Tag Archives: life unmasked

One Standard Thursday: Life unmasked

Life: Unmasked Dominic wakes up from his morning nap at 8 AM (so you can imagine how early he was up the first time). On the way into his room I almost step in dog puke – Zulu’s clearly been begging food from the neighbors again. Dominic’s clothes are wet when I pick him up, despite the fact that his diaper was changed less than two hours earlier. These cloth diapers appear to be leaking more than I had thought they would, perhaps because we have no running hot water to wash them in as per the manufacturing instructions.

Dominic is grumpy and there’s at least an hour to go before I wanted to feed him next, so I put him in the stroller and walk fifteen minutes down to the tiny grocery store that I’m hoping will have the ingredients I want. No. No cream cheese, or hoisin sauce, or fennel. I think about buying one of the two imported tubs of vanilla icing on display (I’ve been flirting with the idea of trying to make a chocolate cake in the toaster oven) but I don’t. Nine dollars is a bit of a stretch for icing, even if it did wing its way here from the U.S.

Dominic starts to fuss. I can’t fit the stroller into the small store, so I pick him up and try to juggle baby, basket, and picking up necessities. That doesn’t go well and I cut the expedition short. As I’m trying to hold Dominic and pay, my phone rings. It’s Mike. He says there’s no electricity at the office all day and he’ll be working from home if there’s electricity there – is there electricity there? I say I don’t know.


It’s cloudy and cool as I walk home and Dominic falls asleep in the stroller as motorcycles zoom past us. Back at the house there is electricity. My bed has been made and my laundry done by a dear woman who shows up five days a week to do these thing for us. When I arrive she is busy squeezing four kilos of oranges that Mike bought off the back of a truck last night for $1.25.

Mike made fun of me for thinking that cream cheese, hoisin sauce, and dried fennel would be available in our town but I would like it noted that I was being an optimist. Have you written a life unmasked-esque post lately? Leave the link below.

What Would Jesus Do?

So I have a What Would Jesus Do problem.

I don’t usually use the WWJD phrase, even in my own private thought life much less out loud. That’s partly because when I find myself tempted to ask what Jesus would do, I often deep down already know the answer and have previously avoided acknowledging said answer because I don’t like it.

Oh, and also because whenever I hear “What Would Jesus Do?” I think of charm bracelets and neatly packaged “how to live life” seminars and my kitsch radar goes off and I think “Laaa-aaame”. And thinking the word “lame” is not something I feel quite right doing when I’m also thinking about Jesus. Thinking “lame” in conjunction with Jesus instinctively makes me feel that I’m risking a divinely-inspired lightening strike, and acknowledging that feeling makes me wonder (once again) whether I understand grace or really comprehend who Jesus was at all.

No, easier just to sidestep that whole quagmire by not asking myself what Jesus would do.

Which is a pity, really, because when you stop to think about it it’s not a bad question to ask if you hold Jesus in high esteem.

Anyway, my problem. My problem that’s made me wonder what Jesus would do.

The neighbors just over the back fence have started woodworking again. They’ve been at it with electric sanders and power saws almost every day now for the past month. They often start at about 8 AM and go for up to seven hours a day. There is nowhere in this house I can go to escape the noise. It’s particularly bad in Dominic’s room (which overlooks the neighbors house). I’ve been putting him to sleep for his naps on my bed most of the time because our room is quieter. If he’s in his cot when the saws start up, he wakes up.

I find it hard to explain just how insane that high-pitched, shrieking whine drives me. How, now, whenever I hear them start up around 8AM in the morning my blood pressure jumps up ten notches and I’m flooded with righteous anger. For what they’re doing is technically illegal. You’re not supposed to run a noisy business within the city limits of Luang Prabang.

So, you see, what they’re doing is WRONG.

And, yet.

As Mike regularly reminds me.

They are poor. They probably aren’t poor enough that food is in short supply, but who knows. They almost definitely are poor enough that most of those extra dollars they are making from this illegal business are not being spent on lattes at Starbucks but, presumably, on things like school books and uniforms for their children.

I hope they’re spending the money on school uniforms, anyway, because when I think about the fact that they might be spending it on Beerlao, that’s just crazy-making.

Some of Mike’s Lao colleagues have visited these neighbors on our behalf to remind them of the agreement we reached almost a year ago that they only use these power tools three days a month. That made them cut back a little, but not enough. We’ve complained to the village chief, who basically suggested we move house. Last night, Mike rang me from Vientiane (where he’s been most of the week) to tell me that four government officials and a couple of his colleagues would be showing up at our house this morning to have a meeting about the issue.


The whole thing makes me feel icky, as if I’m acting like a wealthy, entitled expatriate, even though I cannot imagine that anyone else living around us enjoys being assaulted by the screeching din of power tools on a daily basis, either.

So, what would Jesus do?

Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure that “bribing the government officials to put pressure on the poverty-stricken woodcutter over the back fence” is out. Would Jesus have put up with it? Moved house? Paid the neighbor not to work? Paid rent for a work-space outside of town where these sorts of businesses are legal? Tried to negotiate some sort of compromise? Gone quietly insane? Packed up the baby while Mike was away on one of these work trips and high-tailed it to Australia?

Yeah, that one’s probably out, too.


Have you had a What Would Jesus Do (or your spiritual equivalent) problem lately? What was it?

(This is a Life Unmasked post. To read more Life Umasked posts by other bloggers hope over to Joy’s website)

Ants in my pants: Life unmasked

One of the bloggers I read, Joy in the Journey, has a project she calls Life Unmasked. “Social media makes it easy to create fake portrayals of ourselves,” she says. “While it’s possible to share too much, I grow weary of all the “I have it all together” super-people posts.”

I’m not sure I could be accused of writing too many “I have it all together” posts. If anything, Mike sometimes intimates that I do the opposite too often.

But I like Joy’s project and how she encourages people to “share slices of real life from the previous week… the real, un-photoshopped, deal.” Plus, to be honest, I’ve had a crappy 24 hours and I feel like venting and this framework allows me to believe that maybe, just maybe, that venting is not completely self-indulgent.


Where to start?

Maybe with the short conversation I had yesterday with Mike. He’s been gone since Monday morning, two days drive away down near the Cambodian border. Between his work commitments and my baby commitments we haven’t managed more than a 15-minute conversation all week.

“I’ve got to run in a couple of minutes,” he said, “but how’s your day been?”

“I’m stuck,” I said. “I’m totally spinning my wheels in a big mud puddle over these writing decisions I need to make and I’m getting nowhere.”

“So the genie didn’t show up today,” Mike asked.

“The genie’s dead,” I said.

“But the baby’s alive,” Mike said, mustering the forced cheerfulness of someone who’s having a crappy day themselves but is trying to be there for someone else.

“Yes,” I said grimly. “The baby is alive and the genie is dead. Do not ask me this afternoon if that is a fair trade.”

I knew I didn’t (totally) mean this even as I said it. Mike knew it too, which is why he laughed.

So writing sucked yesterday. Writing is sucking a lot at the moment. I try to remind myself that I have a healthy 11-week old baby, that I only get time to myself in a couple of 45 minute chunks every day, and anything writing-wise that I manage to accomplish is icing on a chubby, smiling cake. This doesn’t always make me feel better.


Then came yesterday evening after I’d been in the house alone all day. Yesterday evening at 7pm when I desperately wanted to just sit down in front of the television with a drink in hand and try to find an English speaking station. Any station. But I had a tired, grumpy baby on my hands. A grumpy baby that I was trying to bathe alone for the first time…

Which was going OK until I turned the water pressure up too high on the hose as I was filling the baby tub on the bathroom floor. The hose reared out of the tub and started to dance, spraying cold water all over everything, including me and a naked Dominic who was lying on a towel a the entrance to the bathroom. Dominic was not impressed.

When he finally went down for the night at 9:30 I knew I should go to bed myself, but I couldn’t sleep. Which is why I was still awake at 11 when Zulu started up with a flurry of angry barking downstairs. That little dog has the bark of a fully-grown Rottweiler. Most of the time that’s a good thing. Not right after you’ve settled the baby.

I definitely wasn’t awake at 3:30AM when Zulu began doing exactly the same thing all over again (except this time right outside our bedroom door). I was certainly awake afterwards though. And so was Dominic.

"This milk SUCKS"

Dominic never really went back to sleep and finally started to demand food at 4AM. It was not a peaceful nursing session. He attacked my nipples the same way a trout goes after flies. He lunged forward, latched on with a fierce intensity, sucked for a while, and then pulled off and made a face that let me know he wasn’t a fan of the beverage on tap at present. Sometimes this grimace was accompanied by a shriek of protest. (To be fair to him, this is probably because I ate chili yesterday in a meal someone cooked for me – a mistake I will not repeat anytime soon.)

I finally managed to get a full feed into him, then he threw up what seemed like most of it into my hair.

He was leaking out the bottom, too, so I pulled a pair of pajama shorts out of the dirty clothes basket to add to my tee shirt so that I’d be semi-decent if any of the neighbors happened to be up and peering through our un-curtained windows across the hall.

I noticed the first burning sting right as I was undoing Dominic’s diaper. I should have stopped right then and there, moved him back to the bed, and disrobed with all haste. I didn’t. If you cull any life lesson from this post, let it be this: When there are ants in your pants in the tropics, don’t put off taking action in the optimistic hope that there’s just one wandering around down there. That is a reckless optimism indeed.

And that’s life unmasked, folks, bought to you by seven ant bites, a needy baby, a barking dog, and an absent husband. Oh, and a dead genie. Yeah.

What about you? Got any life unmasked stories to share from the last week?