Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
There. I said it. I don't. What can I say? I just don't. It's not that I don't like kids. Not that I don't think it's probably the most fulfilling thing one could do. I just don't. I know what it looks like to want to have kids. My friends get that excited, hopeful look in their eye, similar to the look they got in middle school when thinking of that one cute boy.
Let me tell you something. I've never had that. Not once.
It's not that I don't like kids. I love babies. A coworker brought her cute 4-month old into work today, and I wanted to hug him and snuggle him and press my nose against his. No, I don't have bad feelings about babies or families, I just flat out really don't have any feelings on the topic--no desire. I have intellectual thoughts on it. But people typically have kids because of desire, not just intellectual thoughts.
(People might say, "having kids is good because they can take care of you in your old age." But that's not usually the deciding reason why they had kids. They had them because they wanted them.)
So much I feel the world telling me to just change my feelings. Just want kids, alright? Then we'll know what to do with you.
But how do you change your feelings? And why would I in the first place?
There are so many great reasons to have children. But here are, honestly, the only reasons I have ever wanted to have children:
- I'd like to name them. I love words and meanings, therefore I love naming.
- Maybe I'd finally get a rack if I nursed the wee things.
- It'd be fun to see what my face and Mike's face look like all jumbled up into another face.
- I'd like to not go into an office every day.
- Other people tell me to.
That's it. I swear. Now you tell me--are any of those good reasons to have a baby? Some people think you should have a baby as an insurance policy--just in case you'll want one later. Or in case you're lonely in your old age. But is baby as insurance really any better than any of these?
I will have a child if I feel God leading me to. But I just can't have a baby because it's what I'm supposed to do according to some cultural standard. I can't do it because it's what anyone else thinks I should do. It's just not reason enough for me.
I am married, so of course this isn't just about me and my feelings. Up until this point, I haven't had to seriously face these questions because baby-having hasn't been sensible yet with Mike in school. Of course, Mike and I will make this decision together.
I'm reading a book by a woman whom I disagree with on virtually everything. And yet I feel like I've finally found a friend whose arms and words I can relax into becuase she gets me. Reading her book I feel like laughing and crying and...I feel understood. This affects me deeply.
In closing, I'll quote from this book ("Eat Pray Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert), from which I felt finally understood. It probably won't mean much to you, but I found solace here.
"The Bhagavad Gita--that ancient Indian Yogic text--says that it is better to live your own destiny imperfectly than to live an imitation of somebody else's life with perfection. So now I have started living my own life. Imperfect and clumsy as it may look, it is resembling me now, thoroughly."
This is my confession: My life resembles me. Not anyone else. Is that so bad?
Monday, April 28, 2008
This is still really weird for me! At work last week, I got a phone call. (I never get phone calls.) I answered, "This is Amber." And the woman said, "Is this Amber Van Schooneveld, the author of Hope Lives?" "Yes." "Oh, I can't believe I got through so easily!"
I felt like calling out to a fictional secretary, "Judy, daaahling, please hold my calls until this afternoon. I'm just getting far too many fan calls."
The woman wanted to thank me for writing the book and chat about it. How weird and kind of wonderful.
I'm still worried someone is going to find out I'm a fraud. Like one of these days on one of the radio interviews, someone's going to call out, "Wait a minute--you're just Amber--that girl from Aurora, Colorado who chews on her cheeks when she's nervous and still bites all her fingernails off. What are we doing listening to you?"
Luckily, I know this really has nothing to do with me. My attempts are feeble, but I entrust them to God and ask that he will use them for what he sees best.
Sunday, April 27, 2008
Saturday, April 26, 2008
As you may know, poor poor me broke down on the side of the road the other night. And poor poor me, we had taken our other car to the shop that day. What a sad sad fate.
Ricot, my coworker in Haiti, was asking how I was, so I launched into my tale of woe. To Ricot. A Haitian. Who two weeks ago couldn't go into work because hungry mobs were throwing rocks through the windows of his office. Who, as part of his daily job, visits children who live under scraps of aluminum and play in the raw sewage stream that trickles by their home.
And here's me (spoken in Valley Girl), "Yeah, my car broke down, and like it's really hard, 'cause like, my other car is in the shop, and like if I want to go to the mall, I'm going to have to call a friend, and like I just ate 4,000 calories at Carrabba's last night on like fried zucchini sticks and lasagna, and I'm like so full, and yeah, my life's pretty hard."
Then the song from my current favorite movie, "Flushed Away," starts drifting through my head, sung by those adorable sewer slugs, "Poor Poor Roddy, Flushed Down His Own Potty. Someone can't you find it in your heart to help him..."
Only it's, "Poor Poor Ammy, Wants to Eat Some Jammy..." but then the song drifts off, because that doesn't make any sense. But I get the point. Thank you Hugh Jackman as a London sewer rat and your sewer slug friends, for this subtle reminder that my life's not so bad.
Ricot, in turn, doesn't say: "Let me get this straight, I'm living in a country where 8 out of 10 of my countrymen live on around 90 cents--90 cents!--a day and are eating mud cakes and you're complaining about how your two cars--two cars!--are giving you trouble?!!!"
No, he didn't say that. First of all, I don't think Haitians say, "Let me get this straight"--a little WASPy and uptighty for an islander. Instead he said, "It's really funny!" (That is me, with two broken cars is really funny.) "I laugh a little bit, but I am so sorry."
There you go. Grace from a Haitian. I've got a lot to learn around here.
Friday, April 25, 2008
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
I was just talking to my parents, and apparently my good ol' Texas papa used to say that back in the day before I was born, until my mom made him quit, that is. You have to read it with his twang he lets loose when thinkin' o' home, "I haven't had so much fun since a hog ate my twin brother...Sooooweeeee!" (The funny part is that he does have a twin brother. But no hogs have eaten him. Then it wouldn't be funny. My mom said one time she saw a hog eat a baby pig on a farm and it really wasn't funny at all, but quite traumatic.)
My mom once told her mom about this annoying verbal habit of my father's, and she said that my Florida bayou grandpappy used to say it too. (My mom's dad, not my dad's dad, so they independently each said this glorious phrase. It must have been kismet that my parents met.)
With such a great family heritage, it's officially my new favorite phrase, up there with my Nebrasky great-grandma's, "A good time was had by all."
On a side note, a marketer at Compassion got a call from a donor they had sent Hope Lives to, and she said "it had impacted her life more than any book she had ever read." That's crizzity crazy.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Monday, April 21, 2008
In honor of that crazy lady, I'll post my own top pet peeves.
1. People who hum in the cubicle next to you at work. Hello? I'm working here.
2. Taquitos. Those things irritate me. They sit there looking all fiesta-y and fun, and you get all excited to bite into the festive stick. And then you remember. These things taste like, well, you know.
3. People who say "Music Is My Life," mainly heard on American Idol auditions. I don't like people who say that anything is their life. I picked this up from my husband. He sneers a lot.
5. Baggers at Walmart with those new twirly bag dispensers who place one item per bag. I think they're so excited to turn the twirly thingy that they just want to use more and more bags. Please, baggers, please, my bag can hold more than one bottle of shampoo!
6. Bad Donuts. Oh, this is the worst. And let's face it, there's a lot of them. Most of them in fact. I think only about 5% of donuts created deserve to exist. And this is a great tragedy, becuase Donuts Are My Life.
7. People who are intolerant of other cultures.
8. The Dutch.
9. Hershey's chocolate. I swear. Eat a piece next to a piece of good chocolate and you'll see why.
10. People who write Top Ten Lists because they are too lazy to be creative and think up their own gimmick (or blog).
Sunday, April 20, 2008
We glimpsed how refreshingly small and insignificant we are in contrast to the vast wilderness that surrounds us.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Name Calling and the End of Discussion
There’s a dirty little habit some of us Christians have gotten into: name calling. It’s one of the most basic human instincts. When we feel threatened by someone or something, we lash out—like the 8 year old on the playground who is teased and replies, “Well, you’re a…you’re a…stupid-face.”
We do the same thing when confronted with ideas that don’t fit into our current spiritual schema. If someone reads Jesus’ words about helping the poor and is inspired to act to end environmental practices that are hurting the poor, he is, sadly, likely to hear from some Christians, “Oh, so you’re a hippy now?” Or someone who wants to change the devastating impact certain business practices are having on West Africans will hear, “What are you, a communist?” Or someone who begins to question our luxurious American lifestyle will hear, “You’re one of those America-haters?” Or (added in honor of the aforementioned preacher) someone who doesn't want to buy meat raised in inhumane ways that also damages the environment will hear, "stay away from that liberal vegetarian!"
The names go on and on….liberal, right winger, fundamentalist, democrat. Chances are that in your church some of the labels have been deemed the good guys, and the others the bad guys. And if you want to shut someone up and end discussion, calling someone a name from the other camp is the way to do it. Instead of discussing the issue, we attack the person’s identity, making anything that person has to say illegitimate—as he’s clearly just a hippy.
It’s natural to react to things that threaten our ideas by name calling, but we need to hear the same thing a teacher would tell that 8 year old: Stop it.
Satan triumphs each time we are distracted from considering Christ’s words together and instead pit Christian against Christian in name calling. Forget labels. Christ didn’t come to create political or ideological camps—he defied all his contemporaries’ attempts to label him or pin him down to a certain camp.
Focus on Christ’s words. If he said something difficult, such as, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give to the poor,” struggle through those words together to find what they mean for your life. Don’t end all discussion by calling your brother or sister a name. Be transformed together by the power of Jesus’ words.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
You can see some of our photos from the trip on our flickr page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/9447271@N08/
For an unplanned last-minute trip, it was so incredible! First we drove to see Bishop Castle, which is a stone structure this, umm..."eccentric" guy started building in the middle of nowhere in the 60's. Totally crazy castle with dangerous spires and dragons and everything. Climbing up the very steep, very tall winding staircases got our legs so sore that we're both still walking like cowboys today. Well, Mike's walking more like the fake cripple in There's Something About Mary.
Then we went to Westcliffe. What a sweet town! Everyone says "hi" and knows each other. We had Mexican food at a local place and enjoyed watching them all be cute and small towny. We also went tromping around the Sangre de Cristo range. Mike always thought this was the boring, unimpressive mountain range of Colorado, but we saw how stunning it really is. At one point a deer went bounding by us and his hooves pounding on the ground boomed and echoed.
We camped at DeWeese Wildlife Area--quite a find. Free camping and actually open year round. There was no one there, so we camped right on a rocky outcrop on the lake. We built a fire, roasted dogs and marshmallows, and even saved a family whose car had died.
Being on a lake and a wildlife area, it wasn't exactly a quiet place to sleep. We heard and saw muskrats and deer and coyote and every bird this side of Kansas. Not much sleeping occurred, but it was worth it for the gorgeous sunrise and sunset.
Next day we drove down to Walsenberg. Oh my gosh, that drive is so idyllic. Buffalo grazing on green pastures by a stream surrounded by cottonwoods with the Sangres soaring in the background. Do I sound like a sycophant? I am. It was gorgeous. You would never know from I-25.
Then we drove down to La Veta--another totally cute town where we ate pizza and cookies. From here we saw the dikes around the Spanish Peaks formed by volcanic upthrusts and drove to the top of Mosca Pass. Crazy place: Huge mountains and wilderness on one side and on the other vast plains and canyons as far as you can see--well into New Mexico.
To top the whole trip off, we stopped in Pueblo on the way back and walked on the Arkansas River Walk. It's actually really nice! It's quite long and pleasant. I'll never sneer at Pueblo again.
Friday, April 11, 2008
Ricot gave me the recipe, and it was quite vague (add some sugar, add some cinnamon...). There were hardly any ingredients--just flour and bananas and sugar--which could be because of the high cost of eggs and milk in Haiti.
I'm not sure what they were supposed to be like, but as Mike put it, "It looks like we've been collecting buffalo dung." I ate about 6 before I decided they're pretty gross. (I kept hoping.)
If I go to Haiti in June, perhaps I'll have to have some real Haitian doughnuts.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
For example, you can see the video for Hope Lives on the book's selling page, then click on the red video tab. www.group.com/hopelives
So I'm holding a contest for video ideas. Please submit your ideas in the form of a comment to this post. The best idea will win an incredible prize.
And because only 2 people read this blog, your chances of winning are way good.
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
At first I had been reluctant in our relationship, not sure if he was trustworthy. But then I listened to the music. I saw the faces of the people. I started day-dreaming. I got attached. I became vulnerable, and now he's left me.
What will I do now? Consider my sad fate:
- Those tall-tale teller marketers wrote in my bio on the back of Hope Lives that I've traveled extensively in the developing world. Haiti was going to make an honest woman out of me.
- I was counting on what I'm calling "The Third World Diet." Every six months or so, I visit a 3rd-world country to lose an extra 5 pounds through either fasting or diarrhea, whichever comes first. I was going to write a book. It was going to be big.
- I'd already made cute little homemade granola packages for Ephraim and Ricot, my Haitian friends, wrapped with brown bows. Instead of the 3rd-world diet, I'll be on a granola bender.
- My consciousness depends on my brain calendar. I set my mind on various dates of import, and thus divide and conquer my world. Haiti was my dividing line. Now my brain is amuck in a world of chaos and uncertainty.
- Where will I use new and useful phrases I learned such as "Tout ko mwen cho," or "my whole body is hot"?
If you think I'm being flippant about a very serious and sad situation, don't worry. I just wrote a serious and sad blog for Compassion's blog. I just had to take a moment to mourn my lost relationship.
If you will, pray with me for these things:
- The safety of my friends in the Haiti Compassion office.
- The safety of Natalie and DJ, Australians I work with who were visiting Haiti and are now trying to get out.
- Effective action of the Haitian government to address the rising food costs and famine.
- Safety of and provision for all those innocently suffering.
Monday, April 7, 2008
On the radio, uh-oh! On the radio, uh-oh!
So today I had my first radio interview for my book Party Divas with a station in Columbus, Ohio. I can't really figure out why they wanted to interview me. It's a secular classic-rock station that plays groups like the Eagles and the Rolling Stones--that's so me. I picture the audience as 53-year-old pot bellied men working on their cars in their greasy drive-ways (no stereotyping here...). Can't you just picture them taking a break from the mechanics to drink a cool glass of lemonade in a lawn chair and peruse the decor tips in Party Divas?
Although my publicity firm forgot to send the radio station the press materials, the interview actually was quite fun. Leave it to a DJ to be fun and ad-libby. I let my inner-diva speak forth and had a good time with it.
Tomorrow, I have another interview with a Christian station in Wisconsin and potentially another with a station in Fresno next week. I'll be an interview diva soon!
Saturday, April 5, 2008
She used to work at Laura Ashley, long ago.
That doesn't seem quite right. The lace pillow cases and organza, yes. (I'm not quite sure what organza is, but I think it has something to do with her.) The clanging cash register and sweaty upturned palms of customers, no.
I know this:
She lives in a 1950's home tucked into a fold of Colorado's Rist Cayon.
She has an antique wooden wardrobe she bought in Scotland before antiques were chic.
She collects ink wells and sea glass. I love this about her.
She hates that Colorado's ranchland is disappearing. It just makes her sick.
She is an editor. Senior editor, my dear. She would be an editor. She has that necessary love of precision, deep reason, and spot of spitfire.
She hates it when people say "crispy" when "crisp" would do just fine.
She's married to a cowboy poet. Business men pay him to be the local color at their man-bonding retreats on ranches in places like Cimarron Canyon, New Mexico.
He looks like he just climbed out of a painting of a ranch hand hunched by the fire, blowing cool his tin cup of coffee.
He yodels on their answering machine.
He tells jokes about big-bottomed women, and says words like "dadgum" and "dagnabit."
On the backdrop of Candace's home in a fold of the Rist Canyon, sits Candace's cottage.
Candace would have a cottage. A lace white and sky blue place.
I enter it like a doll's home. My hands feel bulbous turning the little knob, my head feels like it might bump the top of this little dream house.
I want to call it a play house or a fairy house. But that's all wrong. She's too dignified for that. Then what?
A storybook. That's it. It's a storybook.
I settle back into my pillows and crack open the spine. I turn the first page and see the little 50's home with a curl of smoke from the chimney. The little garden behind the home and the stream running down the back. Her cowboy husband doing something handy on the backporch while his galoot of a German Shepherd, Jack, watches. I see her little cottage set apart from the house, and can just see from the window her feet propped up on the end of her white couch as she reads in the airy sunshine.
Not a lot happens in this storybook. It's one of those books you take out when you want to go someplace kind and quirky and homey. One time, the cowboy husband got a call that Garth Brooks wanted to record his song. Another time, she had a little garden party by the stream at which she served cantaloupe sorbet. The characters are warm and funny and interesting and and gracious, and you read contentedly, waiting to find out what they do in the next chapter.
Friday, April 4, 2008
Thursday, April 3, 2008
My dad collects coins. My sister collects marbles. My mom collects rocks. All her rocks are in a display case in the living room, and we teeter over the case while my mom recollects the wheres and whats of each gem. "You know, my father found that rock while he was still living in Florida..." My sister will pull out her marbles and we'll roll the smooth orbs in our hands oohing over their sparkly bits.
I'm a collector of words. I love their edges. The round bits and the sharp bits. The way they roll in the mouth. I have a word collection that I'll pull out occasionally, in private, my eyes carressing their curve on the page.
But I've decided to pull out my collection today and show you parts of it, my favorite parts, just for you.
"You know about God, I suppose?" "Well," the savage hesitated. He would have liked to say something about solitude, about night, about the mesa lying pale under the moon, about the precipice, the plunge into shadowy darkness, about death. He would have liked to speak; but there were no words. Not even in Shakespeare. ~Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.
~Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche
It is in the first exuberance of infancy that we cry for the moon. ~Heretics, G.K. Chesterton
Durch mein Leben zittert ohne Klage, ohne Seufzer ein tief dunkles Weh. Meiner Traume reiner Bluthenschnee ist die Weihe meiner stillsten Tage. ~Sonnet, Franz Kappus
We are never living, but hoping to live. ~Pascal
Sometimes I wake, and lo, I have forgot. ~George MacDonald
The word plum is delicious
pout and push, luxury of
self-love, and savoring murmur
~The Word Plum, Helen Chasin
I grow old....I grow old...I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.
Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upoon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me.
~Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, T.S. Eliot
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
- I edited a story from Uganda about two young children who lost their parents to AIDS.
- I helped EunYoung in Korea find content for a DVD she's producing.
- I IM-ed with Nestor in El Salvador and Orfa in Nicaragua about the weather.
- I gave Paul Henri in Burkina Faso advice on how to infuse his writing with his own cultural style.
- I took pictures for an article for Compassion Australia's magazine. (OK, so that's not typical, but I did it today anyway.)
- I went to a meeting to talk "strategy." (That is typical, sadly.)
- I drank some El Salvadoran coffee.
- I asked a contact in Thailand to please not submit any more photos of nursing mothers.
- I helped Aaron in Canada determine guidelines for an art contest we're organizing with the sponsored children in the Dominican Republic.
- I advised Cecilia in Ecuador on how best to report on the flooding in Ecuador.
All in a day's work. I did much more than that today, but I'm just too tired to think about it, and you'd just get very bored if I told you.
Now next time someone asks you what a Field Assignments Program Manager does, you'll know!