Friday, November 27, 2009

Blessings Abound

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow. ~Melody Beattie

I love this picture--I never had a Thanksgiving that looked like this, and I suspect that very few American Thanksgivings do look like that. I love the anticipation on the faces...the extended family, the best china, the joy. I am so thankful for home and health, family and friends, work and play. God is good and He has filled our lives with abundance.
Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Monday, November 23, 2009

22 Years.

What did you think the day you got married? Were you nervous? Did you wonder if you were doing the right thing? That you had chosen the right partner? Were you absolutely confident in your path? I was...and I wasn't. I remember thinking that I didn't seem old enough to be making this step. It was all so exciting to accept a ring and plan a wedding, but getting married? And then being married?

I went from being someone's daughter to someone's wife, from the home I grew up in to a home with my husband. I have never known a life of living on my own, of being completely independent. I married who I thought was my soulmate, someone who was meant for me because we were so much in love, so much alike, so much "together."

Twenty-two years, 3 kids, and 3 continents later...I know we are not alike. He is hard-working, I tend to the lazy. He sets goals and accomplishes them, I find myself often pleasantly surprised by how things turned out (or how they didn't). He does what needs to be done first, I go to bed when the going gets rough. He talks it out, I yell it out. He saves, I spend. He's a vault, I may be accused of gossiping. He sleeps with the windows open, I sleep in fleece on the equator.

And yet there is no one else for me. Not since the day I met him 32 years ago. I stood up and said "I do" and never wavered for one instant that he was not the man God intended for me to marry. I read somewhere that it's not about finding a person who create good times with, it's about finding a person that you want to face life with, whatever life may bring. I look back and see things I wish I had done differently, choices I wish I had made, but he's always been part of whatever road I would choose.

I've learned that love is not enough. It's not enough to love someone, or to have the very best intentions. It is determination, hard work, and discipline. It is vigilance and nurturing. It is carrying and being carried. And it's happiness. Relief. Bliss. Peace. Safety. Comfort. Joy. It is, in short, everything I need. Every step of the way has been made better because of who I'm walking with.

Happy anniversary.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Love Reading!

Oh, I'm back in the saddle again with reading. I LOVELOVELOVE my Kindle! Seriously in a whole lotta love with my Kindle. I wouldn't have bought one if I were in the States--a trusty library card, bookstores, Amazon...what a blessing it is to have access to books! Sinnce we left the States there has been a dearth of book in my life and I've felt it terribly. In Beijing we have lots of readers and a big school library so it was better, but Amazon shipping is a fright and book take up too much space in luggage that needs to be used for tampons, shoes, Parmesan cheese, sunscreen, and chipotle seasoning--you know, the basics. And what have I bothered to read with my new-found portal back into the world of reading? Certainly not the high-minded literature that Edith Wharton promotes over on Lucy's blog.

I unapologetically loved The DaVinci Code. It clunked along in spots and played fast and loose with history, but that's OK. Despite the constant reminders of the protagonist's good looks, I enjoyed the ride. Loved Angels and Demons, too--although it was even clunkier and the ending REEKED. Peee-ew. My favorite scene had them running as the time ticked away and Langdon realizes that they are running uphill underneath Rome on the original streets from the time of Peter. I got goosebumps.

So The Lost Symbol is, I think, the weakest of the 3. Masonic mysteries just don't have the pull of Catholics and Christ. And it yabbers on at the end, over, and over and OVER about the mysteries of life. But it's a fun ride through the history of Washington, DC and the areas of the monuments that are not public and the history that exists out of sight of the nation's capital.

After that, what could be better than a fresh twist on an old classic? I made the mistake of choosing Mr. and Mrs. Darcy this summer (run away from that one, folks) so this time I chose wisely by following the undead. It really is Pride and Prejudice with zombies. What passes for "accomplished" for a woman includes considerable skills in the deadly art of zombie killing. Both Elizabeth and Jane are especially noted for their prowess, while the other Bennett girls manage to do their share of damage when they're not being too silly. It matters, too--a simple ride to Netherfield is fraught with danger as the "unmentionable" crawl out of the woods and hijack passing carriages. Lady Catherine de Borgh goes head to head with Lizzie in a scene that includes ninjas, and I won't tell you who ends up as a zombie (but it was a wonderful set of scenes), although I felt much more satisfied with Mr. Wickham's fate in this version. I liked the study guide at the end, which invites readers to consider whether or not author add gratuitous violence simply to attract more readers and whether the Bennetts Chinese training was in any way inferior to Mr. Darch and Lady Catherine's Japanese-ninja expertise.

I did see that there was a Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters but that seems just ridiculous.

I did redeem myself with Loving Frank, based on the love affair of Frank Lloyd Wright and the building of Taliesin in Wisconsin. What a PAIN artists are. Seriously. At first I was annoyed that it was a tempermental (married) artist and a woman with a wonderful family who was just sure that tempermental artist was freeing her from the monotony of being average. I was angry at how she justified abandoning her children to find herself. As the story unfolded, Mameh becomes not only more independent from Wright, she begins to understand the price she's paid to be who she is now. The ending was sensationalistic, though, and I didn't care for that, but I did come to really like Mameh--her strength showed when she moved as an unmarried woman in with FL Wright into Taliesin in a small town and I think I would have liked to know her if I had lived in Spring Grove, Wisconsin.

Another very good book is The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, also set in Wisconsin. It was an Oprah pick and also the author's first book. Which begs the question, if a guy can write a book like this, what the heck has he been doing all this time?! Definite Hamletian (or maybe it's Shakespearean) overtones. Edgar was born unable to speak. His family breeds dogs, Sawtelle dogs, a passion with Edgar's father and grandfather to create a new breed. Edgar signs to communicate and his situation, which has him watching and observing without communicating, gives him a rapport with the dogs he lives with. When Edgar's father dies suddenly (was it murder? Edgar thinks his uncle Claude might have done something) he receives a vision that troubles him, especially when his uncle moves in and takes over the father's role (see the Hamlet connections. After another tragic accident Edgar runs away with 3 of the dogs. His journey back to himself and his family is painful and there's no happy endings, but it's a beautiful story. I loved the chapters from the dog's point of view...they are so sensory, full of images and smells and memories that are so different from how the human characters see those events. I highly recommend it.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


You have your oenophiles (and, for the record, I spelled that correctly the first time without looking, so there).

You have your bibliophiles.

I'm a lalaphile. "Kulala" is Swahili for "sleep" and I've decided I lovelovelove sleep. Not because I'm so tired, or because I'm not exercising enough, or because I'm in some sort of psychological avoidance. I just love so many things about sleep.
(and no, I don't want to sleep like a baby...remember how they woke up all the time and pooed and peed?)

Part of it stems, I think, from the fact that I had serious postpartum depression after Cameron was born...the kind that takes down your marriage, makes you a stranger to everyone, including yourself, and means sleep is a vague memory. For over 18 months I didn't sleep more than 3 hours a night. Seriously. On a weekend I might pick up an extra hour or two by sleeping in, but basically Sunday through Thursday I worked full-time in an adolescent alternative school, and was a full-time mother and wife (although that was in name only, really--it mostly consisted of me laying on the couch watching the world go by and reallly not caring so much about it all). When a doctor finally said, "Carla, met your new friend Mr. Prozac" I slowly crept back to the land of the living. Sleep came back, too...a little.

Still, there would be stretches. Mark was not allowed broach any potentially troublesome or irritating topic of conversation after, say, 8:00 and absolutely NEVER wtihin the confines of the bedroom. A relatively harmless statement like "Do you remember if we paid the insurance bill?" would result in a sleepless night. Really, most conversations had to be rigorously censured. The thing was, was that a few nights of sleeplessness could be made up later tha week.

Africa was better. You could never sleep in, thanks to the cows and donkeys and dogs and chickens and people and horns, but it got dark at 6:00 and it was pretty darn quiet after 9:00. For the first time in my life, though, I woke up at some point once or twice a night--dogs or our security guard--but that was more vexing than serious. After the robbery, well, I really never slept in Tanzania a full night after that. From October through June, except for the 10 days I spent in the States, I didn't sleep more than 5-6 hours a night.

But now--wow. Because I'm working, I'm tired in a way that I wasn't as a a SAHM. Our compound is quiet. My bed is so so so comfortable--seriously, we've had this mattress for 15 years and I'm afraid to replace it because whatever comes next might not be the same. My room is warm, my comforters (yes, there are more than 1) are soft and heavy. I now have a Kindle so I can read in bed. *sigh* It's heaven. It's funny that I've never spent any time or money decorating my bedroom or creating a mood or a theme because after all, I spend 99% of the time in there asleep. It's so heavenly that I start thinking about going to bed around 8 every night. Sometimes I think how nice it would be to watch a movie in bed and I'm tempted to get a TV, but I resist. Beds are for those other things--reading and sleeping.

OK, I know they're also for sex. But this is about sleeping and it's best on my terms. And that means without negotiating covers or sighs over how long the light might be on, or bodily noises, or entreaties for some romantic interludes. Because--truth time here, folks--one of my favorite bedtimes happens when Mark is gone. When I can sleep smack in the middle of the bed, keep the light as long as I please, turn up the heat, and have the covers just the way I want them when I fall asleep and when I wake up.

So, yes. I'm proud to say I'm a lalaphile. Join me in celebrating the joy of sleep! Lalas, UNITE!

Shuì gehǎojiào! (sleep well!)

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

I Know Bloomington

I know Bloomington.

I see kids splashing, diving,and screaming at the pool.

Baseball fields zoom by while I'm riding in the car.

I hear the noise of cheering from the Metrodome.

I smell intense Einstein bagels warm from the ovens.

I taste newly roasted pumpkin seeds.

I feel the sun soaking into the baseball diamond

and the dirt warming up to a roasting 100 degrees.

I know Bloomington.
--by Noah

Monday, November 02, 2009

It's Like the Dishonest Butcher Said..."Happy Hollow-weenie!"

It was the SECOND Halloween, as Noah and Ava reminded me, having been deprived of Halloween for the 3 years we were in Tanzania. Ava got another dig in about how she was too young to remember practically anything about American Halloweens. There were pumpkins--Noah turned up his Yankee pride--and a snowman pumpkin (that was on Sunday--3 inches of snow, courtesy of our oh-so-helpful government weather manipulators). There was candy, both yummy (malted milk balls, Tootsie-pops, and Snickers) and "eh" (shrimp-flavored candy, rubbery miniature pizza slices, mystery nuggets). There were trick-or treaters (some that tried to shake us down Friday night, others that didn't quite understand "no. more. candy." at 10 pm on Saturday night. It really doesn't compare to a good ol' suburban Halloween romp, but it definitely gets the kids fired up and we have a great time. It's safe enough that kids like Noah can go with a pack of their friends. It's safe enough that Cameron and his buddies can wander and roam between compounds. It's scarey enough that Ava needs an escort. And it's hilarious to watch how militant some Americans (myself included) can be about how things are done. No costume? NO CANDY. You didn't say "trick or treat"? NO CANDY. You can't speak English? Here's a 30 second lesson: say TRICK. OR. TREAT. or NO CANDY. Accidentally leave your lights on but you're not home to give out candy? Well, obviously Hitler's relatives live there or something.

Cameron here went for irony. Or maybe sarcasm. He has not, and vows he will never, open any of the Twilight oeuvre. Nor will he lay eyes on any of the movies. But the only people on Earth not familiar with K-Stew's sour expressionless face would have to be in a coma. So I give you Bella and Edward. He really does sparkle in the light (thanks to some iridescent embossing powder I found in my art stash). And Cameron, in his tight jeans and t-shirt, really did pull off the girl look, although he did endure numerous comments about his lack of breastal magnitude. To which I replied, "welcome to that club."

No, there are no pictures of Noah. Poor middle child. He was Mr. Everything, which amounted to him wearing random articles of clothing on random parts of his body and running out of the house at breakneck speed. I also unfortunately missed getting his Micheal Jackson moves on tape while wearing his costume. Priceless.

A sweet pirate wench and a princess. Note the really loooooong hair on the princess. It reminds me of those Chrissy dolls, where you pushed their stomachs and yank their hair to make it long. The ponytail is the exact color of Ava's real hair and garnered a LOT of attention. As the temperature dropped she ended up with Noah's cloak, so she looked like an undercover princess, forced to steal away in the dead of night from her castle.

Bella the pirate and Gabby the fireman/fireperson are Ava's closest friends. Gabby is moving to Belgium next year and Bella is likely leaving, too. Their parents are good friends of ours and I hate them all. Ava has had a hard year adjusting to her good friend moving last year. When Gabs and Bells go...honestly, do people think only of themselves when making life and career decisions? Doesn't anyone think about ME? How their decisions might affect ME? What will happen to MY family when they go gallivanting off to new places and new friends? Sheesh.

And, last but not least...flashback to Flashdance and turned up collars. We did an 80's party Friday night at the local bar. You really can't tell from this picture how tight those jeans are or that he's wearing those dress ankle boots that zip up. We met up with our friends (Dynasty-esque shoulders pads, a hopeful for a Whitesnake video, and a Flock of Seagulls hair) and had a great time. Which is funny because neither of us really likes those kinds of parties, and definitely not at a bar, but when you throw in 2 teacher was worth the frosty blue eyshadow!
Hope your Halloween was safe, happy, and heavily spiked with sugar!