Things I Love Thursday

I love my son's small school.

As he was entering Kindergarten, I had much to consider.  He was on the young side of the age cut-off and he had some as-yet-undiagnosed "issues" I didn't know what to do with.  I visited every school within a 20 miles radius and made an Excel chart of its features and detractions. 

I wanted Montessori.  I wanted a nice, clean, safe building.  His school was not on the list.  It was too small, too dirty, without air conditioning and frankly, I was not looking for a Christian school.  All the wrong things.  But the other schools were just. not. working. out.  As I did my search, I came to realize more and more clearly the environment that would be best for him...and me.  He was still filled with anxieties that needed to be carefully tended to.  Even the small public school near our house seemed overwhelming.  I finally went to visit West-Mont Christian Academy because I was running out of options...and time.  Then, the school went through a major renovation that summer.

I had run out of excuses.

When I went, I was immediately drawn to the small environment.  There is one classroom per grade.  The school secretary sits right in the middle of the little lobby and can see everything going on.  (I'm sure sometimes she wishes she didn't!) Everybody in that building knows everybody else's name.  The principal gets hugs from all the kids; and he hugs them back.  Because the school is so small, his Exceptional Ed class is one-on-one.  I doubt I could get that at any of the tony private schools in the area.  He loves his teachers and his teachers truly love him.  He prays for them, and they pray for him.

As I sat in the car line today, waiting for my special treasure, I was telling my friend about all the imperfections of the school...the cranky kids in his class, the cranky teacher last year, the paint chips.  Then I remembered how grateful I was to be guided to the right place, despite what I thought was best.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  - Proverbs 3:5


Dust in the Wind

I am sapped
dried out

I will ooze out volcanic slurry
or blow away as dust


Our 15th of a Second of Fame

My friend got four tickets to the taping of the Nate Berkus Show.  Who?  Yeah, I had to google him, too.  I would never have gone were it not my best friend, The Artist.  I thought a trip to NYC would be fun, no matter what the reason.  I remember the days when I’d take day trips to NYC…or night runs for dinner.  I’d be pretending to study in my dorm room when the phone would ring.  A friend would say, “Hey I got a car -- want to go for dinner in NY?”  Well, duh!  Of course I’d say yes.

We’d be going with two friends of The Artist.  Hugs, hellos and fussing as the two of us get in the car to pick up Karen around the corner.  The 3 of us then go to Jen’s house.  See Jen run out her back door, to her car.  See Jen run back in the house.  See Jen run out the front door, and jump in the back seat. 

We chatter away and the two in the back seat argue intermittently about the best way to get to Trenton.  I feel a headache coming on.  Our boots tap-tap and clack-clack as we hurry across the pavement, then the glossy floor of the train station.  Conversations about our children intersperse with comments about our outfits.  Oh, I love that hat!  It’s so you.  Mine’s in 3rd grade, how about yours? Should my pants be in or out of my boots?  Do you think we can make an earlier train?  Let’s find coffee.  I have to stop in the rest room.  Where’d they go?  Wait! 

Look!  Hi, Tim!
The train takes an hour longer than it should but we’re too busy talking.  Me, too, talking.  But what I really wanted was a latte and quiet.  That headache grows.  Not a headache so much as a too-fullness; the talking jiggling the nerves in my too full head.  Like nitro.

I’m in heels too high and another walks too fast.  We’re like a slinky dog as we 4 stretch and careen and back again.  Weaving through the Manhattan crowd 2 by 2 then 3 and 1 then 2 by 2 again in different sets.

Fries sprinkled with cheese
We get there finally to wait in the cold.  The Fast One has gluten-free crackers, ear muffs, mittens and hand warmers.  The other hasn’t eaten and we share Greek fries in line.  There are young men and women drones buzzing about with earphones, walkie-talkes and badges on lanyards.  There’s one that comes down the line to mark our tickets, then another one follows checking it twice.  There are 4 at the doorway for security.  Another at the bottom of the stairs.  Two at the elevators; two when we get out.  I’ve lost track of how many guide us to the ”Audience Waiting Room.”  There are bananas, bagels, coffee and tea. The room is filled with middle-aged women and gay men.

Many more with Earphones.  One comes in and makes an announcement.  Another hands out forms.  Then another form.  Then they collect them.  There’s one guiding the  line of women needing the restrooms.  Two male versions stand nearby.  Another one hands out the same form they just collected.   Sorry-we-shouldn’t-have-collected-it-I-didn’t-get-the -memo.  Another one is recruiting for future shows.  She even asks to take a picture of us because she “likes our vibe.”

The waiting room, the hallway, the restrooms are all dingy – the green aura of cheap fluorescent.  (Maybe that’s where the term “green room” comes from?)  I keep waiting for my glasses to clear up, but it’s not that.  It’s just dark and dingy and the worst lighting I’ve ever seen.  I feel like I’m in the movie, Brazil.

There are more and more of these drones.  We are herded through.  We get a “gift” which we are not to open.   We enter the studio. No.  Wait.


If you could hear the eternal light of Heaven, this would be it.  The clatter and jabber and shuffle of the audience dies away as they all sense the clarity, the perfection, as  if we are entering the presence of The Almighty.  Not because Nate Berkus is such a bigshot, but because the studio is this white box of perfection.  Only a Higher Being could dwell here.  There are no shadows or gradations.  No blind spot or heat spot.  Everything in that studio is covered in a clear, pure white light. 

There is another Earphone, but she has a name, Dena, and she is paid to keep us entertained, and keep our "energy up."  There’s also a male Earphone named Gab and he’s a comedian, too.  They tell us when to clap,and for how long.

Then there’s Nate.  Charisma.  Gentle and sweet, a charm you can smell.  And he's one of those men that you think must smell good.  I thought I’d hate this part, the clapping too enthusiastically, the corny, made up “chatting” with the guests.  I thought it was fascinating.  I can see why people get caught up in all….THAT.

When we left the studio, we headed to a Greek restaurant around the corner from the studio.  We had more fries sprinkled with cheese.  We were all less talkative.  We each made calls to our families.  Then we took the train back to Trenton, all of us quiet, ready to get back to our real lives.  Our ride back to our houses was quieter.  No arguing about which roads to take.  

We said our goodbyes as if we had just carpooled to a friend’s party.  A perfectly tanned, perfectly coiffed, perfectly spoken where nobody is offended or wrinkled or have panty lines.
Me, Bren, Jen, Karen in the audience.


A New Era

My son has an invisible friend.  His name is Aceladin.  Acela, as in the high-speed train + din.  If I want to know more about him, I am to go to www.aceladin.com


Things I Love Thursday

I am "inspired" by my friend Jo-Lynne, who was inspired by Jill to talk about what I love.  Glass half full.  Jo-Lynne thinks February is dull and drab.  Pshaw!  Pshaw, I say

Seriously, I *love* February.  But it's easy for me to say because I am not adversely affected by the winter months.  I know several people very close to me who are, so I know it is a real issue.  Here's what I love about February:

New Florence, PA
  1. Snow.  We Christian-type folks always hope for a white Christmas, but I notice people around these here parts do not want it to stay.  I think if it started snowing at 5:00 Christmas Eve and melted the day after Christmas, it would be hunky-dorry.  Not me.  I love me my snow.  The kind that stays.  I grew up in central Pennsylvania, where it is not unusual to see mounds of snow in parking lots in April.  Around balmy Philadelphia though, usually, after a couple of months of pretending to snow, we might get a real snow around this time of year.  I remember how drab the world seems after the leaves fall and before the snow comes.  And when it comes?  It always reminds me of the glory of God - how He covers our sins ...so that we are as white as snow.
  2. Snow.  Did I say this already?  Speaking of memory, here's a funny one.  You can insert "menopausal" for "elderly:" "
    Two elderly ladies had been friends for many decades.  Over the years, they had shared all kinds of activities and adventures.  Lately, their activities had been limited to meeting a few times a week to play cards. 

    One day, they were playing cards when one looked at the other and said,
    Now don't get mad at me.  I know we've been friends for a long time, but I just can't think of your name!  I've thought and thought, but I can't remember it.  Please tell me what your name is...

    Her friend glared at her for at least three minutes; she just stared and glared at her.  Finally she said, How soon do you need to know? 


    OK, so.  Snow: The Sequel:  I love watching Boo play in the snow.  That kid is never cold, and he loves to be outside whether it's 9 below zero or 9 above 100.

  3. 2011

    3. Happy Birthday to Me!! It's my birthday month.  And though the delight of getting one year older is waning, I still love being surprised by my HH with something delightful, no matter how many times I tell him not to get me anything.

    I think Three is a perfect number for Thing I Love Thursday.  And finishing about me, right? ;-)


Tiger Mom Award of the Year. Decade.

Not being a pro sports kinda gal, I just learned about Hines Ward for the first time today.  I saw a link to this video, where he is inducted as a member of the President's Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Yup.  You read that right.  ASIAN AMERICAN.

Hines Ward was born in Seoul, Korea to a Korean mother and African-American serviceman.  They moved to the US when he was an infant, then a year later, his father, Ward, Sr., promptly divorced his mother and married someone else.  As if it wasn't cruel enough to do that, Hines, Sr. went to court and successfully argued that Kim Young He was an  unfit mother, since she spoke no English and could not support themselves.  (I wonder if he realized he had something to do with that?)  The younger Ward lived with his paternal grandparents and then with the jer...um, I mean, father until he was 7.  But that is just the beginning of this amazing story.

Kim Young He, his mother, is the Tiger Mom of all Tiger Moms, not because she made him play the piano or yelled at him to get better grades.  No.  This young woman, who spoke no English and had nobody in this huge country, set out to prove the court wrong.  In Georgia no less.  His mother worked three back-breaking menial jobs to prove she could support her only child and got. him.  back.

Like any kid might, Hines Ward was embarrassed of his mom. He admits that.  He had grown up in the African-American community and suddenly, here was this virtual stranger who was little, with funny eyes who spoke horrible, "broken" English.  Despite her 3 jobs, she always made meals for him and took him to school.  One day, he ducked in the seat.  He snuck out of the car (who taught her to drive?  how did she save up to buy a car?) and turned to look at her...and saw her crying.  (just. kill.  me. now.)

It's his mother he speaks of, his mother that inspired him.  Get a box of tissues and go to the link.

Then try and Google Hines Ward, Sr. and see if anything comes up.


See More

I listen to a great show on NPR called Tell Me More.  The show has a clear multi-cultural bent.  The host asked a question awhile back, ”Will racism ever end?”  I’ve been thinking about that ever since.

I started by wondering why we have prejudices in the first place?  Are all prejudices bad?  Prejudice, I think, is a basic skill which allows us to distinguish one from another.  It’s like in the Kindergarten song that asks, “Which of these things don’t belong together?”  So when it’s a drawing of 3 oranges and 1 apple, it’s an easy task.  If the drawing showed 3 white kids and 1 black, well, that’s rife with all sorts of implications.  My son has a difficulty distinguishing a friendly smile from a sarcastic grin or pained grimace.  It is a survival skill he is learning, one painful encounter at a time.

In the most basic, instinctual sense, a baby needs to know who her “safe people” are.  She learns who her mom, dad, grandma and neighbor are.  As adults, we learn to assess a friendly situation from a potentially dangerous one.  Seeing people similar to us puts us at ease.  Most women will feel more comfortable walking into a room full of women, than a room full of men.   When I drive through a certain part of town and see people  hanging out on the street corners, cigarettes hanging from their mouths, donning ghetto gear, I feel uncomfortable.  I’ve thought this through and it’s not the color of their skin so much (they are equally black and white) as all the other symbols of their condition, that puts me on edge.  “What will they think of me?” is as vital a question as “What do I think of them?”  We make ourselves the “norm,” from which all judgments are made.  “I am safe,” and “I am normal,” are adages which we must live by. 

I have 3 older brothers, each a year apart in school.  Growing up in an area 99.6% white, they were constantly mistaken for each other, so much so that they stopped correcting people.  And really, they did not look alike.  Ask any Asian.  They are similar in height, with brown eyes and black hair, but then, so are several billion east Asians on this globe, right?  My one brother is fair-skinned, with fine-features set on a broad, square face atop broad shoulders.  My other brother is very olive, with thick black brows, coarse hair, a triangular face and much slimmer build.  Yet another brother is fair skinned but has a rectangular face and wore glasses.

Cut to scene 20 or so years later.  I am having a conversation with a white friend and we are talking about who his children look like.  He analyzed the exact tone of his children’s auburn hair and lighter brown eyes and the similarities to the Smith side of the family, as opposed to the blonder shade of hair and deep brown eyes of the Jones side.  He went on for several more minutes comparing the exact tilt of the nose and freckle structure.  These two examples, though occurring years and miles apart, made me realize something important:

We are more aware of our “own kind,” because we consider the basics "normal," and can easily get past these superficial qualities and see deeper.  

Despite having spent most of my years in the US, it is still harder for me to distinguish the subtleties of Caucasian features.  It is harder for me to see past the blond hair of the 4 tow-heads in my son’s class and constantly get them mixed up with each other.  Likewise, I think one race can’t see past the most basic features of another race, past the unfamiliar, past the "otherness" unless we really spend time and effort to see past the basics, dig deeper and really try to see.

Being able to recognize our own, to judge a comfortable situation from a threatening one, are lifesaving skills for us as human beings. It’s no wonder then, that one white male executive will be more likely to hire another young white male, from his own fraternity.  I get that.  But as human beings, we have the ability to get past our instincts and consciously choose to make wise choices that take us past merely our own comfort zone.

Will racism ever end?  In this life, on this earth, as long as our ability to segregate and differentiate is essential and instinctual?  I don’t think so.  But while we are here, can we at least try to see past the surface?  Can we set ourselves aside as being the “norm,” or the “normal,” as the basis by which all things are measured?  Can we look at the other person, part the curtains, and see more?


Happy Lunar New Year, Everyone!

How about these Korean rabbits!!  Aren't they cute?? But wait, did the announcer just finish a segment about South Korea with a comment about the "Chinese New Year??"

I don't do new year resolutions.  But I'm making an exception this year:

To write more, and spend less time on Facebook.  

Thought you had to make resolutions on January 1?  You have a second chance!


Dog Tail

When I practiced architecture, I did some public school projects. Public schools, being ummm, public, fell under the auspices of the state. The state requires many, many forms. Forms about building codes. Forms about how big.  How tall.  How deep.  And cost estimates. And the absence of archeological finds. And historic significance.

One of the forms required me to certify that I was, indeed, a Registered Architect. Architects are registered by the state. That same state required me to certify that I was registered. By the state.

Are you getting the picture? Or are you dizzy?

The other day, I was reading yet another story about an adopted person, now grown, being deported because the parents didn’t fill out the proper forms 30 years ago. This person was adopted legally as an infant by US citizens and lived in the US continually all her life. It reminded me that I needed to get an additional form for Boo.

In 2001, a federal law came into affect that adopted children automatically acquire US citizenship upon immigration.1   I did get Boo a US passport. You must be a US citizen to get a US passport. However, a passport itself is not proof that you are a US citizen. Soooo. I have to fill out and send this form, N-600, “Application for Certificate of Citizenship” through the Department of Homeland Security, US Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Take a breath.

Plus $600. Yep. So Boo can have a certificate proving that he is a US citizen. The citizenship that the US government gave him. That he has to prove. To the US government. Which gave him the citizenship.  For just $600.

Dizzy yet?
I can’t help but think of a little dog chasing its own tail, yapping and circling around. I feel like that dog.


I started to dig up some of the resentment I feel about the whole adoption process. If you are not familiar with adoption, you can feel free to be shocked. You’d think I would be grateful, right? Well I am grateful. But I’m not grateful for the heaping piles of humiliation and distrust thrust upon adoptive parents. Or maybe it’s just me.

See, I had to prove that I was worthy as a parent. That my husband was worthy. That my extended family was worthy. That we were neither criminals nor child molesters. Finger printed. Interviewed. That we made enough money by showing them our IRS forms for the past 3 years. Be threatened to terminate the process because of a misstep. We had to prove that our house was clean and safe. That we lived in a nice community. We had to explain our theory of child rearing and philosophy of discipline. On top of all the forms we had to fill out just for the actual adoption part. Then I had to argue with the pediatrician’s office that it is indeed a newborn checkup even if he isn't newborn and that I shouldn’t have to pay out-of-pocket for the exam. On top of all the checks that added up to 5 figures.

I thought ,"Why is it so hard??"  Why can some 16 year old open her legs and 9 months later the hospital just hands her the baby, but we, at 40, have to go through all this???  What is God trying to say?

And then it came to me.  Or, He came to me:

So then you are no longer strangers and ALIENS but FELLOW CITIZENS with the saints and members of the household of God 2

Yes! Of course! When you are borne, you are the heir.  Every nation, people and tribe recognizes that.  However, when you are not borne to, but a stranger and an alien,ow alone you are! How separated!  Even those who want you, to adopt you, must prove and pay, prove and pay again and again your legitimacy, your rightful place in their family.  I've read the text a hundred times.  I've contemplated adoption and the Kingdom for at least 8 years.  But it wasn't until that moment, when I saw how separated my child was from us, how foreign, that I saw a glimpse of how far we ourselves are separated from God.

God had to “prove” it, to pay for it with the blood of Jesus Christ so that we, as strangers and aliens could be adopted into His household, to be His heirs.

It's a complete circle for me, an adopted heir to His kingdom.

1 certain restrictions apply
2 Ephesians 2:19, NKJV