Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Silent Nights

This poem was on The Writer's Almanac yesterday and it captured the heartache and beauty of Christmas for me.

by Anne Porter

When snow is shaken
From the balsam trees
And they're cut down
And brought into our houses

When clustered sparks
Of many-colored fire
Appear at night
In ordinary windows

We hear and sing
The customary carols

They bring us ragged miracles
And hay and candles
And flowering weeds of poetry
That are loved all the more
Because they are so common

But there are carols
That carry phrases
Of the haunting music
Of the other world
A music wild and dangerous
As a prophet's message

Or the fresh truth of children
Who though they come to us
From our own bodies

Are altogether new
With their small limbs
And birdlike voices

They look at us
With their clear eyes
And ask the piercing questions
God alone can answer.

As an adult, Christmas brings twinges of bittersweet with the joy. Those memories of years past, the excitement of childhood, the anticipation, the magic that comes with the smell of a pine tree and the twinkle of lights. Christmas, the story of Christ (even though, yes, I know that Jesus' birth didn't actually occur in the angelic manner described in Silent Night), resonates with me in an unexplainable way. Perhaps because now, I cringe at the thought of riding a donkey at any point during pregnancy, much less giving birth on a pile of dirty hay. Perhaps because I already know the ending of the story that begins with a manger and a star but closes with a night of agony on a cross; my mother's heart hurts for Mary and what awaits her.

My favorite Bible verse of all time speaks to me as a mother. I think about Mary, tired, sweaty, bleeding, holding a tiny, red, screaming infant in her arms, wondering if this was her miracle. (I also wonder, at times, if she felt a little cheated after all that angel build up.) Like most women in the Bible, Mary isn't much more than a bit player. I mean, yes she is Virgin Birth, but aside from being cherished for her virginity and a vessel for the Christ-child, she really isn't much more than a silent witness to the acts of her son. But the verse....makes her so....real.

"But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart." (Luke 2:19)

These words make me pause every time I read them, but especially during this time of year. What am I missing in the life of my child? What am I neglecting to treasure as I rush around to get through the day? This time of year, especially this verse read in the same breath as the Christmas story, reminds me to linger, to slow down, to listen, to treasure and to ponder the joys and wonder of my child because before long, all I will have are these few moments, treasured in my heart and my memories.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


The last few days have been filled with joy and peace. Some days, I find my mothering groove so much easier than other; the last few days, this parenting thing has flowed naturally.

Today was a simple day. We played in the morning together and in the afternoon, we went to the library, park and grocery store. We made muffins at night, breaking the eggs and stirring the batter together. She lined the muffin tin with papers, counting up to twelve and helped spoon the batter (taking little licks along the way). We read Madeleine books and laughed as Miss Clavel ran fast and faster before I tucked her in bed with a kiss.

I love days like today, when peace flows around. I have patience and hold my temper, which is something I don't always do well.

Mothering is such a tremendous joy and a terrifying job. Small sticky hands hold mine, big eyes look up at me full of trust and love and I know that somehow, I will fail her because all parents fail their children somehow, someway because we are only human. I can only hope that I do right by my child to the best of my ability. I hope that I can lead her and teach her how to be a kind person, a compassionate person, a person who knows that she is worthy of love and respect.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

If I Was Stronger Than I

Five years ago, I began a healing process from an experience that forever has altered the course of my life, both emotionally and physically. Although it has been five years and I have found peace, my soul still searches for sunshine and forgiveness on this day.

Last year, on this day, another life-changing experience occurred. I am still struggling with the ramifications of another's betrayal, still working to trust, to forgive even when I know I don't deserve to ask for it. I don't know if I will come out of this experience intact as a person whole.

How does one piece this puzzle back together? How do you move forward if you aren't even certain that moving forward is what should happen? How does one even decide to contemplate making a choice?

If I was stronger then I'd decide to make that choice. But instead, I'm stalled out like a car on the side of the freeway, just sitting on the exit ramp, holding a discourse alone in my head.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

My Own Goodness

Originally, the whole idea of writing out my worst faults and thoughts about myself was to provide a foil for my goodness. I was going to write a list of all the things about me that are good and wonderful and, ultimately walk away celebrating who I am and where I am going.

Except this day, this week, this month, this year it seems I'm having a hard time saying those positive attributes about myself. Not that I'm dwelling on my negatives or don't realize my own goodness, just that speaking what I think is worthy about myself out loud suddenly makes me feel very self-conscious. And uncomfortable.

Ironic, of course, because I'm generally not a self-conscious person. In fact, I would say I tend towards brashness and overconfidence (again, to a fault), not modesty.

Or perhaps I'm learning that I don't need to speak my goodness out loud. I know those things. I don't need to hear them, I don't need to write them because I am them. I am the good as well as the bad. Everyone is, really. We have to have the bad with the good to make up the ying and the yang, the two sides of the coin, the comedy and the tragedy. I can't be one without the other. Together, they make me whole.

I've been reflecting on my list of failings over the last week. I realized, as I read and reread them, that many of these have been my failings for years. They are nothing new. And most of them probably aren't going to change much. I can turn over a new leaf, try harder to be a better person, give up my vices (and I try I will), but the reality is I am who I am. I've spent nearly 30 years becoming this individual and it's unlikely that the next 30 years is going to yield dramatic change to the basic person I am.

So where to from here? How do I reconcile my failings and faults, know they may not change, but continue to strive to be the person whom I wish to be, a person who is better/kinder/stronger/smarter than I am right now?

Perhaps I just do it. I be the better person, choose the harder path and hope that with each passing day, I'll grow, change, stretch into the woman I know I am.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

My Own Failings

I belittle others.
I am easily distracted.
I railroad conversations.
I cheat.
I don't care enough about those around me.
I am selfish.
I lie instead of telling the truth.
I have inflated self-esteem.
I turn a blind eye to what I could help.
I steal what does not belong to me.
I have intentionally hurt those whom I love.
I lose patience quickly.
I act like 24 even though I am closer to 34.
I drink too much..
I smoke and lie about it.
I work too much.
I am arrogant.
I make poor decisions.
I am not grateful enough for my blessings.

Seeing my flaws laid out in black and white is rather shocking. Like anyone, I don't like to look at my failures in the harsh light. Can I change these, this list of who I am? Can I become a better person? Or are these failings ingrained in who I am and as much a part of me as my brown eyes and wavy hair? Things I can change, but the truth is there, always underlying, simply suppressed for the time being, the way my brown eyes can become blue with colored contacts and my hair straight with a brush and dryer.

It's not a pleasant thought, that we don't really become better people, that human failure haunts all of us until we die.

But possibly, being honest about one's flaws means being honest about one's humanness. And being honest about humanness raises an awareness of ourselves to work towards being better, to suppressing our innate flaws, to straightening our hair in hopes of fooling everyone around us. Except ourselves.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Lucky, Lucky Me

On my drive into work this morning, I was chitchatting with a good friend many miles away. She is about to embark on a major life change and I was lucky enough to be sharing both her abounding joy and smidgen of fear.

I started thinking about my own transitions in life. We've lived in PHX now for well over a year and I'm rounding my one-year anniversary of my job. My life has become routine and settled after years of transition. In three years, we moved twice, got married, had a child.

But now, my life is relaxed. When a long-lost friend (or just someone across country) and we haven't spoken in a while, I love the fact that when I am asked if anything new is going on, my answer is, "Nope, holding to the status quo."

A year ago, my life was on the brink in a bad way, even though I didn't know it yet. But miraculously, somehow my life recovered and became better than ever. How did that happen? How did I get so lucky?

I can't really answer that. Sometimes, I find myself crossing my fingers, waiting for the other shoe to drop, wondering when the bottom will fall out again.

Maybe it will, maybe it won't. But all I can say is that right now, this very moment, I am satisfied with my life. I am lucky, lucky indeed.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Joy and Heartbreak

CEWG thinks she is a princess. Who am I to dispute, really?

This age is miraculous. She is uninhibited. She is joyous. She is filled with honey and with vinegar. She exudes confidence in everything she does. She knows she is the best dancer, the best singer, the best princess that has ever existed.

I wish I could bottle this joy. I wish that she could keep this love of herself forever. She has not learned to dislike herself yet, to wish that her hair was straight or her thighs thinner, to think she laughs too loudly or smiles too widely. She has not learned to criticize, just to adore and be proud that she can jump so high and dance so wildly.

How do I teach her to hold on to this part of herself? How do I teach her to love her body and her mind and her soul for all that she is? How do I show her that imperfections are not necessarily flaws that should be changed, but merely a part of the sum total of who she is and who she can be?

I try to show her by loving myself, by embracing my body how it is now, for all its imperfections which are not imperfections, really. My body grew another life, gave the light to that life, nourished that life for over two years. I am not only teacher, but also student, learning from my daughter to take pride in that body, to shower it with grace and love for doing all these wonderous things.

I want my daughter to hold on to her confidence forever. I want her built on a solid foundation of self-love and self-acceptance, so that inevitably, when someone calls her "fat" or "clumsy" or "ugly" she is not shaken and falls, but stands tall in herself and retorts, "No, I am better than that."

Sunday, September 05, 2010


(Warning: I'm about to get on my high horse and cliched, so be warned. Read at your own risk, dear reader.)

I read The Omnivore's Dilemma and I am duly horrified. Objectively, I knew much of the book's content. I've heard of docking chicken beaks and the cruelty of slaughtering beef on a slaughter line. I've always teetered on the edge of becoming a vegetarian because of my love for animals. (Ironic, of course, because I actually slaughtered my own chickens in Kenya.) But there is something about eating animals that I've always had a difficult time dealing with.

But there were plenty of things in the book that I didn't know. For example, it takes about 87 calories of energy to transport 1 calorie of food. I mean, that's crazy.

So The Doctor and I are attempting to revolutionize how we eat and drink in our small house in the desert. We're trying to buy local as best we can in Arizona. Farmer's markets, local stores, grass-fed, free range meats. I'm considering this my revolution, my food anarchy.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Last night, I went to a coworker's home to see some photos from her recent trip to Asia (Hong Kong, China, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, in case you were interested). She made some appetizers consisting mostly of cheese (delish!) and uncorked a few bottles of wine. The photos were fantastic. I really enjoyed seeing and hearing her stories about rices paddies and buffalo shit.

But what I loved most of all was her condo. Her sense of interior design and style wowed me. Everything from the paint colors and placement to the wall hangings to the knick-knacks to the pillows and throws just complemented each other. It was bright, cheery, modern, bohemian, gorgeous. The style of the home was eclectic (e.g. NOT Pottery Barn, etc.), but it looked fantastic. So pulled together and lived in and I loved it.

For whatever reason, my sense of home design and style is terrible. (To be honest, my sense of personal style is kind of lacking, too. Clothes I can do, but accessories? Forget it.) It's not a family gene becauase Golden Brother has a fabulous sense of style (especially for a straight man) and his little studio apartment looks a thousand times better in shades of orange and green and modern art and contemporary furniture. Granted, Golden Brother studied art and architecture at university, so maybe it's a learned gene.

Whatever I lack, I lack in a big way. My house has prints hung up throughout, but they all look a little mismatched and oddly out of place. My furniture is a hodge-podge of stuff (and stained with child crap like food and paint and crayons).

I wish I had an innate sense of style. But for my house to look like anything other than thrown together and mishmashed, then I'll have to hire someone to come and pick out colors, furniture and wall hangings.

At least I can cook.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

H-O-T Hot

This is the time of the year I despise living in Arizona. Everywhere else, it's the winding down of summer, the beginning of fall, the anticipation of school and a fresh start. A change of seasons.

Except in Arizona. Right now, it's only the middle of the summer; the heat will continue the sizzle for another few months as the air conditioner drones on outside my window, providing an incessant hum as backdrop to my nights.

I love the fall. I love the cooler mornings, the crispness in the air, the slow but steady change of the leaves from deep summer green to crackly orange and reds. I love apple picking and cider, pumpkin-picking and looking at new pink erasers.

I miss the change of seasons right now.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Clearly, I've quit doing a photo a day. My life has had a few speed bumps pop up over the last few weeks, the last of which ended up with me in the ER in VA Beach the day of my grandfather's funeral. Despite my smugness, apparently gallbladder problems do run in my family and hit all women right around the age of 30. I'm close enough to 30 for it to count and had a laparoscopic cholecystectomy (that would be a gallbladder removal surgery) on Friday.

So I'm home for a few days relaxing and healing. CEWG is at nursery school, the Doctor is sleeping off his night shift work and I'm watching bad reruns of afternoon television and generally enjoying being home.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Study in Clouds

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Monday, August 09, 2010

Sunday, August 08, 2010


RADM Edward W. Carter III

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Friday, August 06, 2010

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Tuesday, August 03, 2010


A Favorite

Monday, August 02, 2010


Bits and Pieces

Sunday, August 01, 2010


after the rain

Saturday, July 31, 2010


Over the last few years, I feel like my life has lacked balance in many ways. In general, maybe, my personality lacks balance. I tend embrace life's extremes (hopefully not in a bipolar-kind-of-way, but in an exuberant-kind-of-way). The last five years of my life have been extreme. Graduated, married, moved, job changes, baby, motherhood, moved again.

I'm finally feeling settled. For the first time in my life, I'm living in a place with no end in sight. Up until now, my life has been divided into stages: university, Peace Corps, grad school, the Doctor's residency. Each stage had a finite life-span, a time when it was definitively over and it was time to move on.

But now, here I am. And I feel settled. I feel like I am sliding into my life, sinking in. The knowledge that I could live here for ever (or not) is comforting. This isn't a stage, this isn't a phase, there is no end in sight. It just is. This is my life.

And I am filling my life with bounty. I have a job that excites me, a child who inspires me to be better and stronger, even as she becomes her own person. I have the time to both work and cook, to do and create. I am enjoying summer and food and monsoons and rest. I am balancing my family, my work, my passions and my loves.

For the first time, I really understand how life is about the journey and not the destination.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Home Again, Home Again

We're back from a lovely vacation armed with Virginia peanuts (but no ham). I always feel so sad when I leave my family behind to head back out West, but simultaneously, it's always somewhat of a relief to be back in my own home. We sunned, surfed, spent time with beloved friends and family members, ate and drank and ate and drank and ate some more. My mother's brothers are both "foodies" in the best sense and family get-togethers inevitably result in massive piles of shaved parmesan, giant boxes of pasta, links of sausage and a hot grill. Oh yes, and lots of bottles of wine. There is nothing like beautiful, messy, lovely family to make a holiday trip feel blessed.

After getting home, we went shopping. I love having a fridge full of fresh foods. The colors of summer are so vibrant on my counters.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Tonight I feel discouraged. This week hasn't been particularly overwhelming (or underwhelming), so I'm not really sure where this maudlin feeling has come from tonight (maybe that second glass of white?).

We have had some client losses these last few weeks. It's been sad. I don't like telling women they are no longer pregnant. They hear the initial news from the doctor, but inevitably, they come to me for reassurance, for understanding, for asking "is it true?" It is so hard holding a woman's hand while she cries in a language that I don't speak. Grief is universal, but there is still a chasm between us for reasons I can't explain. I am not fluent in the specific language of miscarriage loss and I know the grief of any pregnancy loss is so personal and different for each woman and each experience.

I know there are reasons for loss, all loss. I believe there is a place for us all to meet again, to see those we have lost, known or unknown, again or for the first time.

In a few short days, I am headed back to the sticky summer heat and green of Virginia. I am looking forward to taking a break from work, seeing my beloved family and having my tired, dried-out soul renewed from the ocean's salty breeze.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Stoned Fruit

I used the term "stone fruit" the other day (as in, "Please pick up some stone fruit at the store") and The Doctor looked at me like I'd lost my mind. Though I didn't ask, I suspect an image of eating rocks flashed in his mind. Clearly "stone fruit" isn't a term that is as commonly used as I thought.
Stone Fruit: In botany, is a fruit in which an outer fleshy part (exocarp, or skin; and mesocarp, or flesh) surrounds a shell (the pit or stone) of hardened endocarp with a seed inside. These fruits develop from a single carpel, and mostly from flowers with superior ovaries. The definitive characteristic of a drupe is that the hard, lignified stone (or pit) is derived from the ovary wall of the flower.

Stoned fruit salad is a delicious summer treat. Cut up a variety of stone fruits into chunks (peaches, plums, nectarines). Add a handful of berries (your choice, but I'm partial to raspberries or blackberries, myself). Add 2 Tbsp of sugar (or to taste, depending on your sweet tooth). Squeeze the juice of one lime (or equivalent amount of refrigerated juice from concentrate if you swing that way). If you have a zester, zest away (but I don't, so I don't). Tear up a nice-sized handful of fresh mint and mix well. Let sit at room temp for 30 minutes to let the flavors absorb. Refrigerator or eat. Also amazing when paired with Dutch babies (as in the pancakes, not actual babies).

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Cherish the Heirloom

Tomatoes are my favorite part of the summer. We always had tomato plants growing on our deck during the summers; they never yielded much bounty, but plucking tomatoes right off the vine and eating them on the deck, juice running down our chins was most certainly the best part of the summer (besides the smell of chlorine and no school).

I can eat a tomato like an apple. Heirloom tomatoes are my favorite. Often, they are so thick with flesh on the inside that I have to slice them and eat them like a steak, sprinkled with salt and drizzled with some balsamic vinegar and chunks of mozzarella.

I haven't been successful at tomato-growing, here in the dry and dusty southwest (but let's face it, I haven't been very successful at making anything grow--even weeds). Thank heavens for stores and farmer markets. There is a lovely place, just down the street, called the Fruit Barn which always sells delicious and fresh tomatoes a short walk away.

In honor of summer, here is my new favorite summer tomato recipe (so easy, I can actually make it after work):

Tomato and Goat Cheese Tart
Two sheets of puff pastry dough, thawed according to package directions. Slice one sheet into four equal squares. Cut the second sheet into strips about 1" thick. Lay the strips along the outside of each of the squares (goal is a tart with raised sides).

Bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes on a cookie sheet.

While the tarts are baking, different varieties of baby heirloom cherry tomatoes in half (yellow, orange, red, etc.). Set aside. Take 2 oz of goat cheese (or more) and mix with sizable pinches of rosemary, thyme and oregano. Add two or so Tbsp of milk and mix it with the cheese so it becomes thinner and more spreadable.

When the pastry is finished baking, spread the goat cheese mixture on each of the tarts equally, top with cherry tomatoes, a pinch of salt and pepper to taste and put back in the oven for another five minutes.

Top with torn fresh basil and serve warm (or room temperature).

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Heat Wave

It's gotten hot. Summer has hit full force and the temperatures are soaring well over 105. The heat shimmers on the horizon and the asphalt is sticky.

I hate this time of year in the Valley of the Sun. It's unrelenting sunshine and heat.

I know that it's a dry heat, but still, sometimes, I feel like my soul is shriveling from the heat. The humidity represents a certainly level of fecundity that feeds a soul, keeps one alive even in the heat. Sweaty glasses of iced tea on a porch, the low hum of cicadas, the sticky feeling on the backs of your legs, the curls on the back of your ponytail.

I am looking forward to the humidity of VA.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Set Up

Since I started work, I've been wanting to participate in an apartment set up, but unfortunately, until today, I hadn't been given the opportunity.

In a nutshell, our organization receives clients throughout the week. When a new arrival is slated to come, it's our responsibility to set up an apartment for them the day before their arrival with furniture, food and other basic necessities so when they stumble into their new home, exhausted from travel and the unknown, they're covered for a few days to get their bearings as best they can.

Today, I learned just how basic those necessities are.

Three of us went to Walmart and went shopping off of a list which included things like "female deodorant" and "laundry soap." Total, the apartment I set up cost $194 (not counting furniture). That's it. $194 covered everything from dish soap to a shower curtain to pots and pans and sheets and utensils and towels and dishes and toiletries.

In one way, $194 went a long way. I mean, we got a significant amount of stuff for that apartment. But simultaneously, I kept thinking how much excess there is in this world and in my life. I don't go around dropping $200 on stuff every weekend, but it was a bit of a sobering thought that the money I spend on miscellaneous and inconsequential things in a few weeks could put together an apartment for a family of 3.

Monday, April 26, 2010


Today, I walked around for a good portion of the day with my zipper down.

No one told me.

I hope the reason no one told me is because no one noticed my bright green panties peaking through my fly.

When embarrassing things happen (skirt caught up in tights, toilet paper on shoe, zipper down), I always wonder why people don't point out the obvious. Fear of embarrassment? I'll be honest. I'd much rather have a moment of slight embarrassment with one individual than a massive moment of embarrassment alone when I realize I've been walking around all day grinning at people with a big piece of lettuce in my front teeth.

Or flashing my green panties at all my clients as I sat on their floors playing with their babies.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Honesty Honestly

Perhaps one of the greatest things about getting older is insight about honesty in one's own life. (Now, I realize that "getting older" means closer to 30 in my case, but you know, bear with me.)

This weekend, I had a my weekly 2-hour phone call with my Law Librarian Jen. I can't even remember what sparked the conversation, but LLJ pointed out that one great thing about maturing is being honest with yourself and subsequently making decisions based on what you enjoy as opposed to what you think you should enjoy. It's not about faking enjoyment for something that you hate, but more showing enthusiasm for something you feel apathy for.

I will never forget when I was about 20 my mother confided to me that she, in fact and contrary to what I had thought for the last 15 years, didn't actually care for shrimp. It sounds rather ridiculous for something so seemingly mundane to make a lasting impression in my adult mind, but after an entire life of summers spent at the beach, peeling and deveining freshly caught shrimp to boil for my entire family, I felt rather taken aback. Why on earth, if she didn't really care for shrimp did I have to stick my fingers in shrimp guts for hours on? She, like I, was taught that shrimp were a treat and something special saved for the summer (which it is in my opinion), but if she was honest with herself, shrimp would never be her choice of a treat or special meal. It isn't that she hates shrimp--just that if given the choice of a summer seafood meal, she'd rather enjoy something else instead; she simply tired of pretending that she thought shrimp was something special and was completely unapologetic about it. She said, "Life is too short for other people's shoulds."

She's right. LLJ is right. As I get older, and I'm sure LLJ and I are not alone in this, I find myself becoming more secure in myself and the small choices I make. Who I surround myself with, the parenting choices I make, the food I eat, the movies I watch, the music I listen to and the books I read. And frankly, no one cares that I'd rather read a modern British mystery novel than the searing political commentary of our time.


Friday, April 16, 2010

A Farewell to Pride

During 8th grade, one of the required readings for my literature class was The Old Man and the Sea by Hemingway. I hated it. I dreaded reading it, writing about it and (to be completely honest) am not entire sure I even finished the book. If you know me and know anything about my literature consumption habits, you know that refusing to finish a book is a rare thing indeed.

Since that 8th grade misfortune, I've refused to have anything to do with Hemingway. Flat out refused to read any of his novels or show any real interest in his life as a historical figure. In fact, I'd go so far to say that I purposely have been openly critical and hateful toward Hemingway and his writings (all based on one novel read when I was 14).

Weirdly, my life has paralleled his in many ways--at least in travel experiences. I've been to Havana (and am sure I insulted many a Cubano by telling them I was not interested in "Papa," and no, I didn't care about his damn six-toed cats), I've lived abroad in Spain (but refused to watch a bullfight), I've traveled to Kilimanjaro (though I failed to take home any big game animal heads).

Yet, the entire time, I adamantly maintained that Hemingway was an author I'd never read again.

And then a coworker and I started a conversation about books. His preferences tend more toward what I think of as *man-lit*--a combination of nonfiction and novels that appeal to men. But he mentioned Hemingway as one of his favorite authors. I laughed and told him I'd never touch a Hemingway book thanks to my 8th grade experience The Old Man and the Sea.

What a smug person I am. A day or two later, I found myself wandering the fiction section of the library again. I routinely do this--go to the library needing something to read but with no concrete ideas of actual books to take home. And then the idea occurred to me. I *could* check out a Hemingway novel.

After browsing the new releases but not finding anything inspiring, I settled for The Sun Also Rises. Short. Not too intimidating. I checked it out with low expectations.

I am a jerk. Clearly. I am willing to admit this publicly and openly.

All these years of my life, I've spent hating Hemingway, publicly denouncing my dislike for his writing and one novel, one short novel of his that took all of two days to read, felled me like a tree. I loved the story. Loved it.

I don't know if I was too young to appreciate his writing style, too immature to understand such adult themes in literature or maybe I've been a jerk my whole life. Who knows (although, I suspect the latter)? His descriptions of Spain's countryside had me reminiscing about riding through the countryside. The aimlessness of the characters floating through life abroad, the lost innocence, the effects of war on an entire generation, the drinking to suppress feeling the emasculation just resonated with me in a way I didn't expect.

All I know is this: I have given Hemingway another chance and I suspect it's a relationship that will last a lifetime.

Saturday, April 10, 2010


This city of shimmering heat is starting to grow on me. So much so, we're actually debating buying a home in the next year. Committing. To one of the hottest metropolitan places in the world. Forever. (Or at least a good 10+ years.)

I never thought I could make PHX my home. Too hot. Too crowded. Too sprawling. I would grow weary of the commuting, the distance, the sheer volume of people in my space.

Or so I thought. And then, I started to notice the culture, the arts, the community (yes, community) in this improbable city in the middle of the desert.

Maybe this isn't so bad, after all. Maybe, just maybe, I ended up in the right place.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

I Forgot

This year, I forgot.

Five years.

The days slipped past me without conscious thought and before I knew it, the moment had passed and I had forgotten.

I thought somehow this year would be momentous. Five years is not to be taken lightly. But miraculous that five years has passed and the day slipped by and I forgot.

For the moment of my life I thought I would be scarred forever and yet, here I am.

So for one more year, one more moment. Even if a bit late.

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

ee cummings

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Lost in Translation

We had a baby group at work today. (Side note: Burmese babies are the cutest babies in the entire world and I am always scheming as how to get myself a Burmese baby. Unfortunately for me, any baby that comes out of me is NOT going to look like a Burmese baby, no matter what I do.) Anyways, our program's baby groups replace the regularly scheduled well-baby checkup which means that babies get naked and weighed for their vitals.

This particularly baby group had all three and four-month-old babies. Truly the best part about that age is just how fat the babies get. They have rolls on their thighs--roll upon roll upon roll. It's most certainly a product of being in the baby furniture stage. Babies that age are like seals storing up their fat for when they start becoming mobile and then they just burn through that fat and become lean again. (Another side-note. All of our babies in that group were well above the 75th percentile in both weight and height which just warms the cockles of my heart. So healthy and strong!)

At one point, I was holding a chubby boy who was wearing nothing but a diaper. He had these luscious, squeezable rolls and I had the sudden desire to just gently bite his soft thighs like I used to do to The Bean at that age. I turned to our interpreter, a lovely middle-aged gentleman, and asked him if there were any affection expressions in Burmese that expressed a desire to eat a child. I was thinking along the lines of the English phraseology of, "He's so cute, I just want to eat him up!" or "I just want to nibble his thighs!"

However, "S" immediately gave me a look of panicked alarm and I realized how culturally relevant expressions about eating children are. After I explained what I meant (i.e. terms of endearment, because the fat rolls are so kissable and naturally, kissing leads to biting, just a figure of speech, etc., etc.) he had a good chuckle and assured me that, no, there was not an equivalent turn of phrase or idea in Burmese.

But at least now I've realized how the rumors that white people eat ethnic babies got started.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Chop Chop

One of the most annoying things about moving is having to find a new salon. The entire three years that we lived in ABQ, I never once found a salon that I liked. After the first year, I pretty much gave up getting my hair cut. It's been a long time since my last hair cut. It was time. I found an ad in a local paper (support local business, right?) for a salon the next block over and made an appointment yesterday.

The stylist was a nice older gentleman and he did a great cut. Unfortunately for me, the style (blunt, chin-length bob) makes me look like I'm about 12. I profusely thanked him, tipped him well and then left with a sinking heart. I hated my hair.

But more than hating my haircut, I hate the fact that I lied. I had the sinking feeling as he was cutting that the style that I requested was not the style that I envisioned in my head. And yet, I effusively thanked him.

Why is it so hard to tell someone that I don't like a service they did for me at the time the service is rendered? I mean, I flat out lied to the man. I tipped him 20% for crying out loud! What the fuck? Why am I sitting here the next day, dreading going into work on Tuesday because I know that my haircut is not flattering? Why do I feel the need to help a hairstylist who I don't know save face? Am I afraid to hurt his feelings?

I think perhaps this is an American trait. Or an American woman trait. I have several coworkers who are not American who flat-out tell you what they don't like. You ask them if you look fat in this dress, they'll tell you yes. No sugar-coating it by saying "Oh, I think it brings out your eyes!" They'll just say, "Yes, it does." And you know what? Said dress probably does make me look fat! Better to not wear it again than naively walk around thinking I look svelte when really I look like a Guernsey cow. In the long run, an honest opinion is far better than a lie (for fashion, anyways. Perhaps not other things?).

I really do think I need to do a better job of being honest when people ask for my opinions.

Especially if I'm paying them.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


In a desperate attempt to make friends at work and actually make this craphole town feel like my home, I've done the unthinkable (well, unthinkable since I was in my early 20s). No, not binge drinking--my last attempt at that ended in my mid-20s with my head in a toilet next to Roommate Barb sometime in Feb. 2007.

I have joined work's intramural soccer team.

Since The Doctor works nights, CEWG will be accompanying me to the games which are every Weds night. I haven't run in a long time, even after my own child (I tend to just let her go off. She usually come back pretty quickly if I stop looking for her.), so this should be quite the adventure.

So here's to a whole new round of shin guards, soccer socks, sweat and sore muscles starting at 7:30 tomorrow. I can't hardly wait.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Small Heros

One of my personal pet peeves since 9/11 is the overuse of the word "hero." Everyone is a hero these days. It's all over the Info-tainment: "Hero Dog Saves Small Squirrel from Certain Death!" But surely, we can't all be heros, right? What use is a word that applies to us all?

Working with such a significantly underserved population has again reminded me that sometimes, the word hero is still applicable to regular people. There is so much need in my line of work. So much material need--people needing rent, food, clothes, shampoo. Not to mention emotional need and spiritual needs that are neglected in favor of those more pressing physical needs like hunger and shelter.

But every day, my colleagues come into work to face another day of doing only what they can, giving only what they can and having to say "no" more times than they say "yes."

This line of work isn't for people who want to be heros or have glory. It isn't a career that will pay much more than entry level. Ironically, it isn't a career that even has a lot of gratitude. Sometimes, it seems that everyone is always asking for more and something is never enough because when you have so little, there is always more needed.

But every day, my coworkers come back. Some days more burned out than others. Some days, tired with circles and exhaustion, the toll of endless "no's" and "cannot's" evident in their eyes. Some days there is a triumphant smile or a story of success. But still, my colleagues come, each with their own reasons for their work, their own passions, their own stories to tell but with one goal: a desire to give respect and dignity to those who have gone without for so long.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Confessions of a Monoglot

For someone who would love to fancy herself a writer, I have absolutely no talent in language. Well, let me rephrase. I have adequate command of the written English language. I often joke, however, that my written vocabulary significantly exceeds my spoken vocabulary-- not because I don't know the words but because I simply cannot pronounce the words correctly. I often settle for words that don't exactly convey the true meaning and intent because at least I won't make an ass of myself if I say the word incorrectly. (I once pronounced the word "hypothetical" "hi-poth-i-call" in front of my entire 150-person MPH Biostatistics class and almost died of shame when, yes, everyone in the room burst out laughing. And let's not even talk about "posthumously.")

I distinctly remember the day that I discovered that language acquisition was not my forte. I was about 9 and struggling through 3rd-grade phonetics (Mrs. George, how I hated chanting those charts out loud: "PH says ffff, TH says thhhh"). I was sitting at my parents' kitchen table eating lunch and reading a list of clothes that my father was planning on ordering from L.L. Bean (these were the days of the catalogue phone orders, mind you). I saw the word (forever burned in my memory) written out next to "pants" and I could not figure it out. I asked my father how to pronounce the word and I will never forget the incredulous look on his face. "Sound it out, Elisabeth. You know this word. You've heard it before." I struggled and struggled for what felt like an hour but was probably three minutes, and still, I couldn't figure it out. I wanted to shout to my father, "I may have heard it but if I haven't seen it, it's meaningless to me!"

When he finally said the word out loud, I felt like a dipshit (though, that word had yet to be in my vocabulary). The silent "k" combinations had yet to be covered in my phonetics class.

"Khaki." Please.

I've tried my best to move forward from my 9-year-old self. I studied Spanish through high school and in college every semester my entire four years. I even studied abroad in Spain, desperate to learn another language and prove myself to be better than those Amerophiles who refused to learn foreign languages based on principle. I flopped at Spanish. Next on my list was Kiswahili during my stint in Kenya, at which I also failed.

Well, perhaps "fail" is too strong a word. I actually had an amazing grasp on the rules and structure of both foreign languages. I loved seeing how sentences and thoughts fell together, how the rules guided the parts of speech, the nuances of verb tenses. Even the structure of the noun classes of Swahili opened a whole new world for me. But for the love, I could not pronounce a damn thing correctly in either language. My tongue always felt thick in my mouth, unable to make the proper combination of sounds at the right time.

Fast forward to my life in the present. I've given up on foreign languages. Completely stopped. It's been five years, more or less, since I've even attempted speaking more than a short phrase of anything other than English. Whenever my linguistic past arises in conversation, people always smile knowingly and say, "Oh, it'll come back to you if you just practice." I have to refrain from outright laughter and tell them that it was never really there in the first place. No one ever believes me, though.

One of the best things about working at an international organization is the languages. Every day that I walk into that office, it's like being greeted by the Tower of Babel. It's not just languages spoken by our clients, but our staff, too. Each day, there's a good chance that I will hear each of these languages: Arabic, Burmese, Karen, Karenni, Nepali, Farsi, Spanish, Cuban, Russian, French, Swahili, Kirundi, Chin...the list goes on. My office mate alone speaks four languages fluently and I am beginning to pinpoint who she is talking to on the phone by the sounds of the words coming out of her mouth.

The hum of foreign languages flows around me, seductively luring me in, enticing me to want to learn again, to pour over lists of flashcard vocabulary and learn new rules and structures of speech. I hate that I am that typical American, unable to communicate with anyone outside of my language because I think it truly hinders my ability to understand a culture. Understanding language and syntax is the first step to understanding a different worldview. Language is the first glimpse a novice has into the way things fit together in the mind of the other. I've always wondered if lovers who speak different language use their mother tongue in that critical moment of passion or clumsily try to use their common language to express their mutual feelings of ecstasy. I marvel when I hear the sounds of other languages spilling out of others' more fortunate mouths, "Does that sound/grunt/tone actually mean something to someone? Amazing!"

But I must accept my shortcomings. I will never be able to seamlessly switch between languages to use the words that best describe my intent. I will always be clumsy and never witty in another language. I am confined to reading inferior English translations of Tolstoy and Sartre and Rumi, never to grasp the full beauty of their written word.

Here is my confession: I am, and will never be more than, a monoglot.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


It's raining in the desert right now. There is something so satisfying about the gentle patter of the drops as they run down my windowpanes. Most often, it seems, we get the torrential rains, the pounding sheets of driving rain that turn a person blind, the fast cataclysmic downpours that shake up our brown earth and turn our empty washes into coursing rivers..

But occasionally, we get the soft rains of the East, the leisurely splatters that instead of washing away the dust in a torrent of floods, gently caresses our dirt, healing, coaxing change and bringing green, even for a short time.

This is one of those rains.

Friday, January 08, 2010


I never thought going back to work would change me. I mean, I knew my life would change, I knew that my schedule would be different and I'd have less time to cook and clean and play with CEWG. I knew I'd be juggling the demands of The Doctor's career which is neither forgiving nor flexible. But I figured that at this point in my life (ripe old age of 29, thank you very much!), I've come to figure out who I am and where I am going. If not, what was that quarter-life crisis for?

Boy, was I ever wrong.

This job has thrown me into another world that I had forgotten which challenges who I am now and where I want to be every single day I walk into that office. I have never worked harder, more intensely and with more discipline in my life and I have never been happier than I am right now.

The only thing that has affected me more is becoming a mother.

I cherished the time that I spent with CEWG at home. I got 22 beautiful months to intensely fall in love with my child. Learning how to be a mother and setting a foundation for perhaps the most powerful relationship a person can have has truly been the most life-altering experiences I have ever embarked on. I feel so fortunate that I could make the choice to stay home and simply exist with my child without any other demands placed upon my time.

I feel like I'm in rediscovery mode again, but this time, instead of learning who I am as a mother, I'm relearning who I am as a person. I am reminding myself who I am outside of my family, reminding myself of my interests, my passions. Each day, I learn more about myself. Each day, I am given a new challenge, a new viewpoint, a new problem, a new way of looking at the world.

How awesome is this?

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Old Friends

Last night, ex-Beloved came over to my house for dinner. We hadn't really spent any quality time together in the last five years. In fact, I hadn't seen him in 4 years except for once for a brief encounter a few months ago (The Doctor, CEWG and I invaded his house for an hour to say hi).

There is something wonderful about seeing people from your past. They remind you of who you were and you can get a glimpse of your old self as well as a new perspective on who you've become. It was wonderful to simply sit and talk, laugh about old times, reflect on memories and who we used to be and begin to learn who we are now.

I am so thankful that I have so many friends who are comfortable friends. Friends who are like favorite pairs of jeans--you can slip them on and just be yourself. My college experience was wonderful, the education was top-notch. But truly, the best gift that William and Mary gave me was a collection of friends that have been there for each other through thick and thin.

Friday, January 01, 2010

A New Year, Another Beginning

I can't believe it's 2010 already. For some reason, 2010 sounds so futuristic to me. But I suppose since it's here and now, futuristic it is not. And here I am. Starting another year, one step closer to 30.

We're firmly settled in PHX. I didn't turn the air-conditioning off until mid-November. Pity me, please? At least our electric bills will get a respite since we don't need heat and I doubt we will since the projected highs hover around the upper 60s/low 70s before they shoot back up to the upper 80s.

But of course, the biggest news is that I'm back at work full-time! I somehow, I managed to land my dream job with my dream organization. I'm still in shock that I'm so lucky to get up every day and do what I do and take home a paycheck for it! How does that happen? And how does that happen to me? But it did.

And amazingly, we've all adapted to the change well, CEWG included. She's enrolled in daycare (AKA nursery school) and after two to three weeks of transitional crying, loves loves loves her teachers and class.

I'd like to start to get back to blogging, simply because it forces me to write. I didn't get time to do NaNo this year because of personal extenuating circumstances. And of course, since I've moved, I have no writing group to force me to write, either. But hopefully, writing here a few times a month will at least get it out of my system and give me that creative outlet.

To here's to the New Year, you and yours!