And then there were four… five… six… wait, how many?

Well the semester is drawing to a close and the Mister and I have become the figurative guardians of at least three tiny baby geckos, recently hatched in various parts of our bedroom.

Baby gecko on the ceiling

Baby gecko on the ceiling

I was getting into the shower one night a month or so ago and noticed something moving around the shower head. My first thought, of course, was that it was a centipede, so I jumped out and grabbed a flashlight. Whatever it was was gone, but I could see something unusual in the gap where the faucet pipe comes out of the wall. Upon further inspection, it turned out to be half of a tiny eggshell! 

Since that night we have seen one baby gecko that hangs around the shower, one that hangs out in the closet and one that can often be found in the main area of the room. They are slightly different, but are all less than two inches in length and very cute to watch. Over the past weeks they have started to expand their territories, and it’s cool to watch them venture into new areas and react to their new surroundings.

The closet gecko, which we call Sam, likes to crawl out of the closet and peek out into the room from the safety of underneath the nearby dresser. The shower gecko – George – recently ventured onto the bathroom counter and then tried to hide against the back side of my makeup bag when the Mister came in to wash his hands. The third baby, who doesn’t have his own name, can often be seen crawling around the vicinity of the air conditioner.

Unnamed gecko baby near the air conditioner

Can you see him? He’s up above the air conditioner cord cover. (Closer pictures were too blurry.)

We like our tiny gecko family and do our best to be mindful of their positions and leave them alone. We have had to scare them away from things that could be dangerous to them, though, like the whirling ceiling fan or Meera’s kennel. (She ignores them for the most part, but she will lie on the bed and stare at them suspiciously if they are moving across the ceiling.)

We have plenty of mosquitoes to go around, and I would rather have geckos than centipedes any day. 

What do you think we should name the third baby? Feel free to submit your suggestions in the comments. 

Summer Reading/Watching Recs

So I’ve been reading a lot of novels and watching a lot of movies lately and I thought I would post some of my recent recommendations for those who might be looking for a new author or movie release to curl up with on the remaining warm summer nights. These aren’t all recent releases, they are just things I’ve read/seen recently.

Books

1. Fall of Giants and Winter of the World, by Ken Follett – I list these together because they are the first two installations in the Century Trilogy. These historical fiction novels begin in the year preceding World War I and continue through the “resolution” (if you can really call it that) of World War II. The story line follows five interrelated families – one each from England, Wales, the United States, Germany and Russia – as they try to navigate and survive in a world thrown into the chaos of war. If you like historical fiction this is definitely a trilogy for you to try. The books are a bit long, but I flew through them and finished in only a couple of days. It’s one of those things that just sucks you in until you can’t put them down, so be sure you don’t have any pressing, upcoming deadlines in the next week or so. The third installment – Edge of Eternity – was released earlier this year but I’m still too poor to have read it. I’m sure it’s wonderful as well. (I will warn, however, that while these books are tastefully done overall, there is some graphic retelling of certain aspects of the world wars.)

2. Pillars of the Earth and World Without End, also by Ken Follett – Again, these books are linked and should be read in order. Pillars is set in 12th century England and follows the travels of a stonemason’s family on his quest to build the world’s most beautiful cathedral. World picks up in the same town a century later. Again, a wonderful selection for any reader who loves historical fiction. These books are more recommended for mature readers, however, since the villains commit many heinous crimes against humanity. It’s one of those things where you hate the bad guys so much you can hardly stand for them to be alive and are not at all sorry when they get what’s coming to them. 

3. Angels and Demons and The DaVinci Code, by Dan Brown – I’m sure many of you have heard of these books and the religious controversies that surround them. Angels deals with an attack on the Catholic church by the infamous historical group known as the Illuminati, and Code deals with the search for religious relics hidden by the ancient Knights Templar. Yes, some of the characters say many things that can be taken as sacreligious and insulting to readers who – like myself – believe in an all-powerful God. However, like anything else it must all be taken with a grain of salt. If you do your historical research you will learn that the Bavarian Illuminati were hardly more than a group of early Germans protesting an “illegitimate” king and the Knights Templar were highly-trained members of the medieval Crusades. Like Harry Potter, it’s called “fiction” for a reason and witchcraft doesn’t have to be real just because you read about it. However, the way Dan Brown alters historical fact to create a breath-taking race against time is suspenseful and makes for a very good thriller read.

4. Divergent, by Veronica Roth – The Divergent series is also a trilogy, the first of which has recently been made into an acceptable movie. While certainly not high-brow classic literature, the series is a quick and fun read for a younger crowd. Another dystopian series, much like The Hunger Games, Divergent explores a forced class system and what happens when people are put into tiny boxes instead of being allowed to explore who they really could be. (If you’ve seen the movie, I promise, a lot of things make a lot more sense and Trish isn’t such a filmsy little girl in the books.)

5. Gone With the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell – Ok, ok, I hear many of you sighing loudly at this one, but I just can’t help it. No matter what part of the country you come from, Mitchell’s Civil War novel is undoubtedly one of the great American classics. Is it a completely accurate depiction of the antebellum American South, with it’s endless mint juleps and towering plantation columns? No. But Scarlett’s unfailing determination to bring her father’s ruined plantation back to it’s former glory, no matter what muck she has to pull herself through first, is admirable. My husband calls it “the longest book ever written,” and that’s close to being true. I’m only halfway through right now and I just started chapter 31; but in the end it’s one of those novels that I think everyone should read, regardless of where you come from. It’s not just about the old South but about the war that put brother against brother and tore a country apart, and about how so many worked so hard to regain their dignity after it all fell apart. After all, when the movie came out in 1939 it was one of the most beautiful, elaborate productions to date and people of all social classes rode or walked for miles to see it. (Some potentially offensive material, but it’s part and parcel of the times represented and should be taken as such.)

 

Movies

1. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas – rather than reiterate everything I already said about this one, I’ll just refer you back to my original post where I talked about the profound impact this movie recently had on me. I also discovered that it’s based on a book, although I haven’t read it yet, so that should be something to consider reading as well. 

2. Maleficient – Oh my goodness. The mister and I saw this movie twice in theaters and probably would have gone again if it had still been out. This is definitely Angelina Jolie’s best production to date, and I really don’t think anyone else could have done justice to the part like she did. This movie only recently left theaters, so it won’t be available for purchase or rental for a while, but it should definitely be on your list of things to watch soon. It is beautifully done, with every costume, every graphic, every movement so exquisitely  gorgeous to almost bring tears to your eyes. Even if you (somehow) don’t like the story line – which is also tremendously done – you’ll love it just for the visual aesthetics. Try to watch Disney’s original Sleeping Beauty first, if you can, just to refresh the Maleficient character in your mind before you watch it. You won’t believe the backstory she’s been given, or how “little beastie” will melt a dragon’s heart.

3. How To Train Your Dragon (1 & 2) – I really didn’t think I would like these movies. When the mister suggested watching the first one on Netflix I thought it would just be another little boy movie about dragons and fire. But it’s not. It’s the story of a Viking son who doesn’t really fit in and how he finds his place in a very unexpected way. The second installment, recently in theaters, is even better, with its resounding theme of family and honor. I have always been somewhat fascinated by both Greek/Roman and Norse mythology, so when the music swells and the characters begin to speak of “taking your place at the table of kings in the depths of Valhalla,” I couldn’t help but feel my heart swell a little. Even if you aren’t interested in that sort of thing, the vibes coming from the characters during that scene will get to you anyway.

I hope some of these suggestions will suit your fancy. Let me know if you have anything to recommend to me! I always love new books and inspiring characters. Happy reading/watching! 

on History, Hatred and Learned Responses

I’ve been watching a lot of movies lately, and had originally started this post as a list of my top recommendations for summer programming. However, I literally just finished the last few seconds of this particular movie, and as I sit here in shock, barely able to breathe, I realize that this movie cannot simply be grouped with a list of other films. This movie deserves its own discussion.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is a British film, released in 2008, set during World War II. It features an eight-year-old German boy, Bruno, who comes face-to-face with a Jewish prison camp. Two young boys, one on each side of the prison fence, don’t understand why they are different.

Bruno is taught that Jews are the evil in the world, and that the camps they are sent to are recreational havens simply meant to separate them from the rest of the German population. He’s told his father, the camp director, is making the country a better place. He doesn’t understand why his new friend wears dirty, striped pajamas, why he is always so hungry, or why he can’t come out to play football. He thinks the numbers the Jewish boy wears on his chest are part of a game and repeatedly asks to know the rules.

The Jewish boy doesn’t know why he’s inside the fence or why his family is disappearing. He wants to play games with Bruno, but instinctively knows that having Bruno’s football inside the fence is dangerous. He talks about his grandparents and how they must have been very sick because they went to a “hospital” as soon as the family arrived and were never seen again.

Bruno’s older sister, Greta, is 12 and wholeheartedly embraces the Nazi ideals. She idolizes a young Nazi soldier, asks her tutor to tell her all about the “nasty Jews” and plasters her bedroom wall with posters of Hitler and his followers. She doesn’t even flinch with a Jewish gardener is beaten to death in their kitchen for spilling some wine, and tells Bruno that “he deserved it anyway.” She is constantly brainwashed with propaganda and false history that tells her what is happening is right and necessary, and that the Jews in the camp are less than human and therefore do not deserve to be treated with any human dignity or respect.

These kids are caught in a world of hatred and violence that they don’t understand. Bruno and his Jewish friend can’t understand why they are different.

Because the truth is, they aren’t. It’s only the world around them that says they should be.

The “nature vs. nurture” argument has gone on in science and sociology for decades, but one thing that cannot be argued is that a child is not born with an innate hatred for another type of person. That is a learned response. German children in World War II learned from their parents that Jews and anyone else who was different were to be persecuted and eliminated; white children in America learned from their surroundings that those with black skin were meant to be slaves; early American settlers were told by their superiors that Native American Indians were dangerous and must be controlled. How many horrible things do children learn today by watching parents and grandparents who cannot let go of their hatreds and grudges against another sort of people? It’s not just the overt things, like slavery and concentration camps; it’s also the little things we say and do that tell our children someone else is less worthy than we are. What kinds of atrocities might our children’s generation commit because we today can’t learn to accept other cultures and races and move on with our lives as a human race?

But learned responses go both ways.

Just as Greta in the movie was taught to hate Jews, so are we today taught to see that period of mankind’s history as a far-away incident, something that happened in a distant time in a distant place. We’ve all been taught about the Holocaust. We all know the basic historical facts surrounding that time period. But how many of us have really set it sink in that six million people were murdered in concentration camps across Europe? How many of us have sat at the feet of a survivor and listened to his or her terrible stories without either tuning them out as talking relics or hushing them as inappropriate for children’s ears? I am ashamed to say that I’ve been to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., and I spent much of my visit skimming over the exhibits wanting to get through quickly so we could find something to eat. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas hasn’t won any real awards, in Great Britain or America, and that in itself tells you something. It’s too much; it’s too brutal; it’s too true – and nobody wants to award a movie that reminds us who is at fault.

It is an old saying that those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it. I, however, say that those who are not shocked by history are doomed to teach their children how to repeat it.

Watch The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. It’s available on Netflix both inside and outside the U.S., and can be ordered on Amazon for less than $10. I’m ordering myself a copy as I write this, and I will loan it to anyone who asks.

If the ending doesn’t leave you frozen in your seat, shocked and hardly able to breathe, then you have a much bigger problem than you realize.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

The one with the feet

There’s a very bohemian, devil-may-care feeling to sitting on an upper story porch, lounging in a deck chair with your bare feet propped up on the balcony railing like a flower child with her legs hanging out the car window.

I don’t know why it is exactly, but this is my favorite happy place. Our upstairs porch is well shaded and gets a good breeze during the day, and I can watch the comings and goings on the golf course from the relative privacy of my chair. I like to bring my breakfast out here in the mornings before the Mister is awake and take time to enjoy the quiet before the golf course tractors really get going. (It helps that this is also undeniably the coolest place in the house.)

I feel like this is one of the only places where I appreciate living here. The island is beautiful — regardless of how I may feel about the rest of it — and I often forget to stop being irritated with the locals long enough to appreciate my surroundings. At what other time in our lives will we live on a tropical island? At what other point will I have enough free time to sit in the gentle breeze reading classic novels for hours at a time? Never. This will never happen again. And while there are days that I hate this place with so much passion it consumes me, I do have to sit back and acknowledge that this is a gift I will probably miss once I have a 9-5 job again and children to chase after.

We joke about how golfers and yard workers can often look up at our house and see Meera’s little gray face watching them through the railing, but the truth is that, more often than not, they can also see my feet hanging out into the sunshine. What a strange picture that probably is. I’m sure that’s probably how the pool cleaners know which house is ours from the back — they just look for the one with the feet.

porch with a view

Thoughts on the Hobby Lobby ruling

*For those of you who are my Facebook friends and have read my thoughts on this case on that platform, much of this blog post will be a repeat of that discussion. 

I’m sure many of us are completely sick of hearing about how the Supreme Court made a landmark ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby retail stores against the Obamacare mandates requiring employers to pay for all forms of birth control as part of their company insurance policies. However, I am most sick if seeing the following statements plastered all over my Facebook feed:

“All the Supreme Court judges are men, what do they know about birth control?”

“It’s not my boss’ business what kind of birth control I want!”

“I’m a woman and I’m in control of my own body and my choices!”

and etc. 

Here is what all the outraged women’s lib posters seem to be overlooking:

Women who work for Hobby Lobby, and any other stores that may follow in its footsteps, can STILL USE ANY TYPE OF BIRTH CONTROL THEY WANT! Hobby Lobby is only refusing to cover four of the 20 types of birth control available in its company insurance plan. Those four types are things like plan b and the morning after pill, which are bought and taken with the intention to destroy any fertilized eggs that might be present – i.e. intentionally causing an abortion, if applicable. Female employees can still use their insurance to purchase any other type of regular birth control.

However, Hobby Lobby’s female employees still, under their legal rights in the United States, have the right to choose those options not covered by their insurance if they wish, regardless of whether their employer agrees with their decision or not. This ruling has not taken away the “right to choose” and the ability to “be in control of your own body.” But, if a woman is going to choose to eliminate her unborn child, she has to pay for it herself. Which only makes sense.

Let’s say a person were going to make a personal decision on some other widely controversial topic: the Muslim religion (also something to which the arguments “separation of church and state” and “freedom of religion” can be applied.) Let’s say I – an American woman – make the choice to convert to Islam. However, I want my friend, who believes Islamic practices to be morally wrong, to pay for my pilgrimage flight to Mecca. My friend refuses based on religious convictions. So I take him to court for discrimination because he refused to pay for something that would violate his personal moral code.

Does that make sense? 

The owners and controllers of the Hobby Lobby corporation believe that abortion is morally wrong. What sense does it make to force those people to violate their personal moral convictions by paying for abortion-causing medications that, if women really want them, can be purchased from their local pharmacy anyway? 

If you want it, you can get it. Nobody’s stopping you from making that decision. However, if you’re going to make that decision you should be fully responsible for the medications and procedures necessary to do so, which also makes you completely liable for any side effects, after effects or other unpleasant or unexpected results. It is not your company’s fault if you regret your decision later. You made the choice; you paid for the choice; and only you can be held responsible.

Regardless of whether you – the reader – personally support abortion or not, you have to recognize the flaws in an argument that wants to force someone to pay for something that violates their conscience. You wouldn’t want to buy me something that violated your conscience, just because I demanded it, would you? 

Why expect the same of company owners?

I welcome discussion. Please leave your thoughts below.