Category Archives: Africa

Toms Shoes: A Review and a Give-away


By now you should know that I won’t do a review on Morningside Mom unless there is something about that product that truly impresses me. Well, I have another one for you. Toms Shoes approached me and asked that I review a pair of shoes for them. But these aren’t just a pair of shoes. In case you don’t know about Toms Shoes, I am going to tell you what makes this specific shoe company so very special.

shoe4The Toms Shoes company was started by Blake Mycoskie after he visited Argentina and noticed how many children did not have any shoes. His dream for this company was to create a shoe that he could sell and give away. Let me explain further. He wanted his company to make it possible to donate one pair of shoes to a child in need with every one purchased. That’s right. And he did. After one year, he and his family and friends were ready to donate over 10,000 shoes to children in Argentina. Next stop was South Africa where he and his crew dropped off 50,000 shoes. And in 2008 it was planned that they donate over 200,000 shoes worldwide.

Ok, now watch this.

Pretty amazing, right?

Ok, so lets get down to the shoes themselves. What did I think?


Well, in terms of style, I was a liiiittle nervous. I’ll admit, I was worried they’d be kind of like grandma shoes. I am just being honest here. I wasn’t sure they’d really be my style. So I looked through all the various patterns available online and went for a fun “Element” shoe style. At least I knew these shoes wouldn’t look anything like what Grandma would wear.

shoes2But here’s the thing. When I got them, they actually looked a lot cooler than I expected. I was pleasantly surprised. And my favorite part about the shoes? When I slipped them on, I didn’t want to take them off. Because, my friend, they’re like butta. So dang comfy. Granted, they don’t have a ton of support – these are flat shoes made of canvas. But they are well made and I really, truly never want to take them off. (Maybe I should get Grandma a pair, I think she wouldn’t take them off either.)

Now down to the fun part.

It’s giveaway time!

I have the DVD of their award winning documentary about their first shoe drop in Argentina and a coupon code worth $50 in Tom’s Shoes to give away to a Morningside Mom reader.

How do you enter? Leave a comment below about a time you’ve given back to your community or something you would like to do for your community. Real answers please, don’t just respond with some general Ms. America “I want to save the world” comment. Think about it for the sake of making change happen – like Toms Shoes has.

I will pick a winner at random on Monday March 16th.

Thanks and good luck!


Ilinap from Dirt and Noise was picked at random and has won the Toms Shoes giveaway! Congrats Ilinap!



Filed under Africa, Causes, Children, Contests, Gifts, Philanthropy, Raising Awareness, Reccomendations, Reviews

Get Yer Superhero Cape (and other cool stuff) Here.

Hat in hand -and I don’t even wear a hat, unless its a red sox hat, go sox, even though they lost, but I digress… Hat in hand, eyes on the floor, head bowed – I step before my wonderful readers to officially apologize for being a slow poster these days. (Shaking my head at myself.) My last two posts have had days in between them! Not good, not good at all. But I promise you, I have had a good excuse! I will officially give you the scoop once I am officially official and officially up and running. 😉


However! I do have some good stuff to share with you right now. See, I love supporting moms who are getting it done on their own – starting businesses from nothing, following a passion, bringing home the bacon while raising their sprouts. I want to get up on soapboxes for these women and give them a WOOT WOOT! So, being the blogger that I am, I will scramble up on top of this post to declare my support for a few moms trying to get some momentum with their terrific businesses.

(And full-disclosure, I haven’t gotten any freebies for promoting them either. I just think their stuff is cool.)

Moms Rock On: Cute Mommy t-shirts

A whole bunch of my playgroup and music class moms wear T-shirts from this local Tampa mommy. She sells T-shirts with such great sayings as: “Veggie Enforcer” or “Sleep Deprived” or “I make a mean PG&J”. Please check them out. And hurry to order! They are offering free shipping in October!

Baby Pop: Get a personalized super hero cape! (See them in picture above.)
Ilinap from Dirt and Noise recently bought a personalized cape and mask from this site for her son. How adorable are these ideas? This mom uses high quality environmentally friendly materials too.

Hippoes Toes: Inspired by Africa!

This mom brings us a line of clothing inspired by South Africa, using South African materials. She believes in supporting fair trade and the Bug Zoo clothing line employs moms in South Africa to make high quality products. Please check out her site and products! (You know anything supporting South Africa always gets my attention.)

Your Baby for President!

Do you think your son or daughter has what it takes to run for President some day? Get them their own personalized presidential tee or onesie at this site.

My Punchbowl– The better option over Evite.

A friend forwarded this site to me recently telling me someone from our college works for this company and I should really try using is over Evite. While it looks like a bunch of guys (not moms) on the management team, they could be dads, right? And this is certainly a new product just starting up so I am giving it my props here. I really do like it and love the design options over Evite. Check it out!

Well, that’s about all I have up my sleeve… for now. More later. And I am also going to try not to get all political all the time around these parts. I used to consider this blog a nice combination of various mommy topics – politics included. Now it seems more of a political blog with some various mommy topics included. I suppose its a sign of these times but I would like more balance in my life and my blog. I swear, I will reclaim my sanity… on November 5th.

Cheers everyone!


Filed under Africa, Blog love, Reccomendations, Shopping, Uncategorized, Working moms

When Good Gators Go Bad.

Well, it’s happened again. There was another highly publicized alligator attack here in Florida. A teen swimming in a Melbourne canal was grabbed by an alligator. He survived but lost his arm. He did, however, get a spot on the Today Show this morning discussing his attack. I am very happy to hear that he survived. And while he made some very good points about alligator over-population in Florida, he obviously did not have a perfect understanding of the potential harm these animals can bring or else he might have both arms today. But, once again, the country watched his report, wide eyed, and the notion of savage, blood thirsty gators hunting down Florida residents lives on.

I have lived in Florida for 3 years now. And as you might remember, I lived in Africa for a good portion of my life growing up. If there was one lesson I learned in Africa about animals, it was to remain humble about wildlife. We are only another animal in the grand scheme of it all. While we, as humans, have the capacity to remain separated and safe from animal attacks, if we are not well educated or respectful of the animals living in our environment, we can easily slip into our spot on the food chain and potentially be harmed. I have carried that lesson with me here. And Florida has certainly impressed me with its vast amount of wild life, just look in my own backyard. Even as I was writing this post and took a break to feed my kids lunch, I happened to see a gator swim across our back pond. This alligator is about 4 feet long and seems to have established this pond as its territory. Alligators are a very real part of our lives here and, it seems crazy to admit, seeing one is not quite the novel sight it used to be.

However, attacks can happen and so we hear of another on the news today. But, honestly, I’m just annoyed. These stories and fanciful national headlines very rarely give the viewer any sense of perspective. There is no information offered about the enormous mistreatment of alligators and our struggles to co-exist with an animal that has been going about its business in this state for hundreds of years. With the gory gator stories and all the misinformation out there, the masses just assume they want to eat us and that’s that. Even the victim had to make the comment “They’re out for blood.” Are you kidding me? 

Do you know why alligators usually attack us? They aren’t afraid of us. And why would an alligator go against its natural instincts and move towards us, rather than away? Because unfortunately, it’s been fed by humans. It happens all the time. Even down the road, there was a group of baby alligators that would swim up to a fence along the sidewalk when humans walked by. That’s insane. No, they weren’t born smacking their baby gator jaws, hungry for people blood. They wanted the scraps people threw to them. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen those alligators for some time now so, obviously, a call was made to the local “Alligator Hotline” (yup, that’s for real) and they were removed – and destroyed.

Do you want another reason why an alligator would attack us? Human stupidity. If we swim into its territory (um, teen from Melbourne, FL – this is you, buddy) or dangle our toes in a fresh water pond while we fish or let our dogs play in the water while we stand by – I’m sorry, you’re asking for it. Bottom line. Alligators do hunt by nature and will come after a mammal proportionate to its size if its right in front of its nose.

I have 4 separate bodies of water out back and no fence (they’re bloody expensive and don’t do that much to deter gators, but maybe someday). As you know, I also have two sons. And, as I’ve mentioned, we certainly have gators in that water out back. But have we had a scare with an alligator? Nope. Why not? My children are taught to be as afraid of any local fresh body of water as they are of the road. They don’t go near it. As a family, we are respectful of the alligators territory. If we do see a gator, we watch inside the perpetually locked back porch with our binoculars and talk about it. If my husband or I happen to walk out on the grass to get a better look from afar, the alligator immediately disappears, maybe emerging on the far end as it crawls out and into an even further pond. I promise you, alligators don’t want to be around us.

And this brings up the final unfortunate issue. Teen from Melbourne, FL., you’re right. There are too many of us and too many of them. And while Alligators don’t want to be around us, they are. Potentially, there may be more than one alligator in every fresh body of water in Florida. And, as we all move down here, set up shop, slap on our flip flops and sun glasses and park our booties under these lovely palm trees, the alligators are getting encroached upon. And while I don’t see the influx of humans changing anytime soon, unfortunately, the gator population needs to be controlled. This is a serious issue in any animal park or reserve where one species doesn’t have any natural predators – there are too many and it affects the natural balance of an eco-system. So while I am not a big hunting fan, I do support any humane destruction or relocation programs for alligators. It sucks for the gators, but we are really not responsible enough to live this close to this many of them for much longer.

Now before I start getting any comments about what a bad mom I am for raising my kids so close to alligators (um, did you read this post?), you should be aware of a few facts. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, between the years of 1948 and 2004, there have only been 15 reported fatal alligator attacks. That’s nothing when you consider how many of them there really are around here. In fact, the FWC receives 15,000 calls about nuisance alligators annually and then removes about 5,000 of the gators they are called about. These beasts certainly show up everywhere: in front door atriums, under cars, in a ditch, anywhere. But to have only 15 fatalities occur in 56 years? They really don’t deserve the man-eater rap they have been assigned. Like I said, they don’t like us and would be quite happy to just be left alone.

So that’s my public service announcement about Florida Alligators. I hope you’ve learned something. And I promise you that if my gators start getting frisky or deciding that they want to make my backyard their favorite sunning spot, I’ll be calling the alligator hotline asap. Maybe you’re wondering what they do with the removed alligators that are destroyed? Well, they sell it to make alligator meat OF COURSE. Do you think I’m kidding? A neighbor a few doors down had a nuisance gator removed… and guess what was for dinner? I kid you not. Gator BBQ. Gotta love Florida.


Filed under Africa, Alligators, Animal appreciation, Florida, Teaching kids, Wildlife

Sweet sixteen and never been exiled.

Last night, snuggled into bed, I watched part of MTV’s “The Hills”finale. What? So it’s the most vapid, horrifyingly shallow, “un”reality show ever. Of course, I am well aware that I am almost 35 and this admission may have pushed me a couple notches lower on the “grounded, has a clue, feminist” scale. But, whatever, I’m coming out of my MTV closet. I was watching it. And while hurling insults at that horrid human, Spencer, I saw a commercial for a new “reality” show. My Super Sweet Sixteen – EXILED.

Oh, mother of pearl. My prayers have been answered.

I may have mentioned before my visceral distaste for the show My Super Sweet Sixteen.It stands for everything that is wrong with parenting today. The expectations it sets for tweens everywhere absolutely fill me with horror. For real. It’s televised p*rn for the self centered, materialistic teenaged masses. Hell yeah, I’m getting a Escalade for my birthday. Hell yeah, I’ll fly to Paris to buy four dresses for one party. Hell yeah!! And you suck if you don’t!

Ugh, I am just not sure what to say. Except… gag me with a spoon. I’m 35, ok? As I often do while watching MTV, I am connecting with the permed out 80s teenager still living inside of me.

So anyway, MTV has now decided to take the stars of these shows (I can hardly stomach the fact that there have been 61 episodes to date of this trash) and plop them in the middle of a third world country. And as I watched this trailer, I found myself sitting up in bed, madly snickering and clapping with glee. Oooooh, they’re gonna GET theirs now…

But I have to add in a sidebar here. These parents need some exiling themselves. How could they have EVER gone along with “My Super Sweet Sixteen” in the first place? What part of showering their teen aged children with money, cars, and live performers – and then taping it all for a national television show – was ever a good idea? While their kids are getting schooled in Peru, India and Kenya, I hope someone, anyone (Super Nanny, where are you?) is setting them straight while shredding every credit card in sight.

And I also feel for the families who are hosting these girls. UGH. I suppose our status as the “Ugly Americans” can’t get much worse these days (thanks, Dubya) but I know I will cringe seeing these families react to their horrid, self serving behavior. Please, wonderful people of our earth, ALL AMERICANS DON’T SUCK THIS BAD!

But here is the irony. Back in 1987, I went through my own little teenaged exile. I wasn’t 16, I was 14. And it wasn’t Kenya, it was Swaziland. I may have had my reasons back then, but there can be no denying it – I was a very unreasonable 14 year old. And in the summer of ’87, kicking, “UH-MUH-GAWD”ing and screaming, my parents dropped me in Africa. So there.  And was I schooled? Oh, you bet.

So why do I take such glee watching these privileged brats get such a drastic slap in the face? Is it my own issues of wanting to see other kids go through what I did? No, I don’t think so. Or is it the fact that at 35, I am painfully aware of how much excess we American have – and EXPECT to have? Do I shudder at how little we Americans understand about humanity on a global scale? Do I feel heaps of shame when my fellow Americans don’t even WANT to learn more about cultures other than their own? HELL YEAH. And guess what sweet sixteeners… you suck if you don’t.

My brother and myself. Still new to Africa. Getting a clue.


Filed under Africa, Materialism, MTV, Parenting

Finding forgiveness on the grass.

A few weeks back, I saw a news story about Rwanda that struck a chord with me. This afternoon, I quickly did some research to learn a bit more and that chord is now humming a decent little symphony. Rwanda, the same country that experienced one of the most horrific mass genocides in modern day history, is practicing the art of forgiveness. And as we take stock of our souls and find peace of mind at the end of each day, we need to pay close attention to what this remarkable African country is trying to undertake.

In 1994, over 1 million men, women and children were killed in Rwanda. Today, there are over 800,000 suspects waiting trial for these deaths. Its mind boggling really. Firstly, how could any country handle such devastation and pain, and now face such an administrative nightmare as they struggle to bring these suspects to trial? Well, they have begun a pilot program where these suspects are brought to trial in Gacaca courts. From what I have researched, these courts are simply held in an open area of a small village (gacaca means “on the grass”). Community members gather, there is a judge and maybe a table and a chair or two. And the suspect faces the families affected and fellow peers as he is tried for his crime. If he has been found guilty and then apologizes, he is very often free to go. The slate is cleared, healing begins and the community can move forward. Granted, this is a pilot program and not everyone is able to forgive readily. But its a start. A very amazing start.

Reading about these courts makes me think long and hard about forgiveness and finding peace. Angry grudges are so insidious and damaging to our souls. The smallest peice of steely resentment will sit in our heart and rot it out. I have seen it happen and the seemingly irreparable damage that has resulted. Its exhausting, it ages people, it breaks hearts, families and communities. 

However, forgiveness is no easy task. It takes risk, trust and an open heart in spite of its wounds. It means rendering yourself equal to your counterpart and releasing whatever weight of right or wrong has gripped your being for however many days, months or years. Yikes. Very scary. I mean, c’mon, can you imagine finding it in your heart to forgive the man who killed 5 of your children? Impossible. I am sure, even in the Gacaca courts, the process has not been an entirely smooth one. But trying to forgive – rather than succumb to more hate or possibly more death – is my point. I am in total awe and consider this pilot program something for the world to look at very very closely.

On a different level, it also makes me consider, once again, life in Africa compared to life here in the U.S. What a beautiful thing to bring a community together on a grassy field to work out this process of trial, apology and forgiveness. Can you imagine that happening here? Ha! Yeah right! Our world is so bogged down in rules, regulations, laws, order and the rest. But of course, of course – our laws do protect us. Yes, I know our life expectancy is longer, our lifestyle is so much easier, and our rights here are endless, comparatively. Yes, we are extraordinarily lucky and I appreciate my country. But life in Africa is something to be experienced, let me tell you. Time is a shifty concept (Have you ever heard of “Africa time”? Basically, don’t rush, get there when you get there) and the world is a wild thing. Rules are relaxed to say the least. Goods are traded, music is loud, livestock is everywhere, children play without shoes, things get dirty, food is good and made at the side of the road, stories are rich and laughter is plentiful. And the freedom of forgiveness can be found in a grassy field.

A few minutes ago, my husband wandered in here and I reminded him about this story. I asked him if he could forgive his neighbor for the deaths of our children during a community meeting. Nope. No way. But he wondered what choice he would have. He also didn’t seem convinced this was such an easy thing, perhaps over-simplified, and would it really bring peace and resolution?

But allow me to bring up another example. When reading about Rwanda, I can’t help but think about my father right now. He is in Vietnam, Hanoi specifically (northern Vietnam). Again, this country, like ours, suffered immeasurable loss during the Vietnam war. And he wasn’t sure what to expect from the people he would be meeting with and working along side. He had experienced Vietnam 35 years prior and wouldn’t blame any resentment that might come his way at all. On the contrary, he was met with an interesting sense of “brotherhood”, and a feeling of “we went through this together”. Those that he has met ask him questions about his experiences, they seem to compare notes about it all and nod together with understanding. The Vietnam people he has met seem truly past the anger that would be expected even all these years later. Forgiveness – it happens.

So, this post has gone on long enough. We need a bottom line here. I may come across a little idealistic and you may conjure up an image of me as an aging peace loving 60s guru-type,  but who cares. Here it goes. Let go of anger, seek out peace in your heart and dig deep inside you to forgive. When you can, if you can, where you can. A grassy field seems to work well…

The transcript of a radio broadcast worth reading on the Gacaca Court topic:

 PRI’s, The World: Rwanda’s Gacaca Courts


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Filed under Africa, Inspiring people

My Morningside Menagerie

I like to think that my years in Swaziland prepared me to truly love and embrace all varieties of wildlife. Its a good thing too because Africa and my little part of Florida are in serious competition when it comes to frequent animal encounters. Friends joke I should charge admission to my porch to see the many wonders that crawl, scurry, graze, amble and jump through my backyard. While some other Florida folks might not consider this a bonus to my property, I do. I consider it a wonderful blessing honestly. I love wildlife and here it is, literally at my backdoor.

However (as I have previously posted), while I love these animals, I struggle with how two naturally curious and blissfully ignorant under five year old boys and these beasts can safely co-exist. I always worry a bit. While my boys play soccer out back, I stand guard at the trees and water with one eye out. But again, just like they did in Africa, these animals would rather avoid us loud, smelly, annoying humans; I know they aren’t all lined up in the woods ready to pounce on us at any moment. So I watch out but usually just enjoy our personal, live and up close, “discovery channel”.

No matter what we see, my goal is to teach my children a true love, understanding and respect for all beasties that travel through our neighborhood. Granted, my son will hardly even look up from his coloring book if I mention there an animal in the yard. So what. There is always something out and about. Both of my boys find having a turn with the binoculars much more thrilling than actually looking at the softshell turtle the size of my car tire crawling by. But I still get that thrill. And I thought I would share some pictures of what I have seen with you. This is only a sampling. And I may come back and add more.

Just a deer but one of many… 

Deer... one of many.

An aligator sunning himself on the far bank. Its safe to assume there is an aligator in most ponds or lakes in Florida. I have only seen an aligator walk through my yard once, but once is certainly enough.

Sandhill Cranes – very common in Florida but they are fearless and seem to have real interest in getting into my garage.

Sandhill Cranes

A Water Moccossin snake, also known as a Cottonmouth. Out of 100 species, this is one of the 4 poisonous (however less common) snakes in Florida. They are potentially deadly. This was taken in my front yard as I was coming back from an afternoon walk. I quickly wheeled my children into the garage and locked them in the house while I took this picture.

Water Moccossin also known as a \

One evening I went out my front door to find a spiderweb suspended from a tree and spread across my front yard. And there in the middle, seemingly floating, was this huge spider. I never found out what type it was. There was no trace of it the next morning except for one last bit of web still intact on a branch of the tree.

Unknown Spider from front yard

Probably one of the most amazing sightings I’ve seen. This mother and young bobcat were first playing in my backyard in the sun. Very relaxed with each other but wary. They did see a person in the distance out front and disappeared into the bushes for about 20 minutes. Once the coast was clear, they came back out, walked past my house and across the street and disappeared over a fence. Amazing.

Mother and young bobcat

The first bobcat seen in my backyard. I honestly thought it was just a large stray cat but no. It saw me, marked its terrotory, and stalked off.



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Filed under Africa, Florida

The Africa in me.

Before you have got me all summed up and figured out, it seems about time I share with you the fact that I am having an identity crisis. Its one I’ve been having for awhile – 20 years in fact. Now be warned. This will not be the first time you’ll hear about an identity crisis of mine. Like many women my age, we are always checking and rechecking our titles (mom, wife, employee, what have you) trying to determine which door the real “me” is behind. But I have this very extraordinary point of reference, and it seems only fair to go back in time and revisit it. My most transformative identity crisis surfaced during that lovely time of all our developing lives: high school.


Now most of you are probably cuing up “The Breakfast Club” soundtrack as you think back to those days. That could work, but I might also play the “South African National Anthem”. Between the ages 14 and 19, I lived in Swaziland. You’re probably nodding like you’ve heard of it. In case you’re honest and admit you haven’t, it is a very small kingdom located between South Africa and Mozambique. My father worked for the State Department and plonked my family there in 1987.


I really don’t want to have to go on about how “no, we did not ride elephants to school” so please don’t expect that sort of explanation right now. It was not like that at all. Mbabane was a very peaceful town with everything any rural American town would have: a pizza place, a grocery store, a small mall, a movie theater, a bank and even a KFC. My brother and I attended Waterford Kamhlaba (WK), an international school with a British based curriculum. It was an excellent school, its academics were rigorous and the student body was as diverse as one could possibly imagine. And it was there my identity was sent into a tailspin, yet to be corrected.


I arrived at WK 14 years old and a bit chippy, thinking I knew how the world turned. I did not. And I came to find out fast that being American was not going to act as an advantage either. In fact, the other students had some serious issues with us “Damn Yankees”. Now don’t get me wrong, I had wonderful friends and some amazing experiences. But there was no doubt that the wrongs of the world were often the American’s fault, and even the teachers agreed. So, I tended to back down from my American identity. I tried hard not to have too much “twang” in my accent and did all that I could to do, as most kids in high school do, to try and not be too noticeable. But being blond, advantaged, female and American meant I got a slew of dumb blond, dumb female and dumb American jokes hurled (usual with harmless intent) my way. And the final nail in the coffin was that I talked a lot (shocking, I know).  With an incessant bull’s-eye taped to my back, I could not avoid the fact that I was American to save my life. But what a great lesson to learn about being a minority, huh? Touché, privileged white woman, suck it up.


But there was an interesting flip side to all of this. After a couple years in Swaziland, I was hardly very American either. During my visits home, my clothes were weird, my music taste was weird and I had an accent. (I did?) What… was I trying to act like I was better than my American friends now? And DO you ride an elephant to school? Talk about a blond out of water, I wanted to get back “home” to WK as fast as I could.


After I left Swaziland to go to college, I needed to find a new home where being a talkative American was hardly something unique. But I also knew I would crave that diverse, intelligent community I came from. I found what I was looking for in every way at Mount Holyoke College. But those years in Swaziland, at a school with such an extraordinary political and cultural affect on its student body, have left me with a responsibility to remain true to the person I became there. I think back and wish I had grown up, further explored other cultural identities (rather than hide my own) and appreciated everything more than I did. And, today, I am extremely frustrated that I rarely live or discuss those lessons I learned long ago in my current life on a daily basis. Let me explain further.


After arriving in the U.S., I eventually assimilated right back in very well. So well, in fact, my “African-ness” was completely invisible. I mean, who are we kidding – no one would spot me walking down the street in Washington D.C. and think to say “Sawubona” (“How are you”, in siSwati). And being so “American” just got too easy. I didn’t tell the stories and lessons I had learned there to people here often enough. In fact, I was leery about sharing too much for fear it came across as pretentious. Again, I just wanted to be like everyone else. Ugh, what was wrong with me?


And now, it has been 12 years since I was back “home” in Africa. Apart from my cherished collection of WK friends that I have found again online, I have so little connection to that world before. I honestly feel as if I don’t have the right to claim those 5 crucial years of my life. But am I 100% through and through the American I look like? I don’t think so. I won’t forget what I learned. My classmates were NOT handed the kinds of rights or advantages I had as an American. My classmates lived in a perpetually violent world back in their homes. My classmates have now probably lost endless friends and family to the AIDS epidemic. My classmates know first hand what corruption does and what anger breeds. My classmates, I never comprehended half of it the way I should have, but I was by your side.


Anyway, so there lies one portion of my perpetual identity crisis. I guess, I am what I am (no Popeye jokes, please…). I can’t entirely blame myself for wanting to hang out and just watch movies with friends, and act my age in high school – rather than always discuss politics and human rights. We were all just kids, dressing badly, flirting awkwardly, and ungracefully coming into our own. And back here in the U.S., I suppose I can’t expect to find many people that would really get the significance of June 16th (the anniversary of the Soweto uprisings). So I need to make peace with that. But every once in awhile I find myself asking “who the hell am I?” when a friend balks if I refer to Swaziland. “You lived in Africa? What was THAT like?” and all I can think is “please don’t ask about riding elephants to school.”


Filed under Africa, Inspiring people, Self-analysis

It came from outerspace… I’m sure of it.

Of all that may be supernatural, UFOs rattle my cage the most. And, as it turns out, there may have been one seen in my home town a few weeks ago. My husband told me about the sighting this past Friday night. It was ‘Earth Hour” and, as responsible environmental citizens, my husband and I spent the time sitting out on our porch, with candles, some wine, grilling our dinner and checking out the stars. We had been thinking back about seeing a space shuttle night launch from our porch, when he mentioned that his players had seen a video posted on YouTube of a UFO witnessed here in our home town.  


That was all it took. I raced off to the computer (it was actually past earth hour by this point so felt justified to use electricity… but I still kept the lights off) and immediately pulled up YouTube. And there it was. Someone commented that it might be a hot air balloon, a sight that is very common in our area. But my mind raced: Why fly at night? And why can’t we see the balloon’s flame at its center? Another post claims it is a new sort of plane being tested at a nearby Air Force base. But finally, a post agrees that it is a U.F.O. and one was in fact seen in Brazil at the exact same time. Oh terrific. 

Deep in thought, I padded back out to our dark porch and took a healthy gulp of my wine. You must understand that ghosts, psychic phenomenon, and most paranormal occurrences don’t really frighten me. (I actually 100% believe in their existence and embrace all bumps in the night – but I will save my thoughts on that for another post.) U.F.O.s, on the other hand, just give me a legitimate case of the heebie jeebies. 

Here’s the thing about U.F.O.s. Their possibility represents the overwhelming prospect of the “unknown” in its truest form. The scientist in me gets right to the facts. If this universe is really so enormous and infinite, even a novice statistician (that would be me) can work out that it is very unlikely we are the only living beings in existence.  My husband argued that while there may be life, it may also be in a much simpler form. Who says? That may be true in some cases but we can not assume we are the most advanced beings out there. Now the philosophical and spiritual guru in me steps forward (am attaching the white beard, and throwing on ancient looking robes)… Who are we to say what, who, or where we are in the universal context of things? The only living beings? The most advanced? Unlikely. Your faith tells you God made us in his image. Well, then, he/she is quite brilliant, correct? Who’s to say there aren’t a whole slew of his/her images all over this universe? Now stay with me here, have you ever seen the movie Men in Black? One scene depicts an entire community of aliens living in a forgotten locker in Penn Station – that was their reality, their universe, and they had no concept of what lay outside of that locker. I am humble enough to accept that we know very little about who we are in the grand scheme of this universe. We are, in fact, living in that locker arrogantly rationalizing our feeble ideas of science to each other, while extraterrestrial commuters race by and the Amtrak of the cosmos has stopped at track 9, possibly right outside our door!!! 

Deep breaths. 

I must keep in mind that Hollywood has done a terrific job of scaring the bejesus out of me. Have you seen Independence Day? While I do feel it is ripe with that well known bit of American “we’ll blow the brains out anything unfamiliar if it dares step on our soil” agenda, (note: that movie was filmed before 9/11, interesting food for thought), the image of those space ships darkening the morning sky is unsettling to say the least. The movie War of the Worlds was horrendous to watch, and also a story that goes back for quite a few decades now. The list goes on: Aliens (I, II, III), Fire in the Sky, Mars Attacks!, Taken… at least E.T. and Men in Black involve some nice aliens.  Close Encounters of the Third Kind is an excellent U.F.O. movie but also does quite a bit of alien fear mongering until we get to its conclusion (which is secretly my hope for how such an alien/human meeting would occur… and there would be peace throughout our cosmos). 

Back to the point. I have forgotten to mention that I have also seen a U.F.O. for myself. I know I know, I should turn the lights back on and stop watching all those movies. Before I do, I will just tell you what I saw and leave it at that. 

I was living at a boarding school in Swaziland at the time – the school was located up on a hill and had a terrific view of country’s capital Mbabane, nestled in a small valley to our south. A friend and I were walking across the soccer field at night on our way to an art class. At the time, Swaziland had no evening air traffic. The one airport only landed its one jet once a week during the day – thanks to its less than advanced air traffic controlling capabilities. So when we saw something with a light far in the distance descending in the sky, it took us by surprise. We watched it for awhile, trying to explain what it might be. Suddenly it changed direction at a sharp 90 degree angle and seemed to be heading in the opposite direction, parallel to the ground. And finally, it made another extreme turn up into the sky and sped away very quickly. This may have happened over a period of two minutes or less. We convinced ourselves there must be some explanation but I don’t think we ever came up with one and I don’t think we ever brought it up again really. I still can’t figure out what could move like that in the night’s sky in Africa.  

So here is my final thought on this. I will work hard not to be convinced of impending space invasion, or fall for all the alien abduction hype. But I will not let myself be fooled that science can explain everything in our skies. Now turn your own lights off (for the sake of a postponed “Earth Hour”) and watch what was filmed in my own night’s sky only a few weeks ago.




Filed under Africa, Deep thoughts, U.F.O.s