Wednesday, January 30, 2008

write it down?

For those of you who didn't mark your calenders, I'm leaving for sunny Liberia on Saturday. ACK! Can you believe it? Probably you can... It's hard for me to imagine that my nephew and I (that's him in the photo below) will be chillin' in WEST AFRICA in just a few short days.
I'm a little worried but not overwhelmingly so. I must admit that I'm a little worried about how things'll go without me home. (Not that the world will shatter as soon as I walk out the door... right!?!) Not to mention that I have these better-than-one-could-dream-for-fill-ins:

Me little brova in the Left photo and >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>Miss Brasil (you look WAY better in this one than I do) on the Right

And, how could one forget, my beautiful husband who'll hold down the fort?
I was trying to convince him to look like a Soprano here... no luck as you can see...

The mountains and piles of paperwork are completed and collected. The packing is 75% finished. The unbelievable amount of shopping is done. The only thing left is to sit and wait for our passports to return from the embassy... and to blog about it all, of course.

And, a weensy confession. I'm a bit anxious about what Raquel + Liberia ='s. Does it equal a smooth ride of awe and wonder? Or a constant sadness of the insurmountable poverty? Or a denial of the poverty around me? Will our son be a poopy head? Will he be introverted and disinclined to my presence? Will our kids' biological family even care if I go for a visit (or two) to make a family tree, find out why Miss F insists that a bullet hit her eye during the war, find out why their mom abandon the twins when they were just infants, what are the symptoms of our newest sons' (Big P) epilepsy - will it be minor or fatal, and on and on? Will any of my questions get answered?

Monday, January 28, 2008

I'm not surprised

You are
the Hulk!
You're a genius, you're an animal, you're … both? You've got a split personality. At times, you're the serious thinker, caught up in trying to understand life and humanity. But when that inner beast takes over, you're mean, extreme and ready to party. Your wild side gets you into trouble sometimes, even when you're just trying to help.

Which superhero are you?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

BEWARE! this might make you cry.

On world AIDS day, a friend of mine read this in front of our church and I was bawling at like line two so I asked him for a copy. Who doesn't want to cry (note sarcasm)?? I figured that you all would want to share this with me.
Anyway, the friend who wrote this was a missionary in Namibia, South Africa, and Botswana where he lived and learned and loved. His name is Doug Linscott (this is being blogged with his permission). It is styled after a lament psalm (see quote below).

A psalm for the AIDS children of Africa

Oh, Lord God, why do you seek to punish the innocent?
Why do you send your judgement on those who have done no wrong?
You are the Creator,
Why do you seek to destroy that which you have made?
Oh God, it was our fathers who forced themselves on us,
Our daddy's and uncle's who raped us.
Why must we bear the HIV infection in ourselves?
Why do you see fit to ravage our young bodies with AIDS?
Lord, if you do not act,
As you acted with Moses, when he lifted up the snake in the wilderness,
We will die for the sins of our fathers,
And our land, our continent will be barren.
If you do not act our land will become a wasteland
The children of Africa will be no more.
If you withhold your healing power,
we will be bones in the dust of the desert.
Even now Lord, at this moment
Our villages and farms are being managed by children,
Lord we do not have the wisdom to do these things.

But we know we can trust in you,
You are the greatest healer, nothing is too hard for you!
You are our sheild and our spear
You are the thorn barrier that keeps us safe.
Be like a wall of concrete to us
A wall surrounded by razor wire, that none may penetrate!
You will protect us from the lion and the hyena,
The asp and the scorpion will not harm us.
Lord, we turn to you because the arm of man is too short,
But we know that your arm is long and will save us!
Lord God of the Universe, strong to save,
Heal us and our land!

I am with you, I was there when you were raped by those you trusted,
I am with you, even now as the disease ravages your bodies,
I suffer with you and all the pain you know, I know as well
I will never leave you alone, but will hold you in my arms till the end and beyond.

Thank you Lord, for your comfort,
but can we not live to ripe old age as our grandparents did?

But we will continue to praise you even in hardship,
For you are God and there is no other,
Blessed be the name of the Lord!

"The theological significance of a lament is that it expresses a trust in God in the absence of any evidence that He is active in the world. Through a sequential and deliberate structure, the lament moves from articulation of the emotion of the crisis, to petition for God to intervene, to an affirmation of trust in God even though there has been no immediate deliverance from the crisis"

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


"People were also bringing babies to Jesus to have him touch them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."" -Luke 18:15-17

Today Little O asked me if Superman trusted God. I looked at him with curiosity and asked what he meant. He went on to say

"I don't think he does. Because if Superman trusted God than he wouldn't kill the bad guys. That's God's job to take care of the bad guys. Not Superman."

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Thursday, January 17, 2008

the war against crack

This morning (it's garbage/recycle day) after I had dropped the kids off at school, I rounded the corner near our house and noticed that our recycle bin is gone. This is hard to miss (as it's LARGE and BRIGHT blue). I did a triple take to make sure that I wasn't just imagining things. Still not there. As I pulled into the driveway, I noticed a woman strolling around the neighborhood with my recycle bin.

A bit odd.

So Little O and I climbed outta the van and walked toward the street to get a better look. She's walking away from my house and down another street. She stops in front of a house (presumably hers) and leaves the bin out front. Little O and I keep staring with our mouths hanging open. She quickly returns with a box and takes a few minutes to break it down and then shoves it into my bin.

The recycle guy has already picked up our stuff so the bin is empty... other than her box.

She notices us staring at her, turns her back to us, going back to shoving the box in. Little O asks me if I'm going to go and take back our bin. I reflect on this for a minute...


She glances back at us a few times while we watch on with wonder. We go inside and I get on the horn with our garbage people. As I'm on the phone describing the strange turn of events (all the while having a really good laugh, I must admit) she walks past our window with the bin in tow. Now I'm really laughing. She heads up the road (away from the house that she got the box from) and just keeps on walking. I'm almost in tears I'm laughing so hard.

She's parading around the neighborhood with my recycle bin. Walking down the middle of the road, taking a bit of a stroll.

The garbage guy on the phone is laughing to as I tell him what is happening right before my eyes. He offers to send us a new bin. I agree. He then suggests that if she walks my bin back home that I just call them to cancel the order. I ask him if this happens often.

...uh... no... not really...

And so, all of you people who come up with advertising against crack, I suggest that this is a wonderful example of why crack is a bad idea. Forget about "crack kills" because it doesn't always kill. Plus, people who smoke crack tend to not enjoy reality or future thinking. My proposal is that you take real live footage of people high on crack doing really bizarre things (which appear/feel quite normal when your high).

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

to quote

In a moment I joined Mahmud, the woman and her child. The woman was dressed in the coarse, baggy clothes of a peasant. She might have been the baby's grandmother. She had a wizened face, shrunken shoulders and her clothes sagged around a thin frame. Only when she lifted her face and stared at me with deep brown eyes could I see that she herself was little more than a child.

"What can I do for you?" I asked, my heart still melting.

"I heard about you in my village, and I walked here."

The place she mentioned was twelve miles away. No wonder the poor thing looked so tired. I sent servants for tea and biscuits. I wondered if she were still nursing the baby; in some villages mothers nurse their children up to three years of age. The baby's eyes stared listlessly, its tiny mouth still. I laid hands on the child's forhead to pray for him; it was hot and dry. As I laid hands on the mother's head to pray, I could feel generations of my family wincing. My heart went out to these little ones, the mother and the child, as I asked God for healing in the name of Jesus. When the maid came I told her also to bring some vitamins for them other. They stayed for half an hour, the mother telling me of her life with a husband who had been crippled in an accident, the new baby, not enough food. And indeed she was nursing the baby - it was the cheapest way to feed him. When the mother finally rose to go, I restrained her with a gesture.

"No," I whispered. "Not yet. We must find some way to see to it that you and the baby are taken care of." Immediately as I said this, the old Bilquis Sheikh began to grow nervous. What if word got out to the other needy people in Wah that the Begum Sahib in the big garden provided a soft touch? Wouldn't we be swamped with lines of other skinny, emaciated, sickly, desperate people?

But even as my heart whispered this question, I knew that I had no choice. Either I had meant it or I had not meant it when I gave myself and all that I possessed to the Lord.

"... and, of course, your husband needs attention too. Let's get you all to the hospital. and let's get some decent food into your bodies. Then, if your husband still can't find work, let me know."

That's all there was to the visit. I made arrangements for the hospital to bill me and waited. But the woman never returned. I was a little surprised. When I asked the servants if they knew what had happened to her, they - as usual - had the answer. She and the baby and her husband had indeed gone to the hospital, and now they were all better. The husbnad had work. My ego bridled at first at the ungratefulness of this woman for not returning to give thanks, but the Lord checked me. "Is that why you helped her? So that you could be thanked? I thought thanksgiving was supposed to go to Me!"

And of course He was right. I went back in my mind to the place where I had first felt that I had taken care of this woman. Then I asked the Lord to forgive me, and never to allow me to fall into that trap again.

"Lord," I sighed, "Your arm must be tired from picking me up so often."

-Bilquis Sheikh
"I Dared To Call Him Father"
italics mine

Anyone underwear??

How many times do I have to ask you for your underwear? Once? Twice?
It really is getting a wee bit embarrassing.

You don't wanna share?
I can guarantee that the underwear fairy will thank you...

Sign my pledge at PledgeBank

Friday, January 11, 2008

a million times over

When writing this blog I have to continuously remind myself not to talk about politics. If you only knew how many posts that don't get published! In my family (both maternal and paternal) politics is of the utmost priority. It's the constant conversation (or should I say debate?), it's an explanation for the choices we make, it's something we believe that you should be continuously informed about (through your own research - tv and it's extensions don't count), it's an extension of our beliefs, it's REALLY IMPORTANT AND WE WANNA TALK ABOUT IT.

Where it all gets interesting is when my mom marries my dad. My maternal side of the family are staunch republicans (no, not religious right. not actually religious at all) and my paternal side of the family are staunch democrats. While my parents marriage didn't work I was what came out of that marriage. Kind of like a mule. Not a democrat, not a republican, but a sterile composition of the two. I prefer the term "independent" to sterile mule, as it just sounds better. This term saves me from a lot of small-talk grief. And come to think of it, this blend speaks to the whining boxes post. Anyways...

don't you just want to pet those big ears?
Tab, Jenny, and Sheree I already know your answer...

One of my favorite uncles, Vince, has a blog and when I saw my big head on there today I couldn't help but laugh. But the content is the point. Not my big head. Like salve on this festering wound of feeling misunderstood, he simply told me that he loves me. And that is enough. It's enough to know that I have a core of family and friends (you guys!) who love me and who think I rock. It bothers me to no end that I need that affirmation, but I just do.

I tell my husband all of the time that without him, I wouldn't be able to survive this messy earth. But I want to recognize all of you guys (am I accepting a Golden Globe here??). You take the time to read and comment and email and call and pray and love me. The emails and calls that I got made me tear up and feel bad that I'm a whiner but also comforted that there is love out there.

And that's what counts.

Not what we're up against because that will always be there.

But what counts, what really matters, is that we're not alone down here on this messy earth. I've got you and you've got me. You all proved me wrong a million times over.

Nuff said.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

when enough is enough

(preamble: I am not the friend in this story; no need to question it at all.)

Let's just pretend that you have a friend who is getting abused by her boyfriend. Your friend is now abusing her children as well because she feels an unbelievable amount of stress under the fist of her charismatic, good looking, and yet creepy boyfriend.

You've never liked the boyfriend. Not since she first introduced you two - but you couldn't pin him down on anything so you didn't say FLAT OUT to your girl that somethin' just wasn't right. You hinted around it. But that doesn't matter cause now she's in over her head. It's like she addicted to the drama and freakishly co-dependent on this dude. Oh, and by the way, boyfriend has cheated on her in the past and is almost guaranteed to cheat on her again.

But she doesn't want to hear that! She thinks that this is "the one" and that if she just sticks with this guy, it'll change. (Not like the last guy that she ended up getting a restraining order against because he controlled her every move. She wasn't even 'allowed' to leave the house without his permission. But she jumped over the restraining order and kept inviting the guy over to sleep at her apartment - I know they had a baby together but COME ON.) She thinks that since this guy is abusive in a new way and that since this guy is nicer around strangers (unlike her daddy) and that since this guy tells her she's pretty and smart - that it'll have a different ending.

You've told her that (in the nicest way possible) he's just manipulating her and that she deserves better. Not only does she not believe you, but she's beginning to push you away. Her boyfriend didn't like you from the start either (he could probably sniff your good intentions) and she's been fighting him off for a while on the subject of you. He's told her that you're not a true friend, that you don't know the truth about him (which is that he loves her more than he's ever loved anyone else), and that you just want her to hurt like you're hurting. He tells her that you're the ugly one, you're the controlling one, that you're the one who she should stay away from. He tells her that he loves her while he moves the hair out of her eyes. This is what she dreamed about as a little girl. A man who babies her - she so wants that that she is willing to ignore the other side of him that uses her for his own agenda.

And while this is your girl, the drama is getting so thick that you're not sure you want to be around them anymore anyway. Her kids are runnin' around uncared for and unkempt (the bullies at their elementary school) and she bruises them every once in a while to "knock some sense into 'em" but it clearly isn't working. It hurts you to watch those kids get worse and worse. It hurts you to watch your friend just go lower and lower.

So, my question to you is when is enough enough? When is it time to call it quits on the relationship? When do you just accept that she isn't going to change for you, her kids, or herself?

Or will she? Should you be on standby for when she's ready to leave the boyfriend (for good)?

Sunday, January 6, 2008

whining about boxes

Apparently this blog is becoming my diary. Whatever.

What I am not:
"I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." -Philippeans 4:12

I had a dear friend of mine over for the weekend. She and I met when I was getting clean (a slow process) about ten years ago and we hardly ever connect since she moved to Cali. I crazy love her in all of her hippie glory. As usual, we stayed up (almost) all night talking and debating the lame things that we see around us. And then, something went drastically wrong.
My heart was pounding up against my chest so freakin' hard that all I could hear was the whooshing sound of it pushing and accepting blood. That slamming against my rib cage always tells me that I have officially entered into a purely emotional state. The last statement rang in my ears over and over, "You're just an upper middle class Christian white person who wouldn't understand the adversity that these people face." I wanted to RAGE and cry and scream at her blankity attitude and about all of the blankity stuff that has been going in my life lately. I wanted to blast her with the news that I am feeling crushed under the weight of the problems around me. Instead I said,

"Maybe I make all of this look easier than it really is..." and I breathed in one of those pathetic kid-trying-not-to-cry-kinda-chokes. Upon realizing that I wasn't going to be able to live up to the cardinal rule of debate (that would be: don't take it personally), I hurriedly excused myself from the room.

Sitting outside in the windy rain, I reminded myself that the God within me is bigger than I am. Like a mantra I repeated it over and over. I headed back in, promising myself that I wouldn't cry. I did anyway.

I cried because I am so blankin' tired of feeling misunderstood. I am so tired of feeling on the outside of EVERYTHING and not fitting into ANYWHERE. I'm tired of it and it's lonely and I wish so desperately that I would fit into some pre-approved by culture box that everyone keeps trying to shove me into. I told her that I was sorry for taking it personally, sorry that my emotions were nonsensical, sorry that they seemed disproportionate to the conversation. So we hugged and she apologized too and said, "It's just that you own this house and can afford to stay home. You are the majority, Raquel, whether you acknowledge it or not."

I looked at my hands that lied open on my lap and thought about how I'm in the middle of watching divorce #5 happen, about a major court case go down with a dear friend of mine that looks darker and darker every day (where, against all odds, I have lost absolute faith in the American justice system), about trying to uplift addicts/repeat offenders who just aren't blankity helping themselves, about being three weeks shy of going to Liberia, about intentionally living in this stupid neighborhood where people break our cars and smoke crack and prostitute themselves, about how I'm not sure if we're going to be able to make our mortgage payment without putting some of it on our credit card, and all of this with a husband and five kids asleep down the hall in our 960 sq ft home. I thought about how I feel ostracized in every Christian and non-Christian circle because of how I roll. I felt like the Hulk was about to burst forth outta my skin and brake some more cardinal rules of propriety and political correctness.

I wasn't feeling very content, to say the least.

And she's right. I am white. I am a white girl, born that color and still that color. I am someone who tries super hard to put Jesus first - so she's right about that one. Upper middle class? Not so much. She then says, reacting to my silence, "I think that we can both agree that they need to be advocated for."
And then I say, "Who's advocating for me? I mean, what in the blankity makes them so freakin' different from me? Why aren't we all just people who hurt and who struggle? Why do they need more attention than everyone else?" I waved my arm towards the house and continued, "Is it because I chose Jesus? Because I chose rise above the blankity hand that was dealt to me?"

She smirked a bit and nodded, "Yeah, I guess it is."

And now I think (I'm all worked up again from retelling the story) that I just will never win. I'm not impoverished enough, or gay enough, or brown enough, or black enough, or African enough, or liberal enough, or conservative enough, or educated enough, or handicapped enough, or impoverished enough, or rich enough, or old enough, or young enough to EVER win. I don't want to play this blankity game anymore.

And since this post is already a freakin' monster, I'll leave you with "I Get Out" by Lauryn Hill:

I'll get out
I'll get out of all your boxes
I'll get out, you can't hold me in these chains
I'll get out
Father free me from this bondage
Knowing my condition is the reason I must change
Your stinking resolution is no type of solution
Preventing me from freedom
Maintaining your pollution
I won't support your lie no more
I won't even try no more
If I have to die oh lord that's how I choose to live
I won't be compromised no more
I can't be victimized no more
I just don't sympathize no more
Cause now I understand you just want to use me
You say love, then abuse me
You never thought you'd lose me
But how quickly we forget
That nothing is for certain
You thought I'd stay here hurtin'
Your guilt trips just not working
Repressing me to death
Cause now I'm choosing life yo
I'll take the sacrifice yo
If everything must go then go
That's how I chose to live

No more comprises
I see past your disguises
Blinding me through mind control
Stealing my eternal soul
Appealing through material
To keep me as your slave
But I get out, oh I get out of all of your boxes I get out
Oh you can't hold me in these chains, I'll get out
Oh I want out of social bondage
Knowing my condition is the reason I must change
See what you see is what you get
And oh, you ain't seen nothing yet
Oh, I don't care if you're upset
I could care less if you're upset
see it don't change the truth
And your hurt feelings no excuse
To keep me in this box
Psychological locks
Repressing true expression
Cementing this repression
Promoting mass deception
So that no one can be healed
I don't respect your system
I won't protect your system
When you talk I don't listen
Oh let my Fathers will be done
And just get out,
Oh just get out of all this bondage
Just get out, oh you can't hold me in these chains
Just get out
All these traditions killing freedom
Knowing my condition is the reason I must change
I just accepted what you said
Keeping me among the dead
The only way to know
Is to walk, then learn, then grow
But faith is not your speed
Oh you'd have everyone believe
That you're the sole authority
Just follow the majority
Afraid to face reality
This system is a joke
You'd be smart to save your soul
And escape this mind control
You spend your life in sacrifice
To a system for the dead
Where's the passion in this living
Are you sure it's God you're serving
Obligated to a system
Getting less than you're deserving
Who made up these rules I say
Who made up these schools I say
Animal conditioning just to keep us as a slave
Oh just get out of this social purgatory
Just get out
These traditions are a lie- just get out
Superstition killing freedom,
knowing my condition is the reason I must die
Just get out, just get out, just get out, let's get out, let's get out,
Knowing my condition is the reason I must die.
Just get out.

Friday, January 4, 2008

some things that won't suprise you...

I've been slapped back with a tag from Alyson. This one is filled with things that I have a feeling won't surprise you all. Here goes -

The rules are as follows:
Simply link to the person who tagged you. SHARE SEVEN WEIRD things about yourself. Tag SEVEN bloggers to do the same AND include a link to their blog. Let each person know that they have been tagged and finally post the rules on your blog.

  1. Everyday I race another mom to my girls' school. No. This woman has no idea that she and I are racing but she still seems to win more often than not. The race is making me leave earlier and earlier to pick the girls up. Lately I've been there 15-20min before school even gets out. Pretty soon I'll be cutting into the boys' nap time. She has a personalized license plate and I'm not sure why this bothers me...
  2. I'm blind in my right eye. Please don't toss things in my direction as I have no depth perception and yet I continue to try to master the skill. Sometimes I make my husband throw things to me over and over so I can try and beat my own brain. So far: unsuccessful.
  3. I'm afraid of going to the dentist. I haven't gone in 13 years. Seriously. I don't like fingers in my mouth and I gag so freakin' easily that I don't even bother anymore. I wonder if women with dentures are considered hot. But you probably need to see a dentist to get fitted for dentures... I wonder if women without teeth are considered hot.
  4. I refuse to wear anything that has the name of a company on it. It seems ridiculous to me that people will PAY to be someone else's advertising. That's just bananas.
  5. I love fairy tales because good people are always beautiful and bad people are always ugly. It's so much easier that way.

The seven people that I tag in no particular order (but Alyson, I'm with you on this one. I'm too lazy to email y'all individually to let you know. If you know then you know.) are...
the beast, ms. sassy, angie, dawne, ms. G6, Verity, and Jeromy

Tuesday, January 1, 2008


I've been tagged. I like getting tagged but the tags are often toughies. They force a lot of reflection that requires a bit of time staring into space (not sure if you knew this or not but time is one of those things that I don't actually have a ton of) while considering all of the possible answers. Well, this is one of those tags. Thanks Jeromy(?) - hehehe.

Five of my most significant memories of 2007:

  1. Finding out that Papie was available for adoption after we hounded the orphanage to get them to let him in (they had originally not let him in due to his health issues).
  2. Realizing that I would be a mother to six kids which is just freakin' craziness
  3. My little brother coming home from three years in Italy. I missed him. In most ways he's my complete opposite and yet we get along oh-so-well.
  4. Remembering with Husband about the night that we got engaged, Christmas Eve (or was it Christmas? it was REALLY late) and recalling all of the ways that our lives have changed since then (which, honestly, is my favorite part about anniversaries. I love reflecting on how far that God has brought us and how much that we've grown as a couple and thus as a family.) I owe so much to my husband. Without him, there isn't a me. Ya know? If life at home was unstable and yucky, I wouldn't be able to do anything other than focus on trying to fix that. But thankfully I got WAY lucky and married the man of my dreams. The one who loves me more than I deserve. The one who watches me make mistakes but allows me to figure out what I've done rather than naggingly reminding me of how far I fall short. The one who is such a wonderful dad, such a hard worker, such a good hugger, and one who knows JUST how I like my coffee. I love you babe.
  5. This isn't really a moment so I'm not sure it counts but God has pulled me through some really tough times this year... He's taught me so many new things in such a short amount of time - like we (He and I) were on crunch time before the big test (not to be taken literally... although it kinda fits...). I'm crazy in love with Him. His love is new and fresh each time that I bask in it. The more that I love Him, the more that everything else just falls into place.
Without further ado, I am going to torture others and constantly check their blogs to make sure that they abide in my tag. Okay, I won't really. I am tagging Southy, Miss Brasil, Euphoria, Allyson, Susan and Stephanie.