"Love is a harsh and dreadful thing to ask of us, but it is the only answer."--Dorothy Day



This morning, on my train ride to work, I was thinking about the prospect of going to my high school reunion. And I got a bit nostalgic about seeing a few people who might be there, and excited at the prospect of wearing some fantastic shoes to show to the girl who used to make fun of my Birkenstocks and socks, and my now high-style Converse sneakers (that I am wearing today, and sadly have a hole in the bottom of them). Then when I got to work, I decided to check out the Calallen High Class of 1997 Web site, having decided in my nostalgia-fog that I was definitely going to go. The Web page pops up, and there are dates for the reunion. And I am filled with TERROR. Apparently, nostalgia only works when there's no actual potential for interaction with the Mean Girls. This might be me deciding not to go, as the terror has not waned. And I do actually have a valid excuse as I have to be in Texas for a wedding just two weeks before. So, is there anyone out there who actually regrets not going to their 10-year reunion?



This week I went to my first protest, marking the 4th anniversary of the war in Iraq. Really, it was a peace vigil, but it was protest-y. And I'm gonna say, it wasn't really all I'd hoped for. I did feel like the organizers were into it, and the crowd was indeed peaceful, but I just felt silly. Several times, while standing in a line across the edge of Union Square Park, singing "All we are saying, is give peace a chance" (just those words, not the whole song) for the fiftieth time, I thought to myself, "Really? Is this going to make people more aware of the killing going on a world away? Is GW going to stop and go 'Hey, Laura, it looks like people are against this thing. Did you know and not think to tell me'?" Granted this was small scale, but I believe that you either have to be more optimistic or more pessimistic for protesting to work for you.

At the "peace vigil" we were approached by a guy in his late 20s who was convinced that we were all people who were for the war when it started, now there to ease pangs of conscience, and that none of us had seen
Why We Fight. There was another man passing out fliers to let us know that the organization organizing the vigil, MoveOn.org, was not taking a strong enough stance on the war, and that we all needed to call our congresspeople to call for an immediate withdrawal. And then there were the women in their 60s, who spent much of their time talking about the joys and perils of the Internet, who had been protesting wars their entire lives and truly must believe that they create movement in the right direction. I must fall somewhere in the middle of all of this. Wanting the war to be over, and angry that it ever began, but knowing the impracticality of immediate withdrawal and not knowing exactly what the answer is. I read an article this week about a family that is trying for one year to make no impact on the planet. The wife said, when referring to her old habits, "If I was a student, I would protest myself." Me too.


"Peace, Be Still."

A few weeks ago, I did the communion meditation at CCfB, discussing Mark 4:35-39, when Jesus calms the storm. This is possibly my favorite Bible passage, for it's simplicity, but also for it's great meaning. Like nothing else in the world, I long for Peace. World Peace, Inner Peace, Peace and Quiet....all of it. With this story, I imagine Jesus turning to the storm at hand and shouting "Peace! Be still!" and then turning to the Disciples and in a calmer voice saying "Peace. Be still." The power of these words is indescribable. "Peace. Be still....everything will be good in the end." "Peace. Be still....I am with you." "Peace. Be still....give yourself some time." "Peace. Be still....allow yourself to mourn what might have been."

I was discussing with someone a few days ago the necessity of finding peace with what your life is now. I had, at 8 and 18, grand notions of what my life would be like at 28. I would have been married for a while and would probably have a child. I would be living in Austin, and working as a teacher, but would also have written a book. I would have a house and a car, and maybe some pets. Looking at all of this now, I laugh at where I am, having and doing none of the things on this list. And it is very difficult sometimes to not feel like I have failed in some way because my life is nothing like the ideal that was set for me so long ago. But as I have said here before, my life in so many ways has been so much more than my ideal. I have gone places and done things that I never in my wildest dreams imagined. I'm a good and loyal friend, a church leader, a powerful writer, a Brooklynite, a social worker, a volunteer, an activist, an ally, a Democrat, a daily rider of mass-transportation, an alumnus, a Texan expat, an overly empathic soul. And I know that this is the life God meant for me. In this, I find peace.



I have little faith in modern medicine, and the sum of my life experience and my career has brought me to a point where it is next to impossible for me to believe in anything miraculous. If ever anyone tells me that God has spoken to them, I am to immediately hospitalize them. Not much room for miracles or divine intervention there. I had a patient once who was dying of AIDS and struggling with a decades old heroin addiction, when one day he stopped using, and started gaining weight. The color came back into his face and the light came back into his eyes. I asked him what had happened and he told me this incredible story about how God spoke to him, and told him he had a greater purpose for him, and that he would live many more years. While I sat listening to this story, a million thoughts were running through my head. "How incredible!" and "How insane!" were the ones that reigned. I long for faith such as this.

This was what came to mind when I read this story today. It seems that the president of Gambia, a country where over 1% of the population is infected with HIV, has been endowed by God with the power to cure HIV every Thursday, and asthma on Friday and Saturdays. He plans to cure everyone, but can only help 10 people each Thursday, so they must be patient. And he has instructed anyone wanting to be healed in the future to stop taking their HIV medications, as they don't need anymore. This is absolutely horrifying.

But then again, what if it's true? Who am I to say that this is impossible, that this man is either very corrupt or suffering from some serious delusions? That God does not work that way? Is it possible that modern medicine is getting in the way of the will and work of God? It's pretty distressing, isn't it?



One morning my senior year of college, I was getting ready to go to school or work or something, when the door bell rang. I ran downstairs and found the Travis County SWAT Team standing at my door. Another person renting a room in this house, who had consequently stolen my credit cards and a pair of my shoes, had a warrant out for his arrest and they had just tracked him down. Sadly, he had moved out the day before, surely financed by my Mastercard. This is fairly high ranking on the weird way to wake up scale, and was maybe my weirdest...until today.

My apartment is equipped with a buzzer that does nothing to open the gate downstairs, so people buzz and then you have run downstairs and let them in. My upstairs neighbors are notorious for leaving their keys in the apartment and buzzing willy-nilly to get someone to come downstairs. Much like I don't answer my phone when it's someone I don't know, I've stopped answering the door when I'm not expecting anyone.

So this morning I was asleep and there was a buzz. I did not get up to get it, because I thought it was just the neighbor and I'm teaching her a lesson in acquiring keys. I'm not very nice when I'm sleeping. Then the buzzing continues, which is par for the course. And then there's a really long buzz, which generally means that someone has pressed too hard and the buzzer is stuck. But it stops, and I answer, and it's the Fire Department. My roommate already knows this as he has looked out the window and seen them, and he runs down to let them in. And so, and entire company, precinct, district, house (I don't know what they call themselves) comes traipsing into my apartment to check my fire escape with urgency and tools that really should only be used when there are flames involved. So I stand in the middle of my living room in my pajamas as 10 burly men with pointy tools move my furniture and climb out my windows and yell and sweat and make comments about my decor. And then decide that nothing needs to be done, and ruckus on out the door. Thanks FDNY.


Moving on.

At the end of this month, I am moving out of my beautiful old apartment in the Slope, and am moving in with a friend to his beautiful (and newer) apartment in Kensington. And I am excited by the potential of this arrangement to (a) greatly better my financial situation; (b) give me a bedroom that does not double as a hallway; (c) allow me to again live with a friend and to feel that sense of community. But I am also a little bit sad. I have lived here for almost 4 years. In this space I have had 5 of my 19 roommates.

I moved here with Nathan in the summer of 2003, right before I started grad school. We often talked about how blessed we felt to have this place, and the space that it allowed us. It has been the site of 3 Halloween parties, 2 amazing Thanksgiving dinners, several pre-Christmas gift givings, an Easter egg painting party, a going-away party for a dear friend, and more living room dancing than I care to mention. It has hosted roughly 20 visitors to the City, some of them more than once. Our living room housed three friends (who were then counted as roommates) in times when they were without homes. This is maybe the first place I have ever felt was truly home. I will miss my ganormous sink, and my tiny stove, and repeatedly validating my landlord that everyone who comes over admires the brickwork in the living room. But at the same time, I feel like it's time to move on. We heart you, 544
P.S.--Just in case you never got to see the wonder that was 544, it's now on-line. It was nice to see it there, though I do feel just a wee-bit violated that there were pictures of my bedroom on the Internet without my knowledge. Thank goodness I cleaned.


Texas, Our Texas.

Today marks the 171st anniversary of Texas' Independence. And though we were only a country for 9 years, it bears celebrating. I remember when I was in the first grade celebrating Texas' Sesquicentennial, and my sister being a play in which she dressed as a Native American, wearing clothes and headress made of papersack. So in honor of this auspicious day, and of the state I had no love for until I left it, I bring you a survey. Anyone who has ever lived, or longed to live in our state may fill it out and post in the comments section, though I've just realized that this is really long.

1. First of all, where in Texas do (did) you live? Denton, Perryton, Corpus Christi, Austin
2. Where's your favorite place to chill in Texas? Downtown A-Tex.
3. Have you ever been on a boat in Lake Travis? I have, on an ill-fated graduation cruise.
4. Do you go camping? Did back in the scout days, but now I am all City.
5. Do you ever use the word "y'all"? I do. It's my tell.
6. Have you ever owned a truck? No, but I've driven one for like a day.
7. Have you ever had heat exhaustion? Probably during summer band, or while walking to class at UT.
8. How many "Texas snows" have you witnessed? Many when I was a small child.
9. Do you prefer the Spurs or the Mavs? I don't care so much about either.
10. Do you like the city or the country? I am entirely City. I break out in hives the instant I leave the city limits.
11. Have you ever been sprayed by a skunk? No, but I have hidden in a cabin from one.
12. Have you ever run over an armadillo? No, but I've been in a car where one was run over, though that is currently being disputed.
13. Have you ever been to a Cowboys game? No.
14. Have you ever been to a Stars or an Icebats game? Icebats...it was really cold in there.
15. What's your favorite Mexican food restaurant? Trudy's in Austin, by far.
16. Have you ever drank Shiner beer? No.
17. Have you ever been on a hayride? I have and I think I sneezed the entire time.
18. Have you ever ridden a horse? No, I'm allergic.
19. Were you in 4-H or FFA? No, but I did get days off from school because everyone else was.
20. Which place in Texas has the best scenery/view? Turning the corner from 290 to 360 in South Austin.
21. Which grocery store do you shop? HEB on Red River, or Whole Foods of course.
22. Have you ever partied in a barn? No, but I'm sure I missed many a barn party in high school.
23. Have you ever partied in a pasture? No, same as above.
24. Do you like keg beer? Not particularly.
25. Are you Baptist? Nope, B&RCsquared (that's born and raised Church of Christ).
26. Have you ever been swimming in a river or creek? Many, many times, though I probably complained about it the entire time.
27. How many presidents do you know lived in Texas? The two Bushes (though they're not really from Texas) and LBJ.
28. Have you ever been on the Comal River? I have, on many a Girl Scout trip.
29. Is/was your school big? High school was medium sized; College the biggest.
30. How many times have you been to Houston? Probably 10. I am not a fan.
31. Do you know the words to the Texas State Song? I certainly do. I've played and sung it many, many times.
32. Have you ever ridden a mechanical bull? No, that's cruel.
33. Have you ever been to the rodeo? Once in Austin, and we took our Finnish friend. That was some serious culture shock.
34. Do you own a cowboy hat? Sadly no, but I'm in the market.


Living Room.

When I was in college I wrote a play entitled Living Room. (punctuation included). It was about 4 twenty-somethings living together in a 2BR apartment. It was titled thus because it all took place in their living room, and they needed room to live. I am all about the double entendre. And aside from the fact that it was just a little bit racy, as all things in college tend to be, it was fairly true to form. If there's anything I know, it's roommates.

As I rode the D train this morning, I was mulling over my roommate experiences. I am soon to embark on a new one, and have had many, many. My friend Paul (one of the many) and I were discussing one day how many roommates we have had and set up criteria for this count. If you and said person shared a living space for two weeks or more, in an uninterrupted period. And if you've lived with them more than once, you should only count the time when it was the longest. Paul and I count each other roommates, both because I lived with him for two weeks upon my arrival in NYC, and because he and his roommate (my best friend) were the only people I knew in NYC, and thus I was at their house all the time. I maybe should've paid rent. So here's my list, 19 in all, not including roommate to come. Some have names, others epithets.
  1. Clara, Shoe Stealer
  2. Megan
  3. Pauline
  4. Janet
  5. Carrie
  6. Aydrea
  7. Shelley
  8. LeeAnn
  9. Pothead Guy, Whose Name I can't remember
  10. Credit Card Stealer, Whose Name I wish to forget
  11. Courtney
  12. Paul
  13. Karen
  14. Nathan
  15. Caleb
  16. Jeremy
  17. Brent
  18. Adam
This is everybody since I left for college, in August of 1997. I am still friends with 10 of them, if MySpace friends count. This might be a roommate record. I don't know that there is anyone who can best me on that. Hmmm...there certainly are a lot on that list. Good luck #20!