Saturday, July 31, 2004

Visiting with "Passion"

Yesterday I had the joy of spending from about 11AM until about 6PM hanging out at my friend Khulood's house. I hadn't seen her since sometime in March, so it was _really_ good to see her again. I'd met two of her sisters before, so it was fun seeing them again as well, and this time I also got to meet a cousin, a niece, her brother, and her mother. Khulood is one of the local staff for another NGO, so she and I met way back when I first got here because we went to several of the same meetings.

Now, if you know me at all, you know that in contrived social situations I'm less than confident. I'm not any good at small talk, I get really nervous, and I tend to do all of the things that make people think that I'm not at all interested in them or what they're saying...when it's really just that I'm racking my brain trying to come up with something else to say. As a result, I've been on the reticent side when it's come to visiting friends and neighbors, and was nervous about this visit as well.

Many people might think that seven hours is a long time to spend at someone's house...and if I'd known in advance that it was going to last that long, I would have been terrified...but I didn't, so I wasn't...and it turned out _really_ great!! Honestly, I couldn't believe how quickly the time just flew by! It was so easy to talk to Khulood and her family! Al hamdoo lillah!

First we just sat on the couch talking and she showed me some pictures from when she was in college...then her sister came in to hook up their VCD player so that we could watch "The Passion." They hadn't seen it yet themselves, but they decided to watch it since I was there. We continued to chat as the movie played. Occasionally we'd start really watching it and either she'd have a question, or I'd feel it necessary to explain what was happening by telling some backstory. That continued through the first disk, as her sisters, cousin, mother, and niece kept coming in and out, watching sometimes, talking sometimes, bringing in more Pepsi for me to drink (!!) or tasty things for me to eat.

After the first disk ended, we turned on her new computer for a while (we were on generator power at the time, so there's wasn't enough power for both to be on at once). We sent an email to our mutual friend LTC Koonce, I showed her some pictures that I have online, she checked up on the latest chat about Iraq on BBC Arabic, and then she chatted with some Egyptian guy for a little while. She definitely knows how to handle the boys. ;p

Then it was lunch time. One of LTC Koonce's favorite things to tease Khulood about is that she'll never catch a husband until she learns how to cook. Well, she took no part in preparing this meal either, but her sisters and mother provided an excellent selection of "salads" (hummos, babaganoush, tabouleh, and potato salad), in addition to homemade tourshee (non-dill pickles), masgouf with a special sauce (masgouf was originally described to me as "the fish that stands up" - meaning that it's cooked on its edge next to an open fire. This masgouf was probably cooked in their oven and had a tomato-based sauce over it which is not usually found with the common masgouf), dolma (grape leaves, onions, green peppers, and eggplant cooked and wrapped around a stuffing, usually rice, lamb, and some spices), and a selection of kouftah (meat, currents, greens, and other stuff in a thick breading and deep fried). All in all, it was a _very_ satisfying meal....and was followed, of course, by tea (in a "stikan" which is a special kind of tea glass - my mom has some now, so ask her to show them to you) and sweets - chocolate cakes in this case. _That_ was then followed by fruit - watermelon and grapes.

After that, we watched the second half of the movie. Her sisters and cousin spent more time watching this half with us and we spent more time actually _watching_ it rather than chatting.

I have to admit that I was a little leery of the movie before it came out...and even when I watched it on the really poor-quality VCD that we got here, I was less than smitten with it. It seemed to me that it was almost comic book-like in how it portrayed the beatings - especially in the way that the Roman guards flogged Him. Why would they take such pleasure in it, and what Roman officer would allow his men to be drunk on duty and so early in the day? It seems to me that He would just have been another prisoner for them to flog. But be that as it may...what I saw as having gone overboard in its horrificness kept these ladies spell-bound. There was, of course, the discussion surrounding whether or not Jesus actually _died_ (even the Qur'an says that he died, but commentators have explained that away in recent years to the point that very few of the rank and file realize the actual words used in the Qur'an)...but instead of seeing opportunity for Judas to be put in Jesus' place, or something else to happen allowing Jesus to be spared, instead they saw Him die a bloody, painful death. And I got to explain why. :)

After that, we decided to take pictures...which meant a freshening up of everyone else's make up...and the application of mine. I'll try to remember to put one of the pictures up so you can see "normal" make up for an Iraqi girl. I think that in all of my years since I first wore make up, cumulatively, I've not worn as much mascara as I wore yesterday. And even after many washings, I'm still noticeably wearing eye-liner. Then we took LOTS of pictures. Then we danced for a while and took some pictures (and video) of that. I taught them the "Twist" and they showed me how to dance like an Iraqi. I've tried this before and been laughed at...but I think that I'm slowly getting the hang of it. I still _feel_ like a goober, but I think I'm getting the general form much more close to what it's supposed to be.

Oh wait. You didn't hear me talking about dancing. SBs don't do that.


Then my driver called and said that he needed to come get me. The advantage of the make up was that, especially when I put my hejab (head scarf) back on, I looked completely Iraqi. In fact, on the way home, my driver and the guard he brought along with him decided that I was Kurdish since that would explain my light skin and my trouble with speaking Arabic. :)

I came home tired, but having had an excellent visit, which I'm sure will be repeated soon, possibly involving a sleep-over. :) Hope that our English school will be able to help Khulood in her search for scholarships to get her to the US. LTC Koonce spent many hours on the phone with her when he was here, talking her through the US Constitution. Now that he and I have both given her Books (his in English, mine in Arabic), they're going to start studying together, with me as the local support for questions. :) We're tag-teaming, so be thinking about her and her whole family!

It was also very nice for me to see that I've really made a life-long friend here. The other girls have several friends in the neighborhood and elsewhere that they go shopping with and such, but I hadn't had that, since most of my friends were in "my" part of town, and the other acquaintances I've made were military, CPA, or within the Iraqi ministries. It was good to know that I've made lasting friendships with local people too - and that we're comfortable enough to spend seven hours together without embarrassing silences!! :)

All in all, it was a really good day!

Monday, July 26, 2004

Upcoming Posts

I've been meaning to write my critique about and things that I learned from the two devotionals I just finished going through "A Faith That Breathes," and "The Purpose-Driven Life."  I haven't written those up yet, but I will soon.  Just warning you.  :)


After over a month of being away, my cat, Monkey, just now wandered up the driveway to my parents' house!!!!  My mom says that she's thinner, but seems to be healthy!  I'd given up on her.

While we're talking kitties, Donna (a co-worker) found two baby kittens abandoned on the sidewalk today.  They don't even have their eyes completely open yet (so they're at most 2 weeks old).  Hope that they do well on the (human baby) formula that I bought for them and that they can grow up to be big, beautiful kitties.  I've raised kittens on my own before, but I had kitten-sized bottles and fake cat milk to give them.  So keep these babies in your thoughts as well!

It's really been a great day for me today...I finally got a fan for my desk.  Everyone else in the office has an AC unit in the room, but my desk is under the steps, so no AC and no breeze.  It's been mighty toasty.  But my wonderful roomie Jaime wrangled money from the company, kidnapped me, and "forced" me to buy a fan...which is now blowing very nicely across my desk.

Plus, while visiting Oom Dhoha again this afternoon, we spoke with her daughter (Dhoha) who has started an Iraqi NGO specifically for helping poor women start their own businesses - a project that one of our girls is working on as well.  And not only that, but Dhoha is working in Fedaliyah - one of "my" parts of town!!  And I can work with her, possibly!!

Also, for those of you who know about my "fork," things may be looking up a little, maybe.  I still have to talk to the powers that be, but all signs are positive at this time.  :)  Maybe obedience works after all.  ;p


On Friday, Jaime and I went to visit Oom Dhoha.  I've mentioned her before, I think in an email.  Her husband of many years died during the night on Tuesday night after a long struggle with Alzheimers, or something like it.  In Islam, the body is supposed to be buried within 24 hours of death, so Abu Dhoha was buried in typical Sunni style on Wednesday.  The custom here is that men and women grieve seperately.  On the first and/or second days after the death, you're supposed to stop by for 30-45 minutes.  If you wait until the 3rd day, then you're expected to stay until after lunch.  Jaime and I weren't able to go on either the first or second day, so we went on the third day, hoping to go at a time when it wouldn't be expected that we stay for lunch, but Oom Dhoha insisted that we stay.  On the third day in the morning, a man "reads" from the Qur'an - the Muslim holy book.  The "reading" was broadcast to the women's room over a loudspeaker.  (And I'm putting quotes around "read" because he sings it, but not to a specific melody.)  At certain times, apparently he says something that means that they should pray for a minute, so the whole room gets quiet.  At other times, apparently he says that they should cry because sometimes several women in the room just randomly broke down in sobs - at the same time.  But in between the prayers and the sobs, it's pretty much just like any funeral that you or I would be used to.  The people sit there, looking glum, and talking pretty much about everything under the sun except for the person who died (after the necessary condolences).  One set of ladies was admiring the ring of a lady nearby.  Oom Dhoha was asking me about how the English school was going, and how my trip had been.  There were the standard "that person is related to this person through a third-cousin on her mother's side."  And after lunch, he started up with his "reading" again, except it wasn't just Qur'anic, there were other things mixed in too.

But mostly what struck me was the emptiness of it.  When someone is a believer, you have the hope of heaven awaiting...but I could offer no platitudes that he's now in a better place to someone I believe has died without knowing Him.  I could find comfort for Oom Dhoha in that her daughters were all there to comfort her, and in that now she's freed from the overwhelming burden of caring for her husband, but no comfort for her or her daughters about his new home.

The only hope is that, through this loss, Oom Dhoha, her four daughters, their husbands, and their children will come to know Him.


Today there was a great Netscape/CNN/AP article about one of the spacecraft I was working on immediately prior to coming over here.  It's called MESSENGER which stands for something that I'd have to look up.  It's MErcury Surface Something EN GEo-something and Ranging.  :)  You can find out more about it on the MESSENGER web-site.  Anyway, it'll be launching, in sha'allah, on August 2nd at 2:16AM EDT.  I plan on watching it online since that'll be just after 10AM here, but I also hear that it'll be on NASA Select for those of you with access to that channel.  (Btw, MESSENGER stands for MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry and Ranging - I was close.)  If you want to know even more about it, there will also be live web-based Q&A sessions with "McRalph" (one of the project scientists (and hosted by my friend Cheryle)), and "Jimmy" (one of the mission systems engineers) on the 29th and 30th, respectively.  There are other people involved too, but those are the ones that I know.  On the NASA site, there's also a link for you to build your own MESSENGER.  Mine's printing as I type!  It's cool stuff!  Check it out!

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Perceived Risk

I just saw the news about the car bomb at Opryland Hotel in Nashville...maybe 20 minutes (with traffic) from my parents' house.  I'm not really sure what to say about this itself.

I was trying to explain the ideas of perceived and accepted risk to my dad the other day and I think I did a pretty lousy job.  Perceived risk is, of course, the risk that you recognize around you.  Accepted risks are those risks that you agree to take every day.  Also, because you _accept_ the risks that you face daily (driving the Beltway, for example), you _perceive_ that your risks are quite low.

What most people don't understand is that perceived risk does not always equal the actual probability involved in a risk, and almost more importantly, the risk of _immediate_ and _catastrophic_ failure (those risks leading to an immediate loss of life in a spectacular fashion) is much less acceptable than the risk of losing an equal number of lives, but over the course of many years.

One of my college professors expressed it this way (and I apologize for not having exact numbers on me at the moment):  The coal industry in the US has killed probably hundreds of thousands of people over the years, through mining accidents and illnesses (both from mining coal itself, and from the emmissions caused by coal-burning devices).  The nuclear power industry in the US (Chernobyl is not in the US) has killed a negligible number of people since its inception.  HOWEVER, since the possibility (however remote) remains that nuclear plants could kill hundreds of thousands of people AT ONE TIME, people protest their use.  People even protest the use of nuclear power in spacecraft since there is a very negligible risk that the launch vehicle will explode before the spacecraft reaches orbit and might therefore affect the lives of a few fish in the middle of the Atlantic if like five hundred safety devices all fail at once.

The probability of dying as a result of a coal-mining incident are probably orders of magnitude higher than the probability of dying as a result of a nuclear power plant incident...but who stands outside of mines and protests the loss of life due to coal mining?  (Well, when you're talking about humans....spotted owls are a different matter altogether.)  And the reason is that coal mining losses aren't spectacular losses.  There's no really big explosion or mushroom cloud and it's only a few people dead at once, usually in a hospital many years after retirement, instead of the many who might die in the case of a nuclear power plant meltdown.

The perceived risk with the nuclear power plant is very high, while it is perceived to be very low with the coal mining incident, even though the risks are at least equal (and more likely higher for the coal miners than for the power plant workers).

I guess I'm saying this to say that you _perceive_ yourself to be "safe" in America (and elsewhere) because not often do spectacular things happen.  Hundreds of people die in car accidents a day...but you still feel safer in a car than you do on a plane, even though with planes it's maybe hundreds of people a year.  But _perceived_ risk is not the same as _actual_ risk.

And the bottom line is that "risk" is irrelevant (sorry Clay and other PRA folks).  God holds every life in His hands.  Whether you die in your sleep at an old age or in a bombing in Baghdad, it's due to His timing and is for His purposes.

You're not "safe" anywhere you are.  But if you're trusting in Him and His plan, then it doesn't matter.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

HTML is my friend

I'm not sure why the sidebar is doing funky things today.  I haven't changed anything, it just decided that it no longer wanted to play nice with the rest of the page.  I think I've fixed whatever was making it run off the left side of your screen...maybe....

But please let me know if it's doing something funky on your computer because I can't fix what I don't know about!

Al Hamdoo Lillah!!

Well, after many, many months of waiting, we finally had the money to repay our contractor for all the work he's done on the schools. We just got back from going to his hotel and giving him the last of what we owe him. It's been months since he finished the work and he's had to take out a personal loan in the meantime because we couldn't pay our debts, but we've finally squared everything with him. Al Hamdoo Lillah! I wasn't happy with the decision to hire him at the first because I was hoping that we could have volunteers do all or most of the work, but I am _sooo_ glad now that we hired this particular believer who walks the walk and was so patient with and gracious to us, even when we treated him poorly. He has become my "Arab father" and I'm thankful for him.

In other news, as I was riding through town this morning, I noticed something which made me laugh. I'd seen SUVs and such around town before with "My child is an honor student at...." stickers on them, I'd even seen one or two with US license plates....but this morning made me laugh out loud in the car, then have to explain to the driver. I saw a relatively late-model blue Oldsmobile Silhouette Mini Van with the following dealership label on it: Ed Groves, Clarksville, TN. So if any of my TN readers know Ed, and if he knows of any of his Silhouettes that have been stolen recently, you can tell him that I saw one here. :)

Actually...there's a website called that's letting me write to him directly. Here's the letter I'm sending him. I'll let you know if I get a reply.

I currently live in Baghdad while working with a humanitarian organization and was surprised today to see a relatively late model blue Oldsmobile Silhouette with your dealership's label on it. I'm not sure that there's any way to return it to its original owner, but if you know who they are, they might be interested to know that their loss is Iraq's gain. If nothing else, it makes for a great story for your dealership. :) You advertise internationally now! :)

Friday, July 16, 2004


From the responses that I've gotten so far, mostly from people who know me pretty well, I've come to the conclusion that I didn't make my point as well as I thought I did.
You see, all of those insecurities that I confessed to all of you...well, I can't say with complete certainty that I'll never feel them again, but...I'm doing my best to put them in my past and live from now on without them.
I don't have to play or sing or whatever like those other people because He made me to play and sing exactly the way that He wants _me_ to.  I wasn't putting myself down, nor do I feel especially badly about myself at the moment.  I'm actually feeling rather triumphant that I've finally been able to confess at least this one weakness of mine.
So hopefully that clarifies things at least a little.
It appears that they've made it easier to add pictures, so I'm gonna try to add a few right now.  Enjoy!!

Wednesday, July 14, 2004


Before I actually say what I intend to say here, I just want to mention that I really think my "Ode to a Krispy Kreme" is hilarious. I just re-read it and laughed again. It's certainly not Wordsworth or Robbie Burns, but it sure is funny (if I _do_ say so myself!)! It's below this posting. You'll probably need it by the time you get through this one. I'd apologize for this one's length, except that I think it's all necessary exposition for the "moral" of the story to make sense.


Pretty much ever since I can remember, my dad's had our family sing in churches and for revivals and such. One of his dreams in life is to get one of those big tour buses with "The Turner Family Singers" painted prettily on the side in which we'll drive from revival to revival across the country, singing together. Heh...all of the guys he's tried to set me up with have had one thing in common - they filled an empty spot in the "Turner Family Band." :) And ever since I can remember, I've pretty much hated doing it. For a painfully shy little girl to get up in front of crowds of people and sing songs not of her choosing...well...was a painful experience. At one point in high school or college, I refused, stating that I would no longer be a performing animal. Don't get me wrong - I love singing, always have. I love playing the flute, I love playing the piano (it was at my request that I began learning both instruments, and while I never practiced, I also never wanted to quit). But I've never liked singing or playing in front of people except in a large group like a choir or a school band.

Even when I began to sing solos in church again of my own accord at the end of college, I had (and still have) serious stage fright issues. I always wear long skirts when I sing - not because I'm up on a platform and don't want people to see things they shouldn't (well, that too, but that wasn't my _primary_ reason) - because my knees shake considerably. Apparently it's never been visible, but let me tell you that there's nothing worse for your state of mind than knowing that you're so nervous you no longer have control of your knee caps. It also makes it difficult to walk off the stage when you're done. :) My nervousness has also come out in mistakes that I've made. There was one awful Sunday night that I was called in as substitute pianist. On Sunday nights, our church's tradition was that the pianist would play the offertory instead of the organist, just to give the organist a break. She offered to play something, but I was determined that I could play a piece that I'd played pretty well on a different occasion. Well, as many at my home church will remember, it was rather awful. I finished the song, but that's about all I can say for myself.

All growing up when we'd sing, we'd have to talk to people afterwards (perhaps that's really what I feared most). I can only remember one specific time that this happened, but really, once is enough with some things. Many of you know my older brother, Jesse, and know how great a voice he has. He's sung with several opera companies, he majored in Music Ed with a vocal emphasis in college, he's the director of the Music City Barbershop Chorus in Nashville, his collegiate quartet won their district one year and came in 7th in the international competition - there're just no two ways about it, he's got a great voice. And Daddy's got the desire. You can't stop my dad from singing or from performing for people. He's a showman at heart and loves to get a crowd into whatever he's doing. I was told many, many times throughout my childhood and since what a "sweet" voice I have. To me, that's a euphemism for small, childish, and breathy, and although the people who've told me things like "you have the voice of an angel" (which is another euphemism for the same things, in my book) meant well, I only ever heard "small, childish, and breathy." My technique, my enunciation, and my pitch are usually close to flawless, but all I hear is that my voice is small, childish, and breathy. Jesse had the great voice. The experience I was referring to earlier was the time when this little, old lady came up to me after we'd sung at some church and all she said to me was "Your brother has such a wonderful voice!" There was nothing for me to do but agree, because it's true...but man, did that sting. I felt like shaking her and yelling. "I SANG TOO!!!! Go tell HIM that he has a great voice!"

Anyway, I let myself get caught up in engineering things and my then-boyfriend during college and got away from musical things for the most part. But when things started going south with my boyfriend and with other school things, I realized how much I missed and needed it. So he and I joined the choir at my church, and occasionally I'd run up to the music building for a piano fix. That helped some, but life didn't really get any better. After dating for 3 years, the guy that I'd expected to marry and I broke up. At the same time, I hadn't graduated like I was supposed to, but I didn't have anymore classes to take, so I wasn't a "student" and couldn't keep my job at a campus research lab (where I'd met my boyfriend and where basically all of our friends worked), and I wasn't graduated, so I couldn't start grad school like I'd planned...and life was pretty much a mess. Friends gave me babysitting opportunities to make ends meet, and helped me find a job, but that was one of the worst times in my life.

The following January, I made my return to the church solo rotation singing "Life is Hard (But God is Good)" by Pam Thum. The chorus says:

Life is hard, the world is cold.
You're barely young, and then, you're old.
But every falling tear is always understood.
Life is hard....but God is Good.

Apparently the song made people cry. And after church that Sunday a guy named Jim came up to me and mentioned that he had friends who'd help me find places to sing if I ever wanted to sing professionally. I literally laughed in his face, then explained my laughter by saying that my dad and brother were the singers in the family...I was just a third voice in the trio. He was surprised at my reaction, but let me go at that. I kept singing for church and slowly gained confidence...started learning guitar...and even gathered a few non-family folk who liked hearing me sing so much that they'd get the tapes from the services. I thought they were crazy, but Ed and Gary liked my voice so much that I couldn't really keep hiding behind the thought that people were just being nice.

In the meantime, I'd begun singing with the adult and youth praise teams in addition to my regular spot in the choir. While I was uncomfortable with "leading" the services (something which I've overcome and which will be the subject of a later posting), I didn't mind being one of the singers and really enjoyed being able to do different harmonies. There were still moments of nervousness, but for the most part, since I was part of a group, I was ok. Then Stephan left and I got "promoted" to keyboard player for the adult praise team. Talk about scary. Ever since I'd been in middle school, I'd had this mental block when it came to accompanying people as they sang, and especially with playing hymns. Heh...playing hymns wasn't going to be a problem in _that_ service, but I was still accompanying people. Slowly though, I came to realize that I could do it and I even wasn't half bad at it. Who knew that after 9 years of piano lessons, plus (at the time) 6 or 7 years just playing on my own since ending my lessons, that I would actually be able to _play_ the piano. ;p

Then God started working on my next mental block - playing and singing at the same time. I'd been able to play piano. I'd been able to sing. But except for a very few instances, I'd not been able to do both at once. But with the arrival of Bryan at the helm of our church's worship and music ministry, I started singing and playing keyboard for the adult praise team...and I discovered that I could do it. I even discovered that I could sing harmonies and little obbligatos and echo things (not just melody lines) while playing piano.

The next mental block on which work is still continuing is playing piano simply from chords instead of actual notes. I'm still in the process of discovering that I can do that too. And not just block chords either. That circle of 5ths that I learned in middle school and wondered what the heck it was for is finally starting to show its usefulness!

During this time, I was also getting more and more comfortable playing guitar. I'd begun playing and singing (that was never a problem with the guitar) regularly for the youth at their Wednesday night meetings. I even tortured my church with a couple of solos with me playing guitar and singing.

But it wasn't just my musical abilities that I was insecure about. My older brother was the singer, my younger brother the actor, and my younger sister the writer. I was the "smart one." Except that I've never really been sure of that. I've never been secure in my engineering abilities. The minimum that I know I've scored on an IQ test is a 133 (and I've been offered membership in Mensa), but I don't know in my heart that I'm intelligent. I'm not sure that I'm a good leader or a good example. I still don't think that I'm a good teacher, despite my several years with the 3rd and 4th graders in Sunday School where everyone loved me or my time with the youth group. I've always been afraid that I was really just a big failure and everyone was just being nice. Either that, or I'd been able to hide my failures from people effectively enough that they just didn't know, so I had to keep up a perfect facade so that no one ever found out.

Part of that sprang from being a church staff kid. It was never voiced to me that I know of, but I know that I grew up thinking that if I screwed up, my dad could get fired and we'd have to move. That's a heavy load for a kid to bear. After I was on my own, it was something of a pride issue for me to keep up the family honor by continuing in my perfectionism.

Additionally, with the failure of my college relationship and many thereafter, I've begun to suspect that not only am I certifiably insane, but I'm also apparently unlovable and/or unable to love.

This also came into play in the workplace. Repeatedly my boss would tell me that I was a valuable member of the team and had a lot to contribute - if I'd just SAY something in the meetings. I felt that I wasn't knowledgeable enough on the various subjects to voice an opinion, despite the fact that we _were_ the "experts" in the field on what we were doing.

Then I came overseas and was back to where I'd been in college - sans musical outlets. I thought I'd be ok. I'd brought my guitar along, but didn't really have anyplace in which to play. I bought a piano, but I didn't have many piano books from which to play, and for some reason, what I was really craving (other than Hanon from time to time) was to play things that I could sing along with. Then when my mom sent most of my books out, she "somehow" managed to miss almost all of the ones that had the songs I usually sang and played.

The past few months have been quite a time of pain and growing for me. Within about a week in January, I was told first that the work we were doing out at the schools wasn't worth the company's money because it wasn't reaching enough people, then we received the notification that the granting agency wanted all their money back (y'all remember that fiasco), then all the work that I'd done for the previous 8 months was publicly made fun of and called a failure in a meeting of the entire Iraq team (and no one except myself came to its defense). Those were hard blows to take. A few months later, I was told that I had no passion for the people here and that I should consider resigning. I've also been told that my typical human behavior is unforgivable.

Additionally, the musical niches I'd found for myself (on Sunday mornings with the soldiers and on Saturday evenings with our group) were taken away, partially first by people who were better musically (in my opinion anyway) than I, then completely for policy reasons with which I don't agree.

And Evan showed up again. How could this add to my insecurity you ask? Well, the next time you get married and your husband sees _your_ scars from getting lumps removed instead of a perfect body...let me know how _you_ feel.

So how do you spell "failure" after all of that? L-E-I-A (except with my real name).

The Enemy has been having fun with me all my life, telling me that I'm not good enough, I'm not pretty enough, I'm not smart enough, I don't know enough, I'm not talented enough, I've not worked hard enough, I'm too scarred, I've messed up too many times, I'm unlovable, etc. And the worst thing about it is that I've just been letting him do it. I'd hide my insecurity behind the thought that I just had a "healthy" appreciation of my personal strengths and weaknesses. That I knew my limits.

Back when I'd been asked to resign, several wise friends of mine here told me that it wasn't about what I'd done or not done or whether it was right or wrong - it was about what I was supposed to be learning through all of this. At the time, I thought it was a lesson in obedience to my calling and submission to the authority placed over me by God. I'm sure that those things were part of it...but I think that the underlying thing that He's really been trying to work out in me (for a long time now) is my insecurity. It doesn't matter what other people think of as my successes or failures. As long as I'm doing what He's called me to do, and am basing my decisions and actions on His Word and the wise counsel of mature believers, then I will never be a "failure" in His eyes - and those are the only Eyes that matter. I may never see results in this life from the work that has been done here, my life may be a complete failure in the world's eyes, but that doesn't matter because it's not y'all's opinions that count. (No offense.)

The other part of it is that I'm not taking anything away from Jesse by singing or Toby by acting or Bethie by writing. I don't have to stay within the "smart one" mold because that's not _all_ of who I am. He has gifted me uniquely, just as he has gifted them and others. My job is simply to use the talents that He's given to me, not compare those with the talents he's given to others. I may never have the "soul" that Iris has, the vibrato that Tricia has, the clarity that Becky has, or the range (vocally or stylistically) that Nona has...but I have the voice that He gave me. "He made me special and He loves me very much." :) I'm no Judy, Lauramae, Kay, Stephan, or Jody, but I can play piano. I may not be JM (or any of the dozens other amazingly smart people that I know), but I'm smart (and it's ok to be smart)...and not only that, but I can tell a joke too (that was another insecurity that I didn't mention). I can play guitar. I can cook (yes I can, Aunt Mom ;p ). My body is exactly the way He wants it, scars and all. And most importantly, I'm lovable and able to love. I'm still scared to death in that particular regard, but I'm trying to keep "in sha'allah" at the forefront of my mind, knowing that He uses our past hurts to prepare us for our futures and to make us appreciate what He's been preparing for us (and us for) all along.

So, given my new-found attempt at not letting my fears and insecurities stop me from using the gifts He's given me, I'm going to let y'all in on a secret that I've had since February. In February of 2004, I wrote my first song. Someday when I figure out how to attach a file to this site, I'll let y'all hear me sing and play it (on piano even, although I wrote it using my guitar and only later on figured out the piano accompaniment). But in the meantime, you just get the words. I'd give you the chords, but they won't do you any good without knowing the melody. But for those musicians out there, as you can probably guess from the words, it's in a minor key (Em) and is relatively slow.

So in the immortal words of Stuart from either SNL or MadTV (I don't remember which), "Look what I can do!"
I Wait

As the years go by; (as the years go by)
I wait, wait on You.
I see the grey more and more each day.
As I wait, wait on You.

I try to be faithful. I try to be true.
I try to follow Your will.

What are You teaching me? What are You showing me
As I wait, wait on You?
What are You teaching me? What are You showing me
As I wait, wait on You?

Show me the next step, help me to wait,
Help me to wait on You.

I need to wait, wait on You.
Wait on You.
Wait on You.

And yes, Jeremy. It ends with an E major chord. :)


I've been wondering what you think of my postings, and I haven't been getting many emails, so I've decided to add in the ability for you to comment directly on the blog. I reserve the right to remove the comments if I feel it to be a necessary security precaution, so please be aware of what you're making public knowledge about me and the work here. Thanks! :)

Ode to a Krispy Kreme

O gloriously brown and sweet,
You are a tasty, tasty treat.

When you are warm, and fresh, and yummy,
You make me happy in my tummy.

Even though you cost a pound,
Your tastiness makes my heart bound.

And when again the States I see,
I'll eat you almost da-i-ly.

Except if I were to do that,
I think that I just might get fat.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

More Details

Well, I'm a little less sleepy today, although I did have trouble actually getting to sleep last night. But I woke up about the normal time and then finished reading "Gone With The Wind." It's hard to believe that Scarlett's only 28 at the end of the book. Every time I read it (this was reading 5 or 6 at least), I see each of the characters differently. Before, I'd like Ashley less and Rhett more with each reading, then would be a hopeless flirt for weeks thereafter. This time, I realized much more how similar Rhett and Ashley are to each other, and how similar I am to Scarlett. I've been far from the "belle of the county" most of my life, but I'm very similar to her in the way that she idealized Ashley and loved a dream instead of a reality, and in her habit of saying "I'll think of that tomorrow." Granted, she's usually avoiding her conscience when she says it, while I'm usually just letting things attain a proper perspective, but I still often don't let myself think about things in the moment because there's usually work to be done. This time I also found myself identifying with Ashley as he thought back on how the past had a "beauty and grace" instead of facing the realities at hand.

I have no idea what I'm babbling about or if I ever had a point to this. I'm supposed to be telling you about my trip!

Because Paul Bremer was expecting to leave Iraq on the 30th, they shut down the airport, so I flew out on the 29th...which ended up being kinda silly since he actually left on the 28th, but I guess the airport didn't know that in advance. But it gave me a day in Amman to hang out with some friends there. That was actually a very encouraging day for me as we discussed Company things and policies. I left early on the 1st to go to London.

I got to London a day before my parents and sister, so I went into town, walked around a bit, ate dinner, saw Les Mis, then went back to the hotel. By the time I was up and about the next day, my family was in the lobby! After a tearful hello, we did the "gift exchange." They were giving me birthday stuff and other stuff (including, hilariously, the junk mail I got from Planned Parenthood offering me a free membership!!), and I was just giving them Iraqi stuff. I gave my dad an Iraqi jogging suit, which turned out to be a very good thing as his luggage was left at the London hotel and didn't catch up to us for a couple of days, so he was stuck in shorts and a t-shirt in the lovely July weather of England and Scotland (I think the warmest it got our whole time there was like 17 deg C which is in the low 60s F).

After that, we had our normal "Turner adventure" of the trip. I was transporting a friend's bike back to the States and planned on just leaving it at the hotel while we were on our tour, but the hotel didn't do that, so they suggested taking it to Victoria Station and leaving it there for the week. So the whole fam went to Victoria Sta., found the excess baggage place, and realized that they charged by the hour. It would have been a pretty hefty fee to leave it there for 10 days, so the guy suggested that we go to one of their other locations who kept stuff by the week. This other location was only a few blocks away from our hotel, so back we went. After getting the bike taken care of, we ate lunch then went back into town for the hop-on, hop-off bus tour of the city. We saw, but didn't go into, Westminster Abbey (loooooong line). Daddy enjoyed seeing "Nelson's Column" in Trafalgar Square, then took off for his next favorite thing - the Prime Meridian and the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England. He now has a picture of him standing with one foot in the Eastern Hemisphere and one in the Western Hemisphere. During that time, Mommy, Beth, and I saw the National Gallery of Art, then finished the bus tour by crossing over London Bridge, then the Tower Bridge (after seeing it open, which is apparently a very rare sight nowadays), past the Tower of London. We also stopped by St. Paul's Cathedral of Mary Poppins "Feed the Birds" fame. Sadly, it was undergoing renovation and only a very few pigeons were about, but I did get a picture of some folks sitting on the steps and feeding them. If I were one of the many beggars in London, I'd sell pigeon food for twopence a bag on the steps of St. Paul's. I'm sure I'd be sent away by the powers that be, but I'd probably make a mint in the process.

The rest of the trip kinda blurs together. We stopped by Stratford-on-Avon the first day. Come to think of it, it was a very literary trip. Shakespeare in Stratford; Robert Burns in all of Scotland; lots of hymn writers for Daddy all along the way; Wordsworth, Beatrix Potter, and somebody else that I forget in the Lake Country of England (Coleridge?); not to mention C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein in Oxford (that we didn't get to visit).

Edinburgh was the next day or so, with a stop in St. Andrews (and the aforementioned running of the North Sea, as in Chariots of Fire). We stayed in Edinburgh more than one night, but the first night went to "Scottish Night." If you can imagine a Scottish-themed Vegas show (except with the dancers in tartans), that's what we got - along with a "wee taste" of Haggis. And I now have a new clip to add to my "I Saw Pastor Dancing" video as my dad was one of the ones chosen to dance with one of the girls in the show. It was fun though, and Daddy had a blast on the way home when our slightly tipsy tour director (but not bus driver) wanted us to sing. When no one else claimed any vocal talents, Daddy took the mike and charmed the crowd with a story about Minnie Pearle and his version of the "Tennessee Waltz" (which a surprising number of Aussies knew the words to). We also learned to yodel from an Aussie lady ("who-diddled-the-old-la-a-dy?").

Then we went up to the Lochs and the Highlands. I didn't see Nessie that I know of, but I also haven't scanned my pictures thoroughly yet. We did come to a startling revalation though. If Nessie is from Loch Ness, and Chessie is from the Chesapeake Bay, then would a sea monster in the Mediterranean be called "Messie?" And does that mean that my brother Jesse is really a sea monster from a large body of water starting with a "J?" These are serious points to ponder.

At some point in there we went to Blair Castle which is the only privately-owned castle that does something. I don't know if it's just the only privately-owned castle or if it's the only one that allows visitors or what, but it's the only privately-owned castle....something.... Beth enjoyed seeing all of the "sharp, pointy things" (i.e., swords). The Duke whose family owns the estate also has the only private army in Europe.

Then we spent the night in Glasgow at a hotel where at one point Roy Rodgers and his horse, Trigger stayed. For those of you who know my mom, you know that this was one of the highlights of the trip for her.

From there we went to the Lake Country in the north of England to see Wordsworth's tomb. Then we went to Chester (which was, sadly, the closest we ever came to Wales) where a very nice camera store guy recharged my digital camera battery. I think that was the day that we went to the Wedgewood factory. My mom could have spent at least all day there.

On the next-to-last night, Daddy had the hotel make a birthday cake for me. That was one night where the dinner was included, so everyone from the tour group was there. After everyone had had their desserts, they brought out the cake and that's when each nationality on the tour had their turn singing their version of "Happy Birthday" to me. It really was a lot of fun for everyone, I think. I even managed to blow out all of my candles! I won't tell you what I wished for though. ;p

The next day or later that day or something, we went to Bath where I bought some soap as souveniers for friends and took a bath (although not in that order). We also saw the Roman Baths there and the Costume Museum which included costumes used in the recent productions of several Jane Austin books (she had lived in Bath for a time and mentions it in a couple of books - incidentally, there's another writer for you). We also realized in Bath that, according to their brochure, the place where we'd stored the bike wouldn't be open by the time we returned to London, so we called and found out that their brochure was wrong and that they would still be open, if I hurried when we got back into town.

From there we went to Stonehenge which probably had the largest crowd ever there, but it was still pretty cool.

We got back to the hotel around 4 which gave me an hour to go get the bike. Then we walked around the neighborhood for a while before having dinner at an Italian restaurant run by real Italians. That was really cool - and some _really_ good pizza. :)

My parents and sister left early the next morning while I went back to London to get the waypoint on my GPS that I'd forgotten to get before, in addition to my bagel and Krispy Kreme pigrimages. :) I also got my film developed. I was hoping to tour the Tower of London, but didn't really think I'd have time for it and was pretty tired by that point, so instead I went back to the neighborhood around the hotel a little early and checked my email at a little internet cafe. It's a good thing that I ended up coming back early though because my luggage was pretty heavy and I had quite a time getting it to the tube stop near the hotel, then to the train at Paddington Station (sadly, I didn't find any lost bears) which took me to Heathrow. Fortunately, I could get a cart at that point, but I definitely got my exercise between the bike and my luggage. It's a good thing I've been doing those push-ups or I might not have made it! :)

So then there was the uneventful flight back to Amman, followed by the uneventful flight back into Baghdad and now I'm back home!

Monday, July 12, 2004

Home Again!

After a red-eye from London to Amman (leaving 9PM GMT, arriving 4AM GMT+2), I spent about 20 minutes at a friend's house "freshening up" then went to the other Amman airport for my flight into Baghdad (arriving around 10:30AM GMT+3). I did my best to sleep on all of the flights, but there's always only so much you can do. I'm a bit out of it right now, even after an afternoon nap so this will be the condensed soup version of my very wonderful tour of "Wonderful Britain." Sadly, while we skirted the border of Wales, we never actually went in, even for just a half hour, but I completely fell in love with Scotland. I actually _do_ have some Scottish ancestry, so it's not entirely without truth when I now claim to be from Scotland. England was nice too, but Scotland's where it's at.

Highlights of the trip (in mostly chronological order, although I can't verify that completely due to the current "fluffy" state of my mind):
- Seeing my parents and sister!
- Seeing Les Miserables in London.
- Wearing shorts, even though it was freezing the whole time we were there.
- Saying "the Firth of Forth" many, many times.
- Running on the beach used in the movie "Chariots of Fire" (in St. Andrews, Scotland) with my head thrown back like Eric Liddell.
- Seeing the Ben Nevis mountains and falling completley in love with Scotland, especially the Highlands.
- Seeing Loch Ness.
- Staying at the same hotel in Glasgow where Roy Rodgers and Trigger stayed (Trigger had his own room - maybe Roy snored).
- Going to the Lake Country in the north of England where just about every English writer known to man was from (C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkein, and Shakespeare being the notable exceptions - except that Lewis was Irish, so he doesn't count in this tally anyway, and wasn't Tolkein from South Africa or something?).
- Having my birthday cake 10 days late with all of our new friends from the tour group - they sang "Happy Birthday" or their language group's equivalent to me 9 different ways (Afrikaan, Romanian, Cypriot-Greek, French-Canadian, Aussie, Jamaican, Indian, Chinese, and, of course, American). Believe me when I tell you that Jamaican and Indian are two versions of "Happy Birthday" that are worth hearing. ;p
- Discovering not only that the entire tour group thought that I was 18, but also that I can apparently still pass for 16 when it comes to "family" rates for entry fees.
- Seeing Stonehenge.
- Eating a bagle, toasted, with cream cheese.
- Discovering that I'm a really big fan of Van Gogh landscapes, Degas ballerinas, and Renoir portraits.
- Eating not one, but two fresh, hot, Krispy Kreme glazed doughnuts.

More tomorrow, including an 'Ode to a Krispy Kreme,' when I'm a little more awake.

I'll also update the "Things to Think About" and "Yays" lists then.