Monday, March 21, 2011

Netflix Movie Monday - 'Grown Ups'

Since I reviewed a chick flick last time for Netflix Movie Monday, I decided to bring one for the guys today. Ladies, if you are looking for a movie that will keep your man's interest, and that you enjoy too, this might be for  you!

First of all, let me say:  I am a HUGE Adam Sandler fan.  I have loved him since his 'Opera Man' days on Saturday Night Live.  'Happy Gilmore' is a cult classic in my family - we can pretty much quote it start to finish ("What's the matter, ball?  You too good for your home??!").

A Happy Madison Production, 'Grown Ups' follows well in these footsteps.  Netflix summarizes it as, "a story of five childhood pals who reunite after 30 years to mourn the loss of their old basketball coach. Gathering at a July 4th celebration where their families meet for the first time, the friends find themselves acting a bit inappropriate for their age."  But it is way more than just that.  

'Grown Ups' runs true to classic Sandler style, delivering slapstick comedy, hilarious one liners, and goofy situations that are sure to bring a laugh.  But, like 'Happy Gilmore' and 'Billy Madison' before it, this movie also manages to bring a lot of heart.  The common Sandler themes of living up to a dead mentor's legacy, being true to yourself, the closeness of family ties and the triumph of the underdog, are alive and well in this feel good flick.

Besides Adam Sandler, who plays the lead role in the film, the cast includes other comedy favorites.  David Spade brings his characteristic dry sarcasm, and Chris Rock plays the token, surprisingly subdued yet still funny, black man.  I could have done without Rob Schneider (don't know why he keeps getting parts in movies), but Selma Hayek pulls out a great performance as Sandler's career oriented wife.  

If you're looking for mind candy that will make you laugh, and are willing to overlook some patently stupid moments (it wouldn't be a Sandler flick without some fart and boob jokes), 'Grown Ups' is the film for you.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Cover Up

One result of living on an island is that almost everything gets cooked in coconut milk.  Pretty much anything tastes better when saturated with the fatty, creamy white goo squeezed from grated coconut meat.  My favorite was when they cooked it in rice.  When rice is cooked in coconut milk, it turns into a lovely, gelatinous, sweet pudding, thick and chewy.

Sometimes, the islanders would weave little hand-size, diamond shaped containers out of coconut leaves and fill them with rice.  The rice containers would then be boiled in coconut milk, and in the end, when you unwrap the coconut leaves, you get a little diamond of rice pudding.  Rice to-go, island style.

One time I joined some friends on a voyage to some of Ontong Java Atoll's outer islands.  The women had packed the front of the fiberglass canoe full of food for the trip.  Taro pudding (the color and consistency of poo), fish dried over the fire, green coconuts for drinking.  And best of all, a basket full of little packets of rice.  I eyed those packets the minute they were loaded, and my mouth instantly started watering. 

Out we headed, over the open lagoon.  Cranked up to max horsepower, the little outboard motor on our canoe propelled us across the short, choppy waves.  A rush of exhilarating speed came as the wind swooped into our ears and hair and clothing.  The sun glinted sharply off the water.  We passed swirling flocks of sea birds dive bombing schools of fish below the surface.  The open ocean lay below, the sky spread above, and we were joyful inhabitants of a greater world. 

But with all the swirling of colors, light and exuberant movement around me, all I could think about was the little rice packets in the front of the boat.  I wanted one.  I wanted one bad.  I wanted to bite into the sweet, chewy goodness and lick coconut syrup off my fingers. 

I soon had my chance to ask for one.  One of the canoes in our fleet had something wrong with its outboard motor, and we all stopped in a little cluster.  The lagoon stretched deep, dark and blue beneath and around us.  The women settled in to chat as the men pottered over the problematic engine.  I turned to the woman nearest to me. 

"I'm hungry.  Can I have a rice packet?"  I asked.  She smiled and handed me one.  With blossoming anticipation, I took the little bundle of coconut leaves and started to unwrap it.  That was when I noticed that something was not quite right.  Instead of being covered with sticky, white coconut residue, the packet was clean and smooth.  I continued unwrapping.  A bit of the rice was exposed now.  I nibbled at it. 

I discovered to my dismay that this was not rice cooked in coconut milk.  It was just rice.  Boring, white, crumbly, dry, plain old rice.  My appetite went away as this realization dawned, and I sat there staring at a little diamond of rice that I didn't want to eat.  That I wouldn't eat. 

I looked around me.  Everyone was busily engaged, and nobody was paying attention to me.  Surreptitiously, I inched over on my seat until I was next to the side of the canoe.  Cupping the diamond of rice in my hand, I casually let my fingers trail in the dark water.  After that, it was as easy as just letting my grip loosen, and the rice slipped from my grasp into the vast lagoon.

And then, with dawning horror, I saw that the water only looked dark because there was nothing in it to reflect light back up to the surface.  The diamond of white shone brilliantly as if a million spotlights had been turned on it.  It was there, clearly visible in the crystal clear water.  Silently, desperately, I willed the rice to sink quicker.  I willed a giant fish to come up and suddenly snap it into its mouth.  I willed it to disintegrate in the water.  I willed the boat to drift to the left and cover it.  None of these things happened.

What did happen, was the woman who had given me the rice, and who I had lied to about being hungry when I wasn't hungry, only greedy for the sweet coconut, looked casually over the side and spotted the slowly sinking evidence of my deceit, glimmering brilliantly in the blue depths. 

I really did deserve the tongue lashing I got then, and the looks of surprised disgust, and the feeling of ashamed embarrassment that followed.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Pills and Chewing

I have to apologize for not posting this week.   It is because I am sick.  The ugly old Strep bug swooped down and took me out, wrecking gleeful havoc on my tonsils.  During the lowest days, as I lay shivering and sweating in my darkened room, I decided that this was worse than even malaria.  It was can't-do-anything-but-cry sick.  It was I-just-want-my-mommy-even-though-I'm-grown sick.

I am now on the upside, thanks to blessed antibiotics and lots of honeyed tea, but am still in recovery.  So, today I'm hosting a guest post by my sister, Anna.  She writes (fittingly!) about taking chloroquine tablets, which are anti-malaria pills.

(that's Anna in the forefront, me in the back)

Pills and Chewing
By Anna Gentry

I remember in the early days mom and dad tried many things to make chloroquine more palatable.  There was the first attempt: sprinkle a crushed pill on dinner.  This only succeeded in turning a rare treat of mac & cheese into bitterness incarnate.  

They continued the crush  and mix method with a variety of things with identical results.  The one I most clearly remember is honey.  A brimming spoonful of honey.  At first it looked great, it wasn't often that my mom would let me have that much sugar at one time.  I put the spoon into my mouth and pulled it out again through my closed lips.  The small pile of powder hiding under the honey deposited itself right one the center of my tongue.  Swallowing did no good.  Have you ever tried to swallow a spoon full of honey?  Sticky bitterness clung to every corner of my mouth.  The cups and cups of water which washed the honey away did nothing to erase the now infamous chloroquine aftertaste.  It was 10 years before I could eat honey without the taste of chloroquine along for the ride. 

In the end, it seemed that the best method was to throw a pill as far back in your throat as you could get it and chase it with great gulps of water. The trick was to swallow the pill and any contaminated water while minimizing contact with your taste buds. This practice became forever entwined with, as we called it, Gum Day.  

The weekly pills were handed out on Sundays.  The incentive to take the pill was the gum you received afterwards. I am not talking about those little pellets that were sold masquerading as gum under the name Juicy Fruit.  This was real American gum that came in foil wrapped sticks.  It was gum that you could really chew and sometimes even blow bubbles with. Though this was an ever so cool skill that eluded me well into high school. 

In one aspect alone was this treasure inferior to the locally obtainable varieties of gum.  Its Achilles was its  sensitivity to heat and we had plenty of that on a tropical island where air conditioning was a distant fantasy. The glorious sticks of heaven would melt in the tropic heat and humidity.  If I kept it too long it would get damp and sticky.  I usually did, keep it to long that is.  To me, having gum I could chew anytime I wanted, real American gum, was often better than actually chewing it.  For one you could savor the idea much longer than the taste.  For another, if I held out longer than my siblings (this was not hard when it came to Matthew, my younger brother with a sweet tooth) I could have the added pleasure of holding it over them that I had gum, real American gum to chew, any time i wanted to.   

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Earthquake at the Gardens

The Botanical Gardens in Honiara contain a wild rambling of lush, tropical growth.  While a normal rain forest is too packed and disordered to effectively display its beautiful flora, whoever created 'Botaniko' gathered only the pleasing, interesting and beautiful plants, and arranged them together in soft, ordered chaos.  

We used to come to Botaniko occasionally for an escape from the heat (it was always cool beneath the jungle canopy).  We'd wander along the paths, over foot bridges, looking for the little water bugs that skated across the surface of the pools.  After a ramble, we'd all meet in the wide, grassy meadow near the entrance of the Gardens for a picnic lunch.  

One such day,  I had just gathered with everybody else on the assorted blankets, and was spooning tuna salad onto a fresh baked bun.  Tupperware containers of fresh papaya in lime juice, cucumbers and vinegar, and sliced pineapples lay scattered among dusty legs, cups of cordial, and a big block of cheese with a knife stuck half way in.  

There was a low rumble, and I looked up, just in time to see the trees at the far end of the clearing rise.  

On Luaniua, I used to watch the tide come in.  The swells would come in from the ocean, fathoms deep, and then when they met the reef, the very top of each swell would be shaved off and make its solitary journey to shore.  Each smooth rise would follow the one before it in sure succession, pushing the water up and down in glossy rhythm.  

Sitting on my picnic blanket in Botaniko, my jaw dropped as I saw the familiar waves emerge from the jungle's eves.  Only it was the grass that was moving.  The very earth itself heaved up, a gentle succession of waves that traveled across the clearing towards us, lifted us three feet in the air, then down again, and then up, in a slow, powerful undulation.  

The earthquake was over as suddenly as it began, and I shakily returned to my tuna fish sandwich.  

Friday, March 11, 2011

Run Baby Run

Spring has descended on the Otero Basin.  Along with it have come beautiful, 71 degree days and skies of a color taken straight from my son's eyes.  Sophie and I are studying the four seasons for her home school right now, and have also been charting each day's weather.  Last week when I introduced 'Spring', I told her that in the spring time, it rains a lot so that all the plants can grow.  She promptly answered with firm conviction, "No it does not."  Then ran to the weather chart where it showed 'sun', 'sun', 'sun', right in a row down the week.  How can you argue with an objective, scientific analysis of all the facts?

Yesterday when Scott got home we all four went on a walk.  There is a jogging trail at the end of our street that winds through the desert, right up to the foothills of the Sacramento mountains.  We went there, enjoying the mild evening and sudden fragrant bursts of sage and mesquite.  Xander kept stopping every few yards to pick up rocks and throw them on the path.  Which of course necessitated our stopping every few yards to direct him to throw them back off the path.  Let me remind you we live in a desert.  Which has a lot of rocks.

Sophie tripped along in her own little world, coming out of it occasionally to tell us a story, or tattle on her brother.

Side note on tattling:  The other day Xander was dropping books on the floor, and I said, "Pick up the books, little dinosaur."  (Ever read Jane Yolen's dinosaur books?  Great for little boys' behavior management).

Immediately Sophie said, "Mom, Xander dropped his books on the floor."

"Sophie, you're not the mommy.  Let me take care of it."

Sophie started singing, "Little diiiinosaurs are naaaaughty when they puuuuut things on the floooooor."  Hmm.  Technically, no tattling going on.

So when we got to crest of the trail, it flattened out and ran along the rise, right up against the toes of the first mountain.  Xander was still dwadling behind, Sophie ran ahead, and Scott and I kept an even pace, holding hands and enjoying the descending evening.  I kept a mild eye on Sophie, thinking, "Good thing she's getting all that energy out.  She'll go down to bed with no problem tonight!"  She kept running.  And kept running.  Pretty soon she was so far out that she started getting smaller with the distance.  Growing uncomfortable, I called out.

"Sophie!  You're too far, come back!"  She kept running.  "SOPHIE!"  Still she kept running.

Now Scott lent his USMC bark, "SOPHIE!  STOP!"  She kept running.  My heart did the little drop shift from 'concerned' to 'there's danger here', and letting go of Scott's hand, I sprinted after her.

"SOPHIE!"  I yelled as I ran, pumping my arms, my legs a windmill of adrenaline on the gravel path.

She finally stopped.  Turned.  Saw me.  Burst into tears and ran back across the distance to me, sobbing, her arms reaching, her heart in her eyes.

"Honey,"  I said when I had finally caught her up in my arms, her legs wrapped around my waist, nose in my shoulder.  "Honey, you can't run so far away from Mommy and Daddy.  When you get so far away from us, you can't hear us when we call you."

Between sobs, she choked out, "I thought I was lost, and I didn't see you anywhere, and I was trying to find you."

She hadn't been running away from us.  She was trying to find us.

And then I realized.  How often in my life do I run around, scared and alone, when my Father can see me all along, and is calling me.  I just can't hear Him.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Netflix Movie Monday - 'Downton Abbey'

Hello, everybody!  It's Monday, which means I'm bringing you yet another movie that I found, streaming, on Netflix that piqued my interest in some way.

This week's installment is a chick flick, specially for all my lady friends out there.  PBS's Masterpiece Theater produces this 7 episode miniseries about the residents, both the aristocratic Crawley family and the people who serve them, of Downton Abbey.  The story picks up the morning after the sinking of the Titanic and subsequent deaths of both of the Crawley's heirs, thus throwing the family into confusion as to who will inherit the family title and fortune.  The fantastic Maggie Smith (Professor McGonagall from the Harry Potter movies) plays the crusty and unyielding Dowager Countess of Grantham, who lives in constant conflict with her enormously-wealthy-with-new-money American daughter-in-law.

This comprehensive look at the lives of those living both above and below stairs, is given another layer of complexity due to the changing times in which the story is set.  The residents of Downton Abbey deal with the introduction of electric lights (but not in the kitchen, where, according to Lord Crawley, it would be unnecessary), and a telephone (which nobody knows how to use).  There is friction between the elder and younger of both classes, as they struggle to deal with rapidly changing social and political structures, and tackle such issues as workers' and women's rights.

The characters are deep, and unfold gradually over the 7 episodes, so that by the end you feel that you have become a part of their lives.  The show's costuming is exquisite, the character's clothing changing as time progresses.  At one part, I was reminded strongly of the clothing in one of my favorite movies of all time, 'Anne of Green Gables'.

The one caveat I will give you is to not expect a happy, tidy ending.  This series is more of a snapshot into the lives of a small group of people over time (from the sinking of the Titanic to the eve of WWI), than a cohesive story that has a set beginning, with the events rising to a specific climax, then neatly resolved at the end of the show.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Thunderstorms and Shampoo

Leaving the brilliant beach, I scurried to the shade of an overhanging coconut tree.  When I licked them, my lips were salty from sweat and the ocean.  My entire body had a thin coating of the stuff, I knew, even my hair, tied up and out of the way in a frizzy knot.  Lowering my eyelashes against the glare, I looked down the stretch of beach.

The sand stretched, blindingly white.  Then, at the end of the village, I could see a system of encroaching rain clouds.  They towered up into the blue sky, stretched length wise to divide the day in stark contrasts.  One minute brilliant sun, the next torrential rain.  The rain came in thick, grey sheets, a slowly advancing wall of relief against the sun.

I watched as it gradually overtook the village, then, it was over me.  I was plunged into cool shadow, a misty splattering, then a million tons of fresh, clean water dumped down on me.  In minutes, my hair was soaked and streaming in rivulets down my cheeks.  My t-shirt showed transparent on my shoulders.  Water ran down my arms to drip from each fingertip, splaying in crystal arcs with each movement of my hands.  I raced home, because rain meant one thing to me - shower time.

Usually, we'd get clean by hauling a 5 gallon bucket from the well, then stand on the gravel outside our front door with cup in hand to ladle the water over our heads.  Ladle.  Lather up.  Ladle, rinse.  Ladle, conditioner.  Ladle, rinse again.  Pour the remaining gallon or so over your head in one big rush.  I never really felt clean.

But, catch a rain shower just right, and I could get in a good, long soaking.  By the time I got home, our rain tank had already filled up and was now spewing the excess water from its opening in the top.  I grabbed the soap, shampoo, and conditioner from their places under our steps, stood under the crystal downpour, and lathered up.

Cleaning yourself in pure rainwater, outside on a warm and humid day, is luxury itself.  The air smells of wet earth, sweet tropical flowers, and the perfume from your shampoo.  The rain tank overflow pours down heavy and smooth over your head.  Senses electrified and prickling, you join with the earth, the plants, opening up to receive heaven's benediction.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Mommy, What Does Heaven Look Like?

Sophie came up to me today and asked, "Mommy, what does heaven look like?"  I considered.

"It has gold on the streets.  And its walls have diamonds."

"Oooohhh,"  little Miss Fancy's eyes lit up.  Encouraged, I continued.

"And, Jesus said he's building a house for us there.  It will be all ready when we go."

"Jesus is making us a house?!  In HEAVEN?!"

"Uh huh.  And in heaven, we will get to see Jesus with our eyes ... he won't be ... invisible ... like he is now."

"But Jesus is in my heart."

She had a point.

"That's right, honey.  And when he is in your heart, that means you get to go to heaven when you die."

"But only old people die.  Not you and me, only when we get old."  I didn't really know what to say to that one.  She thought a while.

"Mommy, do you have clothes in heaven?"  I thought about the shining robes.

"Yes.  And they're white ... and sparkly."

"SPARKLY CLOTHES IN HEAVEN?!!!"  She did her little girl 'eeek' squeal and jumped up and down.

"You want to know the best thing about heaven?"  I asked.  "Nobody has owies.  Nobody gets bonked and hurt, and nobody cries.  You don't cry in heaven, you are only happy.  All the time."

She considered this for a moment.  "AND you have sparkly clothes."

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

2011 Goals Revisited: March

It's the first of the month (Happy March, everybody), and time to post an update on how I'm progressing on my New Year's Resolutions.  To be perfectly forthright, I struggled last month.  The mood in our house seemed to match the weather. The first three weeks of February were marked by little motivation, and a general listlessness.  The last week of the month, however, we all seemed to pull out of it, and I saw great progress.  I was going to give myself a 'D' across the board, but now think that's a little harsh.  Because even though I wasn't 'feeling' it, I didn't give up.  Even though I struggled, at least I struggled.  So, I give myself a 'C' for the month of February, in all areas.  Here are my reflections:

1.  Focus on Scott.
Looking back over this, I don't see a lot of things I did outwardly.  This month's progress was all in my heart.  You see, after coming out of the last season of our lives, and into this new one, I didn't really know what our relationship was supposed to 'feel' like.  The world says you can fall into two categories in marriage:  either old fogeys, or infatuated fools.  I didn't want to be a fogey, so I was trying to recreate the fool stage we experienced early in our relationship.
All month, I thought about this, struggled with it, prayed about it, and then, the last week of February, revelation came. I had been listening to Family Life Radio while doing my pilates in the afternoon, and David Jeremiah is doing a teaching right now on the Song of Solomon.  Guess what.  God DOES have a plan for marriage, and it does involve much more than an initial burst of sparks.  Listening to God's perspective has changed mine, and is therefore changing my marriage.  David Jeremiah articulates it much better than I can, so if you're interested, or need a boost, here's the link for the teaching.

2.  Focus on Sophie and Xander.
It's hard to give to your kids when you're in a constant funk.  I did home school with Sophie sporadically, and took them on a walk to the playground (the highlight for this goal).  The real work was making sure my bad moods didn't bleed over into yelling at the kids or having a short fuse with them, and continuing to give them what they needed emotionally when I didn't 'feel' like it.

3.  Focus on my family.
Well.  We took some trips to Wal Mart.

4.  Focus on my writing.
I think the key here is that I did write, even though it was a struggle.  My post count was lower than last month, but I'm proud of myself for pushing through and actually doing it!

5.  Focus on my body.
I gained back the 3 pounds from January.  This is probably because exercise was pretty sporadic, and I didn't really watch my food intake.  However, the good news is that the last week of February, I began running in the morning and doing pilates during nap time (the pilates was motivated by my desire not to miss each day's teaching on the Song of Solomon), and lost 3 pounds.  So, I'm going into March pretty much even.