Sunday, June 27, 2010

Use It

at the orphanage on the same grounds as our guest house outside of Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, photo taken by our trip leader, Jason

As a writer, I want to be able to sift through the images and events of my week long volunteer trip to Haiti and form them into something coherent and conclusive, with any luck something that's even eloquent. As a human being, I want to process all that I saw, flashes of blue tarp on rocky hillsides, whirs of color and faces out of a moving van window, all of those endless heaps of rubble and dirt. But I'm afraid today, three days later, I'm still working, both as a writer and a human being. I could try to write about my week, but I know that anything I put down right now would be incomplete and inadequate. It's simply too soon. Everything is too fresh and too jumbled.

So all I can tell you is this. I feel older than I did a week ago. I've never been so acutely aware of aging. Usually it's something you notice only after the fact, when you look up one day and five years have passed and you're not exactly sure how. But I'm aware of every accumulated second of the past week, each of which inched me, in increments both tiny and huge into something new and different, a place both fuller and more meaningful, and yet, as it always is with growing older, sadder too.

I've traveled to impoverished nations. I've seen starving children and people sleeping on streets. But I've never been so immersed in it, so much of it, all the time. This is not to say that the trip was miserable. On the contrary there were moments that were so beautiful, in a pure, unadorned, utterly honest way that moments rarely are. There were many moments that were fun. I met amazing people of differing ages and colors and nationalities. I was a part of this crazy, hodge podge team of genuinely kind and good people, the kind that you're better for having known, if only for a brief time. It was in many ways an absolutely incredible week.

But still, as my plane lifted off from the Port-Au-Prince airport, soaring over impossible cities made of flimsy blue tarps and mountains both rock and rubble, the difficult parts of the trip almost seemed too much to bear. I was angry and sad and images of the hard stuff kept popping up in my brain. I didn't know how I'd go back to the privileged, easy life I lead and somehow make sense of it in the context of what I had just witnessed. How could I look at my chubby, adored little niece who will never known hunger or thirst and not immediately think of those babies without homes, whose most basic needs, water and food and shelter, were not guaranteed? How could I listen to people complain about trivial things, myself included, and not want to just scream?

And I don't really have an answer, other than the two words that popped into my head, that I have repeated to myself every day since then.

"Use it."

Use what I had seen, all of it, the horrible and the beautiful and the impossible, to better myself. Use it to better my life. Use it to better the world.

I don't believe that bad things happen for a reason. I'm sorry, but I just don't buy that. But I believe that a reason can come out of bad things. Maybe that's the same for you, but for me those two are distinctly different. So all I can do now is look for my reason, whatever that might be, the reason I will take out of Haiti.

Use it.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

sunshine and rainbows and puppies

So I realized that my last few posts have been pretty heavy on the world is going down the crapper side of things. So here's something fun! Clothes! Pretty ones! J. Crew creative director, Jenna Lyons, personally e-mailed me this morning to tell me about the launch of their sister website, Or you know I recieved one of many mass e-mails J. Crew sends me on a regular basis to try and bleed even more money out of me. Either way, I looked at this and holy credit card debt batman, this may be bad for my life.

Exhibit A: these classic and affordable! white bootleg jeans- easy, simple- I know I could wear these with almost everything I own. Plus this website has two different inseam sizes for every waist size, which means these might actually fit me and not be too long like almost every other pair of pants I buy!

Exhibit B: All I ever want to wear in the summer is a dress. I am not so good at the whole coordination aspect of dressing so whenever I only have to wear one piece of clothing it's a win! And isn't this dress so wonderful? I think it is what summer would wear if seasons could wear clothing. I like that it has that sort of half modern/half retro feel too. I think it's lovely. Plus again affordable! Not like Old Navy cheap but cheaper by far than this dress would cost if it was sold on the actual J. Crew website.

Exhibit C: Okay these were Jenna Lyon's pick so maybe it's not that original, but I agree whole-heartedly with Jenna here. I think these shoes are also so perfect for hot, humid days. They're cool and just a little bit funky, and I think they would look fabulous with either my new white bootleg jeans or my flowy summer dress.

I will now spend the rest of the day resisting every urge I have to buy these things with money I do not have.

this should be read by everyone with a teenage son or who will ever have a teenage son

An op-ed piece by Maureen Dowd. And a pretty searing indictment of a culture that allows young men to grow up learning that women are objects and targets rather than human beings.

"Time for a curriculum overhaul. Young men everywhere must be taught, beyond platitudes, that young women are not prey."

Friday, June 4, 2010

Diatribe Redux: Ways to Help with the Oil Spill

So I've alternated between bursting into tears and wanting to throw myself off a bridge when I think about the oil spill. But I do believe there are more useful ways to channel my anger. If you like me are so inclined to do something other than wail at God or beat your head against a wall in frustration, you can visit this website for lots of great ways to help:

Thursday, June 3, 2010


Preface: it's late, and this is going to be a nonsensical rant, probably full of contradictions and painfully angsty pleas- but I can't sleep without writing this, if you want you can skip it, if not pardon any offensive language

This is a link to pictures of pelicans covered in oil. I thought about just putting one of the pictures at the top of my blog, but then I thought better. You deserve to decide if you want to see something that horrendous. I chose to look at these pictures. And it was one of those moments in life where you realize as it happens that what you're seeing is breaking this small piece inside of yourself and that there will never be a way to fix it as long as you live.

But here's the thing. I hope you look at those pictures. I'm glad I did. Glad seems like such an out of place to word right now. I guess I'm more resigned to the fact that I needed to see these pictures. They are soul evisceratingly sad. I will never ever be able to unsee them. I won't forget them. They will stay with me always and always make me horribly sad and angry when I think of them. But so be it.

Right after I looked at these pictures, I saw some online news stories about pundits criticizing President Obama for not appearing "angry" enough on TV. I also saw some news stories about reader ideas for punishments for BP executives. And suddenly I just wanted to scream, because in the face of this tragedy this kind of talk and commentary is just so much bullshit. It's bullshit on top of mounds of bullshit, and doesn't anyone ever get tired of hearing themselves talk? I've never realized until just this moment that sometimes there are no real adults in this world. Adult is an idea. It's a concept. But when it comes to something this big, it just feels like we're all still children.

I could care less if President Obama goes to the edge of the Gulf and lets out a primal scream to express his "anger." I could care less if BP executives were put on public trial. None of that will fix this. None of that will erase this. And yet we obsess about these things. In the face of what may be the biggest environmental catastrophe of our time, we talk about these inane, stupid little details like they matter, because we can't face up to the fact that when all the dust settles and history is written, the burden for this is on all of our shoulders. It's our fault in a million indirect little ways, for the leaders we've elected over the last decades, for not giving a shit about deep sea oil drilling until an explosion on an oil rig made it front page news. We talk about being "green" and we use our canvas grocery bags so we can sleep better at night, but when it comes to things that really matter we don't care. And I'm not excluding myself either. We, this collective we of humanity are trashing our planet every single day, and we make excuses and we blather on about the "science" behind global warming and we point to snowflakes as an excuse to continue on the way we've always continued. Let's buy some more SUVs and expand cities outward and let our pride and our stubbornness stand in the way of doing anything at all to stop this long slow slide.

So what will it take then? Is this enough? Will it take the corpse of the last mountain gorilla or a coastal city under water? Or will the pictures of these birds do for everyone what they've done for me? Will they break you and shame you and make you face the stark truth that this moment was always inevitable? I'm ashamed. We've lost shame somewhere along the way. We talk in circles until the shame fades away. But look at these pictures and try to feel anything but shame. Nothing will ever make this better, not a containment dome, not a junk shot, not a BP executive in jail, not President Obama letting a single, manly tear roll down his cheek in public. This oil spill will Lord willingly be plugged, but it won't fix anything.

We don't get to feel good about this. We don't get a happy ending or a heroic rescue. We don't get to pat ourselves on the back or ever, ever once, feel anything other than absolutely shitty and wrecked about what has unfolded in the Gulf. We can only hope that out of our sorrow and our deep and abiding shame, we start to finally do the painful work of changing ourselves and our way of life, so that it won't take another picture of a pelican dying a slow, miserable death to wake us up to the toll that is being paid by this earth for OUR actions.

my browser is chicer than your browser

So I just downloaded the Google Chrome browser and I am hooked. Not only does it seem faster, but everything is all swishy and futuristic and cool. And you can customize your browser with fun prints. I was almost going to choose the cute striped Kate Spade one, but finally went with the Oscar de la Renta browser. I may never be able to afford the man's clothes, but I can look at this deep, bold, GORGEOUS print every time I go online now. It reminds me of flower petals and leaves all smooshed together, but way more fancy than that.

I may never switch back to Internet Explorer.
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