Tuesday, January 26, 2010


In a desperate attempt to make friends at work and actually make this craphole town feel like my home, I've done the unthinkable (well, unthinkable since I was in my early 20s). No, not binge drinking--my last attempt at that ended in my mid-20s with my head in a toilet next to Roommate Barb sometime in Feb. 2007.

I have joined work's intramural soccer team.

Since The Doctor works nights, CEWG will be accompanying me to the games which are every Weds night. I haven't run in a long time, even after my own child (I tend to just let her go off. She usually come back pretty quickly if I stop looking for her.), so this should be quite the adventure.

So here's to a whole new round of shin guards, soccer socks, sweat and sore muscles starting at 7:30 tomorrow. I can't hardly wait.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Small Heros

One of my personal pet peeves since 9/11 is the overuse of the word "hero." Everyone is a hero these days. It's all over the Info-tainment: "Hero Dog Saves Small Squirrel from Certain Death!" But surely, we can't all be heros, right? What use is a word that applies to us all?

Working with such a significantly underserved population has again reminded me that sometimes, the word hero is still applicable to regular people. There is so much need in my line of work. So much material need--people needing rent, food, clothes, shampoo. Not to mention emotional need and spiritual needs that are neglected in favor of those more pressing physical needs like hunger and shelter.

But every day, my colleagues come into work to face another day of doing only what they can, giving only what they can and having to say "no" more times than they say "yes."

This line of work isn't for people who want to be heros or have glory. It isn't a career that will pay much more than entry level. Ironically, it isn't a career that even has a lot of gratitude. Sometimes, it seems that everyone is always asking for more and something is never enough because when you have so little, there is always more needed.

But every day, my coworkers come back. Some days more burned out than others. Some days, tired with circles and exhaustion, the toll of endless "no's" and "cannot's" evident in their eyes. Some days there is a triumphant smile or a story of success. But still, my colleagues come, each with their own reasons for their work, their own passions, their own stories to tell but with one goal: a desire to give respect and dignity to those who have gone without for so long.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Confessions of a Monoglot

For someone who would love to fancy herself a writer, I have absolutely no talent in language. Well, let me rephrase. I have adequate command of the written English language. I often joke, however, that my written vocabulary significantly exceeds my spoken vocabulary-- not because I don't know the words but because I simply cannot pronounce the words correctly. I often settle for words that don't exactly convey the true meaning and intent because at least I won't make an ass of myself if I say the word incorrectly. (I once pronounced the word "hypothetical" "hi-poth-i-call" in front of my entire 150-person MPH Biostatistics class and almost died of shame when, yes, everyone in the room burst out laughing. And let's not even talk about "posthumously.")

I distinctly remember the day that I discovered that language acquisition was not my forte. I was about 9 and struggling through 3rd-grade phonetics (Mrs. George, how I hated chanting those charts out loud: "PH says ffff, TH says thhhh"). I was sitting at my parents' kitchen table eating lunch and reading a list of clothes that my father was planning on ordering from L.L. Bean (these were the days of the catalogue phone orders, mind you). I saw the word (forever burned in my memory) written out next to "pants" and I could not figure it out. I asked my father how to pronounce the word and I will never forget the incredulous look on his face. "Sound it out, Elisabeth. You know this word. You've heard it before." I struggled and struggled for what felt like an hour but was probably three minutes, and still, I couldn't figure it out. I wanted to shout to my father, "I may have heard it but if I haven't seen it, it's meaningless to me!"

When he finally said the word out loud, I felt like a dipshit (though, that word had yet to be in my vocabulary). The silent "k" combinations had yet to be covered in my phonetics class.

"Khaki." Please.

I've tried my best to move forward from my 9-year-old self. I studied Spanish through high school and in college every semester my entire four years. I even studied abroad in Spain, desperate to learn another language and prove myself to be better than those Amerophiles who refused to learn foreign languages based on principle. I flopped at Spanish. Next on my list was Kiswahili during my stint in Kenya, at which I also failed.

Well, perhaps "fail" is too strong a word. I actually had an amazing grasp on the rules and structure of both foreign languages. I loved seeing how sentences and thoughts fell together, how the rules guided the parts of speech, the nuances of verb tenses. Even the structure of the noun classes of Swahili opened a whole new world for me. But for the love, I could not pronounce a damn thing correctly in either language. My tongue always felt thick in my mouth, unable to make the proper combination of sounds at the right time.

Fast forward to my life in the present. I've given up on foreign languages. Completely stopped. It's been five years, more or less, since I've even attempted speaking more than a short phrase of anything other than English. Whenever my linguistic past arises in conversation, people always smile knowingly and say, "Oh, it'll come back to you if you just practice." I have to refrain from outright laughter and tell them that it was never really there in the first place. No one ever believes me, though.

One of the best things about working at an international organization is the languages. Every day that I walk into that office, it's like being greeted by the Tower of Babel. It's not just languages spoken by our clients, but our staff, too. Each day, there's a good chance that I will hear each of these languages: Arabic, Burmese, Karen, Karenni, Nepali, Farsi, Spanish, Cuban, Russian, French, Swahili, Kirundi, Chin...the list goes on. My office mate alone speaks four languages fluently and I am beginning to pinpoint who she is talking to on the phone by the sounds of the words coming out of her mouth.

The hum of foreign languages flows around me, seductively luring me in, enticing me to want to learn again, to pour over lists of flashcard vocabulary and learn new rules and structures of speech. I hate that I am that typical American, unable to communicate with anyone outside of my language because I think it truly hinders my ability to understand a culture. Understanding language and syntax is the first step to understanding a different worldview. Language is the first glimpse a novice has into the way things fit together in the mind of the other. I've always wondered if lovers who speak different language use their mother tongue in that critical moment of passion or clumsily try to use their common language to express their mutual feelings of ecstasy. I marvel when I hear the sounds of other languages spilling out of others' more fortunate mouths, "Does that sound/grunt/tone actually mean something to someone? Amazing!"

But I must accept my shortcomings. I will never be able to seamlessly switch between languages to use the words that best describe my intent. I will always be clumsy and never witty in another language. I am confined to reading inferior English translations of Tolstoy and Sartre and Rumi, never to grasp the full beauty of their written word.

Here is my confession: I am, and will never be more than, a monoglot.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


It's raining in the desert right now. There is something so satisfying about the gentle patter of the drops as they run down my windowpanes. Most often, it seems, we get the torrential rains, the pounding sheets of driving rain that turn a person blind, the fast cataclysmic downpours that shake up our brown earth and turn our empty washes into coursing rivers..

But occasionally, we get the soft rains of the East, the leisurely splatters that instead of washing away the dust in a torrent of floods, gently caresses our dirt, healing, coaxing change and bringing green, even for a short time.

This is one of those rains.

Friday, January 08, 2010


I never thought going back to work would change me. I mean, I knew my life would change, I knew that my schedule would be different and I'd have less time to cook and clean and play with CEWG. I knew I'd be juggling the demands of The Doctor's career which is neither forgiving nor flexible. But I figured that at this point in my life (ripe old age of 29, thank you very much!), I've come to figure out who I am and where I am going. If not, what was that quarter-life crisis for?

Boy, was I ever wrong.

This job has thrown me into another world that I had forgotten which challenges who I am now and where I want to be every single day I walk into that office. I have never worked harder, more intensely and with more discipline in my life and I have never been happier than I am right now.

The only thing that has affected me more is becoming a mother.

I cherished the time that I spent with CEWG at home. I got 22 beautiful months to intensely fall in love with my child. Learning how to be a mother and setting a foundation for perhaps the most powerful relationship a person can have has truly been the most life-altering experiences I have ever embarked on. I feel so fortunate that I could make the choice to stay home and simply exist with my child without any other demands placed upon my time.

I feel like I'm in rediscovery mode again, but this time, instead of learning who I am as a mother, I'm relearning who I am as a person. I am reminding myself who I am outside of my family, reminding myself of my interests, my passions. Each day, I learn more about myself. Each day, I am given a new challenge, a new viewpoint, a new problem, a new way of looking at the world.

How awesome is this?

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Old Friends

Last night, ex-Beloved came over to my house for dinner. We hadn't really spent any quality time together in the last five years. In fact, I hadn't seen him in 4 years except for once for a brief encounter a few months ago (The Doctor, CEWG and I invaded his house for an hour to say hi).

There is something wonderful about seeing people from your past. They remind you of who you were and you can get a glimpse of your old self as well as a new perspective on who you've become. It was wonderful to simply sit and talk, laugh about old times, reflect on memories and who we used to be and begin to learn who we are now.

I am so thankful that I have so many friends who are comfortable friends. Friends who are like favorite pairs of jeans--you can slip them on and just be yourself. My college experience was wonderful, the education was top-notch. But truly, the best gift that William and Mary gave me was a collection of friends that have been there for each other through thick and thin.

Friday, January 01, 2010

A New Year, Another Beginning

I can't believe it's 2010 already. For some reason, 2010 sounds so futuristic to me. But I suppose since it's here and now, futuristic it is not. And here I am. Starting another year, one step closer to 30.

We're firmly settled in PHX. I didn't turn the air-conditioning off until mid-November. Pity me, please? At least our electric bills will get a respite since we don't need heat and I doubt we will since the projected highs hover around the upper 60s/low 70s before they shoot back up to the upper 80s.

But of course, the biggest news is that I'm back at work full-time! I somehow, I managed to land my dream job with my dream organization. I'm still in shock that I'm so lucky to get up every day and do what I do and take home a paycheck for it! How does that happen? And how does that happen to me? But it did.

And amazingly, we've all adapted to the change well, CEWG included. She's enrolled in daycare (AKA nursery school) and after two to three weeks of transitional crying, loves loves loves her teachers and class.

I'd like to start to get back to blogging, simply because it forces me to write. I didn't get time to do NaNo this year because of personal extenuating circumstances. And of course, since I've moved, I have no writing group to force me to write, either. But hopefully, writing here a few times a month will at least get it out of my system and give me that creative outlet.

To here's to the New Year, you and yours!