Recap of the Past 2 Weeks

It feels like a million years since I last wrote. But it’s really been only two weeks. Here are a few of the highlights:

  • We finally got to meet with the counselor at Alliance to go over the results of the ADHD and intelligence tests that Alex took. This is really worth a post in and of itself, but in summary, while he does have mild tendencies toward ADHD, it was not anything the counselor felt warranted further testing or medication.
  • We went to see “Star Trek Into Darkness,” and it totally rocked! Best movie I have seen in a long time — I absolutely love what they have done with the series reboot! We had to settle for the 3D version, which I usually try to avoid because it makes me sick to my stomach; however, this time, I barely noticed after awhile. The technology must be getting better.
  • Neill and Julie stayed with us for over a week, and we thoroughly enjoyed their company. We took them up to Papallacta one day to soak in the hot springs, and Neill helped Rusty do some work on our Land Rover. They headed off to Columbia, their next stop on their round-the world venture, last Monday.
  • We had our friends the Yorks over for one last meal and round of Dominion before they headed back to the U.S. and their new life there. We will sure miss them!
  • We celebrated our 14th anniversary with a two-night stay at the Black Sheep Inn, in a truly lovely part of Ecuador near the stunning Quilotoa Crater Lake. Also worth it’s own blog post. The kids stayed with Josh and Julie and had so much fun they didn’t want to leave! Stephen actually started crying when we pulled up to the house to pick them up, and it wasn’t because he missed us.

Okay, so that was all just the first week. Last week, we finished a 2-month stint of focused language classes. After all the craziness of the past several weeks, I am honestly looking forward to taking a break from Spanish studies for awhile. It was all I could do to get through that last week, and now that it’s over, I want nothing more than to just curl up in my bed and hibernate away from the world for at least a week with my Robert Jordan book (now on #3, with 11 to go). But, well, I’ve got these 3 kids that need to be fed and clothed and educated. And Rusty left on Sunday for the jungle and the first medical mission of the summer, so it’s all on me for the next few days.

I’m hopeful that as life slows down some over the next several weeks, I’ll have more time to devote to writing and some other projects. I’m actually going to be guest-posting on 2 other blogs in the next couple of months! I’ll be sure to link those up here once they go live.

My First Birthday in Ecuador

Today, I celebrated my 36th birthday on my 5th continent. It’s interesting — as you get older, your birthday really is just another day. We’ve been needing to go downtown to take care of some paperwork pertaining to our visas, and we can only go on Mondays and Fridays since Alex is in school the rest of the week. Friday was a public holiday, so today we trudged off downtown with the kids in tow to try to take care of it. We ate breakfast out, then went to the office… where we were told we needed to have color copies of our passports, visa stamps, and visa registration stamps. So off we went to find a copy shop, then back to the office… where we were told that now their computer was down, and could we please come back after lunch? We took the kids to eat at Burger King and let them burn some energy in the play place, then headed back to the office where we waited and waited for them to prepare the papers we needed. All of us had to stand for a picture, which was a frustrating process with Stephen and Benjamin. But finally, we were done and on our way home. Not the best way to spend your birthday morning, but it’s something we’ve been needing to do for awhile and we finally got it done, so that’s a good thing.

But we made up for it this evening — a double date with Julie (who coincidentally shares my birthday, although we are not twins) and Josh! The plan was to go see “Les Misérables,”and then eat dinner out. However, when we got to the theater, we were told that the showing we planned to see was sold out, so we ate dinner first at one of our recent finds, an awesome Middle Eastern restaurant. Then, we went back to the theater… where we were told that there were some problems with one of the projectors, so the next showing of “Les Mis” had been cancelled! The only other real option that would get us home at a decent time was “G.I. Joe,” which Julie and I rather reluctantly agreed to see. (It was our birthday, for crying out loud, and we didn’t really want to see a guy movie). However, what we didn’t know was that in the time that we stood there debating what to do, they fixed the projector, so Rusty and Josh actually bought tickets for “Les Mis,” but let us girls go on thinking that we were going to see “G.I. Joe!” It wasn’t until the movie started and I heard the familiar strains of the opening score that I realized what was happening.

Anyway, wow! What an amazing movie! Such a powerful story, such powerful music. It was hard to keep myself from bursting into song right along with the actors through much of the movie! I know “Les Mis” has its critics, but honestly, it seems like most of the criticism stems from people who can’t seem to expand their imaginations to see Russell Crowe or Hugh Jackman in a singing role! I was pretty impressed with both their performances, actually. Even the noisy people in the row behind us who kept up a constant stream of chit-chat and giggling through much of the movie (ANNOYING!!!) couldn’t diminish the power of this film, although I do look forward to seeing it again in the privacy of my own home without all that obnoxiousness.

482322_10152708998005553_2013226771_nIf you are friends with me on Facebook, then you know that as his present to me this year, my sweet husband built me a scrapbook table for my craft room. He worked on it most of last week and finally got it done on Saturday night. The legs are made from shipping pallets that were in our container, and the top and shelves he made from a piece of laminate chip-board (counter-top) that he had cut up. Such a sweet and thoughtful gift! I look forward to finally getting all my scrapbooking and crafting stuff unpacked and organized, and to being able to work on my scrapbooks again.

It’s been a good day, and even though this morning wasn’t exactly fun, I got to spend my day with some of my favorite people in the world — my hubby, my kids, and my sister. I’m loved and I’m thankful.

Free Music from Page CXVI

Well, I was all set tonight to continue catching up on the Stay Awake Challenge, but that will have to wait until tomorrow, because I just have to share this musical goodness!

Today, a post popped up in my reader from Clearing Customs, a blog I recently started following, which alerted me to the fact that the band Page CXVI (formerly The Autumn Film) has made their entire discography available for FREE during the month of March! I love free music. And I especially love quality free music. I had never heard of this group before, but my interest was piqued when I read that they re-imagine old hymns with a fresh, new sound. I love old hymns. I feel like there is a richness, a depth to them that is often missing in modern “praise-and-worship” music. Don’t get me wrong, I like “praise-and-worship” music, too. But I believe the old hymns can still speak to us, still convict and challenge us, and I’m so glad there are musicians out there with a passion to make them relevant again.

I listened to a few of Page CXVI’s songs (there are several music videos on Youtube), and fell in love. I immediately downloaded all of their albums, and they are playing now on my computer as I type this. Beautiful musical arrangements, familiar words — the combination is like a balm to my soul. (If you decide you want some of their music for yourself, head on over to Noisetrade for the free downloads.)

And… get this… they do a version of “Be Still My Soul,” which is my absolute favorite hymn of all time. Tears blur my computer screen as the words wash over me: “Be still my soul, the Lord is on your side… Leave to your God to order and provide… in every change, he will remain… Your God will undertake to guide the future as in ages past.” And this one thought emerges: I want to believe it. Oh, how I want to believe.

Thoughts on “Lincoln”

Rusty and I saw the movie “Lincoln” last night. I have so many thoughts about it, and I know I won’t be able to organize them well this late at night, but here are some of my impressions:

I’m so glad that this movie came to Ecuador! I was a bit worried that it wouldn’t, and I really think the only reason it did was because it’s been nominated for so many Golden Globes and Academy Awards. It was a bit too technical and slow-moving for a foreign audience. It was not an action-packed war movie. It was more like a courtroom drama, filled with lots of legal jargon. I loved it, but as we were watching, I kept trying to imagine seeing this film as an Ecuadorian — first, hearing everything in a foreign language (with Spanish subtitles, of course), and then with only a surface knowledge of U.S. history and government. I know I would have been lost if I had been watching a film about one of Ecuador’s presidents.

At the end of the movie, I had the same feeling that I had after seeing “The Patriot” for the first time (which I also saw in a foreign country, by the way). The feeling of intense pride for my country. But with “The Patriot,” it was pride for our courage and fighting spirit, and with “Lincoln,” it was more a sense of pride in our system of government and how it works from a purely technical standpoint. There is a real genius in the American governmental system with all its checks and balances. I remember thinking this when I first studied U.S. government in high school, and it was brought home to me again in watching this film.

I was struck by how things really haven’t changed that much, politically  speaking in 150 years. People talk about how polarized we are as a nation right now, but I honestly don’t think you could get much more polarized than the U.S. was during the Civil War! The issues are different now, but there is still the same infighting, the same politicking and backbiting, the same refusals to work together as the film depicted during the struggle to pass the 13th amendment. Corruption was just as alive and well back then as it is today. Name calling? When Fernando Wood stood up and started his tirade against Lincoln, I couldn’t help but think that some of the things he was saying sounds a lot like some of the insults I’ve heard people level against our current president.

I did wonder if Lincoln really was as close as the film portrayed to inviting the Southern delegates to Washington for “peace talks” and thus scrapping the 13th amendment? Is that historically accurate or was that Hollywood taking poetic license with the story? If it’s true, and if he had made the other choice, things could have turned out very differently. I believe the 13th amendment would have passed eventually, but Lincoln himself would have left us a very different legacy. I can’t even imagine the weight of that decision, and I thought that scene in the film was one of the most touching and powerful.

I loved the story of George Washington’s portrait in the Englishman’s bathroom! A little crass, maybe, but hilarious all the same. I think Rusty and I were the only ones laughing in the whole theater, though! I’m not sure if the humor of the story didn’t translate well, or if the Ecuadorians in the audience just didn’t think it was funny.

And finally, a few of my favorite quotes:

  • “Votes for women?!” (Ha! God forbid!)
  • “Buzzards’ guts, man! I am the President of the United States of America! Clothed in immense power! You will procure me those votes!”
  • “A compass, I learnt when I was surveying, it’ll… it’ll point you True North from where you’re standing, but it’s got no advice about the swamps and dessert and chasm that you’ll encounter along the way. If in pursuit of your destination, you plunge ahead, heedless of obstacles, and achieve nothing more than to sink in a swamp… What’s the use of knowing True North?”

A Favorite Film

One of my Christmas gifts this year was a copy of the movie “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” on DVD. This movie has been one of my absolute favorites ever since it came out when I was in high school. Maybe is is a bit melodramatic, too violent, and has some glaring historical inaccuracies, but I don’t care. I adore it.

There are certainly a few elements that I could do without — like the creepy witch (who adds almost nothing to the story line), the nude waterfall scene (although you really don’t see much of anything), and Kevin Costner’s lack of a decent British accent (one of his first lines in the movie is “This is English courage,” spoken in his American accent). But I was thinking today about the things I like best about the movie, and here they are, in no particular order:

  1. Alan Rickman as the Sheriff of Nottingham. Seriously, Rickman plays the best bad guy (he also did total justice to the character of Professor Snape in the Harry Potter movies). The Sheriff is the kind of character you just love to hate. He’s power-hungry and evil and sleazy. And he has some pretty memorable lines, like “I’m gonna cut your heart out with a spoon,” and “Cancel the kitchen scraps for lepers and orphans. No more merciful beheadings. And call off Christmas!”
  2. Morgan Freeman as Azeem. If you can forget the fact that his character is almost completely impossible given the historical context, he really adds a lot to the film. There are some pretty humorous interactions between Azeem and Robin Hood. At the end of the movie, he gives the speech that inspires the people of Nottingham to revolt. And he throws a sword across a room like it was knife! So, he’s pretty awesome. Mostly, I like that an Arab is portrayed in film as noble and educated rather than a barbarian.
  3. The portrayal of Maid Marian as a strong, courageous, and independent woman rather than a damsel in distress. Well, I suppose by the end of the movie, she was pretty much a damsel in distress, so I guess I’m referring to her character prior to being kidnapped by the Sheriff. She lives alone; she travels alone; she can use a sword; and she undertakes to get word to King Richard about Nottingham’s plot to seize his throne, at the risk of her own life.
  4. The portrayal of Robin Hood not as a cocky young adventurer, but as a nobleman’s son, changed by his years as a Crusader and then a prisoner of war. I liked that Costner played an “older” Robin Hood. He was criticized harshly for his acting in this movie, but I thought his performance, while understated, was still very good. Of course, next to Rickman’s flamboyance, I suppose anything would seem understated.
  5. The soundtrack. It’s one of my favorite movie soundtracks and gives me chills every time I hear it. Powerful and epic, but at the same time tender and romantic. I’m not a big fan of Bryan Adams (his voice is too raspy), but I do like his song “Everything I Do, I Do It For You,” that plays during the ending credits.

For me, this is just one of those movies that never gets old. I could watch it again and again, and still enjoy it just as much as I did when it first came out… over 20 years ago (really?!).