A Day in the Life

I decided not to post regularly about my time in Vancouver the way I did in Athens, because honestly, it began to feel like a burden as I succombed to my compulsion to impress people.  But I do want to share a little picture of what my life is like, so here’s a snapshot of my work experiences this past month!

I am the program manager of a recovery program for women with addictions who have been sexually exploited, which means that on paper, I’m responsible for making sure the facilitators deliver our classes effectively.  In actuality, every day is a new adventure.  I’m also co-house director of the second stage house, which means I share responsibility for the two women and one child currently in that house.  It is not a lot of responsibility until it is.  But nothing can really capture what a “typical” day looks like unless I give you a moment-by-moment breakdown.  Here’s a random day from a while ago:

I was woken up by my morning facilitator telling me she would be late to work.  When I got to the office, the woman who tested positive for opiates yesterday had solved the mystery by citing numerous examples of people testing positive for opiate use after eating a poppyseed bagel, which she had done.  I went in the bathroom with her to get a second urine test, which came back clean.  I wrote up an incident report, sent it to her social worker, and reiterated that so long as she kept testing clean this would be viewed as a bagel incident.

I led the AA devotionals by myself, then left the office with one participant to go downtown to Victim Services in the courthouse.  She filled out paperwork for a refund for medical expenses incurred when fleeing her pimp and confirmed the court date for her testifying against him.  We drove back to the office, and she made fun of me for not knowing a Justin Bieber song.  When I said I was behind on pop culture because I’d been in Greece for two years, she said the song was three years old.

Three people stopped me as I re-entered the office, and there was a note on my desk saying the women were out of coffee and “coffee whitener,” so I snagged the opportunity to drive to Safeway for a few minutes of peace and for a tea latte from the Starbucks in the grocery store.

Then two of my bosses pulled the participant with daughter problems (who skipped program yesterday without calling) into a meeting.  We all agreed that these temporary visits were more damaging than helpful, and that we would work toward her becoming healthy enough to bring her daughter into full-time care at a later date.  But that meant getting her daughter’s father involved, so we planned for a big meet up at a separate location on Thursday morning.  I was assigned babysitting duty at the house while that happens, thus wiping out my planned Thursday morning.

I went home and saw that my new housemate (who had said she was too sick to come in to program today) wasn’t there.  I texted, asking where she was, but by 10:00 she hadn’t come home or responded.  I conferred with my co-house director and my boss and texted her a final time to tell her we were setting the alarm and would see her tomorrow.  I went to bed worrying she had relapsed and wondering where she was.

It’s all very spontaneous and requires an enormous amount of emotional intuition, but I am loving the challenges.  It’s incredibly draining sometimes, but my housemates respect my need to spend most of every night in my room with my cat, so it hasn’t yet been overwhelming.  However, the effort is more than worth it when I have moments like a woman comes into my office to share an emotional breakthrough she had with a genuine smile covering her face.

I love the women.  They’re so smart and funny and hurt and earnest.  It is INCREDIBLY wonderful to speak the same language and develop relationships that go beyond body language.  I genuinely like them all and enjoy spending my days with them.  Their commitment and their honesty about their failures is incredibly refreshing to me, and I wish everyone had the opportunity to know them the way I do.

So for anyone wondering:  that’s my life!

 

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#Confirmed: My Heart is Episcopalian

I wrote this in August 2017 and didn’t post it.  Today I went to an Anglican church in Vancouver, and I sat there with tears in my eyes nearly the whole time because I felt excited about God in a way I haven’t in years.  I feel too raw to talk about today’s experience, but I loved it for many of the same reasons I loved what I wrote below.

To any other progressive old souls wondering if there’s a place for you in a spiritual community, TAKE HEART.


For about a year now, I’ve wanted to attend an Episcopalian church.  A couple of my friends who have been on similar spiritual journeys as myself left Baptist for Episcopalian churches, and they spoke glowingly of the freedom to doubt and discuss.  I wanted to see for myself, but I was scared that reality wouldn’t live up to the vision I’d built in my head.  When I did a Google search of Episcopal churches in the area and went to the first website, the very first thing this church wanted me to see was this:

“We believe that God’s love is always expanding and calling us to love one another in new and deeper ways. The love of Christ welcomes us all to fully participate in the life and leadership of the Church, regardless of gender identity, race, age, culture, ethnic background, sexual orientation, economic circumstances, family configuration, or difference of ability. Our community is made stronger by your unique presence.”

This was exactly the sort of openness that I was craving, but what if the website was a lie?  Finally, last Sunday, I drew up my courage and went on my own to a new church.

Y’all.  I found my people.

For starters, I’m apparently a medieval monk (no surprise), because the stone floors and wooden benches resonated with my soul.  There were only a few dozen (all elderly) people in the service I attended, singing rich hymns I didn’t know with warbling voices, and my soul ached with joy.  We said communal prayers and recited creeds, and the connection I felt toward Christians around the globe and throughout history was so comforting.  The leaders read Scripture passages from the Old Testament, the Epistles, and the New Testament, and then the reverend (a woman!) stood and TALKED ABOUT CHARLOTTESVILLE.  She spoke about the horror of seeing the continued racism of our nation.  She spoke about how, in every generation from Jesus to today, sin urges us to create hierarchies and divisions.  She preached a combination of Jesus and liberal politics and I WAS WITH MY PEOPLE.

I don’t know if I can explain how important this felt?  It reminded me of how I went to seminary as both a Christian and a feminist, nervously determined to see if at the end of three years I could make them fit together.  How, by the time I graduated, I had studied the topic so much that I could no longer remember how someone could be a Christian and NOT be a feminist, and I’d found a community that felt the same.

My beliefs have grown further away from my Baptist upbringing (three main differences that I see:  I believe in the ordination of women, I’m fine with drinking alcohol, and I support gay marriage), but I’ve always stayed in conservative Christian circles.  This only leads me to doubt whether I’m crazy to hold such seemingly disparate beliefs, even when my heart sings at their beauty.  And then I walked into a different building in the same city and…there were a bunch of people saying, “Uh, yeah, we believe those things too.  Where is the problem?”  I felt FREE.

But back to how an Episcopal service resonates so deeply with me.  The sermon isn’t the main point.  The high point of the service is when the leaders consecrate bread and wine, and then everyone fell to their knees at the altar and waited for the reverend to place bread in our hands, to help us drink from the communal glass of wine.  It was receiving Communion in such a childlike way that there was no possibility of believing I’d earned it.

The whole service was so rich and deep, like diving into the deep end of a pool.  Maybe that’s a little pretentious.  I don’t actually believe that there’s any inherent superiority to an Episcopalian or a Baptist service.  Some people worship through praise music and three point sermons, and some people worship through liturgy and repetition.  There’s nothing wrong with either, but wow does it feel good to be in a place that offers you your soul’s specific fast pass to God.

 

How Black Sails Equipped Me With the Empathy Necessary for My New Job

I am rewatching Black Sails with a coworker, and I’ve been thinking about the similarities between the show’s themes and my work with women recovering from sexual exploitation and addictions.

The overarching question of Black Sails is:  which is worse, piracy or civilization?  History has made pirates into monsters, but the show is determined to make us see that civilization deliberately painted them that way, because civilized people need someone to point to and say: at least I’m not like THEM.  To be fair, the pirates often do monstrous things.  But civilization did monstrous things as well, only they had the resources to cover them up or blame someone else.

I see a lot of similarities in how the world views women who are prostitutes and/or addicts.  It’s unfortunately common to insult or dismiss them, to call them names or use them as examples of The Bad (I’m looking at you, Proverbs).  Adding addiction to the mix just makes it easier to alienate people and make monsters out of them.  At least we’re not like that, we think.

A while ago, I had a conversation with a friend about fostering.  I had always thought the hardest part of fostering would be knowing the relationship was temporary.  My friend said that the hardest part was that often you were not just saying goodbye to a child, you were sending it back into a bad situation.  I agreed with her, and then on my first day at my new job, I saw the “bad situation” children are sent back to.

On that day, a woman in the program tested positive during our random drug screening.  We had to call in her social worker and determine what was to be done with her child.  The woman was devastated, angry at herself for letting her addiction get the better of her, furious that she had jeopardized her relationship with her child for the sake of a temporary high.  An extraordinary solution was found, and since then I’ve had a lot of one-on-one time with the mother and child.  The thing is, she’s a great mother 90% of the time.  She’s attentive and loving and protective.  And sometimes she gets high and is wholly incapable of caring for her child.  I’m not at all advocating that women with addictions should keep their children no matter what.  But the story became much more complicated.

Perhaps it sounds silly to equate pirates with addicts, but if you think that then I have to assume you haven’t seen Black Sails.  Stories matter, and when we make addicts into monsters, they internalize that role.  Both the pirates in a tv show and the women I work with on a daily basis have done some truly horrific and criminal things.  But that is not all that they are, and when those are the stories we tell, we erase the goodness in them and the potential for recovery.

So we have to ask ourselves: why do we tell these stories?  To hide our worst impulses?  To assure ourselves that even though we lost our temper with our kid, at least we didn’t do this?  To make our sexual decisions seem better because at least we didn’t do that?  To minimize our own selfishness and pettiness and vindictiveness?  The thing that Black Sails tells us over and over again is this:  civilization and pirates are not all that different.  We all have the same dark impulses when pushed into a desperate corner.  And if we haven’t yet been pushed into that desperate corner, the least we can do is thank God for our privilege and practice empathy for those that made a bad decision in a bad situation.

Society spins narratives to make sense of the world and our role within it.  As someone who has always fared well from those narratives, I haven’t had to question them.  But there are women and men who live behind the labels “prostitute” and “addict,” and if we don’t take the time to understand their reality and see them as whole people with stories and contexts and futures, we make them into monsters.  And isn’t that a monstrous thing to do?

She’s Married She’s Single Podcast

My friend Lindsay and I have launched She’s Married She’s Single, a podcast about lifelong friends with drastically different lives and perspectives!

I’m very excited to start this new creative project, both because it will give Lindsay and me a fun reason to regularly keep in touch (the last time I moved to a different country, we wrote letters to each other’s blogs in a project called Letters Between Friends) and because I hope it will create opportunities for married and single people to talk to each other about what they love about their life stage and what they wish they had.

Our first episode, Getting to Know Us, is available on Apple Podcasts.  Check it out today!

SMSS Icon

Unless there is a huge announcement, I will not be plugging each new podcast episode on this blog.  However, there are several ways you can keep in touch with us!

Follow us on Twitter:  @SMSSPod
Follow us on Instagram:  @ShesMarriedShesSingle

This is a passion project for us, and we rely upon the generosity of our Patreon donors to fund a better sound for our listeners with professional audio equipment and programs.  A gift of any size is hugely appreciated, and rewards are available at each level of donation!

Finally, we hope to have regular Q&A episodes in which we answer questions about us personally or about marriage/singleness generally.  Email us at shesmarriedshessingle@gmail.com to send in your question!

What I Read | FEBRUARY 2018

112077The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett

The friend who shares my love of The Queen’s Thief series suggested that if I like Rogues with a Heart of Gold™, I ought to give Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles a try.  Twenty pages in, I was overwhelmed by the Scottish history and lingo, but a deluge of rabid Lymond fans on Twitter encouraged me to keep going.  One hundred pages in, I was ready to call this (mostly unread) series the best in the world.  It is beautifully and cleverly written, both at the sentence level and in terms of the over-arching twisty plot.  Lymond himself is awful and complex and SO AMAZING, but the huge cast of supporting characters more than live up to his level.  I adored this book, and I can’t wait to read all the others in the series!

23197837The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

Although this book has an interesting premise in creating a world in which a special few magically talented girls are revered for their ability to beautify humans that are born with grey skin and red eyes, I just couldn’t buy into the full picture this novel tries to paint.  Why is this ability so important that literally the whole country and political structure revolves around them? Why are Camellia and Amber friends, when throughout the book we only see them arguing or being annoyed with each other?  Big points for a creative concept, but that’s it.

Screen Shot 2018-02-24 at 11.38.01 AMAmerican Panda by Gloria Chao

Although distinctly Chinese-American, this book speaks to the universal transition of a college student learning to differentiate herself from her parents.  I loved watching Mei struggle to decide how she wants to live her life as she both appreciates and resents the omnipresence of her parents in every aspect of her existence.  I was also extremely interested in the Chinese-American culture presented here, and I can only imagine how funny and gratifying and meaningful this story must be to readers with immigrant parents.

leonardo-da-vinci-9781501139154_lgLeonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson

I loved Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs, and I adore Renaissance art, so this book was an obvious go-to for me.  Isaacson once again tells the story of a man’s life with clarity, appreciation, and enough fanboying that the 500 pages flew by.  Da Vinci is famous for his artwork (specifically his Mona Lisa and Last Supper paintings), and I loved reading about how they came to be.  But even more, I enjoyed reading about da Vinci’s obsessive observational skills, and how they led him to discover more about anatomy and machinery than anyone else in his era (or for centuries after him).  He was a genius because his passion for life married art and science, a combination I hope we see more of today!

35099058Gunslinger Girl by Lyndsay Ely

A post-apocalyptic story that veers into classical Western tropes of brothels and gunfights, I really enjoyed this book until its last act.  I liked Pity and her conflicted feelings about both enjoying and fearing her new dangerous home.  I appreciated that the stakes were high, with characters actually dying almost from the word go.  But I never really believed the romance, and I thought the ending devolved into stereotype when it could have easily been more interesting.  This seems to be set up for a series, and I won’t be reading more, but this first glimpse into Ely’s world was pretty fun.

13414183Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle

The Illinois Caudill books are out, and this was the first I picked up.  It is a hilarious and endearing story of a sensational pre-teen sneaking off to NYC to audition for a Broadway musical.  I loved seeing the city through his eyes:  when he’s excited, all the chaos is beautiful, and when he’s disappointed, the same things are suddenly dreary or scary.  Nate is a BIG character, overwhelming the story and the characters within it with his personality.  It’s easy to see both why he is bullied in school AND why those exact same qualities are going to win him fast friends and success once conforming stops mattering so much.  This is a great book about family, friendship, and first steps toward self-awareness.

whatlight25f-1-webWhat Light by Jay Asher

This is a schmaltzy YA Christmas romance, and I was not into it.  The girl works on a Christmas tree farm one month every year, and she falls in love with the “bad boy,” whose badness is boring and is in actuality the most Do Gooder teenager on the planet.  I was super unimpressed by this one, but it’s a nice thoughtless feel good story if that’s what you need in the moment.

MoviePass, the Movie Theater Subscription You Need to Try

Several months ago, a friend recommended that I check out MoviePass, a Netflix-esque card and app that gives you access to one movie in theaters per day for the low price of $10 per month.  I was about to spend three months in a foreign country, but as my return date approached and award season movies were filling my podcast queue, I decided to give it a try.

READER.  This is such a good deal!!  If you see at least two movies in theater per month, MoviePass more than pays for itself.  I cannot imagine how it is financially lucrative, and I can only assume that prices will someday be raised.  So now is the time to take advantage of this amazing deal!

In my first month using MoviePass, I’ve seen 1. Call Me By Your Name (the sexiest and most accurate First Love movie I’ve ever seen), 2. Lady Bird (a perfect depiction of what it’s like to be a teenage girl), 3. Coco (a beautifully animated story about Mexican culture and the importance of family), and the premiere of 4. Black Panther (it lives up to all of its hype omgggg)!

PROS

  • MoviePass promises “Any movie, Any theater, Any day,” and so far I’ve found that to be completely true.  My small Midwestern city allows MoviePass at all of its theaters, though some require the physical card and others need only the app.
  • This is especially great for watching favorite movies multiple times in theaters, catching up on award season films, or checking out movies in which you wouldn’t normally invest money.

CONS

  • After signing up online at moviepass.com, you have to wait up to two weeks for your physical MoviePass card to show up in the mail.
  • If you want to cancel your subscription, you cannot rejoin for another nine months.

TOTAL SAVED

Call Me By Your Name ($8.75)
Lady Bird ($7.00)
Coco ($7.00)
Black Panther ($6.75)

MoviePass (-$10.00)

= $19.50 SAVED

Best Of: Living in Greece

After being in the States for two and a half weeks, my brain has been telling me, “Well, that was a nice vacation!  Time to go home!”  But my apartment is sold, my job position is filled, and Greece is not my home anymore.  Needless to say, I’ve been pretty moody and nostalgic, so I went back and reread all my “Living in Greece” blog posts.  Here are some of my favorites:

A Week in Greece #1:  Everything is New  | This is where it all started!  I’m so impressed with how self-aware I was about the stresses of moving to a new country.

The Beginnings of Culture Shock  | Includes an excellent list of silly things that are dumb on their own but add up to Major Frustration.

Language Learning Meltdown  | One of the worst moments of my time in Greece and how being vulnerable helped.

A Week in Greece #12: HD Planning, Agatha Christie, and the Beach!  | This is a fun snapshot of my life while living at the Bible College, and includes a great moment in which I visit a friend because I passed my bedroom door and was too embarrassed to turn around.

A Week in Greece #15:  A New Friend, First Week at HD, and Apartment Furnishing  | Enter Luciana, who would become my best friend!

Happy in My Homesickness  | Wow.  This post is extremely good and extremely relevant to my current feelings of being homesick for Greece.

A Week in Greece #27:  Slumber Parties, Hiking, and Escape Rooms  | Apparently, it took me nearly seven months to find comfortable friends that did not socially drain me.

A Week in Greece #36:  Rambo Jesus, Goodbye Roommate, Two New Cats  | A lot of these weekly recaps include me complaining about feeling overwhelmed, but this one is definitely one of the funniest and most self-aware.

Year 2 | A Week in Greece #1:  I’m Back  | After six weeks in the States for Christmas, I reunited with all my old friends.

Year 2 | A Week in Greece #5:  Work Weirdnesses  | A story about the highs and lows of working at HD.

Year 2 | A Week in Greece #8: A Lot of Luciana and Thessaloniki  | Just…a lot of sweet memories.

Year 2 | A Week in Greece #13: US Team, New Baby, Mission Meetings  | My last “A Week in Greece” post from my last week back in April 2017 when I naively thought I would be returning soon.

(I didn’t document my last three months (November 2017 – January 2018) because…I dunno, I felt like everything was Too Much.  I regret that now, but oh well!)


 

Reading through old posts reminded me of how hard it was to live in Greece, how there were so many wonderful moments that made the day-to-day sense of being overwhelmed worthwhile.  These past two years were genuinely the hardest and best years of my life so far.  I grew a lot, and I made incredible friends and exciting memories.  I’m so glad I can relive it all here.