Tea Time

“Under certain circumstances there are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.” ~Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady

An invitation was generously extended to my mother and me on Friday. We were to attend a tea party if we had no prior plans. A day visit to my elder brother and his family had been on the agenda but weather conditions prohibited us from driving north effectively freeing our afternoon for the occasion. My children were left with their Sampa (my father: Sam + grandpa = Sampa) and off we women went to join the ladies for afternoon tea.

Margharite, our German hostess, was absolutely delightful and this was most evidently not her first tea party. Set beautifully was the Christmas china. Displayed artistically were cakes, sweets, biscuits and the like that are not often served in any American setting. The tea was excellent. The conversation was delightful (despite the fact that I was the youngest attendee by at least twenty years) and it was over far too quickly for my taste.

Oh, how I have missed tea time.

At Brackenhurst Baptist Conference Center, where I spent my childhood, morning tea was always served precisely at 10:00 a.m. Served in white china left from the compounds days as a British hotel, I could have English tea or the more traditional Kenyan chai (Please note: This is not the chai that is being marketed and sold in coffeehouses and supermarkets today, but a tea served scalding hot with a lot of milk and usually very sweet.) One did not have to look far to see where the tea had originated as Brackenhurst was surrounded by blankets of green tea fields. I would have my chai with a mandazi (a fried Kenyan doughnut much like a French beignet). During my elementary school days (before attending boarding school) I would look forward to the days where I was not in classes and could loiter around the Brackenhurst kitchens waiting for that wonderful mid-morning tradition.

On very special occasions, which usually translated as having guests from the U.S.A., I had the joy of taking afternoon tea with Mrs. Mitchell. English born during Kenya’s colonial times, Mrs. Mitchell was a firm believer in a proper tea time … even if she did use the tradition to turn a wee bit of a profit. For a nominal fee one could enjoy a proper English tea, a tour of her estate, and listen to her wonderful stories about growing up in British East Africa. If the weather was sunny and beautiful, tea was served on her gorgeous lawn under a white canopy. I would close my eyes and imagination the lot of us engaged in a game of lawn bowling or a friendly match of cricket. When the foggy, dew-laden days of the highlands threatened the comfort of tea outdoors, everything was moved into the parlor which sported an amazing fire place where I would sit and listen to Mrs. Mitchell’s stories. It was these tales that kept me anxious to return to her home whenever given the opportunity. The tea I’d had before … the stories were always something new.

My boarding school (Rift Valley Academy) even honored the tea time tradition with a mid-morning break between classes. First we attended a daily chapel but that short service was quickly followed by tea time. It was necessary for one to bring their own mug or tea cup or some sort of drinking vessel to the back door of the school kitchens in order to be served. There, in an enormous vat, would be gallons of the aforementioned Kenyan chai. Many staff and students did not partake of this morning tea. In fact, it was my final two years of school before I could be found with mug in hand each day, enjoying my tea and scrambling for a refill to carry into my next class. I do love chai.

The hotels throughout Kenya still honor the tradition of afternoon tea. I have enjoyed my tea time at Mountain Kenya Safari club overlooking the immaculately groomed grounds at the base of Mt. Kenya’s jagged peaks. I have taken tea on the roof of the infamous Treetops hotel near the site where Queen Elizabeth II entered the hotel a princess and departed the next morning a queen. All have been memorable experiences, but none quite as memorable as enjoying afternoon tea at any one of the many resorts dotting the Kenyan coastline.

In the midst of swimming in the hotel pool, walking the beach, or learning to scuba dive in the clear Indian Ocean … the tradition of afternoon tea brought hotel guests together. Depending on the season, but more often than not, an afternoon rainstorm would roll off the ocean and onto the shore just in time for tea. I used to wonder at Mother Nature’s punctuality there in Mombasa. It was almost as though she knew we humans needed a break from our activities. No lightening. No thunder. What fell was a warm rain shower that lasted anywhere from ten minutes to an hour. Covered only by a thatch roof and having no walls, there is something incredibly earthy and serene about watching the rain drops swallowed by the ocean while lounging in a wicker chair, drinking tea and having a scone or a finger sandwich in one of the hotel’s outdoor living areas. And, just as quickly as it had begun, the rain would pass and the sun would emerge for the remainder of a brilliant afternoon.

Yes, morning or afternoon, I have missed having a proper tea.

I realized while sitting in the tea room of our German hostess this past Friday afternoon that I have not had a proper tea time since my last trip home to Kenya. That, my friends, was thirteen years ago. No wonder I drank in, not only the tea, but every moment and every resurrected memory.

Art Happens

"To the man who loves art for its own sake," remarked Sherlock Holmes, tossing aside the advertisement sheet of the Daily Telegraph, "it is frequently in its least important and lowliest manifestations that the keenest pleasure is to be derived." ~Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventure of the Copper Beeches

Hamburg, Arkansas (Turner Household) … 1977 … I was three. My mother tells the story often enough. She was working in and around the house when she realized that I was missing, or hiding, or simply being much more quiet than usual. I still have a problem keeping my mouth shut, so her concern was duly warranted. After a brief search, I was found. I had been in the garage. With me was a box of crayons. Apparently I found the garage walls to be a rather boring shade of whatever color they were and was determined to change their appearance. I am sure I received some sort of punishment, but my mom now laments the fact that she did not take a photograph in order to preserve the moment for all eternity. Art happens.

Tigoni, Kenya (Brackenhurst Baptist Conference Center) … 1980 … I was six. I do not need anyone to tell me this story. I remember it vividly. Brackenhurst is the location of an old British hotel. The tin roofs are red and the cottage like buildings all sport white-washed walls. My dear friend-since-birth (Becky) and I discovered that flower petals, once pressed onto a white wall, produce an excellent transference of color from the flower pigment. The flowers (roses, geraniums, snap dragons, etc.) were a most excellent medium with which to work. The result? Mural. As I recall - it was rather beautiful. Alas! The adults in our lives were not amused. Not only had we defaced the outside of a building, but we were not supposed to be picking the flowers either. As Becky’s father was the administrator at Brackenhurst, we were fully aware of this rule and had ignored it blatantly. Please note: It takes a lot of soapy OMO© (detergent from hell that strips the color out of clothing and could probably remove skin if deeply concentrated) water, scrub brushes, elbow grease, and little girl tears to remove a flower petal mural from a white-washed wall. Art happens.

This seems to be a good place to note that, according to my edited adoption records, my birth father was an artist. Go figure.

Nairobi, Kenya (Rosslyn Academy) … 1984 … I was nine. I remember being chastised for not following directions in art class. I colored outside the lines. I used paint when we were supposed to be using colored pencils. I drew palm trees and the ocean when we were supposed to be cutting out snowflakes or some other such nonsense. I don’t recall a lot of detail, but I do remember being a problem to my poor teacher. Incidentally, my mother still has a lot of my art pieces from elementary school and they all have good grades on them. My teachers may have been frustrated, but they never forced me to stop expressing myself as I saw fit. There is a batik (a technique of hand-dyeing fabrics by using wax as a dye repellent to cover parts of a design, dyeing the uncovered fabric with a color or colors, and dissolving the wax in boiling water) of a thorn tree in the sunset that turned out particularly well. I still have it. Art happens.

Kijabe, Kenya (Rift Valley Academy) … 1991-1992 … I was seventeen. I took my first official art class hoping for an easy class and subsequently an easy grade. It was my senior year. This time, I followed the rules. We worked through the various mediums and I discovered a talent I had with stippling (to paint, engrave, or draw by means of dots or small touches. I also discovered I can not paint worth a damn and I can’t draw people … well, I can … I am just no good at it. My teacher criticized me for not taking his course earlier in school so I would have time to develop my talent more fully before graduation. Whatever. I chose not to pursue art in college. Still, art happens.

Art happens.

We are surrounded by art every day. How often do we stop to pay attention to what we are seeing? You do not have to visit Paris and spend a day (or two, or three) at the Louvre to experience art. I have experienced museums around the world from Rome to Amsterdam to Nairobi to Washington DC (that is just a sample) and stood in awe at the works displayed in each. I have also repainted apartment and house walls as my children have grown and obviously inherited my penchant for taking pencil, pen, crayon, and marker to those flat surfaces that obviously beg to be made into a mural. Had I not been renting, I might have bought empty frames and mounted them on the walls around the artwork produced by my little people.

Art happens and it is everywhere. Signs, advertisements, clouds, coloring books, spider webs, handwriting, greeting cards, dew drops, carvings, paintings, and graffiti represent a tiny fraction of the art that is introduced into our lives minute by minute. Stop. Look around. Find something artistic every day that brings joy into your life. Remember it. Remember to look again tomorrow.

Art happens.

You do not want to miss it.

"Life isn't long enough for love and art." ~W. Somerset Maugham, The Moon and Sixpense

Simple, Yet Special

“It is, indeed, the season of regenerated feeling--the season for kindling, not merely the fire of hospitality in the hall, but the genial flame of charity in the heart.” ~Washington Irving, Old Christmas

Christmas morning, in the midst of the madness created by my overexcited (yet loved) children, a stocking was shoved into my lap. I had not expected much as there is no spouse to buy for me this year and my parents are retired so I do not anticipate much from them. I fished around in said stocking and pulled out a dark chocolate bar and a coloring book (yes, for me) and a small instantly recognizable box from a jeweler in Nairobi.

This last item was a surprise as I am fully aware that my father has made trips to West Africa recently, but it has been quite some time since any of us have been back to Kenya. Not to mention, the box was not new. It was not even close to new. Inside was a simple, yet beautiful pair of silver earrings. I looked at my mother … and smiled. What more could I say?

“What do girls do who haven't any mothers to help them through their troubles?” ~Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

You see – my mother has quite the jewelry stash. Oh! None of it is extravagant or incredibly expensive, but it is a beautiful collection of semi-precious pieces mainly from a favored jeweler in Kenya and one in South Africa. My father, it seems, has great taste in accessories. Who would have guessed? Not me. I was in high school before I realized my dad was hand selecting stone and setting in the items he was purchasing for my mother. I have, on more then one occasion, rummaged through her stuff just to see what I could find (not recently, mind you … when I was younger).

There I sat on Christmas morning holding earrings once belonging to my mom and now, apparently, intended for me. I still have managed nothing more than a hug for her in an effort to not dissolve into a blubbering mess. I rather like keeping my emotions to myself on most occasions. I can not help but wonder if this is a preview of things to come. They can not afford the big ticket items that many parents lavish on their grown children. They can, however, pass down family items … memories.

Those earrings may or may not be a symbol of the sort of gifts I can look forward to in the future. Either way – they are very simple, but so very special.

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” ~Leonardo da Vinci

Virtual Gifts

"One must be poor to know the luxury of giving." ~George Eliot, Middlemarch

I have decided, after receiving a number of them this year, that I am a fan of the virtual gift. Why? Well, for one – they don’t cost any money. They also allow for a level of fancy that is not often matched by real gift giving. Inevitably, I found myself giggling my way through my gifts with much enjoyment. Facebook (Yes, I have a Facebook account.) in particular made the giving of virtual gifts easier this year with its ‘Festive Events & Gifts’ application. I received more than I gave and now I am wishing I had utilized it more fully.

Here is a run down of a few things I received … with comments from the givers and my reactions thus far. Please note: names have been withheld to protect the innocent, but you know who you are. On we go:

1. A day off
“Wouldn’t it be great if this was real? Ha! Ha! Have a great Christmas!”
This is a most excellent gift if ever I saw one; unfortunately it did not come from my boss. I took the day off anyway, in fact I took the entire week and so far it has been most relaxing.

2. Wii
There was no card enclosed, but this individual knows I have two boys who desperately want a Nintendo Wii for Christmas. If they were disappointed in not receiving a real one, they did not show their displeasure to me. Still, a practical virtual gift if ever there was one.

3. A tub of memories
“I tried to find you more time cuz you are so busy. This is as close as I could find.”
Brilliant! I love memories. Where would I be in life without them? Now I have a virtual box with which to store my treasured thoughts.

4. Date with Brad Pitt
“We are still human right! Enjoy the date; I heard he is a great kisser.”
Well, he isn’t my first choice of Hollywood celebrity but who am I to complain. Virtual or not … it’s a date and I haven’t had one all year. Sad, huh?

5. Romantic dinner with Orlando Bloom
There was no card with this one either, but I’m sensing a theme. Hmmmm?

6. Sony Vaio Notebook
“Since you have been having computer problems …”
I wish!!! Dang it!

7. Harry Potter book set (The one that comes in the chest.)
“I’m sure in real life you have this, but it made me think of you. Merry Christmas.”
Do I have the books? Hell yeah! Do I have the cool book set that comes in the treasure chest? Hell no. Do I want it? Hell yeah!

8. Beetle Diecast car
“Since you’re always complaining about the van, I thought you could use a new form of transportation.”
Providence … that’s what it is considering the van has died a miserable death and I am now in need of decent transportation.

9. Handknit Cap
“May your head always be warm! Merry Christmas, love Santa.”
Okay – so we know it didn’t come from Santa, but seeing as I hate winter and I am already tired of being cold this is a great gift for me. Not to mention, I look fabulous in hats.

There you go … a short foray into the world of the virtual gift.

"Rich gifts wax poor when givers prove unkind." ~William Shakespeare, Hamlet

I do so enjoy my poor gifts given in friendship, love, and a wee bit of jest.

Merry Christmas!

Catch me a catch!

Having been separated for a year and divorced for nine months, it would now appear that the acceptable waiting period (whatever invisible length of time that happened to be) for shoving single men in my face has come to an official end … or maybe it is the holiday spirit that has those close to me freely pointing out who is and who isn’t available as a potential mate.

“Well, somebody has to arrange the matches; young people can't decide these things themselves.” ~Fiddler on the Roof, musical

First, there is my cousin and her family who have stumbled across a fellow who is not only single, but also a family law attorney. Free legal advice and a date! What more could I want, right? I jest, but he has been mentioned more than once in the last week or two and my cousin even called to give me his number. Nice.

“People go to casinos for the same reason they go on blind dates - hoping to hit the jackpot. But mostly, you just wind up broke or alone in a bar.” ~Sarah Jessica Parker, Sex and the City

Sunday evening while attending a Christmas caroling service at my parent’s church it was mentioned to me (by my mother) that two different individuals present were single. One man happens to be the youth pastor and a bona fide hottie … he is twenty-five. I am not completely opposed to an eight year age gap but, having practically raised my ex-husband, I would prefer for that much of a difference in ages to swing the other direction. The other individual brought to my attention works on a cruise ship. Talk about long distance. Whew! And … he’s surrounded by gorgeous people day-in and day-out. I think I would have to be emotionally suicidal to even ponder that one.

There is another individual, again seven to eight years younger, which has been mentioned from time to time. (This is all the detail I dare give in such a public venue.) What is the deal with the younger men? Are we forgetting that I have a child on the verge of being a teenager? Seriously, that would be a rude awakening to any man, let alone one who has never been married and has no children. Again, I have nothing against a younger man although anything more than two or three years is really pushing the issue.

“It's such a happiness when good people get together—and they always do.” ~Jane Austen, Emma

More than anything … I am curious about this invisible waiting period that seems to have expired sometime around December 1st. Apparently, everyone else simultaneously decided that on or shortly after that day it would be acceptable to start trying to play matchmaker with the divorcee.

I have two words for you people: “Good Luck!”

You push – I will push back. It is in my nature.

“Matchmaker, Matchmaker,
Make me a match,
Find me a find,
Catch me a catch,
Night after night in the dark I'm alone
So find me match,
Of my own.”

~Fiddler on the Roof, musical

A Compliment is a Gift

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” ~Leo Buscaglia

A compliment. Has a well placed compliment changed your life? Have you complimented someone else and perhaps not realized that you have given them the greatest gift they have ever received? Do you ever give compliments or do you refrain in order to save the potential receiver a life of arrogance and narcissism?

Like it or not we, as humans, need affirmation in our lives to feel as though we are accomplished at something … anything. Choosing not to share a compliment with someone could change their outlook on life just as strongly as sharing the accolade can alter their future or, at the very least, the rest of their day.

A good compliment, however, must be made in honesty and sincerity in order for it to be believable. There are those, like Mr. Collins from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice who work overtime in their attempts to lay down the perfect praise at the perfect moment. When questioned about his “gift” of flattery, Mr. Collins responds, “They arrive chiefly from what is passing at the time, and though I sometimes amuse myself with suggesting and arranging such little elegant compliments as may be adapted to ordinary occasions, I always wish to give them as unstudied an air as possible.” Insincerity. It can destroy what little good may have been intended. We must all learn to differentiate between a compliment and empty flattery.

The greatest compliment I have ever received was in regard to my children, not myself. As a parent, I try to raise my children appropriately. There is no greater accolade to my ears than to hear adults in other areas of my children’s lives tell me that my efforts have not been in vain. Currently my children are visiting my parents in Missouri and they have been applauded for their good behavior and manners from individuals at the church, at area restaurants and by my own parents. This is a great compliment to me indeed.

A compliment. Have you received one recently? Have you given one recently?

What is the greatest compliment you have ever received?

(August 2007)

My Childhood Domain

Tucked into the Kenya highlands (7,000 feet above sea level) and surrounded by tea fields that blanket the rolling hills like a vibrant green carpet sits Brackenhurst Baptist International Conference Center. On the grounds of a Colonial British hotel, Brackenhurst was my childhood domain. I had the freedom to explore not only the grounds of the conference center, but the surrounding areas as well. I knew every inch of forest and was familiar with every path leading through the tea. As long as I was home by dark there seemed to be no concern about where I went and what I was doing.

Brackenhurst was also the site of our annual mission meetings and the language school for new missionaries. Because of this, my friends were constantly coming and going as their parents attended conferences or worked on their language skills. I loved the opportunities when various friends were staying for extended periods and I was able to share with them the depth of my knowledge regarding my domain. One friend in particular, John, was notorious for being an active participant in many of my childhood schemes. This is the account of one of those instances. I remember the event well though the year and our ages escapes me. I think we were six or seven at the most.

"It is familiarity with life that makes time speed quickly. When every day is a step in the unknown, as for children, the days are long with gathering of experience . . ." ~George Gissing, The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft

The Hole

It was a quintessential cold, foggy Brackenhurst morning (which leads me to believe it was July or August) when John and I decided to venture into “The Hole” for the first time, much to the awe of our peers.

“The Hole” was a gap in the wall of the main building at Brackenhurst. This building was built into a hill and one outside wall was punctuated with rounded porticos that created a kind of secret passage under the building. “The Hole” was located at the furthest point of the inclining passageway where one went from walking to crawling as the hill met the building and there was little light. There, at the very back was a gap
in the brick, approximately one foot square.

The older kids used to spin tales about what was in “The Hole.” A favorite was that pirate bones were buried there because the Indian Ocean used to reach all the way to Brackenhurst. (I wonder if my older brother remembers this detail since he used to spin this tall tale!) There were a number of stories and each one of them tailored to scare away us little kids.

John and I, however, being of unsound mind, fearless, and willing to take on anything, decided that we were going into “The Hole” to see what was there for ourselves. Too lazy to go looking for a flashlight (or afraid we would lose our nerve in the process) we entered through the portico and crawled our way back to the entrance. We lay there. Our heads were touching as we strained to see using what little light was in the passage. It was like a dark abyss but nothing was going to stop us. In I went. Feet first. I was an extremely skinny kid so the size of “The Hole” was not an issue. I dropped several feet to the uneven bottom. John was right behind me.

What we found was a room with rocks on the floor that had probably been used at one time as a wine cellar or some other sort of storage when the property was still a hotel and golf course. No pirate bones. No nests of giant poisonous spiders. No snakes. In truth, I think we were slightly disappointed.

Unable to see well and still too lazy to go to my house (about a half mile away) for a flashlight, we decided it would be great to build a fire so we could see and be warm. Out we crawled and I stood lookout while John stole some of the infamous green firewood from a nearby cottage. I don’t remember where the matches came from. Back into “The Hole” we crawled where we lit our fire using green leaves and then proceeded to pile on green wood. Obviously we had no understanding of the concept that green wood doesn’t burn very well. Pretty soon, above our heads, we heard the quick pounding of running feet.

Thump, thump, thump, thump, thump … to the left.
Thump, thump, thump, thump, thump … to the right.

It took a few minutes for reality to dawn on us as we looked upwards and realized we could see traces of light above us as the cellar type space we were currently occupying was directly below the tea room and our “ceiling” was the tea room floor and our smoke was filtering through the floorboards into the main building.

You have probably never seen two children jump and crawl through a one foot square hole so quickly. No one knew we were there. How could they? Progressing from crawl to shuffled crouch to full out run as we maneuvered down the passageway … we were convinced we would make our escape. It was then that each of us lost footing as we exited the tallest portico. Only a parent has that kind of reflexes. John’s mom was waiting and had grabbed each one of us by an arm in our attempt to sprint past.

We were busted and so were our little behinds. Personally, I found the adventure well worth it as "The Hole" was the one area of my domain that I had yet to explore.

Incidentally, we never did try to build a fire in “The Hole” again but it did become a favored hide out … and, in the grand tradition of our older siblings, we spread rumors of what might be down in there in order to frighten and intimidate those kids growing up behind us.

I wonder how long our stories lasted before one or two brave kids ventured forth to determine what "The Hole" was for themselves.

". . . the companions of our childhood always possess a certain power over our minds which hardly any later friend can obtain." ~Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Frankenstein
Now I am Six
~A. A. Milne

When I was One,
I had just begun.

When I was Two,
I was nearly new.

When I was Three,
I was hardly Me.

When I was Four,
I was not much more.

When I was Five,
I was just alive.

But now I am Six, I'm as clever as clever.
So I think I'll be six now for ever and ever.

Advertising Wisdom

There are times when some overpaid individual in a major advertising agency has a moment of brilliance laced with a touch of humanity. Here are the products of two such moments. Ask not why I have hoarded these two passages for years. Read them and you will probably understand.

"Life isn't about keeping score. It's not about how many people call you and it's not about who you've dated, are dating, or haven't dated at all. It isn't about who you've kissed, what sport you play, or which guy or girl likes you. It's not about your shoes or your hair or the color of your skin or where you live or go to school. In fact, it's not about grades, money, clothes, or colleges that accept you or not. Life isn't about if you have lots of friends, or if you are alone, and it's not about how accepted or unaccepted you are. Life just isn't about that. But life is about who you love and who you hurt. It's about how you feel about yourself. It's about sticking up for your friends and replacing inner hate with love. Life is about avoiding jealousy, overcoming ignorance, and building confidence. It's about what you say and what you mean. It's about seeing people for who they are and not what they have. Most of all, it is about choosing to use your life to touch someone else's in a way that could never have been achieved otherwise. These choices are what life's about." ~Nike ad~

"Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can praise them, disagree with them, quote them, disbelieve them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward. Maybe they have to be crazy. How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art? Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written? Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels? We make tools for these kinds of people. While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do." ~ Apple Computer Advertisement

Bloody Brilliant!

Tarnished Halos

I recently had a quick and amusing Facebook conversation with a friend from my childhood regarding halos. He had posted something about a lost halo and, of course, I could not help myself and had to respond:

Me: “What halo? Your halo? Are you sure you had a halo to begin with?”

Him: “My halo is in a lock box hidden deep in the closet. It is closely guarded, but I do have a friend or two who I wonder how they got the halo's they sport! I was just taking a jab at a good friend of mine. She claimed to have a halo and I swear it was stolen.”

Me: “Yes, well, my halo (if ever there was one) fell from its precarious perch a long, long time ago! :o)”

Him: “I think we dented our halos together a few times back in high school and college! So I know you had one at one point.”

As the children of missionaries, we were often expected to be perfect, halo-wearing kids. Excuse me while I pause for a bout of snorting laughter. I don’t know about my friend because he is generally a really great guy. Nice. Nice is the word to describe him. Yes, we had our share of adventures together (as indicated in his response), but I don’t know if he came out of the womb the blatant instigator that I did … thus my comment on if my halo ever existed in the first place.

If ever there was one it has long since been tarnished – or broken. Should I list the number of infractions of which I am fully guilty? I think not. The list is long and varied and leads more to more then simple tarnishing. The word “shattering” comes to mind.

In truth, I may jest about halos, but we as humans are incapable of bearing such a glory. It is in the essence of the human character to be fallible. Of course, the Bible teaches us that angelic beings are not exempt from losing their halos either. Does the name ‘Lucifer’ ring a bell? You know … Satan! He was once an angel. Bloody Hell (no pun intended), but if an angel can lose his halo, how can any human hope to maintain one (and don’t get me started on those “perfect” individuals who pompously strut as though wearing a halo)?

We can not attain perfection, but we can strive – and that is all that is asked of us.

“Be aware that a halo has to fall only a few inches to be a noose.” ~Dan McKinnon


I was asked recently to create a wee bit of a biography about myself including what inspires me to write and what my hopes are as a writer and blah, blah, blah. While I was honored to provide this information (I will inevitably blog about why I was asked to do this … have patience.) it occurred to me that, while I write about myself all the time, I wasn’t sure how to approach a written account of me as a writer or even as a person. Self promotion does not come easy to me.

Am I a writer? Yes – No – Maybe.

I guess I am … if compulsively taking pen to paper and fingers to keyboard qualifies me as such. I consider everything I write as practice – though I can not tell you where the practice will lead. I am discovering that there are those (other than my parents) who enjoy what I write and that revelation is nothing short of astounding to me.

“Why do writers write? Because it isn't there.” ~Thomas Berger, novelist

What inspires me to write? Life.

We live in an amazing world and there is no shortage of life subjects from which to choose. I have been writing and journaling since I was a school girl. Writing is how I cope. I compose to save my own sanity. I write to make others laugh. I write … because I have no choice. It must be done. At this point, I write for me.

“You must write your first draft with your heart. You rewrite with your head. The first key to writing is to write, not to think!” ~Finding Forrester, Film (2000)

What do I write? Everything.

I have a small collection of poetry that appears to originate from the darkest of muses. Emotionally charged situations bring out my hidden poet and from that my pieces write themselves. I pay no attention to form or rhyme or meter. My various university professors would either praise me for writing from the heart or criticize me for ignoring everything I was taught.

“Like anything worth writing, it came inexplicably and without method.” ~Stranger Than Fiction, Film (2006)

I have an unfinished cheesy romance novel that I haven’t touched since 1998. The idea was good and the writing wasn’t bad, but that genre just isn’t for me … at least, not right now. Personally, I think my writing deserves better.

“If you wish to practice the art of fiction, then your horizons must be widened.” ~Becoming Jane, Film (2007)

Floating around in my head are a myriad of book ideas and even a children’s series. I have not yet determined why these brainstorms never make it onto paper (some of them are damn good too). Perhaps their time will come. For now they remain locked in my random disorganized mind.

What are my aspirations? The “P” word.

For years I kept my writing to myself, so it is with trepidation that I step into the public eye and dare to hope that one day I may manage the metamorphosis from writer to published author. Is it a dream? Yes, but I am not sure I have found my voice … yet … so I keep writing. Practice may not make perfect but it might make publishable.

Am I a writer?

“Hi! My name is Beth. I am a writer.”

Whew! That felt good.

One Week Until Christmas: 15 Random Thoughts

As Christmas is rapidly approaching, I find that I am not feeling the holiday spirit like I have in years past. I fear this year I will simply celebrate vicariously through my children. I would love to blame my attitude on the weather, but seeing as I was raised on the equator with sunshine and palm trees at Christmas … well, this warmer Arkansas weather can not be held responsible for my low spirits. Somehow, someway things simply do not feel Christmas-esque this year. I am not in full “Bah! Humbug!” mode, but I am ready for it to come and go.

On that note, here are a few random thoughts that have sped through my brain today as I realized Christmas Eve is one week away.

“That which is static and repetitive is boring. That which is dynamic and random is confusing. In between lies art.” ~John A. Locke

1. Why am I the only one in my office left to deal with all the nuts who forgot to plan things in advance and now want to book Christmas parties for next week? Yeah, right. Call someone else.

2. Shopping? What shopping? I hate shopping. Of course, now I am left to scrounge through the stupid stores with the rest of the procrastinators this weekend because it still won’t happen between now and Friday.

3. Whew! I finally get some time off. Don’t look for me in the office next week. In fact, I finally get a week out of this stupid state. It isn’t like I’m going far (Missouri), but anything is better than where I am.

4. I wonder if my mom is going to try to cheat on Christmas dinner like she did with Thanksgiving last year. I am not eating prepackaged dressing or stuffing which means I will probably assume the responsibility of cooking (like I did at Thanksgiving last year). Maybe I can just get her to fix chicken curry.

5. I am totally relieved my brother, his wife and three kids will not be joining us for Christmas. That’s horrible, I know, but I don’t have the funds to shop for them this year and if they were coming I would feel compelled to buy something. Thank you, dear brother, for switching jobs and not having the vacation time to take more than two days off.

6. I don’t even have wrapping paper.

7. How long do I have to wait before taking down the pitiful little 4 ½ foot tree I put up this year … simply to appease my children?

8. I should feel bad that the boys aren’t spending Christmas with their father … and yet, I don’t.

9. New Years Eve … I should do something for New Years Eve. I can’t be sitting a home moping because the boys will be with their father. What?

10. Where is my ghost of Christmas past? I would love to be in Mombasa this week.

11. I hate candy canes.

12. I bet my parents will make us pile in the car and go stare at Christmas lights on Christmas Eve. Hmmm? Is there any way I can get out of that spectacular adventure?

13. If I hear ‘Santa Baby’ on the radio one more time between home and work … some serious road rage may be in order. Note to self: start wearing ipod while driving in vehicle to avoid potential anger management issues.

14. I wish everyone would stop baking and bringing things to the office. (I write this having just finished a huge double batch of my world famous chocolate chip cookies. Note: I don’t eat my own cookies. This is revenge!!!)

15. I abhor anything remotely resembling cold weather. It was 25 °F (-4 °C) this morning. That’s just not right … and I don’t want to hear any complaints from those of you who choose to live even farther north than me. Move!

"I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.” ~Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Blunt Force Trauma

"These words are razors to my wounded heart." ~William Shakespeare, Titus Andronicus

Photo courtesy of mustafahacalaki on Flickr.


Ask anyone who knows me well and you'll learn that words are among my favorite things. I love words. I love reading, writing, word games and I've been known to search the dictionary or thesaurus from time to time just to see what I can find. You would think that someone so in tune with language would think twice about what they say … and I do, but not enough.

We all know the old rhyme: "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." I'd like to think that we all realize as we grow older that there isn't a shred of truth in that little sing-song saying. Words carry far more force than we often realize and everyone I know has been a victim of the blunt force trauma of language. Most of us are also guilty of being the assailant at some time or another… perhaps unconsciously, yet guilty all the same.

"And a word carries far --very far-- deals destruction through time as the bullets go flying through space." ~Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim

I guess I'm simply throwing out a reminder to everyone (including myself) to be careful what you say to other people. Ponder your words and your feelings carefully before opening your mouth. The human memory has an amazing ability to recall things it has heard word-for-word when it wants to and something that may have seemed innocent months ago when it was said can come back to feel like a bludgeoning baseball bat.

So… think twice before speaking, whispering, yelling, or writing in any type of highly charged emotional situation. This does not extend simply to insults. There have been a myriad of instances regarding misplaced complements, endearments and words that initially appear harmless. You may knock the wind out of someone and I think we all know what regret feels like. It's easier for me to regret something that I've said than pretty much anything else in life.

"Really it is very wholesome exercise, this trying to make one's words represent one's thoughts, instead of merely looking to their effect on others." ~Elizabeth Gaskell, Cousin Phillips

None of us wants to suffer from blunt force trauma. We shouldn't long to inflict it either.

Angels Among Us

“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” ~Hebrews 13:2, Bible

There are angels among us. They are here watching over this holiday season and influencing the hearts of those who surround me. I find my heart is so full of gratitude that I have no words … as nothing I write will do justice to the magnitude of my emotions. Know this:

I am blessed.

I believe in God, my Father.
I believe in angels in Heaven.
I believe in answered prayer.

I believe in angels on Earth.

“Some things are true whether you believe in them or not.” ~City of Angels, Film (1998)

“Gratitude is our most direct line to God and the angels. If we take the time, no matter how crazy and troubled we feel, we can find something to be thankful for.” ~Terry Lynn Taylor, author

A Supplementary Saga on Single Subsistence

Just over a month ago I penned a diatribe based on questions posed to me of my apparent dateable status now that I’m several months removed from my divorce. I titled my ranting: “It’s Official … Life is Scary.” If you haven’t read it, feel free. I find it is mildly entertaining at best, but it does feed off the misconception by society as a whole that we humans must have a partner to feel complete. So, here I sit thirty-eight days later and I’m still struggling with this issue. I didn’t anticipate it would go away, but I had hoped that people would have the decency to stop voicing it and making me appear pathetic.

"The happiest time of anyone's life is just after the first divorce." ~John Kenneth Galbraith, economist

I was having a rather pleasant cell phone conversation with an old friend this evening when he hit me with a question completely out of context based on the discussion we were having. “How many dates have you had since the divorce?” he asked. “Do you mind telling me?” was the immediate follow-up. Well, of course I didn’t mind telling him because the answer is a resounding zero, zip and zilch. My divorce has only been final for six months and I didn’t find this answer to be as astounding as he obviously did. “What? Why? That’s absolutely TERRIBLE!” (Please make sure you put the emphasis on “terrible” because it was definitely accented strongly.) “A woman like you …?”

Initial reaction? “Whatever!” I let my mind wander as he continued on his tangent. First of all I was trying to identify why my lack of dates was such a monumental thing. Why was it so terrible? Secondly, I became a little hung up on the phrase, “a woman like you,” and was honestly trying to define it. What kind of woman am I? I’m in my thirties. I don’t look anything like the Barbie doll I once resembled. I’ve got more than my fair share of extra baggage and that is not an exaggeration. I’m a single mother of an almost-teenager and a seven-year old. I’m jaded. I’ve been hurt. I’m wary. I fall ‘in love’ easily so I’ve learned to be defensive. I’m blunt. I’m tired. No, I’m exhausted. I had a rough marriage and I think it shows. Oh yeah … I’m a great catch. Woo hoo! All the men in the world need to line up for me! It’s amazing how far false confidence can go when the world at large doesn’t want to examine you any deeper.

OK! Self analysis aside … nothing changes the painful reality of my current location. I reside in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. This … above all … is a college town. Everyone that lives here is either married or under the age of twenty-two. What am I supposed to do? Should I start seducing married men or snag me a boy toy? I think not. The pickings are slim here and that’s just a general observation. I guess if I actually looked for single men of my age I might (MIGHT) find one or two here or there. I haven’t been looking. I found my ex-husband in this town. That’s enough to warrant not looking for another man in this particular location.

In addition to being jaded and not living in prime hunting territory there is the little matter of my lifestyle. My club days are over. I get up in the morning. I take my kids to school and I go to work. I pick my kids up from their after school activities and we come home for the standard routine (homework, dinner, showers, brushing teeth, etc.). I get up the next morning and do it all over again. Fridays are family movie night. Saturdays are consumed with cross-country meets and soccer games. Sundays we attend church and, in the evening, attend our appropriate church small group studies. The days I don’t have my children are much the same except I’m not dropping them off or picking them up from school. I still have to work. On the occasional day I will catch a movie with an acquaintance from work. Where in there am I supposed to find time to go on a date and how would I find the time to actually meet the hypothetical individual who wants to dare taking me out?

My concern is still simply this: Why is the stage of my single subsistence such a big deal to everyone? My ex-husband was even bold enough to ask if I was seeing someone. What’s the concern here? Do I have, “Hey! Ask me out!” stamped on my forehead? Do I have a “Single & Desperate” bumper sticker stuck to my butt? I’m fairly sure that neither exists, but maybe I should consider advertising. Maybe, just maybe, if I venture out on at least one date then things won’t seem so TERRIBLE for me.

Incidentally, I don’t feel terrible. I may be a little lonely. There are times that I miss small things like the feel of a man’s hand on the small of my back as he ushers me into a room. I’m getting used to it although it doesn’t get any easier. Time heals and time hurts. My hours are consumed with children or solitude … one or the other. It may not be ideal, but it is my life as I know it. I’m okay.

Dear world: Please stop asking about my love life unless I’ve approached the subject first and shared something with you.

It's Official ... Life is Scary

(Please note: The following was composed in August, but I thought I would share it (and the blog that follows) here!)

Someone asked me today ... now that my divorce has been final going on 6 months ... if I'm officially "back on the market" again. Whoa! Apparently, I was completely unprepared for such a question and I've been pondering my tentative "I guess" response all afternoon. It's disturbing ... on a number of different levels.

First: the term "back on the market" makes me feel like a steak or some sort of produce. I don't exactly enjoy the thought of being thought of in that capacity.

Second: I haven't been "on the market" since I was 20. Twenty!!!! Tomorrow I shall be 33. That's a really long time. Things have changed and not all of it is for the better. I don't even think I know how to date anymore. Honestly. How does one date when one is a working mother with two children and a full time job?

Third: Do you know where I live? No offense to any guys in the area who may read this, but I'm in redneck hell. I'm not saying I'm an amazing catch or anything ... but I do have some pretty severe standards. I won't list them all here, but the 'ability to provide' ranks high on that list and I'd venture to bet it would be extremely helpful if you have lived outside of this country or spent a substantial amount of time in a culture other than this one. Christian? You better be one and not just in 'title' either. Live it.

Fourth: I'm not a bimbo. I have a brain and I like to use it. I also don't have the perfect model looks or the perfect model body. I'm a woman. I've had children. Men don't go looking for women like me. Enough said.

Fifth: I need to be me for a while. I'm not saying I wouldn't attempt to go out every now and then, but nothing serious ... at least not right now.

"She knew how how to allure by denying, and to make the gift rich by delaying it." ~Anthony Trollope, Phineas Finn
The conversation that inspired this little blog progressed farther than just a simple question and response. It instigated an entire line of questioning into random scenarios:

"What if you meet Mr. Right tomorrow?"
**Not likely**
"What about that guy in college you had such a crush on?"
**What? Too successful. Probably married. 13 years later! Hello?**

"What about your high school boyfriend?"
**Which one? HA! No thanks!**

"Maybe you'll meet someone at church!"
**Not in this town. People leave here. Everyone at my church is married or under the age of 26 ... most of them under the age of 23. I don't think so.**

"What about match.com or an internet site?"
**Please tell me you're kidding!?**

"Computer dating is fine, if you're a computer." ~Rita Mae Brown, author & activist

That last question is where I was forced to bring my interrogation to a halt. In all honesty, it was way too exhausting .... and absolutely terrifying.

I'm divorced. I'm single. SO WHAT!!

To Love and be Loved is to feel the sun from both sides. ~David Viscott

Do you prefer to Love or be Loved?

It sounds like a relatively simple question. It isn’t. Think about it. Ponder it. Dig deep. Initial reaction is to respond with “a bit of each,” but that doesn’t count. It’s cheating. As humans, we have an inherent nature to do both, but I can guarantee that if you spend enough time in introspection you will discover that your preference does indeed lean in one direction or the other. To Love? To be Loved?

In order to answer the question honestly and with reflection you may find it necessary to do a little research or, at the very least, define Love as you know it. We are bombarded by sources of information daily, hourly, minute-by-minute in our society that claim what Love is and what it can be for you and how to find it. Do me a favor. Pay close attention. Don’t allow yourself to be led astray. Even my favorite location for word knowledge, the dictionary, is not going to help you with this one. Trust me. Look up ‘Love’ in that esteemed tome and you will likely be disappointed. Here is a taste:

1. a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person
2. a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child or friend
3. sexual passion or desire

No wonder we’re all screwed up. There are a myriad of definitions for ‘Love’ in the dictionary but not one of them comes close to how I perceive it. First of all, ‘Love’ is a verb (not a noun) and the only definition given as such within the dictionary (without an object) is, “to have Love or affection for another person; be in Love.” Oh yeah! That’s a big help. Love is a choice. It can be created. To be able to create something is a powerful action. It is not simply about affection, feelings, passion and desire. In true Christian fashion (because some things are just ingrained) I flipped from the page that defined ‘Love’ to the word ‘Agape’ just to see what it said. I skipped past the “Love of God for humankind” part and to the relevant definition: unselfish Love of one person for another without sexual implications. Well, it is closer. I know. I know. Right about now you are referencing I Corinthians 13 in your head, aren’t you? Yeah. Me too.

Back to the initial question: Do you prefer to Love or to be Loved?

Me? I’m a Lover. Why? It’s simple. I’m a coward. It’s easier to Love. It’s far simpler for me to give Love. What? It’s true. As long as I’m giving of my Love than the focus is on the individual who is receiving the Love … not me. Mother Teresa once said, “The success of Love is in the Loving – it is not in the result of Loving. Of course it is natural in Love to want the best for the other person, but whether it turns out that way or not does not determine the value of what we have done.” To me, the relationship my ultimately fail, but if I give of myself … if I Love as I know I can Love … then my Love has had value. It has meant something to someone.

Those individuals who can answer with 100% honesty that they prefer to be Loved are much braver than I. Robert Frost wrote, “Love is an irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired.” There is some truth in that. We all want to be Loved. However, to truly allow someone to Love you all barriers have to be dropped. Walls must be broken down. You must allow yourself to be vulnerable. I detest my vulnerability. Again, I am a coward. I don’t like to let people in. I am worn out. I am tired. I am jaded. I have been hurt one too many times. I have misjudged what Love really is one too many times. Ultimately, my inability to let those who would Love me into the deepest core of my being will result in my loss. Who knows what I will miss because I allowed myself to be caught in the ‘Illusion of Love’ too often.

Deepak Chopra penned the following on http://www.intentblog.com/:

“Part of success is not becoming caught in life’s illusions. A fool for Love …

To create a fantasy and fall in Love with it is folly, to become trapped in an illusion, in Love with your own projection. It also makes one vulnerable to those that would fuel it. Soon reality impedes upon the illusion, crumbling it, and one becomes distraught and who you thought they were, was only in your mind, or what one thought was, is not. I guess the desire to be in Love can blind one to reality. Better to not create a fantasy and live in the present being aware of those that would feed the fictions in your mind. Most relationships are really just an illusion."

Do you prefer to Love?
“Because when we Love, we always strive to become better than we are.”
~Paulo Coelho

Do you prefer to be Loved?
“You never lose by loving. You always lose by holding back.”
~Barbara DeAngelis

You decide.

“Love is as much of an object as an obsession, everybody wants it everybody seeks it, but few ever achieve it. Those who do will cherish it, be lost in it, and among all, will never … never forget it.”

“You know when I said I knew little about Love? That wasn't true. I know a lot about Love. I've seen it, centuries and centuries of it, and it was the only thing that made watching your world bearable. All those wars. Pain, lies, hate... It made me want to turn away and never look down again. But when I see the way that mankind Loves... You could search to the furthest reaches of the universe and never find anything more beautiful. So yes, I know that Love is unconditional. But I also know that it can be unpredictable, unexpected, uncontrollable, unbearable and strangely easy to mistake for loathing, and... What I'm trying to say, Tristan is... I think I Love you. Is this Love, Tristan? I never imagined I'd know it for myself. My heart... It feels like my chest can barely contain it. Like it's trying to escape because it doesn't belong to me any more. It belongs to you. And if you wanted it, I'd wish for nothing in exchange - no fits. No goods. No demonstrations of devotion. Nothing but knowing you Loved me too. Just your heart, in exchange for mine.” ~Stardust, Film (2007)(Written: August 25, 2007)

We are all drifting reefwards now, and faith is our only anchor ...

I, too, am adrift and feel as though I am at the mercy of a spinning compass and empty sails. Forced to stay in a place I was bound to leave, I must now drop anchor and lean on faith for my continued survival.

“But it ain’t our feelings we have to steer by through life—no, no, we’d make shipwreck mighty often if we did that. There’s only the one safe compass and we’ve got to set our course by that—what it’s right to do.” ~Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne’s House of Dreams

It is not easy to stay in a town that has never and will never feel like home. It is not easy to stay in a job that has no future or opportunity for growth. My morale is low. I beg daily for guidance and direction. I ask for prayers that will help give me the energy to keep a breeze in my sails so that I can continue my journey … even if it is voyage that does nothing but send me around and around the dinky harbor of which I currently reside.

“I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving: To reach the port of heaven, we must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it, --but we must sail, and not drift, nor lie at anchor.”
~Oliver Wendell Holmes, The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table

"We are all drifting reefwards now, and faith is our only anchor.”
~Bram Stoker, Dracula
(Written: August 13, 2007)

Passing out on one’s desk is not highly advisable …

"In its early stages, insomnia is almost an oasis in which those who have to think or suffer darkly take refuge." ~Sidonie Gabrielle Colette

Insomnia is not my friend. I guess it really is a friend to no one unless you absolutely need to stay awake for three straight days and your life depends on it. I, however, have no such need. True, I haven’t been fully awake for three days either. At some point last night I did manage a little (very little) sleep. It might have been an hour or two and it was anything but restful. The kicker here is that I should be sleeping and not just like a normal person. I pop a pill every night (bi-polar meds) that has a sedative in it … a pretty stout sedative. Yeah. I’ve had a sedative in my system and I’m still not sleeping.

"The last refuge of the insomniac is a sense of superiority to the sleeping world." ~Leonard Cohen

At this point, I’m questioning the brilliant judgment I had in operating a moving vehicle this morning but a girl has to get to work somehow and I had to be here. I’m the only person in my department today so I’m stuck with trying to sound intelligent and knowledgeable when my brain feels like mush. Indeed, around 1030 this morning I began to feel this amazingly strong magnetic pull between my skull and the top of my desk. It seems that sleep has finally decided it wants to claim my body (for which I’m grateful) but it has chosen to do so in my work environment. Yep. Last night I was begging for sleep to come. Right now, I’m begging for it to go away until at least 1630 when I’m at home. I’m in such a foul mood that I want to chase down the sandman and beat the tar, well … sand out of him. It will be my luck that by the time I reach home my body will rally and I’ll be awake again. I hope not. I truly, truly hope not.

"Insomnia is a gross feeder. It will nourish itself on any kind of thinking, including thinking about not thinking." ~Clifton Fadiman

I’ve already been questioned on my inability to sleep and if I had an easy answer for that question then I think I would have figured it out two days ago and slept well between then and now. Usually I suffer from insomnia because I have something weighing extremely heavily upon my mind. I feel no such notion. It’s got to be there. Something is there. Something is keeping me awake and I’ve yet to identify it in order to deal with and that, my friends, is very frustrating.

"We rose up betimes, for sleep weighs lightly on the hopeful as well as on the anxious." ~Johann D. Wyess, The Swiss Family Robinson

Tonight … value your sleep. Treasure it. Hopefully I’ll be reveling in it myself. I can only hope. In the meantime, I must find something stimulating to do because passing out on one’s desk is not advisable.

(Written: August 28, 2007)

Tag! You're It!

“It should be noted that the games of children are not games, and must be considered as their most serious actions.” ~Michel de Montaigne, French Philosopher

There is something oddly intriguing about taking a favorite childhood game and adapting it to this crazy internet existence. I have been tagged before on social networking sites, but it would appear that my time has come yet again. My tag comes from joemamma and is to include seven weird things about myself.

“We are all a little weird and life's a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love.” ~Author Unknown
When one is as strange and bizarre as I can be … how do I pick only 7 aspects of my overall weirdness that I’m willing to reveal to the public? Oh well, here we go:

1. I name all of my pets after characters in English Literature. I've had cats named Mr. Darcy, Lancelot, Guinevere and Cleopatra. I've had fish named Othello, Romeo & Juliet and Beatrice & Benedict. (Incidentally … Othello, Romeo & Juliet all died within days of being given those particular monikers and I was blamed for cursing them since their names came from tragedies. Beatrice & Benedict lived practically forever.)

Credit: Mandolindsay on Flickr

2. I collect globes and world maps of all sorts. I even have clear, globe shaped salt & pepper shakers and I recently found a World Geography textbook from the 1930's that was in my grandfather's belongings.

3. I have a tattoo of a very feminine cross with a snowflake as the crosspiece. The snowflake is to represent the purity of Christ as he died on the cross as well as to remind me how fragile my faith can be if I try to go it alone. The cross is black. The snowflake is blue.

“A tattoo is a true poetic creation, and is always more than meets the eye. As a tattoo is grounded on living skin, so its essence emotes a poignancy unique to the mortal human condition.” ~V. Vale and Andrea Juno, Modern Primitives

4. I have an unexplainable addiction to fresh cracked black pepper. It ends up on almost everything I eat.

5. I still keep my rolodex from when I was a travel agent. I haven't been "in the business" since 2002, but you just never know.

6. While my tastes in music tend to be completely mood driven and I listen to everything from Beethoven to Country to Blues …. I absolutely adore 80’s hair band metal: Skid Row, Warrant, Winger …

7. Coffee is the nectar of the gods. I drink enough coffee in a day to keep everyone in my office up for two days straight and it doesn’t affect my sleep habits at all. I do have repeated bouts of insomnia, but those are stress driven. A cup of good coffee in the evening actually helps me to sleep better.

“It is inhumane, in my opinion, to force people who have a genuine medical need for coffee to wait in line behind people who apparently view it as some kind of recreational activity. I bet this kind of thing does not happen to heroin addicts. I bet that when serious heroin addicts go to purchase their heroin, they do not tolerate waiting in line while some dilettante in front of them orders a hazelnut smack-a-cino with cinnamon sprinkles.” ~Dave Barry, Comedian

Well, there you go … seven weird or interesting facts about me … sort of. Apparently it is now my turn to tag:

diana (diaphanous)
caffeinated librarian

Tag! You’re It.

Duty & Honor

Why are there individuals in this world to which the word “responsibility” carries no meaning? Even converting “responsibility” to “legal obligation” brings no change.

That’s it. I’m done.

"The further you run from your sins, the more exhausted you are when they catch up to you." ~Inside Man, Film (2006)

“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.” ~Abraham Lincoln

“Character - the willingness to accept responsibility for one's own life - is the source from which self respect springs.” ~Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem

"Mine honor is my life; both grow in one;
Take honor from me, and my life is done."
~William Shakespeare, King Richard II

Aaaaah! It's a curve!!

There is a highway that runs about 30 miles between the college town of Arkadelphia, AR (where I currently reside, but will never refer to as home) and the resort town of Hot Springs, AR. It is a highway I travel often as the only thing to do in Arka-do-nothin is visit Wal-Mart. This makes a trip to Hot Springs mandatory if locating a decent restaurant or go shopping or even catch a movie is on the agenda. My hairdresser is even in Hot Springs.
"Everything in life is somewhere else, and you get there in a car." ~E.B. White
The name of aforementioned road is Arkansas Scenic Highway 7. You know what "scenic" stands for, don’t you? "Scenic" is the U.S. Highway Department codeword for "really curvy road" and Highway 7 does have its share of twists and turns, but the speed limit is 55 mph (pardon me, those of you on the metric system) and individuals (like me) who know the road well typically drive at that speed or a wee bit more … or a lot more.

"Scenic Highway 7 is just that, one of the loveliest drives in the state. It winds and curves and crests hills and skirts rivers. It is more than just a way to get somewhere in Arkansas, and there are some great little places along the way." ~Patti DeLano, Insiders' Guide

Here’s the thing: Hot Springs is a resort town. There are a lot of people who come from around the world to visit the first National Park in the United States and have a spa treatment or engage in one of the many activities available. Hell, there’s even a horserace track. However, the city is located "off the beaten path" as it isn’t directly on the U.S. Interstate system and visitors must take one of the smaller highways in order to reach Hot Springs from any direction. One trip down Highway 7 is all you need to prove that drivers from Oklahoma, Louisiana and Texas have no clue how to navigate a curvy road.
"To know the road ahead, ask those coming back." ~Chinese Proverb

Inevitably, either going or coming, I end up behind a vehicle driving either 35 mph for the duration of the distance between Hot Springs and Arkadelphia because they are afraid of the curves –or– I end up behind someone who tries to drive 80 mph on the few straight-aways and then SLAMS on their breaks at as the entrance to every single curve. "Aaaaaah, it’s a curve!" You can almost hear the driver’s thoughts every time the break lights flash into your eyes. It drives me crazy … and without a doubt, the license plate of the individual in front me will read: Oklahoma, Louisiana or Texas.
"Improvement makes straight roads; but the crooked roads without improvement are roads of genius." ~William Blake

I wonder if driver’s education in those states eliminates all curves in their instruction simply because the bulk of roads in those states are straight and flat. Whatever the reason, I am tired of yelling, "Learn how to drive!" or "It’s just a curve!" throughout my excursions to and fro.

"Patience is something you admire in the driver behind you and scorn in the one ahead." ~Mac McCleary

Parental Units

Jomo Kenyatta Airport, Nairobi, Kenya, circa 1975

At this moment my parents are speeding down the interstate on their way from where they live in Missouri to the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. As I live and work just off I-30 they will be swinging through here to stop and have lunch. Pretty cool!

I have awesome parents. I do. Unable to have their own children my parents chose to adopt. My older brother was adopted in 1969 and, after their first four years as missionaries in Kenya, I was adopted in 1974. Subsequently, my first trip on an airplane was at the age of 6 months as they returned to East Africa and I have been addicted to travel (and Africa) ever since.

“Biology is the least of what makes someone a mother.” ~Oprah Winfrey

Others often question me about my adopted status as they don’t understand how I have no desire to track down my birth parents. Yes, I would like to have my family medical history but other than that … I see no reason in finding out who they are. Why? How can I not want to know about the people who gave me life? They had knowledge enough that I would have a much better life if they gave me up for adoption. A much better life I have led. Yes, they gave me life … but they did not teach me how to live it.

“My father didn't tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.” -Clarence Budinton Kelland

Take a peak at my childhood. I have two absolutely phenomenal parents who raised me to appreciate people by exposing me to as many cultures as possible. They taught me to love art and music by taking me to the most notable museums in the world. They shared their contagious love of Christ with me. As a librarian, my mother fostered my love of the written word from the moment I was able to speak. I learned about world history by visiting most of Europe, Great Britain, East Africa and even key historical places here in the United States. I went through a Civil War fascination period at the age of ten and my father took me to Gettysburg and Appomattox and various Civil War sites (much to the boredom of my brother who was not thrilled at these excursions). At the age of twelve, archeology was my passion so I was treated to a full day in Pompeii, Italy while we were touring Europe one summer (again, my brother was thoroughly bored). By the age of fifteen I was already obsessed with English Literature and though we had been to England on previous occasions (flying between the U.S. and Kenya) the decision was made to stop and stay in London where I could learn and absorb more about English history. In 1993 (age 19) when I was in Nairobi hospital with a horrible case of the measles which affected my vision my mother sat at my bedside and, at my request, proceeded to read Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings aloud. She reminds me that I corrected her pronunciation of character names - as I had already read the series on multiple previous occasions - yet she stayed and she read.

“If a child is to keep his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.” ~Rachel Carson

How many parents would have indulged the fascinations of a schoolgirl with odd historical interests? Mine did.

"But a wise parent humours the desire for independent action, so as to become the friend and adviser when his absolute rule shall cease." ~Elizabeth Gaskell, North and South

Today they are stopping by because they know things are not going so well for me right now. They know I am stressed about a multitude of issues to which the only answer seems to be a financial miracle. They can not provide that miracle, I know that. Yes, I may be an adult but I am still their baby girl (and the mother of 2 of their grandchildren) and they want to help. They want to be here for me and realize that some things are better handled in person than over the phone or through an email … so they are making the time.

Like any other parent-child relationship we do have our issues, but does it sound like I am in any place to complain?

I think not.


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