Archive for October, 2011

Weekly Photo Challenge: Hidden

October 30, 2011 11 comments


There’s something uniquely feminine about a woman who is hidden from view. Some people believe women who are covered like this woman are unhappy, oppressed, and forced to live under a shroud of darkness as invisible ghosts in the countries in which they live. Visiting the Middle East gave me a first-hand experience with the differences and similarities between our two cultures. I will never know what this woman looks like, but the contrast with the Western idea promoting baring as much as one can get away with in public is more than a fashion choice or cultural restriction.

Life in a Day Project

October 30, 2011 Leave a comment

The original plan seemed simple enough: watch a podcast which I thought I had downloaded a couple of weeks ago. However, I discovered the download did not complete at that time. I still had about 10 minutes left to download. What to do in the meantime? I wanted to watch something while I worked on my task for the moment. Well, there’s always YouTube; I’ll watch videos.

My eyes fell to a video sat on my YouTube homepage. “Just click me”, it beckoned me. This movie recently played in a nearby theater, but I was already committed to an event and was unable to attend the one-day-only showing. Over a year ago, I had been interested in the project, Life in a Day, calling for people from around the world to film their lives on one particular day: July 24, 2010. Now over a year later, I was curious to watch the final documentary intended to be a time capsule of life on a single day.

My highlights:

– Man and son during their morning ritual which includes making an offering to remember their deceased wife and mother.

– The man who faints during the birth of his baby.

– A man with children who live in poverty because he cannot work. “But we are alive. God will not forget us”, he says.

– Goats—don’t their mouths seem to be smiling? Yet, they don’t look like happy animals.

– Beware of the butchered cow.

– Young man spending time with his father. When he gives his father a photograph from his graduation from “uni”, I felt a connection with the pair. I’m expecting a similar treasure from my daughter, according to our conversation this morning. Although, if I had something stuck to my shoe, I hope she would tell me about it, not just film my embarrassment.

– Question: Do you love your husband? Answer: Yes, we have to.

– It is meant for woman to kneel down before a man. To show respect. Complete with demo.

– The joy of celebrations.

– Meet the photographer in Afghanistan who wants the world to see another side of his country.

– The audience gets a glimpse into date a night between an Army wife and her husband meeting by Skype. Beautiful dog, by the way.

– What do you fear? We each other, God, people who don’t know God, divorce, loneliness, never being a mother, and discovering God isn’t real. Death, one woman answers, as she stands over a grave.

– Tragedy at the Love Parade in Duisburg. Disturbing image of attempts to resuscitate a person—and then, resignation.

– Nighttime is also a time for fireworks. Beautiful!

– “Nothing great happened” (Yet, something great happened.)

Like the woman in the final scene of the movie, many people have a deep desire to make their presence known in the world. Not for the sake of celebrity status—although some do—but to leave something behind to let future generations know “I was here”. I think that’s why this project received 80,000 submissions from 192 countries. With the world population about to burst the 7 billion mark, we all want to know we haven’t lived unnoticed. I have faith that we are all noticed. Nothing escapes God’s eyes. Not only did he create us but He also remains with us through every breath we take, every experience, every day. He is watching your life video. We are not ordinary to God; we are all unique and special. Not just for a day either. (The Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. Psalm 121:8 NIV) “God will not forget us.”

So I may have missed the official date last year, but it was interesting to watch the final product. Just a glimpse into what He sees every day.

Dog Strikes Again

October 18, 2011 Leave a comment

We haven’t come home to a trash mess for a while, so I guess we were just due. Frankly, opening the front door to a burst, splattered trash bag is a good test of how well you are managing stress, how normal your blood pressure is and whether you have allowed that morning Bible verse or devotion to saturate your spirit. Today’s text was “and be renewed in the spirit of your mind”. I need something to create a hedge of protection around me as I go through the day with its challenges and surprises because, well, I can get a bit angry if left to my own devices. Even at my dog.

What was different about today that made him take it out on the trash? I imagine it must be rough now and then being an only dog, but biting the hand that feeds you is not the way to go. Humans don’t like that, Dog. We don’t like opening the door to an ocean of food scraps (especially half-rotten melon rinds—yuk!), chewed-up food packaging and the army of ants that are the natural companions to garbage.

Confronted with evidence of his crime, Dog bolted from the house into the darkness.

Looks like someone has bought a one-way trip back to the SPCA, I growled.

It’s too late for that, Hubby countered. Is he actually going to stick up for this Dog? Is it a guy thing?

No, it’s not. We could say we’re moving and can’t take him.

So . . . how are you going to explain it when you show up to adopt another dog?

So level headed.

With the kitchen finally cleaned up, we proceed upstairs only to be met by a Hanzel and Gretel-style trail of lesser bits of trash. Something on the steps. Something else in the hall. A wrapper in the bedroom. Why don’t dogs have thumbs so they can pick up after themselves?

And be renewed in the spirit of your mind.

I shook it off and changed my mind about turning him in.

Finally, like a child who decided to run away from home but didn’t know what to do when he reached the end of the street (after all, having no money, no job opportunities and no food can be a drag), Dog appeared out of the darkness, waiting in the driveway for permission to return. How do I know? I was out there looking for him. I brought him inside, sat him down, and prepare to give him a good talking to. He may not be a brainy Border Collie, but he knows enough to pull out the only weapons he has in a situation like this. I wiggle my finger in his face and tell him how naughty he is. He looks up at me with big, pleading brown eyes. I continue, after all, Mommy is really, really mad. Big brown eyes plus head tilt.

Just don’t do it again. I mean it. Scratch behind the ears. With smirk and a wagging tail, Dog trots off.

Dog is no fool.

5 Interesting Man-Made Wonders

October 16, 2011 Leave a comment

Just to prove that we humans can complicate just about anything, even a simple internet search on the Seven Wonders of the World yields a myriad of lists. Apparently you have to specify which ‘world’ you are interested in. Do you mean the ancient world or the modern world? Are you interested in natural wonders or man-made? Adding the word “new” results in a different list. In 2007, USA Today gave developing a list a whirl and reported that its judges had selected new wonders of the world including the Internet (location: Earth) and the Great Migration of the Serengeti and Masai Mara (location: Tanzania and Kenya), allowing for a people’s choice—the Grand Canyon. Even London’s sewer system makes the cut when it is included as an industrial wonder, alongside the Brooklyn Bridge and Panama Canal.

Given the number of “wonders” that exist in the world, according to these various lists, it’s rather pathetic how few I’ve actually seen. A “wonder” from this list and perhaps two from another is as far as I have gotten. Even if I don’t have the opportunity to see any of the top picks of my favorites, there are some structures that have caught my attention in my travels, resulting in some awe-inspired, how’d-they-do-that moments that make me wish I were a better photographer.

1. Houses of Parliament Building, London, England – There’s something about this foreboding, spikey Gothic architecture that compels me to gaze at it for minutes on end as if to impress its image into my brain. I still haven’t figured out why I have such a fascination with this building. Perhaps it’s the sheer size of it, the color or just that it looks so serious.

Houses of Parliament

2. Scottish Parliament Building, Edinburgh, Scotland – Designed by Spanish architect, Enric Miralles, the Scottish Parliament building was officially opened in 2004. Its quirky design plays with abstract shapes, colors, and window accents that remind me of puzzle pieces. Edinburgh has no dearth of sights, but the Parliament building is definitely worth a slow walk by on the way to Holyrood Park. Every angle offers a different silhouette, which allegedly cost an extreme 414 million pounds. I don’t know a saltire cross from a stepped gable, but the Scottish Parliament building is a head turner on the Royal Mile.

Scottish Parliament (2)

Scottish Parliament Building

3. Hampton Court Palace, England (and maze) – An excursion one beautiful July day brought us to Henry VIII’s place in Surrey. I love castles, and I wish we had had more time to explore the treasures at Hampton Court. Immediately we headed for the maze, the not-to-be-missed feature of our visit as far as I was concerned. Of course, we fumbled our way through it, but it was all in good Tudor fun. Who doesn’t like to step into another time and pick up some history in a way that’s much more fun than the boring date drills we were subjected to in school? History this way is so much more interesting.

Hampton Court Palace

Wall and ceiling at Hampton Court Palace

4. Swiss Re Building, England – So why is a building that’s nicknamed The Gherkin on my list? This is, after all, a list of architecturally interesting wonders. And how does one design a conical, eco-oriented building change the skyline and architectural history? With a sleek, shiny skin and a shape that reduces wind turbulence. 30 St. Mary Axe is credited with being UK’s first environmentally progressive, commercial high-rise building. I just think it’s cool.

Swiss Re Building

Number 5 isn’t in the UK. And I haven’t seen it yet.

5. Beekman Tower, 8 Spruce Street, New York – Frank Gehry’s designs are nothing short of large-scale artist renditions. It is one of the tallest residential buildings in the Western Hemisphere. I’d like to look up at Beekman Tower in person, because it reminds me of a steel waterfall. Of course, some of Mr. Gehry’s other designs could make my list too, including the Dancing House in Prague or the Guggenheim Museum in Spain.

8 Spruce Street

That’s my list. Just five cool buildings waiting to join the list of man-made wonders. I wonder, How did they do that?

The Faces of Pink

October 11, 2011 Leave a comment

Happy birthday and many more. We say it so lightly. We plan milestone birthday celebrations well in advance of the actual event. We look forward. When we are young, we answer the question “What do you want for your birthday?” with a shopping list of objects that we think will make us happy: a new phone, an iPad, clothes, shoes, dinner at a favorite or new restaurant, or other tangible symbols of happiness. Unless you’re Miss Whatever and you just want world peace. When we become parents, we want our children to be happy and healthy. At some point, we parents want to be healthy for our children.

As I adjusted my pink ribbon pin for Breast Cancer Awareness Month (October), I thought of a special woman in my life whose birthday is in October. If I asked her what she would like for her birthday, she would probably answer among other things, “To be cancer free. For good.” That’s my prayer for her, too. That’s my prayer for all of these brave women. For the ones who just received their initial diagnoses (who don’t know how courageous they are yet), to those who have been through treatments and faced the scary times with dogged resolve.

Like ‘T’ who underwent surgery to remove a lump in her breast recently. We kept a prayer on our lips then rejoiced when she reported that the surgery had been successful.

Like ‘A’, cancer free for 5 years, a woman of unshakable faith and a wide, easy smile. She’s planning to complete the Susan G. Komen for a Cure Walk in 2012 for the second time. If I can’t join her, I will, of course, support her.

Walking pin

Like ‘R’, a former coworker, whose story I read in the local newspaper last week. Looking beautiful in a short hair style, she told readers of her journey on the rough road of breast cancer treatment. She lost her 32-year mother to cancer when she was just 11 years old. Now in her forties, ‘R’ battled back from her own diagnosis.

Hard Rock pin

Like ‘S’, a mother in her early forties who, like all of the women who will sit in doctors’ offices praying for a clean slate, doesn’t deserve the ravaging battle thrust on them by this indiscriminate enemy. No woman deserves to hear those ominous words.

Payless pin

When I wear my pin, it’s for cancer awareness, not just breast cancer, even though the pins are pink. I think of the faces. The faces of pink. There are many now, so many more than when I went to my first Squash Club appointment, dreading the cold, metal jaw that would press my flesh into a pancake in order to take a digital image of a private part of my body. I would (and still do) encourage women to have regular mammograms, do monthly self exams, and be aware of the changes happening in their bodies. As the years marched on, more “faces” have been added to the list. I hear their stories in meetings for women. I read their stories in magazines and newspapers. I see their pictures on Survivor Walls. Some of the faces are familiar. We pray together, laugh together and support each other.

My pin is not an accessory. My pin from Hard Rock Café always attracts attention and gets comments, but it’s more than a glittery pin. It represents a face of a beautiful woman—mothers, daughters, sisters, friends—whom I honor and remember. Someday someone may be wearing a pin for me.

Tonight while I write this post I’m watching Five on Lifetime. Five short stories exploring the impact of breast cancer on women and their families. Five stories directed by five women: Jennifer Anniston, Demi Moore, Alicia Keys, Penelope Spheeris, and Patty Jenkins.

I intended to watch only half an hour, maybe an hour of the program because it ends at midnight, way too late to be up watching movies on a week night. I know how I am; I’ll look haggardy in the morning from lack of sleep and it’s hard to face a full, busy day when your brain hasn’t had time to rejuvenate. Nevertheless, it’s 11:45 pm now so I may as well continue. The last of the five films is playing now, so I’ll end with this: listen to your body and be informed.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Comfort

October 9, 2011 9 comments

There is no feeling more comforting and consoling than knowing you are right next to the one you love. (source unknown)

No Parking

October 7, 2011 Leave a comment

Life is full of tests. Some are huge, leaving you wondering how you made it through. So many, however, are little tests—quizzes—that act as goal posts to show you how much you have grown in a particular area or to point out that your character is not quite perfected in a certain area. Today’s test was the latter.

I know it’s better for the environment to carpool, but I must admit, I like driving alone. I sing badly and loudly to my heart’s content, which distracts me from traffic, bad drivers, and the list of tasks and meetings on the day’s calendar. I was later than usual today; changing one’s mind at the last minute about what to wear will do that. With the temperature being only in the 70s rather than our usual warmer 80s at this time of year, I had to dig around for a more suitable top for the weather conditions. By the time I steered my car out of the driveway, I was a few minutes later than planned. I would have to just make up the lost time on my walk from the parking lot to my office to arrive on time. No leisurely stroll for me this morning. The chilly air might just come in handy since now I have to rush.

After a pleasantly uneventful commute (I use that term loosely; I live in a very small place), I entered the car park, rounded the corner to pull into my space, but a little grey Kia was already parked there. Imagine my surprise. The whole purpose of paying for a specific parking space is so that, especially on those days when one is late, there is no need to stress out about where to park in a crowded city. Your parking space lies at the end of your journey like a loyal pet dog eagerly awaiting your arrival. Not today.

After a few enquiries, the owner of the car was finally tracked down and directed to move his offending vehicle. A slight, sheepish man appeared in the now deserted parking lot, since all of the conscientious workers are at their desks doing important stuff while I’m sitting in my car waiting for the person who has now officially made me late for work). When I move into my vacated space, he approaches my car and sticks out his hand (hey, one point to the sheepish man for having the nerve to face the pit bull driving the little white car). I shake it.

His story: he works with my husband who is on vacation. Since he was able to park in Hubby’s space last time, he assumed he could do the same this time.

Me: Well, I was with him last time.

Him: You’re not [company] staff; I thought it would be okay.

Thinking can be SO dangerous for some people!

Me: He may be on vacation, but we’re still paying for the space.

A few more moments of banter, none of which included an apology, led me to believe he was expecting me to say, “Aw, shucks, Mister. You take the space. I’ll be glad to pay $10 to park elsewhere today.” I’m not amused.

Before he walks back to his car, he endangers his life by asking, “So . . . are you going to be here all next week, too?”