There is a convenience store within walking distance of my new office. I can’t quite see it from my desk because of a large, thorny mesquite and clump of date palms. If I could, I’m sure that even in the middle of the afternoon, when temperatures in Phoenix made the distant sidewalk wavy with heat and ozone, there would be a group of folks huddled together in the shade of the store’s red awning.
Most would have $.89 Styrofoam cups full of soda and crushed ice. Some you can smell before you see them, as it goes with living on the streets in Phoenix in the summer. Others have loud, angry conversations with the spirits the rest of us cannot see. Many are missing teeth. A few wear clothing revealing tattoos that have become blobs of ink after years of weight fluctuation, and lots of hard living.
These folks are there in the morning when I stop for coffee on my way in to work. And they are there when I drive past, as the orange sky fades into another pink desert sunset.
In downtown Phoenix, there is a large homeless outreach where many of the city’s nomadic homeless sleep at night. In the morning, they are awoken early, given a basic breakfast and shuffled back outside. Some panhandle. Some find shade in a park to take refuge until they are allowed back inside the shelter. The Big Gulp Group hangs out at the local Circle K.
They watch as the cars come and go first thing in the morning. Folks in khakis and polos and A-line dresses file out of their compact cars inside for a morning hit of caffeine. Their shiny state badges reflect the morning sun. Their cars drip steadily from over-worked air conditioning, leaving tiny pools of iridescent coolant on the pavement.
Rarely do the Big Gulp Group and the employee cohort converse. Those who are filling up before filing up the stairs of the nearby health department keep their heads down, down. The homeless talk to each other but usually do not ask those coming and going for a thing. Both groups seem to pretend the other doesn’t exist.
There is little I know for certain about working in behavioral health yet; however, I do know it is often a matter of genetics for those who end up under the awning sipping a Big Gulp vs. those in corner offices sipping lattes. All of this is determined by some great wheel of DNA luck, spinning some of us to early death and others to high-end long term care facilities as centenarians.
Folks who suffer from severe mental illness die on average 25-30 years earlier, of preventable diseases, than their non-mentally ill counterparts in the community. That means most of these folks are dying in their 30s and 40s of preventable illness.
I’ve been rolling this statistic around for a couple weeks, trying to understand how it can be truth.
I am but one cog in this huge programmatic wheel. One more that punches in, and punches out, and could become an apathetic, ineffective drone – meeting the government employee stereotype. Thankfully, I work with a team of people who are passionate and love their work. They inspire. It feels like we are working on something that could make the state’s health better, especially for those like the Big Gulp Group.
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- Arizona, Public Health
After a serious shave and loss of all those adorable curls, WNM is rocking the pink-belly summer shave.
It was getting embarrassing. We’d go for the smallest walk and WNM would spend the next three hours working on his Oscar nominated performance for “dramatic panting.” Such an exaggerator. (I wonder where he gets it?)
Just give it a bit of time, buddy. Soon, you’ll have unexpected freckles, premature crows feet, be eating Mexican food for every meal, driving either 15 miles over the speed limit on the freeway, or 20 miles under in the fast lane with Minnesota plates, and covering your eyes at the talk of politics.
But remember those days of sliding on the ice? Of snow packed paws? Yeah buddy! Being perpetually sweaty isn’t looking so bad after all.
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Since my feet hit the ground in Phoenix two weeks ago, it has been a mad dash.
To unpack. To iron. To start a new job. To arrange movers. To find a new home. To forward mail. To turn off utilities. To turn on utilities. To not annoy my generous hosts. To help Nelson get settled. To encourage Dutch with his move. To remember July birthdays. To plan for August birthdays. To find a gym. To find a new church. To read the book for my old book club, who have kindly invited my return. To see many dear friends I’ve neglected in the last two years.
To not lose my mind.
Guess how well that last one is going?
So, blog — sorry to neglect you. But until I catch my breath, you are a low priority.
Now, off to other things. Be well, amigos!
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Sisters in Spirit is a series of essays by a group of women who felt a spiritual perspective lacking from the steady stream of daily news. They each agreed to carve space monthly on their blogs for a spiritual conversation. The topic this month is how to stay focused on God among life’s distractions.
I could write an encyclopedia on “life’s distractions.” In the last three months, I have: moved twice, driving some 7000 miles with little more than my dog, a couple suitcases and a heart full of hope, fallen madly in love, and started a new job – one I dreamed of for more than a decade.
I’m busy-busy. Our current to-do lists include life milestones that require every bit of energy we can muster. And yet we know that if we don’t involve God in all of this busyness, we will sail off course.
We will not meet our agreement with God as Christians if we allow busyness to consume faithfulness.
This means making time to pray. To read the Bible. To get up and get to church when you’d really rather just pull the covers over your head for the coveted and rare day of sleeping in. To willingly and joyfully tithe.
Practically, this means I eat lunch alone at my new job a couple days a week. I try to find a quiet spot at the cafeteria, or outside if I can burden the heat. I sit in the silence, feeling both unworthy and incredibly grateful for this time. Afterward, I have a sense of peace and often a newfound perspective on whatever issues of the day I’m mulling.
Jesus never said, “Be busy.” He did tell us to love God, and to love each other. With stacks of files on my desk and boxes to pack and unpack at home, I try to remember this.
I hope you continue this conversation by reading and commenting other perspectives on Christianity with my other Sisters in Spirit. Become part of the conversation:
Sarah is municipal attorney, mom to a toddler boy, and United Methodist’s pastor’s wife. (She does not play the organ.) She is a life-long Missouri girl with a heart for hospitality and social justice. Sarah enjoys cooking, running, knitting and embroidery, reading, and playing in the sprinkler. Sarah blogs at www.beautyschooldropout.net
Bianca is a Navy wife from the great state of Texas (where she coincidentally currently resides), and she and her husband welcomed their first child in the fall of 2012. She has a passion for serving others, asking hard questions and sharing The Gospel with both her words and actions. Bianca loves Jesus, her hubs & her son, authentic friendships, traveling, making lists of all kinds, and trying new recipes which she blogs about on BecomingBianca.com
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So, this is what happens when I attempt to do paleo for a couple weeks. I suck with willpower. I can go about a week without any cheats, but when I do take even the smallest step off the no sugar wagon, I fall head first into Ben and Jerry’s. Or wine. Or a basket of tortilla chips with queso. Or attacking a birthday cake at a party.
And the funny thing is, the next day I feel so miserable, I swear it will never happen again. Come to find out, changing behaviors is hard. And sticking with this diet is great. More energy, clearer skin, skinny pants. It really does work when you can tell yourself no.
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Now you are singing Sheryl Crow, huh? You’re welcome. It’s a good song.
We are home! Some 2700 miles and five days of solid driving, we arrived in Arizona last night to a steak dinner prepared by our hosts. D headed back to the airport this morning, bound for the East Coast. Nelson and I started unpacking. Tomorrow I begin my new career — and I am a fair mix of nerves and excitement.
The drive was charming. Pennsylvania and Indiana blended together on I-80; the pines tall and emerald green. The horizon was out of sight, one green rolling hill after another. Illinois was exciting because of a stop with friends in a suburb of Chicago. Iowa became a patchwork of corn fields, fading red barns, and silver silos reaching for the heavens. Nebraska was another stop with dear friends who welcomed us to their farm house for the night. And then, on to I-76, where after another 5 hours we came over a hill to see the distant, still snow-capped Rockies.
I wept. The horizon opened. White puffy clouds filled the blue sky. My head thumped from the altitude. A night in Denver with family was spent enjoying much missed excellent Mexican food and great laughter. The next morning, we were off on I-25 to the Sandia Mountains of Albuquerque, where another home full of love waited for our arrival. Our trip coordinated beautifully with a surprise birthday party for family friends at yet another great Mexican restaurant.
And then, on I-40, we made our way to northern Arizona, down the Mogollon Rim, through the pines and the brush, over the boulders, past the spray of Fountain Hills to the dry, dusty Valley of the Sun. Home.
With a sense of comfort and knowing all will be well, I am so happy to be in Phoenix. Now, off to prepare for a mighty week.
P.S. Nelson is adjusting. He will go swimming for the first time tonight, and I’m having his hair cut super short this week. He’s currently laying spread eagle on tile floor.
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I’m on the road this week, headed back across this huge country toward the desert. A last look at the beautiful state I had a chance to temporarily call home:
Thank you, New Jersey.
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- NJ + NYC, Photography
My brother Cody was hiking in the Colorado Rockies this weekend when he came upon this bear:
He took a handful of photos before it dawned on him that, “I might be one of those idiots who filled his camera with shots of the critter that had him for dinner.”
Thankfully both got away successfully. What a great photo!
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Someone remind me I want to have one of these frames in a future house:
Thank you, Sunset, for giving me yet another gardening project I can’t wait to tackle.
Air plants? Growing on a screen? That you can hang like art?
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- Flora and Fauna