Archive for July, 2010

I love the discovery channel. I learn SO much from watching it.  To be honest I’m pretty much hooked on it.  Lately, I’ve been watching Discovery ID which provides a great package of crime, paranormal and medical mysteries.  Some stories are more believable than others but they all are framed around some form of a science treasure hunt.

So, today I was watching a program about medical mysteries and they told the story of a woman who was involved in a car accident that left her paralyzed, deaf and mute.  Eventually, SLOWLY she regained all her abilities back and went on to live a normal life.  But, 17 years after her accident  she suffered a severe setback and began using babble-speak after a normal spine adjustment at her doctor’s office. Despite all kinds of medical tests no root cause could be found and eventually after several days of this bizarre behavior her normal speech returned. Well, sort of.  Although she was able to speak English again–she sounded like she was a Russian immigrant.

Weird as it sounds there’s a VERY rare condition that comes about from a trauma to the left side of the brain.  And although there are only about 60 confirmed cases in the world of what is called the Foreign Language Syndrome–everyone who suffers from this no longer sound like they did before they experienced their trauma. Although in nearly all the documented cases of FLS it’s only their accent that’s affect in one case the patient is actually able to speak real words from the foreign language the patient sounds like.

So, this got me to thinking what with living in a foreign country and all and struggling to learn how to speak Arabic.  None of these folks wanted to sound like this–and in most cases had NEVER visited the country they now sound like they they hail from.  The mind sure works in strange ways–these folks get konked on the head and wake up sounding like they’re multi-lingual.  I guess I’m going about this all wrong. I don’t need an expensive CD program—a hole in the head would probably work just as well.  Go figure! Who would have thunk it?  N’est pas?  Aiwa!  Ah, yes, Ndiyo.


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Remembering Mom

Yesterday was my mother’s birthday.  It’s the second one since she passed away.  My sister and I talked about how we missed her on Saturday.  And we acknowledged  it’s better she passed away–her last year was pretty tough on her, our father…and us.

But what we left unsaid is how we’re forgetting her.  It’s the little things that start to go….but they add up day after day, month after month, year after year.  And one day you realize there’s big gaps in your remembering and with that recognition the grief takes over again.

But—there are so many things I DO remember.

Mom made the greatest pot of soup you’ll ever taste.  I watched her make it thousands of times in my life but do you think I can replicate it?  Nope.  She NEVER used a recipe so it was always a little bit different every time but it was always just delicious.  The basic ingredients were always the same–lots of celery, and onions and carrots and barley.  She used a strategic number of bay leaves and I think old bay seasoning gave it a spicy kick that always made it addictive.  Maybe someday I’ll get it just right…but for now the taste of it smothers my taste buds and soothes my memories.  Yeah, mom made one heck of a pot of soup.

Mom was the penultimate planner yet she was the most incredible “do things on the seat of your pants” person you’d ever meet. I remember one year she decided at the last minute we were going to go to Charleston, South Carolina for a spring break.  To be precise she decided about 2 hours before we left on that epic journey that we were going to go.  The memories of some of these ventures ebb and flow into one L-O-N-G recollection of misadventures but they were always somewhat chaotic, full of activities and economical.  I can’t rightly recall if this is the trip that some of us in the family nearly froze to death camping one night in the middle of a unexpected freeze but the point is….you ALWAYS could expect the unexpected with my mom.

Mom believed in family.  Think of concentric circles starting with the nuclear family in the center and circles of family moving away from the center—but family, family, family that was her mantra.  She had expectations in terms of our commitment and obligations to one another, the way family came first and for the need to support one another through the good times and the bad. Maybe because mom came from a small family and they lived so far away–she left her beloved East Coast to join my dad’s family in the mid-west–maybe that’s what made her realize family is all you really have.  The older I get the more I come to realize the sacrifice that must have been for her–knowing how her praxis came from being with those she loved most–to move away from her family.  And even though her circles changed over the years as she married and had her own family–there’s no doubt the ones she left behind (year after year visit after visit) must have been a really tough sacrifice for her. Even from the grave she speaks to me of her love and commitment to those of us who are linked by our genes.

Mom was a fighter.  She struggled her way out of a childhood of poverty and worked her way through college hand washing other people’s laundry, cleaning their houses, watching their kids. Making do and sacrificing were things mom understood first hand. Although she was generous with us…to her core mom never got rid of the tenacious determination that pushed her to success–and the need to always have a cushion and make do with what you get.  She expected no less from her children than to do their best and the assumption we would go to college and make something of ourselves didn’t need to be verbalized.  It just was….

Mom had core values that never wavered. She believed in God and her church. She always paid a faithful tithe and considered herself blessed beyond her wildest dreams. And even though she and our father were financially successful there was never a doubt their children, grand children and great grandchildren were the most precious jewels in their lives.

Mom wasn’t much of a housekeeper.  And she got into cycles of cooking based on the newest batch of recipes that caught her fancy that easily shifted her from being a really good cook into a somewhat crazy and eccentric one (I mean just how many times can you eat tabouli in one week?).  And she could dress in some really crazy outfits at times that made us all wonder.  And her endless planning, cutting and sorting and tracking what we were doing could be a bit anal at times. But, when it came to being a mother that made us all feel special, unconditionally loved, and well….hers….there was no one better than her!

Happy Birthday Mom!!!

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I have to confess I don’t know how you all do it.  I don’t have kids at home; I don’t cook; I don’t clean (not really); I don’t do anything but WORK…and do I find I have the time to do my blogging? NO!  That’s a categorical, emphatic NOOOOOOOOO.

So, I read all this great stuff that moms with young kids at home who are cooking and cleaning and running kids to all manner of events and activities.  And some of them write some REALLY great stuff.  It’s thought provoking; it’s proof-edited and pretty good copy (not full of typos like much of mine).  It’s entertaining, insightful, and some of it is really good writing.  So, is it that I’m getting old and my mind isn’t as fresh and creative as it used to be (or was it EVER creative) and I’m running on fumes?  Or maybe it’s just that they’re better organized than I am.

I must confess it gets discouraging to see what they accomplish in the same number of hours of their days compared with mine.  And I begin to contemplate just what I am DOING WRONG HERE!!!

So, fess up ladies.  What’s the secret of your success?

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What’s Up Doc?

Life is getting extremely crazy here these days which explains my failure to make  many posts.  Development work comes in ebbs and flows that revolve around the fiscal year and funding cycle of Congress.  Most new projects are announced and posted in the spring and awards are generally made by the fall–before the end of the fiscal year.

Even though I’m not involved in proposal writing–money that’s in the pipeline needs to be spent or obligated within a fiscal year–or you can risk losing it. SO…you have to review what you’ve proposed  in your annual plan, determine what remains to be done, look at what is called your burn rate (that translates into the rate at which money is being spent) and then you make decisions about implementing activities to get things done before the end of the fiscal year.  That’s where this cycle involves me.

We’re moving into the last year of implementation on the project I work on. So, we need to carefully review our contractual obligations. We have lots to do before the project ends and we’re gearing up to full steam ahead.  What is my team doing?  1) Developing training materials in early grade reading of Arabic and other materials in multi-grade teaching, 2) training literally thousands of teachers this summer in teaching arabic, in using ICT, in using active student learning, 3) developing training plans to build teacher capacity to use computers and related equipment in their teacher, 4)  hosting workshops and seminars in key technical areas, 5) support the MOE to develop a model for moving into a early grade reading program, and 6) procure science kits and train teachers on them.  I know it doesn’t sound like that much but I literally am running in circles and not sleeping much trying to stay on top of things.  And then there’s the strategic support (allbeit limited) I provide around gender.   Makes me tired just listing everything!!!

I leave in less than a month to go on my R & R in the US. So, with all of this going on it’s really fortunate for me that I work with a team that is just amazing and extremely dedicated.

So, now it’s your turn. What’s up with you?

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How many do YOU know?  I need to go back to high school I think.


























fatuous feckless




















kowtow l

aissez faire

lexicon l




mitosis moiety














































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A Year Ago…

A year ago today I held his hand for the last time.

A year ago today I gazed on that incredibly handsome face I loved so much.

A year ago today I clung to a lifetime of memories of someone who labored tirelessly and sacrificed willingly to give me a better life.

A year ago today I listened for the last time to him breathing ever so faintly.

A year ago I said good-bye to my father.

A year ago today a part of me died too.

Daddy I love you and miss you so so much.

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I was chatting with my youngest kid the other night.  He’s doing some research in the Artic Circle in Norway and is there with one other graduate student.  Although they are not living in tents in some god forsaken remote spot in the world they are still pretty isolated and don’t have much contact with other folks.  So, we were talking about the difficulty of being alone–cut off from friends and family.

I shared with him how tough it’s been for me. I’m an extremely out-going personality and thrive on having my family and close friends around me. So, taking the job in Egypt and being separated from all my family and close friends has been particularly hard.  So, we talked about things you can do to ward of loneliness and homesickness.  None of them have been extraordinarily helpful for me but they keep me from sinking into real despair particularly during the holidays or special days in my family’s life.

I checked out google to see what kind of advice was out there to keep the blues away.  For the most part what I found was not terribly helpful.

  1. Keep focused. Review why you’re there.
  2. Keep active–exercise.
  3. One said to call home; another said not to.  HMMMM….which one is right?
  4. They all said write a journal. (blog???)
  5. Do interesting things–visit places, identify interesting spots–restaurants, shops, famous places.
  6. Do something you have always enjoyed–read, listen to music, etc.

So, what do you all do when you’re finding yourself down in the dumps—because that’s what this is mostly about?  Any suggestions on how to life your spirits?

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