Monday, February 28, 2011

Netflix Movie Monday - 'Which Way Home'

It's Monday!  

Today, for NMM, I'm bringing you the documentary 'Which Way Home'.  Every year, thousands of South American children attempt to illegally immigrate to the United States.  'Which Way Home' chronicles the journey of three such children, following them as they ride the Mexican railway from the country's Southern border, to the Rio Grande.

As a staunch Conservative who lives in a border state, I was leery that this might be a Liberal slanted, biased look at the immigration issue.  Instead, I found it to be a raw, incredibly insightful look at the very real dilemma of illegal immigration.  What the cameras see is what you get in this film.  You are introduced to all sides of the issue, with interviews with relatives left behind in Hondures and Guatemala, as well as relatives State-side, both Mexican and American border patrol agents, and aide workers.

What I liked most about 'Which Way Home' is the depth with which the story of the three boys is told.  You watch them transverse from boyhood to manhood, revel with them in the joyous freedom of train jumping, and experience heart stopping fear when the road gets more dangerous closer to the border.

I came away from this movie with a clearer understanding of what illegal immigrants face in order to make it to our country, and also a better insight into some of their motives.  'Which Way Home' touched both Scott and I so much that now, days later, we are still discussing it together.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

At War

One night, my mom, dad and and I were praying on our veranda.  We had settled beside the opening that dropped five feet to the ground below, catching the soft evening breeze.  A soft darkness had fallen over the village.  For some reason, my sister and brothers weren't around.

Something was bothering my heart, so my parents said, "Let's pray about it."  That was always their answer. Even now, they will pray over the crackling phone lines for me when I come to them with some anxiety or problem.  Listening to my mother and father talk to God is like wrapping up in a familiar blanket and snuggling deep into bed.  It's safe.  Comforting.  Always there.

This particular night, as the three of us sat praying, the anxiety didn't lift.  It continued to deepen.  A great, rolling heaviness moved in through the open doorway.  Sadness pulled at my heart.  Despair turned my arms into lead.  It became difficult to breathe.

Dad continued to pray haltingly, then finally stopped.  An awkward silence descended.

"Why don't you just give up," came a voice to my mind.

Suddenly, Mom slapped at her leg.  Then her arm.  Then she was slapping all over her body.  Slap. Slap. Slap.  It was the only sound in the dark stillness that seemed a little darker than an ordinary night.

"Pam, what are you doing?"  my dad asked.

"It's the mosquitoes,"  my mom said in frustration.  "They're everywhere!"

I could just see the outline of Dad's head as he turned to me.  "Danica, do you feel mosquitoes?"

I hadn't until Mom had said something, and then suddenly they were pricking me all over.  "No ... "

"Me neither.  Let's pray."  We bowed our heads, and prayed.

We prayed for protection.  We prayed for deliverance.  We prayed for God's angels to be with us and surround us.  And as we prayed, the mosquitoes stopped distracting.  The heaviness lifted.  A peace descended in its place.  The great anxiety and despair had to flee in the presence of the Living God.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 
Philippians 4:6-7 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Island Feet

Before we left for the mission field, my parents read a lot of books about the living conditions and inhabitants of Pacific islands.  One particular account by a turn-of-the-century explorer still stands out in my mind.  The man was navigating the South Seas, making acquaintance with the cannibals who lived there while searching for King Solomon's lost gold.  The explorer tells of a native who, to demonstrate the utter uselessness of wearing shoes, put his machete to his heel and cut off a full inch of callous.

I was convinced that the story had to be an exaggeration.  But when we got to Papua New Guinea, I stared in horrified fascination at the dusty brown feet walking past me.  They were as wide as a man's hand, flat, with thick, rough, white pads on the bottom.  The toes stretched so far apart that you could easily fit a penny, width-wise, between each one.  Some of the more sophisticated Papuans wore flip-flops, and their toes overflowed from the rubber soles onto the ground.  Seemed a bit superfluous to me.  Like the teeny tiny pillbox hats ladies used to wear, perched like sleek bird's nests on their molded hair.

Three years later, I had become so efficiently acclimated to the Island culture that I was proud of my 'island feet'.  I didn't have to mince around anymore like some delicate china doll.  Instead, there I was, running over the razor sharp coral reef at low tide, virtually unscathed.  I grew thick, protective callouses on my feet, and my toes stretched out to embrace the earth, strong to grip into the dirt when I ran.

Being barefoot became so normal to me, that when we went back to the States for furlough my feet rebelled against anything other than flip flops.  It was the summer after my 9th grade year.  My parents sent me to church camp as a crash course, I guess, in preparation for public school integration that fall.  The first day of camp, the counselors all loaded us up into a bus and drove us out into the Texas hill country.  We stopped by a dusty little embankment, about 15 feet high.  Everyone piled out of the bus and began to kick around.

Of course, it quickly became a competition to see who could get to the top of the little cliff first.  The boys jostled each other, their testosterone spilling out with their sweat into the dirt as they worked to impress the girls, most of whom were pawing at the cliff and saying, "Omigosh, it's so high.  Like ... you know ... whatever."

Sizing the cliff up, I saw a little indentation running up it, where I should be able to wedge myself in and lever up with my legs and arms pressed against both sides.   Quickly, I shed my shoes, and after a few dusty moments was sitting in the dry grass at the top of the embankment in the shade of a little live oak tree.

"Woah, how did you get up here?!"  a guy drawled.

I shrugged.  "Over there," I pointed, a little shy to be talking to a boy.  In the village, boys and girls were kept strictly separated after puberty.  I hadn't had a real conversation with someone my age, of the opposite sex, who wasn't related to me, in years.  From then on, I shed my shoes every time we played tag football, ultimate Frisbee, or any of the 'mingling' games everyone is so enthusiastic about at youth camps.

A week later, we were having our end-of-camp 'awards ceremony'.  People were getting awards for silly things, like the most grapes eaten in one sitting, or loudest sneeze.  I got the 'Barefoot Award'.  It wasn't until I had gone up to receive my paper plate with the words 'Barefoot Award' written in Sharpie across it that it dawned on me that it wasn't normal to go everywhere without shoes.

This was the first lesson in many I learned that year about how little I really did know about American culture.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Blog Book Giveaway

Because of my mad respect for their pet librarian, I am reposting this from '3 Turtles and Their Pet Librarian.'  I'd advise you head on over there if you love free books!!!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Official Giveaway Rules and Swag

To celebrate our 10,000th visitor to the blog, we have raided our stash of goodies, and will send the whole kaboodle to one lucky winner. To enter the giveaway, all you need to do is comment on any post we put up between Monday, February 21 and Sunday, February 27. Each comment (one per post) will earn you one entry, and on Monday morning we will throw all the entries together and let a random child pick the winner at our story time.

Prize package includes the following:

Ranger's Apprentice Book 5: The Sorcerer of the North by John Flanagan (ARC/PB)
The Madwoman of Bethlehem by Rosine Nimeh-Mailloux (PB)
Jane by April Lindner (HC)
Compromised by Heidi Ayarbe (HC)
The River by Mary Jane Beaufrand (HC)
Scarlett Fever by Maureen Johnson (ARC/PB)
Freaks and Revelations by Davida Hurwin (HC)
The Waters Rising by Sheri S. Tepper (HC)
Mary Engelbreit's A Merry Little Christmas (PB)
Snakes! by Melissa Stewart (PB)
Frog and Toad All Year by Arnold Lobel (PB)
Action Figures by Bob Raczka (PB)
Fancy Nancy's Favorite Fancy Words by Jane O'Connor (HC)

Pinkalicious Perfectly Pink Collection (three books, stickers, poster and crayons)
A Dog Lover's Alphabet Book Jigsaw Puzzle

Something for everyone, we hope:) Thanks for visiting, and good luck!

Superman and Police Cars

Xander, Sophie and I made a break for it yesterday.  I had been climbing piles of laundry for three hours while the kids tootled around the house on their little child errands.  They started bugging me about getting outside, and I finally acquiesced (thank you, new year goals), partly because I felt guilty about not playing with them all morning, and partly because the four walls of the house were starting to close in.  My home felt about as big as a cracker box.

Xander, who had been wandering around the house all day in his Cookie Monster underwear, brought me the top to his Superman pajamas when I hustled Sophie off to get dressed.  There was a moment of indecision.  The pajamas are too small for him, having been a Christmas gift two years ago.  Not to mention the fact that little kids walking around in the day time in old, worn 'jamas are about the tackiest thing ever.  On the other hand, who can resist those big blue eyes?  I mean, REALLY?!

Figuring it wouldn't hurt in the long run to give in this once (and surrendering to the underlying desire to see him running around the playground as Superman), I helped him into the top.  Red cape and all.  A pair of sweat pants, his red Converse high top sneakers, and he was ready to go.  You can only be 2 once, after all.

I pulled on Scott's old Texas Tech sweatshirt over the yoga pants I hadn't changed out of yet.  One benefit to having a playground right up the street from you:  you can visit during the weekday in your 'I've given up all hope of even trying to be attractive' clothes, and nobody will see you.  Nice.

Sophie, on the other hand, picked out a silky black tunic dress with bright pink flowers splashed across it, pink cowboy boots, and a floppy pink ribbon for her hair.  I made her put jeans on under the dress.  She had a sparkly backpack that she had packed with some toys slung across her shoulders, and the 'let's get out and explore!' look on her face.

And off we went, a motley little caravan.  Superman led the way, running with his short little toddler strides, hands tucked up against his potbelly, tow headed tufts of hair pointing cockily at the sky.  Then came me, hands deep in the sweatshirt, alternatively calling for Xander to slow down, or Sophie to hurry it on up.  Sweet girl brought up the rear.  She dawdled along several paces behind, murmuring, "Why yes, we are going to the park ... it is a gorgeous day, isn't it?" and, " ... oh la la ..." to herself.

Rounding the block, we headed up the slightly busier through street.  Xander, very concerned about cars in the street, stopped each time one passed. He held his hand out, palm up, and shouted, "STOP!!", very fierce and commanding.

Along came a police car.  As it neared us, Xander yelled, "Woook, wook, Mommy!  It's a peese car!  Wee-ooo, wee-ooo."  He jumped up and down, red cape fluttering, his chubby little finger pointing.  The police woman inside the car smiled and waved as she cruised past.  As I caught her eye, then glanced back at my ecstatic son, I thought to myself, "It really doesn't get any better than this."

Monday, February 21, 2011

Netflix Movie Monday - 'Circus'

Good morning and happy Monday, everyone!  The show I'm bringing you today is both interesting and uplifting, and also gives a little peak into an exclusive subculture - all characteristics that draw me.

This 6 episode PBS documentary follows the Big Apple Circus through an entire traveling season (about 10 months).  It addresses the inner and behind the scenes workings of the circus, the performers, the business side, life on the road, and how the show is put together.

Paul Binder, artistic director and co-founder of Big Apple Circus, also performs as ring master.  A blue blood whose parents wanted him to be a doctor or lawyer, Paul quotes Greek philosophers and leads with gentle strength.  This is his final year as artistic director, and we get to watch his transition as he struggles to lay down his lifework.

Luciano Anastasini has eight generations of circus performers behind him.  Having sustained an injury early in his career on the trapeze, he now performs a dog act. We get to meet his wife and son, and are invited to discover what it's like to grow up in a travel trailer, constantly on the move.

Marty and Jake LaSalle are a twin juggling act.  These brothers have come to a crossroads in their lives and career - one is committed to his craft, and the other wants to go to medical school.  Christian Stoinev also has his sights set on college.  He comes from generations of circus performers, and grew up on the road.  He is now graduating high school from the one room, mobile school provided on site for the circus kids.  He is leaving the only life he's ever known, about to embark into mainstream American culture. 

TCKs will find lots to relate to in 'Circus'.  The circus is its own microcosm, with people from all around the world speaking many different languages, all coming together to create a subculture of their own.  These people live in constant transition, and no real sense of 'home' as a physical location.  As Sarah Schwartz, tightrope walker says, "We never say goodbye.  It's 'See you down the road.'"  

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Anna is my sister.  We are 19 months apart in age, and have been the very best (and worst) of friends.  She has the most beautiful thick, smooth brown hair (which I was always envious of), and a mild temperament beneath which hides the tenacity of a tiger.  She is incredibly brilliant when it comes to mathematics, logic, and problem solving.  Dad always makes her pack the car for trips, because of her uncanny knack of making all 50 pieces of luggage fit.

When we were very little (pre-elementary school), we spent most of our time together, either fighting or playing.  I'm sure we got on my mom's last nerve plenty of times with our bickering back and forth.  Then the wild would come into Mom's eyes, she'd pierce us both with a glare and say, calm as the air before a Texas thunderstorm, "Go to your room, and don't come out until you've worked it out."

Anna and I would march sullenly up to the room we shared, anger seething between us.  The line was drawn in the sand, and neither of us budged an inch.  This battle royal was a fight to the finish - somebody had to give in, and I was determined it wouldn't be me.  Anna sat on her bed, arms crossed, glowering at the floor.  I could tell she wasn't planning on giving in any time soon, either.

We sat there silently for a few minutes, each on our own bed.  I thought about the little creek we'd been building with the hose behind the house.  It beckoned me silently.  I looked up at my sister.  I could tell by the hard line of her eyebrows that she wasn't going to budge.  I sighed impatiently.  Really, this was a waste of a perfectly good day.  The sun was shining outside our window, the cedar trees broadcast their spicy aroma out over the hills, and our 'creek' called alluringly.  We had just been constructing a house beside it with sticks and leaves for our My-Little-Ponies.  I looked again at Anna.

I broke the silence.  "Look, neither of us is going to admit she was wrong.  And I want to go play.  Let's just pretend to make up so Mom will let us out."

"Fine."  My sister is mistress of packing a paragraph of meaning into one syllable.

We sauntered out of our room, and called, "Mom, we made up!  Can we go play now?"

A few minutes later, there we were by the creek constructing the My-Little-Pony house beside the dam in the creek.  Just like that.

I thought I was so slick, pulling the wool over my mom's eyes.  Now, looking at it with the fresh perspective of constant referee to my own kids, I realize that we really did learn the art of diplomacy and compromise in that stubborn standoff.  Yet one more thing that Mom was right about all along.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Netflix Movie Monday - February 14

Happy Netflix Movie Monday, folks!  (Oh, wait, is there another reason to celebrate today?  I hadn't noticed ...) Being the movie lover that I am, every Monday I try to bring you a new and interesting movie that I have found during the week, streaming, on Netflix.  Today's installment:

Netflix summarizes, "This Japanese anime feature from famed filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki follows the adventures of a 5-year-old boy, Sosuke, and his burgeoning friendship with Ponyo, a goldfish princess who desperately wants to become human. After running away from and then being recaptured by her strict father, Ponyo -- with some help from Sosuke -- becomes more determined than ever to make her dreams come true. But will her wishes throw the entire earth off balance?"

Think 'Little Mermaid' meets Japan.  This story is told with surprising depth, and still retains light hearted, playful, and fantastical elements. Although the movie is animated, you quickly believe the existence of Ponyo, gfish princess, and her amazing abilities.   

I have never been an anime buff, so I came to this movie with little to no knowledge of the genre.  What I found was a beautifully illustrated masterpiece.  The backgrounds are like Asian art set to motion, carried along by powerful orchestral scores, while the flatter anime characters interact over them.  The artwork and music are so strong, the film could be viewed with just as much enjoyment and comprehension in Japanese (although the version I watched was English).

Also impressive is the cast.  The estimable Liam Neeson voices Ponyo's father.  Betty White, Lily Tomlin, Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon, Cloris Leachman and Tina Fey all lend their voices to the film, as well.  

'Ponyo' offers a beautifully crafted, fantastical world that viewers will lose themselves to.  An excellent escape from an otherwise dark day!

According to my Facebook feed, it's Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!  Or, happy Hallmark Day.  Or, happy 'If-you-don't-do-a-grand-gesture-today-you-don't-love-me-even-though-you-tell-me-the-other-364-days-of-the-year' Day.  I mean, seriously, I am the original Valentine Scrooge.

The kids and I were at WalMart today, picking up our week's worth of groceries, and it was amazingly full of MEN.  Whereas on a usual Monday morning, you will meet the typical stay at home moms, elderly people, and occasional business person on a mission, men filled the store today.  They were everywhere.  Well, actually not everywhere.  There were none in Housewares, the Baby section, or even checking out the big screens in Electronics.  No, they were all congregating around the cards, huge tacky stuffed animals, flowers, and of course, the candy aisle.

Because nothing says, "I love you", like a card ... Oh, wait, a card does say, "I love you".  Literally.

Why can't men see that Hallmark is basically saying, "Look, you emotionally stunted MAN, you could never actually string enough words together to be able to tell your significant other how you feel (if, indeed, you DO have feelings inside that freakishly hairy chest of yours), so let the professionals do it for you.  You DO want to get some tonight, right?  We thought so."

Of course, any woman worth her salt won't be satisfied with just a Valentine's card.  It's a nice (and necessary) token, but had better be accompanied by a pink stuffed moose with a heart shaped nose and antlers the size of a shopping cart, and a huge box of chocolates.  The animal will be ooohed and ahhhhed over, sit in the bedroom for a few months, then be relegated to the Goodwill pile.  The chocolates, on the other hand, will sit uneaten for months because they go straight to dear wifey's thunder thighs.

There, my rant for the day.  Now on to Mother's Day.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Flying in a Flatbed

Guadalcanal is littered with the rusted carcasses of WWII giants.  Tanks, ships and planes can be found on the island's oceans, beaches and jungles, abandoned by Japanese and Americans alike after the war ended.  Bonegi Beach boasted one such behemoth, a Japanese transport ship forsaken after spitting its troops faithfully onto the black volcanic sand.  It now lay partly rusted, just a short swim from the beach, grown over with coral and home to all sorts of sea creatures.  The perfect picnic spot.

We used to make the 45 minute drive down the Guadalcanal coast every month or so when we were in town, to get away from the stifling stench of Honiara.  If we were lucky, other SITAG families would be up for it as well, and we'd all pack up, parents, children, an entire tribe of white skins, with our Igloo coolers and sunblock and bottles of water, to make a day of it.

We usually all packed into the group's many vans, and caravaned to the spot.  But one time, for some reason, we had obtained the use of a large flatbed truck.  It was the kind usually employed with carting pallets of Ma Ling and rice from the wharf to Honiara's various Chinese stores.  Today, however, SITAG had commandeered it for our Bonegi trip.

All the parents piled into the cab of the truck, with some overflow in an accompanying van.  Us kids climbed into the truck's bed, packed in like an animated bouquet of dandelions.  My dad was chosen as supervisor, to ride in the back with us and make sure nobody fell off, or dangled their appendages too close to passing cars, or got smacked by a low hanging branch.

Soon, we had left Honiara behind.  My dad sat at the very front of the truck bed, right by the cab.  The rest of us jostled for prime spots by the edge.  Bright green jungle began to whip by at increasing speeds.  Every now and then, the sparkling surf would flash though gaps in the undergrowth.  We gained speed, and the back of the truck bounced with increasing energy as it flew over the rough pavement.

There was a freedom in the sun and the wind, my hair whipping up like an electric shock.  The bright colors blended together in joyful tumult.  We were flying through our very own Pollock painting.  My dad held out his arms, long and high.

"Put your wings out!"  he shouted.  We all stretched our hands to embrace the rushing air.

"Now, fly!  Fly as high and as fast as you can!"  He beat his arms up and down.  We followed along, caught up together in the exuberant freedom of it all.  Faster and faster we beat our arms, all together, as the truck rushed down the jungle pavement and the wind struggled to capture our hair and clothing.

"Faster!"  my dad yelled, his voice barely discernible over the buffeting roar of wind in our eardrums.  We flexed our arms until our fingertips tingled, all of us together, a box full of fledgling butterflies stretching our wings for the first time.  Faster and faster we flapped.

And then, I think, for one magical moment, the truck's tires really did lift off, and we really did fly.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

What I Stumbled Upon at the Beach (Haiku)

Skyward eye staring
Gasping for rejected sea,
The fish lay dying.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

ROOM: Otherwise known as, the reason I didn't post Netflix Movie Monday yesterday

So.  Sorry to those of you who enjoy my weekly Netflix Movie Monday posts.  I had a great movie all picked out, ready to review yesterday (don't worry, it's on hold for next week).  Then, I made the mistake of going to the library.  Well, maybe not a mistake in terms of providing my kids with a lifelong love of reading.  Just a mistake in the fact that I picked up a book there that completely derailed my plans for the entire day. 

My friends the library turtles over at Three Turtles and Their Pet Librarian did a book review last week on Room, by Emma Donoghue.  It intrigued me, so I picked it up to read over the next week.  Problem is, Room grabbed me from the time I sat down at 1:30, and held me in its clutches until I finally finished reading all 321 hard-bound pages close to midnight that night. 

Room, narrated from the perspective of five-year old Jack, relates the life he and his mother live in an 11 foot by 11 foot room.  'Ma' has been imprisoned there for seven years by her abductor, who they call 'Old Nick', only seeing the light of day through a skylight set high in the ceiling.  Jack was born in Room, and its world is the only one he knows. 

The first half of the book tells, in Jack's words, the day-to-day details of their lives in Room.  About half way through the story, Jack somehow escapes, and the last part of the book describes Jack's struggle to assimilate in a world completely foreign to the one he's always known. 

Besides being beautifully written, with well rounded characters (even the secondary ones) and some heart stopping moments (seriously, it was like I was watching an action thriller on TV), this book speaks to the TCK experience.  Anyone who has lived in the third world, and has then been transported to a first world nation, will deeply relate to Jack's struggle to adapt to Outside. Things like the fear of driving on a speedway for the first time, or navigating an escalator, or marveling at the size of an indoor mall, are all experiences I share with Jack.  Jack also goes through some internal conflict that I can relate to.  He meets family members who are strangers, longs for the familiarity of 'home', and struggles with how to interact with people he encounters while completely ignorant of the 'hidden' social rules. 

This poignently written novel will soon be a permanent addition to my own personal library.  I have a feeling I will want to revisit Jack and the world of Room often.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Superbowl Sunday

My first Superbowl party ever occurred my junior year in high school.  11th grade was the year my parents went back to the Solomons, taking my two younger siblings, so that they could finish up their work there.  Nathan and I stayed in Austin with foster families from our church.

That winter our church's youth group had all gone on a ski trip together, my first time to ever experience snow.  Pretty much everyone else in the youth group had been going skiing with their families from the time they could walk.  I spent the first day on the bunny slope in a borrowed, banana yellow ski suit.  Determined come hell or high water to catch up with my peers, by the third day of the trip I was doing low jumps on the blue diamond runs.

Our youth pastor, about half way through the trip, set himself up with a camcorder at the bottom of one such jump, and filmed us as we all shot by, one after the other.  Goaded by the fact that everyone else was conquering it, I threw caution to the wind and when it was my turn, hurtled myself towards the jump.  It was steeper than I had anticipated.  And the drop off went much further down.  Knees bent, I shot from the end of the jump in perfect form.  Ever watched the old Roadrunner cartoons where Wile E. Coyote runs off a cliff and doesn't realize it until he's in mid-air?  That was me.  I looked down and screamed, "Oh, SHOOOT!"

Only, in my high pitched, fear induced voice, it didn't sound like "Oh shoot."  It sounded like, "Oh shit."  At least, that's how it sounded when the film was played back that night.  Some of the boys from the group thought it was hilarious that Danica had been 'caught' cussing on tape, and razzed me about it all night.  Annoyed, I just ignored them.  They always needed someone to make fun of.  Tonight, it was lucky me.

A few months later, the entire youth group had gathered at some one's house to watch the Superbowl.  I was at a loss about why everyone was getting so worked up about a football game.  I went and hung out awkwardly in the back of the room with a few friends.  I think Green Bay was playing that year.

I had a little knot in my stomach that night.  The house that was hosting the event stood in the neighborhood of our old family home.  The one on my dad built little by little, the one we always came home to, the one that was always waiting for us on Devereux Street, with its smell of plywood and dusty memories.  Right now, renters occupied the house.  It felt a little like sacrilege, that strangers could live in the one place we had always called 'home', no matter where in the world we were.  Here I was, 5 minutes away and shut out.

The party was OK.  I faked having a good time pretty well.  Then half time came around, and everyone got bored of what they had been doing - watching the game, flirting, eating, gossiping, and watching everyone else  watch the game, flirt, eat and gossip.  People were searching for a diversion.  Then, someone had the brilliant idea to pull out old tapes from past youth group events.  It caught on like wildfire.

Three or four boys led the charge, searching through piles of old VHS tapes.  I watched them idly, wondering why they didn't just pick one, already.  Then, slowly, I became aware that they were searching with purpose.  They were looking for one specific tape.  A dawning feeling of horror started to creep over me as I caught one boy glance sideways at me, snicker, and continue his search.  Sure enough, they found the 'Danica cussing' tape, popped it in, and fast forwarded to my specific moment of glory.  And played it over.  And over.  Again.

I looked in desperation at the adults in the room, but they either weren't paying attention, or were watching the scene unfold with isn't-it-great-that-teens-can-have-good-clean-fun smirks on their self-satisfied faces.  Determined not to let the boys win, I kept my chin up and a 'you guys are soooo juvenile' look firmly plastered on my face.  It wasn't until we were ten minutes into the second half that I slipped surreptitiously away.

Sitting in my car, alone, both hands gripping the steering wheel, I drove.  I drove unthinking.  On auto pilot.  Like a homing pigeon, my car took me back to Devereux Street.  I pulled to a stop in the street right outside our house.  Our house that should have had my mom and dad waiting inside for me, and our loved, worn furniture, and the perennial basket of fruit on the kitchen counter.  Great, huge, ugly tears welled up inside me, and suddenly I was snotting and sobbing and struggling to breathe, gripping my steering wheel like it was the only stable, real thing in this entire world.

The tears, and the emotion behind them, was less about the hurtful boys, and more about not having a safe place to go when the boys hurt me.  Looking back, it's really laughable that they would make such a big deal out of such a little word.  A word which I didn't even SAY, but even if I HAD said it, would not negate the fact that they were intolerant, hypocritical pricks.  There, I said it.

Sunscreen Mutiny

The battle with the sun was a constant during our village stays.  It beat with prehistoric fierceness on anyone and anything subjected to its rays.  Plastic turned brittle and white, clothing patterns faded into ghosts of themselves, dead brush became so dry it would decimate into powder if you stepped on it.

Sheltering in the shade became a habit.  We learned to instinctively go from one shade patch to the next in walks down the beach or through the village.  Even in the shade, though, our white skin wasn't safe.  Blinding white sand welcomed the sun and threw it back up at us, and the rays reflected from every wave that rose in the lagoon.

My brother Matthew was the worst at remembering to protect himself.  The youngest of our small tribe, he would often disappear with his friends before Mom could slather him with sunscreen and plop a hat on his head. One or two times he got burned so bad that blisters rose along his arms and over his face and shoulders.  He walked around for two weeks looking like some hybrid lizard boy losing his skin.

I hated putting on the thick, slimy sunblock.  On a hot day, (when you're already sweaty and sticky), it clogs your pores and barricades your skin from any passing breeze.  I'd try to sneak off without it, but inevitably Mom would come banging through the screen door with a bottle in hand.  "Did you remember your sunblock?"

One day, as I was mutinously slathering it on while sitting under the rain tank outside our front door, I came up with a story that kind of all made it worth while.  My friend, Valena, was watching me.

"What is that stuff?"

"It's lotion for white people,"  it was the best way I could think of to translate, 'sunscreen'.

"It smells good.  Can I try some?"  This is when my idea drifted put through the misty back layers of my brain and planted itself at the forefront.

"I don't know .... "  I said, cutting her a sudden mysterious sideways glance.  "I'm not sure if the other white people would like it."  I lowered my voice to a conspiratorial whisper.  "You see, this lotion gives us our white skin.  See how white the lotion is?  If we didn't put it on, we would get as brown as you guys."  I pointed to the freckles climbing up my arms.  "See?  I'm not very good about putting the lotion on every day, and that's why I have brown spots.  Pamela (my mom) is angry at me because I forgot my white skin lotion today."

Valena's eyes widened and I could see she was weighing the veracity of my story in her mind.  "Can I try some?"

I paused a dramatic moment.

"Well, OK, but just a little bit.  And don't tell any of the other white skins you put it on."  I smoothed a quarter-sized drop onto her forearm and rubbed it in.  The residue sat palely on top of her skin.

"It works!"  she breathed.  I smugly applied the rest of the lotion to my own skin, feeling that somehow the wrongs in my universe had, for the moment, been righted.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

2011 Goals Revisited: February

So I read somewhere (or maybe I heard it) that most new years resolutions are discarded by February.  I really was serious when I wrote, in my 2011 Resolutions post, that I am a goal oriented person.  And I really do want to focus 'whole hog' on rebuilding, restoring, and deepening my family, my marriage, and myself.  So on the first of the month, every month, I will revisit my goals and give myself a grade on how I'm progressing.

Most of you might want to skip this post, except for the one or two who actually care enough to read something as dry as a goals list (hi, Mom and Dad).

Goal #1:  Focus on Scott.  
What surprised me this month was how I had to redefine what 'focusing' on my husband actually means.  I would have told you last year (and been right), that  I was focusing on him by helping him achieve his (our) goals.  However, this year I resolved to try to focus on restoring the 'oo-la-la' (if you nowudImean) back in our relationship.  I have to admit that I kind of did this.  I mean, poor Scott often gets the short end of the stick when it comes to me, the proverbial drippings in the pan after I've emotionally fed the kids all day.  Here are some things I consciously did to try to focus on him as my husband and knight in shining armor:  
1)  I fixed him a cup of coffee every morning to hand him when he got out of the shower.  
2)  We went on a date out of town.
3)  When I was feeling hormonal, I tried to keep telling myself that 'it' (whatever drama I was imagining at the time) was all in my head, and to therefore KEEP MY BIG MOUTH SHUT.
4)  I tried to have the house clean, kids calm, and me out of my comfies and into some cute outfit when he got home from work every day.  Sometimes this just didn't pan out (remember the froggy potty?).
5)  I texted him cute little things throughout the day.
6)  I reminded myself of what an amazingly wonderful guy he is, and looked at him through the eyes of an enthralled woman (this is very fun.  I recommend it for any wife!)
Overall, I did OK, but have a lot of area for improvement.  
I give myself a C. 

Goal #2:  Focus on Sophie and Xander.
I think I did a pretty good job on this.  In fact, I think I over corrected, and become too nice, because my kids have started being very demanding, and I find myself immediately giving in!  Also, although whining and disobedience have increased, timeouts have been few and far between this month.  So I need to remember in February that 'focusing' on the kids doesn't mean 'catering' to them.  Here are some things I did well:
1)  Xander is potty trained!!!  (well, except for overnight)
2)  I started doing an hour of preschool work with Sophie during Xander's afternoon nap.  This has been wonderful because Sophie craves both the intellectual stimulation, and the focused attention from Mommy.  I'm pretty sure her love language is quality time.
3.  I have made a conscious effort to not retreat into 'Danica land' when we're out and about, but instead to engage the kids - let Sophie weigh the produce at WalMart, point out the train to Xander, talk with them about the red and green traffic lights, find and read road signs with Sophie, sing silly songs while waiting in line.
On this goal, I give myself a B.

Goal #3:  Focus on my family.  
This one has been easy and fun!  It mostly happens on the weekends, because that's when Scott is home with us.  We have both resolved to work together on this one, and as I've said before, we make a great team!  Here are some things we've done:
1)  Took a hike in the mountains, where Xander played in the snow for the first time.
2)  Worked together as a family to tear down the shed in our back yard.  I know, this doesn't sound fun, but we made it into family time:  the kids 'helped' with little hammers Scott gave them, and we all had a rollicking destructive time.
3)  Washed the cars together.  Sophie and Xander's first experience at this activity, too.  
4)  Took some family walks on the trail by our house.  On these slow rambles we threw rocks, explored plant life, climbed down into a drainage culvert, and just talked.
Because of my studly husband's help, I give myself an A- on this one.  

Goal #4:  Focus on my writing.
I think this one is pretty obvious!  I have been posting almost every other day.  What I am discovering, is that the more I write, the more I am inspired in my daily life.  It's a self perpetuating cycle.  Some of the stuff is not my best work, but at least I'm doing it.  I've also found a few blogs that inspire and motivate me - Lindsay over at Tiptoe Kisses, in particular.  She blogs about the writing process, and if you like to write, I would highly recommend you go check her out.  
Sometime this year I'd love to start work on a book, but am nowhere near that yet.  Right now, it's just enough that I'm writing.  
For that, I give myself a B.

Goal #5:  Focus on my body.
This goal I have only started working on over the last two weeks.  Here is how I have attempted to get healthy (aka loose the last 15 lbs):
1)  I have gotten up to run about 4 mornings a week.  I use the term 'run' loosely, as at this point it's a slow, easy jog.  About a mile every day.  But hey, it's a start, right?
2)  I have cut back on my portions, and tried to eliminate most sweets and after 8 pm snacks.  (notice the use of the word 'tried'.)
As a result, I have lost 3 lbs.  3 down, and 12 more to go.  I could be a lot more consistent with my exercise, and more self-disciplined with my eating habits, so I give myself an overall B.