Category Archives: Miscellaneous

I’ve moved!!

I moved last weekend – website and house. It was insane.

You can find the new everything (including the new book cover!!) at Come take a look. I’d love to know what you think.

So if you’re subscribed by RSS or via your blog and would like to keep up with me (and I hope you will) please jump on over to the new blog and add the new address to your reader again or just follow this link to add the new blog to your reader using feedburner. Sorry for the hassle. I hate to make you move, but I promise I’ll be staying put at this new address … the new website address, anyway.

If you’re subscribed by email you should continue to receive new posts that way. Please let me know if you don’t.

Thanks for moving with me!


Farewell, for now

Dear friend,

Tomorrow is a day I’m sure you had hoped never to see this young. Tomorrow you will gather with friends and family to commemorate the person you have loved the most completely – the one you whispered to in the dark and woke up beside, the one you could talk to across a crowded room with just a glance and a grin. Your love. The father of your children. Your best friend. Tomorrow you will celebrate this life and mourn its end.

If I could be there with you tomorrow I probably wouldn’t say much. I would give you a hug. I would tell you that if there were anything I could do in the weeks and months ahead – anything – to just call me, and I would mean it. But during those charged hours surrounding the memorial service I would be wary of further burdening you with my memories and my own raw emotions.

I can’t be there, though. I’m oceans and miles away and all I have to offer during this time are words.

The last time we all had dinner together is almost two years ago now. On that cold evening your house was a refuge for me from all the pressures of preparing to move half a world away. I sat by the fire with a glass of wine, watching you put dinner together in the kitchen and listening to him act out a bedtime story about spaceships in the next room. We laughed and talked together until almost eleven that night about the toys we played with as children, about solar panels and living simply, about marriage, faith, and whether there was ultimately more to life than even these most incandescent mortal moments of warm fireplaces and good friends.

We all said that we thought there was.

Tomorrow you will say a difficult farewell. Or, rather, you will take one big step along a harrowing journey of bidding goodbye, because your life together cannot be summed up in one public gathering. You will say your goodbyes a thousand times in a thousand ways during the days ahead.

But in the grand scheme of things – in the sweep of life that extends beyond the years we live here – I do not believe this is a final farewell. I believe it is farewell, for now.

I am thankful for that, and I am so thankful for all the moments I was able to share with you both over the years. I will be thinking of him tomorrow – of that dry wit that he always wielded with kindness and of the way that he tackled life with zest and integrity. And I will be thinking of you as you grieve his absence, and as you and others open up the storehouses of your memories and pour forth treasures in celebration of the life of an extraordinary man.

For Danielle and Patrick

Best of 2011

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection.” (Annais Nin)

Happy New Years Eve! In the spirit of celebrating roads already travelled on this last day of the year here were your favourite posts of the year, my favourite posts of the year, and Mike’s favourite photos from 2011.

Your favourite posts

The most popular posts from this past year (judged by traffic) were all pregnancy related. I guess there’s a reason why so many “mommy blogs” become big deals.

  1. Ten Great Gifts for Pregnant Women and Thirty Great Gifts for Pregnant Women and New Parents
  2. Introducing Dominic McKay Wolfe
  3. Koi Maan Luuk (or “I am pregnant”)
  4. Push it: Music for labour and delivery
  5. Ten good things about boys: Attaining synthetic happiness one gender stereotype at a time

My favourite posts

Some of the posts on the list above are near and dear to my heart, as well. But here are five other favorites of mine from the past year.

  1. A Baby-Shaped Hole In My Heart: In which I write about my growing love for my unborn baby.
  2. Dear Dad, Love Dominic: In which a three week old Dominic writes a letter to Mike about how he’s sad to be apart on his first father’s day.
  3. Looking Like Love: A Letter To My Parents: In which I write a letter to my parents about how wonderful it’s been to stay with them for five months over the period of Dominic’s birth.
  4. T’is The Night Before (A Children’s Story): In which I make lemonade from lemons by turning a string of awful, sleepless nights into a rhyming children’s story.
  5. More than a brighter shade of happiness: In which I think about joy, happiness, and the fruits of motherhood.

Mike’s favourite photos

 I asked Mike to pick five favourite photos but he came back with nine – one for each, long month of pregnancy. So with no further ado, here they are:

Thanks for reading this blog and following along with my (our) story! If you blog, leave a link in the comments section to your own favourite post or two from your blog this year, or let us know how you’ll be celebrating New Years Eve. 

I hope 2011’s been a great year for you and that 2012 promises great things.

With Love from Laos,
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Church in the bedroom

I went to church this morning in my bedroom. Well, in some ways I didn’t, because I believe church is largely (perhaps, primarily?) about relationships with other people, and also about service. But other aspects of what you hope for in church – that you’ll move towards awe, that you’ll learn something, that your perspective might shift with a kaleidoscopic twist and your view of what’s really important in life will sharpen – that was right here in my bedroom this morning.

I haven’t been in a physical church much this last two months (or this year, actually – our only English speaking church option in Laos is a rotating house church). My absence this last two months has been partly due to wanting to prevent Dominic from coming into contact with whooping cough in advance of his first shots, and partly due to the fact that some days the prospect of dressing both him and myself in presentable clothes and leaving the house still feels like way more hassle than it’s worth.

This morning Dominic and I stayed home alone again. Some mornings he goes down for a nap relatively easily, some mornings not so much. This morning, not so much. I’m trying to teach him to get to sleep solo by putting him down when he’s sleepy and letting him just drift off, but this morning there was no drifting. There was mostly being wide awake, and hiccups, and fussing, and general neediness.

So I picked him up. I sat down in the soft chair in the bedroom. I laid his cheek against my chest and just held him. At first I was too busy thinking about all the things I’d planned to do as soon as he went down (laundry! and tidying up! and insurance paperwork! and baking that crumble we’ve been meaning to get to for days! and writing!!). But, then. Then, I looked down at that round cheek pressed against a round breast, and saw how little fingers were curled tightly around my thumb and how two tiny blue eyes were gazing up at my face as I stared off into the distance. I smiled at him, and the corners of his little mouth twitched in response. It was a sleepy half-smile he gave me. The sort of smile you muster when you’re right where you want to be and all is happy and warm and soft in your universe. And, then, I paid attention long enough to remember, again, that this is the point right now. Not the only point, mind you, but one far too important to routinely come second to laundry and fruit crumbles.

After Dominic finally drifted off into a sort of semi-sleep I turned my attention to google reader on the laptop sitting beside me. Google reader has been receiving about as much attention as laundry lately – I’m constantly feeling behind on all the blogs I like keeping up with. So this Sunday morning, as Dominic dozed in my arms, I dipped into other people’s words, other people’s worlds, and came away moved, challenged, and comforted.

Here are a couple of the people and the posts I “went to church” with this morning and particularly enjoyed:

  1. Emerging Mummy: In which these are the tired thirties
  2. Rachel Held Evans: Do we have the gospel wrong?
  3. Jamie, the Very Worst Missionary: Things are good, for now
  4. NPR: WWII Survivor Stirs Literary World With ‘Outrage’
  5. Novel Rocket: Should reading fiction be hard?
  6. Joy in this Journey: Jesus in the fog – life unmasked
  7. Crumbs from the Communion Table: Physician, heal thyself

Have you found yourself in church anywhere unusual lately? What did you learn, or what were you reminded of? And, come back tomorrow for the continuation of the discussion we began on Friday about the most important quality in a marriage.

Higgledypiggledy: Weekend Links

Most people say that if you want to build a huge blog readership you should find your theme or your niche or your whatchamacallit – your topic that you write on again and again and again until becomes your brand. Then, they say, if you keep at it and write well your blog will take off like a cat with firecrackers tied to its tail and you’ll have hordes of people coming e-flocking.

Yeah, well. This blog is an odd mishmash of stories related to pregnancy, marriage, family, life in Laos, humanitarian work, positive psychology, puppies, and ice-cream/chocolate. An odd mishmash remarkably similar to my daily life, come to think of it. And so far I’m fine with being all higgledypiggledy rather than trying to be a brand.

So in the spirit of higgledypiggledy I thought I’d share some links with you this weekend – links I’ve recently found challenging, helpful, funny or just plain yummy. Enjoy.

On humanitarian work
A five-part series over on morealtitude on how to become an aid worker:
Know what you’re getting into
Aid work is a profession
Experience, education, and personality
Where do you fit?
Count the cost

On positive psychology
What makes us happy: Fascinating article (long, but worth it) on some of the lessons learned from the longitudinal study of 268 Harvard students that first began in 1937.

The Geography of Bliss: This book is part travel memoir, part exploration of happiness in different cultures and lands. It’s pithy and well-written and I really enjoyed it. 

On parenting
How to talk to little girls: A thought-provoking article on how adults tend to focus on a little girls appearance when complimenting them.

A lesson in fear: A funny essay by my friend, Jos, over at Zozo’s Mom about the challenges of toilet training.

In which I promise not to call myself fat: A lovely blog entry on emerging mummy about one woman’s battle with body image post-pregnancy and her promises to her daughters to raise them to celebrate real beauty.

On puppies
My story about “the Samoyed that almost was” (Friendly companions from Siberia) guest-posted on fellow author Chandra Hoffman’s blog last week. Having just bought home a most adorable Newfoundland puppy (I want one, I want one), she’s doing a dog blog series. 

On chocolate and ice cream
Molten fudge cake with raspberries and cream: This recipe was posted by my friend Nicole Baart under the title “Best Desert Ever” and I don’t think she’s far off on that! I made it yesterday and it was yumscrumptious. If you go visit Nicole’s website check out her wonderful books while you’re there.

Chocolate caramel slice: A couple of you have written asking what slices are. Well, here’s a link to a quintessential Australian slice – chocolate and caramel. They’re dense, gooey and yummy (or sickeningly sweet, depending on your tolerance for sugar).

Just for fun
Lioness tries to eat baby at zoo: Don’t worry – there is glass in between the two.

And that’s why you should learn to pick your battles: The story of a giant metal chicken and a wedding anniversary.

Computer games and holy bananas

Ahrrrgggg…. The internet is down again. This has become a daily occurrence here and it can stay down for six hours at a time. Sometimes when it goes down I can shrug my shoulders and find other things to do without much trouble. Sometimes it’s annoying but I can make a game out of it by pretending I’m a pioneer on the Oregon Trail – I’m pretty sure they didn’t have internet in those wagons very often. Sometimes, however, it’s just damn annoying. The pioneers on the Oregon Trail may not have had the www but they probably didn’t have consulting projects with rapidly approaching deadlines either.

Speaking of the Oregon Trail, how much would it have sucked to be pregnant during that great trek West? Can you imagine having to either walk or jostle around in wagons with no shock absorbers all day, every day?

Speaking of being pregnant…

No, let’s not speak of that. I was up five times last night and I’m grumpy. Let’s go back to the Oregon Trail.

So did anyone else ever used to play the computer game by that same name? It was based on the trips of those early pioneers You began by picking out names for your wagon mates, shopping for provisions, and choosing what time of year to set out (too early or too late in the year and you were inevitably stalled by snow). Then you spent many hours trekking slowly across the computerized plains, hunting buffalo and other animals as you went to supplement your provisions.

I had this game loaded onto my laptop when I was at university. Occasionally, during a very boring statistics lecture, I would look like I was taking notes but instead I’d be hunting deer. I’d also put all my nearby classmates on my wagon, which added excitement to the day for them but sometimes also meant I had the sad task of passing a note that read something like: “Tash, you just fell out of the wagon and broke your leg and three days later you died of a fever. We buried you somewhere in Kansas. Sorry, hey.”

Ah the wacky and wonderful world of computer games. At least the Oregon Trail was pretty sensible as far as games went, unlike another favorite computer game of childhood that was called, I kid you not, Spiritual Warfare.

The aim of this game was for you, a pilgrim, to progress through the six levels of the game collecting the six pieces of the armour of God along the way (As per Ephesians 6 these were: the belt of truth; the breastplate of righteousness; the shoes of the gospel of peace; the shield of faith; the helmet of salvation; and the sword of the spirit). As we moved through the levels our pilgrim met all sorts of dangerous challenges.

Sometimes red, horned demons would fly onscreen and attack us. The only way to defeat them was to slay them with the fruit of the spirit. Actual fruit – you could choose from six different types (assuming you’d been a good pilgrim thus far and been working hard to build up your stash in preparation for just such an assault). Grapes didn’t go very far, but they spread out like buckshot. Apples were long-range “spirit” missiles but traveled slowly. Personally my fruit of choice was the banana. It rotated when you threw it, like a holy boomerang.

If you managed to hit the demons with the fruit they were instantly transformed into little kneeling figures, dressed in white and with hands folded in prayer. After hovering for an instant in all their redeemed glory they disappeared off the top of the screen, presumably on their way to heaven. If you didn’t manage to slay them, however, the consequences were severe. Sometimes they took the jar of anointed oil that you could use to heal yourself when you were wounded, or stripped you of a piece of heavenly armor, or stole spirit points that you needed to progress to the next level. This last was particularly annoying, as then you’d have to spend ages in prayer earning them back.

Occasionally a white and haloed angel would flutter down from the top of the screen and ask you a Bible question. If you got it right, you were rewarded with spirit points. If you got it wrong you either lost spirit points or were assigned a penance to perform. Sometimes the angels would appear not to question, but to warn. The first time my little pilgrim trotted past a bar an angel appeared and warned me not to go inside. I hadn’t even noticed the bar, frankly, so intent was I upon my quest of the moment – to find the jawbone of Samson – but after being specifically instructed not to, I just had to go into the bar. If I recall correctly I lost all of my spirit points and half of my fruit of the spirit the instant I sent my pilgrim through the door.

Remembering that I thought this game fine entertainment when I was eleven now causes me to laugh and to cringe, for there was a point in my life when my understanding of God and faith was founded upon just this sort of harsh and legalistic divine calculus. During the last dozen years, however, the way I see God and the way I think God probably sees me has changed. As core issues of living faith have become less neatly edged by dos and don’ts they have inhabited instead the far messier territory of awareness, attitude, action, and intention.

A couple of years ago now, when I was struggling to write about this non-computerized faith journey in one of the early drafts of the memoir, I gave up on prose temporarily and tried my hand at poetry. This is something I hardly ever do – I’ve written fewer than a dozen poems in my entire life. But I was looking for a way to summarize, to distill, and I thought poetry might help me get to the point. So to close today, here’s that poem:

I used to think I understood God
Then I didn’t.
Then I wasn’t sure God was.

The world used to appear binary.
Then it didn’t.
Then I wasn’t sure black and white were.

Now I’m pretty sure God is.
But, still,
I often don’t understand.

And I think black and white rarely are,
But mostly the loving truth of things is grey.
A fertile interplay of sun and shadow you begin to grasp
where your head
and your heart
and your sense that God is,

Over to you: Talk about computer games, post a poem, or simply start with “this reminds me of the time that…” and put up something totally random. Trust me, it’ll fit right in with this rambling  internet-less inspired post.

Two years ago today

Two years ago today Mike and I put on fancy clothes and stood up in front of many people that we love and made a whole bunch of very serious promises about, essentially, loving one another. It was a wonderful, glorious, happy-filled, day that still makes me smile when I think of it.

To be honest though, it wasn’t all bubbles and champagne that day. I threw my back out the morning of the wedding, forgot to put together a reception run-sheet for our long-suffering MC’s, Emma and Asha, until four hours before the ceremony, and felt more serious and stressed out than giddy and love-struck right before it was time to walk down the aisle.

But there was advil for the back, and thankfully the lace-up style of my wedding dress acted as a very efficient brace that allowed me to forget the pain and move relatively freely once it was on. One of my bridesmaids came and sat down beside me where I was lying at noon, flat on the floor, waiting for pain killers to kick in, and helped me plan out the reception program. And there, at the end of that walk down the aisle, was Mike.

As the ceremony progressed and we got through all the serious stuff I felt myself start to relax, to inhabit the moment, to float, and from the moment we finished out vows and walked back down the aisle together it was bubbles and champagne. There were smiling people we loved everywhere I looked. The day was a sultry sort of gorgeous. The wine plentiful and cold. The Thai food, amazing. The marquee in the lush garden setting of my parent’s backyard, very Arabian nights. The dance floor under the stars, magical.

I’ve been thinking about that day this morning, and about the promises we made to each other, so I thought that I’d share them here. But first, here’s an excerpt from the book I’m working on at the moment where I write about these vows…

… “We wanted to write our own wedding vows, Mike and I, and we also wanted to be in sync with what we would promise each other on the day. So we each put some thought into the vows separately, and then came together with our drafts to blend them into one unified declaration.

I think my favorite section of our vows is what we settled on for the ring exchange: As I give you this ring, I give you my heart as a sanctuary. I give you myself as a faithful companion to celebrate life with. I give you my promise that as I choose you today, so I will choose you tomorrow. This is our covenant.

To get to these four simple sentences we each had to make a compromise that, initially, felt quite painful.

“We can’t say it that way,” Mike said, when he saw my draft. “The second sentence ends with a preposition.”

“What’s a preposition?” I asked.

He looked at me, suspicious. “You,” he said, “are a novelist. How can you possibly not know what a preposition is?”

“Hey,” I said a trifle sharply. “Six countries. Six schools. English grammar got lost somewhere along the way – possibly while I was busy learning Shona in Zimbabwe.”

“You can’t end a sentence with the word with,” Mike said. “It’s just wrong. Another way to say it would be, ‘I give you myself as a faithful companion with whom to celebrate life.’”

“That sounds lame,” I said, displaying a vocabulary every bit as impressive as my grasp of grammar.

“Well at least it’s correct.”

“But it sounds dumb,” I said. “Clumsy. Formal. It doesn’t fit the tone of the rest of our vows. Who cares if it’s correct if it sounds dumb?”

Mike eventually shifted on that issue, and I shifted on this one: when I first drafted this section I put an extra sentence in there, right before: This is our covenant. That sentence was: You will be home to me.

“I don’t like that,” Mike said, when he saw it. “It doesn’t work. I don’t want it in there.”

Although I was initially disappointed there was something in me that sensed he may just be right, so I took it out without making too much of a fuss. But I’ve thought about that a good deal in the last little while, and I do think he was right, after all. For one thing, that phrase is arguably less a promise than it is a statement, or even a demand.

I hadn’t intended that. I had intended for that sentence to evoke all that is most positive in the ideal of home – comfort, continuity, understanding, haven, refuge, rest, encouragement, wholeness – the sum total of all that is most precious and valuable in life. I had intended it as a promise along the lines of, “I will seek these things in you, for you, and with you.”

The problem here lies in the first part of that promise that I was trying to craft – the idea that it’s possible to find all of that in someone else. It’s too much to expect (or even hope for) from any one person. Even your lover. …”

So here are those vows that we worked on together. Two years down the track I would make them to Mike again today without hesitating.

I, Lisa McKay, choose you, Michael Wolfe, as my life partner, the one I commit to love. I pledge to cherish and honor you regardless of circumstances, in the pressures of the present and the uncertainties of the future, loving what I do know of you, trusting what I do not yet know.

I promise to grow in mind and spirit with you, and support you in fulfilling your hopes and dreams. I promise to remain with you, whatever afflictions may befall. I commit to sharing with you life’s joys and sorrows, pleasures and pains from this day forward until death do us part.

As I give you this ring, I give you my heart as a sanctuary. I give you myself as a faithful companion to celebrate life with. I give you my promise that as I choose you today, so I will choose you tomorrow. This is our covenant.

Weddings, rabbits, and laughter

You’d think there would be more to write about when we’re on holidays, not less, but we’ve been having a thoroughly lovely week and thoroughly lovely weeks do not generally good blog fodder make. As I have now been missing in action for the last ten days due to a remarkable lack of internet access points in Barwon Heads and the entire state of Tasmania, however, I will soldier on in the face of the adversity of an over-abundance of happiness and good fortune to provide some sort of update.

So, the wedding last weekend. It was lovely, as weddings generally are, each in their own special way. Amber was stunningly beautiful. Tristan fought back tears as she walked down the aisle. Mike made a very handsome groomsmen and was in good international company – three of the four groomsmen had flown in from overseas. We came from Laos, Tristan’s brother, Ash, came from Yemen, and another friend, Aaron, flew in from Canada for the weekend. (Total insanity, that last one, the very thought of enduring that trip just for the weekend makes me shudder.)

I was asked to read a reading from the Velveteen Rabbit (by Margery Williams) that Mike and I chose for our wedding so that was a fun deja-vu. I’ve loved the idea of this reading at a wedding since I first heard it at a wedding I attended in Washington while I was still in high school, and it apparently struck a chord with Tristan and Amber when they were researching as well.

“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but Really loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get all loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

I like the idea that growing in love takes time, but that the end result of the process is an authentic sort of realness more valuable than unmarred physical beauty. On the other hand I don’t agree with Skin Horse that when you are Real you don’t mind being hurt. Perhaps you mind it less, or perhaps you can look past the immediate to see value in the hurt, but I think we generally still mind. On the whole, however, this reading captures some of what I hope for Mike and me in our marriage – that our love will transform us by rubbing off some of the sharp edges of our selfishness and teach us, bit by bit, to better see and value true beauty.

Oh, and I hope we laugh a lot along the way, and don’t leave each other lying neglected by the fender for too long. Talented photographer that he is, Tristan took these photos during our own wedding rehearsal, almost two years ago now. I can’t remember what we were laughing about, but by the looks at it I made fun of Mike for something and then fully expected to be rewarded with a kiss. Long may the laughter, the love, and the kisses continue for us and for the couple of the week, Tristan and Amber.

While we’re on the topic of weddings, what is something you’ve heard read or said at a wedding that’s stuck with you? Why did you like (or dislike) it?

Holiday dreaming

Happy Monday! I’ve been in Australia a week today and feeling very much on holidays now, so forgive me this next month if I’m not posting here three times a week as usual. I will try to stay checked in but this next couple of weeks, at least, will be quite busy. Tomorrow I head to Melbourne for a couple of days and I’ll meet Mike there around noon on Friday. We’ll head straight down south for the wedding of good friends, Tristan and Amber (last night I dreamed this wedding took place on a plane, with a pay-as-you-go buffet). After their wedding Mike and I are jaunting off to Tasmania for a few days to take a “just us” holiday, and then we fly back up here for the week before Christmas. We fly back to Laos on the 27th of December and life and blogging will then resume normal rhythm. That’s the theory, anyway.

So while we’re on the topic of dreams, do any of you have recurring dreams that you puzzle over? I’m a very vivid dreamer, often having what Mike calls “crackpipe dreams” – vibrant dreams that make no logical sense – but my recurring dreams are much more prosaic.

I have two types of recurring dreams. One type is set in an airport – I’m running through the airport because I’m late for my plane, or the plane is delayed, or I’m on the wrong flight, or I’m stuck on a plane and we’ve already been in the air for 55 hours, or I’m trapped in a plane at the bottom of the ocean looking desperately for my passport before I try to swim for the surface because I can’t leave my passport behind… that sort of thing.

The other type of recurring dream I have just as frequently, maybe more, and it’s much less self-explanatory. In this dream I’m almost always my own age, with two masters degrees, and a decade of work experience, etc, but I suddenly find myself back in high school. Something had gone wrong way back then and I missed an essential graduation requirement somewhere along the way. So now, in my thirties, I have to go back and do this thing (usually repeat an entire year, with special emphasis on calculus and French classes) so that I can validate my high school graduation. If I don’t go back to high school it’ll invalidate everything I’ve accomplished since then. So weird, and so freaky, because these high school dreams are usually the “this is absolutely completely totally happening to me” and I wake up in the middle of the night with my heart pounding and I am always so relieved to realize that I am really not facing another year of calculus classes and teenage posturing that it almost makes having the dream worth it.

What about you? Any recurring dreams that make you shake your head and wonder where this stuff is coming from?

Random funny things

There have been many things that have made me laugh in the last little while. Here are just a few of them.

When Bible stories meet the Disney channel

This came courtesy of my sister, Michelle. It is a conversation she had with my niece, Tahlia, who has just turned three.

Michelle: “I told Tahlia the story of David and Goliath in the Bible, and then I reiterated that we never throw rocks, though, OK?”

Tahlia processed this, then…

Tahlia: “So, Mommy. If the big mean man comes to my castle, and kills my prince, then I’m allowed to throw one little tiny rock at him, right Mommy? Just one little tiny one. OK?”

Michelle: “Uh, sure. If that happens then you can throw one little tiny one.”

Michelle (to me): “I went right out the next day and bought her some additional educational DVDs.”

On military metaphors

So the adventure of our house (the house that we both love, and occasionally
“love slightly less”) continues. After the chemical-smoke-from-under-the-kitchen-sink incident on Monday, the landlord organized for someone to come and remove that hot water heater to reduce the risk of an electrical fire. This was good. What was less good was that when the man removed the hot water heater he also cut the wiring to all the other hot water heaters in the house, as well as the AC in our bedroom.

I don’t much enjoy cold showers, even in the afternoon when I’m all hot. In the mornings I avoid them whenever possible. This conversation took place on Thursday morning just before Mike and I left to spend two days in Phoukhoun district.

Mike: “Have you showered already?”

Lisa: “In a manner of speaking.”

Mike: “I really don’t want to know what you mean by that.” (Pause) “Yes I do. What do you mean by that?”

Lisa: “Well, it was a highly focused operation. Very targeted. A carpet-bombing of a shower. No, that’s too broad a metaphor. It was a guided missile shower.”

Mike: “Sweetheart, do you think perhaps you might want to rethink your use of such a negative, military, metaphor?”

Lisa: “Not really, it will suffice, just like the shower I had this morning. Maybe when we get to the field there will be hot water tonight.”

Mike: “And what color is the sky in your universe today?”

On Chinese dogs

Mike’s organization is having some trouble with the company they’ve hired to guard the office at night – namely that since someone actually tried to break in last month the guards are now too scared to stay there alone and want the organization to pay for two night guards instead of one. Given we hardly live in an active war zone, Mike is of the opinion that this is excessive. He suggested that if the security company is worried about their guards they could perhaps buy two-way radios. I suggested office dogs.

So as we were driving up to the villages on Thursday we were talking about dogs. Where, Mike asked his deputy, Kampono, could we get big dogs?

Kampono: “China. Get big dogs in China. But Chinese dogs not good.”

Mike: “Why not?”

Kampono: “Very expensive to keep.” (Much sorrowful shaking of the head) “Very expensive.”

Mike: “Why is that?”

Kampono: “Chinese dogs only eat meat. Very expensive to feed. Lao dogs better. Lao dogs eat rice.”

Mike: “You cannot feed Chinese dogs rice?”

Kampono: “No, must eat meat, these Chinese dogs. Lao dogs better.”

On picturesque irony

When we reached the village, Mike and Kampono took me on a tour of the office. When we walked into the child protection office there were two big portraits in gilt frames hanging either side of a poster.

The portraits were of Lenin and Marx.

The poster was about how to report incidents of child abuse in the Lao PDR.