God Save the Hymn

During our worship services, in between speakers, we sometimes have an intermediate hymn–or rest hymn as they’re sometimes called, so that we don’t feel too restless, because listening to people talk for 40 minutes is a long time. So yeah, we sing a hymn in the middle to break it up a bit.

Today the rest hymn was “My Country, ’tis of Thee.” I get that last week was the Fourth of July, and it’s totally fine to keep celebrating our country.

But for some weird reason the congregation stood up to sing this hymn. Which isn’t “The Star-Spangled Banner.” It’s the exact tune of England’s anthem, “God Save the Queen.”

I don’t know, maybe we have English nationals in the congregation? Which might explain the seeming random standing. But wouldn’t we be singing the words to “God Save the Queen” and not “My Country, ’tis of Thee”?

I was confused.

Anyway, there are four verses to this American rip-off hymn. At the end of the third verse Reilly whispered that he was stepping out to use the bathroom. So I sat down with Z while everyone else stood up and sang.


Ten Years Since Sénégal

I was emailing a friend whose birthday is today. And I know that only because it’s two days before mine. And I wouldn’t have known this except I became friends with him and his wife while studying abroad in Sénégal.

Ten years ago.

This occurred to me today, and so I texted a different classmate from the study abroad. This classmate remarked that we were babies then. Maybe she was; I wasn’t so much. I was 34 when we started the trip, and I turned 35 while in our fourth week. I think I’m about nine years older than the married couple who befriended me. Not like it’s a contest. But I tried hard not to feel self-conscious about my age at the time.

It was such an eye-opening experience. Although I struggled with the language, I picked up fragments of comprehension about slavery and colonialism. My French did improve over time, but wow, I hadn’t been challenged like that in a very, very long time.

I wasn’t sure if these costumes are just for show or are actually part of the culture.

It was good to walk among people of a different religion, too. There were rules to follow while visiting mosques. We heard the calls for prayer fives times every day. Y’all, America can be wonderful, but it isn’t the best all the time. Or even close to perfect.

What a beautiful country. It’s hard to believe that whole experience was 10 years ago. I’m grateful I went; going made me a more compassionate, open-minded person. I made lifelong friends. This part of the path opened up the way to where I am now. Which is where I want to be.

Letter to Zinger, 7 Years and 8 Days

Dear Z,

Remember that tooth that you were waiting to lose? The one I thought you might lose on your actual birthday but didn’t? You lost it, five days ago on April 11. The terrain along your toothline is varied and fun, and you own every single bit of all the smiles you flash. It salves my soul.

I’m about to pick you up from school. I saw on the news last night that police shot a 13-year-old child. A child. I also saw on the news last night that eight people died in a mass shooting in another state.

This is not the country I want you to grow up in. I don’t know what to do.

Every day I drop you off at school I try not to worry. Your classroom is close to one of the building’s exits. Your class has a number of adults who can hopefully guide you to safety in the event of an active shooter. Let me tell you I just hate the possibility of that idea becoming a reality. Would you or any of your classmates know to keep quiet? I know your teachers would do what they could to protect you. The risk is a lot. The thought is unbearable.

I’m so glad these scary thoughts are the furthest thing from your mind. I’m grateful you take every moment of your life to find joy and fun, to give affection and friendship. To share love with the world around you.

Let me be the one to worry. You keep on being precious and spirited and happy.

I love you and your newest goofy smile,



It goes without saying I worry endlessly about Dadda, too. I hope we can all figure out how to make this better.

We Voted!

He’s wearing purple. I’m wearing red. We aim to confuse.

We didn’t wait longer than 10 minutes in line. We arrived at Orem Elementary School just before 5:30 this evening.

While we stood in line, we talked pretty loudly about some of the headlines we’d seen throughout the day.

We approached the table and our names were the only two Rs on the last page in the R section of the registered voter binder.

The poll worker gave me an electronic card. The machine I used is very different and so much more . . . modern than the machine I used when I voted in NYC. What was this fancy touchscreen? Why didn’t I have to walk into a booth and close a curtain and use all my brute strength to vote?

I spent maybe at least 5 minutes voting/playing with the fancy machine. I watched the ballot print through a little plastic window. I removed my electronic card in time for a poll worker to check a number on the machine I used. Apparently I was the 47th person today to use that machine.

Reilly waited for me just outside the gym/auditorium/second cafeteria where voted.

We ate. We came home. We took a picture.

We feel pretty good.

From My Window Last Night

In Provo, we celebrated pretend 4th of July on the 2nd of July. I don’t feel like explaining why the big party couldn’t be on real 4th of July. There’s a big event called the Stadium of Fire, and big guest stars show up and sing then fireworks go boom in the sky and it’s apparently a lot of fun.

I think this is my first time in Provo during the 4th of July. Maybe I was here sometime in the 90s, but I honestly can’t remember that far back without pulling my cerebral cortex.

Anyway, everyone was off doing something, and I have a pretty good view from my bedroom window, so I turned off my light and waited for the show to begin. I didn’t get to hear any of the accompanying music – I do like patriotic music – but I also missed the performances of David Archuleta and Brad Paisley. I’m sort of bummed about Brad Paisley. Dude can play a guitar.

The fireworks lasted about 20 minutes, and here are the last 3 minutes or so. What I like about pretend 4th of July is that I get to see a lot more fireworks shows on real 4th of July. And I’ll keep remembering all the ways America is awesome before returning to feeling that a lot of Americans are not awesome. That kind of blind patriotism doesn’t only apply to America; I saw it in Africa, too, but mostly among the kids, but they were kids, and we don’t have any excuse, really, because it’s not just our kids who are acting like that. I’m not absolving the adults from being lousy examples to their kids, because they’re adults and they should understand their responsibility to bring up children to be healthy thinkers and honest and community members and not zealots who base their decisions on fallacy and ignorance. I’m not knocking gratitude or democracy or a lot of the things that make America a great country, because America is wonderful. Keep being grateful, but just stop being stupid. You know who you are.

Look What We Found!

This is one of my most cherished NYC moments. It happened to be on a SD card that somebody (whose name might be Deena, who might also be responsible for capturing this footage, which [not this specific clip] may or may not include confessions of how many guys we’ve kissed, USING THEIR NAMES) left behind, and Becky ended up with it. Some of my bestest friends are in the same room, chilling out, trying to vote on a name for our band. We have declarations of patriotism, we have flying M&Ms, we have a little bit of R. Kelly. I’m crying in the Wilkinson Center computer lab from laughing so much. Man, I miss you guys.

A year ago today (although, according to the date, it’s tomorrow), I took off in a packed rental minivan, headed south, away from New York City, with two of my best peeps. We arrived in Jacksonville late Saturday night. I took Becky and Alicia around the bustling metropolis and captivating suburbs and sprawling hamlets of  and around Jacksonville, and they took the early flight back Monday morning.

Then began a new life for each of us.

Happy anniversary.

They Knew I Was Going to Call Them This Week

May Venancio Anderton

You are hereby notified to appear for a Naturalization Oath Ceremony on:

Friday, February 20, 2009 …

Please report promptly at 8:30 AM


It’s midnight. I just got home. Everyone else is in bed. I saw this piece of mail sitting on the foyer table and I patiently took off my jacket and boots before I opened the envelope and read its contents. I raised the letter in the air and whispered a triumphant “Yes!”

Yes, jury duty. Yes, voting. Yes. Yes, United States citizenship.

Wooooo-hoo! Yippee! YAY! AAAAAHHHH! WEEEEEEE!

I wish I could describe how I feel. I’ll probably be weeping that entire morning. I’m trying to keep calm right now. My heart is so full.

This is for real, y’all. Ten more days until I become a jury-serving, voting machine.

Pursuit of Nouns Pertaining to American Citizenship

IMG_2973  IMG_2974

This is an interesting little booklet. I have been studying for my naturalization test, because I AM NOT A CITIZEN OF THE UNITED STATES. I know people have unique and bizarre and outrageous circumstances, but I don’t know how I grew up with an American dad in the American navy, went to American schools, studied United States history, went (am going) to an American university, have worked in America ever since I was 18 and HAVE NOT BEEN ABLE TO VOTE. What the heck, people.

The positive thing about the situation was avoiding jury duty. I can’t believe I’m giving that up to be noted in the books as a United States citizen. Oh, the sacrifice.

So I think the government maybe threatened my mom with her life, because when I asked her what kind of questions were on the test, she got all vague and I-don’t-remember-y. Swearing in to become a citizen of the greatest country in the world – that process – I would assume is something you never forget.

Of course Mom remembers, but she wants me to have the full experience of the process. And if there’s anyone in this chunk of the universe who can appreciate the process of anything, it’s me. And I am grateful to my mom for allowing me to grow as a little American seedling into a lush, verdant, concerned citizen, ready to get her voting game on.

The United States of America has gone through a lot. Her journey hasn’t been easy. She’s a dynamic, living organism, certainly with flaws, but I’d choose those flaws over the scar tissue and disfigurement that other countries suffer. I’d choose – that’s the beauty of being in America, an American. It magnifies the very fundamental principle God has given us to make decisions, to participate in government; not only to dream, but to do.

Finally, I’m doing. After years of hanging onto details that kept me feeling sorry for myself – having should have been adopted, feeling ungrounded and unbelonging – and the joking fear that was rooted in a truthful fear of being deported, and $685 later, the process is well underway.

(There’s humor in that, after peeling back the red tape and bureaucracy.)

I have lived in America for 30 years. I have experienced or witnessed much of the toil this country has faced in the last quarter-century. I’m not unaware of the issues; I do what I can to stay informed. This country is blessed. This country, despite of – or maybe because of – its imperfections, will continue to stand as the greatest, freest country in the world.

I love it here. I might not yet be a citizen, and I might not yet be able to do things citizens do, but by all other standards, I am an American. I am due process.

Happy Independence Day.