Broken-down Poetry: 2010


Related Posts with Thumbnails

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

"Let's break up," a poem

“Let’s break up,” she said
just to rile him up.
She liked the way
his eyes turned glossy.
If she were lucky
a tear would ski down
his cheek
dodging flags and trees
called freckles
and she could catch it
on its final turn
on a lower peak
before the big finale
(all for dramatic effect).

She folded her arms,
took a step back, and
waited. “Well?”

“Okay,” he replied.
“I never liked you much


(It's fiction, geez.)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Incarnation, a poem

The Incarnation

Let’s talk the “Incarnation”
because it is a big word
for something easy for me
to describe: God the baby.
God, who has the power
to shape-shift, turned himself from
a God into a human.

Sort of. It’s not exactly
that simple. Or…correct. I
may have tried to make this a
little sci-fi, easier
to swallow for we who don’t
like the idea that God
would turn himself into one
of us. We’re kind of screw ups.
Why would he want to be like
us anyhow? And why come
as a six pound, five ounce babe?

I find it impossible
to imagine you teething,
spitting up, dragging your full
diaper on the ground behind
you--you, a God, someone we
call Jehovah Jirah, God
the Provider, who is now
in his crib or trough crying,
wanting milk, needing his mom.

If I were honest, I would
tell you I like you like that:
small, innocent, pathetic,
unable to lift your head
even. Helpless. Like you’re like
me. Like you’re me who’s drowning
in the demands of people
who don’t realize that I
cannot even lift my head.

But I don’t imagine you
like that, not even on Christ-
mas when Nativity scenes
pop up everywhere. I
can’t stop myself from thinking
about you on that cross or
walking on water. You’re a
man with a straggly beard, not a
baby wrapped in tattered cloth.

I don’t picture you as a
babe, but maybe I need to.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Finals interlude

Okay, so I haven't been inspired to write at all. I'm just trying to get everything finished: finals, classes, papers, projects, etc.

So here's a poem I wrote for creative writing this semester. It's about -- guess who?

On his windowsill he keeps
dead insects in alcohol
in glass vials. Dragonflies
and moths with motionless wings
sit still, keeping guard. Below,
he sits on his couch not a
bed—he doesn’t own one. He
sleeps hard on the floor alone.

On his couch, behind a closed
door, he thinks and stares at
the cardboard beer box he cut
and flattened into décor
above his closet. The rest
of the wall: bare, beige, and bland,
except for a lithograph
of Emily Dickinson,
plucked from a library book.

In the corner: his altar.
Three guitars—an acoustic,
electric, and bass—lean up
against his vintage, baby-
blue, nineteen-seventies amp.
A one-millimeter pick
sits and waits for him to play.
When he does play, it’s with shut
eyes. Concentrating, he jams.

With knock-knock-knock on the door,
a young woman walks into
the bachelor’s dead-bug, bed-less
hub—his pad. He stands up and
hugs her, smells her hair, kisses
her neck near her collar bone.
He says, “I love you, pumpkin.”

Deep, pleasant sigh.


Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas Break Goals 2010

Okay, I used to do this all the time. Every Christmas, spring, and summer break I'd make a list of goals I want to accomplish. Especially with three and a half weeks off, I figured this would be appropriate to do.

Some goals. (Note: Some are completely shallow. Some seem very self-righteous. Let those two balance each other out.)

1. Read three books. Ideas: To Kill a Mockingbird, finish Wild at Heart, Drops Like Stars, a book by Brian McLaren, probably one of the five I asked for for Christmas.

2. Volunteer five times. I miss InAsMuch. I miss working with people one-on-one. 

3. Do my Sojourn homework. Yeah, so the Sojourn has homework.

4. Write a paper. There are so many comm. theory papers I want to write.... I don't know if I'll actually write them, but I want to research them, just for kicks. Honestly, this will help me with my senior project next year.

5. Get a tan. Yup. I'm doing it. Sorry, anti-tanning-booth people.

6. Practice being wise with money. Okay, so in general I'm not bad with money. I can make $100 last me a month if I have to. BUT now that I have money and a consistent income, I need to practice saving and investing and using less of my disposable income on crap I don't need (i.e. food). Basically, I need to budget.

7. Update resume/apply for internships. Summer will come fast.

8. Take care of Body. My poor body has had it rough this semester. Over break I want to get in the habit of sleeping 7-9 hours, eating healthfully, doing physical activity, etc.

9. Blog/write for fun. Yeah, so who has time for this anyway? At the middle of the semester I was decent at updating my blog, at least for poetry. I need to keep doing this. I only have a few writing classes next semester, I can write more for fun. Really. I can. 

10. Relax. I need to do a lot of this. I have had a crazy semester. Tons of work. Upper-level classes. A boyfriend. Geez. I'm exhausted.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Txt Msg

Sometimes this is how I feel.

Also, I never text like this.

Txt Msg

God, why ddnt u
answer my txt?
I sent it ystrdy
at 2 pm
rght aftr I rolld out of

It said
help me plz
bcs Ive lost my
step or my way
or wtvr
ppl say when
they do smthng

But u ddnt
evn rspnd or
evn notify me
that my txt ddnt
go thru like
ur sppsd to
whn theres silence
4 a while

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Good morning

But friends, your dead will live,
your corpses will get to their feet.
All you dead and buried,
wake up! Sing!
Your dew is morning dew
catching the first rays of sun,
The earth bursting with life,
giving birth to the dead.

Come, my people, go home
and shut yourselves in.
Go into seclusion for a while
until the punishing wrath is past,
Because God is sure to come from his place
to punish the wrong of the people on earth.
Earth itself will point out the bloodstains;
it will show where the murdered have been hidden away.
-Isaiah 26.19-21


Oh yes.


Good morning. My favorite texts in the world are "good morning" texts from Nathan. They're texts that remind me that whatever happened yesterday--whatever stress, whatever fight or struggle--is gone. Good morning. It's a new day. It's fresh. Let's wake up and sing.

I've called grace many things before. I've called it a hug. I've called it plants that grow in the wintertime. But today, today I'm going to call grace morning.


In Iraq, the sun rose at 4:30 a.m. The Iraqi sun is bright; it's hot; it's disturbing; it wakes you up.

I think that's grace. Okay, so I say grace is the morning and that evokes some brand of fuzzies. Aw, it's like that 1990s worship song: "Though the sorrow may last through the night, his joy comes in the morning. I'm tradin' my sorrows...." But really, it's more than that. It's hard. It's bright and blinding.

I say grace makes you do something, take action. In the very least, it makes you get out of bed. Morning is here; you can't stay in bed all day.

For me, morning is planning time. If I am not running late (as I usually am), I think about where I need to go that day, what I need to accomplish, how I am going to do it all. Morning requires something of me.

Grace, of course, is the same way. Grace says that whatever happened the night before, is over. It's done, taken care of. Any wrong I've committed against God is forgiven, and I am washed clean. But, I'm still responsible. I'm responsible for the upcoming day.


Isaiah is all about the coming of the Messiah. The prophet warns Israel and its neighbors of God's wrath, but he tells also of a redeemer called Immanuel, God with us.

Remembering that, I'm trying to make sense of the second stanza above, the one after the exclamation about morning! and singing! and sunshine! The one that says to lock yourselves in your house to escape God's punishment.

In context, the joyful stanza comes after Isaiah's description of his people's current condition: "Oh God, they begged you for help when they were in trouble, when your discipline was so heavy they could barely whisper a prayer."

I wonder if that final stanza is a "sobering up." Yes, God is good. God will give you a new morning, a new life, some fresh dew on the ground. But remember what you're doing right now. Remember your current situation, the sins you're immersed in, your addictions.

I think of this stanza as a mourning (yes, a nice play on words for us to enjoy). It's like: go inside your houses and shut your doors and take a while to think about what you did. Give yourself a time out. Keep yourselves from sinning. Watch out. Be careful.


I write this post at night, anticipating the morning, anticipating grace.

All you dead and buried, wake up! Sing!


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Holy the Firm, pp. 60-62

His disciples asked Christ about a roadside beggar who had been blind from birth, "Who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" And Christ, who spat on the ground, made a mud of his spittle and clay, plastered the mud over the man's eyes, and gave him sight, answered, "Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be manifest in him."

Really? If we take this answer to refer to the affliction itself--and not the subsequent cure--as "God's works made manifest," then we have, along with "Not as the world gives do I give unto you," two meager, baffling, and infuriating answer to one of the few questions worth asking, to wit, What in the Sam Hill is going on here?

The works of God made manifest? Do we really need more victims to remind us that we're victims? Is this some sort of parade for which a conquering army shines up its terrible guns and rolls them up and down the streets for people to see? Do we need blind men stumbling about, and little flamefaced children, to remind us what God can--and will--do? ...

Yes, in fact, we do. We do need reminding, not of what God can do, but what he cannot do, or will not, which is to catch time in its free fall and stick a nickel's worth of sense into our days. And we need reminding of what time can do, must only do; churn out enormity at random and beat it, with God's blessing, into our heads: that we are created, created, sojourners in a land we did not make, a land with no meaning of itself and no meaning we can make for it alone. 

Who are we do demand explanations of God? (And what monsters of perfection should we be if we did not?) ...


I think I finally get it, Annie.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Some things are better left unsaid.

“Talk to me,” he says,
caressing her hand
and fondling the wrinkles
of her numb fingers.
She says, “I’m fine.” Not
that he asked.

They walk with naked
stares into the night.
She pulls out
her hand from his hand
and shoves it into her pocket.
“Baby, come on. What

She thinks
of a better lie to tell,
but she can’t. So she says
the same thing again
only slower, harder.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Future/Present poem

I bought an e.e. cummings poetry book: this is what resulted. (Okay, this hardly exemplifies my admiration for cummings, but I did split a word between two lines.)

Also, it's fiction. Geez.

Also, also: three syllable lines!!

Dear future
husband, I
am sorry
but I have
(in retro-
spect) cheated
on you. Love,
forgive me
because I
didn’t know
you yet and
I thought you
wouldn’t mind
if I kissed
a man who
isn’t you
and let him
touch my breasts.

Dear present
wife, it’s fine.
I love you

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

And eat it too.

He baked you a cake?

Yeah. Isn’t it great? I’ll never want to finish eating it.

He obviously likes you.

Well, I thought so. Before, I mean, when he gave me the cake. But I know he doesn’t.

Caitlyn, he baked you a cake for crying out loud. How could he not like you?

He’s just home-broken. House-broken. Whatever you call it. He bakes.

No guy bakes for a girl he’s just friends with.

This guy does.

I don’t believe it.

Oh, believe it. You should’ve been there when I met him.

Tell me.

We were at McConn.


No, no. I was in line, and he was in front of me.

Did you say hi?

Not right away. I just kind of stared.

At what?

His hair.

His hair?

He has really nice hair. He usually covers it with that silly hat.

But underneath it?

Really … great … hair.


So then you said hi?

No, I touched his hair.

You didn’t?

I did. And you know what? It’s soft. Just like you’d expect it to be.

You’re joking, right? You just went up and touched his hair.

I wish. I asked first.

That’s a little better.

I said, “You have really great hair. Can I touch it?”

Oh, Caitlyn, that’s hilarious! What did he do?

He leaned over and let me touch it.


The rest is history.

Then he likes you?

Not exactly.

You just said the rest was history, like it’s the end of the story. So it’s not?

Well, that was a month ago. So much has happened.

Like what?

The date.

You went on a date with him?

Sort of.

Tell me!

It was nothing. We just watched a movie at his apartment.


Well, yeah alone. It was a date … I think.

You mean you don’t know?

It seemed like a date. He flirted.


And he walked me back to campus.

Did he try to hold your hand?


Then it wasn’t a date.

He could be a prude.

Yeah, Caitlyn, get real. Did he know that you liked him? On the date, I mean.

Oh yeah, it was pretty clear. Lots of signals.

But he didn’t hold your hand?


Then he doesn’t like you.

I told you.

But there’s more, isn’t there?

Well, that happened two weeks ago, so yeah there’s more.

What next?

He called me.

He didn’t!

The next day. He called me just to talk.

Oh, guys never do that.

They don’t.

Surely he must like you.

I thought he did. When he called me, I was sure of it.

Then what changed?

Well, he gave me the cake.


He gave me the cake Thursday, then yesterday we talked. We DTR’d.

Defined the relationship. Got it.

I told him I liked him. I told him I liked his hair and his smile and the way he says his vowels.

Then how’d he respond? What’d he say?

He said, “Huh.” He just brushed it off, like it was nothing.

That doesn’t mean anything.

Of course it does. It means everything.


So are you sad?

Kind of.

What’re you going to do with the cake?

Eat it, I guess.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Grace grows in winter

Grace doesn't grow in the springtime. Grace grows in the winter, when everything's dead, when life is the brown sludge beneath your rubber boots.

It comes as a surprise.

We talk about life as having seasons. In the spring, life is born. In summer, it's sustained. In fall, it starts dying and by winter, it's dead.

But what if that's not how it works at all? Maybe life is always about dying. Maybe it's about repeatedly dying to our worldviews, our theories, our ways of doing things, our attitudes, our agendas, our impatience, our sins.

I think the seasons of life take place between October and December. In October, we start dying, but not to the right stuff. We die to the good we've always known. In October, we sin.

Then by November, we've killed God. We have sinned enough to shut him out, to no longer care. We've let sin creep in, settle on our sofas and stay awhile.

In November we think we're screwed.

So we started messing around in October, now we're deep into this new way of living. It's easy to be short-tempered; it's easy to walk past you. We've become different people. We used to be, by the grace of God, patient people. Now look who we are.

Hope: it's gone. The trees stay green forever.

But in December, Grace grows unexpectedly. Up from the ground, under your feet, through the snow, through the dirt, through the frozen ground, Grace grows.

Thank God.

You don't need Grace in the summer when all is well. You need Grace when things couldn't possibly get any worse.


I wrote Late October first, while reflecting on sin -- my own sin -- and how it seemed unconquerable. A week or so after, I wrote Late November and Late December while plotting a way out of sin. I want a way out. I'm close.

It's been fall for a long time; now it's winter, and I've seen sprouts of Grace.

In the past week or so I've posted two of the three poems in this series. Here's the complete collection including Late December, my poem on Grace.


Late October

Late October
and the Norway maple hasn’t turned
red or orange or whatever color
Norway maples turn.

and tomorrow:
an endless cycle of green
and green and green
and green and green.

Through the window
the masochists
slit their wrists,
crying but with bliss.

Late November

Late November
and God is dead
like the maple trees and the leaves
falling out of them.

I did it
with a handful of the
foliage of God, yanking leaves
one by one by one by one
—just so I know he’s gone:
he’s dead.

God haunts still,
like apparitions, and
he howls through crooked
branches, waving:
Hi, I miss you.
Do you miss me?

Late December

Late December
and grace grows
like heaths. It is the
dead of winter,
yet grace grows in the dead
leaves crushed to the ground
and stomped upon,
with booted feet,
crushed into snow
and slush: grey, black,

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

one by one by one by one

Late November
and God is dead
like the maple trees
and the leaves falling
out of them.

You did it
with a handful of the
foliage of God, yanking leaves
one by one by one by one
—just so you know he’s gone:
he’s dead.

God haunts still,
like apparitions, and
he howls through crooked
branches, waving:
Hi, I miss you.
Do you miss me?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Relationships are always in flux

I told Nate I've forgotten how to write prose--perhaps I have. I've been writing poetry a lot lately, mostly for class, and I've written a lot of news stories. I haven't had time to write creative prose. This blog may seem disjointed, probably because I'm out of practice, or because my thoughts are so disjointed.


What have I been thinking about lately? Sin.

I almost wrote a sin blog a few weeks ago, but I haven't found the time. Even now, even on fall break, I know I should write a lit. analysis or a four-page paper on Saladin instead of blogging--but I need to blog. I have to blog.

So. Sin.

I used to try to narrow all my petty sins back to a bigger, more internal sin. Usually I got it back to pride or selfishness. I think that's true.

What was Eve's sin? She took the fruit from the snake. How was that a sin? She disobeyed God. Why did she disobey God? She thought he was holding back something from her, something she needed. She was insecure. She was selfish.

What I hate about sin is how unavoidable it is. Christ says stuff like "things that cause people to sin are bound to come." You think you're clear of sin: things like lying, cheating, stealing, adultery, gossip? You get all haughty and proud. Good job: you just sinned.

I hate that God's standard for sin is so broad: "Whoever, then, knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins." I should eat low fat yogurt instead of this chocolate chip cookie ... ah, what the hey. It's the weekend. Whoops, you just sinned.

I hate how sneaky sin is. Thrice (yes, the band Thrice) describes sin as a lion and a wolf. You try to keep the big sins out, but the little sins sneak in without noticing like a wolf in sheep's clothing. (Or, I think of Little Red Riding Hood.) Those little sins let the big sins in the door.

The wolf, he howls
The lion does roar
The wolf lets him in
The lion runs in through the door
The real fun begins
As they both rush upon you and
Rip open your flesh
The lion eats its fill and then
The wolf cleans up the mess

I hate how much God hates sin. George MacDonald said whatever comes between us and God must be destroyed with fire.


Here's my question, theologians, when you're stuck in sin, how do you get out? If you tell me that to be a Christian I must live a God-honoring, righteous, sin-less, "blameless" life, how do I stop sinning? Is it just my decision? Is it willpower? Is it God? Can the Holy Spirit stop me?

What if prayers aren't answered? What if the cycle of addiction never stops? What if I can't overcome, what if I let sin win, what if I have to give in, what if I'm tired of fighting, what if I no longer care?

You Calvinists say I'm fine.
You Armenians say I'm going to hell.

When will I remember that life is a series of troughs and peaks, summits and nadirs? When will I remember that my relationship with God, like all relationships, is in flux?

In Comm. Theory we talk about Relational Dialectics which states that truth: relationships are always in flux. There are times when everything seems to be perfect, this is called the "aesthetic moment." It never lasts. 

So my aesthetic moments with God are few and far between.

But we're okay.
(God, we're okay, right?)


At least there's hope.
Believe it or not: there is some.

"There's now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."


"But sin didn't, and doesn't, have a chance in competition with the aggressive forgiveness we call grace. When it's sin versus grace, grace wins hands down. All sin can do is threaten us with death, and that's the end of it. Grace, because God is putting everything together again through the Messiah, invites us into life—a life that goes on and on and on, world without end."


Thursday, October 21, 2010

and green and green and green ...

Late October
and the Norway maple hasn’t turned
red or orange or whatever color
Norway maples turn.

and tomorrow:
an endless cycle of green
and green and green
and green and green.

Through the window
the masochists
slit their wrists,
crying but with bliss.


Author's note: "Things that cause people to sin are bound to come" [Luke 17:1a]. If only they weren't.

Monday, October 4, 2010

"Sinai," from George MacDonald: an Anthology, p. 4

"[God] is against sin: insofar as, and while, they and sin are one, He is against them--against their desires, their aims, their fears, and their hopes; and thus He is altogether and always for them. That thunder and lightening and tempest, that blackness torn with the sound of a trumpet, that visible horror billowed with the voice of words, was all but a faint image ... of what God thinks and feels against vileness and selfishness, of the unrest of unassuageable repulsion with which He regards such conditions."


Lauren's thoughts: It's odd thinking that God is both for and against us. He's against the sins we're tangled up in; he's against our innate drive for self-gratification, for hunger over restraint. But because he is against that, he's for us. He wants a Lauren - he wants a you - purged from sin.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Broken-down thoughts.

George MacDonald said, "Poetry is the highest form of the utterance of men's thoughts." Sometimes when I'm thoughtful and pensive and nostalgic and lonely and upset I write poetry.

I told God to sleep
On the couch. Tonight
I'll sleep alone with the comfort
Of my comforter.

I'll let God
Sweat it out
And wonder why
I am so pissed at him.

He'll think
About what he did: did he
Tell a crude joke or say
Something rude about my hair?

When he asks (and
He will ask)
I'll tell him
It's nothing.

And it's nothing. God,
I'm fine. I'm fine,
Really. Just don't
Come back to bed.

*Update 9/29/2010

Friday, September 3, 2010

Hi, Heart.

I hesitate to blog anymore because my audience has grown so much. I don't mean that to sound like bragging, but since I went overseas and got a boyfriend, more people have been interested in what I say. That scares me. Gulp. Do I want you to read this?

I have one standard for my blog - honesty. I write what I believe (whether it's truth or not is another matter). I write in order to enact change; I write in order for my brothers and sister in Christ to agree, to say "Amen"; I write to vent or rant or ask questions. But I write with the intention of total transparency. I know I'm not always right. I know that what I say is often embarrassing or self-righteous or ignorant. I want this blog to be a testament of my brokenness. As long as it's honest.

(It's odd: I only half-realize that what I write is public. It's not until someone I don't know very well comments on a post that the regret kicks in. Should I have written that?)

But I've been doing this since I was 14, so no use stopping now. Even if this blog gets read by thousands - oh, maybe one day - I can't quit being myself. I can't quit pondering and wrestling and ranting. Am I not Ezekiel, God's mouthpiece?


I've been thinking about my heart a lot, because of this book I read. I finished reading Joy in the Morning by Betty Smith for possibly the fifth time. I lost count. 

The story is about Annie and Carl Brown during their first year of marriage in 1927. Carl is a third year law student and Annie is his 18-year-old bride. It's a rags-to-riches story, a theme popular in its time.

I love the book because I think I'm Annie. Rather, I view myself as someone like her. I know I'm not really that much like her. I either wish I were or I try to be. 

Annie's a writer. She's this quirky girl who gets way too excited about silly little things; she gets absorbed in projects; she wants to fit in; she loves reading; she loves observing people. She's a character.

What I love most about Annie - and how I relate to her the most - is her childlike heart. She seems so very young. She calls herself a dope all the time. Carl calls her his child-bride.

Annie's 18 in the book, 19 by the end, but her heart is still 12.

Her heart is a curious little girl who wants to read and write and play house.

She has conversations like this with Carl:

"Would you love me if I was a factory worker?" [asked Carl.]
"Of course. But you're not a factory worker. You are going to be a lawyer. You got to be a lawyer. I told the children their father's a lawyer."
"What children?"
"The children I'm going to have."
"We're going to have."
"I'm going to have them. You can watch." p.61

When I am confused about something or need to make a decision that my heart has a say in, I compartmentalize my Heart, my Head and sometimes my Body. I give them voices and let them speak.

I did it once for this blog

I let my Head speak for my rationale. I let Heart speak for my, well, heart. And I let Body speak for my impulses.

But I decided a few weeks ago that my Head, my Heart and my Body are different ages. Body is obviously 20. But Head is in grad school - 24, 25 maybe. 

Heart is 12.

I think my Heart's still a baby.

I remember when I first had that realization, when I was 13. When people asked me how old I was, I'd want to say 12. Sometimes I still want to answer 12. 

I don't know what that says about me exactly. I hope it's nothing bad. I hope it doesn't hurt my relationships or cause me to remain naive or pathetic for the rest of my life.

But I think it'll keep me like Annie. I think it'll keep me hopeful when life is stressful. I think it'll keep me writing even if I never get published.


A few years ago I began this quest to find myself. I wanted to know who I am stripped of every relationship, every label or stereotype, every defining quality. I wanted to know who I am via Jesus and no one else. 

Something happened, I think. I had it all figured out sometime last year. I felt cool. I felt confident. But then life happened. I started doubting God. I started doubting that he cared about me at all, that he had a plan for me. Or something. Man, I don't even know what happened.

So I'm back here again. What I started two years ago, I'm starting again. I'm trying to find myself.

Yeah, I know the basics. I know who I am as a writer. I know who I am as a student, as a woman, as a dreamer, as a friend. But I don't know who I am as a girlfriend. I don't know who I am as an adult, a professional. I don't know who I am fully. I only know in part.

I know my Head, but I don't always know my Heart. I never know what she's up to. I have to ask her, and when I do, she starts freaking out. 

I figure life is like this. I wrote a few years ago how my friend Adam told me that you can never fully know who you are, and I said that I didn't believe him. I believe him now. I won't always get myself. I'm peculiar, even to myself. But I can learn. And the learning may never stop.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Life updates, August 2010

I haven't blogged to just blog in a while. I've written a lot about PLC; I've written a few creative pieces, but I haven't just blogged.

Granted, most of the time I blog I have some muse to inspire me. I'm muse-less. I'm reading an essay by Ray Bradbury about "feeding and caring for your Muse," but it hasn't helped. I'll be back to school soon and will have plenty to write about. So, no worries. (Were you worried?)

But, stuff has been going on, so I'll update you.


1. I'm in America. Yes, I'm adjusting well. I've spent 20 years and two months in America; two months away isn't going to do much difference. I wish it did, sort of. I wish I viewed my life completely differently (but for the better) now that I'm home. I wish I was more thankful for my freedoms. I wish I spent my money on the children in Iraq and not on Old Crown coffee.

2. I have a boyfriend. For those of you who don't know the story, Nate and I started talking when I was in Iraq - the first week I was there, actually. We had a few classes together at IWU. (Fun fact: one of my first memories of Nate was when he beat me in Scrabble. Bah!) We're "official" now, and have been for 3 1/2 weeks.

3. I'm going back to IWU soon. I don't know the exact date, but I'm heading back early for Sojourn workshops. I am the managing editor this year (second in charge, I guess), so I get to plan said workshops. It's kind of fun. But also extremely stressful and hectic and frustrating.

4. I have a million half-read books on my bedside table. I started reading a few books in Iraq and in transit (Jayber Crow, Teaching a Stone to Talk) and started a few more now that I'm home (The Zen in the Art of Writing, The Copy-Editing and Headline Handbook), but I've only finished a few this summer. I'm disappointed in myself. Last summer, 19 books. This summer, 3.

5. I was in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette this morning. I was interviewed about my internship. You should read it, then feel led to donate to PLC and #RemedyMission.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

On health care in Iraq

Health care - or "Obamacare" - is still a buzz word around here. Though having been out of the country for two months, and completely shutting myself off from American politics, I knew that the tension of the healthcare reform would continue whether I was paying attention or not.

I don't want to talk about the U.S.'s health care issues. At this point I'm ready to throw up my hands and say, qué será será. What will be, will be.

But I want to talk about Iraq's health care issues because they're bigger, and more dire, but there are people out there trying to take care of those problems.

I've blogged before about Dr. Aso Faiq, the only pediatric cardiologist in Kurdistan. I've told you that he can't go to Europe for training because he cannot be approved for a visa, even a 4-day one. I also learned that though Iraq lacks pediatric cardiologists, there are adult cardiologists in the country. But the causes of heart disease in Iraq are not the same as they are in America (high blood pressure, obesity, inactivity). To be blunt, the kids born with congenital (in utero) heart disease die before they can see an adult cardiologist.

So ... this is where we're at.

Thousands of children in line for heart surgery - surgeries they cannot receive in-country because doctors don't have the training. This is why organizations like Preemptive Love exist, to "eradicate the backlog of Kurdish and Arab children in line for lifesaving heart surgery."

Some die without getting their hearts checked out.


I'm excited: this week the International Children's Heart Foundation is traveling to Sulaimaniah, Iraq to perform 30 heart surgeries and train local doctors. This Remedy Mission is one step toward getting those thousands of kids into surgery in-country; no longer will sick kids have to cross borders for heart surgeries.

Preemptive Love still needs more money to bring the team in to perform heart surgeries and train doctors. We're close, but not quite there.

To put this into perspective: Preemptive Love sends about 20 kids to heart surgery in a year. Remedy Mission will do 1.5x as much as PLC alone can do in one year.

Your donations will help improve health care in Iraq.
And save 30 kids' lives!


* photo by, of course, the wonderful Lydia Bullock

Monday, August 9, 2010

Creative Writing: Untitled

Yes, a preface: I can't title this, because if I did, it'd be really cheesy. It'd probably be something like The Words Didn't Come or He's Perfect. Oh barf. 

Here's the thing about writing fiction: it's fiction. Ha, it's not true. But in some regards, it is true. I can't write something that doesn't have some truth in it, or something I've seen in real life, etc. But you all are going to read it and think that it's absolute truth. I know you, audience; I know some of you will. You'll say the "she" is me and the "he" is Nathan. And you'll write some stupid comment saying either "aww" or "oh barf." 

So just read it as fiction. And don't leave any awkward comments.



She clutched her mug. She took a sip. Lukewarm coffee. She set the mug down. Pause. She took another sip. Her friend asked her, "What's he like?" She thought. But couldn't answer. The words didn't come. She knew in her head. But she couldn't say it. 

She couldn't say how much she loves the way he cuts his hair; the way he dresses; the way he smiles at her; the way he plays the drums on her arm; the way he talks more sentimentally at night than in the day; the way he tastes like beer; the way he pronounces her name; the way he laughs when he tells stories; the way he rambles on ...; the way he cares about what she cares about; the way he's over the top; the way he's just enough; the way his smell clings to her clothes after they've hugged goodbye.

When she's asked, she cannot answer. Not how she should. "He's perfect," she says. And leaves it at that.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Phantom Tollbooth, pp. 118-119

"No one paid attention to how things looked, and as they moved faster and faster everything grew uglier and dirtier, and as everything grew uglier and dirtier they moved faster and faster, and at last a very strange thing began to happen. Because nobody cared, the city slowly began to disappear. Day by day the buildings grew fainter and fainter, and the streets faded away, until at last it was entirely invisible. There was nothing to see at all."

"What did they do?" the Humbug inquired, suddenly taking interest in things.

"Nothing at all," continued Alec. "They went right on living here just as they'd always done, in the houses they could no longer see and on the streets which had vanished, because nobody had noticed a thing. And that's the way they have lived to this very day."

"Hasn't anyone told them?" asked Milo.

"It doesn't do any good," Alec replied, "for they can never see what they're in too much of a hurry to look for."

"Why don't they live in Illusions?" suggested the Humbug. "It's much prettier."

"Many of them do," he answered, walking in the direction of the forest once again, "but it's just as bad to live in a place where what you do see isn't there as it is to live in one where what you don't see is."

"Perhaps someday you can have one city as easy to see as Illusions and as hard to forget as Reality," Milo remarked.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Creative Writing: In Theory

Whenever I write fiction or creative nonfiction for my blog, I feel the need to preface it. So here I go.

I want to call this an outline. I have a concept for a story, but this is how far I got. It's kind of a character sketch, kind of not. I haven't decided who the girl in the story is - if she even needs an identity. Well. I'm digressing. Just read:


He took a sombre satisfaction in thinking that perhaps all along she had been nothing except what he had read into her. (This Side of Paradise, pp. 105-106)

She only liked Alex in theory. She liked the way he might have looked if he dressed the way she wanted him to. She liked the way he would take her out to her favorite restaurant and order her favorite wine and laugh at all her jokes and hold her hand by dessert. She liked how he would walk with her through the woods behind her house, down a path that didn’t really exist, and kiss her for the first time under the brightest moon she could imagine. She liked him for all of that, but Alex didn’t do any of those things. He didn’t even know how she spelled her name, much less her favorite wine.

Besides, she was with Sean and he had done all of those things, except that he wasn’t much fun to daydream about. Because when he takes her to her favorite restaurant, he orders her favorite wine without asking first, he laughs at her jokes but expects her to laugh at his, and he holds her hand from the appetizers to the chocolate cake. And when they walk down through the woods behind her house, the moon isn’t bright enough to keep her footing – she slips, but he catches her.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Jesus Wore Klash

The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.


Kurdish men wear these funny shoes called klash. They're handmade, hand-sown clogs with a hard sole and white top. Ever since Lydia and I first arrived at the Sulaimania airport, we saw dozens of men wearing these shoes with their juli kurdi, traditional Kurdish garb.

During my internship with Preemptive Love in Iraq, all the intern guys bought one or two pairs of klash. Jeremy and Gigs, the photographer, have klash too.


When Jesus came to earth 2,000-odd years ago, he didn't come in a sparkly white robe with a glowing orb surrounding him.

He wasn't the son of a king or religious leader. He wasn't hot. He wasn't a different race than the other Jews; he was from the tribe of Judah.

He was born next to sheep. He grew up learning a trade like all the other boys his age.

He was Jesus, son of Mary and Joseph. He lived among the people he wanted to help. He didn't elevate himself to a higher position. Philippians says, "he made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant."

People didn't know him as that outsider coming in to change their situation. He didn't market himself as a savior.

I wonder what would happen if Jesus acted like a lot of Americans doing development work overseas.

What if he only came for two weeks? What if he came with certain tools useful in his homeland, but not this one? What if his knowledge of the Hebrew people came from Disney movies or what he heard on the news?

I love that Jesus came and lived as a human among humans for 30 years before starting his ministry. He didn't come out of the womb proving to be an expert. He lived like us. He worked like us. He dressed like us.

I'm convinced that if Jesus came to the Kurds of northern Iraq, he'd wear klash. If he came to America, he'd wear Converse or flip-flops.

And he wouldn't talk like he knew everything,
without living in the culture for a while.


I spent two months living and working with Jeremy and Jessica Courtney, two development workers in Iraq. I saw how their way of living affected PLC's work in Iraq. Locals respect them because they live like their neighbors: in similar clothing, in houses among other Kurds, they know the language.

Spending a summer with the Courtneys has taught me a thing or two about God.

We say that we have a LORD that empathizes with us. I get that now. Empathy implies experience. It doesn't mean Jesus gets how we feel because he's GOD and that's what he does. It means that he gets it because he lived it.


* photo by Lydia Bullock

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Jeremy Courtney is legit.

I've had this blog in my head for a while. I didn't want to write it until I was home in the States. I didn't want anyone to think Jeremy coerced me into writing it. I promise: no coercing took place.


My friends and those of you who follow my blog know that I am very critical of "Christian organizations." Can an organization possess faith? Is that even possible? Preemptive Love Coalition, though founded by a couple Christians, does not call itself a ministry or a "Christian organization" - it call itself a coalition of people, an NGO. PLC is devoted to eradicating the backlog of Kurdish and Arabic children waiting in line for lifesaving heart surgery and creating cooperation among communities at odds.* No secret agenda. It is what it says it is.

If you go on the PLC website, you'll see pages and pages of company and financial information. PLC has no secrets. They have a very in-depth core values page, written by CEO Jeremy Courtney himself.

PLC is devoted to local solutions to local problems. The staff isn't only using foreign money to fund heart surgeries, but takes donations as well. And Aram, our Klash maker, is a local business owner. All the shoes and all the scarves we make are made or bought in-country.

Jeremy, who was not only my boss for the summer but my mentor and Iraqi dad, is an incredibly intelligent, well-read, thoughtful friend, father and husband. He is legit.


The week or so before I left for Iraq, I got coffee with Dr. Perry, my professor and mentor. He told me I have unrealistic expectations for companies like RELEVANT that calls themselves Christian. But he told me to stay idealistic, and not succumb to cynicism.

PLC has renewed my hope.

Jeremy and the other PLC staff would not admit perfection. They're broken people too. But they're honest and transparent about it. They don't put up a front. There's nothing I respect more.

Working with Jeremy this summer reminded me that though not all ministry and "Christian organization" heads have integrity, some do.


I'm not done blogging about Iraq. I have a hard time processing anything when I'm in the middle of it. Now that I'm home, I'm starting to comprehend what this summer meant for me as a student, as a comm. major, as a writer, as a Christ follower and as a woman.

So get ready.


* Funny side note: the actual mission statement says "between communities at odds," but PLC does not just create cooperation between only two groups, but many. Grammatically speaking, the word should be "among." Thus, in the year-end review, I changed the mission statement to say "among." Ha, sorry Jeremy.


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Nine of the fifteen people I live with

I love them.

Back-front, L-R:
Me! (Laurenzo)
Claireta "Killer"
El Presidente

Friday, July 9, 2010

Happy (belated) America Day from Iraq

It's fun celebrating an American holiday abroad. I highly recommend it.

I love that no one understood why we ran to the basement Ferdos market to find sparklers; or why we made a makeshift American flag and saluted to it.

I've never been a huge fan of America. Ha, it's sad but true. I hate her materialism, her ethnocentrism, her arrogance. I've never really appreciated our rights because I lived without them. You know, until now.

How I celebrated the Fourth of July, Iraqi style:

At 9 a.m., on our way to work, we bought cans of Coca-Cola and drank them for breakfast. What is more American than coke - except drinking coke with bendy straws? (Which we did.)

In the office, before our morning meeting, we played American music from our computers - Yankee Doodle, the Star Spangled Banner, etc.

(For lunch we ate Kurdish food instead of American. Whoops.)

At home, someone made a paper American flag and Micah, the two-year-old, waved it over his shoulder like a Continental solider.

We made cheeseburgers for dinner and ate cookies and brownies for dessert.

We played Bon Jovi and sang along.

But more than anything, we taunted our British housemate Anna for losing the war. A Revolutionary War reenactment:

Thank you, Joshua Gigs, for playing the humble colonial soldier.


In all seriousness, living in a country that doesn't have a Bill of Rights has makes me appreciate, if nothing else, the First Amendment. At home, journalists don't get killed for speaking out against the government. Thank God.

I have privileges in the States that I don't have here. As a woman, I can speak up in America. I can choose whatever career I want. I can join a union! I can petition.

Despite some of my issues with the American attitude, I cannot forget how blessed I am.

So the first and only time I'll ever say it, and perhaps the last time I'll ever say it again: God bless America.



Wednesday, July 7, 2010

it's all crazy; it's all false; it's all a dream; it's alright

A huge part of why I'm in Iraq is to correct my preconceived notions about Iraqis, Kurds and Muslims - and yours too.

Joshua, Jeremy and the guy interns get to hang out with Sheikh Ali, a Muslim sheikh (religious leader). He's not what you'd expect from a devout sheikh. He's friendly and funny and hospitable - not what the news tells us about Muslim rulers like him.

The guy interns talk constantly about how much they love hanging out with Sheikh Ali. (We girls are a little jealous.)

Check out Jeremy's video about our Muslim friend, and see for yourself:

The Sheikh's Smile from Preemptive Love on Vimeo.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Nom nom nom

I think I've grown out of my picky eating phase. Unlike 8-year-old Lauren, I now eat mushrooms, onions, thin crust pizza, Subway, most fruits, etc. I still won't eat tomatoes, but that's beside the point.

Finding food in Iraq that I love has been easy. (Good thing I love carbs!) Here are my Top 3 Food Preferences in Iraq:

1. Sara (long a sound) is my favorite restaurant in all of Iraqi Kurdistan. Claire, who wrote a blog post solely about her love for Sara, would agree. We eat there somewhere between 2-4 times a week - no exaggeration.

What I eat at Sara:
  • Sada - beans, rice, and mystery side (you'll either get cooked eggplant or cooked apricots)
  • Naan - delicious flat bread. Fun fact: Kurds don't like the fluffy edges of the bread; they eat the dry insides. We Americans do the opposite.
  • Chicken tikka - chicken kabob. First of all, note the Kur-English. The word for chicken is mareeshk but if you order mareeshk you'll get a whole chicken. The owner of Sara knows us - though, we can't talk to him because we're women - and he knows what we mean by chicken tikka. But seriously, this chicken kabob is the best chicken I've ever had in my entire life! It's cooked with yogurt and tons of delicious spices. There's no way I can replicate this at home.

2. Pizza Plus. Alex, Claire and I found this gem a few weeks ago. First of all, the cashier is a hunky half-Kurd half-Arab that flirts with usgirls. But not in a creepy way, I promise. Secondly, there's only one English menu and it has the oddest spelling. Gaseous = soda. We still don't know what a "sheet" is.

The atmosphere's the best. Pizza Plus has huge TV screens, perfect for watching the World Cup, and country flags hanging from the ceiling, A/C, banisters, etc.

What I eat at Pizza Plus:
  • Roll chicken - chicken, peppers, onion and tomato rolled into a delicious naan wrap with special mayo-based sauce
  • Chips - the BEST French fries I've had anywhere. Perfectly seasoned.
  • Cheeseburger - decent, but not worth the 6,000 dinar. French fries on top
  • Margarita pizza - wonderfully cheesy pizza. Worth the 6,000 dinar between two people
  • Coke in a bottle - ultra fizzy
  • Smoothie - they make incredible fresh smoothies and freshly squeezed juices
  • Cake - when I got my cake from Pizza Plus, the nice man behind the counter put an L on it, just for me!
3. Cookie's Attack [sic]. This is the best ice cream I've ever had. It's your basic cookies and cream in a tiny carton. (Side note. "Tiny" is an adjective we use a lot. That and "small." Tiny water. Small brother.) The cookies taste like Oreos and the ice cream tastes like the inside of an Oreo - not plain ol' vanilla ice cream. When Ferdos (the market down the street) runs out of it, chaos ensues. We're stuck eating the less-tasty Magnum bar.

Honorable Mention:
  • Magnum bar: ice cream covered in white chocolate and some sort of nut. Tastes like a Dove bar. 
  • Bravo: the exact same thing as a Magnum bar
  • Nut City: think Nutella, but BETTER
  • Melody cafe: free Internet, but kind of smoky. Their ice cream is delectable.
  • Blue cafe: delicious kiwi milkshakes, but kind of pricey. Free internet.
  • Food Land: conveniently in PLC's building, but the food is just so-so. A hamburger is cheap, so is pasta. If you order chicken and rice you get a big piece of chicken, rice, beans, soup and bread - totally worth the 6,000 ID.


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Hospitals, sick babies & a remedy

A few weeks ago I got to visit a children's hospital in Sulaimaniah. We went to meet Dr. Aso Faiq Salih, the only pediatric cardiologist in Kurdistan, who's also a dear friend of Preemptive Love Coalition.

Dr. Aso's office was crowded with parents holding crying kids. Instead of having a waiting room outside of an office, Dr. Aso has a couch in the same room as his desk and the table he examines patients.

Dr. Aso is the friendliest doctor I've ever met. He's definitely a pediatric doctor. He's smiley and goofy. When we ask him about his children, he pulls out his cell phone and dotes on his sons.

Alex, Claire and I stood next to Dr. Aso's desk as he did an echo cardiogram of each kid's heart. He talks to us between patients, and sometimes during. Worried mothers look at us suspiciously, as we borrow Dr. Aso's attention. He will look at somewhere around 20 patients a morning. He tells us that he needs an hour with each patient, but time is precious. If he spends 10 minutes with a patient instead, he can see more in a day.

After each echo, Dr. Aso will diagnose his patients. If their problem is minor, he can give the child a prescription or schedule an in-country surgery. But since most heart problems are serious heart problems, he will send them to an organization - like Preemptive Love Coalition - to get help outside Iraq.

The day we visited Dr. Aso, we saw him examine baby Abdul. The 9 month old has a heart problem that will kill him if he doesn't get help. When Alex, Claire and I got back to the office, Abdul and his father had just met with Jeremy (see photo to the left).

We're now raising money to get Abdul to surgery with Remedy Missions in the fall!


It would be 100 times easier and quicker to get kids like Abdul into surgery in Iraq, if those treatments were available. But their not. Iraqi doctors just do not have the skills to treat major heart defects like Abdul's.

Doctors like Aso cannot leave the country for training either. Even as a member of the Association of European Pediatric Cardiology, he cannot get training in Europe because he's an Iraqi. This is why it's such an incredible opportunity for us to get Remedy Missions to come in and train Iraqi doctors.

We still need a lot of money to get the doctors here in the fall! PLEASE donate!

Consider donating a week's tithe or giving up a week's worth of lattes.

Do it for cute little Abdul.


* photos by Lydia Bullock

Sunday, June 27, 2010

What I Do 40 Hours a Week

Most of you have been asking about what I've been up to, other than learning about what it means to be a Kurd in northern Iraq. ...

I am an intern. I work 40 hours a week - did you know that? I walk to the office every morning at 9, and walk back at 5. I have a lunch break from noon to 1:30.

We work in an office space on the third floor of a mall. In our office there's a lobby with couches, a kitchen, a bathroom, and two rooms. We have a split (A/C) in both rooms, but our power often goes out, which renders them useless. Also, the Internet hasn't been working.

So, most of us leave the office and go to 1. Assos Hotel across the street 2. Melody Cafe, where all the Amerikim hang out 3. Blue Cafe with delicious milkshakes or 4. home.

On every morning except Monday (our work week is Sunday-Thursday) we have a staff meeting at 9. We talk about what we did the previous day, what we will do that day, and what might stop us from accomplishing our tasks.

On Mondays we, the interns, spend our mornings having Interlocutions a.k.a. "Fireside Chats" with Jeremy. We typically discuss blog posts or news articles as a group. (Last week we talked about starting an NGO, why you should travel to countries outside Europe, and about something called voluntourism.)

After our meetings, we get to work! Everyone has a different task, according to their interests. I am in charge of Preemptive Love's year-end review, which is developing into a "Who We Are" coffee table book. It's coming along rather nicely. (A quick shout-out to Dr. Karnehm. Working on the School of Nursing magazine has helped me out a lot since I've been here!)

Besides the year-end review, I help others out with their tasks (such as updating the PLC blog or doing audio for the Honya video).

Soon I'm going to blog about the other interns - they're so awesome. I want you all to virtually meet them!


Friday, June 25, 2010

She's Always Smiling

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to meet Honya Mahdi, a 15 month-old who had surgery last November.

I remember reading about her on the PLC blog months ago, when I was first learning about Preemptive Love Coalition. I fell in love with this baby's Dumbo ears and big brown eyes.

Seeing her seven months later, healthy and laughing - it reminded me why I'm here. I'm in Iraq for my professional career, yes. I'm here for my IWU internship, yes. But I'm here because babies are dying in northern Iraq - and I want to help save them.

"She's Always Smiling" The Story of Honya Mahdi from Preemptive Love on Vimeo.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Mohammad Star's Follow-Up

If you all haven't had a chance to read my post about Mohammad Star on the Preemptive Love blog, check it out now: click!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Last Friday I met an girl named Shahoda who's a university student in our city. She's one of the first Arabs I've met since being here, which immediately piqued my curiosity. I got lunch with her, Claire, Elise and Sarah Monday, before taking Shahoda back to the office to meet Jeremy and the interns.

I learned that Shahoda was born in Baghdad and lived in Lebanon and Jordan for a few years before moving to Kurdistan. She lives with her parents, but when she graduates college - she's completed two years - she's going to move back to Lebanon, the "Europe" of the Middle East.

For the past week or so I've been interested in the culture of Baghdad, before 2003. From Shahoda, and ESL students, I was reminded of what Baghdad's like now:
  • It's dangerous. It's a war-zone. Shahoda couldn't go to school without a guard.
  • Professionals are leaving. No one with a Ph.D wants to stick around that city - they're all emigrating.
  • Americans are not your next door neighbors - they're soldiers. They've come not to play soccer or drink tea; they're not CEOs of an NGO. 
  • It's hot - much hotter than northern Iraq. (If I've learned nothing else this internship, it's that Kurdistan's summer is nothing compared to Baghdad's!)
But what's most fascinating to me is what Baghdad used to be. At ESL last week I made a list of what used to populate this infamous city:
  • parks
  • museums
  • libraries - once the biggest in the Middle East
  • malls
  • amusement parks
  • entertainment
  • roller coasters
  • buses/trains (efficient ones at that)
I talked to my stepdad Russ about it a little to, since he's so well-versed in ... everything.
The only thing I know is that I remember Baghdad being considered a very cosmopolitan and wealthy during the 70's. When the OPEC cartel formed and pushed itself out strong after the 73 Arab-Israeli war, oil prices skyrocketed.
Iraq was a major producer, on a par with Saudi Arabia. Lots of money. I remember a TV show about it. Lots of construction, parks and running water. Jobs like crazy.
Then Saddam took over completely and decided he wanted to be an emperor also, started the war with Iran which destroyed a lot of the oil fields. War went badly and things got worse because the money dried up slowly. That’s why he started the Kuwait war in 91 thinking he could get away with taking over theirs. We threw him out of course and the rest is history.
I wish I could visit Baghdad. I know there are a million reasons why that'd be a bad idea - see list above. But I don't want to judge a culture without experiencing it myself. Maybe I'd be a target because I'm a little white girl with red hair - clearly Amerikim - but that doesn't stop my curiosity.