Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Mrs Poirot

My parents have bred in me a love of mystery stories. Whether in a book (physical or audio) or as film, I grew up surrounded by detectives, adventures, suspense, hidden clues, quirky characters, and all the other elements that comprise an excellent mystery.

These mysteries ranged from young adult/children's literature like Nancy Drew, Edith Blyton's Famous Five and Secret Seven series (which, incidentally, I picked up a copy of each of those series from PaperbookSwap the other day and was delightfully pulled back into those childhood worlds), or the mystery-lite of Patricia St John's books, to more adult mysteries like Agatha Christy and all the various types of mysteries that would show up on PBS's Masterpiece Mystery nights.

Whenever my parents are back here in the US, they go through an inordinate amount of books on tape because of the amount of driving they have to do while they are here. So, when visiting them recently, I was not at all surprised to find in their cars various books on tape/cd checked out from the library. I was even less surprised that some of them were mysteries.

Well, one of those mysteries was Mrs. Pollifax Unveiled which I enjoyed immensely. Upon arriving back home and looking for something new to read, I obtained for myself the first book in this series: The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax. And I have to admit to having fallen completely, head-over-heels in love with Mrs. Pollifax.

In terms of beautifully portrayed character, she reminds me of Agatha Christy's Hercule Poirot--the chubby little Belgian detective with the perfectionistic tendencies, perfect manners, and keen mind. While the suspense in the book is high and the mystery quite well developed, the book is also hysterically funny in parts as you deal with the character of Mrs. Pollifax who feels almost oxymoronic with her surrounding circumstances. After all, the character is based upon a quirky, white-haired, 60ish year old woman who is involved in various charities and other volunteer activities, yet who feels she has nothing to live for but is not quite ready to commit suicide. She goes to the CIA and very pleasantly inquires as to whether or not she can volunteer as a spy for them, thus fulfilling a life-long dream. And it just goes from there.

Read, relish, and enjoy!
Reading is a basic tool in the living of a good life.
~ Mortimer J. Adler ~

Friday, August 28, 2009

My Mother's Daughter

The fact that I really do take after my mother in many aspects of my life was reinforced to me just recently.

My job has been a bit scattered lately--not that this is particularly unusual for me. See the picture below? That's my job on a daily basis. 15 projects in the air at any given time and of course there's the delicate balancing act of public relations, interpersonal office junk, and whatever other looming projects I have that I just don't have time to throw into the air just yet with the other balls but really could be tossed up there at any moment.



Needless to say, I have a lot of notes, and these seem to wind up on random pieces of paper that eventually I transfer onto one nice and neat running log/to-do list. Well, this week in particular, has been really bad for the scattered notes. So I spent a good 30 minutes today just trying to make sense of all the different assignments/projects that have been thrown my way over the last three days.

And then I had a sudden mental image of a sight I saw just a few weeks ago when I was visiting my parent's. I came out in the morning, having slept in late, and saw my mother sitting at a table with about 10 different pieces of paper all with random notes, reminders, and to-dos on them. And she was neatly compiling them all into one list.

And as I sat with my 12 different pieces of paper with random notes, reminders, and to-dos, I suddenly realized who I got this habit from!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Editing Giggle

I do freelance editing for a Christian organization here in town. They send me various letters/emails/promotional pieces to hack away at prior to them making the pieces public.

Yesterday, I received an email to edit that was talking about encouraging people to follow the call of Christ and to witness to others and how this organization offers some tools for doing just that. As I was going through the document, I noticed they had listed a scripture reference (Matthew 24:19) that was obviously intended to go along with this sentiment of witnessing/evangelizing, etc; however, they had not put the actual verse into the email.

Feeling that it’s kind of pointless to list a reference without at least quoting some of the verse, I looked up what the verse says. Somehow, I didn't feel that it had quite the sentiment that they were originally planning on:

“How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers!”

This is why I will always have a career option available in editing!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Trip - Final Analysis

The rest of my trip to see my parents was delightful. We saw an old friend of mine (well, she's not old, just the friendship has been around for over 20 years) and her beautiful three children.



We went exploring in some of the area around where they live. And we played games, relaxed, and had fun. All in all, a much needed and much enjoyed vacation.



And then I came home to my husband who, I fear, was beginning to miss me very much indeed!

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 9)

#1 - Why is it that no matter how long or nice of a vacation you've had, you always go back to work feeling tired? Or maybe that's just me? Either way, it's been a long week at work. And I feel like I want another vacation!

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#2 - In a previous post, I had mentioned laughing at the people on the plane who were sharing their entire life stories in far too much intimate detail with complete strangers. To quote myself, I said, "They don't seem to realize the small, small world of airport." I had further proof of that fact on my trip back home.

First of all, I'm sitting in the airport in Washington, innocently reading a book, waiting for my flight, and a couple of Asian ladies sit down next to me. They quickly start gabbing away in Thai, so after eavesdropping for a couple of minutes, I decided I should let them know that their conversation was not quite as private as they thought it was (they were speaking really loud!), so I leaned over and introduced myself--in Thai. Thought the younger lady would fall out of her chair, she was so startled!

We had a nice little chat, and then after awhile, I settled back into my book.

Well, after a few minutes, I look up and there's this guy standing relatively close by, waving at me. I looked at him, puzzled, for a minute before it dawned on me that I did know this person. He is my husband's new boss (and incidentally, he used to be the head of the program for missionary kids with our mission, so I know him from way, way back as well). Well, not only were we in the same airport, but we had the exact same two flights back to Missouri.

So let me reiterate the sentiment of my previous comment--you have no idea who you might run into in an airport!

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#3 - If you haven't yet seen this article on the squirrel/gopher/disturbed rodent picture crashing, you should do so. I found it highly amusing.

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#4 - I've been intending to mention for awhile now, a delightful way of getting rid of books you don't want anymore. No, it's not burning them. Put the matches down.

My experience with books has been a frustrating one. I love books (if you haven't figured that out yet, you're obviously a new reader to my blog). That has resulted in my having a (rather large) book collection. Now while I'm very protective of the books I love, there are other books that wind up in our collection that I really don't want to keep. But the question then comes--how do I get rid of them?

In the past I've explored various options: giving them to people who want them (sometimes hard to find depending on the book), putting them in with stuff for a thrift store, or selling them to used bookstores. Now, the used bookstores option has not gone well for me. Frankly, they don't give hardly anything for books! And I know they sell them cheaply, but seriously, my book is worth more than a quarter!

Then I discovered a free website called Paper Book Swap. I'm in love with it! You can post books that you want to get rid of on the website, and as other people want those books, they can request them from you. You pay the shipping to send the book to them; however, for every book you sent, you get a "credit" in which you can then order more books for yourself! Essentially, you wind up paying between $2.50 - $3 per book you get (postage costs), but as the website requests that they are decent condition, etc, it's winds up being a good deal. They have a HUGE variety of books, and they also have DVDs and CDs (although I haven't explored that option yet).

So, this is my endorsement of their website!

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#5 - So I was in a chapel service at work (a Christian university with our primary degrees all along the lines of biblical studies, etc) the other day, singing a worship song, and I discovered the most amazing piece of information that I thought would be important to share with all of you. Did you know that King David built the temple in Jerusalem? Yeah, I didn't know that either! Amazing, isn't it?

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#6 - While I'm on the topic of worship songs...is it just me or do most of the more modern (past 10 years or so) choruses nowadays seem to spend a lot of time focusing on warm fuzzies and ignoring topics like discipline, sacrifice, and all the other tricky things that Jesus spent a lot of time actually addressing?

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#7 - I was recently sent a forward with a whole bunch of news clippings/police reports some of which I found hysterically funny. I just had to share a couple of my favorites here because, frankly, they're worth it!





Thursday, August 20, 2009

Laminin

Last week, Tuesday, I was still in Washington with my parents. In the evening, we went to a small group my parents like to attend when they're in town. One of the ladies there shared the following. (Just watch the first couple of minutes to get to what I'm referring to).



I thought it was pretty cool, and being of a curious mind, I decided to do a bit of research and find out a bit more. In my research, I ran across the following two items: a Snopes analysis of the Laminin cross claims and a Truth or Fiction analysis.

The Snopes article makes some arguments against the guys sermon; however, either way, neither can fully disclaim what he is saying.

Take it as you like, I thought it was interesting. And personally, I'm much more interested in being seen as a carefully designed, formed, and planned out being than a blob that came out of the primordial ooze with no future, no purpose, and no point.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Eagles and Namaste

I've been enjoying being with parents the last few days. Being here without Chris makes me feel like I've reverted back to being a teenager again (at least for a little while) with my parents taking care of everything. It's kind of fun!

Saturday the day mainly focused around feeding me. Well, buying food that I can eat. It's been a bit of an education process for my parents. Kind of fun! I discovered a new GF brand that I'm quickly becoming very fond of. It's called Namaste and they are specifically gluten free and soy free---perfect! I bought a bread mix and a spice muffin mix. Really yummy for both. I don't think I've ever seen that particular brand at home; however, I'm definitely going to keep an eye out for it because it was really good. And knowing that it's a brand that specifically works to avoid soy as well as gluten is very comforting.

We went and explored a number of stores and then later that afternoon went and took a walk in the park in town. Lots of pictures of pretty flowers. Absolutely gorgeous park!


My APs!






After that we went to a last "health foodish" store where I found Cadbury's hot chocolate (which I can actually have and that is WONDERFUL!) and we actually were able to eat a meal at their little restaurant!

On Sunday, my dad had to speak at a little church near the Canadian border. That really made me feel like I'd gone back in time; traveling with my parents as they raise the funds! He did a good job (he's a great preacher), but the church itself was one that I can't imagine him not doing a good job in. The town only has about 300 people in it, but the church was fantastic. They were just a really committed, devoted congregation. We had lunch afterwards (I brought lunch with me but there turned out to be a couple of things I could eat) and spent several hours talking about how the church is working to impact their community. There were several people in the church that I could totally see myself becoming friends with if we were around!

After church, we drove through the Spokane Indian reservation where I was born ("nostalagia trip" as my parents call it). Didn't stop and talk to anybody; however, we did stop and take some pictures of the local eagles!









"The view" We have so many pictures taken from this particular spot; I told my mum she should get a picture frame with a bunch of picture spots and she can show the progression of our family growing up and changing throughout the years standing in this one particular bit of land!




Today has been quiet. I've been enjoying just chillin' and catching up on blogs, emails, books, etc.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Airport Ramblings part II

When Chris took me to the airport yesterday, we had the fun of going to the new Springfield-Branson Regional airport. I hadn’t seen it yet. It really is a lovely design; well laid out in a basic square maze pattern. Keep turning right and you’ll end up where you started. That’s why we had to laugh when the announcement came over the intercom that if anybody was confused about where to go in the brand new terminal, please just ask for help. If you couldn’t find your way around that terminal, you shouldn’t be flying. Because wherever you fly from there, you’re going to be going to a bigger terminal. And that would frighten to death anybody if they couldn’t handle Springfield’s cute little airport!

I had an interesting time. After Chris and I said goodbye, I went through security and settled down at my gate waiting to board. About five minutes before we boarded, a cop came by with an airport security guard. They were looking for Mr. Hxxxx, and thoroughly checked the id of every guy in that area. Little creepy. They never found him; I’m just hoping that Mr. Hxxxx didn’t somehow make it on the plane, as they didn’t seem like they were planning on having a nice little chat with him.

I had the unusual delight of getting the front row seat in the little airplane. Extra leg room! Yay! And not only a front seat, but an entire row to myself! Miraculous!

Apparently my tendency to look far younger than I am had the stewardess all sympathetic with me, so she took very good care of me the entire flight. I didn’t bother to tell her that I had, as she was quite young, probably flown more times in my life than she has!

As I sat sipping some water (thank goodness that’s still free), and looking out the window at the beautiful sunset pouring out over the clouds below me, I was amused to hear the confidences of the complete strangers surrounding me. What is it about airplanes that cause some people to just spill their life stories to complete strangers? In one particular case, it was very intimate details being shared!

Is it the belief that they’re never going to see these people again? Silly rabbits. They don’t seem to realize the small, small world of airports.

Is it simply nerves? Or is that they’ve simply failed to pack something to do, not realizing how boring a small cross-country flight can be without any in-flight movies or meals to occupy ones mind? Or are they just very lonely people with a captive audience? A cynical thought, I know, but still…..one has to wonder.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Airplane Ramblings

The humming of the engine around me, the muffled buzz of people’s voices behind me, the scraping of the ice, popping open of soda cans, and the repetitious inquiry of the stewardess as she asks what people want to drink are all sounds that bring back thousands of memories to me.

I feel like my whole life can be defined by airports and airplanes. And here I sit again, on a airplane, on my way to Washington state to see my parents whom I haven’t seen in one year and eight months (not that I’ve counted or anything!).

As we took off, the song that has been with me in travel since I was at least 16 years old, “Leaving on a Jet Plane” was playing in my head. I found out recently that the composer of that song was a TCK. That made a lot of sense to me. Despite the sad mood of the words, “Leaving and I don’t know when I’ll be back again” there has always been a simultaneous uplift to me with those words. Leaving all I know, all that is familiar, going to the unknown. And is the unknown really that bad? Not always.

There are times when the words of that song have about broken my heart. Particularly, leaving Thailand when I was 18 to come back to the USA for college, splitting up with my friends, my life, my home, my parents, everything that I had ever known. Those were the words that kept running through my mind over and over and over again.

But those same words have haunted me consistently since that time. Sometimes in a joyful way—finally, leaving, going somewhere, getting out of the black hole that is my crazy current home—and sometimes in a sad way—leaving family, again, leaving a country or place that my heart still longs for very often—and sometimes those words are simply bittersweet.

Today they’re on the bittersweet side. The delicious taste of going back to one, sort of, home, seeing my parents, at least one good childhood friend of mine, even hitting a town that, while not necessarily somewhere I define as home at least has the attraction of holding childhood memories and experiences.

The bitter side is that I travel alone. My dear husband couldn’t come with me on this trip; the downfall of being grown up, I guess. He has a new job and between that and complications with tickets and money, we decided it was the wiser (I hate that word sometimes) decision for me to go on my own. And so I left him today, but I’ll be back in just over a week. And in the meantime, I plan to relish getting away. Not from him, but from our town, from the humdrum life that sometimes wants to drive me insane.

I still find it difficult to believe that I have lived in the same town for ten years. I find it even more difficult to believe that I have lived in the same house for five of those years. There are days when I feel like my restlessness is going to overpower me. Can’t I just pack up what we need, sell everything else, move to another city, another country, heck, I’d even take another county!

Don’t get me wrong. I love my house. I even like our town; it has it’s advantages. But I’m restless, and I find that restlessness grows all the time. As we talk more and more about moving away, settling somewhere else (probably not overseas—yet—but at least away from where we are), I realize how much I want that. It’s not that I relish selling our beautiful home or having to find new jobs, new friends, new habits, new lives. But I feel stagnant.

I blame my parents! How old was I when we first went overseas? How old was I when I took my first plane trip? How old was I when I took my first major driving trip, for that matter.

I was just a months old when we drove from Washington state, down through California, to the Grand Canyon, through Missouri, and Texas.

I was a few years when we flew to England for the first time to see my grandparents.

And I was three when we flew to Thailand and settled down to the country, the culture, and the life that would become my home for the next, more or less, 18 years.

And throughout those 18 years, we traveled. I was talking to a younger MK the other day, and she asked me how many places I’d lived. Truthfully, countries, I’ve only lived in two (unless you count two months in Uzbekistan studying dance as living there)—Thailand and the USA. But then of course there is the land of my mother, England. And that country holds a great deal of my heart even though we’ve technically only visited there.

Beyond that, I’ve been to 17 other countries (been being defined as having actually spent at least a day there—technically I’ve been to the Arab Emirates and Amsterdam to name just two other countries, but as I’ve never really gone outside of the airport, they don’t count.

It’s no wonder I have wander lust. It’s no wonder that even after ten years, I still don’t feel settled in our little town. It’s no wonder I sometimes get the urge to grab a plane ticket and just fly to somewhere, anywhere. Pick a country, I’ll go. It’s no wonder I’m obsessive about making sure my passport is up to date.

It’s not a bad thing. It’s just part of who I am. I’m a homebody. But I’m a wanderer. And if that’s not truly oxymoron, I don’t know what is.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

China on the Mind

Almost back to back, I've been reading through two different historical fiction novels located in China. Both of them were highly intriguing, seemingly well-researched, and, I felt, worth mentioning here.

The first one that I read was Forbidden City by Muriel Molland Jernigan. Set in the late 19th/early 20th century, this particular novel deals with the fate of a young woman raised in a prestigious household in China and how she becomes the famous Empress Dowager Cixi. While it's obviously historical fiction, the lady who wrote it was a missionary kid who actually lived in China during the Boxer Rebellion and who is very familiar with details of that time, culture, and people.

I found it to be an intriguing story, well written, with enough details to paint a vivid picture of that world but enough story to round out the characters. The story and character of the Empress is fascinating, and I always love to see portrays of the Western world by those from the East. Her opinion of Queen Victoria, in particular, struck me as rather amusing.

The second novel I read right at the beginning of where Forbidden City starts. This novel, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See, is gorgeous. Unlike the other novel, this one deals with the lifestyle of those from poor to middle class Chinese households. Lisa See talks about the research that went into the novel, and all the details that are given from foot binding to the intriguing secret women's writing nu shu are obviously pretty accurate (in the case of the foot binding, disturbingly accurate) and paint an detailed picture of the women's culture of that time period for China.

However, one of the things I really enjoyed about this novel was that even though it is historical fiction, a major part of the story-line is one that most women will relate to, and that is the difficult ins and outs of female relationships. I'm not sure if its because the author, although she is Chinese by heritage, grew up in the USA, and so has, however consciously or unconsciously, merged bits and pieces of her western world with this eastern story, but I enjoyed some of the character portrayals that connected women from any culture and any time to one another. After all, most women have at least one friend they consider extremely close, and most women have to deal with good and bad times in such relationships.

This particular novel was so good, I want to read some novels more by Lisa See and find out if I enjoy her writing in those as well.

So if you're looking for some good historical, ficiton with a nice Chinese-slant to it, pick up both or either of these novels. Well worth the time, I think.