Very few places have air conditioning.  Only 30% of city buses are air conditioned.  The majority of homes and apartments usually cool off from breezes through open windows.  But as the temperatures rise, the air grows still and heavy.  Combined with a nearly 2 month drought, and the suffering increases.   Everywhere you turn, people are cranky as a result of the energy-sucking heat.  On the crowded buses, people are quick to lose their temper.  Impatience is running amuck.  This is a city, and a population, that was just not prepared for the heat.

While I have done my share of complaining about the unbearable heat in the last few days, I realize that I am still very lucky.  While I am one of the many who works in an unairconditioned workplace, rides an unairconditioned bus and lives in an unairconditioned apartment, I still have ways to stay cool.  I live in a basement, which helps beat the heat a little.  I can afford to buy a fan for my small space.  I can treat myself to a refreshing lemonade.  If  I were to walk in a museum or movie theater, I would not be turned away because I can afford the price of admission.  But for so many, this is not the case. 

We have women at Mary’s Place who come to the day center exhausted from getting little rest in an overcrowded shelter, where everyone sleeps on a mat and there are not enough fans to go around.  Shelters with little to no ventilation.  I’ve heard multiple times this week of women who have suffered from heat stroke, because they have no place to go during the day, so they spend their day outside walking around trying to find shade.  Finding enough liquids to keep them cool and safe is a challenge.  Finding an airconditioned place to sit and rest in a near impossibility.

We at Mary’s Place are thankful that we can at least offer them shelter from the blistering sun, and that generous donors have dropped off loads of water and popsicles!

So as you are doing whatever you can to stay cool during the summer, remember those who don’t have that option.  If you can, donate bottled water, fans or cool summer clothing to your local homeless shelters.  Check in on the elderly and the vunerable.  And be thankful that summer won’t last forever.

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I learned something about myself today.  In the midst of adversity, I will almost always stand up.  So long as I’m not the one being attacked.  When I see a woman being verbally attacked, I jump to her defense.  When I sense an injustice, I speak out.  And often loudly.  When it comes to taking care of others, making sure others are safe, I’m you’re woman.  I thrive on helping others.  But the minute you get in my face and attack me, I retreat.  Like a turtle, I pull back in my shell and wobble.   And in my line of work, while the first thing is good, the second thing makes for a really hard day week.

Advocacy alert

Today, a Federal District Court Judge denied a motion to restrain the State from forcibly evicting homeless Nickelodeons from their current location on State land.  Tonight, it is very likely that State Troopers will come evict Nickelodeons and arrest those who refuse to leave, despite the reality that Nickelsville has no permanent site to move to.

Tonight, Women in Black will be standing at 2nd SW and West Marginal Way SW at 5 PM.  The dangers of sleeping outside, alone, are well known to Women in Black.  Without shelter and loving community, homeless people die.  They die young (at an average age of 48), and they die in horrible ways.  These dangers make the need for Nickelsville’s safe, self-managed outdoor shelter/shantytown eminently clear.

Women in Black will be standing tonight in solidarity as silent witnesses at Nickelsville, and in the name of the homeless people who have died, outside and alone, on or near State land over the past nine years.  We now know that at least 42 people have died on State land on or near I-5 or I-90, in the Jungle greenbelt, over the past nine years.  Research was done to corroborate this for a Declaration to support Nickelsville’s Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order.  These deaths, on State land, make the State’s action today to forcibly evict homeless people from their safe communal shelter shameful and wrong.

(Taken in part from the Women in Black press release)

Let me tell you a story

Once upon a time there was a boy and a girl.  And they were friends for many years.  Then one day, suddenly they weren’t just friend anymore, but much much more.  As the years progressed, the boy and the girl watched as their relationship grew deeper and stronger.  There were hard times, months of separation, joyful reunions and much laughter.  There was a time that the boy and the girl lived across the world from each other, and it was a sad time.  But then the girl moved closer, so that they were only across the country from each other.  And while that time was hard, it was better.

One day, the boy decided to fly across the country to see the girl.  It was a happy day.  The girl even had a special present for the boy.

Girl: “Boy, I have a present for you, but you have to close your eyes.”  And in his lap she placed a book.  It was a small book, but one filled with love.  It was a book the girl had written when she lived on the other side of the world.  It was a book full of sweet notes, saying how much she missed the boy and wished he were there.  The boy loved the book.  It made both the girl and the boy emotional to read it together and remember that hard time apart.

Then the boy said: “Girl, I have a small gift for you to, but you have to close your eyes.”  So the girl closed her eyes.  And then the boy said, “Thank you for the book.  I really missed you during that time.  It means so much to me that you made that for me.  I want you to know that I am never as connected to a moment as I am when I’m with you.  And I don’t want to miss any more moments with you.   Open your eyes.”

And when the girl opened her eyes, this is what she saw:

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And she said yes.  And the boy and the girl, they lived happily ever after.

The incredible world-trotting family

I don’t know how many of you know this, but I come by being a missionary honestly.  Its in my blood.

~My dad served on a 3 month mission to Peru when he was younger.  It was a trip that altered his faith and there are stories from that experience that he still shares.

~My cousin Ben was a Summer Intern with the Young Adult Mission Program through GBGM (my sending agency) while he was in college.  He served in Philly.

~My cousin Paige has been on multiple short-term mission trips (mostly to Brazil).

~My cousin Mary Grace was in Bangalore, India with proVISION Asia for many years.

~My aunt and uncle are currently serving in Albania.  They are in their 3rd year.

~And on Wednesday, my dear cousin Ellen joined the ranks (though not for the first time) and set off for Tanzania.  She just graduate from linguistics school through Wycliffe.  She will be spending the first few months in language training, and then will be leading adult literacy courses around the Lake Victoria area.  I am incredibly proud of her, very excited for her, and slightly jealous of her. 🙂   If anyone is interested in following Ellen’s journey through her newsletter, let me know and I’ll add you to her list.  Also, if anyone wants to add themselves to her prayer and/or support list, let me know!

What an amazing family I have.  Seriously, this is just a glimpse at how dedicated and awesome my family really is.  I am obviously not trying to compare international to domestic service, and fully believe that both are vital.  I just think it is neat and a great blessing to be from a family as international as mine. 🙂

Women in Black

Every time a homeless person is found dead outside or dies by violence in King County, WHEEL (a homeless women’s organizing effort) and the Church of Mary Magdalene (an ecumenical day ministry) mobilize for our silent witnessing vigil called Women in Black.

Today, we stand  in honor and memory of Bernardino Maceo-Toirac, 55, who was shot to death in the Beacon Hill greenbelt known as “The Jungle” on Friday, June 26th.  No suspects have yet been aprehended.

At least 23 people have died outdoor/violent deaths in Seattle already this year.

(Taken from the Women in Black press release)

Better late than never: A post about my time in Alabama

It has honestly not been that long since I have been out of the South.  I guess it really depends on if you count Kentucky as the South.  They don’t serve sweet tea in about half the restaurants, but have you heard their accents?  So, not counting Kentucky (which, despite the lack of sweet tea, I do count as the South), I’ve been out of the South for exactly two years.   And yet, even with such a short time away, it never ceases to take me off guard when I go back.  The accents are what get me the most.  They kind of make me giggle, sometimes they make me roll my eyes, but they always make me feel at home.

I pride myself on getting out of the Deep South without much of an accent.  It comes out on occasion, but it is certainly not the first thing people notice about me.  I do say very Southern quips like “y’all,” and “darlin'” A LOT, and I get teased for that.  And more often than I’d like, my “I”s come out a little longer than I meant.   (which always makes me think of Valerie making Alabama boys counting to niiiine. 🙂  But back in the Deep South, places like Alabama and North Florida, it isn’t so much the accent, as the long drawl that is so defined, so unavoidable.

I first heard it on my layover in Memphis.  To an outsider, I’m sure that all Southern drawls sound the same, but I can still classify Memphis from Montgomery; Louisville from Laurel; Decatur from Destin. There are subtle differences that remind me of the many areas around the South that I’ve lived in, or have family.

And the heat!  Whew!  Actually, not so much the heat as the humidity.  It is amazing how quickly I have become acclimated to Seattle summer.  I could use all the tired-old expressions about the Southern heat and humidity.  How it “literally sucks your breath away,” or how walking outside is like “walking into a brick wall of humidity.”  All true.  It doesn’t matter how you try to prepare yourself for that kind of heat, it always takes you off guard.

Yet, these things, odd as it may seem, feel like home.  Hard to decipher accents and overwhelming heat are what feel most like home.  I love Seattle and the Pacific Northwest.  I can see myself living here for a long time.  But I guess it is true what they say, “You can take the girl out of the South, but you can’t take the South outta the girl.”

Whether I end up back there or not, the South will always be home.  I may joke or even complain about it, but it is who I am.  It is not the whole of who I am, but it is a part of me.  Stephanie asked while I was there, “After all of your moving, where do you feel most at home?”  It is a hard question to answer.  I definitely feel at home in the South, but I think that has to do more with the feeling of familiarity, friends and family than anything else.  Because I also feel at home in Seattle, a city that I am growing to love more and more every day.  Parts of me also really miss Hong Kong.  I felt at home in the work that I was doing there, in the church community that I found.   I think that, for me, there will never be just one place that I feel most at home.  It just isn’t possible.  But how lucky am I to have such a variety of places in which I feel comfortable?

I use the same joke everytime that I stay with Brian and Stephanie, that no matter where I live, I feel most at home on their old worn out couch (which is no longer with them).  I have spent more nights on their couch, in 3 different cities and twice as many houses.  And it is true, the feeling of home for me can indeed come from familiar surroundings and thick accents, but more often than not, comes from the people I am around.

And so that is what my time in Alabama was.  A weekend where I really nearly melted from the heat, yet was energized by the people I was around.  It was a time of playing with my sweet godson, and walking with old friends.  It was 4 days in which I felt at home.  That is a hard feeling to leave.