Monday, August 27, 2012

The American Decision: Part Two


Thursday came an went without much fanfare. The location of the swearing in ceremony was a little more than an hour from our home. On the drive there I threw myself a private anxiety party. We arrived to a packed federal building. I was not thrilled about our position as one of the last ones in a  ridiculously long line. It took about thirty minutes before I was processed, and to able to grab a seat. Somewhere between the line to be searched, and the line to be processed, and seated most of the angst left. Oddly what replaced it was humor, more like sheer hilarity. Unfortunately, that humor came during the most somber part of what was supposed to be a very solemn ceremony. We were seated in a predetermined order. That order meant that I'd have an Hispanic (don't remember his country of origin) gentleman on my left, and a Chinese gentleman to my right. These two guys (not purposely) kept me suppressing a belly laugh and in an excellent mood the majority of the time. At the commencement of the ceremony, the moderator explained the process of the one hour or less occasion. It included a roll call of countries. The individuals who represented each country would stand as their nation was announced. Turns out, the Bahamas was the first country to be called. I stood first. Shortly after followed the singing of the national anthem, the pledge of allegiance, and the actual oath that makes you an American. The giggles, and Cheshire cat like smiles started at the National anthem, and never stopped. The Chinese gentlemen's version of The Star Spangled Banner sounded exactly like the musical styling of William Hung from American Idol. The Hispanic gentleman had a very heavy accent, and was exactly one line behind everyone else during the entire reading of Oath of Allegiance. You're probably thinking, shame on me for finding these things funny, but until you've survive the singing of "Proud to be an American" by 65 non Americans, in various accents, don't judge! I would love to tell you some deep thing I learned that day. If I did it would be a lie. The ceremony was quick, and respectful. When it was over we chatted with a few former Bahamians, and left for home. We stopped at a restaurant, ate a great meal, and enjoyed some time together as a family. In the end that's why I made this decision, as much as I love my homeland, my life is here, with my family. I'm sure someday I'll wax philosophical about how it feels to be caught between to countries.  But for now, I'm smiling at a life changing day which included, a William Hung inspired national anthem, meeting a few countrymen, and great food and FAMILY. The icing on cake? Eliana, (my one year old) ran to me afterwards, and gave me the biggest tightest hug. It's as if she knew, something important just happened, mommy is now one of us.

In case some of you haven't seen or heard him, watch William Hung his do his "thang"...


Wednesday, August 22, 2012


I want you to meet brown sugar meatloaf, gnocchi in fontina sauce, baked sweet potatoes with ginger and honey, apple pie by grandma Ople,  and white chocolate cherry pecan cheesecake. There is more, 467 more recipes that I've tried, or saved at one of my favorite sites.



YET??? is the best thing to happen to my kitchen in years. If you are tired of chowing on the same old, same old checkout this site. I credit it with inspiring me to revive the Sunday meal tradition in our home. The site is thorough, with tons of recipes, step by step instructions, photos, videos, even reviews, and tips from fellow foodies. There something there for everyone. I love it. 
Take a minute to stop by plan, and a special meal for a few or your favorite people.
Bon appetit!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The American Decision : Part One

I love being a citizen of the Bahamas. I feel privileged to have grown up there. It's refreshing. The history is amazing. The culture is rich. The people are extraordinary. They are colorful. They are confident. It's been an absolute honor to be numbered among them. For 35 years when asked, "what's your nationality?" I've derived great pride, and pleasure in the response: "I'm Bahamian." The decision I made earlier this year, began a process that will forever change the way I answer that question.
In April I finally decided to apply for United States citizenship. In the past four, and a half months I've had several appointments with USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) concerning this decision. The most recent occurred on Thursday. It was step three in a minimum, four step process. At this appointment, you are interviewed, and tested on American history, government, and civics. There is also a reading/writing portion to the exam. In advance of this appointment you are given a booklet containing a hundred possible questions, and the answers. Of those hundred questions you'll be asked ten questions, of the examiners choosing. You must answer six of them correctly to pass. The reading section turned out to be easy as reading a single, simple sentence. By simple I do mean simple, a subject, a verb, and an adjective. The writing portion was more of the same. It consisted of writing a single elementary school sentence, five words in all.
The interview portion is only tricky, if you are a criminal. They pretty much ask the same questions, repeatedly. They change the wording each time, in hopes you'd divulge something incriminating. If you were exhausted, or super nervous you could get tripped up, but if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about.  Really by the time you've made it to this stage in the naturalization process, it's all downhill. They've done all the background checks etc, They know who you are. HA! They probably know your DNA structure by then.
 On Thursday I walked into that office, and took the test. I sat through the interview amazed by the ease of it all. My interviewer was very gracious. As it turns out, he and his wife have six kids. They homeschool them all.  This homeschooling mommy felt an instant conection. I would have loved the appointment to last longer. I wanted to hear more of his experiences with homeschooling. But alas, my interview was done. "Cool immigration dude" had to go back to work. More immigrants awaited their interviews. I was informed that I passed, and was ushered back to the waiting room, to await further instructions. I stepped back into waiting, area, and looked over the crowd.  It occured to me that this is the last time I would be numbered among them, the immigrants, the foreigners in this land. USCIS is the one place you can go (besides the airport) to get a cultural fill. There are people from every continent, and corner of the globe represented there. It's a surprise every time. You never know what countries will be reflected there on a given day. As frustrating as the process can be, this was a highlight to me. I can't define why it's so easy to interact with people there. Perhaps it's a mutual appreciation for a shared experience. Whatever the reason, you feel oddly at home in the one place designed to address the fact that you are not at home. As I closed the door behind me, from across the room came a question, this time in an African accent.  I had heard it asked to those before me, "Did you pass?" I paused to respond, "yes." As though rehearsed cheers went up all over the room. Congratulations in all accents, nods, and genuine smiles of support everywhere. I felt strangely at home among this foreign family. I found a seat, and passed the time chatting to a Liberian couple. Shortly, an immigration officer came out. She called my name, and gave me a letter with information concerning my final appointment. This is the last step in this process. Turns out it was scheduled a week later, this coming Thursday.  God willing, on that day I'll be a sworn citizen of the United States of America. As the time approaches so does the realization, of the magnitude, of my decision. I don't know what the future holds for me as an American.  This I do know: I will FOREVER be grateful for the nearly 36 years I've spent being a Bahamian. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

"Don't Give Up The Fight"

It was summer break. My middle sister and I had been fighting. She always been a feisty one. We had a summer war going. My sister was little, under five feet  tall. She's been that size since she was about ten, and she's still just so at nearly forty. Anyhow, growing up she had a huge Napoleon complex. She'd pick a fight with anyone, age, size, sex, didn't matter. My eldest siblings survived her somehow, but by the time she got to me, it was out of control. She was relentless.  I'm guessing me being younger, and she being older, she assumed that entitled her to kick my behind at will. I disagreed with that theory. I was about her size (at three yrs younger) but I was much stronger. That summer we had several physical fights before my grandmother  intervened, island style.  She warned us both, "I don't care who starts it. The next time I catch you two fighting, I'm going to fetch, and give you both a switch, and you can both wail (she used an island term) on each other. The first person who cries, will have to face me, and a switch of my own. Remember, I don't care who started it, but I'm gonna finish it."  By "wail on" she meant beat the snot out of. I wanted no part of that. Now you'd think that warning was enough to scare my sister. She'd never won a fight against me, or anyone else for that matter. Picking a fight with a sibling that's sure to pummel you, is insane! What's worst is, having to face my grandmother after the fact. She's was no joke! But, true to form, and hardly a day later, here comes my sister ready to fight. I don't remember the exact action that started it, what I do remember is, before I knew it we were throwing blows for the "upteenth" time that summer. Grammy, true to her word, saw the fight, and quickly produced two tamarind switches. For the sake of this story, I will tell you  that a tamarind switch is from tamarind tree. They don't break. Ever. She gave us each one, and just as though she was beginning a race,  she said "go!" I remember thinking, "I don't care how much this hurts, I WILL NOT cry."  At the time, that thought was a departure from strategy. I had figured out early on that crying, got me out of, or significantly lessen impending trouble. Crying quickly became a part of my play book, but not this time. I knew that this time if I cried, I'd put myself in a worst position.  I was taking swats that hurt like the dickens, but I was determined to give ones that hurt even more. Remember how I said I was stronger than my sis? It sure didn't feel like it, but whatever strength had I used. I put every bit of power I possessed into the whacks I was delivering. I wanted to cry, but she actually DID cry. As soon as she did, it was over. Grammy grabbed her, and I was free to go. Lets just say she got dealt with. 
I wish I could tell you that we never fought after that, that would be a lie. My sister being who she is, and me being who I am, have fought of since. I will tell you this, our fights have been few, and far between, but to date, they have never been in the presence of Grammy.
Today I was reminded  of the best fights, and friends you'll ever have, siblings, family. They've taught me the art of love, and conflict. It's a vital, and invaluable lesson. I'm grateful. Perhaps some will find this story a bit cruel. I'll admit that the Bahamas we do things differently. It's a different place, and that was a different time. To me it wasn't cruel it was guided instruction. That day I learned, there are times when you should fight like your life depends on it. I learned that present pain isn't always the whole story. I learned that you can endure more think, and I learned that Sarah Knowles is a woman of her word!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Say it Ain't So!

One of the hardest things I've learned as an adult is, to allow people to leave, with the same opinion, I met them with. A verbal argument does not always change minds. Often, it's a waste of time. A person has to be in a position to receive what you are saying, or your words are pointless. I cannot tell you that I am an expert on this one, but I've come a "mighty long way."

Several years ago, a friend told me that I was "girly and feminine."  There is nothing wrong with being girly or feminine, but at the time, I assure you, I was neither. In fact that comment proved to be a REALLY good laugh for my husband. At the time, one of my favorite pass times was an insane "dude type" workout (still is). I wore nothing frilly, or laced. The only thing I owned in pink was my tongue, which I held rather nicely, because back then (for a host of reasons) those were fighting words. I easily brushed off her comment, reasoning that perhaps, I was showing her something, I wasn't showing to anyone else.
 Another friend, implied I was competitive. This comment wasn't so easily brushed off. I mostly dislike competition. A competitive nature, left unchecked, gives root to some pretty ugly things, including jealously. The perception, I was competitive was unflattering. I was curious where she got it. I never competed against her, in ANYTHING! Outside of my family, I don't even play board games with others. I'll compete with the hubby, because with Ken, it's all trash talk, fun, games, and no hard feelings. It's a safe place. Outside of that, my greatest competition has always been me. I've literally, played games, and tried to beat myself. Perhaps that is where she got that idea. Sometimes striving to do your best, could be interpreted as competition, not directly, but indirectly. Those watching cannot tell, that in my mind, for better or worse, my only real opponent has always been, me. I believe, to compete with someone, would mean I acknowledge them as some sort of standard for me. No such human exist. I've learned, that the only motivation worth having, is an honest one. To desire to excel solely because someone is, is to be controlled. On the flip-side, not to excel, or to deny an interest/  ability in something, because someone else likes, or dislikes a thing, is also to be controlled. I try to evaluate my motivation in all things. It's my idea "an honest living." The thought that I could be perceived as otherwise motivated, did not sit well with me. 
Now while I'm not competitive, it's absolutely fair to say I am defensive. I was very capable of explaining to her how, and why she's wrong. For whatever reason, I didn't. She formulated that opinion. It was her's to keep. It's enough that I know, who I am. Besides, even though the two are not the same, it's hard to be defensive, and not be perceived as competitive. I think they might be cousins or something. An argument would have served only, to bolster her point. Times like that, has led me to where I am now. There is no need to bicker. If ever placed in a position, where you have to defend yourself, or a belief, first define the argument. What's the contention really about? Do you have a God given, honest opinion? What is it?  Is it worth sharing, or is it a waste of time?  State plainly what you believe, and move on. 
  For many, this is an easy practice. It took me years to learn. I'm wired with the desire to correct. It's not necessarily a bad thing. I just needed to learn how to use it. There is a time, and a place. Outside of the proper environment, it's a waste of time, and can even be harmful. It's God responsibility to teach everyone, not mine. He'll get the message He wants, to the person He wants, at the proper time. I can relax and leave the impartation of all truth to Him. I gotta tell ya, I've had a lot less work to do in the last few years. I like it  :)