Category Archives: Life and Stories

Dinner with Kevin

Recently I had a couple of interactions with a few people in the homeless population that left me frustrated with myself. Both times I stumbled around what to say, thoughts circling in my head – what resources could I think of quickly to offer, do I buy food or do something else, do I have the time to sit here and talk, or what do I do? I didn’t have a good answer either time and disliked how I handled both situations. However, after feeling frustrated with myself, I sat and thought through what I could have done better and what I should do if the situation were to come up again (it will). I couldn’t go back and change how situations went, but I can learn and change how I might approach things in the future.

Shortly after these occurrences, Epi, Esteban and I went to Chipotle for dinner. On the corner by where we parked was a man asking for change. We made eye contact and said hello – that was one of the things I made a mental note to myself about prior, look at the person, acknowledge them and their existence. If there is a human being in front of you talking, you shouldn’t just look past and pretend you can’t hear them.

Standing in line at Chipotle, I still felt unsettled. Unbeknownst to me, Epi felt unsettled too; after a few minutes he spoke up and said, “What if we buy that guy dinner…or maybe invite him to eat with us?” And so, Kevin joined us for dinner.

Interestingly, as we’re in line choosing our burrito fillings Epi and I were both asked if we would be dining in or not. Kevin is just asked, “This is to go, right?” “It’s not,” Epi and I both say at the same time, he’s eating here. We sit at a table and I see every person in the restaurant staring at us. Literally, point blank just staring. Feeling uncomfortable with those who are homeless is a common issue it seems. We hold hands in a circle to pray, my son’s tiny hand engulfed by Kevin’s huge hand. We ask Esteban, per the usual, what he wants to thank God for and he points at Kevin. Our meal is fun, we hear Kevin’s story –about his parents, when he moved to Chicago, his current life.

In the end, Kevin carefully packed up the leftover food and put it in his backpack. We walk out of the restaurant together and bid him farewell. People asked us if we referred him to a shelter, we mentioned them but he knew way more about all that than we did. So what was the point we’ll get asked, why eat dinner with him? I think, because he is a human being and we are to see all people as just that – humans. To get to know them, hear their story, and see God in them. It’s easy to be absorbed in one’s life. To shy away from what’s uncomfortable but I don’t think that is okay. Your actions also don’t necessarily need to be classified as helpful. That’s where a lot of problems lie I believe, in the “us” helping “them” attitude. Instead, letting people be seen as people, having a meal together, letting our lives intersect, that’s where real change occurs.

Preeclampsia Awareness

PreeclampsiaThis month is Preeclampsia Awareness Month, which feels timely since I developed severe preeclampsia (and had my sweet boy) in May two years ago.  Prior to being pregnant I didn’t even know about this disease and when I was pregnant didn’t pay much attention to it.  I didn’t fall into any of the risk factor categories and no one I knew ever had it.

Esteban’s birth was hard and scary; you can read more about those details here.  Like is common with preeclampsia, once I developed the disease it became severe fast.  I am thankful it didn’t start until after 40 weeks for me, so when I was induced I didn’t worry about it being too early for my son.  Afterwards, Esteban and I recovered fairly quickly from it all.  Unfortunately this isn’t the case for many women who have preeclampsia.  I’m part of a Facebook support group for women with preeclampsia; reading those stories and updates is sobering.  A lot of women deliver early, babies spend weeks in the NICU, and many lose their children and/or mothers to this disease.  While only affecting 5-8% of pregnancies, globally preeclampsia is a leading cause of maternal and infant illness and death – responsible for 76,000 maternal and 500,000 infant deaths each year (source).

Pregnancy and motherhood have changed me significantly, so did having preeclampsia – physically and emotionally.  This month I am especially thinking and praying for all of the families who have and will be impacted by this disease.

Writing.

It’s been a month since I had my 29th birthday and set the goal to write more this year.  One of the places I am hoping to bring some of my writing to is this (neglected) blog.

Around my birthday every year, I like to sit down and list goals for the upcoming year. This time I also paused to step back and observe themes that run through my life.  What things do I do, enjoy doing, or even dislike that occur over and over again?  So many I hadn’t paid much attention to but once I actually saw them it made so much sense.

One of the themes I realized maybe I shouldn’t ignore, and instead embrace, is writing. When I was little I’d fill notebooks with stories and thoughts.  If I was upset or frustrated I’d write it out and that seemed to help put my thoughts in better order.  Now as an adult, I often think of ideas to write about things I’d like to get down on paper and process or share with others.  As an adult though, writing suddenly became a little scarier. At least the writing that would be shared with others.  My journals are filled with thoughts and reflections, but sharing bits and pieces with others? Not so much. Maybe it was all the papers I wrote in school that were marked up with red pen that deters me.  Maybe it’s the idea of being an adult and being vulnerable that somehow seem a bit contradictory.

This is why I shy away from blogging. It’s kind of a scary thing.  But what is the name of this blog that I named way back in 2012(!) when I started it?  VidaCourageous.  Living a courageous life has been another theme throughout my life. This shy girl from Nebraska, who pushes herself outside of her comfort zone over and over again, who got the word courage tattooed on her neck just to remind her fear didn’t need to dictate her actions.  This girl has to work hard to do the scary things (as does everyone I think).  So, blogging is kind of scary for me & difficult, but time to push past that fear and just write.

Since it’s been a while since I’ve been on this blog, I wanted to highlight some of my favorite posts from this blog over the years:

My Neighborhood

Friends Within the Enemy

Come Closer

Raising Children Here

Motherhood and Some of its Surprises

Story from the Train

My Neighborhood

Writing about where we live, what we do, life in general here on this blog is sort of a difficult task for me.  It is very important to talk about, and it forms the foundation that a lot of our daily life and activities stem from.  Yet, I wrestle with what to write and how to write each time I try to talk about an aspect of life here.

First, there’s the words to use.  I try not to use the phrase “inner city” very often. I feel it draws up images of poor, dilapidated houses, or when used with children – inner city kids – it puts them in this lower-than category.  I struggle with knowing what sorts of words to use to help convey these topics without writing a paragraph on it each time.  

Our neighborhood is beautiful, it is a Mexican-American neighborhood with many immigrants (often un-documented), first, and second generation Mexican-American families.  Our neighborhood is divided in half by two gangs; there are doubles of a lot of places because of the gangs, one for each side of the neighborhood – two libraries, two McDonalds, two Burger Kings, two Walgreens.  All of this within a four and a half square mile area.

Our neighborhood is next to an African-American neighborhood.  This is the neighborhood where I work.  Churches here sometimes do activities with our church.  While the culture is different in each neighborhood, the struggles are similar.  Both neighborhoods are poor, they have high rates of crime, high rates of public health issues, and the pain that comes with these.

With all this said, I never want the negative points mentioned above to be the focus.  I do not want to talk about how we live in a poor, high crime neighborhood because it is so much more than that and as soon as I describe it that way the good things get pushed to the side.  The struggle is that those hard parts of the neighborhood are an important proponent of the neighborhood and living here and so they get mentioned often.  I can’t speak well on what my husband or I do without talking about those negatives.

Same with the youth in the neighborhood; they are beautiful, they have all sorts of hope and dreams.  I want people to see that, to not focus on the negatives or the stereotypes of what kids in our neighborhood are like.  Again though, the negatives are very real.  They are why my husband has a job.  When we have youth over to our home, when Epi runs softball leagues or I meet with the girls I mentor we see the beautiful and work to cultivate and help it grow.  We battle the negatives though, we step into situations that are hard and can sometimes be scary. Those things are very real.  There are two gangs that fight back and forth, the schools in our neighborhood are not great , homes are often not safe spaces for youth to go home to when the day is over.

It’s hard.  When I meet other Chicagoans in a context outside of our home and work and we talk about where I live I try to describe our neighborhood with its positives.  I often get a look of amazement, “Where is this neighborhood? I’ve never heard of it!”  When I describe the location or give the name I see the recognition come across their face.  “Oh, I would never go to that neighborhood. I can’t believe you live there.” Is often the response I get.  Or, once, “Isn’t that neighborhood really shady?”

So this is my struggle.  How do I share both sides with you, my readers, without allowing the negatives to cast such large shadows over the positives but also realistically show the challenges the neighborhood faces?  I’m not sure.

I also struggle with my perspective.  I see and hear a lot.  I’m allowed into very sacred spaces of people’s homes and lives.  I also am white, I didn’t grow up here, and have access to many resources those around me do not.  I try my hardest to understand and sit in a spot of humility and listening, realizing I’m an outsider.

I hope though as I write different posts you give me grace.  Grace as I find the words to explain things, grace as I share my perspective on topics.  I do not think I’m better than those around me, that I have all sorts of answers and solutions, nor do I want to be toted as this person sacrificing so much by living here.  

Right now my husband and I are called to be in this neighborhood, to love and work and learn and raise our family here.  I am always learning though, always growing.  I hope you will learn and grow along with me.

Little Red Bird

Towards the end of my pregnancy I was up a lot during the night, at 3am every morning a bird would start singing the most beautiful tune.  Hearing him sing to world was comforting.  Being up during the night feels lonely, hearing that little guy though made me feel like I wasn’t alone.  After Esteban was born, being up through the night continued as did the bird’s singing.  I’d be up feeding Esteban when suddenly I’d hear the familiar song and without looking at the clock I knew it was 3a.  I wasn’t by myself any longer, my friend was awake too.

Winter came, the windows shut, and birds flew south.  I forgot about the bird.  House-Finch-in-SummerWithin the past month the weather here has warmed considerably and I put a bird feeder outside of our kitchen window.  I didn’t even think about the bird, more just about bringing a little more nature to our urban home.  I wanted Esteban to see something other than pigeons in the alley picking at garbage.

Shortly after hanging the feeder I heard the familiar song, this time much closer than I was used to.  Peeking through the blinds I saw a little red finch sitting on our deck’s rail with his head thrown back, his chest puffed out, and his mouth belting out a beautiful tune.  Now, he is at our bird feeder throughout the day and if he’s not at the feeder or on our deck he’s on a wire nearby singing away.

Having this little guy nearby has been such fun company to have.  Esteban and I watch him through the window, enjoy his singing, and say hello when we head out on our walk.  I love nature and often miss seeing much of it living in the city.  This little finch has been such a gift to us!

{photo credit}

Motherhood and Some of Its Surprises

In light of Mother’s Day this past Sunday and my son’s first birthday (!) this Sunday I have been doing quite a bit of thinking about being a mama to this little boy.  First I must say being a mother is the most intense, hardest thing I have ever done.  If you know me, you know I’ve done a lot of intense, hard things in my life so I don’t just throw that statement out there flippantly.  Birthday InviteBUT, I wouldn’t trade being Esteban’s mama for anything.  You hear so much of that gushy stuff from mothers – It’s the best job, their children are the best thing that happened to them, and they love, love being a mother.  The truth is all of that is so true, but it actually holds such a deeper meaning, one that is difficult to put into words.

Reflecting on the past year of being a mother, there were a lot of surprises along the way.  I thought I’d share a few with you all.

A few things I have been surprised by –

  • How selfish I am! Whew, I am reminded so often how often my actions and wants are fueled by ME. Having a baby shines a giant spotlight into that area in my life.  It’s almost like I had to break up with myself when Esteban was born.  All the things I used to love that I needed to give up was daunting and a bit disorienting.  You’re in this intense spot of life giving everything you have – energy, time, sleep, food – for this little one and most of the things I had prior to help with intense periods I couldn’t do/use/have.  I couldn’t stop what I was doing when it felt like too much and just go read a book or watch tv or eat some chocolate.  I couldn’t even really drink coffee to fuel my exhaustion.
  • Being this raw, intense space though taught (and still teaches) me so much about myself and pushed me to God in a way I had never experienced before. I remember shortly after Esteban was born a friend asked me what I had been studying in my quiet time and what I had been learning.  I paused, trying to rifle through my fuzzy brain to even recall when I last sat and read the Bible, journaled, and prayed.  All of that felt so long ago.  I felt guilty I hadn’t done any of that in weeks.  Then I realized how much my heart had been in this constant state of depending on God – for wisdom with Esteban, for strength when little man woke up 2 minutes after I fell asleep, etc.  No I hadn’t had a “devotional time” in weeks, but I had been learning and growing in huge ways.
  • How quickly time goes by each day. I look at the clock thinking it’s somewhere around 2 and Suddenly it’s 5!
  • How much I enjoy doing things for Esteban – whether is making his baby food, reading him books, or planning little outings for us. Thinking through what to incorporate into his days is so fun for me.
  • How people focus on your baby instead of you. As soon as Esteban was born everyone’s focus was on him.  This I understood, little babes are cute and new and so very special.  But this continued, friends didn’t introduce me to others as they used to.  No longer was I Liz Diaz, works at a non-profit health center and mentors girls, likes to read, etc. I was introduced as Liz Diaz, she is a mom.  This was a hard adjustment, because I love being a mom (see point above this one), so I felt guilty for not liking that kind of introduction but I also felt so unseen.  I’m still that person I used to be, I just am also a mom now.
  • My mama bear side. I am a pretty non-confrontational person; I’m introverted and generally can go with the flow on most things.  Unless, apparently, it threatens my son in any way, shape or form.  There have been a few times when my son’s safety was threatened and my mama bear side roared to life without me realizing it.  I am direct, firm, and sometimes use a few choice words if necessary. Always after the fact I am surprised not by my boldness abut how normal it seems to have that side of me.
  • How mind-blowing it is to watch a little one develop. It’s no wonder every parent thinks their child is a genius.  To watch this tiny, flailing newborn grow into a little boy in just a year is amazing.  Every new thing Esteban does I am so excited about.  I call Epi to share in full detail what new thing Esteban did and we both are thrilled.  Later I realize that skill, while very impressive, is also right on course with what he’s supposed to be doing at that age.  So amazing yes.  Genius?  Probably not.
  • How terrifying it is to have someone’s life depend on you. The first two weeks of Esteban’s life, I though every morning, “we did it.  We kept him alive another day!”  Even now, I still pause and think about the weight of all the responsibility we have been given to care for this little one’s heart, mind, body, and soul.  What a terrifying gift!

What a year it has been with this little guy of ours.  I’m so excited to celebrate him on Sunday and see the next year unfold.

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Raising Children Here.

Living in our neighborhood comes with a lot of wonderful aspects – the people, the culture, the closeness of friends, etc.  Living here also comes with challenges.  These challenges become a lot more intense once one has a child.  I remember when I was expecting Esteban one of the girls I mentor said, “You guys aren’t staying here once the baby comes, right?  I mean, why would you want to stay??”  A lot of people who live here have the goal to get out of the neighborhood, if they or their children are able to move to away they have “made it.”  To purposefully stay when we are able to leave seems strange to some. Today I met a woman, a neighbor of mine, we spoke about children and raising them in our neighborhood.  She has three kids, all in college now, all are doing well and love the neighborhood as well as where they’re at for school.  We talked about how difficult it is to find good schools around here and the challenges of where the kids play outside, the battle to want to give your child freedom to explore and be on their own but also to protect them and keep them safe. download The woman reminded me that while the struggles around here are hard, there are troubles everywhere.  She told me about when her daughter was in high school, she was a part of an honors program at a school in a wealthy area of the city.  She would come home and mention how many issues she saw every day among her classmates – things were not so much better just because she was in a “better area.” Earlier this week I sifted through my struggles and fears with raising kids in this neighborhood.  Well, I often sift through my fears and struggles, but this past week they’ve been especially present on my mind. I want our children to be friends with and a part of the neighborhood, not just living here and going outside of the neighborhood for everything. However, I don’t want my children exposed or pulled into all the awful things that also a part of our neighborhood. Towards the end of last year, a fifteen-year-old was stabbed in the neck and dumped into a trashcan in an alley, specifically because he told the group of guys hassling him that he didn’t want to join the gang they were in.  My heart aches when I think of that story.  The kid had been bothered for a while by these guys to join and then that happened.  With a little baby boy, I just want to keep him inside and never have to face all of that. I wrestle with loving the young men in the gangs, the young men my husband works with everyday, knowing they do things like this.  They are human beings, were once little boys just looking to be cared for, but also are murderers and are also murdered.  When I think of these things happening I wonder where my son will fit in with everything one day and how he will process things…how do I help him to process these things? Talking with the woman today though helped me to hear stories of other kids who are doing well, who enjoyed living in our neighborhood and still call it their home. She and her husband still live here.  If Epi and I are called to be in this neighborhood, which I believe we are currently, we need to trust that God has equipped our children to also live in this place.  He knew what he was doing when he gave us Esteban, and it wasn’t an accident his parents live in a sometimes scary neighborhood.  The work lies in trusting Him who is greater, with my son, and following His leading.

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{Mama Mondays}: Birth Story

I’m a bit late in sharing this with you all, but figured better late than never!

My hope through pregnancy was to deliver Esteban through a natural, drug-free delivery.  I had done a lot of reading, talked with friends who had delivered drug-free, and taken an amazing birth class that covered all sorts of topics but also went over pain management and helps for delivering without medicine.  However, I also understood things might not go the way I would like and was okay with that too; pending no complications though, my resolution was to deliver completely naturally.

The Wednesday after my due date I had an appointment with my doctor, Dr. K, my blood pressure was a little high but nothing severe.  Dr. K had labs taken to test for pre-eclampsia and said to come back in on Friday to have another blood pressure check but she wouldn’t be too concerned if the labs came back fine.  The labs did come back fine; Dr. K decided I should come in anyways though.

That Thursday night Epi and I were watching TV, I had a horrible headache but didn’t think too much about it – I get migraines pretty regularly and figured it was just another one. I also saw funny little sparks in my eyes every once in a while but just thought my contacts were being weird or it was the migraine.  Since my labs had been normal and I hadn’t had any issues during my pregnancy I wasn’t concerned.  That night though, I could not sleep my head hurt so incredibly bad so I just sat on the couch with Miklo, our cat, curled up next to me and waited for morning and my doctor appointment to come.

Epi, who had gone to all of my appointments with me, had a big case with one of his mentees and wouldn’t be able to go with me to this one.  Since I was just going in for a blood pressure check and everything had been fine we figured it wasn’t a big deal. At 10:30am I walked my 40 week pregnant self the half mile to the clinic.  The medical assistant took my blood pressure, told me it was normal.  My doctor had a lot of patients that day so had me see one of the midwives.

After hearing about my headache and the sparks the midwife decided to double check my blood pressure.  After taking it, she paused and re-took it.   “Liz, it’s really high.  With your headache and other symptoms, I need to send you to the hospital.”  “Ok…” I said totally unaware of what that meant. “Epi’s working the rest of the day, should I tell him to meet me there when he’s done?”  She informed me I shouldn’t be driving and she didn’t feel comfortable with me walking home by myself.  I called Epi, who said the fastest he could get back was an hour and a half.  After a bit, the doctors and midwife felt it was okay for me to walk back home.  I was instructed to get my bags together for the hospital, eat some lunch, and tell Epi to hurry.  As soon as he got home we needed to go to the ER.

Epi arrived; we grabbed our hospital bags, and drove to the hospital.  My hope still at that point was that my blood pressure would decrease and we could go back home where I could go into labor naturally.  I just kept thinking, my labs had been normal, I ate healthy, exercised, and hadn’t had any issues all pregnancy, there is no way things are bad now.

I was wheeled up to OB, my labs were taken again, and I was hooked up to a machine that took my blood pressure every fifteen minutes. Often the machine would read 145/102 (normal blood pressure is 120/80, my normal is usually even lower); Epi saw it get up to 197/145 a few times.  After a couple of hours my labs came back and were terrible (one doctor told me they were the worst he had ever seen for a pre-eclamptic patient); the doctor on call from our health clinic came in and told me I needed to be induced.

I was admitted to the hospital, hooked up to IVs and other machines, and the whole time was so confused. Physically I felt okay, I didn’t even have a headache anymore, and didn’t understand why I needed so much medicine to get labor started.  I texted Dr. K asking her what was going on & to give it me straight.  “Those meds are to prevent you from seizing and to keep your organs from shutting down.  Your labs are bad and your blood pressure is really high, you need them. You have severe pre-eclampsia and we’re worried about it moving into eclampsia.”   Okay then, that was all I needed to hear.

All through the night I was given medicine to get me to dilate and go into labor. For almost twelve hours nothing happened. Each time the midwife would come in to check me and each time we’d hear the same answer, “maybe a fingertip dilated, but that’s it.”

6:30 in the morning things kicked into gear, I was 2cm dilated and my water broke. Around 8:30am I was 4cm so could get an epidural.  We called our doula as well and told her she could head over in the next couple of hours. Even though I wasn’t having a natural/drug-free birth anymore, the main reason we had a doula, I still wanted her to be there to help!

My blood pressure was still really high, sitting around the 150/105 zone which was a bit unnerving. I was still hooked up to the machine that checked my blood pressure every fifteen minutes. After checking, alarms would go off because it was so high.  We’d then sit with the alarm until a nurse came in to shut it off.  So around 9:30am when an alarm went off Epi and I didn’t think much about it until our room flooded with people shouting and checking the machines. Our son’s heart beat had disappeared and they weren’t finding it quickly. One of the midwives rolled me to one side and then the other while another midwife moved the sensor around my belly trying to find his heartbeat.  I remember the urgency I heard in their voices and their yelling to get an OR ready for me.

One of the midwives told me to get on my hands and knees, “I can’t feel anything though [from the epidural].”  “I know,” she said, “but you have muscle memory and can do it even if you can’t feel what you’re doing”  I fumbled around and finally figured it out. Then his heartbeat came back.  Turns out the Pitocin was too high, the contractions too strong, and his little body couldn’t take all of that stress.

From there, things began to go fast. By the time our doula arrived, thirty minutes after we called her, I was at 9cm – I had dilated 5cm in 30 minutes! I stalled for just a little bit, but soon was at the point to push.

My epidural had worn off by that point.  The nurses offered to call the anesthesiologist; I decided it was probably better to feel what I was doing when pushing.   Pushing took two hours. I liked it better than contractions though, it felt much more productive.

Right before Esteban was born, his heart started slowing down. Alarms were going off and everyone started shouting I needed to push and get him out.  I was so tired at that point, and just wanted to be done.  I remember telling Dr. K to “just cut him out!” Dr. K who had been so positive and encouraging through the whole process looked at me with this very stern, serious face (quite like the one I’ve seen her use with her children when they are in trouble) and said “Liz, you have to push.  There is no time to do anything else to get your baby out.  His heart rate is dropping and if you don’t get him out fast we’re going to be in serious trouble.  You need to find it somewhere and push him out!” And so I did.

Out came a limp, purple baby with the cord around his neck.  They rushed him over the warming table and worked on him.  Meanwhile I was losing a lot of blood and had some other complications. I laid there for what felt like a long time waiting to hear our son’s cry.  I remember praying and praying that he was okay.  Watching the table where they were working on him I started talking to him, suddenly his little foot kicked up and a shrill, newborn cry filled the room.  I felt so relieved! Our doctor and the attending OB at the hospital finished working on me and then I got to hold my little son.   His tiny self was so perfect!  Epi and I spent hours taking in each little detail of him & could not get over how amazing he was.  IMG_5337

Two days later, my blood pressure went back to normal-ish territory and everything was given the green light for us to go home.  Driving home that rainy May afternoon was so surreal, everyone around us were going about life as normal.  Nothing much had changed since we went in to the hospital four days earlier, but for us everything had changed!

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Fire.

Here is a recounting of an event that took place a couple of years ago that I’ve been meaning to write about:

Around 3:30 in the morning Epi and I woke up.  It took a moment for me to realize what had disturbed our sleep, and then I heard the shouting. A man’s voice.  As I came out of my sleepy haze I realized our bedroom was filled with an eerie flickering orange light and was warm, almost hot.  Suddenly I wasn’t in a sleepy haze at all, but wide awake.  E. ran out of our room and threw open the door to our back balcony, the entire porch of the house behind ours was in flames.  All three stories ablaze with the fire licking at the rest of the house and at the neighbors’.

Epi called 911 right away, trying to explain where the house was and the urgency of the situation. I ran to get our shoes.  The heat while standing on our balcony was intense, the smells of wood burning and plastic melting filled our noses.  The buzzes of the electrical wires being eaten broke up the roar of the fire in our ears.

For a minute we stood there unsure of what else to do, then we heard a woman’s voice yelling for help, and little kids shouting from inside the home.  E. looked at me, ran down the steps of our porch and took off towards the house.  I grabbed the keys to our house, my phone, locked things up and took off after him.

As I ran down the alley to get to the other side of the block the electrical transponder connected to the house exploded over me and Photo Apr 30, 3 40 48 AMsparks went everywhere, in the distance I heard sirens – a sound of help on their way.  I found E. in front of the house, “Everyone got out okay,” he said.  We stood there with everyone until the firetrucks arrived, made sure the families who live in the home had somewhere to go that night, and then walked back to our home.

The next day I was looking at the two pictures I had taken of the fire when E. and I first ran out onto the balcony.  As I flipped through the two pictures I landed on the one next in the photo stream, a picture of a page in a book I had been reading.  The day prior I had flown  back to Chicago and while reading a book, Undaunted by Christine Cain, a paragraph stood out.  Without a notebook or pen to write it down I had taken a picture of the page to remind me of what I had read. Seeing the picture and re-reading the paragraph so close to having heard the calls of someone trapped in a burning building gave me a much stronger understanding.

Photo Apr 29, 2 04 35 PMThat morning, having been through the experience of the fire and reading the paragraph, I was reminded how important it is to not judge those in bad situations, it’s too easy to jump to conclusions about how that person got there.  My job however, is to not judge or criticize but to reach out and offer help and encouragement to get out of those situations.

I thought of how E. and I heard the shouting and our automatic reaction wasn’t to judge how the fire was started.  We didn’t sit and discuss whether the person actually should be helped out of the house, E. just took off to the house, ready to get them out.

May we not sit and judge those around us, debate whether they actually need our help, but instead reach out and offer a hand when they cry out.

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{Daily Life Wednesdays}: Family Update

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Processed with VSCOcam with c6 presetEsteban* turned 8 months old last week and is learning new things all the time.  He army crawls all over the house and loves his newfound mobility. Ever since he was a tiny newborn he loved to be in constant motion; now that he’s a hefty 25 pounds, I’m happy he’s starting to be able to move himself. 🙂  Last month he cut five teeth, so now has a total of seven teeth! He eats and enjoys almost everything, even stronger flavors like curry.  Esteban loves to give kisses, wave, and greet people (as well as inanimate objects); he says “hi” and “hey” a lot, along with “dada” and “all done.”  He is such a joy, and so full of laughter and smiles!

*I’ve noticed Esteban’s name is a little tricky for non-Spanish speakers to say.  Here’s a little pronunciation guide: Eh-STEH-bahn (the emphasis is on the second syllable).

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Epi is busy at work doing one-on-one mentoring sessions with the guys as well as leading group sessions.  Right now he splits his time between juvenile justice (gang involved youth who are on probation) and junior leaders (at risk youth in 6th-8th grade).  Epi is a part of Neighborhood Sports Little Village, or NSLV, a group of people and organizations working together to create access and opportunities for youth in Little Village to play.  Currently NSLV has a volleyball league each Thursday evening, Epi plays on a team with some of the Junior Leader guys.  Epi also started a running club this past summer for youth in Little Village.  It has been so cool to see them run each week in the neighborhood, at the local gym now that the weather has turned chilly, and in a couple of local races.  A few of the Epi’s mentees come over and hang out at the house pretty often which we love, Esteban loves them all too – it’s like he has older brothers!IMG_9480

I love, love, love being a mama! It certainly has its challenges but I enjoy being with Esteban so much and am thankful to be able to work only part time so I can spend the majority of my day at home with him.  I work mornings at the non-profit health center I’ve been at since graduating college, after returning from maternity leave I moved from Development to Clinic Operations, which basically means I help with scheduling for our providers and communicating with patients.  I manage customer service for patients as well (this has been an interesting task).  I also mentor two girls; after mentoring them for almost six years it’s cool to see where they’re at with their life.  Both have challenges in life for sure, but are strong young women and working hard keep moving forward.

That’s us in a nutshell.  Hope you are all having a wonderful January and start to 2015.

{Top Photo:  view from our back porch the other morning}

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