Last night while sitting in a Tenebrae service in commemoration of Good Friday, I couldn't focus. My mind wandered to my craving for chocolate, the presence of my ex-boyfriend, the clashing colors in my outfit, the bicycle I saw on Craigslist, the church's location and how it would be awfully far away if we had to live in the neighborhood, my friend, the memory of the first time I saw the Passion of the Christ film, the decision to go to Kenya or not go to Kenya, the quality of the worship music (and how it was much better than my church's), the sleepy feeling in my body, the meeting I had with my mentor the following morning, etc., etc., etc...
By the extinguishing of the fifth candle, I realized that my heart was far way, so very far away. So very removed from the place my heart ought to have been, where I thought it was going to be walking into the sanctuary. So very alone. Every time I tried to quiet my mind and reel it back toward the service, it wandered. Finally, I gave up and sat helpless and left to my own devices.
And then I wondered if, years ago, this was how God and Jesus felt that night. Helpless, removed from love and light, and nowhere near where they desired to be, where they ought to be... Maybe it's good to be on the brink sometimes. Especially with the graceful knowledge that he gave all but rose again.
This is an update. I'm at the end of the Harry Potter series. And I'm eager (Will my questions be answered, or will this be another Lost experience?), anxious (Who will it be, Harry or Voldemort?), excited (I understand references to Harry Potter and contribute to the conversation intelligibly: "Oh yeah, she's about as emotionally-stable as Cho!"), and sad (I don't want this series to end, and Hogwarts isn't real-side caveat-I understand why kids were depressed with the knowledge that they couldn't go to Harry's world, and platform 9 and 3/4 was very stony and hard indeed.).
(This could be me if I am not careful: An old cat lady who lives inside her imagination... and consumes macaroni and cheese and fruit cocktail to sustain herself. Friends-this is my warning, if you feel I need an intervention, please proceed quickly and painlessly.)
So, all this blogging about Harry will soon be complete, and I can resume normal, adult life... or not. I purchased Harry Potter magnetic poetry for our new apartment. We all need a little frivolous fun, right? And to anyone who believes legitimately that the Twilight series could take down Harry Potter in a duel, you are mistaken sorely, my Friend. And I suggest you get yourself a decent wand and learn a stunning charm, because you'll be needing them. But all this leisurely reading makes me crave one thing: Accio Summer!
(Oh to be young, untainted, and full of curious wonder! And entertained easily by the pigeon strolling on the sidewalk.)
Sometimes their cuteness is overwhelmingly vomit-inducing... which is why being a nanny is the best form of birth-control known to humans. But I adore them for real, and we're working on getting my name down. And I couldn't be more thankful for a hilarious boss who says great things like, "I don't care what he's packing in his pants, so long as he's good to everyone," "it's back to the bacon this week!" (in reference to the low-carb diet), and my favorite, "In the therapy world, some people are like onions-smelly but manageable-but some are like garlic-once they're cracked, there's no turning back-and those are the ones to watch out for."
These days the good, old nine-to-five isn't that bad. And I believe this more and more, one of our hardest-but most important-tasks in growing up is to stay young.
I am studying malaria-it's affects on economies, ecosystems, political systems, and communities-in Sub-Saharan Africa through two organizations, Malaria No More and the ONE campaign. For homework this week, I wrote an op/ed piece about the use of DDT to eliminate malaria through house-spraying. If you're interested, take a peek, and raise your awareness on April 25th for World Malaria Day!
The Deadlier of the Two
By Ashlee Morris
In Ghana a village, Berekuso, fights against malaria. With educational training and mosquito nets, the villagers are protecting themselves against this devastating disease; however, more is necessary. Employing other resources—like Internal-Residual Spraying composed of Dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane (commonly known as DDT)—could eliminate malaria completely from Berekuso.
Chemist Paul Hermann Müller discovered DDT was a safe insecticide in small, diluted doses in 1874. In the 1940s military units utilized DDT to eliminate diseases, like typhoid, threatening soldiers and civilians. By the late 1940s, malaria was a significant, public-health problem in America. The National Malaria Eradication program applied DDT treatments in homes to rid the country of mosquitoes carrying malaria, and the country was considered “malaria free” by 1949.
After the successful elimination of DDT in America, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) launched a similar movement to eradicate malaria internationally. With the evaporation of funds, lack of community involvement, drug-resistance, and ban on DDT, the cause was dropped in the late 1970s. Today malaria continues to wreak havoc. 781,000 individuals die of malaria annually, and 85 percent of those deaths belong to children under age five.
Besides being a major, public health concern, malaria is a hindrance to economic, educational, and communal progress in the developing world. Many resources are available to ease the burden. Whole communities in Sub-Saharan Africa, like Berekuso, are educated about malaria, so it can be prevented, recognized, and treated properly. Many families receive Long-Lasting insecticide treated nets. A malaria vaccine, which is in the third trial phase, is being developed and tested on infants and children. Artemisinin-based combination therapies are prescribed to individuals suffering from malaria for more effective treatment as well.
Also communities utilize Internal-Residual Spraying (IRS) of insecticides indoors to kill mosquitoes. IRS formulas composed of DDT, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), remain the most effective insecticide. In 2006 WHO declared DDT, in the form of low-dose IRS, safe for use as a mosquito insecticide to eliminate malaria. Shortly after WHO’s endorsement, the UN curbed DDT use against malaria. WHO did not declare DDT unsafe; however, other methods, such as medicinal treatments for the uninfected, were endorsed instead.
After Rachel Carson’s outcry in Silent Spring, scientific research declared that DDT harmed human health, destroyed agriculture, and disrupted whole ecosystems, and it was banned in 1972. Contemporary research conveys that DDT use in the amounts necessary to wipe out disease-spreading insects, like malaria-carrying mosquitoes, does not threaten humans, animals, or crops. House spraying with insecticides kills both the nesting mosquitoes and their eggs, making IRS an imperative move against future protection and complete malaria eradication. In 2006 Arata Kochi, WHO’s malaria chief, stated that, “One of the best tools we have against malaria is indoor residual spraying. Of the dozen or so insecticides WHO has approved as safe for house spraying, the most effective is DDT.”
While the UN’s rejection of DDT appeases environmentalists, it presents a huge roadblock to complete malaria eradication. Concern about an insecticide’s adverse affects is legitimate, but if an insecticide is proven safe and affective against malaria, political correctness should be reconsidered. Every 45 seconds a child dies from malaria, which means that, in the reading of this article, about five children die. Lasting, negative side effects from DDT exposure are arguable, but the failure to apply every safe, affective resource known to end malaria could be considered irresponsible and narrow. By encouraging the use of DDT in controlled, small doses, we protect entire families and communities from malaria and provide the hope of a malaria-free future. Children should be allowed to grow up, and the use of DDT as an insecticide makes that a reality.
DDT house spraying is not the only solution. Further resources must be allocated for vaccine research and development. Organizations and governments must work together to make anti-malarial drugs affordable and accessible as well. Finally individuals affected by malaria must be educated and committed to ending malaria in their communities. By joining efforts worldwide, we equip small villages, like Berekuso, to be the leaders of change in the fight against malaria. With a perspective of long-term success and global understanding accepting of all safe methods of elimination, we can eradicate malaria.
I read my friends' blogs filled with profound posts about their jobs, marriages, dreams, and passions. And I'm writing about Harry Potter. But I can't help myself. I am sucked in like no other. So, if you're looking for a thought-provoking post, visit here. And if you're looking for some cultural enrichment, read on!
(Nothing beats baby Harry, really).
I feel like adolescent me again, wrapped up in the world of Hogwarts, Muggles, spells, and magical creatures. I can't believe I lived to 23 without getting hooked into Harry hysteria. It doesn't matter, though, because I am loud and proud about it. And I won't sugar-coat this whatsoever: I have done nothing but read Harry Potter, watch Harry Potter movies, and read Henri Nouwen's Here and Now for the past two weeks in my sweats. And it's been beautiful. I absolutely adore Harry, Ron, and Hermione... all their little adventures. I've even narrowed down our girlfriend vacation destinations to California, Oregon, or Florida. And you guessed it; the motivation for going to Florida is surely Harry Potter land.
(One of the most precious trios the young-adult literary world has ever seen!)
Mom and Dad, you know I love you. And I promise I won't lose my faith because I'm reading Harry Potter. I do thank you for watching out for me; the world needs more Moms and Dads like you two. In fact, I think you're a lot like James and Lilly Potter... and that's real, real good.
But in all seriousness, from one literary scholar (if I can call myself that on a microcosmic level), I give J. K. Rowling mad props, even if she began Harry on a napkin. She's a brilliant one, Buckbeaks and all.
I wouldn't be a good friend, if I didn't share the magic with you all. Cheers!
Saturday mornings are becoming my favorite. Every other Saturday I meet up with my new friend, Kelly, and we walk around City Park. She's about 50 years old and one of the neatest individuals I have met in awhile. In her lifetime she has lived in a Mexican slum to learn about poverty, raised two daughters, taught pre-schoolers, moved around the United States, and shared a house with other families for 27 years. Every time we meet, Kelly shares the coolest stories with such humility and gratitude like she's telling me the daily news headlines. I am thankful for her willingness to be in my life and challenge me. I believe sincerely that we grow best in community and become our best in the context of relationship. This is why Jesus said to "make disciples" and "gather together," I think; He knew we were useless on our own and could have a much deeper, richer experience in the context of the greater experience.
And then on Saturdays like this one, I run around Cheesman Park then take a long walk back to my apartment. I love watching my neighborhood full of it's idiosyncrasies, novelties, and mysterious; I am never certain of what I will encounter. But as much as I will miss my neighborhood and it's excitement, uniqueness, trendiness, and culture-ness (my super cool word!), I am looking forward to a new home with my dear friend. I miss living with her a lot, way more than I let on. But now that it's getting closer, I can reveal my true feelings. I am ready to live in a home again, not just a house. A place filled with laughter (over things hilarious, inappropriate, ridiculous, and incredible... essentially everything). A place filled with creativity. A place filled with conversations about books, dreams, boys, and foreign lands. A place filled with graceful but tough love. And a place that's squirrel-free.
I'll trade this for that. Two-and-three-quarters-months!
Inspired by yesterday's sun and 80-degree weather, my friend and I walked across the majority of the city. As we moved through many neighborhoods, we encountered people of all shapes, sizes, colors, and beginnings; it was wonderful. And so colorful! So Alive!
I love living in a place that's moving forward, each day, toward something new, something different. It's always changing-sort of like me-but deeply aware of where and what it's come from. Denver is a place of new beginnings, fresh starts for many but full of a rich and complex history.
Our urban adventure was incredibly fun. I couldn't be happier that winter's done (for the most part-it's sleeting right now), and spring has arrived. I really, really, really needed yesterday; it was so good!
Today, I felt every emotion. Nothing traumatic (or even dramatic) happened; I went to an information session at DU for my grad program.
(Caption: "Welcome to DU's Graduate School of Social Work!" I am the drawn-in girl in the center amid an overly-enthusiastic crowd. Also, I Paintbrushed some extra women in, since women significantly outnumber the men in the program.)
I probably felt everything, because I was nervous about meeting my peers-also my future classmates and colleagues. But, really, I was nervous about it all being very real. The whole going to graduate school and wearing-the-big-girl-pants thing. Even though I advocate with deep passion and speak out against injustice with conviction, there's a timid me deep inside as well. And timid me walked into Craig Hall this morning, so distractedly that I parked in the wrong spot (marked clearly on a sign and my permit) and scored a ticket from the university's security office. For the first time, in a long time, I missed CCU Security. Harry was always so cool, and I talked my way out of tickets with him...
Sitting in that room, surrounded by unknown faces in an unfamiliar environment, I felt small. And unexperienced but aware. And hopefully-idealistic but passionate. And underprepared but over-prepared... in an entirely different way. And young but inspired. And poor in dollars but rich in wealth that will far outlast my graduate degree, educational debt, and 765 square-foot apartment. And very, very, very Christian.
I left with a headache, probably from a spinning head, but it felt right. A little nerve-wracking, but right. It was almost as though a little piece of me that I haven't seen in awhile sat down beside me during my drive home, squeezed my shoulder, and said, "Hey, I've missed ya, but I knew we'd find each other again" with a big smile.
And when the rubber meets the road (trite.trite.trite.), I am under-experienced, hopefully-idealistic, poor, small, and a Christian. And all that is okay. Heck, I'm beyond okay; I'm fabulous. I'm lovely. I'm orchestrated. I'm called. And I'm worth it.
So, even if I feel a little out-of-place and way too adult for my own good (what does it even mean to be an adult, anyway?!), I know this is the best thing. And by being slightly uncomfortable with views, individuals, and dialogue that is a little different from what I am used to, I am going to be more comfortable with myself. And one step closer to doing what I know I'm meant to do.
So timid-Ash-somewhere-deep-down, Adios! Peace be with you, because deeper down than you, I know that I'm all about love and life and redemption. And not being timid.
And through this arduously-long confession, I encourage you to look at little, fearful you and laugh. Because you are incredibly more than that; I believe it with all the philanthropy in me.