Scrotal Emergency

I had just gotten both of my skates on and laced up when my phone rang.  It was my husband.  He was lucky to have reached me because I rarely check my phone once I get to roller derby practice.

When I picked up, he sounded upset.

“What’s wrong?”

“I think I am going to have to take Isaac to the emergency room.”

Heart in throat, I start untying my skates.

“What happened?”

“He slipped on the sink and cut his scrotum.”

You could hear the panic in my guy’s voice.

“Excuse me, what?”

“He climbed up on the sink to get his toothbrush, lost his footing and slipped.  I think it is punctured, babe.  I don’t know what to do.”

Seriously.  Seriously. Who’s life is this?

“If I were there now and you didn’t have to worry about my attendance points, would you take him to the ER?”

We have two other children that were going to bed at the time.


“Then I am coming home.”

A strange mixture of laughter and concern filled my voice as I told my coach I had to go home because my family was having a scrotal emergency.

“Family comes first.”

“You betcha and my future grandchildren are being threatened.”

I ripped of my skates and headed out to the car.  On the way back, I call to find out how my Little Fish was doing.  My husband said that he thought he might have overreacted.

“Isaac is fine now. Go ahead and go back to practice.”

Too late buddy.  I am already worried.  What if there was a scrotal rupture?  No way was I going to practice and leaving my son’s junk hanging in the balance.

When I arrived home, I jumped out of the car and ran up the stairs.  I was not prepared for what I found.

Isaac was laying on my bed with one arm folded behind his head and the other holding a Garfield comic book.  His legs were wide open and his little package was covered by a towel and a bag of ice.

It looked like a scene from a bad college frat house movie.

“Oh, my poor baby.  Are you okay?”

“Yeah.” *sweet sad face*

“Can mommy take a peek to make sure we don’t need to go to the hospital?”


I lifted the blankets, the ice and the towel to find the tiniest cut.  It was maybe a half-inch long and more like a scrape than a puncture.

I covered him back up.  Men and their penises.  My husband went to code red immediately.  It all reminded me how Oprah once said on a show that the world disregards female genital mutilation but if there were men wandering around with injured penises, the world would stop.

“That must have hurt.  You have to be careful when you climb up to get your toothbrush, honey.”

“It wasn’t the climbing.  It was the soap on my feet.”


“I can see the problem.”

After a few pages of Garfield and a couple of warm cuddles, I sent my Isaac to bed.  I watched him tenderly hop off the bed and limp into his room.  I think the strained walk was a little bit injury and a little bit numb scrotum from all of the ice.  That probably felt really wierd.

After my husband and I put all the kids to bed, we had a relieved laugh.  The final words of hilarity, that I will probably never forget were sadly stated through pained tears when Isaac first hurt himself.

“I wish God had made armor for my penis.”

Indeed, little buddy.  You and every other man on the planet.

Our survivor.

It doesn’t seem fair when you see armadillos, cacti and even bugs with exoskeleton, that your penis is so vulnerable to the hard sides of sinks, girls shoes, pinata sticks and other mishaps.  Life is not fair.  Not even for penises.

Muzungu: A White Girl in Africa

I slept the remnants of jet lag off of my body on my second night in Kampala.  When I awoke, I found a woman had arrived to braid my hair.  I grabbed a book and headed out the door.

I was deterred.

“First, take tea.”

I glanced out the window at the woman waiting and I culture shocked.  Do I make her wait while I take my tea?

Yes, in Uganda that is precisely what you do.  First, you take tea.

So I did.  I sat buttering my bread in pained faux peacefulness and prepared my hot tea.  I sat there long enough to finish my bread and then announced that I was taking this tea show on the road.  I grabbed my mug and headed out the door.

This woman was waiting for me.

She was nicknamed, “One who has twins” and when I asked what her name was, that is what she responded with.

I don’t dare try and pretend I can remember or spell that word for you now.

She had five children and laughed at the idea of my three.  I was way too young to have that many children.  I thought the same thing about her.

She thought I was white and refused to braid my hair very tightly.  No matter how much I assured her that I wanted it tighter or that my hair had been braided before, she refused.  To her, my skin was too fair and my hair too soft to endure a proper braiding.  She didn’t want to hurt me or pull all of my hair out.

I can respect that.

I was a “Muzungu” or a white person.  This came as a surprise to me but not to my hosts.

“Well, look at you.”

Okay, you may have a point.

We sat as she braided and I read in the warmth of the day.

The view

I asked around before I left what the children might think of my skin tone.  The not nearly black but not quite white conundrum of my life.  The stop in their tracks, holler in excitement reactions gave me my answer.


My skin caused quite a stir during my trip.  It inspired a man on a boda boda to tap his chest and open his hand to me for a little charity.  It caused higher charges for me at local tourist attractions.  It even caused some controversy for my hosts when we visited a natural hot springs.  My friend Christine tried to come to my defense.

“She is a muzungu.”

“No, she is not.”

“Eh! Look at her skin. Are you crazy? Her hair may be braided like ours but she is still muzungu”

“She is not a muzungu.”

“Did you produce her? If not, than you cannot say for sure.”

This always made me laugh.  I joked with our Country Manager Jennifer that in the United States we produce cars and give birth to children.  I also told her I would now start calling my children, “my produce”.  We all had a laugh at that.

I was even told that my beauty must have come from my African Roots.

How lovely, that change of perspective was for a little girl who grew up in a culture where blacker beauty was found wanting.

Should I feel relief though?

I was torn, happy that my darkness was more appreciated but saddened that the lighter was now of lesser value.

It made me think of statements like, “lighter than a paper bag” or “the blacker the berry the sweeter the juice”.

How silly we are.  The world over, we are hunting and pecking.  We are holding things up to the sky and shouting discovery of beauty.  We are telling each other the color of beauty, the style, the smell and the location.  Even in our knowledge that beauty is an interior finding we search on.  Our eyes are liars.

This trip caused me to examine myself.  It made me think about the way I love and my ability to be grateful in the moment.  It made me reflect on how our beliefs are structured by the communities we live in.  It made me hungry to sit around more tables in different communities.  I want to see the world through different eyes.

I was able to live as a white person.  That is not something every girl with one drop of black blood in her veins can say.

It’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

Loving the skin I’m in,


PS – Listen in to Professional Presence hosted by Shelley Davis Mielock and hear me talk about the Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project on the (MBN) Michigan Business Network today at 11am, 4pm and 9pm. Tomorrow it airs again at 7am. :)

Welcome to Africa

Don’t let anyone fool you.  The seats are not extra comfy on an international flight.  I would assert that they are maybe a half an inch wider.  The additional amenity of free wine on the flight may fool some but I drink often.  There are no spatial figments of my imagination after a few drinks.

I will admit that when I asked what kind of red wines they had available, the flight attendant cocked her eyebrow and laughed at me.  It was the equivalent of someone laughing at you for not knowing at the fancy restuarant that the waitress is not just standing over your glass of wine because she is interested in your polite conversation.  She wants you to swirl it, smell it and taste that tannins before you tell her the wine is to your liking and she can go on about her business.

The wine situation on an international flight is more of the boxed persuasion.  Fine by me.

I enjoy flights almost as much as I enjoy destinations.  I always seem to sit next to someone interesting.  This trip was no different.  Some personalities stick out more than others.

I sat next to a Muslim man from Italy of Somalian descent who was a family physician.  I am pretty sure he was trying to convert me.  I was flattered.  I politely told him that I was a Christian and he shared with me about Malcom X.  I watched him try to question a flight attendant about the contents of his packaged meal to see if it was something he could eat.  He inspected the packages like a bottle of prescription meds and after all of that effort still ended up discarding some of the food as unfit.

I was thankful for the ease at which I could eat almost anywhere.  I may now be questioning the health of my food but my religion does not structure my pork or milk intake.

I was struck by his discipline and commitment to his faith.  I enjoyed our conversation and gave him information about our fledgling clinic in Uganda hoping that someday an email would be in my inbox with his name on it.  You never know.

During that same flight, a strange Kenyan man working for the U.S. government tried to pick me up flashing a large wad of cash and his U.N. badge.  He was only 7o years old.  His selling point?  That he would die soon and I could keep all of the money.  He was also drunk and a close talker.  I could have spent my entire life without that conversation or proximity.

I also met a Lost Boy from Southern Sudan heading home to see his mother for the first time in over a decade.  Many of you know that I used to volunteer with an organization called Genocide Intervention Network that was focused on ending the genocide in Darfur, Sudan among other places.  My work organizing grassroots events led me to a friendship with a few young men from Sudan.

I was so happy to see him whole and healthy.  He is educated now and returning a grown man.  I said his family must be so proud of him.  I just kept thinking of all of the people who asked me why I wasn’t helping Americans.  Guess what?  He is an American now.

A global community is always interconnected.  We can never pretend that we are not all part of one human family.  Who would want to?  I loved standing in that airport listening to his story.  I loved knowing that we were connected through individuals concerned with the welfare of his family.  Individuals who had no more reason to care what happened to him than I have a reason to care what Paris Hilton is doing right now.

We discussed the Sudanese peeps we may have had in common and then I made my last connecting flight: Nairobi, Kenya to Entebbe, Uganda.

This time, I sat next to a white kid from Portland, Oregon.  We were both visiting Uganda for the first time, for the same reason but for different organizations.  We were actually going to be in the same district for a few days.

How crazy is that?  It is a small world.

We joked about what we expected to find.  We talked about our faith and how it determined the way we chose to live our lives.  Both of us, green to what we would find when the wheels finally touched down.

Remember how I mentioned the lovely stream I found myself swimming in?   Well, I never mentioned this fellow swimmer.

Eventually, the announcement came that we were coming in for a landing.  I looked out the window and saw nothing.  This was not the glowing airport I was used to.  I was sure they were mistaken.

Are we landing in a field somewhere?

No.  It was evening and we were flying over the now dark Lake Victoria.  Entebbe Airport and the city surrounding was without street lights too. At the gate, a sign with my name was held up by Pricky and Prosper who gave me warm welcoming hugs.  We all laughed as I sighed heavy relief in finally being somewhere.

I then pulled out my camera and in the darkness carried it somewhere between my chest and my eye at all times on our way home.  Eventually, beaten by the darkness, I put my camera back in the bag and let myself watch what I could not capture in a moving vehicle.

When I mentioned the darkness, my hosts said, “Welcome to Africa.”.




Swimming Up-stream

I don’t know what to say.  My senses have been over powered from the moment I arrived in Entebbe, Uganda.  The moment it started to sprinkle rain on the dark drive to the Mugisha home, it made the smell of dust rise up into the air and off of the surfaces all around.  I keep waking drowsy in the middle of the night warm and surrounded by netting to keep the mosquitoes away.  The city streets are so full.  There are people bursting from everywhere.  My camera cannot capture and hold enough.

My hosts keep joking that I am too ambitious and will not see everything I want to by the time I have to leave.  I laugh and agree.  I have always had this problem.  Nothing is new under the sun.

Tomorrow, I will visit another orphanage.  They are not affiliated with Nyaka but almost a year ago, in response to an appeal we sent out to our mailing list, a mother sent me a hand written note about her son.  He was a teacher at a Catholic school in Michigan.  Once the Catholic schools started to consolidate, he lost his position.  Eventually, he took a job at Kutamba School for Music.

All of this in the swirling handwriting of a proud mother.  The name of the organization is M-lisada.

Strangely, and I have to believe not at all by coincidence, his mother emailed me last week with updates about her son.  I jumped after responding.  Why had I not mentioned I would be in Kampala?

I sent her a quick…PS – I will be in Kampala in about a week.  Any chance I might pop by?  You know. While I am in the neighborhood?

She emailed me back contact information and directions.  I called him this evening.  I will visit tomorrow.  I am glad I brought extra candy.  They have about 80 children living there and they will all get a sweet from me.  I have noticed during my time driving through the city many placards for different social service organizations.  We are not alone.  We never really are.

I am dedicated to my work at The Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project but as with any other struggle in this life, it always feels good to look around and see another swimming up-stream with you.  You have to believe that it is all possible.  You have to know that in all situations, someone has to be the one to stop and say that they will help nurture positive changes.  It may as well be you.

This stream can be violent.  The rapids can be crushing in their weight and very cold.  However, look.  Look at the beautiful scenery just a little farther up.  Look at this beautiful river I have found myself swimming in.

Enjoy the swim.



Pack Light

I have never prepared for a trip like this before.

This makes sense when you consider that I have never been on a trip like this.  The last time I went on a service oriented trip of any kind was in high school.

Shame. Shame.

My youth group visited the Colonias in Juarez, Mexico to help them construct another building.  We played with children in the orphanage and ate pizza while their daily bread was rotting in the corner.  They provided the pizza and it broke our hearts.

Last night, I painted my toe nails and plucked my eye brows after a very modest shopping trip.  After discussing the weather and clothing options with my friend and coworker, I found myself lacking.  I set out with a short list of things to purchase to make my trip more comfortable.

Of course, I found more than enough stuff.  I tried it on.  I shifted on both feet.  I wandered around the store with more than enough over my arm and then I put it down.

I couldn’t do it.

I couldn’t buy more.

I decided to grab the waterproof outdoor shoes and the permethrin bug spray.  I bought a $3 shirt off the clearance racks and headed home. I even bought that with a gift card.

I have enough.

It’s not the rural surroundings of my trip that are changing my habits.  It’s not even the length of my stay.

It’s knowing that when I step out in front of hundreds of children in southwest Uganda, what I am wearing will not matter so much.  Recognizing that the uniform they are wearing is their only “outfit” puts a damper on a suitcase full of trendy t-shirts.  Knowing that the shoes on their feet were provided by our organization and are their only pair.

I have too much.

I am packing light.

Let the focus be on what I am leaving behind and what I am bringing back to share.



PS – Don’t worry about me though.  I am still well prepared and will be just fine. :)

An Oasis

Dear God,

I have had quite a year and a half.  My life, my friends, my body and my job, they all look completely different.  The transformation did not start in a place of abundance.  It started from a deeper valley than I have ever known.

Now, I walk up the other side of the ravine.  My legs are covered in drying mud trudged through and the sun is just barely starting to warm the top of my head.  Over my shoulder is a heap of heavy baggage unable to make the journey.  A stack of broken zippered, handle broken suitcases lay useless.

I still carry some with me.  I wonder if to leave that behind it might require the need to pull it up hill with me.  The people who help me tug are new faces.  Bright faces that swiftly cry when mine does.  Hands that hold and feet that dance in my own happiness.

My family is still there.  It’s strange because although it feels like they traveled with me, I am not sure they understood why.  Like a baby tied to a mother’s back fleeing a massacre, they were just carried along.  The jostling has stopped as a peaceful place is nearly found.

This morning, I sit in a place of gratitude.  I accept the journey.  I did not love it.  I would not wish it on my worst enemy.  I accept that it is not over.  I accept this oasis and take a drink preparing for the next leg.

I sigh my thank you and sit down.

In gratitude,