Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Cold War

She can remember not hating winter, when she was younger.

That all changed when she joined the Peace Corps and was told
it would be cold where she was going.
She prepared physically - bringing many layers of warm clothes -
but preparing mentally was impossible.
How can you prepare for something you've never experienced,
especially cold you can't escape from?
How do you prepare for living without electricity for most of the day?
For having to come home and wrap up in heavy blankets to stay warm?
For having to correct papers, journal, and write letters by candlelight?
For huddling around the one radiator in the teachers' lounge (with all the other teachers)
in between classes?
For a classroom with a big crack between the wall and window where biting cold air
forced its way in?
For being as cold inside as outside?

For two winters she walked past this church.
She didn't appreciate it the first year.
To be honest, she didn't appreciate much of anything the first year.
Any mental or emotional energy she had was used up just trying to get by.
What with learning a new language, knowing no one, getting used to new foods,
having no electricity or running water,
and the cold...
well, life was just hard.

Hard enough that she almost quit.

But she didn't.
And by the second winter she knew she would miss this place when she left.
So she walked the town one day, taking pictures of places that would soon be a distant memory. She would not have another winter here.
The snow would melt, the trees would bloom, and summer would arrive,
heralding her departure back to the States.

There were many pictures that would mean a lot more to her than this one.
Pictures with friends.
Pictures of outings and events.
Pictures of her students.
But the winter picture of the church would always be a reminder of something else,
something very simple.

Just take it.
Take the picture.
Make the effort.
That place may never be revisited.
That moment will never happen again.
Even if you don't take pictures as well as you'd like, take the picture.
There will be no regrets.

It is winter again now.
Almost fifteen years have passed since she took those photographs.
That little village still has no running water.
But in the last fifteen years, much has changed.
There is constant electricity.
Facebook and Skype have become ingrained in our culture,
and have infested probably every nation on the globe.
And one of her dear friends in that tiny little village was given a computer.
And yesterday, for the first time in almost ten years,
through the miracle of Skype,
she was able to see her friend again.
They talked like they were in the same room,
and another memory came flooding back.
One day, fifteen years ago, when the cold war was still a thing of the not-so-distant past,
and her friend's husband (who is also a friend, of course),
asked if Americans hated them.
"Do you hate me?" she asked back.
And then they smiled.
And she is smiling again now,
for although it is winter,
she feels anything but cold.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Bear With Me

Last week I shared this photograph with you
and said I wanted to take a similar one of Little Brother.
Cute idea for the little ones in your life that carry around a stuffed friend.

Little Brother doesn't carry one around too often,
but he sleeps with one every night.

"America Bear"
bought for him by my brother -
Oddly enough, in Korea.

Little Brother loves anything "fuzzy."
He loves to pick at whatever it is and roll little bits of fuzz around between his fingers.
A habit of his that drives me crazy, but not much I can do about it.
Anyway, America Bear fits the bill.

He's now missing one complete red stripe
because Little Brother picked him apart very systematically, I guess. ;)

Anyway, I'm happy with how these turned out.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Mirror, Mirror On The Wall

Have you ever seen something and your immediate visceral reaction to it is, "That belongs with me"? I don't have that reaction too often. If my home and closet were filled with only items I felt that way about, I would be living a minimalist lifestyle indeed (and often wish I were, but alas, I settle far too many times).

However, I am happy to say that this mirror I found is one of those items. I found her while introducing a friend of mine to my favorite thrift store about a month ago. It was the first time in our five years of knowing each other that we'd been shopping together (usually I'm a hunt-and-kill kind of girl, which leaves little room for shopping with a sidekick) and the first time she'd been to this store. We had already walked through the furniture section - where nothing of significance caught my eye, the clothing section - where things rarely jump off the rack at me and this time was no different, the kitchen section that usually brushes me off like a bad friend, and the knick-knack section - which is always hit-or-miss for me. Although this day it wasn't really either. I'd picked up just one item, a small orange vase.

But then we got to the picture/frame section and this Square of Exquisiteness was just sitting there, looking all dressed up with no one to go home with.

I literally gasped aloud. Then, "Look at that mirror!" I whispered in hushed tones to my girlfriend, hoping no one within earshot would hear and come rushing over, wondering what item they had missed that was creating such a fuss.

Who discarded you?!!? I asked incredulously. Then, Don't fret, I told her as I gently picked her up to put her in my cart. Although I don't know where yet, I will make room for you somewhere in my house. And then I almost dropped her. Holy cow, she was heavy! But I didn't say anything. You never mention a woman's weight.
So I brought her home and treated her with the respect she deserved but certainly wasn't getting by being mercilessly dropped off at the thrift store and then having to wait in the midst of all those plastic frames, bad art, and corny sayings for me to come rescue her.

As I turned her over to clean her up I found that she was as sensible as she was beautiful. Three tiny screws in each side came out easily, allowing me to remove the back and slide the mirror out. I cleaned her up so she could shine like she was meant to, then hung her in my bedroom. And when I see her, I look at her much more often than I look at myself, which is a mark of true regard.
I must also mention that I love all things ethnic. Be it any type of souvenir, clothing, decor, food, or music, if it's from another culture, it's got my attention and adoration, even if it doesn't come home with me. When I took the mirror out to give it a good cleaning, there was a company name written on the back. I googled the name, and found out that it is an eco-friendly mirror company based in India. Ah-ha! That explained much of my instant love affair with this beauty. Also explains her weight - we don't make much like that in America any more. And with the closer look that information afforded, it explained her swirling leaves and carved flowers as well.

The last part of the story goes like this: I brought her home and my sons (who are currently 9 and 5), were thrilled with the idea (can you guess whose it was?) that they could pay me for it and have it be my birthday present from them. Then they could feel like they'd gotten me something without actually having to go shopping and I would actually get something I like for my birthday rather than plastic rings or another mother book (not that one or two are unwelcome, but after that...). So they chipped in an equal amount and paid me the meager $10 I'd gladly handed to the cashier to save this fancy lady from the ennui she was experiencing in the company of all those items of ill repute. Big Brother even insisted on wrapping her for me, despite her weight (which he didn't mention either, smart boy), although, like a balloon-adorned bathrobe, it didn't do her any favors.

So now there she hangs, lovely and loved once again. Although she is still - unfortunately - surrounded by inferiors. But that will change when, once again, the right things cry out to me, "I belong with you! And I'd look gorgeous gracing either side of that Square of Exquisiteness."

~The End~