Sunday, June 28, 2009

happy birthday, little mister!

Yesterday, Marcus's actual birthday, was way too busy to post this, but here's a belated birthday tribute to my favorite boy.

Friday, June 26, 2009

oh my gosh the british museum

I never finished my museum series. Why do I continually forget to post about our trip? I do want to have a record of it.

J and I went to the British Museum. We only had a couple hours and we missed out on an entire floor--Africa, North America, and Mexico.

The British Museum is free. You just walk on in. It's unlike any other museum I've experienced in its accessibility. Everything is just there, much of it not roped off, not behind glass. There are hordes of people, of course, and they are all snapping pictures. I don't know about you, but in pretty much every museum I've ever been in, that's a big no-no. It took me a few minutes to get over my camera inhibitions, but then I started snapping away like every else.

The British Museum is controversial. They have many priceless artifacts from the ancient world (ah! the joys of Colonialism!), and some of those formerly-ancient countries want their stuff back. Greece has been especially insistent. The British Museum told them they didn't have adequate facilities for housing artifacts like the Elgin Marbles, so they built a new museum. The British Museum then came up with another reason they should hold on to the Greek's stuff: In Greece it would be enjoyed mainly by the Greeks, while in London the entire world can enjoy them! Funny coincidence, when I was in London in April I did happen to see the entire world. So they may have something there.

Whose side do you take? (You may want to read more than my silly, simplified synopsis of the issue.)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

the mystery of the iced mccafe

I'm not quite ready to switch to my other blog. It seems so abrupt. I'll let you know when I start posting over there.

Yesterday morning, I left the house at about 8:05 to run an errand. About 20 minutes later, J called. He was on his way to work, and he'd found an iced McCafe in his car, nearly finished. Also, some gum he keeps in the glove compartment had been taken out and left on the passenger seat. Yes, he had left his car unlocked and outside the garage. When he found the McCafe, there was still ice in it, but the ice was nearly melted by the time he got to work. It's been very hot here.

J's business partner suggested that someone in the neighborhood might know he has the car for sale (he has not advertised yet, but I did tell someone I know is looking for that same brand) and wanted to check out the inside. And then they might have forgot the McCafe when they left. The problem I see with that is, why wouldn't they have just told us they wanted to look at the inside of our car? Also, why would they have taken the gum out and left it on the passenger seat? It's not just one package of gum, but many packages in a bag, like you would get at Costco or something. J is positive he didn't leave it there.

Another scenario is a joke. Some neighbor was just having fun with us, like "Haha you left your car open so now I'm leaving this McCafe here and taking your gum out haha." But wouldn't they have said something later so we could laugh about it together? And wouldn't that be a little weird? And, as I have noted in a previous post, we don't have that kind of relationship with our neighbors. We do with friends who often walk by our house, but they are fellow Mormons, not likely to be drinking McCafe.

One J and I thought of last night is that someone was in our car, some McCafe drinker with bad intent. S/he rifled through our things, opening the glove compartment to check for valuables, when I opened the garage door to leave for the errand. Mr./Miss McCafe bolted, leaving behind the drink. Sadly, I think this is the most likely scenario. It's rather unnerving because it was not that early in the morning. It must have happened either right before or just after I left at 8:05 because there was still ice and it was already really hot out.

Isn't that creepy?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

new beginnings

I was going to wait awhile before making this announcement, but I'm just too excited about it!

I'm starting a new blog. I'm not deleting this one or anything. It will still be here. For a while I've wanted to start a new blog and I think moving to Spain presents a good opportunity to do so. Here it is. What do you think?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

about my dad

I have a soft-spoken father. I do not remember a single occasion of him ever raising his voice to me. He always encouraged and supported me in healthy, worthy pursuits, and never said a critical word. This is not what he experienced as a child, at least from one of his parents. That makes it even more impressive to me that he actively chose, on a daily basis, to be gentle, kind, and sensitive.
Thank you, Dad. I love you. We're all so glad you didn't drown in the cow poop.

Friday, June 19, 2009


I wanted to comment on a previous post about place identity, but it got to long so I'm posting it.

I grew up in central Maine. I lived in the same farmhouse from the time I was born until I went to college. When I go back to visit my family, that's where we stay. Both sides of my family have lived in Maine for 250+ years. When I went to college in Utah, I took with me a very definite, fairly rigid sense of place connected to my identity. I was "the girl from Maine." My Freshman roommate and I were "the girls from Maine." (And because of my heritage and upbringing, I didn't even accord my roommate true Mainer status because her parents were from Utah.) At school I met a few people who were from military families and had moved all over. When asked where they were from, some would say the last place they lived before going to college. Some would say, "Nowhere, really." That answer always creeped me out. "You're from nowhere? What do you mean?!" I would reply, so very tactfully. I found it difficult to connect to such people, maybe because my place identity was so strong and theirs, non-existent.

I know that in Africa, many women who live in big cities make expensive, dangerous journeys back to their homelands to give birth. They do it because they want their children to be able to claim a place identity that has more honor and meaning than the fairly generic big city they have been forced to migrate to for survival. When I learned about that I was pregnant with Bernie and I kept telling J I'd made a terrible mistake in letting my children be born in Utah and Minnesota. Why hadn't I gone to Maine to have those babies? I asked myself. I told J I was going to have Bernie in Maine. But I didn't, of course.

I have sometimes felt that my identity was molded too permanently by my Maine upbringing, to the extent that I have never been able to consider Minneapolis my home. We've lived here fourteen years, which is about the same length of time as the years I remember living in Maine. I had three of my four children here. I no longer have a Maine accent. I like many things about Minneapolis better than Maine. And yet I don't think I could call this my home. When I go back to Maine, as much as certain things bug me there, it always feels like home. J says I have a New England soul.

For my children, Minnesota is home. They even sound like Minnesotans. I think Georgie will always say that she is from Minnesota no matter where she lives now. But the others? I don't know. What if they never come back here to live? That is a fairly good possibility. If we stay living overseas until they are all grown, I agree that it could be difficult for the younger three to really pin down where they are "from." But I don't know that that's a bad thing. Maybe when they are grown and have their own families, they will have an easier time than their mother feeling at home wherever they live.

I want to write about racial identity too, but that will have to wait for another post. I told Bernie I'd do a craft with her at 1 pm, and the hour has struck!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

keeping up english skills

We get by with a little help from our friends. This photo has nothing to do with English skills. I just like it.

We sent the first month's rent and deposit to Spain. J is buying the airplane tickets right now. We already have someone interested in renting our house. Wow! Looks like this is really going to happen.

I know there are some homeschooler and teacher friends who read this blog. I need suggestions for good ways to build/maintain my children's English skills while we're in Spain. Any workbooks, guides, etc. that have worked well for you? Georgie is going into 9th grade, but the English class she was going to start this September looked like college stuff to me. Lidia is an advanced 6th grader. Marcus and Bernie are starting 4th and 2nd. I am not as concerned about having extra materials for the younger two because I think we'll focus mainly on reading in English.

Friday, June 12, 2009

why the devil chose new england for his work

Isn't that the best title ever for a short story collection?

These stories by Jason Brown take place in rural central Maine in the fictionalized town of Vaughn. They remind me of Flannery O'Conner's stories in that the main characters are often the marginalized. The difference is that in Maine, the word "marginalized" describes most of the population. I identified very strongly with the inhabitants of Vaughn--sometimes too much for comfort.

I have tried to describe to people who ask and really care to know, how rural Maine is different from other places. I've never been able to explain to my satisfaction or theirs.
Now when people ask me about Maine, my Maine, I'm going to hand them this book. These stories say everything about growing up in small-town Maine I've never been able to say. I suppose I should qualify "everything." These stories reveal the psychological complexities that always fascinated me growing up there. There is a lot of darkness, violence, and evil. Thus, the title, I suppose. The devil certainly does his share of work in northern New England. These are not happy, feel-good stories, as you might have guessed by now. There is nothing graphic and the language is remarkably clean compared to how most Mainers talk. However, I found myself pausing at certain points to marvel at the astuteness of the writer's commentary on rural Maine's humanity. They are razor sharp observations.

What I found most remarkable is the tenderness in the portrayal of the very flawed, downright sinful characters. The depictions of the characters and their foibles are unfailingly truthful, but many writers can be truthful. The depictions are also compassionate, and that is what raises these stories above others of similar themes.

I finished the book a few days ago and I still can't stop thinking about these stories. They haunt me. I wish someone would read this book so that we could talk about it!
I found this interview of the author, and I appreciated what he said here: "As I grew into the project, I began to feel [...] that I was documenting a vanishing place, a place with its own specific history, vernacular language, architecture, customs, relationship to the land, etc. This place had been lost to me, because I had left to escape the confines and claustrophobia that exist in any isolated small community, but when I looked back (and went back) I realized that the great maw of progress, American culture, was gobbling up the place I had known. [...] I did begin to feel [...] that there was something tragic about the loss I was witnessing and experiencing because the cultural forces taking over the area of Maine where I had grown up (and so much of rural America and the world) was soulless, for lack of a better word—it had no connection to the place, didn’t care about the history or people. It was voracious in its appetite and unrelenting in its ability to forget."

Thursday, June 11, 2009

what's going on

You may have noticed (or not--that's ok) that things have been quiet around here lately. While the blog may have been quiet, my life has been quite the opposite.

We're moving to Spain. J will be working there, giving support to customers in Europe and North Africa. We are calling it a two-year stint at this point. We go late August. J was there recently and he found a house for us to rent, preregistered the kids for school, and made other arrangements so that we can apply for visas.

We could have chosen to live anywhere in Europe. We chose Spain for the language, relative affordability, climate, and general awesomeness. It was easy to choose Spain, but harder to choose a specific region. We finally settled on the Costa del Sol, a region of Andalusia that includes Malaga. While we are completely enchanted by northern Spain, there were four big negatives about it compared to the south: 1) Their public schools are usually in a language other than Spanish--Gallego, Basque, or Catalan. 2) There are fewer houses available for rent. 3) While it is incredibly beautiful in "Green Spain," it is also very, very rainy. 4) Their airports are not that great. The area near Malaga that we chose has excellent public schools, an enormous number of rental homes to choose from, sun all year, and a great airport.

We were planning to sell our house here. In fact, it was going to be listed today. For the past couple weeks I've been working non-stop preparing it to go on the market. However, we are now considering keeping it. It occurs to us that it may not be the best idea to sell when home prices are so low, and the possibility of interest rates going up soon is so high. We just started considering this option (to not sell) two days ago. I gave myself a day off yesterday, the kids first day of summer break. It felt so good to be idle! Today it's back to work. We may have a potential renter look at it this weekend.

So that's what's going on. It's hard to believe that after years of "moving madness" every February, it's really going to happen.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009


Thank you for your commiseration and suggestions regarding the decomposing canine under my porch. (Doesn't that sound awful to say 'canine'? Like it's someone's Fido.) Thankfully, the stink was noticeably less pungent today. We'll probably just let it go at this point.

Aren't you all so glad that I apprise you of such goings-on? You don't have to thank me.

Monday, June 01, 2009

what to do?

J is somewhere in Sweden. Northern Sweden. He says it is wildly beautiful, like Maine. I am here at home. With the kids. We ate out tonight because that's what we do when J is away. Oh, and make clam chowder, his least favorite. We did that Saturday.

So here's my problem. Yesterday it stunk when we went out on the porch. This morning it stunk in the entire backyard. This afternoon it stunk in the back and front yard. This evening I found the stink in my kitchen, which looks out on the porch.

There are flies. Those big, purply-green ones, buzzing about drunkenly and bumping themselves against my sliding-glass door.

If J were here, he would crawl under the porch and remove whatever is there. Yes, I married that kind of man. But alas, I do not have that kind of courage.

J will not be home until Saturday night.