Friday, April 15, 2016

End of the third week working new job. It’s been a trial by fire. Feeling like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.  Allow me to start at the beginning. 

The journey west was wild; first day Josiah throws up twice.  Late that night I get lost in the backwoods of Tennessee with two visibly black children and  me – who could be anything racially – but most attractive to the enemy: a woman alone.  In the dark, no network connection, no street signs, to direct the way.  Long story short, 911 call leads me to Shelbyville, TN.

Wake up in the least seedy hotel Shelbyville has to offer with what looks like a huge bug/spider bite under my arm. Turns out to be staph infection.  End up spending four expensive days and nights at a hotel in Mississippi.  When I am finally well enough to set out on the road, have to turn around 30 minutes later because we left Rio’s backpack containing my $200 camera and the DVD player that is supposed to be entertaining Josiah for the next five days on the road.


Once we get out of Mississippi, things get better. (There’s a historical joke in there somewhere, but I’ve used up my sense of humor for the week.)  Make my first visit to the Grand Canyon.  Make a mental note to see it again without kids so I can fully enjoy the awe.  Arrive in my hometown on the coast of Oregon to spend a few days reprieve with my sister, mother and good friend from elementary.  Feeling somewhat rested, I head up to Portland to my cousin’s who has graciously agreed to let us stay with her my first week of work until my house is ready.  Her house is 40 minutes away from work each way, still it suits me fine. It’s a beautiful, mountainous, spring green drive, so I don’t mind.  And the Lord knew I would need it.

Within the first week there were two fights, a large group meeting with two families and their students regarding theft and threats of violence – an extensive conversation made longer since it all had to be translated in Spanish.

The second week, we had another altercation involving a male student and two female students from another campus, one of whom is pregnant.  Then I had several students playing with BB guns outside the school, painted black with spray paint and nail polish to look like real guns.  The police arrived (and the media of course.)  If not for a student leader who announced “Their BB guns!” we might have had another Tamir Rice (Cleveland, 2014) or Andy Lopez (California, 2013) situation.


By the third week, I’m feeling like “I got this” and the days go by relatively – and it is definitely compared to what was at Metanoia, i.e. here there is excessive use of profanity, blatant disrespect, intense drama and constant conflict/tension.  I now feel a deep sense of loss at having left a faith based community organization, but I am encouraged because  when I call upon Jesus, my staff say Amen!

My daughter is making friends, Josiah is at a school with an African-American male teacher – a blessed gift – his transition has been smoother than I could have imagined.  In fact, he’s doing better at home now than when we were in South Carolina.

Which brings us to today.  I get a message from my daughter claiming responsibility for doing something wrong, but she doesn’t give me the details. The e-mail from her teacher is more comprehensive. The consequences of her actions could include  no computer, no use of my phone and revoke of promise to buy her a phone, no visits to new friend Lindey one house down the street for at least two weeks, double child care/chore duty, and an old- fashioned, southern style whoopin’. 

She catches the school bus to the Boys & Girls Club, a block over from where I work, a wonderful convenience, but when I find out there is no club today, I realize she is probably at home alone.  Fortunately, I think, she has a key to the house so she should be good.  I speed through the five minute drive from my job to my house to find her homework scattered all over the front lawn, pencil laying just near the front door like a clue for the next Criminal Minds.

I charge in the house.  No Rio. 

I check the park across the street.  No Rio.

I pound on Lindey’s door (her new friend from school, one house down.) No Rio.

Did she run away in fear of her punishment? Did some sick bastard snatch up my baby? (The day prior, I heard a mother from Sudan speak about how her daughter was taken by some woman in a white van claiming to be a nurse.  Her daughter was missing for three days.)  I go back to the house and check every room and closet.  Still, no Rio.  I call Lindey’s mom.  No, Rio is not with them.

I pray.  I see the front door open to at house between mine and Lindey’s.  It belongs to a female couple – very kind neighbors who offered memory foam so I could be more comfortable on the foam pads we’d been sleeping on for a week.

I pound on the glass door and ring the door bell at the same time.  The woman answers.  Rio follows behind.  I breathe.

I want to scream.  The woman sees.  She understands my panic.  She smiles gently, knowing. 

Rio calls to me. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you, I left my key inside this morning.”  But I asked if you had your key before you left - you said “yes!” 

I can’t even get this thought out of my mouth.

I walk down the block. 

Rio collects her homework and pencil from the front lawn.

I return and write a list of what she needs to do while I am away so I can...breathe, alone.  Gather a moment’s peace to do what brings me the most tranquility.  Writing. 

And a double shot of scotch, neat.

Pray for me.