Saturday, November 12, 2011

New Beginnings

Hi!  I bet a lot of you are wondering what the heck happened to me.  I haven't written in the last 3 months because I have been:
  • sick in the mornings
  • tired
  • emotional
  • constantly nauseus
  • sick in the afternoons
  • spending a lot of time in my 'happy place'
  • neglecting housework and kids
  • sick in the evenings
  • drinking lots of ginger tea
  • eating tons of crackers
Guessed yet?  Yes, that's right, I'm pregnant!  Growing a new little life inside of me.  If you've been following my blog for a while, you'll know that I have lost babies in the past. Those losses make this new little one all the more precious.  I'm safely past the 1st trimester mark, which is why I'm sharing with you all now. 

I'll probably be writing only sporatically while pregnant, and during the sleepless-night phase after the baby comes.  But I know you will all celebrate with me on this addition to our family!  Here's to new beginnings!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Book Chat - Interview with Author Susan Salluce

My friend Susan just published her first book, 'Out of Breath'.  How exciting for her!  The finish line seems sooooo long for me, that I wanted to sit down with her for a virtual 'chat', to discover more about her new book, and what makes her 'tick' as a writer.

So, what inspired you to write your first book?

I was working as a grief therapist, and while I adored my clients and worked very hard on my specialty, I felt a dark cloud over me. A friend/colleague introduced me to the term, Compassion Fatigue. Essentially, I was burned out. While in a group meeting of therapists one morning, the question was asked, “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” I exclaimed, “I’d write a book!” Three months later, I resigned. Nine months later, I birthed my first draft of Out of Breath. I’d always wanted to write; fear of failure held me back.
What do you find particularly challenging about the writing process?
To stay present. To shut out the noise around me, whether it be my “to do”  list, laundry, a Costco run, exercising, “shoulds.” The worst: what if this isn’t…funny enough, impacting anyone, doesn’t attract an agent, the market doesn’t pick up, blah, blah, blah. It’s so important to write because I love to write. And I do so love to write…it feeds my soul!
What is the best part of the writing process?
When I make an emotional connection with my reader. My goal in writing Out of Breath, publishing articles about parental bereavement and holiday grief, my short stories about my father's Alzheimer's disease, our family's experience with suicide, is to touch someone. I want to help a person feel less alone in his or her grief. Just the other day, a friend said she read my short story, The Veil, off of my blog, and came away with a sense of being understood and also understanding me; this sense of being human and connected. This is what I loved about being a therapist, and miss, and can now pour into my writing. 
Out of Breath is a novel about parental grief, addiction, and recovery. You say in your book synopsis that,"... it's the prodigal story of grace undeserved." Sounds like something from the New Testament. Are there Christian overtones?
I'll answer that two ways. 1. One of my readers, prior to publication, did not attend church. After she read my book, I asked her to give me her "take" regarding it's spiritual tone. She replied, "You have spiritual overtones?" 2. Another one of my readers is studying at a seminary down south. After finishing, she told me that she thought it was Christ centered and real without being "in your face." I guess the answer to the question is, yes, but the message will be heard differently, based on the life experience of the reader. Isn't life amazing!
Who is your favorite author and what is it about his/her work that you love?
Really? One!! I can’t. Two. My first is Anne Lamott because she is quirky, brutally honest, transparent, her writing brings me to out loud laughter or streaming tears, she has a potty mouth  AND she loves Jesus and she understands grace. I have read all of her books. Twice. Her writing instruction book, Bird by Bird, is my writing Bible. If I can learn to keep the mice in the jar who are tapping at the glass, wanting to scream out that ‘I’m not good enough,’ then I’ll be okay for one more day. My second favorite author is Jodi Picoult. Her characters, ability to build suspense, add tension, and sneak in plot twists, well, she's amazing. I never tire of her books. She's a role model, for sure. Plus, when I’ve written her emails, she actually answers them.
What is the greatest piece of wisdom you ever received?
Writing wise, it’s that I have to develop thick skin and be able to welcome critiquing and criticism. Now, this did not come easy. I am sensitive, cry easy, pour my soul into my writing, and so, when my first draft came back looking as though a red pen leaked all over it, I wanted to put it through the shredder, throw the covers over my head, and toss my laptop into the garbage. Fast forward to the present, I get a critique back, see those red marks, and exclaim, “Yes! That is so right on. How did I not see that?” It’s a process, for sure. I’m still sensitive and cry easily, but not over a critique. Oh, and I have an amazing editor and writing partner, thank you Jordan and Christina.
What is one ‘random’ fact about you?
I try to sneak in a name or special personality trait of people who are close to me into each of my stories. When you read Out of Breath, my upcoming book, No Ordinary Girl, and even some of my short stories, you just might find your name popping up or a personality trait shine through! No, I don't reveal your inner secrets. Much... Just kidding!
What new project are you working on?
I’m juggling a few. One is a humorous, chic-lit book with a twist of self-discovery titled No Ordinary Girl. I’m about 75% through my first draft and hope to complete the rest by next spring. The second is a parenting book for spiritually minded parents of tweens and teens who are struggling with giving over their kids to a social media frenzy world and who want to reclaim their family time. Although the book tackles strong issues, the writing is light, humor-filled, and keeps it real. My third project takes me back to my roots of grief work in that I’ll be a contributing writer for a post-vention program for the bereaved by suicide. I continue to look for ways that I can serve my community and when this writing opportunity popped up, it was a great fit.

Is there one particular event that helped launch your career in writing?
As a matter of fact there is. I entered my book into the South West Writer's contest in 2010, and guess what: I placed in the top three for Mainstream/Literary Novel as judged by HarperCollins. It was so exciting, Danica! I'd never been to New Mexico, so, at the advice of my editor, I packed a bag and flew out to lovely Alberquerque, stayed at a fun hotel, attended the awards ceremony, schmoozed with agents, and came home with an award certificate and a small check. (By the way, it took me a long time to cash that check.) I believe that winning that contest gave me the confidence to publish. It was at that award's ceremony that I heard an agent who'd been in the business for 30+ years say that he was fearing the e-book revolution and that self-publishing was not the red-headed step-child that it used to be. Amen to that and my apologies to any red-headed step-children!
Can we look forward to book tours/author signings for Out of Breath?
Absolutely! My book is already available as an ebook on the Kindle, Nook, and iPad and you can also upload it on any smartphone. I will have traditional books available in November in time for Christmas gifts. My first meet the author event is at Caffe Santoro in the town I live on December 16th from 4-6 pm if anyone is in the neighborhood. Bookshops, cafes, art council groups, and local libraries have expressed interest in having author readings and book signings. I will keep everyone posted on my blog and Facebook. Additionally, I will be visiting bookstores and libraries in Santa Cruz, Ca, as this is the setting of my novel. After that, I’ll branch out and introduce myself to the San Francisco Bay Area Bookstores and libraries. If anyone’s up for a road trip, let me know! You will be able to purchase my books on my website,, using your PayPal account or simply signing in as a guest starting in December as well, so please visit my website and follow me on twitter at Twitter@ssalluce.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Media Monday - Loving Lampposts

A year ago we cut our satellite TV service.  After all, why pay for something  you can get muuuuuch cheaper (or even free!) online?  Every Monday I review a movie or TV show I have found online (Hulu, Netflix, or some other service) that I enjoyed and want to share.  It could be thought provoking, moving, or just plain silly.  As long as it entertained me!  

Loving Lampposts
(available on Netflix and Hulu)

This documentary explores the world of autism, through the eyes of autistic individuals and their families.  When his son is diagnosed with autism, filmmaker Todd Drezner sets out to discover all he can about the controversial condition.  He interviews several children and adults who are on the autistic spectrum, as well as their parents, spouses, and medical care providers.

This is a fascinating look at autism, presenting all sizes of the often controversial diagnosis with objectivity and very little bias.  The film addresses the 'vaccine issue', holistic methods of treating the condition, and explores the different theories about the causes of autism.  It also looks at the theory that autism is not a treatable and therefore preventable medical condition, but rather a unique wiring of individuals' brains.

'Loving Lampposts' also delves a little into the history of autism, challenging the statistic that its prevalence has grown over the last few decades.  There is a compelling segment about an autistic man, born in 1951, whose mother was told by doctors that he would never speak.  She was advised to institutionalize him and "have other children".

'Loving Lampposts' is a great film if you are curious about Autism Spectrum Disorder.  You can count on it giving you an unbiased look at all sides of the controversy surrounding this mysterious condition, and you will come away from it with an appreciation for the individuals who are diagnosed with it.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Coming Home

I  spent the past week in my childhood home.  Or, should I say, my American childhood home.  Nestled among the cedar trees and live oaks of the Texas hill country, this old house has always waited patiently for us to come back to  it.  Even when someone else was living in it, it still stood as a testimony of permanence, standing there like a promise that we would all be together again, some day.

Mom and Dad have moved back in for a time, and my sister has, too.  When the kids and I pulled up and parked under the hack berry tree, whose uppermost branches I used to share with the wind, the house reached out and welcomed me.  The five year old Danica, the fifteen year old Danica, were in there too.

After the clatter of greetings and hugs for everyone, the weight of my life and memories settled down on me.  Parts of me were hiding all throughout this house.  There between the railings on the landing, the four year old me dangled  her feet.  Three year old Danica bumped down the stairs one by one on her butt.  The fourteen year old was hiding up in the corner bedroom with her dreams and castles.  And there I was in the middle of it all, trying to figure out where I fit in, now.

The oddly displaced feeling lasted through our week long visit, and followed me back home to the desert.  The kids and I tumbled out of the car on the tail end of our 12 hour trip.  I watched as they said, Hello I missed you to their childhood  home.  But I still felt disconnected.

The next day, we waited eagerly for Daddy to come home from his conference.  The kids drew with ice cubes on the sidewalk and I watched from the shade of the porch, as we kept a lookout for his little red rice burner.  Finally, it appeared around the corner, and we all jumped up as he pulled into the driveway.

I was the first one in his arms.  And in his arms, I was finally home.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Taking Some Time

Hello my friends,

The kids and I are taking a week long vaca, heading across to the state next door to spend some time with the grandparents.  I probably won't be posting much for the next several days, unless the inspiration hits me - and even then, I'm going to try to resist, because I want to really use this time to work on my manuscript.  So, adios amigos, and see you all on the flip side!


Sunday, September 11, 2011

God Bless America

My first day of high school in America started out with all of us standing, and repeating the Pledge of Allegiance together with the loud speaker.  My heart swelled underneath the hand I had placed over it.  I was filled with a sudden, fierce pride and gladness to belong here.  To this day, that feeling of pride and gladness still comes over me when I repeat the Pledge of Allegiance.

America really is a beautiful country.  I'm not talking about the landscape, although she boasts wide plains, high mountains, the Grand Canyon, numerous rivers, lakes, streams, Yosemite, Yellow Stone, Niagara Falls. I'm talking about the people.  America's people are beautiful.  I love all the blended colors, cultures, and yes, languages, that come together to make our country what she is.  I love the fierce determination, hard working spirit and generous hearts of our people.  I love what our country stands for:  liberty, and justice for all.

God Bless America.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Control? Or Trust?

I've been thinking a lot about my miscarriages lately.  When they first happened, I blanked them from my mind. Just forget, get over it, move on.  Then, months later, guilt started creeping up.  What if I had done this differently?  Should I have done that?  And now, most recently, comes an understanding.

People like to think that if they do x, y, and z, if they live their lives according to whatever checklist, then good things will come their way.  God will bless them.  It makes sense.  I mean, you hear all the time, God wants to bless you.  So if I don't perceive that I'm being blessed, I must be doing something to get in His way.

Only, in my reality, life doesn't work that way.  Good people die from cancer.  Bad people keep on living to screw up more lives.  I lose my baby.  Another girl smokes meth through the first trimester and into the second, and the baby's born healthy.

It's even more frustrating because this body, this tent that I live in, is mine.  Or so I think.  I feed it, I exercise it, I've lived in it for three decades.  I know it pretty well.  So when a baby starts growing inside of you, and then suddenly stops growing for no apparent reason, it's hard to take that you didn't do something to cause it.  Or couldn't have done anything to prevent it.

But I didn't cause the miscarriages.  And I couldn't have prevented them.  So there you have it.  Where can I go from here, this place of recognition that I have absolutely no control over this thing we call life?  I can't cause life, I can't will it into existence.

This understanding that I'm not in control has led to a deeper understanding that the only One in control is God.  He gives.  He takes away.  He is God in Heaven.  I'm not.  I don't understand why He does things, or allows things to happen.  But it's not my place to question Him, any more than it is my kids' place to question me, when I can see so much more clearly through my greater experience and knowledge.

So the question then becomes, do I trust Him?  Do I trust Him when my baby dies?  Do I trust Him when my dear friend dies from cancer, leaving three teenagers?  Do I trust Him with my present circumstances and my future plans?  Do I, in other words, have faith.

How about you?  Do you control?  Or trust?

(edited to add August 2013) ---
I'm digging around my blog, looking for old posts about my miscarriages, when I came across this one.  It still rings very true to my heart, except for the last bit, where I wrote, 'it's not my place to question Him'.  I used to believe this, but I have come in  my journey to a place where questioning is an important and valuable part of my faith.  I don't think God sits back when I ask him, 'Why' and says, 'How dare you question or doubt ME?!'  God can see more clearly, and dwelling on the 'why' too much can lead down a dark road of guilt and shame, but I don't want to discount the importance of the freedom to question and doubt.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Awakening to the Day

I woke up this morning to this status update on my newsfeed:
gratitude list:  my children, their great schools and teachers, our home smelling of back-to-school blueberry muffins, my hubby's hard work, my savior-jesus, health, espresso, water to drink, knowing gods word is true, work, friends and sleep with dreams.
For some reason (maybe the mention of espresso, blueberry muffins, and dreams?), this brought to mind morning time on Luaniua.

I would wake every morning to the shake-shake-shake of our house, rocking on its stilts as the family started to stir.  Mom coming from the rain tank outside with a pot of water, heading towards the single Bunsen burner where she did all her cooking.  The subsequent click, click, click, wooooosh as it caught flame.

It was up to us to get our business done before Mom had breakfast on the table.  The day would officially start after we had all gathered around the Formica-covered plywood that was bolted to the wall of our veranda on hinges, raised during the day to save room.  The veranda, running across the front of the house, was barely 8 feet wide.  At breakfast and dinner, we unlatched the table from the wall, lowered it on its hinges, and clustered around it on canvas chairs and stools made from upturned buckets.

I crawled down the ladder of my loft, and headed out the door to take care of my 'morning business'.  The sun was just peeking through the coconut trees, rising into a sky that was already so deep you could get lost in it.  There were rustlings from the hut next to ours.  A sleepy baby cried before being put to breast.  Chickens were scratching in the gravel path.  Smoke was filtering through the thatched roofs of the huts, the air heavy with the scent of morning cook fires and dew.

I traveled down the familiar path to the beach, relishing as I did every time the moment of breakthrough when the last stand of trees parted and the ocean lay before me.  Cool still from the night, a soft breeze swept off the water to greet me, its clean, salty scent awakening my senses to the day.

Connected By Loss

Most TCKs feel alone, but we're connected by our shared experiences of loss.

I came across a fledgling blog the other day.  It's written by another TCK, and, curious, I stopped to read a while.  Soon (very soon), I was pulled in by 'iTCK's' raw, heartfelt writing.

What I love about this blog is that its author is (or could have been) ... me ... a few years ago.  She is just starting her journey to healing and wholeness, trying to make sense of her experiences and multiple transitions in her life.

Here's a snippet from a post titled, 'Loss':
It's amazing how much a simple, material item, can mean so, so much.  My parents recently removed a couch from my room that I had always known was only a temporary establishment.  But when it actually came to them removing the item I felt another piece of me, somehow taken by that event.  I keep thinking, I always knew this would happen, and, we need the money so selling this will profit everyone.  But my thoughts keep turning back to the loss. 
Loss.  No matter material, like the couch that I just lost, or friendships or the physical aspect of moving from one space to another as so many TCK's experience - hurts.  We all grow and handle the situation in our own way but loss, in whatever light you put it in, is loss.  
If you're interested in more, you can find her at  Go check her out!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Media Monday - 'Big Brother' Week 8

Welcome to what used to be called, 'Netflix Movie Monday'.  This is where I review a movie / TV show / documentary that I have discovered, found interesting, and want to share.  As Big Brother is my annual summer time obsession, and it's on three times a week, Media Monday will be dedicated to BB recaps while the show airs.

Sunday, August 28 - Head of Household Competition, Nomination Ceremony

After last Thursday's crazy double eviction episode left the house guests reeling, Porsche comes out on top winning HoH.  Jordan and Rachel, the last remaining vets, all but give up hope since they are now outnumbered four to two, and don't have the power.  Jordan is deeply hurt by Shelly's backstabbing vote to evict Jeff, and goes off on him.  I was proud of her - it's the first time in two seasons I've seen a real, strong emotion from her.  Shelly is turning out to be a real snake, but I understand her wanting to split up Jeff and Jordan.  There's no way either one would take Shelly to the final two if it were Jeff, Jordan, and Shelly in the final three.   Couples are dangerous in the game of Big Brother!
Pandora's Box was reintroduced into the house, and of course Porsche decided to open it.  She won $10,000 to share with a friend (she chooses Kalia), but unleashed the couple's twist back onto the house for one week.  Jordan and Rachel are ecstatic, because it means that if they get put up on the block, and one of them wins the power of veto, BOTH of them are safe!
Porsche nominates Jordan and Rachel anyway, despite the couple's twist.

Wednesday, August 31 - Veto Competition and Ceremony

The Veto competition is an endurance challenge, where the house guests have to hold onto a dummy with the face of their old partner while suspended in the air.  Porsche has to hold onto a dummy with Keith's face and says if she never wants to have to see him again in her life.  Which is funny because she thought flirting with him was the way to get ahead in the game!
Rachel wins.  "I looooove to wrap my legs around my man!"  Ugh.
At the Veto ceremony, Rachel uses her PoV to take herself and Jordan off the block.  Porsche nominates Adam and Shelly, the only remaining couple, to replace them.

Thursday, September 1 - Live Eviction Ceremony, Head of Household Competition

Shelly does some major scrambling, promising everything from being Jordan and Rachel's total slave, to giving Rachel her (fake) diamond ring, but it doesn't save her.  Rachel and Jordan  are out for revenge, and vote to evict Shelly at the live eviction ceremony.
The Head of Household competition gets underway.  The house guests have to wade through an obstacle course to deliver donuts from one side of the yard to another.  It looks like hard work.  We are left with yet another cliff hanger, as the house guests battle it out for HoH.  But wait!!  If you pay the subscription price of $14.99,  you can watch how the competition plays out on CBS's online, live feed.  Aaaaand that's how I'm convinced the show makes it's real money.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

A Very, Very, Very Fine House

The first sound on the periphery of my awareness was the fussing of a rooster.  Its preemptive squawking was accompanied by a chorus of clucking and beating wings.  I opened my eyes.  The assaulting sun pin pricked a diamond pattern through the filtering mat wall at the foot of my bed.  Three feet from me, my sister was a huddled mound on her loft bed.

The bedroom we shared, a scant 9 feet by 9 feet square, also doubled as our home's library and pantry.  Anna and I each had our own loft bed, built three feet apart into opposite walls and elevated to fit a desk and a storage crate under each, with a foam sleeping pad on top.  This was where I did my school work, and kept my clothing and personal things.  I had glued some little erasers a supporter in the States had sent us in a row along the 2x4 beam that served double duty as wall frame and shelf for my desk.  The little rubber rainbows and unicorns kept me company as I worked on long division and adverbs.

The wall that didn't have my sister's and my beds against it was delegated to our significant book collection. Picture books filled the bottom three lumber shelves, followed by four shelves of paperback novels.  This treasure trove was right at the foot of my bed.  Every morning, L.M. Montgomery, Madeline L'Engle, Louisa May Alcott, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Daniel Defoe, Jean Craighead George, Gary Paulson, along with scores of others, would greet me like so many old friends.  I considered myself lucky to have 'the bed with the library'.  My sister's ladder abutted the food safe, a screened box where we kept our leftovers.

The interior mat walls in our house rose only 9 feet, with boxes of canned goods and supplies stacked on the shelves running across the top of them.  Here was everything we would need over the six months we stayed in the village.  As the months drew out, the piles of boxes next to the roof dwindled, until finally the ship arrived at the island to carry us back to Honiara.  Christmas and birthday presents were hid here too, bought months in advance and smuggled out to the village.  For this reason, we weren't allowed to climb up to the rafters and explore the shelves.

Sometimes we did, anyway.  We had a game resembling 'tag', where we would chase each other around the house.  The only rule was you couldn't put your feet on the floor.  Up and over walls we would climb, spider-walking from one beam to the next.  The entire house would sway on its stilts until Mom got back from the beach and put a stop to it.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

2011 Goals Revisited: September

Who out there was wondering if I'd abandoned my goals??  I have to confess something:  I did.  For three months.  Well, not all of my goals, but some of them, and I also abandoned blogging about them.  Why?  I needed a break from the pressure to perform.  I needed some breathing room.  I needed a summer vacation.  So I took a vacation from the two goals that are the most work for me - my writing, and my exercise/weight loss.  This summer I focused in on my family and marriage.  Here's an assessment of where I'm at now:

1.  Focus on Scott

Our small group is doing a marriage study right now called Boundaries in Marriage. It has been incredible.  Going over the curriculum at the beginning of the summer, I have to admit I had some major reservations about getting into it, mostly because some of the topics discussed hit way too close for comfort.  I was very happy where I was at, thankyouverymuch.  No need to go stirring all the ugly up!  But let me tell you, I am so happy we are doing this study.  Scott and I have gone to a completely new level in our marriage.  I highly recommend this study, but only if you have the courage to look at your own 'ugly' face to face!
Here's a clip:

My grade for this goal:  "A+" for all the hard work!!

2.  Focus on Sophie and Xander

All summer long, the kids and I hung out.  We swam.  We played.  We went to the library and then ate picnic lunches underneath the cottonwood trees outside.  This summer turned out to be a beautiful time of bonding for us.

3.  Focus on our family

We milked the family time during the long, lazy days of summer, as well.  We took several day trips to the near-by 'big city', got ice cream cones at Sonic after dinner, swam for hours.  We went through two boxes of Otter Pops, watched the city fireworks from our driveway, watched God's fireworks from our driveway.
"A +"

4.  Focus on my writing

Meh.  I was pretty sporadic this summer about keeping up the blog.  Some months I did awesome, some months I hardly wrote at all.  The reason?  I just needed a BREAK from the pressure of having to produce, to perform.  I have to say, it was pretty nice!
I'm giving myself a solid "C", for not giving up all together.

5.  Focus on my body

Wait, what?  This was a goal?  Yes, I must sadly report that I ran only sporadically this summer.  I did pilates even less often.  The majority of the exercise I got (if any), was swimming.  I made a point to tread water for 15 - 20 minutes every time I got in the pool.  Still, I gained 6 lbs, and am now back out of my goal weight range.  So, it's back on the diet for me (which I really have missed, no matter how yummy that ice cream with homemade fudge sauce may be, because the diet really does make me feel better).  My alarm is set for 5:00 am, and I am determined to work my running endurance back up!
"F"  (the most enjoyable "F" I have ever earned, might I add)

Friday, August 26, 2011

Fear of Failure

It came to me suddenly, and will not let me go.  It's an idea.  A story idea, to be specific.  The plot and characters are blooming in my mind, taking up permanent residence, demanding to be given a voice. 

And I'm scared.  Terrified, really.  I'm scared that:
  • I won't be able to do it
  • I'll get half way through the book, and get stuck, and won't be able to finish
  • I'll write trivial crap that nobody wants to read
  • That I'll be exposed and ashamed
  • I won't be able to flesh the characters out correctly
  • I have no idea how to go about getting published
  • Who would want to publish me, anyway?
  • And where, in my packed day, will I find the time? 
The entire process frightens me.  I think, really, because as long as I have known how to put words on paper, I have wanted to write a book.  I used to write and publish my own little books as a kid.  I had a whole series about Annie the Ant.  So this dream of writing a book is my oldest and dearest aspiration.  A lifetime of longings can stack up pretty high, and weigh mighty heavy.  Held up against that, the fear of failure is near overwhelming. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Media Monday - 'Big Brother' Week 7

Welcome to what used to be called, 'Netflix Movie Monday'.  This is where I review a movie / tv show / documentary that I have discovered, found interesting, and want to share.  As Big Brother is my annual summer time obsession, and it's on three times a week, Media Monday will be dedicated to BB recaps while the show airs.

The longer this season airs, the more I am convinced that the show is being manipulated by the producers.  They chose the competitions, and tailor them to the contestants that they want to win (more on that later).  And you still can't convince me that Brendan got 1,000,000 votes to return to the house.  Please.

Sunday, August 14 - Head of Household Competition and Nomination Ceremony

Everybody is quickly reshuffling their alliances, with Adam and Shelley bouncing back to the Jeff/Jordan, Brendan/Rachel camp.  Kalia, Porsche and Danielle appear to be on the losing side ... until Dani wins the HoH competition, against all odds.  She puts Shelley and Adam up on the block, both as pawns.  Her real target (according to her), is Brendan.  She doesn't want him to have a chance to compete for the veto, so she's hoping to back door him.  A risky move, in my opinion, but probably the best one for her right now.  I'm starting to have respect for her game.

Wednesday, August   17 - Veto Competition and Ceremony

Again, against all odds, Brendan and Rachel are the only ones who don't get picked to play in the Veto competition!  They sit on the sidelines and put through the entire competition, including some snarky remarks when Kalia wins a tropical vacation, and Jeff wins some more cash.  Jordan wins a phone call from home, but gives it to Shelley so she can hear her husband and daughter's voices.  Really, Jordan is about the sweetest thing ever.  In return, she gets to wear the 'humilitard' for an entire week.  It's actually pretty darn cute, with a pink tutu and pinwheel hat.

Jeff, Danielle and Adam are the last three men standing at the Veto competition.  Jeff and Dani throw the final two rounds so that Adam can win, thereby taking himself off the block and keeping their hands clean.  Very smart move.

At the Veto Ceremony, Dani nominates (surprise, surprise), Brendan to replace Adam.  She calls him a 'zombie', who keeps coming back.  Hopefully he'll stay gone this time!

Thursday, August 18 - Live Eviction Ceremony and Head of Household Competition

Despite all their scrambling, and Rachel's pouts, Brendan gets evicted, with Rachel the only one voting to keep him.  Brendan and Rachel get mad at Jeff and Jordan for not voting for Brendan.  Jeff explains very logically that even if they did vote for him, he'd still not have the numbers.  So why should Jeff and Jordan alienate themselves for a lost cause?  Makes sense.  But doesn't placate Brenchal.

Brendan leaves the house (hopefully for good), and becomes the first member of the jury.  He's getting the master bedroom of the jury house ready for Rachel to move in next week (let's keep our fingers crossed!).

The HoH competition looks mighty familiar ... would it be the same one that Jeff happened to win two years ago?  Why, yes, it is.  If I were a newbie houseguest, I would not be happy with the producers' choice of competitions.  We're left in suspense as to who wins HoH.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Spiritual Warfare

Burnt grass stretches away on all sides of me.  I am alone in this field of emptiness, save for a single tree in the distance.  It stretches dry branches to scratch the dark, lowering clouds.  There is ... SOMETHING ... lurking on the rims of my perception.  I can feel its hunger as it silently, slowly, stalks me.  

The tree is my only hope.  Up its branches I can climb to salvation, through the darkening clouds and out into brightness.  I start for it.  Now I can feel the darkness pressing hungrily at my back.  I pick up my pace.  The stretch of withered, stubbly field between me and the tree grows shorter, but I can also feel the something gaining on me.  

My legs are clumsy and ineffective, weighed down as if I am running through thigh high water.  I press on.  Suddenly the rough, cracked bark of the tree is before me.  I made it!  As I look up to reach for the lowest branches, I can see the uppermost ones parting the ominous clouds.  There is a strain of light coming through.  It illuminates my next handhold, and I grab on, swinging gratefully up.  

But not quick enough.  A basket ball sized sphere of soft flesh and feathers leaps from the darkness and slams into my chest.  I fall to the parched earth.  It presses down on my chest, a suffocating blackness.  Feebly I beat my fists against its feathery sides, but it only pushes harder.  I can't breathe.  I can't think.  I can't speak.  Panic chases terror in cold waves.  I know I am dying.  It'll be over soon.  

One thought flashes through the darkness.  "Say the name of Jesus."  I open my cracked lips, but my tongue fills my mouth.  I can't utter a word.  I can't even think the word.  I force my teeth together in the first syllable.

"Jee ... Jeee ...."  The darkness has almost burrowed a hole through my chest now.  It wants me.  Somehow I move my swollen tongue in my mouth. 

"JEEE - sus."  

Exhausted, I woke up.  My own familiar bed was a damp cocoon around me.  I lay for a few moments in the darkness, trying to to slow the beating of my heart.  "It was only a dream,"  I reassured myself.  "Just calm down, and go back to sleep."

But I couldn't calm down.  It seemed as if the darkness from my dream followed me into the night of my room.  I lay there, catching my breath, and staring into the thick darkness surrounding my bed.  Fear was a palpable thing, pulsing, pressing, pushing close.  

"If I can only make it to my parents' room,"  I told myself, "they can pray for me.  And it will be ok."  Gathering my courage, I swung my feet over the ladder of my bunk bed.  Now that I was facing the darkness head on, its power began to diminish.  Growing braver with each step, I left my room.  

Just one more corner, then I would be there.  With hope now blooming, I turned the corner.  And was brought short by what I saw there.  Suspended in the darkness, a face snarled at me.  It was a dog, with boar's tusks sprouting from its snout.  I blinked, and suddenly it was gone.  My heart leaping up my throat, I jumped through my parents' door, and began shaking the sleeping form I found there on the bed.  

It was my dad.  Together we prayed through the early morning darkness.  The heaviness began to lift as the sun rose.  Roosters perched along the village rooftops heralded the morning, and the coconut trees stood black against the pre-dawn grey sky.  

You will not be afraid of the terror by night, or of the arrow that flies by day; of the pestilence that stalks in darkness, or of the destruction that lays waste at noon.  A thousand may fall at your side and ten thousand at your right hand, but it shall not approach you ... for you have made the Lord, my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place.  No evil will befall you, nor will any plague come near your tent.  For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways.  They will bear you up in their hands, that you do not strike your foot against a stone. 
Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name.  He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.  With a long life I will satisfy him and let him see My salvation.  Psalm 91:5 - 16

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Keeping On Top of it All

I am all alone.  The pool beckons, crystal clear and bright in the sunlight.  I slip gratefully down the stairs in the shallow end.  One step.  Two steps.  Three.  Four.  Now it's up to my waist, warm as silk.  I move towards the deep end, going slowly down the incline.  

Now the water is a little cloudy around me.  I go deeper.  The cloudiness thickens into fog.  "Maybe if I dive down, I can find the clear water," I think.  I dive.  I can't see beyond my outstretched fingertips.  Suddenly the bottom of the pool is before me, and I'm boxed in by the milky thickness.  

Try as I might, I just ... can't ... find .. the clarity.  

Do you think that, perhaps, that dream was precipitated by this?

... or this?

Those are dirty dishes.  And clean laundry.  Sometimes, I am overwhelmed by the encroaching piles, the constantly threatening disorder of my life.  No matter how on top of things I am, there is ALWAYS something that sneaks up and bites me because I wasn't paying attention to it.

It is a constant, deep slide from clarity into fogginess.  And it will overwhelm me if I let it.  What's my survival method?  Get out of the 'pool'.  Get perspective.  Take a step back every day (several times a day), to feed my soul.  Just open my Bible, and let those healing words wash over me.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Little Change is a Good Thing

With the new school year, I've decided to dive head first into the world of homeschooling.  I'm figuring most of my blog readers probably don't really care what thematic unit I'm doing each month, or how I'm incorporating base ten blocks (or care what base ten blocks even are).  Homeschooling is not the purpose I had in mind when I started up this little blog.  However, I'm feeling the need to publish Sophie's school year as it progresses.

SO.  With all of this in mind, please direct your attention to the little menu at the top of the page:  Ta daaaaa!!!  A brand new, super duper 'Homeschooling' tab.  I'll blog about all the little things we do for school there, so it won't clutter up (and bore) my home blog.

Media Monday (or close enough) - 'Big Brother' weeks 5 - 6

Welcome to what used to be called, 'Netflix Movie Monday'.  This is where I review a movie / tv show / documentary that I have discovered, found interesting, and want to share.  As Big Brother is my annual summer time obsession, and it's on three times a week, Media Monday will be dedicated to BB recaps while the show airs.

So.  Indulge me in a little rant.  Some of you might be wondering why I didn't blog last week about Big Brother, and why I'm a day late on this week's post.  Simply put, it is a matter of apathy.  Disappointment.  A virtual throwing up of my hands into the air in an, 'I quit!'.  Why this sudden change of heart, you might ask? Why the frustration with your self-proclaimed 'summer time obsession'???

All these questions can be answered in one word:  Brenchel.

Allow me to explain.

Two weeks ago, Dani won HoH.  (Yay!)  She went on a mission to evict Brendan.  The houseguests fell into line and voted him out.  Finally.

Rachel subsequently went into self-destruct mode.  The veterans lost the HoH challenge to Kalia, Dani's new sidekick.  Kalia nominated Rachel to go up on the block.  All well and good.

And then it was announced that a special twist was coming after the next eviction, during which the evicted houseguest would get a chance to get back in the game.  This caused Kalia to second guess herself.

In the dumbest move in Big Brother history, Lawon volunteered to be put on the block and asked to be evicted.  He was sure he'd be put back in the game with special powers.

The houseguests unanimously voted Lawon out, keeping Rachel in the game.  Lawon competed against America's Choice (Brendan), lost (of course), and just like that, Brendan's back in the game.

So here we are, two weeks later, come full circle with Brenchel securely intact.  This is reason #1 that I am fed up with the game.  Reason #2 is that I am very skeptical that America voted to put Brendan back in the game, over Dominic, Cassie and Keith.  This 'reality' TV show is seeming more and more scripted as the season progresses, causing me to become disillusioned and loose interest.

And lest you call me paranoid, here was the discussion following the picture of Rachel embracing Brendan when he got back in the game:

The only person I really like, who is left in the game, is Shelley.  And guess what.  She's on the block this week.