Toilet replacements are unpredictable. Sometimes it is simple, take one out, put one in, no worries. Other times there are many more steps such as repairing the floor. Or fixing the flange. Or replacing the water shut off valve. All of these involve many extra steps and materials
Vernon, another CHRPA volunteer, and I embarked on a toilet replacement job one Thursday afternoon not knowing what we would find. Upon walking into the small bathroom, we were relieved to find that all seemed to be in good shape. This could be a simple replacement of the toilet, with no extra steps needed.
I detached the existing toilet while Vernon brought the new one in from the van. In no time, we had the old one out and the new one set in place. I knelt over it to tighten the bowl to the floor. The left bolt was tight and the right one was almost there. I thought to myself “2 more turns of the nut should get it tight” but on that second turn, I heard an unexpected sound. “POP!”
The bolt on the right side had come loose under the toilet… to fix that required removing the toilet bowl, re-securing the bolt, and putting the toilet back on, hoping it worked the second time. Vernon’s experience and ingenuity helped us. He secured the bolt that had come loose with an extra washer. We put the toilet back in place. Vernon tightened the pesky bolt on the right as we held our breath, hoping this time it would work. It did! But as he tightened the bolt on the left, we heard that same, unwanted sound… “POP!”
The bolt on the left had come loose.
By this point the small bathroom was hot. Every minute that passed I seemed to notice more of how tiny the space was. We had been in there about an hour and a half. We were tired after a long week of repairs and very ready for the weekend to begin.
But we couldn’t just leave it. So again we removed the toilet… Vernon put an extra washer on that bolt as well and we set the toilet back in its place for a third time.
Vernon tightened the bolts while I crossed my fingers and prayed it would stay secure. Luckily, the third time really was the charm. Feeling grateful for those extra bolts, we got everything hooked up and running.
As we cleaned up our tools, I felt frustrated by how long it took us to do that job. I was just happy it was done and I could get ice cream when I returned to the office, I grabbed the file out of the truck to get the client’s signature before leaving.
Inside the house, I told them about the mishaps we encountered and explained why I had needed to go in and out of the house about five times to grab more tools and supplies from the truck.
Our client laughed with me and then told me. “My 4 year old granddaughter who is playing in the other room saw you coming in and out. She said ‘how can a girl be fixing the toilet?’ with a confused look on her face. I told her that girls can do anything. That she can do anything. You are an example of that for her.”
I didn’t know how to respond. I was sweaty and tired, but those few sentences reminded me how life giving it is to do this work and how grateful I am to have wonderful people at CHRPA to teach me the tools of the trade. I felt grateful to all the women who have empowered me to do whatever I dream of, knowing that nothing will hold me back. I felt humbled to be this example for a child.
As we drove away, I still felt frustrated. I was still ready for my ice cream. But I also was smiling because I knew that that girl might just believe in herself and her dreams a little bit more, just from seeing me carry a toilet.
When I googled Tucson last winter/spring after applying to the Tucson Borderlands YAV site, I learned that it is a pretty large city, there is a beautiful National park, and there are some pretty cool festivals in Tucson. When I arrived in Tucson, I was so shocked to see a saguaro cactus right outside of the airport. During the week of YAV orientation in Tucson, Alison took us all outside of the YAV house to our back yard and showed us the four mountain ranges that serve as a compass for the city.
The Catalina Mountains are north and they are right behind the house. In Asheville, locals are always complaining about the tourists that are in town all the time it seems. Tucson has snowbirds who come to live in Tucson for the winter months. At The Inn, we have several volunteers who are snowbirds but will volunteer a couple of times a week for the few months they are in Tucson! I think I prefer Tucson’s snowbirds to Asheville’s tourists just because at least the snowbirds I have met get involved with the Tucson community usually through volunteer work.
Tucson is a very warm city. It is very welcoming, sort of like if a city could give you a hug. The weather is also very warm. At least there isn’t a lot of humidity, but it is still very hot. It does still get cool. I only packed one pair of jeans and was very unprepared for the night time coolness and winter weather. One of my favorite things to experience was being out later one night in the early fall and feeling how quickly the temperature dropped without the sun!
Tucson is very bike-friendly. I was incredibly nervous about biking, but after seeing nice big bike lanes, bike crosswalks, and bike boulevards, I felt better. I still prefer not to bike on busy or main roads, but it is usually easy to avoid that because I can find a less busy street that will get me to the same place. During orientation, I took a bike safety class. That also helped to calm my nerves about biking.
I think my favorite part about Tucson is the sun. It just seems to spread everywhere. Even in the winter. I have never seen or felt sun like that. The sunsets are also spectacular. There are so many colors and you can just see the sun’s rays extend as the sun disappears behind the mountains. I have learned many things from Tucson, and can’t wait to learn and experience more.
At the beginning of March, as TBYAVs we were about to embark on our sojourn retreat and were asked to reflect on the what the desert meant to us. We also reflected on the times the desert is talked about in the Bible. In the Bible the desert is a place of challenge and where we see Jesus tempted. As I’ve been in a program that has the opportunity to bear witness to border issues, the desert has shown again and again to be a place of challenge, death, violence and separation.
However, I have continued to learn the desert is a place of extremes. Very hot days, and in the winter very cold nights. Within these extremes I see the opposing sides of the spectrum. This year a common practice for our check ins has been the Examen. A time in which most often we reflect on the questions: what has been something that’s been life giving and what is something that has been life draining? Or similar questions maybe where have you felt God, where have you felt an absence of God? It’s easy to perhaps see one of these as the “good” or the “bad” because we live in a world that often thinks in binaries. However, I appreciate the acknowledge of these opposing presences whether they are seen as good or bad, or makes someone feel more joy rather than sadness, we can appreciate them as parts of our life and existence.
So though it’s been more prevalent thinking of the challenges and suffering present in the desert, the hurt, the death, the separation, there is the presence of life, and resilience and hope. There is the need for God to nourish the desert, it is a place that both needs God’s attention and where his presence can be felt.
How do we change the world?
In Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds, adrienne marie brown makes a wonderful point about the ways we can use science fiction writing as a way to imagine what the future world could be like. What we could change to create the world we want. She sees science fiction writing as an act of resistance.
I love this idea! And I love spending time daydreaming about what the future could be. My future, the world’s future. Being focused on what’s next is part of my nature as a 7 on the Enneagram.
Because my world has slowed down during this pandemic is giving me lots of time to think and dream. My thoughts have been very focused on what the world will look like after this pandemic passes, whenever that may be. Many people are asking how to get back to normal, but what even is normal and why do we want that?
What I see as normal, thanks to watching many videos and reading articles (listed below) to educate my opinion, was completely broken to begin with. This system of capitalism, competition, and corporations aren’t helping people. Many people work tirelessly to make ends meet and when they don’t meet because of so many things working against lower and middle class people, it is the people that have failed, not the systems.
But the systems are failing. They have been failing many people for a long time, but the Coronavirus has amplified these failures.
Systemic failure is why a disproportionate number of black and brown people are dying from the virus. It is why there isn’t enough PPE in hospitals. This broken, capitalistic system is why there is even talk “restarting the economy” when it isn’t safe to leave your house without a mask on your face. Because capitalism tells us that profits matter more than people. It has always been this way, but that is at the forefront of conversations recently.
So, I have no desire to return to that version of normal. Because none of that should be normal.
Instead I am going to do daydreaming about changes that can happen. I hope these changes include Universal Healthcare and paid sick leave. Better transportation systems that help the earth live. Business practices that are focused on people instead of how to make the most money.
This world also needs to include liberation from the power of white supremacy and colonialism. A world without borders of empire. That’s one of my favorite thoughts. It was inspired by this video. A great quote I heard today “Equality says we should all get a piece of the pie. Liberation says we need a new pie.”
I think it is evident that big change is necessary. But what does a better world look like? A more liberated one? This is a great time to imagine what we want to return to and what is best left out.
How do we change the world? We can start by imagining what is possible. So let’s imagine together!
Some resources for further education that helped form my ideas:
* Disclaimer: Please disregard any grammatical errors, words are hard right now, do not even get me started with my constant struggle with grammar!**
Last week, my roommates committed to working on a shark puzzle for the second time this year. I really hope that YAVA’s from Tucson will read this blog so that I can hopefully identify the origin story of this horrendous puzzle. This weapon of madness is a JIGSAW puzzle filled with many different shapes and sizes of pieces; ranging from large like a poker chip and smaller than a pencil eraser (note: these may be broken chunks of other pieces). The box says that the puzzle is 800+ pieces (not an exact number) and the border is curved into the outline of sea and Sharks. As previously stated, we attempted this puzzle once before but gave up due to how complicated it was. Now though, as we are “sheltering in place” and rarely leave the house, we were committed. What better time to be frustrated with a puzzle?
As I think about the frustrations I have with this puzzle however, I am wondering how much of it can be a metaphor and outlet for the anxiety I have around the Corona Virus. This virus has many unknown and everchanging variables: who is the targeted population it is affecting, is it small immune-compromised children, or elderly adults? Will it last a month, a year; are the precautions we are taking necessary? How is the virus spreading, what boundaries are necessary and which ones are fear-induced? Do we trust fear or does it lead to chaos?
The puzzle was a slow start, we grumbled at how none of the pieces seemed to fit, it did not make sense, but we remained hopeful that maybe the more pieces we got to work together, the better it would get. We just needed some time. This is similar to how the U.S. was reacting three LONG weeks ago about the pandemic. It’s fine, the affected people are mostly overseas, wash your hands, no problem.
Then the panic set in. The more pieces that fit together the more we noticed how unprepared we were. Of the 800+ pieces that were supposed to be there, only maybe 400 seemed to be. Slowly but surely, panic grew as more and more pieces seemed to be missing. Missing just like the toilet paper in the stores. My boss joked to me on a Costco run that she would just have to use paper towels and discard the paper “Mexico style”- all because some idiot thought they could make an easy buck by buying up the stocks.
After the panic, came dread and lack of hope. Why are we working on a puzzle that will never get done? What better do we have to do? Sure, we are too far back to quit now but also- what is the point? This is the phase I am currently struggling through with the virus and it affected most of my week last week. Why dedicate so many hours on something that will inevitably be canceled, postponed, or extended. Sure, it is scary right now because we DON’T KNOW. But eventually, things will fall into place and everything will close down and hopefully, then people will start to understand and help one another. … This is the goal- but where is the follow-through? Right now, my community partner organization is representing 53 clients who are in immigration detention centers. Courts across the country are closing down and inmates that prove unharmful to society are being released so that the disease does not spread through mass confinement. Our clients that are not in detention, all have their hearings postponed for the next month. Judges, mostly old white men, have taken time off from work and refuse to come to court for the risk of germs spreading. Yet, my boss who should for many reasons be sheltering at home is still having to go to Eloy and Florence to cover hearings. Our clients are not being released from detention centers and our volunteers are working overtime to file applications to make it happen.
Meanwhile, I wonder what’s the point? Won’t we slowly but surely realize (like we have been) the impacts this virus is causing? It is a TERRIBLE thing to admit and I see my privilege in the statement. I can afford to look for a better day and hope for change. I work for a program that looks out for my safety and although my job is essential, asks that I work from home. I do not have to worry about catching a virus because I do not have to go anywhere or see anybody. I do not have to wait in a cell until someone realizes I am a person of worth. I, I do not have to face the fear that most likely, that moment will never come. I do not know, nor will I ever realize, what it is like to have society hate me because of the color of my skin and the way I sought refuge from unexplainable horror. I will never have to put into words and have to justify why my life has value. Instead, I can choose to sleep in an extra hour or spend my weekends binging Netflix. I do not have to worry if, by the time people do understand, it is too late.
We stuck with the puzzle. We knew it was lacking pieces but it was not as many as we thought and although it is no longer on our dining room table, we left it mostly put together and are hoping that in doing other puzzles in our house, we can find more of the missing pieces. There is no throwing in the towel with this virus, it is not a puzzle we can put back in its box. So, we have to remain hopeful, I remain hopeful. That this experience is more than a puzzle metaphor and that this time brings us all deep reflection.