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A few Sunday mornings ago, I was strolling down the street in a state of perma-grin due to my fairly recent arrival to this lovely city of San Francisco, when I noticed something odd ahead. It was a young guy, throwing what appeared to be a pebble at a window- over and over again. I thought it was kind of cute but felt as though the moment should have been his own- in other words, I felt embarrassed for him, assuming it was some sort of desperate act of humility.

For the next 1/2 block I averted my eyes, looking up at the buildings, trees, etc.. so as to pretend I didn't notice what was happening. But eventually, I had to cross his path and could no longer pretend I didn't see his determined attempt to reach whomever was on the other side of that window. So I moved forward with my head lowered, noted that it was actually Chapstick he'd been tossing at the window, looked up at him out of the corner of my eye with a "heh.. kind of awkward, but I'm not judging" grin on my face. And with a lovely combination of 95% confidence and 5% humility, he grinned back and said, "Yup. This is my life" and continued pelting the window.

I "Ha!" -ed out loud, replied "Awesome," as I continued on my way to the grocery store.

As someone who has started over adult life in a new place 1, 2, 3, 4, ..... 9. yes, 9 times in the last 4 years, I can appreciate that sentiment. More than appreciate, It seems I've embraced it, latched on to it and am now running with it as a sort of life motto. Life is full of these awkward, humbling moments, but without them, successes and ease couldn't be fully appreciated. I couldn't even count the number mistakes, wrong turns, or bad decisions I've made in my attempt of understanding this life and how I belong in it, but one thing I've come to realize and accept, is that with every new situation there is always a learning curve.

This moment of clarity came to me after a long bike ride home from the hospital one night when I got lost on the huge and horribly-signed campus of Stanford. I was going in circles, the basket was flying off my bike, and I nearly fell over- several times. I was on the verge of some serious tears (a few may have even slipped out), but I took a deep breath, reminded myself that I could be facing much bigger issues in life and that I needed to buck up- cause that's what grown ups do, right? :) And this is what happens when you start over all of the time, you make wrong turns!

Had I stayed in the beautiful Twin Cities, I think I'd have things pretty well-figured out by now... I felt like a quasi expert after having been there 8 years. I knew the fastest way to work, the hospital, it's policies and procedures, the unit, the drug regimens, the quirks, the things you just know after being in one place for a while. But I didn't stay, I followed my heart to California and Life took me for a wild ride to some fabulous adventures.

So thank you to my "friend" and his Chapstick, now when I get lost on my bike (which delays, even longer, sleeping after a night shift) because I thought I knew a faster way to get home, or when I screw up, forget something, or when, in my post-night-shift delirium I'm trying to cross the bay-to-breakers craziness and am nearly clobbered by a nudist running the streets of San Francisco, I can't help but laugh to myself and think, "Yup.. whatever this means, wherever it's taking me, 'this is my life' and I ... love it."

**disclaimer: Bay-to-Breakers 12K run through the city which is wildly popular for costumes, parties, and yes, the more than occasional nudist. It is, after all, San Francisco.

Dear Friends, :)

Well, it's safe to say that I was pretty much "not good" at blogging whilst in the ol 'Hond. Of course there are many reasons for this.. the first and most obvious being, "How can you sum up a week or a month when every day (or hour) feels like a week's worth of events have happened when you're in a state of constant learning and growth?" I mean, with 300-500 children around.. needing love, support, grace, encouragement, forgiveness.. and teaching you what unconditional love really is, how can every day not feel multiply-ably strenuous and indescribable? I certainly gained a wealth of appreciation for all of you amazing parents out there!! :)

When I got back, I decided to "hide" all of my blogs from the year. I guess I felt well, for one, worried that someone might see them and feel discouraged about the frustrating things to which I may have eluded, although I don't believe I did that very often. *laughs to self* I did write about killing cockroaches at 5am in the shower.. and feeling abandoned in the city :) But mainly I got rid of the blogs because I felt as though my not-well-thought-out-due-to-lack-of-time-to-think-straight writings were far too shallow to come close to communicating what that year was like.

Then I came home and was in a whirlwind of "find-job-get-recertified-for-all-things-nursing-see-family-try-to-see-friends-unpack-pack-and-cope-with-the-whiplash-of-change-you've-just-experienced-move-to-California-start-new-job, etc..." In other words, there wasn't a lot of time to "process things," so-to-speak. ;)

It wasn't until a girl, who is considering volunteering as a nurse on the ranch, wrote to me to ask me about my experience that I finally gathered my thoughts. When asked about my favorite experience, I wrote:

"... 'being there' for the kids, especially when they were in the clinic. Taking that extra time to spend with them. For example, when a little guy, 11-years-old, had fallen, bruised his eye and potentially had a concussion, he had to spend a few days in the clinic in "observation." But by Saturday evening it was clear he was a-ok and ready to go back to hogar (the house where he lived with boys his age). When I told him this, he grew instantly anxious and upset. He started crying saying he didn't want to leave the clinic. At first I figured it was because he was enjoying watching tv with the other kids, skipping out on hogar chores, and eating the special food the staff was making. And though my first thought was, "Oh come on, it's okay, let's go." Because let's be honest, it was Saturday evening which meant there was some kind of activity with all of the kids (I loved the weekend activities). But something nudged me to stop and inquire further.

So I sat down and asked him, "What's going on? What's wrong??" It took him a while to calm down enough to tell me he was scared to go back to hogar because they would make fun of him for his bruise. (!!!) Poor guy. I realized that this boy, just like any other young child (and adult, really) was terrified of being scrutinized by his peers. So we sat and we talked about his feelings, fears, the ranch and the world outside of the ranch, for kids and adults, for a long time. He then moved on to tell me he hadn't eaten dinner yet! ha.. so we got him some food and once his physical and emotional needs had been met, he finally felt brave enough to face his peers.

We headed to the outdoor auditorium but he wanted to sit outside, in the dark, close to everyone but not within sight. After a bit, he asked me if I wanted to go in and I said, "Sure, if you do." So we made our way in (I followed him) back to a corner of the auditorium and and looked on while the other kids performed and he hid the entire left side of his face with his hooded sweatshirt. It didn't take long before he was up and was running around, still with the side of his face covered, enjoying the night with his friends.

It was so simple, really, this child needed someone to stop and take the time to hear him out, to understand his fears and to encourage him. That which so many of us have taken for granted because we had parents who were there and nurtured us.

A month or so later, when I was leaving after our "last mass" on the ranch, amongst the craziness of saying goodbyes, he ran up to me and gave me a huge hug. Honestly, I hadn't again thought about that night we spent hanging out, talking.. but in this moment, this hug, I knew that he hadn't forgotten it. And for him, even just for that one night, I had made a difference. He knew someone cared enough to listen and be there for him. It was those moments that made everything (because there are times when I questioned it) worth it.

And I truly mean it. That's it.. I was no hero.. I didn't save the world, I didn't even save the program I was trying to improve, I wasn't "super-volunteer-of-the-year," but I was someone - an adult - who took the time to care.. and that is why I went- to love those kids because who doesn't need someone to care about them?

Oh "el rancho" ... it is a special place. It is far from an easy place, but a whole unique world that I'm convinced you cannot understand until you've been there, lived in it, made mistakes, been humbled, and been shown and given love, grace, and forgiveness .. but once you have, once you start to understand the place, the good and the bad become absolutely beautiful and much more than "worth it."

I was only there 13 months.. some will be there for 2 years, some have been there their entire adult lives, but it is a place, and an experience impossible to neatly/succinctly "sum up."

I guess this is about as close as it gets for this girl.

Thank you to all of you who supported me through prayers, phone calls, care-packages, cards and love. They meant and strengthened me more than you could ever know!

Love and Peace

"New York remains what it has always been: a city of ebb and flow, a city of constant shifts of population and economics, a city of virtually no rest. It is harsh, dirty, and dangerous, it is whimsical and fanciful, it is beautiful and soaring - it is not one or another of these things but all of them, all at once, and to fail to accept this paradox is to deny the reality of city existence." -Paul Goldberger

Ok, its official.. I can finally join the list of those who "heart NYC" It comes a surprise to me, as well! I've always appreciated rural, small-town, community life, even more so after moving from metropolis to metropolis. However, my affinity for cities, especially the city of all American cities, has been more like that of an acquired taste.

In fact, distaste used to reside on my palate of judging urbania when I thought of the Big Apple- too crowded, too dirty, too much. It wasn't until I'd lived in Baltimore for nearly a year, that I could even fathom the "charm" of cities so big and old and disorganized. The understanding came to me slowly, but now I can't seem to get enough of the grit, busyness, energy, architecture.

On my latest date with NYC, my dear friend Sheena and I wandered around Greenwich all afternoon in search of a wine bar (that was open in the early afternoon). This led to stumbling upon an intricate jewelry store smaller than most modern bathrooms, beautiful old churches, sculptures, funny eclectic shops, old Irish pubs, strangely named establishments, a lovely Italian restaurant with great wine (and coolly charmed service), which then led also to a fun and unexpected evening of Guinness, pizzeria, espresso and dessert with our lovely Italiano tender of the bar. :)

The next two days were of similar form.. I was with my very best friend from college with whom I can always be just me, just silly, goofy, sometimes annoyingly giddy and over-analyzing me.. our friendship is perhaps what makes being in NY so comfortable and fantastic. We strolled through busy streets, thrift shops, stores, and more.. then spent the next day in Central Park. That day it was rainy but still, amazing. We were on the runners path for a while and the fog drifted gently around the middle of the buildings hiding the rooftops from our site. Yet, despite the gray skies, the trees with its fall-colored leaves painted the most beautiful picture- a perfect backdrop for a couple getting married, in the rain, with only a pastor and a photographer (and random passerbys) to witness. In the spirit of New York, the groom wore a gray sweater, pants and a tie while she wore an ivory dress with red heels. What a wonderful, simple thing to witness.

So, My Dear New York.. thank you for hosting a once again lovely visit.. for being ever-inspiring, the best.. and the worst of hosts, comforting yet aloof. I couldn't be more thankful for the opportunities I've had to get to know you and to spend time with you, your people, your craziness.. Someday maybe I'll even make you my home in you and my livelihood in one of our lively neighborhoods.. a little cafe with espresso by me and cakes by Sarah... a dream..

Through these days
I move swiftly
gliding into new lives
strangely leaving others
faces, memories, landscapes
are moving faster
my memory can't capture
floating in my heart
puzzling me, lovingly
once unknown
but now so close
feeding my dreams,
enhancing my hopes
becoming my reality
becoming me

"Live from the other side
things are pretty groovy and the tide is high
catch a rhythm and enjoy the ride
baby take it easy." -Don McCloskey

Hey folks! So.... Denver was good. :) It was great actually, and now I'm back here on the west coast, enjoying the lovely Pacific breeze, beach, and sun, and waiting to find out what happens next! This isn't necessarily where I hoped or expected I'd be 4 months ago, and though it gets a little thick when wading through the mud in the journey of life.. life is still.. well, good. The road has taken some unexpected turns but God continues to put stellar people in my life who have not just walked with, carried, and guided me along the way, they have taken me on adventures and loved me like they'd known me for years! I have been blessed and I couldn't be more thankful!!

My job is also not what I expected, but good. Turns out I'm basically taking a break from nursing- mentally, emotionally, and physically. I knew I'd be working in an outpatient oncology setting, but I didn't realize how few responsibilities I'd have. I start IV's in the morning for CAT scans and see patients with the surgeons in the afternoons. And by seeing patients, I mean literally, just seeing. I work with a group of oncology surgeons and one other nurse. Her and I accompany the male docs in the room while seeing patients and assist the females with anything they need. There are two doctors for whom I am the primary nurse during their clinic and though they are very different, they are both absolutely fantastic.

(On a side but important note.. while you're lifting up your prayers today, please include my friend, Becca, who has diagnosed with breast cancer, as she is currently going through chemo.. not to mention everything else that comes along with the diagnosis)

The other element of work that I love is the other nurses- just great people! There is a group of us, all around the same age that gets a long really well. Most of us are travelers, so we do a lot together.

I've also found a great Catholic church in Santa Monica that has a hugely active young adults ministry. I went on a spiritual retreat with them to this beautiful retreat center nestled in the mountains of Malibu that overlooked the ocean, hills and no-doubt some famous peoples' homes. ;) The timing couldn't have been more appropriate for me in being surrounded by the very things that remind me of God's presence in the world, nature and relationships.

Just last weekend, my friend Lindsey flew in to visit!!! She was here from MN last weekend and we had ourselves "a good ol' time (quote Gladys).. breakfast on the beach, unexpected shopping spree, trip to the national park in the santa monica mountains, bbq with friends in backyard, music on the promenade and just a lot of time to hang out. And to top things off, my dearest Gruber will be here next weekend!!!! What a blessing to have some of my closest friends be also close in proximity!!

So.. that's life now! Amongst all of these blessings and gifts, I face a bit of daunting challenge that I don't know where I belong in this country (and/if/or internationally). In a strange and unfamiliar way, the future is unclear as though there are thousands of roads to take and no clear sign or reason to go down any of them. I've learned and accomplished more than I had hoped to as a travel nurse, and feel ready to be done with this transient life. I am putting my feelers (resumes) out in many realms of work and volunteer, while being open to whatever God might have in store. Your prayers and support have been and are always greatly appreciated.....

A big thanks to all of you whom I got to see while back in MN for Jill D's wedding!! Though I have been so blessed with great friends out here and in every state in which I've lived during this travel gig, there's something so indescribably comforting about friends from home. I love you all so much... and miss the days of seeing you frequently! I hope and pray that one day I will be back in the Twin Cities (or close by) for good!!!

Much love and many thanks,

a prayer by Thomas Merton:

My Lord God,

I have no idea where I am going.

I do not see the road ahead of me.

I can not know for certain where it will end.

Nor do I really know myself.

And the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.

And I hope that I will have that desire in all that I am doing.

I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.

And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.

Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost
and in the shadow of death.

I will not fear

for you are ever with me and will never lead me to face my perils alone

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