Wednesday, May 30, 2007

All Sorts of Official

Well, in my last few posts, I alluded to the fact that there were lots of changes happening in the Reid household these days, and I have finally gotten to the point where I feel comfortable to share them all:

First off, for those that do not know, I was accepted into the full-time graduate program at USC's School of Social Work, and this August I will begin pursuing my Master's Degree in Social Work. This is the result of a lot of work in the last few months, but I have not mentioned it to many folks because there were certain things I wanted to do before I officially announced it...

...Such as properly informing my currect employer of my intention to quit. Which I did this afternoon. I have officially resigned from my position at the library, effective June 21st. I will miss that job a lot, as I really enjoyed working there.

So what will I do between June 21 and August 20th? For the most part, I will be in Mississippi at my parents' house, helping my mom with chores and visiting with my dad. My wonderfully support wife will remain here in Columbia, running her summer Boys and Girls' Club program.

So there is a lot going on these days. I'll keep you posted as these things develop.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Life With the Somalis

So I know I talk about Africa a lot. And I know I talk about the Somali families with whom we work a lot. And I fully accept the fact that in the last few months my primary social outlet has been through a group of Somali teenagers. I know I am much older, buy hey- the guys crack me up. Whether with kids or adults, I just love hanging out with these folks.

This last Friday, I spent a large chunk of my day sitting either outside the apartments of one of the families, visiting with adults and playing with kids, or sitting in a barber shop for two hours so two of the guys could get haircuts. As I was sitting, listening to everyone around me speak a language I do not understand, it occured to me that this is kind of the end of an era. Over th elast few months, several Somali families have moved to other states, and today, Memorial Day, two of the families I know very well moved to Nebraska. Another of the families we have worked with the most over the last year is likely leaving by summer's end. And there will be lots of changes in the lives of the remaining families and in our own life in the next few months.

So in light of this fact, I thought I would post a few pictures and videos from the last few months that may illustrate exactly what it's been like getting to know these families, and maybe a glimpse of why it is we spend so much of our time with them.

Family photo

Little Ladies

Ahmed, Dr. Garane, and Mohamed

Strawberry picking


For Realz

And a special goodbye to Abdi and Mohamed, cousins who , along with their familes, moved to Nebraska this afternoon. Good luck to them both!

Abdi and Mohamed

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Recent Trip to Mississippi

A few weeks ago I had to make an emergency trip to Vicksburg, Mississippi. This is old news for most of the folks that visit my website, but for the sake of simply recording it on my blog, I am posting this information. My father, who as most everyone reading this will know by now, has been fighting cancer for three years. Katie and I visited over Easter, and my dad’s health had taken such a nosedive that we were seriously discussing the probability of him not being around by the fall.

But over the next week or two he bounced back like the tenacious dude he is. And everything was going well and the doctor’s were planning on getting him back on regular chemo treatments when he got a little headache. Which got worse. Then terrible. Then unbearable. Two days into the pain he was taken to the emergency room and given an CT scan to make sure there were no aneurysms or serious problems. The tests came back fine, but that didn’t explain the violent, repetitive surges of pain running through the nerves on the right side of his head. He was told it was likely Trigeminal Neuralgia, which is a condition that affects the trigeminal nerve in the head and is considered (according to the TNA) to be “the most painful affliction known to medical practice.” Needless to say this was not good news.

Now, as the son who lives 550 miles from home, I generally get this kind of report via the phone. And I always ask “Do you need me to come home?” I know my mom would never say “yes” because it would disrupt my life, but I ask anyway. And honestly, it would disrupt my routine NOT my life. This IS a part of my life. But I generally hold back from making any drastic moves that may ultimately not be necessary at the time. (Know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em, so to speak). I look for “a sign” to let me know if I need to hit the road.

Well, when my mom answers the phone at 9:30 am crying, I have received my sign. I left work and was on the road in an hour and a half. Dad needed to be seen by a neurologist before anything could be done, but no neurologists could/would see dad. He was incapacitated with pain and honestly could have been hospitalized, so I went home to see what I could do. Shortly after I arrived in Vicksburg, dad happened to show me a spot which he thought was a break out of pimples or some similar rash.

Well, thanks to David Letterman, this set off an alarm in the back of my mind, and sure enough, we discovered the next morning dad was breaking out in shingles. This is caused by the virus that causes chicken pox. It sits dormant in people’s spinal column but can reactivate in people with weak immune systems. It attacks the nerves and causes a terrible rash to appear on the skin that is within the “domain” of the particular nerve in question. So even though it was bad, we all breathed a sigh of relief.

But make no mistake, shingles is some terrible stuff, and certainly not good for cancer patients. It has been three weeks now and he is still in a great deal of pain. And all that recovery he was making from his Easter low-point has been shot to hell and back. But he’s still with us and is still fighting.

Now, there were some good points about the trip. Seeing my folks was one. My sister Erica also made a trip down and we had a day to spend together before I headed back to South Carolina. My buddy Ian came over and spent an afternoon. I saw grandmothers and cousins and other friends. And it felt good to be able to contribute to the caretaking of my father. This is why we are still here. We didn’t scrap our plans to go to Africa to remain distant from the fight. So for everyone who offered prayers, support and good vibes, we appreciate it greatly.

For those of you who would like to see what dad’s shingles rash looked like, click on this link. The photo is blurry but that’s probably a good thing. The blisters are gone but the poor guy is now dealing with scabs.

And for those who would like to follow along with the daily saga of the shingles / cancer battle, visit my mom’s blog. It’s the place for up-to-date info on dad’s condition. And pictures of cats.

And if you are interested in reading some of my past posts regarding dad’s health, search my blog with the keyword “cancer” and you’ll get the major postings on the subject.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Saints Don't Bother With a Tear Stained Eye

So I am way behind on my blogging, and a lot of crap has happened to me in the last few weeks. Sadly, you'll not be getting your update at this time, either, as it is very late.

However, I am sitting here in the midnight hour, looking at an email from a long lost friend that seems to have grown up to be succesfull and pretty, and I am also thinking of my dad's cancer, and about how my lovely wife is sleeping on the other side of the wall in front of me, and about how we as yet have no children. I'm listening to my iPod is a mostly dark house, when I should be asleep, and I am savoring the sheer mess of it all. I think about how I'm not living the life I was planning to be living just a few years ago, but how my life is still blessed in the now, and that I will certainly find my plans changed yet again in the future, but its all OK. Life is a good kind of sadness, a strange paradox...the bad causes hurt but gives you stength, and quite often the good causes joy but ultimately leads to a nostalgic ache for what once was but is no longer here, (and this is quite a different thing than simply missing something).

But its good. I thank God for the mess, because I am not removed from the mess. I AM the mess, or a little piece of it. And if I must be in the thick of it to experience those moments of joy, that's OK with me. I think everything- the happiness, the sadness, the tears, and the joy- are all made to be more bearable if you accept the fact that its a package deal. You can't pick and choose. Some get a lot more of one or the other than other folks do, but we all get a little of everything, whether we like it or not. And if you're not part of the mess- well, you're missing out.

And in these pensive moments of the midnight melancholy, you could do a lot worse than listening to the album Trace by Son Volt. Off to bed now...