Thursday, September 13, 2012

Where in the World is Burkina Faso?

After my husband and I put up his giant map of the world in the basement this summer (see July 24 post - How To Wallpaper Together and Stay Married), I found myself going down there several times a day just to stare at it. I'd be going about my daily routine and suddenly I'd realize I was going down the basement stairs again. Something was pulling me toward the map. Perhaps magnetic north? I don't think so. I think I was compelled to face a weakness. I've always been really bad at geography. Whenever a geography question came up on Jeopardy, I'd do that thing where you blow out air through loose lips and swat my hand in the direction of the TV. Geography? Really? Ask me something else.

Looking at the giant map was like looking into a mirror and seeing Ignorance stare back at me.

I decided to turn a weakness into a strength. I decided to study geography.

I found a geography game online . A pleasant female voice said the name of a country and I'd click on its location on the map. I started with Western Europe and moved my way east. Repetition. Repetition. Repetition.  I studied for weeks, usually late at night, with a bag of chocolate chips at hand. (Did you know that chocolate stimulates brain function? Just a theory I have.) When I got to Africa, I initially felt overwhelmed. How am I going to do this? I thought. But the nice lady on the game had Africa broken down into small, manageable areas, and I got through it in a few nights. I have since gone all the way around the world. I still have to work on all the small island nations. There are so many of them and they all look the same - tiny specks in an ocean.

I told my family about my project. They immediately started throwing out names of countries to try and stump me.


"Up on the northeast coast of Africa," I confidently replied.


"In the eastern interior of South Africa."


"Next to Thailand."

Phew. I breathed a sigh of relief. I had passed.

"What do you do? Go down in the basement and stare at Dad's map?" they asked me.

"No. Well, sometimes," I admitted. "And I play geography games online."


"Right by Armenia."

I continued to study. I'd tell other people what I was doing and they'd also quiz me.


"East of Ethiopia, on the coast of Africa. Just south of Eritrea."

"Burkina Faso?" My neighbor Beth asked me.

"It's right above Ghana. How do you know about Burkina Faso?"

"All  my kids did Burkina Faso for their World Fair project at school."


I was doing really well. Nobody could stump me.

And then one day,

"Lizzy, Sister Gassman* is learning where all the countries in the world are. Ask her where something is."

Lizzy is eleven years old. She's a very smart eleven-year-old. She thought for a moment and then said,

"New Guinea?"

I immediately thought of Africa.

"Well, there's Guinea and Guinea Bissau on the northwest coast of Africa," I responded.

Lizzy got a confused look on her face.

"I was thinking of the island down by Australia."

Ha! I should have known that. It's not even a small island.

Well, I was humbled by a child. I still have a lot of work to do. And I'm going to have to constantly review what I've learned so far until it's really cemented in my brain. And borders will change. I'll probably never really be done. 

But I'm having fun and hopefully staving off Alzheimer's. 

My Jeopardy stats have improved. 

And I just feel like a better citizen of the world.

*This was a neighbor child who belongs to our church. In the church, we use Brother and Sister like Mr. and Mrs.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Weighing In on Weighing In

What's the most significant number in your life? The one that matters most to you at any given time? 

If you're female, it probably fluctuates. And it probably manifests itself every time you step on the bathroom scales.

I have a doctor appointment tomorrow. Just a routine visit. But we all know what that means, don't we? It means weigh-in time.

It's not like I don't know how much I weigh. I weigh myself pretty regularly at home. But there's a difference between weighing at home and weighing at the doctor's office and it can be up to as much as five pounds depending on what time of day you go, how much you have eaten and what you are wearing. At home I only weigh myself under strict conditions. First of all, I have to be coming off of a couple of healthy eating days. It has to be first thing in the morning, stark naked, after going to the bathroom, and before taking even a sip of water into my body.

 When I go to the doctor, ridiculously enough, I try to reconstruct these conditions as much as I possibly can. I try to schedule my appointments early in the day so that I can more easily abstain from food and drink until it's over. I wear the lightest weight clothing I own. And I remove shoes and any outerwear before stepping onto the scales.

And I don't even have a weight problem.

Not really. A few pounds of middle-age belly fat I'd like to be rid of, but I do realize that's asking a lot at almost fifty. I know that the nurse or medical assistant or whoever is weighing me is rolling her eyes as she waits for me to slip my shoes and jacket off, and I always feel bad if she's heavier than I am.

But I can't help it. There's something about that number and the fact that it's going on my permanent medical chart. 

Nobody likes to weigh in. No matter what they weigh. 

I was talking with a couple of friends about how ridiculous it is that we have to weigh in at the doctor every time we go. Well, two of us were talking about it. The other one was just listening.

"I was just going in for a sinus infection, and they made me weigh in," I complained. "They even weigh me at the dermatologist."

As we ranted, our listening friend calmly waited. Once we were done, she very simply stated,

" I just tell them I don't want to be weighed this time."

The other two of us looked at each other. Our mouths fell open.

You can do that?

There's just something so authoritative about being in a doctor's office. I've been to a couple of appointments since this conversation took place. I have not yet been able to work up the courage to stand up to these people.

Will tomorrow be the day? Maybe I'll practice tonight. I'll look into the mirror and confidently pronounce, 

"No thank you. I don't want to be weighed this time."

 But just in case, I'm going up to my closet now to weigh my clothing options. Literally!

(So maybe you noticed the advertising that appeared on my blog several weeks ago. And maybe you've noticed that now it's gone. So much for my dream! It was causing me anxiety like you wouldn't believe. Every time I thought about my blog, I'd have this horrible feeling come over me. You know that feeling you get when something is terribly wrong? I was feeling like that all the time. 
 I'm pretty sure it was the advertising aspect of the whole idea. As soon as I cancelled it, I felt a return of peace. I will continue to post pretty regularly, but I won't rob myself of that peace I need to be truly happy and healthy. Blogging is something I've always enjoyed and I want to keep it that way! Thank you for reading my blog. I do love it when people read it. And I love your comments. I'm just not up to going pro, I guess!)