Bright Reds and Flashing Sirens

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A different view of the inner city. Spring 2019.

A whirlwind of colors whizzed outside my desk window. They were the bright reds of fire trucks and the dizzying, flashing sirens of ambulances.

Is it safe to walk to my car? 

Usually I don’t feel anxious about my commute, despite working in the “rough” side of town.  But those emergency vehicles had lingered for quite some time.

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Fresh Fridays: What Really Scares Us

“Are you John?” I asked, walking into the room.

“Nope. Wrong patient, that’s not me,” he wore a dull, flat expression.

I hesitated.

The corners of his mouth crept upwards into a sheepish grin. His gray hair peeked out from his US Army Veteran cap. Continue reading

Six Precious Words

you never know what comes through that door... (photo from Italy, 2014)

you never know what will come through that door…
(photo from Italy, 2014)

A knock on the door interrupted my lunch.

“Soapie? They’re calling downstairs. Someone can’t breathe.”

Standing up, I swallowed my last bite then flew down the stairs.

Sweat dripped down his pale face. His chest heaved up and down, as if he were struggling to carry a boulder in his arms. Continue reading

The Definition of Home

the definition of home

my students leaping with joy

Waiting at the gate to board, I searched for my boarding pass. My hand brushed against a Ziploc bag.

Fresh coconut slices.

I held the bag in my hands. It was a bit of a nuisance; if the juice leaked from the bag, it would soak my journal, laptop, chargers, and travel pillow. My backpack was already cramped.

But Ba had insisted.

~ ~ ~

Before coming to the airport, Ba stood in the kitchen, holding a fresh coconut.

“We have fresh coconuts?!” I asked, a bit bewildered.

“It’s for you, កូន (daughter), drink the juice,” Ba grabbed a mini axe, the size of a butcher knife, then hacked away at the head of coconut. He flipped the coconut upside down and drained the clear coconut juice into a tall glass. He carved the pearly, white flesh out into thin slivers, and packed them into a ziploc.

“Drink.” He pointed to the glass. “For the plane ride.” He handed me the bag.

It was a short trip home, and I didn’t get to spend as much time with my parents as I had wanted. Actually, I spent the least time with Ba. It was the weekend before Father’s Day, and I was not able to stay another week to celebrate Father’s Day with him either.

Yet he continued to care for me, in the best way he knew how.

Food. Continue reading

I slept and dreamt… (2014, in Review)

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This past year, I surrendered the reigns of control over my time.

Through the long nights, aching arms, tired feet, weary but hopeful faces of my dance students and my patients, there I truly begin to understand…

“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. 
I awoke and saw that life was service. 
I acted and behold, service was joy.”
-Tagore

My top 3 nursing stories:

3. Sun, Moon, and Stars – on illiteracy

2. Exposed Ankles – on an immigrant’s struggle

1. Keep on Dancin’ – on perspectives and purpose

Honorable mention: Highfives and Heartache– on sacrifice and ebola

Top 3 characteristics I learned about God
3. God sustains.
January 18, 2014:
“Life is a complete mess right now; I feel as though I’m walking in a storm. Lord, the winds have whipped me back and forth, it is cold, feeling like I will go numb from the bitterness of others who tear me down. Lord, save me! I will say though, that God You remain wonderful and it’s truly evident that You are real and at work in my life.”

2. God protects; He is sovereign.
March 11, 2014:
“Ba called me. He said, ‘My ICD [defibrillator/pacemaker] shocked me.’ Ba described how he went for a jog and fell on the ground. 

The whole event, Ba being alone while jogging, him calling me first instead of 911, the burden of not being there during a medical emergency… it’s frightening. Horribly frightening.I was so relieved Ba was discharged from the hospital, but it doesn’t change his prognosis. I must and need to accept that, the uncertainty of our future here on earth. God help me to trust in You no matter how gray or uncertain the future.”

1. God has a vision, a plan for me.
August 23, 214:
“You can see far greater than my eyes can see- You have big dreams for me; I’ve been challenged in so many ways recently…”

Random 3 photos of treasured memories: Continue reading

Fresh Fridays: Great Expectations

“So what do you want to be when you grow up?” I asked, my eyes focused on the vaccine and supplies in my hands.

“An R.N.” he replied, without hesitation.

I paused and looked up.

The 14 year old stared back at me, just waiting.

“An RN?” I asked (as if I needed clarification). I felt guilty for expecting him to answer a football player.  Usually when I asked teen boys what their plans were after high school, they almost always said they wanted to play football.

Because they assume it’s their only ticket out of poverty. Living in the ghetto and attending failing schools, no one else has told them otherwise. Continue reading

HighFives and Heartache

a sunset that lights our feet on fire

a sunset that lights our feet on fire

Shortly after sunset, the dance began.

We hovered together, huddled in clusters around the floor.  In a quick, steady, tempo, we recited the day’s events, and the things to come. A murmur, slightly above a whisper, so patients and families walking by could not hear the secret exchange- our passing off from one nurse to another, during shift change. With too much to do and too little time, we spoke in acronyms, in voice and dance.

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Rise to the Occasion

New Orleans, post Katrina. Courtesy of USA Today.

August 2005.

Walking into the lecture hall, I slid into a row near the back. Dropped my faded, frayed backpack onto the tile floor.  I smiled at my classmates as I took my seat.

They grinned and waved back at me.  We were seniors, and it felt pretty good to be ‘near the end’ of the madness which I called nursing school.  I was ready to be done with writing papers, listening to lectures, and taking exams. I couldn’t wait to start working and contributing to society. It was the first week of our last semester. I had just submitted my RN licensure application. Took my senior composite photos. Ran my degree audit.

Our public health instructor cleared her throat.

“This is it. As future nurses, you shall rise to the occasion. It is your duty to meet the needs of the community. Our neighbors, from Lousiana, are now, in our backyard. So we will go to them…”

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It’s a Good Calling, then…

One panel featured during the "More Than a Number" Exhibit featuring the stories of Cambodian Genocide Survivors. 2012.

The “More Than a Number” Exhibit featuring the testimonies of Cambodian Genocide Survivors. 2012.

“We live in a world where bad stories are told,
stories that teach us life doesn’t mean anything
and that humanity has no great purpose.

It’s a good calling, then, to speak a better story.
How brightly a better story shines.
How easily the world looks to it in wonder.
How grateful we are to hear these stories,
and how happy it makes us to repeat them.”

― Donald Miller, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life