Saturday, August 6, 2016

Wild Avocados

X and I were at Ben Parker Elementary, where we go every Saturday for the farmer's market. He likes to play on these climbing structures behind the school. Last Saturday, we noticed some guys climbing in the trees and shaking the limbs. X asked me what they were doing, and I told him the truth: I had no idea. We didn't figure it out until the guys brought me an avocado. X had been playing on that avocado tree for years, and I didn't know what it grew! The avocado, by the way, was delicious.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Travelers and denizens

This article came out in the New York Times on Wednesday. It’s about Wilkes County, which is close to where Bobby is from. I think it’s very apt—at least, it reflects my own observations, made over many years. When I talked to Bobby about the article, he was very insistent that Wilkes County is DIFFERENT from Yadkin County, though they look the same to me.


That reminded me of Korea. Koreans will insist that Daegu is different from Gyeongju, but to us outsiders, they look very similar. The people have similar traditions. The food is similar. The appearance of the towns is very similar, in the same way that Korea is very similar to Japan if you’re from the western world (though this is heresy when spoken to natives).
It got me thinking about community and about how I am a perpetual outsider, always observing other cultures but never truly entrenched in them. I see the similarities on a macro level, but I don’t get close enough to see the differences. Perhaps that’s how I was made: a born traveler. Bobby grew up with a very strong sense of community and a defined culture. He has now had his time observing from afar, but I don’t think he’s truly at home as an outsider.
I don’t think the distinction between “traveler” and “denizen” is one of location. Members of the military move around a lot, often around the world, but they’ve still managed to develop a tight community. Outsiders may think the Army and Marine Corps are similar, but to members, they are very, very different.
In my case, I don’t think I’ve ever been a part of a community, not really.  I lived in North Carolina for the first 27 years of my life, but I sloughed off a lot of my southern-ness years ago. I was raised by Yankees anyways. The only history I have in North Carolina is mine, and it wasn’t hard for me to say goodbye. My friends and family, fellow travelers or denizens in search of a home, were gone already.
I’m not sad about this. I’m not saying this humble-braggingly (really), but I don’t think I’m hard wired to belong. I think the world needs travelers and denizens, and I just happen to be a traveler.



Sunday, May 8, 2016

My least favorite reference question

Anyone who has worked a service desk in a public library that has a children's section has heard this question at some point: "my child reads at an eleventy millionth grade level, but she is eight! (pause for enthusiasm that I can no longer muster). What should she read?"

I never, ever get to answer this question in the way that I want to. Thank heavens I have a blog! So here goes:

The benefits children get from reading are myriad. Generally, when someone says, "___th grade level," they are referring to a child's speed and ability to read big words. These are some benefits, yes, but a small piece of the pie. Reading opens your imagination. It helps you learn about human nature, and how to walk a mile in someone else's shoes. It allows you to learn about different cultures, different places, and different moments in time.

While I understand every parent's need to maximize their child's learning, let's all step back and relax for a moment. Just because little Jenny can read big words doesn't mean she's ready for All Quiet on the Western Front. Eight year olds generally don't care if Elizabeth Bennet gets Mr. Darcy. Why murder a child's love of good books because the ones in the juvenile section are, apparently, not advanced enough for them?

Authors and publishers are very aware that kids who love to read are precocious. There are books that may say they are on a fifth grade level, but contain content that will make a well-read adult think. There are children's books that push 1,000 pages and have multiple plot lines. There is plenty in the elementary-middle reading section that will entice and delight your little reader.

So...what should your budding book lover read? Whatever she wants to. Back up, please, and let me talk to her for a minute.



Saturday, April 16, 2016

Home

I spent the last week in Denver. It was a trip that happened suddenly--my final approval for it came through less than a week before I left--and was very appreciated. It was great to get out and enjoy myself and do unusual things like eat dinner at a restaurant and watch whatever I wanted to on TV. It was wonderful to see my best friend, sisters, parents, and adorable nephew. It was great to come home.

Colorado's vast stretches of open space may be home to some, but they don't compare to the salt air and palm trees of mine. I haven't missed a place like I missed Hawaii while I was gone, not since I lived in Wales and longed for North Carolina. 

Denver went a little overboard with the pot innuendos

The view from my hotel room.

One of my favorite people.

Dude killing a buffalo, I guess.

The art museum


Sisters + baby Tommy

Dubuissons!

Can you see the bird? From a running path in the middle of Denver.

Home!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

X Stories

It's been awhile. I haven't had the burning desire to write anything as of late. While I was thinking about my blogging haitus the other day, I realized that there are a few X stories I would like to write down.

The day after President's Day, X's day care didn't open until 9:30am. Unfortunately, toddler story time started at 9. I was very nervous about bringing X to my story time. The last time, he had a very hard time with other kids paying attention to his mommy. He ended up sitting in the back with his dad, getting lectured about being nice. And this time, I didn't have dad.

So we rehearsed the entire program. I made sure X new every song and story, and we practiced having him in front next to me, leading the group. When the day arrived, however, X quickly abandoned me and sat with the other kids. Despite my unease, I let him stay. And lo and behold, he performed his duties as librarian's kid professionally. He made sure the other kids knew how to follow along. He got everyone toddler chairs to sit in. He made everyone hold hands for the closing song, which was a total improvisation on his part. After we were done, he got everyone puzzles to play with and showed them what to do. It was definitely a proud mom moment.

X is much more socially bold than I am. He will plow headfirst into a group of kids and play with them, despite the lack of an invitation. Normally, the kids end up letting him stay. Watching him do this makes me very uneasy, but he doesn't seem to have any shyness about this at all. In his mind, he selects his playmates, then joins them.

Last week was the Honolulu Festival. We decided to go to Ala Moana park to watch the fireworks. There were lots of kids there, mostly Japanese. X identified a group of non-English speakers, honed in on them, and followed them around until he got to play. I guess when you're doing little kid things like chasing each other and collecting sticks, language isn't a factor. No one seemed to mind. Bobby and I got a little nervous when he started hovering around this Japanese family's snack table, but he behaved himself.

Today we went to a city sponsored Easter egg hunt. X's current obsession is blue. We spoke to him about many things before the hunt: not pushing, not taking other kids eggs, and not hitting. We did not speak to him about picking eggs of different colors. X almost lost out on his 10 allowed eggs because he would only pick up the blue ones. Almost.

Picking pineapples at the Children's Discovery Center

Optimus Prime at the playground

Sporting his blue bunny ears

Lining up for an easter egg hunt

Collecting eggs

Saturday, February 6, 2016

The USS Missouri

Visiting this battleship is prohibitively expensive, so we have been waiting for a free day to go. Lo and behold, this past weekend was the Missouri's birthday and "living history day," and kama'aina and military get in for free.

We picked the right time. There was live music, people in costume, and free tours! Not that we were able to go on one. No way is X going to hang around while we listen to a docent. Nonetheless, I was able to catch snatches of a few of them.

My favorite part was seeing the library and the cramped living quarters. Bobby liked the gun turrets. X liked the model planes and running under the guns yelling, "BOOM!" When I asked him about his trip to the battleship, he told me that he "didn't touch the airplanes," referring to the model planes that were laid out in the officers' mess. This was obviously difficult for him. He did not like being belowdecks too much. I guess he's too claustrophobic for sea life.

The best thing about the Missouri was how "hands on" it was. X got to turn wheels, pull levers, put on costumes, and climb into bunks. It kept him very interested.



Nice view

On the bridge.

Wearing a fire hat.

"Tatatatatat"

The library.

Enlisted bunks.

Turning some lever in the signal room.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Incident

On January 15th, something we are gingerly referring to as "the incident" happened. Two helicopters collided over the waters off of Haleiwa. Twelve Marines were lost. They were all stationed at Marine Corps Base Hawaii. Their friends and families are a part of our small community. We are still reeling from the shock.

Those facts can't express the heartache of the past two weeks. The first week of anxious searching. The memorial. The flags being lowered to half mast for five days, then raised again. We move on. We don't move on. Every mention of HMH-463 (Pegasus) brings an inward gasp, a reminder of what has happened.

I helped man the Emergency Family Assistance Center, where we waited for friends and families to appear or call seeking counseling. No one did on my watch, though the early shift got some frantic calls from parents on the mainland. What we got was an outpouring of offers of help from the community.

No one knows the rules for how to handle this kind of sudden tragedy. Twelve Marines, between the ages of 21 and 41, there one morning and gone the next. They left behind wives, children, girlfriends, parents, and close friends. The memorial was exquisite, with beautiful rituals--roll call, taps, draping crosses with the gear of the lost Marines--and heartfelt personal narratives by friends and commanders.

This is the kind of cataclysm those of us, like me, who are peripherally involved turn our faces away from. It's just too hard to imagine one of those Marines being my son or husband. Many, like me, offer to help because we need to do something. Many, like me, snipe at each other because we are aggravated and sad, and its easier to do that than think about it. You could see the broad scope of emotion brought on by devastation play out in Facebook comments all weekend.

I did not work on base during the heavy years of the Iraq insurgency. These "incidents" are new to me, though I suspect that they don't get easier. I guess all I can say now is that it happened, and I will always remember it.