I am wearing flavored lip gloss today for the first time in…oh…probably 25 years. Yes, I let Ilsa talk me into letting her do my make-up today. “You need sparkles and a lighter colour to make your lips look fuller,” she tells me, daubing lip gloss onto my mouth. Then she sweeps an actual paint brush over my face. She uses this instead of make-up brushes, basically because it’s what she had. It tickles excessively, but she frowns melodramatically when I laugh. “This colour makes your eyes look turquoise! Fantastic!” she exclaims at one point.

When I leave the house later, I do look a bit like I let a 14 year old do my make-up. It’s dramatic, certainly, and if you come close I smell faintly of sugar; I believe the flavor is strawberry. Ilsa even tucks her lipgloss into my hand, so I can do touch-ups as necessary.

I have been neglecting my blog sorely as of late, but I have a good excuse. Several, in fact. First of all, there’s my work with Iraqi refugees, which is only getting more time-consuming. Secondly, there’s that stack of books, sent free for me to review, but I have to admit they burden me a bit. Every bit of free time I can snatch, I fill now with reading, skimming, or working on reviews. I tell myself firmly, “I will accept no new books until I make a real dent in this stack,” but you already know how hopeless that is, how much self-control I actually have. I have been addicted to reading since I was about 8, and any free book that looks even remotely fascinating will have a sway over me. “I’ll take it if no one else wants it,” I try, and then, “Oh this one looks great!” and then “YES PLEASE!” and sure enough…I’ve got about 10 books now. Possibly more. 15? Not counting the ones already read. And they all look So! Good! I’m really excited to read them. I will try to take a picture so you can share my joy.

But today I have a couple of hours free. The kids, all 3, were invited to the same birthday party, held clear across town. Donn is out all day, so I dropped them off and I’m taking advantage of free wi-fi at Starbucks and a precious couple of hours to myself. Ideally the place would be deserted and I could curl up for a nap, but life is rarely perfect and chances are decent I wouldn’t sleep after a couple of shots of espresso anyway.

This Starbucks is near my old college and I think I saw a woman I went to school with. I can’t remember her name—possibly Kim? Many women my age are named Kim or Jennifer—and I can’t remember really anything about her, but she hasn’t really changed. I don’t strike up a conversation. I tend to leave my past in my past. I think, “How strange to think she might have lived in this same small quadrant of town for 20 years.” Then I realize, if she had recognized me, she would probably have had the same thought about me. Aside from the fact that today I am wearing a necklace of Mauritanian desert beads (old pottery beads found in the sands), there is nothing to mark me as having been gone. My boots and bracelet are from Morocco, but they could easily have been bought at Target or an import store.

Since I last wrote we’ve had Spring Break, and celebrated Abel’s birthday 3 weeks after the fact, with a party that was much more low-key than his twin sister’s. And yes, this is typical. We’ve had good evenings with friends and long afternoons spent drinking Turkish coffee in Iraqi homes. One of my students in particular is making good progress in English, which is encouraging. Yesterday we had our first day of real sunshine since about October, it feels like, and I actually got a little sunburned—proof I am again a true Oregonian, and all those years of having a base tan are gone. Life is going on. So I thought I’d say hi. What’s been up with you?

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