“Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.” ~Leonard Cohen

I’ve had little time for writing, sadly. Such is the nature of working in the hospitality industry during the height of summer tourism season. However, Big K (the teenager)… he has been busy. His father gave him the gift of musical talent. Me… I gave him the love of words, words, words. He has a notebook on his person at all times and it is filled with his scribblings: full poems, fragmented ideas, stories and a thinking man’s doodles. He is far more prolific than I. Perhaps my legacy is in the written word after all… just not mine.

“The Wolves War”

There is a war raging in us all
Between two wolves starving for power
Neither will ever fall
Neither will ever cower

One is bright and warm
And shines like the sun
He fights like a storm
But he still hasn’t won

The other is dark and cold
And corrupted with ice
He fights against the gold
But even victory will not suffice

The first is pure
It battles for good
But must endure
The taste of blood

The second is corrupt
It battles for darkness
He plans to disrupt
The balance of their likeness

The question we must all ask
Is who will be victorious?
Our one and only task
Is to choose which is more glorious?

They both hunger for power o’er us
And only one can win
They will kill for the power they lust
One always wins in the hearts of men

Which one will you feed?


Boris Vallejo

Moderately Essential

“Touch seems to be as essential as sunlight.” ~Diane Ackerman

I have a problem with people invading my personal space. No, really. I don’t like to be touched. Rephrase: I don’t like to be touched by people who have no purpose or invitation to touch me. At all. On more than one occasion I’ve had an acquaintance move in for a hug only to find me recoiling in… not disgust… but something akin to it. My kids are allowed to hug me, jump on me, punch me in the arm… whatever. I’m also fairly huggy with my parents and other close family. Most of my friends will ask. Sometimes the conversations go like this:

Friend: “Do you need a hug?”
Me: “No.”
Friend: “Can I give you one anyway?”
Me: “Why? Do you need a hug?”
Friend: “Maybe.”
Me: “OK, then.”


Friend: “I need a hug.”
Me: “And you’re looking at me why?”


Friend: “You look like you need a hug.”
Me: “I do.”
Friend: “Can I give you one?”
Me: “No.”


Friend: “You need a hug and you’re going to get a hug. This is just a warning.”
Me: “OK.”

The notable exception is when I find myself in a culture where personal boundaries are breached during a greeting and every moment of acquaintance after that. But that’s cultural. I grew up with that. Here? Uh… no.

Inevitably, I end up offending people who think they are “close” enough to me or “know me” well enough for me to allow them to embrace me without invitation. Obviously they don’t know me well enough, huh?

The weird thing: I really am a very, very… very affectionate person. At one time in my life I was the hugger. Pinpointing the moment when that changed is likely impossible but obviously I flipped a brain switch somewhere along the way. I like human contact. Often I crave the touch of another person. I just prefer to be the one who initiates it. Sometimes the craving is strong enough that I ponder standing on the corner with one of those “Free Hugs” signs. No, that’s too generic. Mine would read: “Hug me. Resistance is futile.” But see… that’s still me initiating first contact.

Hell, I don’t even mind crowds… so maybe it isn’t a general personal space issue. Maybe I am just thoroughly annoyed by people assuming I need, welcome or want being touched.

Or not. Or… this is another issue entirely, but I feel like venting about it, so here we go:

I also get highly annoyed at those people (and there are many of them) who seem to have no regard for stranger to stranger public spatial management. You would think that once a person reaches adulthood they would learn to walk into an almost empty 400-seat movie theater and not sit directly beside or directly behind or in front of the only other two people in the room. “Excuse me, asshat! You have 398 seats to choose from and you feel the need to be close enough that I can hear you breathing even during a battle sequence. What the hell is wrong with you?” Crowded theater? No problem. Empty one? Sit. Somewhere. Else. This applies to a self-seating restaurant, an office waiting room, a hotel lobby, a beach… any large public space. I am not your I-have-to-be-near-another-human security blanket. Back off.

OK. That tangent is finished. Back to my original topic (sort of)…

Truth is… today… I need a hug.


When we get out of the glass bottles of our ego,
and when we escape like squirrels turning in the
cages of our personality
and get into the forests again,
we shall shiver with cold and fright
but things will happen to us
so that we don't know ourselves.

Cool, unlying life will rush in,
and passion will make our bodies taut with power,
we shall stamp our feet with new power
and old things will fall down,
we shall laugh, and institutions will curl up like
burnt paper.
~D.H. Lawrence

I make no secret of the fact that I feel stagnant in my life at the moment. It is difficult, having spent my formative years in a state of perpetual motion, to find contentment in a single place or situation… especially when things are as small and suffocating as they are now. Frustration increases when all attempts at escaping, be it a weekend to get away or a return to school in order to better oneself and breathe life into the same-o same-o, are thwarted.

As the primary provider for my family, I haven’t had anything resembling a true vacation or holiday in many years. Yes, I have been blessed enough to take a little bit of time off work; I simply haven’t had the means to do anything with that time. Driving trips to see my parents or, when I was married, the in-laws, have been the extent of my so-called vacations. Two kids. One car. Lots of driving. It isn’t relaxing and, more importantly, there is nothing particularly stimulating about it either. No inspiration. Just more of the aforementioned same-o. I had hoped to attend a school reunion this year in Myrtle Beach, SC. Old friends. New place. I was excited but many different factors prevented that trip from taking place and I felt crushed… more than anyone around me truly realized. And, now, I have another chance to escape.

A friend has decided to treat herself to a trip to England in January. I was astonished and thrilled when she asked me to tag along. Not only would I get out of this country (and I absolutely adore England), but I would also get the chance to meet my friend. That’s right. I have never met her in person. Don’t judge. Knowing how difficult it would be for me, “Now don't shoot me down right away…” was included in her invitation. Still, my first thought was, “There is no way in hell.” I just didn’t see how it would be possible. Then I realized… I would have to accept and ask for help. Help. I rarely ask anyone for help, with the exception of my parents, who I am quite sure wish I could go a year without asking. And, when super rare unsolicited help actually comes my way, I have an even more difficult time accepting it; however, my ego was going to need shattering if I had any hope of escaping this cage.

My friend has already rented a villa and she hasn’t asked for a penny (or pence) from me in regard to accommodations. I am responsible for getting myself there, covering the cost of food and in-country travel and activities. I used to be a travel agent and I know how expensive England can be… especially any time spent in and around London. When I made the decision that I wanted to do this, that I needed to do this for me, I immediately popped online to research airfare options. Ouch. Fare watching was not going to help me. It was clear that I would never save the money for airfare and in-country expenses in six months. So, I turned to the only people I could: my parents. Again. Email: “Dear Dad, Do you have any frequent flyer miles? Blah. Blah. Blah.” When I didn’t get an immediate response, I mentioned it to my mother over the phone and told her that, if the answer was “no”, then I would deal with it. I just needed to know one way or the other. The answer came. My dad, understandably, wanted to hang onto his miles. My mom (I hadn’t even thought about my mom having miles. Duh.) was less likely to travel soon. They could transfer me her frequent flyer miles and, believe it or not, she had the EXACT number of miles I would need. Then… on top of all this help happening… my boss, unsolicited, offered to pay the expenses for me to renew my long unused passport. What? I know! Gasp! I could actually make this happen!

I’m not delusional. I know this is still not going to be easy. The more I think about it, the more I realize I will need beyond the day-to-day expenses: adapters, luggage, etc. Every time I try to build up a savings something major happens and… Poof! It’s gone. For the next six months my life has to drastically change. My poor attempts at following a strict budget have to be sharpened and maintained. If I can eliminate an expense… it’s gone. Even then, I’ve thought about trying to pick up a second job, just for a month or two, to get the money I need. If I can do this… If I am successful… I will have given myself a far greater gift than a trip. I will prove to myself that tightening the buckle here can give me freedom elsewhere. And, if I can earn that freedom, then life can come rushing back in to alleviate my stagnation more than once every ten or fifteen years. Of course, now that I’m accepting help, feel free to donate to the “Get Beth Out of the Country” fund because I’m doing this. I have to. For me.

And, yes, I know how c-c-c-cold England will be in January. Coat? Check. Gloves? Check. Check. Boots? Check. Check. Check. While we would be lucky to witness a scene like the one above… odds are it will just be cold, dreary and wet. Ask me if I care? I have an umbrella.
Photo credit: Jim_Higham via Flickr.

Visions of Life

“A different language is a different vision of life.” ~Federico Fellini

Language, I’m good with it. Well, the English variety. Languages (See that “s”?)… not so much. I lived in Kenya for 13 out of 17 years between the ages of 6 months and almost 18… and I don’t speak Swahili fluently. At all. I am ashamed of that fact. There was a time, as a toddler, that communication with me was difficult because I understood bits of English, bits of Swahili, bits of
Kikuyu and bits of Kikamba. I didn’t know what I was supposed to speak and no one knew which language I would understand when speaking to me. (There's a story about me and my tricycle...) Then we came back to the States for two years and all that random “bits of” knowledge disappeared from my noggin entirely. In high school I took two years of French and then I took another two years in college. I don’t speak French. Truth is… I simply don’t have one of those minds that can absorb and make sense of languages. I’ve tried. Believe me. That is a power I want to have.

I do, however, infuse my daily speech with a myriad of words that seem unusual or even foreign to those around me. I have to translate for myself far too often. There are words from other languages that simply “make more sense” to me than their English counterparts. Most of those are actually just a lot more fun to say. Combine that with my penchant for communicating via movie quotes and I’m positively astonished anyone understands a word I say.

My kids are getting the hang of it. Many of my words and phrases now make sense to them. They’ve lived with me for 15 and 10 years, respectively, so they should be able to comprehend what I’m saying by now. If not, they ask. Last Saturday, while sitting in the cinema waiting for Toy Story 3 to begin, they asked me to list some of my favorite non-English words. Forgive me,
Cinemark Tinseltown moviegoers, for the pre-movie giggle fest bouts of raucous laughter, that came from the back of the theater. That was us. My list, in case you were wondering (or not), sounded something like this:

Oui [wi] = Yes
(French. Duh! Usually said word is followed by “Bob”. Movie quote: French Kiss.)

Pamplemousse [pɑ̃plǝmus] = Grapefruit
(French. Far more interesting.)

Inoubliable [i-nu-bli-ya-bl] = Unforgettable
(French. Unforgettable, indeed.)

Ciao [chow] = Hi or Bye…whichever
(Italian. You knew that.)

Inshallah [In-šā-Allāh] = If God wills.
(Arabic. Sigh… I want to learn Arabic.)

xaabxaab [hab-hab] = Watermelon
(Arabic. I was going to use the correct Arabic characters for this word and the one above because they are so astoundingly beautiful but I was concerned they would be terribly wrong.)

Choo [chō] = Toilet
(Swahili. Habit… laziness/one syllable.)

Tutaonana [too-ta-o-na-na] = See you again/later
(Swahili. Say it. So much fun.)

Kwa nini? [kwah nee-nee] = Why?
(Swahili. Again, more fun to say.)

Bas! [bos] = Enough! or Stop!
(Swahili…from Arabic. Technically “Basi!” because “Bas” can also mean “bus” but there you have it. There’s a funny anecdote about a toddler me, my father and a waiter in Jerusalem… but that’s a story for another day.)

Dudu [doo-doo] = Bug
(Swahili. Always a winner, that one. There’s another funny anecdote about a toddler me, my mother and an American church nursery worker… but, yeah, another time.)

There are more. Always more. I think most of us have an aptitude for adopting words we like better in one language than another. I will venture to say that it is a more viral phenomenon amongst
Third Culture Kids. Logical.

What about you? What are your favorite adopted words?

Photo credit:
Hishaam Siddiqi via Flickr.


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