Friday, April 29, 2011

Marriage, Island Style

Tell your father that we're getting married.

Um.  What?  The words prickled my skin like a centipede's legs.  Unable to suppress a shudder, I let the letter fall on the happy yellow quilt that lit up my uniformly boring dorm room.  The letter, postmarked 'Honiara, Solomon Islands', had been forwarded to me by my parents my freshman year of college.  I opened it happily, wondering which of my girlfriends 'back home' had taken the time to write.  To my great dismay it had been sent by one of the boys who had run in my circle.  Apparently this was his romantic proposal.  Island style.

When a boy and a girl get married on the island, it is only after extensive negotiations between both families.  The girl takes with her a dowry of thick beaded belts, cloths died bright yellow with turmeric, bolts of calico and sometimes money.  The boy's family pays for the girl with a mountain of coconuts, and sometimes a pig or two.  With the girl also comes land, which follows the matriarchal line in that culture.

After a thorough reciting of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer's Marriage Ceremony (with its fair share of have mercy's), the happy bride is led, sobbing with her face in her cheap Thai wedding dress, to the marriage feast.  It is a requisite that the bride cries throughout the entire feast.  She sits there, shoulders shaking, head buried in a lava lava, sniffling, next to her new groom.  They occupy the mat of honor, front and center in the semi-circle of gathered revelers.  The groom maintains an appropriately solemn and embarrassed expression.  Neither makes eye contact with each other, or anybody else.

It was explained to us that the bride cries for her lost girlhood, her single friends, and single sisters.  Once she crosses the threshold of womanhood, she enters the completely different world of the married woman. In this highly segmented society with its complex social structures, this is a huge and lasting change.

Everybody else thoroughly enjoys the festivities.  Hot and cranky after the stifling church service, everybody piles joyfully onto the assembled coconut mats, and hungrily eye, as one body, the mounds of food.  There is taro pudding cut into brown, gelatinous cubes.  Tubs of little round fry bread.  Fish cooked in coconut milk, clams cooked in coconut milk, crabs cooked in coconut milk, taro cooked in coconut milk, rice cooked in coconut milk.  If the family is wealthy, there might even be a pig or two, slaughtered as its screams echoed through the village the day before, and now cut into sumptuous little chunks and cooked up.  In coconut milk.  Blackened kettles of hot tea stand ready, and to the side is a mountain of green coconuts.

The guests, having brought their plates, mugs and spoons, settle in.  The bride's father stands up.  The bride resumes sobbing a little louder.

"Thank you, everybody, for coming today.  Chief Kanaka, Chief Kevaa (Insert names of all the chiefs, chief's sons, priest, local government officials.  All the 'big men' are recognized personally.)  We are glad that you came to our little feast today.  I am so sorry that it is so bad.  There really isn't any food.  We were not able to prepare much for you today.  I deeply apologize for this horrible food that we are about to serve you.  It really is quite bad, and we are ashamed of its ineptitude."

This is the politest thing a host can say, since arrogance is next to murder on the island sin scale.  A quick prayer is then offered up, and the women of the family commence with divvying up the delicacies.  Everybody eats while all the big men stand up and make boring speeches, then relax with tea as groups of kids parade out to dance to steady, faithful drumbeats.

As the party starts to wear itself out, guests file past the happy couple, depositing tokens on the mat in front of them.  The bride, reduced to sniffles by this time, cranks it up for the finale.

Finally, the feast is completely over.  Guests leave with plates of food.  The men retire to a relative's house and get rip roaring drunk.  The women wash the pots and pans out, gossip, and smoke their hand rolled cigarettes.  And the happy couple disappears for a while from village life, only to return fat, pregnant, and thoroughly settled into their new roles.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

What is Love?

Love patiently bears offense and injury.

Love is gracious.

Love stays cool, instead of boiling with envy and anger.

Love does not say, "Look at me!", and is not full of hot air.

Love is not unseemly, and does not demand its own way.

Love doesn't have a short fuse.

It keeps a clean slate, and isn't excited by law breaking.

Love sides joyfully with the truth.

Love spreads its wings to cover all things.

It confidently believes all things.

It hopefully trusts all things.

It bravely and calmly bears all things.

Love never loses altitude, crashes, and burns.

These three things are always here:  faith, hope, love.  But the widest, deepest, longest, highest and most greatly esteemed is love.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Netflix Movie Monday - 'Salt'

It's Monday again!  Time for my weekly installment, where I bring you a movie I found streaming on Netflix that interested or entertained me.  This week's installment is pure mind candy of the action genre: 

Gotta love me some Jolie!  Our favorite big-lipped actress stars in this action thriller as Evelyn Salt, a CIA agent who is actually a Russian sleeper spy.  Salt is part of a decades long scheme by a rogue Russian mastermind to cause the ultimate downfall of the U.S.  She is charged to *gasp!* kill the President (both the Russian and American ones).  Of course, she kicks major booty along the way, outwitting the dozens of men trying to foil her mission.  Sound corny?  It is.  But let's face it, some nights that's just what the doctor orders. 

To make up for the warmed-over and much recycled plot lines, 'Salts' action sequences will keep you holding your breath from beginning to end.  Angelina Jolie is fun to watch, and I think she did quite a good job emoting when the part called for it.  And although I saw the plot twists coming, they did have me guessing to a point.  Best of all, Jolie stayed clothed throughout the whole flick.  Nice to see an action movie without the obligatory sex scene! 

If you're looking for an evening of some shoot-'em-up action that will keep you engaged and guessing from start to finish, 'Salt' is the choice for you.

Friday, April 22, 2011

For D, With Love

Sorrow is a cloak that settles itself heavily, without invitation, in a great, muffling embrace.  It colors the world grey.  Like a chalkboard eraser, it wipes the glimmer of life from your eyes as your soul retreats into the deepest part.  Its calling card of weariness hangs heavily on your words.  It even dims the words of a status update:

"Just want to see her pretty blue eyes and hear her voice"

This from a man, barely 30, after his wife was medevaced due to bleeding on her brain.  

Diana, larger than life, with the personality of a lion.  The first glimpse I had of this woman was on the first day we moved to a little adobe house tucked away on a ranch in the Sacramento foothills.  New Mexico wine country.  Diana was digging a ditch to repair some pipe next to the house, her skin stretched golden and taut over smooth, lean muscles.  She had a couple eyebrow piercings, one in her lip, and several along her ear lobes.  I was frankly intimidated by her strength and the ferocity with which she attacked the red dirt.  She looked up, and her blue eyes pierced me.  Direct.  Frank.  Fearless.    

A few months later, I was dismayed to discover that Diana, the ranch's Jill-of-all-trades, was slated to spend the entire week in my house, laying tile in my front entryway.  Tentatively, over the course of the week, I began spending the lazy afternoons between nap time and dinner time sitting on the unfinished part of the floor, chatting with her.  To my surprise, in Diana I found a kindred spirit.  Honest as the day, and loving as fiercely as she worked, Diana and I became fast friends.  Her dry humor and no-holds-barred transparency were the spice in our conversations.

A few months later, she married Brad in a quiet ceremony.  They joined our first small group a year later, Diana enriching it with her characteristic vivacity.  She was the first friend I made in New Mexico, and the only one that has lasted through the years to today.  

Two years ago, the doctors discovered a tumor in Diana's abdomen.  It was cancer.  As that evil dark growth threatened Diana's life, I watched Brad stand beside her in his quiet strength.  He never wavered.  His love for her shone pure, crystal clear in its intensity and simplicity.

Diana, true to the lioness within, conquered the cancer with unwavering optimism.  She didn't just 'survive' it.  She stomped into its camp, burned down the tents, captured the flag and ran off in victorious, shrieking splendor.  To celebrate, Brad commenced on remodeling the kitchen of their mobile home for her.  She called the resultant makeover her 'P.W.T. Palace'.

A year later, a seizure sent Diana to the ER.  Doctors found blood clots, and more cancer.  "All my family's treating me too nice,"  she Facebook chatted to me.  "It's freaking me out."

She jumped these hurdles, too, and continued to march on.  She enrolled in college.  She hadn't been in school since she was 16, but that didn't stop Diana.  

And then, four days ago, I got another call.  Diana had another seizure.  We started praying.  And hoping.  And praying.  When a CAT scan revealed bleeding on her brain, she was airlifted to a bigger hospital, Brad at her side.  Always at her side.  His sunken, stark eyes staring in wordless hope into a future they had dreamed together.

Tonight, we are still hoping and praying.  Lying in her hospital bed, unable to move or speak, surrounded by her family, I know the lioness within is roaring in defiance.  And Brad is just waiting to see her blue eyes smile.      

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


It is an emotion that never fails to jump out and hit me.  A fiery dart, a subsonic shock wave, a boulder breaking the placidity of my emotional pond.  The anger doesn't even need to be directly pointed towards me for it to sock me in the gut.

At the McDonald's play scape today, Xander encountered a miniature bully.  The kid came out of the slide behind him, and shoved him in the back.  Hard.

Xander, my tough little guy, turned right around and said fiercely, "Don't do that to me!"  The kid shoved him again, this time on his chest with both hands.  Xander yelled, "NO!"

Seeing the boy take yet another step towards my son, I hurried over.  Locking eyes with both boys, I said firmly, "You guys need to play nice," and led Xander to another area of the play scape.  Ten minutes later, the kid had muscled his way in on a wheel Xander was playing with, using his body to shove Xander out of the way.  I intervened again, this time telling him to just not play near the boy.

My son did what I said ... for a while.  The bully occupied himself with pulling on the foot of a little girl who was trying to climb up some stairs in a corner.  I was so busy watching the kid that I didn't notice Xander, inching his way close, until he was standing just on the other side of the bully, some wire mesh between them.  When the boy looked up, Xander pointed his finger at him from behind the screen.  His bottom lip was pursed, eyebrows pulled together in a fierce little outcropping, blue eyes slitted.  I knew this look.  This look meant, "You're not gonna take another inch from me."  It was Xander's 'line in the sand' look.  And the other boy took notice.

He let go of the little girl, came around the screen to face my son, and spat at him.  Xander kept glaring, pointing his finger, and then gave a little boy growl.  The boy spit again.  I watched, wondering when to step in.  Xander was backed into the little corner behind the screen, with the boy blocking his way out.  Xander took a step forwards.  In a quick movement, the other boy raised his leg and karate kicked him in the stomach.  Stumbling back against the wall, Xander pulled himself together and lunged at the boy.

That's when auto pilot kicked in.  I lunged toward both of the boys.  Before I knew it, I had scooped Xander up in my arms, and found the other boy's mom sitting with her friends at a back table.

"Your boy is hitting and kicking my son,"  I blurted, keeping desperate hands on the reins of my bucking, adrenaline charged inner mama bear.  Without even waiting for a response, I turned on my heel and hightailed it back to my seat.  It was so unlike me to say anything (instead of running, like I normally do), that I had shocked myself back into control.

Over the divider between play area and tables, I saw the mother carrying her struggling son towards the bathroom.  A split second later, the anger hit me.  It radiated like shock waves, as if the mother had sent a radio broadcast from her head, "Heat!  Anger!  Fear!"  The very room grew darker, heavier, muted under the dull, throbbing, ringing roar of rage.  Three long strides got her to the bathroom, and yanking the door open, she and her son disappeared inside.  The door slammed shut like an exclamation point.  Locking us out.  Locking them in.

And as a stillness settled over us like the eye of a storm, my heart twanged in regretful self-doubt.  Should I have told her?  Did I cause that?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Yup, This Is My Life

So I was Facebook stalking the prom pictures of some teens I know.  There they were, so bright, so young, their lives stretched in front of them with shining possibility.  I was pulled away from examining one sweet couple by a yell from the bathroom.

"Moooooom!  I go pooooooooo poo!"  It was Xander.  Fully potty trained now, but still unable to wipe his own little bottom.  I put my computer down, and went to help him.

"Mom!"  he greeted me cheerily when I entered the bathroom, "I made a big poo poo!"  He was sitting on the frog potty, leaning his elbows on his knees, little pot belly squished up against his alligator pajamas.

"Uh huh,"  I responded, kneeling down so he could lean himself over my lap.  After I cleaned him off, Xander bounced back up to inspect.

"Oooo I not make big poo poo.  I made little poo poo!  And pee pee."  I poured the contents into the toilet.  "Mommy, can I fwush it?"

"Yes, honey."  He was a little puppy, irrepressibly cheerful and interested.

I sat down myself on the toilet.  "Mommy, you making a poo poo?"

That's when my mind flashed to the 17 year old me, posing for my prom pics, my future path strewn with diamonds and glamour.  Yup, this life was slightly more mundane than I had imagined then.  But the sweet moments are sweeter, and the fulfillment I get from caring for my family greater than I could have known at 17.  This is my life.  And I love it.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Green Ones Taste the Best

Ship days were always exciting.  Communications on the short wave would inform us of the government freighter's imminent arrival.  News would spread through the village, hopping hut to hut like lice on the heads of siblings.  Excitement would crackle, underlying everything with a subtle exclamation mark.  Smoke filtered free from thatched roofs.  The ship's coming!  A girl pulled water up from the well.  The ship's coming!  A teenager thwacked coconut husks open on a sharpened spike.  The ship's coming!  Men traded drags on a hand rolled cigarette.  The ship's coming!

Every kid who didn't have duties at home (and many who did, but shirked them off) congregated on the ocean side of the island, straining for the first sighting on the horizon.  It would appear as a tiny black dot, minuscule, barely distinguishable against the blue.  As soon as it was certain that it was indeed the ship, runners would sprint in gaggles through the village.  "Keva'a!  Keva'a!  (Ship!  Ship!)"  they would shout.

It was joyful news.  The ship brought loved ones long unseen, supplies, fresh produce that would soon be eaten.  For us, it meant mail, food and other supplies sent by our SITAG support, and sometimes, if we were lucky, there would be a package from home.

Every so often, a church group or maybe family member would get together a care package for us and send it, filled with goodies, half way around the world.  These were rarities (we got about three per year), and greatly coveted.  You never knew what treasures the brown cardboard box would be hiding.  Fajita spices.  Kool-Aid.  Stickers.  Dollar store erasers and pencils.  Travel size shampoos.  Wrigley's gum.  But if we were really lucky, there would be candy.

Real, American candy.  And best of all, a mega pack of M&M's.

I am not ashamed to say that we were intensely covetous of those M&M's.  To prevent WWIII from erupting in our hut every time the ship came in, we had a system to distribute treats.  We were fair.  Maniacally fair.  So fair we were probably diagnosable.

We would all sit around the family table, and watch with eagle like scrutiny as Mom or Dad divvied up the candies.  Literally, it would go by color.  One brown for Nathan.  One brown for Danica.  One brown for Anna.  One brown for Matthew.  One yellow for Nathan.  One yellow for Danica.  And so on, until we all had little piles of the exact same number of the exact same color of M&M's.  Because you know each color of M&M tastes different.

And then, we'd all four of us sit for a delicious moment, taking in the bounty, before dealing with it in our own ways.  Nathan took his to share with a few select friends (who always knew, by the way, to hang out underneath our house when the ship was unloaded).  Matthew would eat his in one fell swoop.  Anna hoarded hers, keeping them almost until they lost their color, and using them as collateral in our sundry sibling wheeling and dealings.  I would eat mine, one by one, keeping the colors even, in order, starting with my least favorite:  Brown.  Orange.  Red.  Blue.  Yellow ... Green.

I would always eat the green M&M last in the cycle.  Because the green ones taste the best.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


It's funny which Western customs the Islanders pick up, and how they adapt and integrate them into their own culture.  In Honiara, it's common to get Christmas carolers in May.  From the Island perspective, if all you have to do is get a group of friends together and go sing in front of some white people's house in order to get food or money, why let the semantics of season get in the way?

Celebrating the New Year was another Western custom the Islanders took and tweaked to their own interpretation.  For some reason, the people of Guadalcanal had internalized that the first of the year was a time to play 'friendly' pranks.

One January, we had taken a SITAG van out to Bonegi beach, spending a lazy Sunday afternoon picnicking on the black pebbled shore.  When the sun began to sink towards the Western sea, we piled back in, windows down, and began the 45 minute drive back to town.  It was a simple luxury to speed down the hardball, the buffeting roar of rushing air lifting my damp curls and sucking them out through the window as I watched the jungle speed past.

Every so often we'd pass a little village, its huts wedged in between the coast and the road.  At the third or fourth village along the way, some boys stepped out towards our car as we neared the huts.  Sometimes villagers sell produce from their gardens, or locally made hand crafts, and it was not unusual to be approached on the road.  Still, we were tired, and on our way home, so Dad only slowed down a bit to ensure he didn't hit the kids.

As we quickly neared them, the two teenagers stood well into the road, buckets in their hands.  I wondered idly if they had fish in those containers.  One second.  Two seconds.  Three seconds, and we were right next to them.

One boy, tall and slender, lifted his bucket with both brown arms.  In one fluid moment, the contents of the pail rose and fell in a smooth, liquid arc.  Perfectly timed to the second.  Through my mother's open window.

The next instant there was chaos.  Mom let out a sharp scream of shock.  A thick, white substance was dripping down her entire right side.  It was plastered over her hair, covered her right temple and cheek, her glasses, her neck, all were coated in white liquid.

In a confused moment, I wondered how these Islanders had gotten their hands on all that milk.  Dad brought the van to a screeching halt, skidding it sideways onto the roadside gravel.

"It's paint, David!"  Mom was screaming.  Matthew was crying from the back seat.  My dad flung open his door, propelled himself to Mom's side in what seemed like one giant stride.  Did a quick check.  By the grace of God, her glasses had prevented the toxic stuff from entering her eyes, and she had her mouth closed at the moment of impact.  Wheeling on his heel, my father strode into the heart of the village before us.

Each stride seemed to grow his stature, until soon he was 7 feet tall, a bear of a man swelled up in defense of his family.  We all followed along, a scared little trail of ducklings, Mom dripping white paint on the dirt and us kids clinging close to her.  Dad, his Indiana Jones style hat pushed back on his head,  and arms swinging with each wild step, stormed into the clearing around which all the village huts were gathered.

"COMPENSATION!"  he thundered.  "I demand compensation for what your village sons did to my wife."  A few worried men stepped out warily from the trees.  Here was a white man who knew the Island ways.

The value of 'compensation' is deeply seated in the Melanesian culture.  Up until about 50 years ago, 'compensation' meant that if someone from your village is wronged or killed, you raid the offending tribe and kill and eat one of theirs.  After the British colonized the region, these cannibalistic practices were replaced with more civilized ones.  These days, you pay compensation in the form of money, land, or pigs.

The villagers quickly shifted into recovery attempts, the men pulling my dad aside to apologize profusely, assuring him that the boys would be dealt with.  Some women ushered my mom and us kids to a shaded area by the shore, and gently washed her.  We were all fed.

I don't think Dad ever insisted on the villagers giving monetary compensation to us.  Afterwards he explained that he had used that word in order to get their attention, connect with them on their level.  However it was that the grownups eventually worked the situation out, I will never forget the feeling of utter security and protection that pulled me along in my avenging father's wake.  

Monday, April 11, 2011

Netflix Movie Monday - 'Tangled'

It's Monday, folks!  This usually means that I review a movie for you that I have found: 1) streaming, and 2) on Netflix.  I am breaking my own rules today because I simply HAVE to review this wonderful movie.  Although it is available from Netflix via snail mail, you can't watch today's movie streaming.  But believe me, it's worth the three day's wait!

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past year, you'll already know that 'Tangled' is Disney's latest full length animated feature.  We did not go see this one in the theaters, for two reasons.  One being, I'm cheap.  It takes a lot to get me to fork over the money to watch a movie on the big screen when I know I'll be able to view it from the comfort of my own couch in a few months.  The second reason is that the previews for this one really turned me off.  It looked pretty ridiculous - a fighting she-man with hair that has a mind of its own, a pet chameleon, and some random Robin-Hood-type guy thrown in?  Next.  (I mean, come on.  Just look at the cover picture).

What I found completely blew me away.  'Tangled' is reminiscent of the old Disney classics, 'Cinderella' and 'Snow White'.  It is a musical, and the songs are really, really good:  sweet, catchy, with great choreography (i.e., no Pocahontas singing longingly into the wind from a pine bough).  Here are some of the reasons I love this movie SO MUCH, and will actually fork over the money to buy it for my family:

1.  It is upbeat and lighthearted.  I think I smiled throughout the whole movie.  The antics and dynamics between some of the characters are laugh out loud funny (like the horse who acts like a dog, Max's, ongoing rivalry with Flynn Rider, the movie's reluctant hero).  Even Rapunzel's evil captor, Mother Gothel, has the least scary Disney death scene I've ever witnessed.

2.  The main character is not a brat.  I.  Love.  This.  I grew up on a steady diet of Ariel, but now she turns my stomach, as do many of the other more recent Disney heroines.  I mean, when did it become cool to be selfish, self-seeking and hurtful to those you love?  Rapunzel, on the other hand, is driven by her loving and pure heart.  Her purity of character becomes her greatest weapon against the would-be perils of the world outside her tower, and she ends up charming everyone she meets.

3.  The main character is modest.  No voluptuous bosoms, or swinging backsides in this movie.  Rapunzel has a cute little face, freckles, and the body of a twelve year old (Don't let the cover fool you. That is the most chest you'll see in the whole movie).  And, she traipses around barefoot.  Bonus for this island girl!

4.  Amazing character development.  This is something 'Cinderella' and 'Snow White' don't have.  Both Flynn (the leading male), and Rapunzel have deeply rounded, endearing characters, and unveil slowly throughout the film.  This movie is as much about the two main characters' journeys to discover their true selves as it is the overlying quest they embark upon.

5.  TCK themes.  Here's another movie about someone who spent her entire life in one world, and is suddenly thrust into a completely new one.  It is fun to watch Rapunzel meeting new people, going to new places, and expanding her idea of who she is as a person in a new environment.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Just Me and the Mango Tree

SITAG, the group we belonged to, owned houses that ran along the ridge of a hill just outside of Honiara.  Lined up along the crest, like so many cornrow braids on a little girl's head, these houses were open for us to stay in when we made the trip back to semi-civilization from the outer islands every few months.

The houses were surrounded by tropical foliage that we kids reveled in.  There were a few guava trees, whose fruit we constantly fought over and inevitably picked before it was ripe, enjoyable only by virtue of the sweetness of conquest.  If you've ever eaten an unripe guava, you'll know that it consists of chalky flesh surrounding about fifty seeds as hard as popcorn kernels.

Fragrant frangipanis lined the entire ridge, their fragile limbs too weak to really climb safely, littering the ground with hundreds of elusively sweet blooms.  There were a few conifers, which we loved to climb and sit in while the wind gently hushed through the boughs.  The leaves of these trees weren't prickly like our Western evergreens.  They waved and bent softly like undersea anemone.  Several stumpy little 'cherry' trees (so called by us because of the sweet, red berries), grew close to the road, the dirt beneath stained with sticky red globs of overripe fruit and parrot droppings.

There was one mango tree that I discovered one day.  It grew tall, straight, and thickly green, like a child's oval-shaped caricature  in a crayon drawing.  I had always avoided it, its flat, waxy leaves growing so thickly that I couldn't see sky through them.  The branches started low on the Popsicle stick trunk, too close to the ground to sit under comfortably.

On this particular day, however, I had escaped from the pack of SITAG 'cousins', searching for a spot to be alone with my thoughts.  The mango tree beckoned me from its place next to the driveway.  Stooping beneath the low branches, I looked up along its trunk and discovered with surprise that virtually no leaves grew along the inside of the tree.  Intrigued, I hoisted myself up.

Bare toes gripping the branches, I climbed them like a ladder, spiraling up into a hollowed out, leafy bower.  It was  secret room just for me, growing 10 feet above the ground, hidden by a thick wall of waxy leaves and gently blushing mangoes.

I was the princess, and this was my tower.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

O Death Where Is Thy Sting?

This morning, at the beginning of my 5 a.m. jog, I set out into the cool, pre dawn darkness, curling my hands up into my windbreaker sleeves against the slight breeze.  Just above the rooftops, Scorpio curled its tail down, punctuating the sky in an eons old question mark.  Over my shoulder, Cassiopeia was just rising, its crooked line of stars forming the distinct crown outline of Greek myth.  As my feet and breath fell into rhythm, my mind wandered to the night I had learned about that particular constellation.

We were at summer camp.  The camp director took all the work crew girls out into the athletic field after sundown one evening, to teach us about the night sky.

"And over there," he said with gentle humor, as we all craned our heads back, "is Cassiopeia.  Most people say it's the crown of a Greek goddess.  But I always used to tell Wendy it was a 'W' in the sky, just for her."

I looked over at his profile, a black cut-out against the brilliant Texas sky.  I knew the story of Wendy, his daughter.  When I was in 6th grade, we came back to the States on furlough in time for me to attend summer camp as a camper.  A week before my block was scheduled to begin, Wendy and some friends were driving home on a twisty back road.  On one treacherous turn, another car came zooming from the opposite direction.  Most of the truck's occupants survived.  Wendy and one other boy did not.

Although the director and staff were in deep mourning, camp was not cancelled.  The next week scores of hopeful young girls (of which I was one) flooded the cabins, lake and dining hall.  One night, my counselor led us to the director's cabin, and we sang hymns of consolation from the front gate.

Looking at the director, four years later, I thought about that night when our voices had carried on the soft Texas air, and wondered at the love and patient humor in his voice.  I knew his faith had to be immensely strong to carry on ministering Christ to hundreds of young women, while his own daughter had been taken from him.

And then, with Cassiopeia and Wendy still on my mind today, Scott came home with sobering news.  A colleague of his, Wyatt, died suddenly in the middle of the work day.  Unlike Wendy, we aren't sure where Wyatt stood before he died.  Instead of sadness holding hands with hope, my husband and I felt, as we sat together absorbing the news, the great sting of death.  A hopelessness, the finality of a giant door being swung shut with a thunderclap.

From now on, when I see Cassiopeia strung like great jewels in the sky, I will think about Wendy and Wyatt.  And then I will turn to Scorpio's question mark, suspended, asking the eternal question:
"Where do you stand?"

Sunday, April 3, 2011

2011 Goals Revisited: April

Hello!  I have been absent from the computer for a while, taking a much needed vacation with the family.  (Don't you just love this funky representation of 'Starry Night'?)

I've missed this blog, and am ready to dive back in.  Starting with an update on my new year's resolutions. Here's the overview:  I think I rocked it this month!  I really, really did.  February was horrible, but something clicked in March, and I pushed through (finally!) into some success.

1.  Focus on Scott.
We're settling back into the comfortable, easy Scott-and-Danica rhythm we've missed so much.  I've always loved Song of Solomon 4:9, "You have stolen my heart, my sister, my bride.  You have stolen my heart with one glance from your eyes."  The word, 'sister', was used in that culture to speak of someone who is a very, close friend.  This month my hubby and I walked together as best friends and lovers.  'Nuff said.  I give myself an 'A' for this change of attitude!

2.  Focus on the kids.
I cut out a weekly activity this month that was really just for me - the kids would go to childcare, and I'd have 'me time'.  I home schooled Sophie on an average of 4 times per week (she loves this so much that she reminds me every day not to forget!).  I made a HUGE effort to keep my patience when answering the same question posed by Xander for the 50th time in a row.  And, I stayed on top of discipline.  I get an 'A' in this category, as well.

3.  Focus on my family.
We spent every weekend as a family, working on the big project, which right now is readying our back yard for Summer.  And then, of course, we took a vacation (the first in years), and milked every second of it to reconnect and build stronger relationships.  It was a sweet, blessed time.  'A'!

4.  Focus on my writing.
This is the category where I didn't do as well as the others (there always seems to be one), but I'm not beating myself up too much over it.  I only have 9 posts for March, but there was a week where I had strep, and another one where we were on vacation, with no access to the Internet.  So, for this goal I get a 'B'.

5.  Focus on my body.
I think I am most excited about my success in this area.  I lost 6 lbs (here I'm NOT including part of our vacation, because that's just wrong.  Yes, I was going to treat myself to a darth chocolate / strawberry Amy's Ice Cream, no matter what sort of diet I was on!)  My biggest victory was the running.  I bumped my mileage up from jogging 1 mile, to doing 2 miles at a pretty respectable clip.  A few days I ran 2.5 miles, and once I even did 3.  The most surprising part?  I found out that I really do love being out, alone, in the cool pre-dawn desert, where my thoughts can run in a steady stream as my feet pound the pea gravel.  I even got up during my vacation to run the highs and lows of the Hill Country.  And enjoyed it.  By the end of the month, I hope to have kicked it up to a solid 3 miles, and have my sights set on a little 5K.  On this goal, I give myself the highest grade : 'A+'.