30 October 2008

"Doctor charged in death of donor"

"A San Francisco transplant surgeon was criminally charged...with excessively prescribing drugs to a 25-year-old disabled man last year in order to hasten his death and harvest his organs sooner. The felony charges are believed to be the first in the nation against a physician for his role in a transplant." (LA Times, 2007.)

Because I was in Slovenia, I missed the media surrounding felony charges brought against Dr. Hootan Roozrokh. However, I just spent the last few weeks traveling back and forth to the court in San Luis, wondering if this my turn to do my noble civic duty. This afternoon the judge and attorneys selected the jury. I'm not one of them. I'm relieved and bummed about that. Since I'm no longer a canidate for the jury, I'm free to read as many articles about it as I want. Organ harvesting, euthanasia, DNR orders, morphine usage, end of life care, defining life--all these issues come to mind. I'm personally moved by the case since my mom is an organ donor and since my dear grandma is very, very old. This a heavy ethical issue.

Praying that the attorneys are clear and truthful. That the judge and jury think clearly and uphold justice.

29 October 2008

celebrating October 27th!

Nina Joy just turned one! Here is a picture from last year...

She's grown so much in one year. She's definitely not a tiny baby anymore. Now she's running around and I can see her personality more every time I visit. This video is from a few days ago...

She's a curious, loud, happy little Stepanian. Pretty soon she'll be a big sister! Sarah's blog has more.

24 October 2008

two Brits, one real

Yesterday I thought I saw Harry Potter at Allan Hancock College. I didn't know why he would be there. But--good grief--that kid looked like him.

Naturally, I called Christina. She loves Harry Potter. (It may appear as though I love him...he has been in THREE of my posts. But I've only ever mentioned him in relation to Christina. I just want to be clear about that.)

I told Christina. In reply, she said she'd seen the Queen. "What queen?" I asked.

"The Queen. The Queen of England."

That's interesting.

13 October 2008

the everyday

This is an essay that I wrote at the beginning of the summer--back when I knew that I was leaving Slovenia, but didn't know when I'd be leaving. It's long and it's true and it's how I really feel. I am rich. If you do take the time to read it (I know it's loooong), I would love to know your thoughts.

I’ve lived in a foreign country, in a strange city, in a far away apartment. Ljubljana, Slovenija. Can you even say that? Yep. Neither can I. My tongue still can’t quite roll out that l-j sound.

In Slovene, the word for ‘foreigner’ is tujec. Translated literally, that means stranger…yes. The day that changed my life has been the everyday of the last four years. I’ve been a stranger for nearly four years. That’ll do something to a person, there’s no question about it. It’s one long day. Since I’m still here and haven’t quite woken up, I don’t know if I can quantify the experience yet. But I’m about to leave and I’m ready to do some reflecting.

I remember the confusion early on. As soon as my curtains were hung and I found the milk in the market, the honeymoon was over. What is a železniška postaja? How come I can’t figure out how to close these windows? Why is this woman lecturing me for my flip-flops? My wet hair? My bad grammar? My ice cream choice? Did I do something wrong? Always.
what a strange
solitary morning
snow shifting sound
lonely feathers drift drift
into white coverlets
that are completely foreign

I don’t understand how
everyone around me

dumb. (12Dec4)
I think symbolically
about every solitary thing
like a clear blue hour
after days of fog
and a pane of glass
separating foreign me
from them
like grace fully crashing down
from a worshipful rest
or missing dinner last Tuesday
more than five Thanksgivings
ordinary bread and oil
and wine
and water
sacred minutes. (20Dec4)

I remember huddling on my bed. Sitting too tall, turning my neck and wedging my head against the sloped roof. A view of the castle didn’t quite comfort me when the water was freezing. Or when Christina’s hair was in the kitchen sink. It didn’t quite comfort me when I broke my ankle on the uneven stairs. Or when the neighbors cut off our power because of a feud with the landlord. Especially when the freezer defrosted, the hall flooded and the meat stunk. That was lame. It didn’t comfort me when my brother got engaged to a girl I hardly knew. It didn’t comfort me when I heard that my grandma was sick. I was too far away.

During lonely seasons, I took lengthy walks, wrote slow poems and fought with my roommate. If we didn’t fight, I was thinking mean thoughts about Christina. Fighting in my head.

You think I’d be glad to get out of here. But it’s a melancholy feeling that I have when I brush through the city. Because, while a stunning view of the castle didn’t help me when my brother and his wife had their beautiful, little Nina Joy, getting that text message as I waited to pay a speeding ticket at the Slovak border was incredibly rich.

Because, while sledding in the Alps wasn’t enough when my grandma went on hospice, hearing prayers in Slovene was a greater treasure than I could ever have asked for. I know they weren’t praying for my benefit. Heck, I could hardly understand ‘em. I knew they were praying for her. Because I love her. And they love me. All I wanted was to be with family; and I was. They are my family.

Because, while I still get mad at people for elbowing in front of me at the post office, I can’t believe that I have a friend who would figure out how to ask our other friends to scrounge money to buy a ticket for a guy-that-I’m-not-quite-yet-dating to come visit. Who has friends like that? She just wants to meet him. She wants him to see our everyday. And secretly, I think she wants to convert him to Ljubljana life.

In the absence of home, I gained home. With the removal of security, I earned a deeper trust. At the cost of familiarity, I grew a sense of presence. I grew this love for life (not just mine) and an ability to—like good old Thoreau said, “live deliberately…live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.” To tell the truth, I’m not a big fan of marrow. I’ll gnaw on a bone every now and then (particularly when I’m eating with a waste-conscious Slovene), but I see it.

I see life now. I see it in clearer, more poignant ways. I see that money isn’t most important, and that before too long I get sickened by consumption. I don’t want to get on the train towards a better apartment, a hotter guy, a nicer car or even that green, fitted corduroy jacket. I would rather walk to get groceries, listen to the birds, wonder about the eggplant on the pizza and those drunk boys outside.

I want to see. I see that giving brings greater joy than…almost anything. And I see that even more influential and beautiful than giving, may be (just maybe!) the ability to receive well. To receive with grace and trust. I see that family is commitment; that love is commitment. That a friendship is loyal, it can’t appear/disappear depending on my mood. I see that means I can’t sit around thinking mean thoughts about Christina.

Christina is my friend not because it’s easy, not because we both like The Office, not because she’ll clean out the drain. She’s my friend because we’ve fought about stuff and forgiven each other. She’s my friend because we know each other and we make sure to like each other. She’s my friend because she gave me a big hug before she left for vacation and then handed me her phone bill to pay while she’s gone. She’s my friend because we decided to be friends. We’ve laughed together and we’ve cried together. We just are.

I see that, more than anything, I don’t want to be foreign anymore. And, actually, when I take a deep breath, I believe that I’m not foreign anymore. But sometimes the best way to show up is to be in the wilderness—think Rosa Parks, Jesus, Odysseus or Harry Potter. They came by going. The best way to not be foreign is first to be foreign.

I’ve lived in a foreign country, a strange city, in a far away apartment. But now it is a beautiful country, a familiar city and an apartment that is home. In English, the name Ljubljana is close to our word ‘Beloved’…yes. For four years, I’ve been loved in this city; today I’ve been loved by this city. I’ve learned living and love here. Far away, but more present than I’ve ever been. Present with my God, present with my family, present with myself. I am rich.