Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Fire in the Village


The cry rose up from the heart of the village.  In a place where every roof was constructed out of thatched leaves, and every wall was woven of coconut fronds, uncontained fire was a deadly thing.  Countless open cook fires and smokey 'mosquito' fires dotted the village, kerosene lanterns illuminated us by night, and we kids often played 'flick the match' as we walked through the houses (hold a match, sulfur side down, on the striking strip.  Flick with your finger and watch as it goes spinning away, a little flame somersaulting through the air).  And yet, there hadn't been a threat of fire to the village since we'd arrived.

But now, hungry flames were licking at the shaggy brown roof of a nearby hut.  They were just at the bottom, where the long, thin pandanas leaves hung in so many points off the low eves of the hut.  The fire was quickly gaining speed, leaping with increasing voracity up the roof's steep slope.  A few minutes more, and the entire hut would be ablaze.  And then the flames would go racing from roof to roof, turning the entire village into a merry bonfire of destruction.

Men and women materialized out of nowhere, buckets in hand.  By this point, we'd been at Luniaua for several years, and this was the first fire I'd witnessed there.  Even so, the villagers mobilized as if they did fire drills every day of their lives.  In the time span it took me to get out my front door and positioned in the yard for a better view, there had formed a long human chain from the lagoon to the burning house.  The villagers passed bucket after bucket of seawater, dousing the fire, wetting the surrounding leaves and soaking the neighboring roofs.

And as quick as that, it was done.  Almost before it had begun, the fire was put put out.  Vanquished.  Only a few square feet of the roof had been taken by the flames.

Everyone stood around long enough to gossip over the start of the fire (a teenager taking a burning coal from the house's fire to the cooking hut), and share a roll-your-own cigarette.  Then, the crowd dissipated back into the village, each returning to his or her previous task.  And I was left thanking God for the villagers' community mindset, which allowed them to meld so quickly together as a unified, solid force in the time of need.

Friday, June 24, 2011

A Must Read

I have been sadly neglecting my writing lately. The main reason is this:

Oh.  My.  Goodness.  I picked up A Game of Thrones, the first book in the 'A Song of Ice and Fire' series at the library due to some buzz over the HBO remake.  Idle curiosity soon gave way to avid obsession as I was pulled into the world of the Seven Kingdoms, only to emerge to feed myself or the kids.  Sadly, this blog wasn't the only thing that has been getting less of my attention than it needs lately.  

George R.R. Martin is the author of the five book 'A Song of Ice and Fire'.  The fantasy world he creates rivals Tolkien's (really).  The story is told from the viewpoints of many different characters, both antagonists and protagonists, and keeps you on the edge of your seat as each turn of the page sweeps from one continent to the next, across battlefields, mystic rituals, and diverse people groups.  Powerful, compelling and imaginative, these books are impossible to put down.  

Reaching the end of book 2, A Clash of Kings, I rushed out to the library to get my hands on the next one.  Alas, for some reason it is checked out of the library right now (enter my despairing cry here, 'nooooooooo!').  The good news is, I just might get some things done while I'm waiting for it to reappear on the shelves.  Like cooking a meal for my family.  Paying attention to the kids.  Cleaning.  Laundry.  And blogging.  

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day Dance

I spent first grade in Dallas, Texas.  My parents were undergoing training with Wycliffe, getting all the necessary tools they'd need to do bible translation overseas.  I don't remember how, or under what circumstances, but my father and I were invited to a father/daughter square dance.  I was excited, spending many days leading up to the dance thinking about what it would be like, worrying that I didn't know how to square dance (Dad reassured me that the caller would lead us in the steps), and planning my outfit.  I knew just what I wanted to wear.  I had a jean skirt that I loved, and a plaid shirt.  I would be a cowgirl.  I would be glamorous.  I would float along the floor.

My excitement lasted right up to the moment when we walked through the gym doors, where the dance was being held.  The car ride with Dad had been so special, just me and him in the soft, velvety darkness as Dallas' city lights flashed by.  I admired the way my skirt draped over my boney knees.  I patted it down and crossed my ankles like I'd seen my grandmother do.  When we arrived at the dance, I clasped my dad's hand.  His was large, warm and comforting as we made our way across the parking lot to where light spilled from the open doors.  

Then we entered the gym.  My confidence dissolved like tissue paper left out in the rain.  The place was packed with strangers, and I suddenly felt unsafe.  I stepped closer to my dad.  It was loud, the lights were glaring.  Groups of girls and their fathers were twirling in the center of the room, and I stared, arrested.  They were.  Beautiful.  They had on short, flouncy dresses and shiny little dancing shoes.  After my eyes recovered from this vision of glamour, I became acutely aware of my jean skirt.  And plaid shirt.  And I was wholly inadequate in my own eyes.  

Just then, a loud lady with loud makeup ushered us to the photo corner and snapped a Polaroid.  "Smile!"  she cooed, drawling out the 'i' to give the word an extra syllable.

The rest of the night passed quickly, in a whirl of lights and music and 'Swing your partner round 'n round!'.  Finally we were in the car, driving home.  

"How was the dance, Danica?  What did you think?"  Dad said.

"Those girls.  Their dresses were so pretty,"  I whispered into the quiet darkness.

There was silence for a minute.  And then, "They did have fancy dresses.  But I think you looked pretty in your skirt.  And most of all I could see your pretty heart."  

Simple words.  But they made an ocean of gladness swell up inside of me.  

Friday, June 17, 2011

A Nighttime Ramble

The night sky draped darkly over the island.  Cooking fires had long since burned down to one or two smoldering coconut husks.  A fingernail moon pinned the black canopy in place, accompanied by a million stars.  I had slipped from my bed, driven out into the night by some hungry, restless need.  Wrapping only a thin lava lava around myself, I escaped our house and the quiet sleeping sounds of my family.  The night welcomed me as its own.

The coconut fronds overhead rattled knowingly as my feet took the familiar path to the sea.  Quiet as a shadow, I passed our neighbor's hut.  A few chickens scolded sleepily.  I heard somebody roll over, their rustle, rustle, snort filtering thinly through the mat wall.  Now I had passed their little cooking hut, and my path took me through a small patch of untamed bush.  This was where the old hale aiku had stood, where the islanders had worshiped their ancestral gods.  Although it was in the center of the village, nobody had built on it.  The ground was still sacred, in spite of the cinder block Anglican church erected beside it.

Finally, I cleared the village and stepped out onto the beach.  Even on this dark night, the sand shone whitely.  The waves beyond undulated to blot out the stars in dark, oily mounds. I was the only soul alive in this midnight land.  

Slowly, I raised my arms in welcome to the cool sea breeze.  And for a moment, as it lifted my hair from my sticky neck and tangled my lava lava around my legs, I forgot myself in the wonder of it all.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Netflix Movie Monday - 'The Eyes of Tammy Faye'

And a very happy Monday to one and all!  Today is the day of the week when I review a movie I have found streaming on Netflix that inspired, interested, or entertained me in some way.  This week's movie is a documentary that I took a chance on, driven by the same morbid curiosity that makes everyone slow down and rubberneck when there's an accident on the freeway.

This 2000 Sundance Grand Jury Prize nominee documents the life of Tammy Faye Bakker, following her rise to near cult-icon status, and then her husband's adulterous affair and the subsequent collapse of their television network empire.  I chose this movie initially because, being in mostly Christian circles my entire life, I have heard the names 'Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker', but am too young to have personal knowledge of them.  I was curious.  The other thing that got me to click 'play' was the fact that RuPaul narrates the movie.  That's right, the drag queen.  Odd choice for a movie about a bunch of church folks, so I thought.

Liberally peppered with interviews from Tammy Faye herself, this film is a fascinatingly personal look into the life of a woman who has lived most of her adult life in the public eye.  I have to admit that I went into this movie with some pretty heavy, preconceived judgements about Tammy Faye.  What I discovered was that she is a loving, caring, simple, and openhearted woman with serious grit and resiliency.

Tammy Faye and her husband Jim basically pioneered Christian broadcasting, birthing the so-called 'electronic church'.  They were on the ground floor of the Christian Broadcasting Network, Trinity Broadcasting Network, and the PTL Club.  Jim was the first anchor of 700 Club.  Tammy Faye was the creative force behind many Christian children's shows, and released scores of praise albums.  'The Eyes of Tammy Faye' also gives a candid look at Tammy Faye's version of her husband's affair, trial and convictions of fraud and conspiracy.

Although campy and bizarre at times (like Tammy Faye herself!), this film is sure to entertain, and will leave you with a new understanding of the woman behind the make-up.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Just Dig Deep and Bear It

When ...

  • Your child wakes you an hour early screaming for you.  
  • You catch a nasty look.
  • Accusing voices sneak into your head ... "I can't believe you just said that.  You're pretty stupid, aren't  you?"
  • You're five hours on the road and still four hours from home.
  • The throw up won't stop.
  • You don't know where the money is going to come from.
  • The ... temptation ... is calling.  Calling.  Sweetly and subtly calling for you.
  • Your heart's like to break from missing him / her so much.
  • The pain won't let you sleep.
We recently tilled up a quarter of the sod in our back yard to prepare the earth for flowerbeds and a vegetable garden.  Some parts of the lawn, where the grass hadn't grown too deep, were easy to till.  The sharp blades cut down quickly through the green thatch, into the virgin soil below.  In other parts, the grass was more stubborn.  Established and thick, the roots reached deep into the earth, creating a lacing  network of tough tendrils that clung obstinately to the dirt.  We literally tilled one corner for two hours, before deciding we'd take our chances and just put in the flower bed.  

Now, a month later, that same corner is overgrown with thick, lush grass.  Somehow, the roots had survived, and sent forth shoots as hearty as ever.  We should have stayed in that spot, digging and digging and digging, until we had gotten deep enough to undercut the last root.  

Do I let adversity dig out the roots in my heart?  When it comes, do I see it as an opportunity to dig one layer deeper into those ugly things that stubbornly send their shoots up?  
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  James 1:2-4

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Tantrums and Poo

It all started yesterday.  I woke up with the sudden resolution to cut Xander off from his froggy potty.  It was time to graduate.  I was tired of looking at it, cleaning it, and the comments from nursery workers; "Oh.  He still pees sitting down?"  Cue eyes drifting down politely.

So I pulled out Xander's nifty little step stool, armed myself with a bowl of cereal to hone his aiming skills, and packed away the little green training potty.  Goodbye.  Thanks for the memories.  I will (won't) miss those over-sized frog eyes staring up at me every morning.

The first day went great.  And then he slept on it.  This morning, it was nearing time for his post-breakfast B.M. (the kid's as regular as an atomic clock), and we headed into the bathroom.  He had just settled his little butt down, when he looked up at me with big eyes and said, "Mommy, I can't do it.  I need my froggy potty."

Now, you have to understand.  Xander gets performance anxiety when it comes to pooping.  He won't do it in public restrooms.  He won't do it in another home.  He will let loose outside, but we're trying to break that habit.

Once I packed away that froggy potty, I wasn't going to pull it out again.  So I said, "Yes you can, Bubba.  You can do it."

But it was a no go.  Xander hopped right off the toilet and back to his Raisin Bran.  As the day progressed, I could tell he was feeling increasingly uncomfortable.  You could say that he was 'showing signs of strain.'  He argued with his B.F.F. over a toy truck.  My usually sunny little boy sprouted a perpetual frown.  He kept asking to visit the bathroom, sitting down, then getting right back off again.

Fast forward to after nap time.  I had to wake him up early for his annual well child doctor's visit.  Normally grumpy between 4:00 and dinner time, by the time we got done with the doctor he was a regular bear.  He had asked to go to the bathroom five times while we were at the doctor's office, and didn't do anything each time.

I should have gone straight home.  I really should have.  But I was out of saline solution, so I risked a trip to Walgreens.

The first tantrum happened in the eye care aisle.  He kept pushing the cart back and forth, back and forth, and when I finally had enough and put him in the shopping cart's child seat, he started screaming.  At the top of his lungs.  A lady a few feet away slid me a covert "your child's a brat" look.  I ignored it.

Then, at the checkout, the salesgirl peddled me her mandatory spiel.  "Would you like to buy some M&M's?"  she asked.  I told her no, holding my breath, but the damage had already been done.  Xander started up with, "I want candy."

"No,"  I told him.

"I want candy."


"I want candy!"  By this time the two old-timers by the register were watching me, as well as all the people in the after-work-beer-run line.

"NO.  Mommy said NO.  You can NOT have candy."  My inner frustration was bucking to be let loose.  I fiercely ratcheted it down, gripping my self control with every tattered shred of patience I had.

"I WANT CANDY!!!"  My cheeks burning, I finished up with the cashier, grabbed my screaming toddler, shopping bag, purse, and checked to make sure Sophie was at my side, then made a bee line for the door. I could feel the stare of every eye in that store pricking a hole in my back as I fled through the automatic doors.

After a severe tongue lashing (including, "You're going to tell your Daddy what you did when he gets home"), we arrived home tense and tearful.  Xander looked at me with his big blue eyes.  "Mommy, I have to go poo poo."

No kidding.

So we went in to try one more time.  He sat down.  His eyes got big.  His cheeks grew red.  His chubby fingers gripped the seat.

And then a look of blessed, blissful relief spread across his face.  Finally.

So to all of you who have never parented a 2-year old before, please let me tell you.  Don't judge that mother whose son is screaming in the store.  Because you never know what else is going on.  He might be hoarding a two foot long poo.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

2011 Goals Revisited: June

I simply cannot believe 2011 is half way over!  Wasn't I just stuffing Christmas cards a month ago?  It's the first of the month, and time for my monthly update on my new year's resolutions.  Warning:  This will be pretty boring for most of you.  I have to do it, though, because it keeps me accountable and working on my goals.  So, without further ado:

1.  Focus on Scott
We had a wonderful date this month, leaving town at 4:00, and not getting home until after midnight.  I am happy to report that the oo-la-la has flooded back in :)  Ways I show my husband I love him:  bring him breakfast and coffee in the morning.  Get up and welcome him cheerfully when he comes in after work.  Interest myself in what he's interested in.  Things I need to work on:  my attitude on 'off days', when I just don't feel like being a servant to my husband and family.  Jesus give me grace!  We're starting a marriage study in our small group this Sunday, and I'm looking forward to what it reveals.
"A-", because my 'Mrs. Me' selfish monster still raises her ugly head too often.

2.  Focus on Sophie and Xander.
Can I say:  I LOVE the summer time in our little town!  There is so much to do with young kids.  Sophie, Xander and I have had so much fun so far, with trips to the library and dips in the pool.  I feel like I've been pretty consistent with discipline this month.  Either that, or Xander is finally maturing.  'Bout time.  Something I've started to do with Sophie (a tradition left over from my dad when I was a little girl), is tell her 'Princess Morning Star' stories at night.  They are made up stories about a princess, who just so happens to encounter problems very similar to what Sophie dealt with that day.  It's a great way to help her process her day.

3.  Focus on our family.
We took a family trip out of town this month.  It was so cute, we went to a candy store in the mall, and each kid got their own little box of candies that they got to fill.  They were SO very proud walking down the mall with their special candy boxes!  Besides that, we've been spending a lot of time in the back yard together.  We've eaten dinner 'al fresco', done a lot of swimming, and stayed up late twice to make s'mores in the chiminea.

4.  Focus on my writing.
Meh.  I could have done better on this one this month.  All you have to do is look at my tally of posts for the month to know I've been slacking.  There is no excuse,  and for this I give myself a:

5.  Focus on my body.
I AM WITHIN MY GOAL WEIGHT!!!!  Yay!!!!!!!!!  I haven't felt this fit and healthy in years.  I run three days a week, do pilates three days a week, and take a day off.  I'm eating lean meats, whole grains and lots of fruits and veggies.  I feel fabulous.  I am making a new goal for myself, just bumping my old one down five more pounds.  I hope to have lost the last five pounds (those stubborn, stubborn five pounds!) by the end of the summer.  My new goal:  1*0 - 1*5.  But really, I feel like I've already succeeded.  If I just continue my current healthy lifestyle, I'll be happy.