a little bit of africa in nashville

Last weekend I started to work on the leaf situation in my yard. For all of you thinking, “Why in the world is Pam raking leaves in January?” — Keep the comments to yourself unless you plan on taking care of them for me. That is not what this post is about.

In a mad dash before the sun set last Sunday, I raked the front lawn into piles and bagged a couple bags of leaves. On this most gloriously sunny Saturday six days later, I did a little more raking and got most of the rest of the leaves in the front lawn bagged – another 8 bags. Then came the task of moving the bags to one place.

These are relatively big, awkward, slightly heavy bags, and I have a long front lawn. Tiny house, big lawn. I grabbed the first and held in front of me. I imagine this is something like what it feels to be 9 months pregnant. I imagine this is what other Americans do, and this whole lawn experience for me is about embracing the American experience because I do not naturally gravitate towards lawn work. The second bag of leaves was carried the same way, and I as I tossed the bag in the pile I thought it was just stupid. Why would one choose to carry bags in the most awkward method possible that was simultaneously not kind to one’s lower back?   

Bags three through eight were hoisted onto my head and easily transported up my lawn. Having some very white DNA, I still do this best with two hands as stabilizers, but there is enough Africa in my blood, that this was 100% easier than the method that simulated pregnancy. I do not live on a busy street, but I still wondered if anyone drove around the block just to see what was happening. My natural inclination is to leave the leaves where they fall and let the land return to its natural state. However, if you have to perform this arduous task, I highly suggest using one’s head to transport the bags. So much better!


This is a picture from my trip to Pittsburgh to welcome in the New Year. There is a weather advisory in Nashville right now for freezing rain, which makes me think of winter. And snow. Except that we do not get real snow (see twitter update on snow pellets). Well, if there is freezing rain on the roads in the morning, I’m going to work from home in my pj’s for a couple of hours… quite possibly from my bed. Because here we hide inside away from the winter weather. But in the North, you cannot do that because that would mean hibernating all winter long. So, here is another picture from the Pittsburgh trip…fun times were had (regardless of the winter weather). 


I can’t remember exactly what she said. It was something like, “But it protects American lives.” Or “They are terrorists.” It was a matter of us versus them, and we were more valuable than them. I did not know how to respond. The woman who made this statement was a friend, had lived overseas, was university educated, and, I thought, had compassion. I was stunned into silence.

It was just over a year post 9/11 and I was gathered with friends to study the Bible. At the end of our time together discussion moved to politics, particularly Guantanamo Bay, which was then starting to show up in the news with increasing frequency. I was in disbelief over the situation and embarrassed that we, as a nation, were side-stepping the law and holding men indefinitely without charging them. My heart was heavy over the crimes that America was committing in Guantanamo Bay, and I, as an American and an International citizen, wanted it to end. Not in six months or a year or ten years when all of the terrorist were caught and the threat level at airports was back to green, but I wanted it done yesterday, or, in the least, today.

In my mind America was becoming like the nations and ideals she was fighting – making up her own rules and pretending that there were no consequences to her actions. Guantanamo was supposed to be a secret, a way to step around rules and live above the law. This was made acceptable by the attitude of fear that was being instilled in the nation from its highest offices. Innocent until proven guilty. This foundational concept of our court systems was tossed out the window not only by my friend but by our leaders. Detainees at Guantanamo were nameless and faceless; they were terrorists. They were thems. They were the thems that sabotaged us on our land and threatened our children. Having them in custody made us feel safe. Them. Us. Us. Them.

Today President Obama took a significant step towards ending the battle of us versus them by halting prosecutions at Guantanamo. I know that there is still a long way to go for the entire operation to be shut down, but I have new hope that we will, possibly soon, be a nation that is not ruled by an attitude of fear. I have hope that we will abide by laws and live with an assumption of actions having consequences. I have hope that we will not classify the people of the world as ‘us’ and ‘them’, but will instead place equal value on each person’s life. It will be a long road to get there, but I have hope.

baby, it’s cold outside

It is 10 degrees F outside right now. I thought I was moving south to a place where I would not need my long wool coat, tights under my pants, and wool sweaters, socks and mittens to stay warm. Tonight, I used all of the above. If the predictions are right, the low will be around zero tonight. I honestly do not know what to say except that I hope that this is the coldest night of the year. 

books of 2008

A while back I promised a friend that my book list would come back, but would take a new form. As promised, this post includes the unabridged list of books that I read in 2008. The problem with the book list as it stands is that you know nothing about these books except that I read them. For instance you do not know: That Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters is an impressive play on words and worth every minute it takes to read. Or that I listened to The Audacity of Hope, and hearing Barack Obama read his own writing was simply fantastic. Or that another audiobook, Married to a Stranger, was listened to while on a road trip (was out of alternatives), and I highly suggest you avoid the book like it was the flu. Or that Diplomatic Baggage is downright hilarious, though I wonder if it someone who did not live abroad would laugh out loud at this woman’s adventures. Or that A Fine Balance  is outstanding, though definitely does not end on a high note. Do you get my point?

In the future, each book will be its own post, the title of the post being the book’s title. I will not write a lot, but this will form an annotated bibliography of sorts. At bare minimum, you will know if I listened to or read the book, its genre, and whether or not I would recommend the book. These posts will all be filed under the new “books” category. I will continue to read everything from biographies to beach trash, and I hope you enjoy the new format!

the unabridged 2008 book list

Searching for God Knows What by Donald Miller

Stone Cold by David Baldacci

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

The Watchman by Robert Crais

Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier

Brionne by Louis L’Amour

The First Eagle by Tony Hillerman

The Shack by William P. Young

Married to a Stranger by Patricia MacDonald

Gonzalez and Daughter Trucking Co.: A Road Novel with Literary License by Maria Amparo Escandon

Remember Me? by Sophie Kinsella

Wish You Well  by David Baldacci

The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream by Barack Obama

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

One For the Money by Janet Evanovich

Sunny Chandler’s Return by Sandra Brown

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

The Friendship of Women by Joan D. Chittister

Evidence Not Seen: A Woman’s Miraculous Faith in the Jungle of World War II by Darlene Deibler Rose

The Kite Runner by Khaleed Hosseini

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcom Gladwell

Empire Settings by David Schmahmann

Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters  by Mark Dunn

Diplomatic Baggage: The Adventures of a Trailing Spouse by Brigid Keenan

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLauglin & Nicola Kraus

The Piano Tuner by Daniel Mason

great black wasp

There was a great black wasp in my house. Of course ten minutes ago I could not have told you that it was a great black wasp. But as I was watching him fly across my bedroom, land on my bedside table, the leg of the table (actually a stool), and then the floor, I carefully contemplated his size and shape and color. Then the mighty, marvelous internet provided me pictures and descriptions, and this was a great black wasp. 

I say was because he is now dead, killed ever so carefully with a flip flop (managed to save the The Garden of Good and Evil from this task) and he is now flushed down the toilet. You see, I do not believe in putting stinging things in trash cans. I also do not believe in simply letting them sit in my toilet bowl because the completely irrational part of my brain says that he might come back to life. And, if he came back to life, he could sting my ass. Literally. I like to think of myself as a fairly rational person, but flying creatures that sting steal my rational brain and I have to force myself to think, to process, and to act. All of this stems from memories of the extreme size to which stung body parts of mine will painfully swell complements of such creatures placing their stinger in my skin. I do not want that. Not again. Not ever. 

My rational brain is returning and I wonder if this is worth posting. But then, maybe you have something that makes your rational brain disappear and you will enjoy knowing you are not alone. 

on being a redhead


Recently I have talked with a handful of people about redheads finding an identity in their red hair. I have talked with people of various hair colors and it seems that red hair is the only hair color around which an identity is formed. (I am not touching hair texture, curls, or straightness.) Renee, a friend and fellow redhead, has a parallel post to this one. We hope you enjoy these and we would love to know your thoughts on the subject.


The other day an office mate asked, “You have red hair?” Ouch. You see, my hair changes color with time and location, but I have red hair. Back in middle school, I was like everyone else in the practice dive pool wearing a neon, multi-colored wetsuit. Only difference between me and everyone else was that I was told that the brightest thing in the pool was my hair. An outside pool, the natural copper strands in my hair reflected sunlight coming down from above and bouncing off the water to shine like a new copper penny. That, or I simply had bright red hair.

Red hair is this odd beast. As a child, I remember thinking that my hair was not what was called red when describing colors–fire engine red, apple red, or blood red. It was more like a fire–a changing, melding mix of colors–than the one-tone colors of my crayons, colored pencils, or finger paints. To me, it seemed the color of a shinny new penny. And yet, the world called it red. Mentally I reconciled this by  deciding it was easier for the masses to have four simple categories by which to classify hair color: black, brown, blonde, and red. Kind of like how people’s skin tones in this country are called black or white, and yet I rarely see someone who is truly black (though in the winter there are a lot of truly white people). And so, by the world’s standards, I am a redhead.

When you have red hair, you have to own it.

“Is that natural?” “You have such beautiful hair.” “So unique.” “It’s bright.” “You will never dye that–will you?” Yes, it is mine, 100% natural, and no I have not yet dyed it. (Yet–but I’ll get to that later.) I’m glad you like it. Thank you.

Then came the assumptions. “Redheads are fiery.” “Redheads have tumultuous tempers.” “Redheads are wild in bed.” All said in a weird tone that is a mix of humor, admiration, and desire. If fiery can be described by laugh loudly and loving life, I guess that’s right. I have a temper that you don’t want to step in front of, though it has cooled immensely over the years. I simply will not touch that last statement here. And I doubt any of this has to do with my hair color.

Then came the questions. “Do your parents have red hair?” “Do your siblings have red hair?” and (my favorite–only asked once though I wonder how many others have wondered), “Is your pubic hair also red?” My dad’s mother had red hair (which she dyed red when it went grey). There is not an ounce of red hair on my father’s or brothers’ heads, but their beards are full of it (ok…dad’s was red, but has recently turned white). As the gene for red hair is definitely turned on in this body, yes, my pubic hair is red. Now you don;t have to be embarrassed by asking or die of curiosity.

See what I mean? You have to own being a redhead. It is not like getting a tattoo on your neck or wearing unique clothing — you are an enigma, you had no choice about it, and so you embrace it. Fully.

I loved that my hair toned down when inside buildings to just a hint of red, and became bright when it reflected sunlight. A few tried to tell me that my hair was not really red, but rather this ambiguous thing called auburn. I don’t think so. I got over the fact that red hair did not mean fire engine red a long time ago, so you should too. You don’t give a girl an identity and then take it away.

Only problem is that as I have gotten older, my hair has slowly become darker. This is accentuated by the fact that I now spend very little time under the equatorial sun or on the ocean thus preventing it from being bleached to bright red. What am I supposed to do with this piece of my identity (which I did not choose) that seems to be fading (not by my choosing)?

I have been told that it is just hair. I’m reminded that the color is still beautiful and complex, and it continues to be complemented every time I go to a hairstylist.  But, you’re wrong–it’s not just hair. Red hair is literally written into my DNA. A while back the New York Times published an article on how research shows that redheads might have a higher pain tolerance because of our DNA. A doctor also told me that how redheads metabolize medicine, anesthesia in particular, is not predictable–though it is for people of all other hair colors. So even if I dye my hair black, my DNA says I am a redhead.

Maybe you think I’m crazy. Just a redhead obsessed with her hair or in the midst of a late-20’s identity crisis. I promise you that it’s not just me. Go ahead–ask your redheaded friends about this. I’ve asked all of mine. They agree. So what do I do now?

I’ve schemed of ways to lighten my hair to bring out the red–the best, or most imaginative, of which it is to become a mate on a sailing boat in the South Pacific. I’ve also thought that maybe, just maybe, someday, I will dye my hair. I’m not there yet, but maybe. Someday. Today I stand strong in the knowledge that my DNA dictates that I am a redhead. And I hope that no-one asks me what color my hair is because I don’t want to listen to them say I am wrong when I say it is red. I am not a brunette.

I am a redhead.