Tuesday, April 26, 2016

My Flip Phone Life: Why I Ditched the Smartphone

Perhaps it was the social media apps; you know, the needless scrolling through feeds, seeing nothing new -- wow, I wish I had Chrissy Teigen’s kitchen -- hoping to see SOMETHING interesting, refreshing the page, scrolling again --ugh I really don’t care about Jason’s idiotic political beliefs *unfollow*-- the activity is a typical millennial boredom buster that serves much better as a time-sucker than anything.

Maybe it was the constant internet access: the ability to see a picture -- oh, I love that top -- click a link, add to bag -- how nice that it auto fills my debit card number! -- and boom, fifty dollars later something I didn’t know I wanted five minutes ago was now on its way to my house.

Or was it the 14 gigabytes of photographs and videos taken, never looked at again if they weren’t deemed worthy of “posting” elsewhere  --  well one of these days I’m going to put them on my computer and PRINT some of these pictures!!  Perhaps ten thousand pictures I’ve taken in the last five-ish years I’ve had a smart phone -- enough to fill dozens of analog albums, and yet only enough prints to fill a couple pages.

Still more, it could have been the near-constant guilt in the very back of my mind that accompanied my near-constant smartphone use -- knowing I could have been doing a number of more productive things with my time: studying, doing a devotional, reading, painting that hutch I bought months ago, baking bread, talking to my husband…the list goes on and on.

You might not be a self-professed smartphone addict like me, but I know you know what I’m talking about.  You know, you finally get a moment from your busy life to watch your favorite TV show, and you catch the drift of the episode, enough to know what’s going on (mostly) for next week, while absentmindedly unlocking the phone, scrolling, repeat, while “watching”.  

the Kid, on his daddy's smartphone.  It is programmed in their DNA
 Whatever the reason, I realized I’m wary of it: the dependence, the addiction to it, the fulfillment from notifications…I had found myself curating life events or daily activities to make for a “good Instagram” -- living life for the post of it, if you will.  And I was tired of seeing others seemingly doing the same thing.  No one’s life is that picture-perfect -- I mean, who besides chefs cared about plating your food artfully before this “sharing” frenzy?  We’re all just seeing a calculated highlights reel from each other’s lives -- something that has become a gross misrepresentation of life and what we should expect from it.  Not only is it all too much pressure, it usurps the enjoyment from the actual moment and makes its worth dependent on how many “likes” it gets.  And, with my smartphone handy, I was always thinking about it.  Or I was spending too much money because online shopping is SO EASY (can I get an amen, ladies -- or men monitoring their shared bank accounts?!?!!)  With my smartphone, the world was at my fingertips and yet it wasn’t enriching my life -- I felt, in fact, it was doing the opposite.  

So what is a girl longing for the simplicity of the days of yore to do?  While there is an app to make your smartphone “dumb” (functioning solely as a phone), it could be too easily undone and, voila, same constant internet access and apps I’m trying to get away from.  I’m not strong enough to resist.  I had to go cold turkey.

Let me just say, I dreaded going into the AT&T store with my relatively new Samsung Edge (you know, with the curved screen and everything) and proclaiming to the salesman, “I want to trade this in and get a flip phone.”  I was sure my request would be met with a patronizing sales pitch: Are you sure?  Before you decide, why don’t you take a look at this option? *offers different smartphone*.  

Luckily, as Steven ended my contract and switched out my SIM cards, he didn’t give me the crap I thought I was going to get.  I explained I just needed to be further away from the grid, and he said, “Yeah I’ve had two people come in recently downgrading phones to do that.  The one guy came back in a week - couldn’t do it.”  Although he was nice, I’m sure he expected as much from me.  Oh Steven, I wish you knew how motivating I find being underestimated! Muahahahaha!!!!

 I will say, initially it wasn’t this cathartic experience.  It was quite the hassle actually, going to T9 texting (remember that?) and slowly keying in my contacts that got all messed up and lost in the transfer.  Plus, I don’t have the continuous, easy access to my overseas parents that I had with Whatsapp on my smartphone (solution: old-fashioned email). These inconveniences and annoyances are outweighed, I feel, by the following “Pros of the Flip Phone”:

1.       Online shopping, or even online window-shopping, will reduce.

2.       Research shows discontent and depression occur the more people are watching other peoples’ lives on social media, as we are all getting picture perfect misrepresentations.  By eliminating the comparisons totally, it would follow that I could become a more content person.

3.       I was able to use the money from selling my fancy phone for a real camera.  The goal is to have quality photos over quantity, and to have print-worthy pictures that will actually get printed.

4.       Without the distraction, more time for more productive things: including conversing more and being present with those around me.

5.       Not only did I reduce my phone bill by $50 a month, I also can coast on the same battery life for a solid 4-5 days without charging. 

6.       I can drop the phone to the ground (something I’m wont to do) without worrying about the screen shattering.

7.  I'm in good company: Warren Buffet and Anna Wintour number among high-profile successful people with flip phones.

8.  Nothing is more satisfying than ending a conversation by resolutely smacking a flip phone shut. 

Is such a technological downgrade for everyone?  I’m sure not, and I’m definitely not writing this to suggest anyone follow in my footsteps.  And, for the naysayers I’ve run into:  I’m not anti-technology at all (I still have a tablet for Pete’s sake).  I just needed to quell my own addiction to and dependence on the constant distraction found in my mobile smartphone.

A project I finally had time to do and complete without my smartphone!

Just so I don’t cave and go running back, I have a self-imposed timeline of being smartphone-less for one year.  If, after a year, I want to throw my indestructible flip phone against the wall (and watch it still work just fine) and buy myself another smartphone, so be it.  There was no harm done by being without for a while.  To take it a step further, I will be deactivating my social media accounts as well.  For the (surely very few) people who will miss my pictures and super witty anecdotes found on my Facebook and Instagram, you can get your Savannah-fix by checking here, where I will be more regularly posting about what I do with my flip phone life.  

On my low-tech flip phone
Everything is permissible,
but not everything is beneficial.
Everything is permissible,
but not everything builds up.
1 Corinthians 10:23 

Monday, April 11, 2016

My Incarceration

I can feel the eye rolls from here.  I have a sixth sense about these things because I am a master eye-roller.  Wow...Savannah's having another medical problem...what else is new? Does this girl know how to blog about anything else?  Okay guys, cut me some slack.  I work, I study, I put my kid to bed, repeat....I don't have anything juicy to tell you all EXCEPT for my freakish medical woes! Sheesh.

At least my last post was a departure from the normal Crohn's sob-story.  This tale isn't so much one that requires a solo violinist, so much as it needs a full-on orchestra playing Flight of the Bumblebee.  I guess what I'm trying to get at is, the following was more a whirlwind event that escalated rather quickly.  As I have done on some of my other posts, I must advise the faint of heart (or stomach) to read no further.

It was supposed to be a typical fall day off work: nursing class, pick the kid up from school, go run errands.  On my to-do list for the day was a lab order I couldn't put off (truth be told, I had to provide a stool sample to test for the ever-icky C-diff).  When I got out of class, I decided instead of dropping Dash off for my mother-in-law to take care of, I would relish some time with him and take him along for my errands.  Our first stop was the hospital, or as my child calls it: "momma's work".

We got out of the car and Dash begged me to carry him across the parking lot.  He and I both knew momma's not supposed to pick him up (for those of you who didn't know, I can't lift anything more than twenty pounds until I regain strength in my core).  But do you know how hard it is to say no to such a sweet request?  You can cheat every now and then, I told myself as I scooped my toddler off the ground and hurried across the parking lot.

As we approached the entrance, I quickly dropped my boy back to the ground and told him he'd need to walk from there.  As we made our way to the lab, I absentmindedly put my hand over my bag (a habit I've formed to determine if my bag needs emptying) and felt something I knew was bad: a hard bulge poking out from my abdomen.

Now, I've had a few prolapses before.  I've even had minor ones that didn't land me in the hospital and were corrected simply by lying down.  But this one was happening in public.  With my toddler in tow.  With only me to handle it.  My bowels were spilling into my bag while I was running an errand with my son.  This is a great recipe for panic-inducing stress - which is exactly why, by the time I was registered and in the waiting room to be summoned for my lab work, I burst into poorly suppressed sobs.

The unknowing bystanders in the waiting room shifted uncomfortably in their seats.  As a nurse walked by I shrieked (as casually as I could), "IS ANN WORKING TODAY??!!"  The confused RN shook her head and said, "Ma'am, are you alright?"

By now, my hysterics could not be hidden.  "No!" I swallowed a sob before I erratically explained, "I think my stoma is prolapsing and I was here for labs and I'm supposed to be here but I need to go to the ER now."

My tornado of panic caught the attention of the unit's manager.  "Everything is going to be alright," she said as she gave me a hug.  "Let's get you and your boy a wheelchair."

Oh, right.  What had the two-year-old been doing while his mother was having a public meltdown?  Let me just say, that he could not have been cooler or calmer if he had been a cucumber.  As I cried, he wiped my face with his sticky little sweet toddler hands and quietly kept saying, "It's alright, momma.  Let me get your tears."  As my bowels poured forth from my abdomen, so did my heart melt at his sweetness.

Now, let's fast-forward 45 minutes. I've just been ushered back into a room in the ER.  Dash was kindly whisked away by a rounding nurse friend so I'm alone.  I feel my bowel getting bigger in my bag.  I need to get the bag off as the stoma is swelling more and more, being choked by its container.  The ER doc walks in on me wrestling with my bag.  "Oh," he says.  "I usually don't see this."  Comforting, doc.

To his credit, it's not what I usually see either.  Pictured below is what my stoma normally looked like:

in between bag changes. Here, it is poking out about an inch from the skin
Once the doctor and I pried that forsaken bag off (yes - it was indeed a doctor who got his gloved hands dirty to comes to my rescue! I'm just as surprised as you!) this is what hung from my belly (squeamish people, you still have time to get out before you can't unsee this!):

Here, I'm lying down, holding my stoma in my palm - at this point it was about 4-5 inches out
"We'll probably need to pour sugar on it," I told him.  He gave me a brief, blank look before leaving to immediately call the colorectal surgeon immediately.  Bless his heart; the guy knows what to do with the routine heart attack but was helpless with this freak.  "It reduces the swelling," I shrugged to the ostomy nurses who surrounded me.  They were also unable to help but offered distracting words of comfort.

Fast forward again: Dr. Allen, a young thirty-something woman walks in.  She took one look at me and told an aide, "Call the cafeteria.  Get a gallon bag of sugar."  Only my wacky medical hijinks could be treated with a gallon of sugar.  Once it arrived, she proceeded to pour the sugar over my bowel that was getting to be a sick, bruised shade of navy.

My snow-capped mountain of a stoma wasn't getting smaller like it should.  "I'm going to need to push your bowel back in by hand," Dr. Allen apologized.

"Well I'm gonna need a pain med," I replied.  Morphine was quickly ordered and injected.  Dr. Allen jabbed her fingers into my stoma.

The feeling of someone trying to put your bowels back inside your body is not one I can easily put into words.  It is a feeling of simultaneous extreme discomfort (like that of an enema) and a sharp pain that feels like someone is wringing out your intestines to be hung on the line to dry.

"Okay, I need to be consciously sedated for this!!!!" I upped the ante.  A dose of versed (a personal favorite of mine) was ordered and immediately administered.  Dr. Allen kept jabbing but that dang swollen stoma just couldn't go back where it belonged. "MORE SEDATION!!" I cried.  Another round of versed.  "It's my lucky day," I attempted to joke with the saint of an aide who let me squeeze her hand white during this ordeal.  Another jab to the stoma.

"OH, F***!!!!"  I couldn't believe it.  I was officially one of those patients who screams obscenities in the ER.  As someone who was working in an ED at the time, I knew the eye rolls this behavior elicits much of the time.  "Sorry," I said to the crowd in my room, "I really don't want to be that patient!!!"

"Um, your gut is spilling out?" the aide offered. "I think it's justified."  That girl really was a saint.

Dr. Allen took a break from the wrestling match.  "So, it's time to go to surgery," she said.

While I had always romanticized emergency surgery (yes, I get it, I'm a freak), actually requiring it was devastating.

"There has to be another way," I said.  "Can you take me to the hospital where my regular colorectal surgeon is?"  I pleaded, like a toddler stalling the inevitable bedtime by feigning sudden insatiable thirst.

"There's no time.  Your stoma is incarcerating [suffocating] itself and will be necrotic [dead] by the time you'd get there.  We need to go now." 

I clearly had no choice.  I resigned myself to the surgery and dealt with it like any millennial would: I took the moment to Instagram. A picture of me being wheeled off with my poor husband in tow was captioned, "brb everyone, going to emergency surgery!!!" 

Next thing I knew, I was in the OR.  That familiar mask was put on my face and I gladly inhaled the plasticky air.  Breathe in deep, a faceless voice told me.  "You don't have to tell me twi..."

And so ended my errand gone awry.

Dr. Allen had to remove 10 centimeters more of the little small intestine that remained.  The new stoma she gave me (my third) has turned out to be the cutest yet.  Is there a lesson to be learned here (per my usual blog MO)?  I'm sure there is somewhere.  For now, I won't dig too deep except to say  maybe don't take your kid with you when you need lab work done.  I never did find out about that c-diff.*
Hospital bed snuggles with my sunshine

We can rejoice, too, when we run into 
problems and trials,
for we know that they help us
develop endurance.
Romans 5:3 NLT

*I do not have c-diff.  We would definitely know by now

Sunday, April 10, 2016

How I Became an Uncertified Wound Nurse

Okay.  I have started many a post the last few months and...never finished them. They were just too depressing. I don't love complaining and, when I started this blog, I did not intend for the state of my health to be the central theme.  I began "Little Momma, Big World" thinking I would be writing about my riveting (ha!) adventures in mommy-hood and marriage, but I have penned very few posts about either.  The fact is, my life is dictated by my health or lack thereof - which is fine, as I don't know life any other way.

Perhaps I should rename my blog to Mommy with an Ostomy.  Hmm.

For the select few who read my ramblings, I must inform you that a month ago, I wrote a very depressing post about continued complications from my surgery last December.  I didn't end up posting it, much less finishing it, because I've jumped on my Crohn's soapbox a couple times using this medium, and I really do not want to portray my outlook on life as one big autoimmune injustice.

However, I will write this post until the end.  I will post it because today, for the first time in a long time, I had a wonderful doctor appointment.

I think when you grow up with any sort of chronic illness, "good" doctors' appointments are typically few and far between.  It started with my pediatric gastroenterologist: diagnosis of Crohn's at seven, followed by my Indian doctor looking pensive as pill after pill did not work.  The bad news continued, after a three-to-four year period of not growing (At all. Whatsoever.), with my endocrinologist combining growth hormone with chemotherapy and wondering why I still wasn't growing.  "You will probably never hit five feet," I was told.  For some reason, I'll never forget the elevators shutting on me as my parents and I left that dismal appointment.  Years of being told by doctors I needed an ostomy, or that time I experienced severe anaphylactic shock to the only tried and true Crohn's treatment of the time.....all these memories make good doctors' appointments so sweet, so uplifting.

Back to the main story.

On October 1st, I had an appointment to check my rectal wound with my colorectal surgeon.  She took one look at it and sighed.  "We've done all we can, and nothing has worked."  Dr. Galandiuk is a very even-keeled, soft-spoken, and frank woman.  The dismal look on her face triggered the tears the I had been trying so hard to swallow down. "I think it's time for a wound vac."

Until two years ago, getting an ostomy was my absolute paralyzing fear: life as I knew it would end if I had a bag of poop on my beautiful abdomen.  Since my surgery last December that left me with a gaping wound where my b-hole used to be, the words "wound vac" have chilled me to the bone.  In short, it's a suction device that would be constantly attached to me by a tube and a piece of foam in the actual wound.  It sucks out all of the crap, promoting healing and closure.  That's all fine and dandy but who wants to walk around with a tube in their butt?? The wound vac is about the size of a lunch box, so you can't hide it either.  Because of the location of my wound, the wound vac placement would be very precarious and could easily fall out.  Not to mention, insurance doesn't like to cover it (I mean, really??? Like I'd do this if I didn't need it?!)  A wound vac is my greatest fear.

When Dr. G broke the news, I became desperate.  As I ferociously blinked back my tears: "Please, is there anything else I can do?  I just got a second job and, and, I have a two year old, and I just don't, it's not the right time."

The woman knew I needed a semblance of hope.  She looked at me for a minute, then: "Let me see if there's a plastic surgeon here.  Dr. Tobin does these great tissue flap surgeries and maybe he could do that for you."  I sniffed.

For those who aren't in the medical field, having another doctor from a totally different practice and field just "come over" to see a patient (who doesn't belong to them) is a bit unorthodox.  Typically, an official consult is called and you're typically waiting a few weeks to a few months before the other doc ever sees you. Yet, a mere half hour passed and both Dr. G and this plastic surgeon showed up in my exam room.

I held my breath, literally and figuratively, as he inspected me.  He stepped back and said, "Well, you're not a contender for a tissue flap surgery."  I began crying again, as I'm apparently wont to do around doctors.  "However, I've worked with thousands of wounds in my career.  I've found that packing it with a dressing soaked in Dakins solution [essentially Clorox] works well.  Most surgeons would have you change it twice a day, but I've found the most success with changing it four times a day."

I thanked him profusely for his alternative solution.  This is what I was going to do.  He left as quickly as he came, and I was left with Dr. Galandiuk.  "You can try this.  I must say, the wound vac is probably your best bet."  Despite the gravity with which she told me this, she left the choice to me.

It's worth noting that I have never been trained in wound care, and, despite working in a hospital for two years, I have most certainly never dressed a wound.  Sure, I've seen it done, but I never took notes on technique or anything.  The first dressing was the worst.  It was excruciating to put in, and the pain inflicted by later removing it was actually unbearable.  Not to toot my own horn, but I've been in a lot of pain throughout my life and I like to think that because of it, I have a high threshold for pain.  The hurt I inflicted upon myself while pulling that dressing out (un-medicated) went against every bodily instinct in me.

After a few days, the pain morphed into discomfort and I was able to walk (albeit, you could probably tell something was literally up my a-s-s).  A week passed and I was a wound-dressing champ: one change in the morning, two at work, one at bedtime, like clockwork.  The dressing became practically unnoticeable. I liked having it.  What?

This brings us to one month post-depressing appointment.  November 5th, I anxiously walked into the exam room.  "So," Dr. G starts, "how do you think it's going?"

"Well, I made a conscious decision to not assess the progress of the wound, because I figured the hope that it will get better clouds my perspective."  No reason to get my hopes up, if they might easily get dashed anyway.

She inspected me.  "This is extraordinary," she said.  "Your wound has shrunk quite considerably!  I don't think you'll need a wound vac."  At this, my mom's eyes welled with tears.

I could only muster an incredulous, "Really?!" 

I was then sent to my plastic surgeon. "This is remarkable!"  His beady eyes lit up.  "The healing that has happened in just one month is rather miraculous.  Let's not tamper with what's working.  Proceed with the dressings, and I don't think you'll need a wound a vac!"

My mother mentioned to him how many people had been praying for my healing.  To most doctors, a statement like this has a nice sentiment, but the lack of science involved doesn't lend prayer a lot of merit.  "It's healing up well," he agreed. "But just because you have faith doesn't mean it's smooth sailing," he warned.

I suppose my story is a long-winded way of saying I obviously don't expect God to deliver. Despite my prayers, and all those praying for me, I fully went into that appointment not expecting the amazing news I got.  I pray, sure, hoping that something good will happen. Ultimately though, my poor health over the course of my whole life has proven Dr. Tobin's statement true, right?

We're basically promised in the Bible that life won't be easy.  Our trials, however, many might they be, do not preclude the Great Physician from working miracles.

He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
Psalms 147:3 NIV

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Another Game of Uno

It was a weird sort of love.  I was eighteen, he was eleven – almost twelve, though.  I moved to his neighborhood to be with my parents after a first semester of college sent my health into a downward spiral.  While my friends were out taking classes and partying, my body made it clear that I could not even deal with the stress of classes, much less the typical freshman consumption of alcohol.  A week before my classes ended, I had to completely withdraw from all of them.  What a massive waste of time.  

So, a couple days after Christmas, I found myself in Cyprus.  “A Mediterranean island!” people would coo when I told them.  Turns out, a place with a beach can be just as frigid as winter in Siberia.  It made it worse that these Cypriots were under the impression that breathing in central heat and air was bad for you.  A space heater hummed faithfully by my bed every night in that house.

I had no friends.  The south side of the island was full of Greeks who absolutely despised the Turkish in the north, the side upon which I happened to live.  I mean, the Greeks were nice and all, but the way they talked about the Turks was a level of racism I had never before experienced*. It’s ignorant to believe America isn’t progressive in that arena.  It was a hassle crossing into the south, and I didn’t care to hear hateful conversations aimed at not only my neighbors, but Americans as well. (“You all are obsessed with McDonald’s right?  That’s why everyone is so fat?  Americans are so stupid!!” They would double over in hysterics as I stood there, neither overweight nor unintelligent, the antithesis of their vision of America right in front of them.  Coincidentally, many of them were dying to move to the U.S.)  So I stayed in the north. 
My home in Cyprus.  The interior was all marble, making the our hardly furnished house that much colder sans central heat.

When you have no friends, don’t speak the language, and are cooped up with your parents all day long, you’ll do anything to fend off raging boredom.  I roamed the streets of our little town.  Mostly, I ended up at a small restaurant my parents and I frequented together at least once a week: Gandil.

Gandil was run by a froggish man who stood less than five feet.  A native Turkish Cypriot, Ümit was well traveled and had lived in London and New York City.  He shouted orders to his two sweaty cooks and delivered the best shawarma.  He took me in and very much became a father-figure, giving me advice on who not to marry and how to get along in the Cypriot culture. 

While I was received with a warm welcome, Khalil was the annoying slum boy guilty of soliciting.  Ümit made it clear he was an annoyance, but I took to him.  He was one of those boys where, even at eleven, you had a good idea of just how handsome they’ll be in a few years.  

In high school, I applied to be a “Big Sister” – it was supposed to look good on college applications.  When the counselor asked what I was looking for in a potential “little sibling”, I said I wouldn’t mind a rambunctious boy.  She smirked when I said that.  “‘Rambunctious,’ huh?  Don’t hear that request a lot.”  I didn’t get a callback.

With Khalil, I found my rambunctious boy.  He was the oldest of three and had very little parent supervision.  When we first met, and he found out I spoke English, he wanted to try what he had learned in school. “Hello my name is,” he would say robotically, missing the part where he had to insert his name at the end of the sentence.  I never could teach him to end with “Khalil”. 

When I discovered he’d be little for conversation, I whipped out my deck of Uno cards – something I carried in my purse in Cyprus as it seemed to be so universal.  People understand colors and numbers.  I demonstrated to him the basics and we began playing.  Every time I laid down a green card, he laid down a mismatching color.  Hayır,” I’d say, “no.  This card is yeşil!!”  He’d lay down another color, hoping that one would match.  The first few times he did this I thought he didn’t understand the premise of Uno, but quickly realized This kid is colorblind!  I kept using green cards anyway – he could always match the number if he had it.  It was dark –about ten o’clock—before he motioned that he had to go home. 

The next time I went to Ümit’s, Khalil was there, waiting for me.  He was skillfully bouncing a soccer ball from foot to foot.  He kicked it to me, but I quickly showed him I’m lousy athletically.   We went back to my deck of cards and so it began…our near-nightly Uno routine.  I’d whip out the cards and we’d play for hours.  My life became one continuous game of Uno, my enthusiastic opponent having a laughably unfair handicap.

At times, Ümit was my begrudging translator.  “Tell him I want him to come to America with me when I go back,” I said, only half-kidding.  After Ümit yelled my sentence in Turkish, Khalil’s eyes got big: he was mortified. 

“He doesn’t want to go,” Ümit informed me.

“And why not?!” I demanded. 

After listening to Khalil go on for a minute, Ümit told me something I hadn’t expected.  Khalil’s parents, devout Muslims, had taught him that America was a very awful, very ugly place—in his mind the opposite of everything Muslim and Turkish. He wouldn’t dare go to America when his parents had promised him that next summer, at the ripe age of twelve, he would be “allowed” to go to Turkey’s Hatay province alone to work and provide for the family.  With that, Khalil swiftly debunked my idea that the world’s poor dream of going to America.   

“What? America çok güzel!  It’s very beautiful,” I said, but Khalil shook his head in vigorous disbelief.  I pulled out my dad’s iPad and showed him a picture I had taken once back at home.  It was spring.  The Bradford pears lining the street were in full bloom: beautiful white flowers on the branches contrasting the emerland green grass below and the clear, blue sky above. 

“Ahmehreekah?” he said, pointing to the picture.  I nodded.  “Oh, yes, çok güzel!” Now, he was surprised.  America was supposed to a desolate land of anti-Islamists.

Even so, I couldn’t convince him to come back with me.  Every once in a while I asked him to reconsider.  I had an Angelina Jolie-esque vision of our American existance.  I’d take him under my wing in Kentucky. Luckily, our public schools had great ESL programs and a lot of other foreign kids.  With his looks and athleticism, he’d fit in from the get-go.  The soccer team would be lucky to have him.  We’d live at my parents’ house and I’d  simultaneously mother and sister him while providing him an opportunity for a better future.

I so badly wanted this boy to have a chance: a chance to not become another drag-racing, overly gelled Turkish boy; a chance not to become the hoodlum Ümit knew he’d be in a few years; a chance to rise above the poverty he was born into and likely to stay in.  I so badly wanted the purpose Khalil gave me.

It was not to be.  Five months after our bizarre friendship began, I was on my plane, unaccompanied.   Right before I left, I had Ümit tell him I was leaving with no definite return.   

When I went to Gandil to say my goodbyes, Khalil was in the corner of the restaurant, hiding his sadness only a little better than I was.  I pulled a brand new deck of Uno cards out of my purse – a gift I wanted to give him so he wouldn’t soon forget our bond.  When he realized it was for him, he held his hands up at me and shook his head. 
Hayır, no,” he said.

“Are you kidding?  Why not??” I asked, perplexed.  He loved this game.  Khalil gave his explanation to Ümit.

“Eh, his parents, they don’t allow him to play cards.  Religious reasons.” Ümit scoffed.

“Well sheesh,” I said, “we’re not gambling here!”

Ümit gave me a resigned shrug.  He wasn’t much for religion.

It was comical. “The past five months he’s been playing the world’s most harmless game and he isn’t even allowed!” I wondered what he told his parents he’d been doing these past months after school, or if they’d even asked.  My rambunctious boy. 

Before I left the restaurant, I tried to leave the cards with him one last time, but, good Muslim boy that he was, he refused.  That was the last time I saw him.

Luckily for me, two years later I had a child of my own who gave me that purpose I so yearned for in Cyprus. 

To this day, I think about Khalil and what our lives would have been like together, as silly and improbable as my dream was.  Sadly, I was probably right that he’d be much better off had I whisked him away to the land of the free and the home of the brave.  He’s now fifteen and with the combination of his particular heritage, religion, and political upbringing, likely a zealous prospect for ISIS.  My eyes sting just thinking about it.

I’m hoping that one day, when I go back to Cyprus or Turkey, I’ll find him.  I pray that he will be a hard worker, overcoming the adversity in his life honestly.  I pray even harder that he won’t have given his life to a terrorist cause that is looking to take over the world, massacring anything in its way.  That would defy all odds, of course, but a girl can dream.  And I hope that when next we meet, we’ll play another round of Uno.  

Khalil and me in 2011.  Umit can be seen in the upper left-hand corner
The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born.
Love them as yourself,
for you were foreigners living in the land of Egypt.
Leviticus 19:34

*I feel it's worthy to note, there is a very complicated history between the Greeks and Turks, explaining the hostility on both sides. Just Google it.