April 25, 2014

comparison killed the housewife

We all have them - friends like my dear Candace - who seem to "have it all." A healthy vegan lifestyle, a running habit, a friendly husband, achieving children, beautiful white teeth, bucket loads of friends, a stained glass mosaic in her dining room window.

You name. She'll top it. Seriously.

And when I read posts like she posted today, I feel that old familiar poison of comparison seeping into my veins. My kids don't go to school. They don't give oral reports, play baseball, or paint in the style of Clementine Hunter. None of these opportunities are available to them. I don't pack lunches or juggle club schedules. In fact, most days, the kids and I are in our pjs until 9, they playing on the rug and me sipping coffee and watching the birds land on the neighbor's pagoda.

As I read the post, the poison starts to affect my mind and now I am sitting with my old enemy, worry. Are my kids missing too much by living over here? Will they hate me for this? Will I regret the decisions we are making on their behalf, to keep them home, to teach them differently, to run our household in this rather odd way?

But just as curiosity killed the cat, comparison killed the housewife. I can read my sweet friend's blog post and be happy for her and her wonderful family. I can rejoice in their triumphs and their beauty, recognizing that what makes their lives victorious does not imply that mine is a failure. In fact, the one has no bearing on the other. God has called everyone to a unique, custom-made life that only that person and that family are meant for.

What my kids are learning, most American kids miss out on. I know that, and yet, I compare. L0RD help me to be content with my life, and not covet the plans you have for others. Amen.

p.s. Thank you for letting me throw you under the bus, Candace. Or I guess put you on a pedestal, however you choose to look at it. You're tough enough to handle it, I know;)

Candace's world:
Did I mention she's also a photographer? Oh yes, and a fantastic one at that. Just look at this pic! The girl is amazing.

My world:

April 24, 2014


Radishes grow like children,
when we're not looking.

Plump and blunt.
Rosy and bright.

Thin skin on the outside,
tough, snow white meat on the inside.

Trailing silken roots
which take
in any type of soil,
and pull
without much effort at all.
Zion grew these on the roof in a discarded planter. They had fruited before I even knew they were there.

April 21, 2014

A filthy, funny, Easter with friends!

Daniel and I with Amy and Tim.
Some friendships are just worth it.

They are worth 16-hours on the overnight train, confined to hard sleeping benches with USED sheets. Ew.

They are worth my 9-year-old son holding his bowel movement too long (to avoid using the pee-flooded lavatory) and then running down the hall of the train yelling, "I pooped my pants," with me close at his heels, stooping to pick up the deposits which are tumbling from his shorts.


They are even worth the annoying looks into our private car every five minutes from curious people wanting a peek at the white people with their foreign-smelling salami sandwiches.

(I gotta say, though, after all we'd been through, those salami sandwiches were dang good.)
It's just that some friendships are worth it, and no amount of funk or gunk can keep us from making our Easter trip to the Hedden's.

We love them that much.

And the feelings are mutual, I'm sure.
Jubilee with her buddy, Andrew, the youngest Hedden.
Brother-sister love on the choo choo train.
Home school on the train.
Working on his PhD from the train.
The hallway of the train.
The four littlest playing together at the Hedden's. Evie, the sweetie-pie on the left, is the Hedden's foster daughter. There were 14 of us sleeping under one roof.
We got together with an old friend while in town. In this pic, Daniel is holding her second child whom we hadn't yet met. Our friend and her husband are both minority citizens, so they are allowed to have two children.
Tim and Daniel performing the skit they wrote for Easter morning. Hilarious. Easter at the Hedden's involves stout coffee at all hours, lots of chocolate, home baked bread, late nights, and more laughs than a Steve Carell movie.

April 16, 2014

mountain man

Daniel didn't even tell me about the trip. He simply said, "No, I better not," to his buddies and tried not to give it another thought.

But on the Thursday before the trip, he ran into one of the guys who was going, and he heard the delicious details. Words like flint, oxygen, summit, base camp; Daniel's gut ached to be a part.

So he came home and told me about the trip he wasn't going on.

"Why did you say 'no' to a trip like that?" I asked.

"I can't go," he said emphatically, even as his voice simmered with uncertainty and hope. He was searching my face for a reaction. "I've been gone too much lately. And you've been so swamped here with the kids."

I said nothing.

"You're not saying anything, and that's making it worse. Just tell me I shouldn't go. I need someone to tell me I shouldn't go."

"Well you're not going to hear it from me," I said from where I stood, dishrag in hand. "Because I think you should go."

He lost ten years in two seconds, nearly leaping across the room for his cell phone to call his friends. I couldn't quit smiling.

That was last Thursday. Yesterday, a chapped, glowing husband with a four-day beard came through my door with a swollen shin, a sack of dirty clothes, and loads breathtaking pictures. Between acclimating at a mountain hostel, gawking at yaks, stone jumping at icy crossings, making camp by a frozen mountain lake, watching the moon rise, watching the sun rise, and standing victoriously at 14,000 feet (and getting a 3G signal from the clouds with which to call home and shout, "I'm at the top of the world" at the top of his lungs) I'd say Daniel was dang glad he went.

Moral of the story? When you've got the chance to summit a Himalayan peak with a handful of people who mean a lot to you, you might want to say yes.

April 14, 2014

clean mud

Where we live, there are two kinds of mud. City mud is rancid and foaming with toxins; cigarette ash, old cooking oil, spit, urine, decomposing food, leaking plastics, and other delights.

Needless to say, we don't let our kids anywhere near the stuff.

But when we go up the mountain to our buddy's organic farm, where the air smells of peach blossoms and mist, and even the pigs are clean enough to touch, we turn our kids loose in the "clean" mud.

Add to that some grilled hotdogs and a clevered watermelon, and a good day is had by all.

April 10, 2014

Gene's "first" birthday

This year we celebrated Gene on April 10, rather than Bright. Thankfully, his favorite cake is still strawberry. As usual, he requested an intimate dinner with one other family. Not surprising, he requested that black eyed peas be served along with cornbread, and all the strawberries that didn't go into the cake. So other than the fact that we sang, "Happy Birthday dear Gene," and other than the fact that nine candles were on the cake instead of eight, things seemed just the same as always.
In fact, because he loves his new name so much, and because he wears it so well, like a tailor made suit, I have grown incredibly fond of it myself.

I'm incredibly fond of him, that's for sure.

April 09, 2014

Missing Mom

16 years ago today I called my mom from Alabama to wish her a happy 46th birthday. It was spring break, 1998. I was a senior. My friends and I thought we were old enough to handle ourselves for a week without our parents.

We weren't.

But I did get one thing right that week. I remembered to call my mom on her birthday.

She doesn't remember that call, but I do. I was sitting at the dinette table in our rental beach house, surrounded by my suntanned friends. The dinette table was white wicker and glass. The ocean beyond lapped at the sand. I twisted one hand through the phone cord while I punched the calling card number with the other. Ring, ring. My mom answered. She sounded so happy and familiar. I longed to be with her, like a kid stuck at a slumber party on the other side of town.

And now here I am, 16 years later, calling her from the other side of the world to wish her a happy 62nd. Again, I long to be with her, though by the grace of G0D I am making better decisions than I was back then. And by the grace of G0D I love my life.

Still, a girl never outgrows her mom.

So I wish you all the best this year, Mom. No matter how far away I travel, my heart will always be with you and Dad. I love you. Happy Birthday.

April 07, 2014

A broken board

Zion is smaller than everybody in his Tae Kwon Do class.

(when you're born 4 lbs at full term, you're never going to be a big dude)

And when yellow belt testing day came, he was only the second boy to go. A proctor "master" sat behind an official table. Zion took him two boards of wood. The master inspected the wood and nodded gruffly, handing them back to Zion. Zion took the boards to his instructor, Moose, who held the first board out at arms length.

Zion, with his plum-sized fist, was to punch the board hard enough for it to break.

Oh my sweet peanut!

Thankfully I was home sick with sinusitis. G0D knew I couldn't watch.

But I saw the video. How it was that Daniel stayed silent through the whole thing I'll never know. How he was able to keep his hand steady on the recorder is a mystery to me. I would have found a white towel and thrown it in. I would have run in to scoop up my tiny son and whisk him off somewhere safe.

But that is not what Zion needed.

He needed to fight the good fight.

And I needed to watch it happen later, on video, holding my breath on the edge of my seat while Zion punched that board over and over again. Time and time again his fist darted out from the hip in perfect form. Time and time again the board held fast. Tears glistened in his determined eyes. His knuckles (I would find out later) were loosing their skin. Moose just kept saying, "NO. AGAIN." Zion just kept punching. Daniel didn't move.

I almost stopped watching the video.

Then Zion's arms fell to his sides. He lowered his head and cried.

Moose put down the board and leaned in close to Zion, saying something I couldn't hear. Zion nodded, stepped back into form, lifted his fists, and punched one last time.

SPLIT went the board.

The crowd cheered. Zion looked like he didn't believe it was real. I jumped from my desk chair with glee. And pride. Because strength is not the size of your fists (obviously), nor the ease with which you bust the board. Strength is punching until your knuckles bleed, and then punching again.

I've said it before and it's true, my kids are my heroes.

p.s. Gene and Brave broke their boards, too. Bravo to all three!

April 06, 2014

free will

Why did G0D give us free will, anyway?

Ironically, He didn't have much of  a choice. At least not if He was going to make beings in His own image. To be like Him, we needed to be (among other things) passionate, creative, and...free.

So what is free will, exactly?

Allow me to introduce a visual.
Zion learned to ride his bike on March 29.

A dad runs beside his kid. 
"Steady," says the Dad.
"I can't," says the kid.
"Eyes forward. Pedal. That's it."
"Ahh, ughh, ohh," from the kid.
"You got it. You're doing great. I'm letting go. I'm letting go."

And then a panting dad stands still in the road, looking on. A stream of sweat darkens his green T-shirt. He watches his kid and smiles broadly. His eyes are twinkling. His heart is full.

Because he can give all the right instructions and cheer until his voice is hoarse, but in the end, we are the ones who must pedal. 

Similarly, we much choose faith. And then we must practice faith. We must not quit when the tires wobble. Believing is something that each person must do alone.



April 01, 2014

no mans land

To prepare for the driving test I'll be taking this month, I've been paying more attention to the road.

It terrifies me.

Dividing lines are a suggestion. Honking fills the streets. No one looks over their shoulders or even uses their side view mirrors, and "I was here first" means absolutely nothing. Did that woman just stop in the middle of the expressway to get something out of her purse? Yep.

150-year-old women dart out in the middle of the road because their bodies are healthy enough to dart about, but their eyes are thick and pale with age and can't tell a bus from a poodle. They come out of nowhere.

If it weren't for my husband, I wouldn't even dream of getting my drivers license over here. But he's right, our kids are older now and involved in things all over the city and it's too dangerous, time consuming, and expensive for me to be dragging them around in traffic looking for a cab six times a week.

And so I'm studying the driving app Daniel downloaded for me. It's basically just memorizing a bunch of nonsense, and it's taking up all of my free evenings! I'll be so happy when this test is over.

But then I'll have my license and I know Daniel will actually make me use it. Oh dear! I already have enough culture stress just living here. Now I'll be driving around in it. What is that place called on a compass where East meets West? Nothing. It doesn't have a name. Sometimes it has a cool design, but not a name. That's because it's a no mans land.

That's where I exist. That's my life.

Still there are moments when East doesn't seem so far from West. Moments when it occurs to me that people are just people, with thumping hearts and things on our minds. One such moment was the other day when Daniel was driving and I was paying close attention (of course). Daniel yielded at the small opening of the parking lot in order to let an exiting car come out. The car didn't come out, though, but rather stopped, like a mouse peeking out from a hole at dusk.

"Come on out," Daniel said mildly. The car didn't move. When the driver made a hand motion to indicate that he needed more room, Daniel (who could park a freight train on Broadway) slowly let out his breath. We both knew the guy didn't need more room. And anyway, there was nowhere for us to go.

And then, just as mildly Daniel said, "Come on buddy, we all need the road."

Isn't that just it?

Because everybody is headed in one direction or another, and it can't work if we are elbowing each other out of the way. We all must give a little. We all must live in that starburst place where all the arrows meet, that part which belongs to no one, has no borders, and cannot be claimed.

And you know what? That's the prettiest part anyway.