Margie Hord

Expat by Default

Month: May 2018

How Can Beauty Come Out of Evil?

Green Glass Sea

Dewey Kerrigan was almost eleven when she moved to Los Alamos, New Mexico in the 40’s to be with her Dad, a scientist at a super-secret location. He and some other scientists, including J. Robert Oppenheimer, were working on a project known as “the gadget.”

Not your everyday gadget, it was the atom bomb.

This fictional account by Ellen Klage builds up around a very real historical event, in the novel “The Green Glass Sea.”

Dewey’s Mom had disappeared when she was a baby, so she’s often on her own or with neighbors. Everything is hush-hush as they wonder whether “the gadget” will help them win the war against Japan.

Finally, the Los Alamos community gathers one night to see an explosion miles away, an eight-mile high, glowing mushroom cloud. It leads to celebration, to cheers, to drinking.

Until the end of the novel, one wonders what in the world the title is referring to. Much as I hate spoilers, this one is central to my topic.

Dewey joins the family of her friend Suze Gordon on an unusual birthday-celebration trip, where they drive out into the middle of nowhere, where it is impossible to imagine anything worthwhile seeing. When they finally walk out into the “flat, featureless desert”, first they come upon charred bushes and small scorched animals.

Suddenly, they discover a “huge green sea”, which instead of being water, is glass. It looks as if “a giant candle had dropped and splattered green wax everywhere.” Suze’s father proudly identifies “the first mineral created on this planet in millions of years”, Trinitite. (Yes, this mineral exists, as a result of those bomb tests!)

Dewey’s friend thinks it looks like kryptonite. Dewey herself puts her hand on the green, pebbled surface in awe, whispering, “Papa helped make this.” She remembers how her Dad’s voice used to sound when he talked about “how beautiful math and science were”.

Dr. Gordon uses a Geiger counter to make sure the girls don’t keep any pieces that are too “hot” with radiation, before they leave

After a bomb test of deadly proportions, beautiful glass!

How telling, that the author should seek to find meaning and beauty in the midst of a story which is ultimately related to destruction. The protagonist herself lives great personal tragedy, which I won’t go into to avoid further spoilers, yet this last memory speaks of hope arising from the ashes, like the mythical phoenix.

Beauty after Bullet Shots

Real life abounds in stories that show how ultimate meaning can come from what seems cruel or meaningless. Recently I read about the horrifying experience of Lisette Johnson of Virginia. Over the years, her husband’s violence had escalated, culminating in a shooting incident where she was left badly injured. Her diaphragm was ruptured; a bullet nicked her heart, and she nearly died.

A bullet is still lodged in her liver.

Lisette’s husband took his own life afterwards.

After such a traumatic ordeal, it is encouraging to read Lisette’s testimony:

“I have a great deal of joy and purpose in my life now. I’ve worked to help pass a law in Virginia that requires people who have a permanent protective order against them to give up their firearms. The law could have made all the difference in my case.” (Woman’s Day, Sept. 2016)

In addition, this survivor works with victims of domestic violence and trauma, helping them to find healing. Out of evil has come healing and help for others, as well as an important step forward legally for protecting potential victims.

Beauty after Loss

Finally, let me refer to two books by Nancy Guthrie that touched me deeply. The first one, “Holding on to Hope,”  follows the author’s faith journey as she and her husband made the decision to let their child live after a diagnosis of a rare congenital disease, Zellweger Syndrome. The baby girl, Hope, was given less than six months to live.

The Guthries, knowing the illness could be repeated, decided he should undergo a vasectomy. To their dismay, Nancy became pregnant with a second child, who was born with the same syndrome and also died not long afterwards.

Another book by Guthrie, “Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow”, reflects on grief and loss in such a way that has surely helped many make sense of their suffering.

Much as I question whether I can classify illness as “evil”, it is certainly, for some of us, rooted in the coming of evil to this earth. Without denying the heart-wrenching pain involved in her loss and that of her husband, Nancy Guthrie recognized that good had come as a result.

“To experience and exude peace when life is crashing down around you, to have the lightness of joy when the weight of sorrow is heavy, to be grateful for what God has given you when you’ve lost what is most precious to you– that is God at work on the interior of your life, on display in your life. It is the light of God piercing the darkness of this world.”

Beauty at the Cross

Once I was watching TV at the home of a Laotian immigrant family, who hadn’t lived long in Canada. “Jesus Christ Super-Star” was on, and a young daughter was getting at least some of the story (perhaps totally new to her). Shocked at the crucifixion, she asked me, “Why did they do that? He was a good man!”

I was at a loss for words, particularly knowing that her English was barely functional.

Evil was at the heart of it, in a sense. Ironically, the “father of lies” hoped to destroy the “Author of life.”

However, God was in control and actually was not taken by surprise. He had a purpose in what to some was apparent “failure”, but was meant to save humankind. That sacrifice put the terrible weight of the sins of the world on Christ’s shoulders, to be taken off ours! Later, he burst the bonds of death and beauty reigned.

A sea of beautiful, stunning green glass… daring evil to have the last word and triumph!


Just Scatterbrained, or Do I Have ADD?

“If my head weren’t attached, I’d lose it!” Have you ever said that?

For much of my life, I have been known to be forgetful or absent-minded. Then there’s that funny word “scatterbrained”, defined as “disorganized and lacking in concentration”. Bingo!

More recently, as I’ve talked to other family members of different ages, they’ve said they suspect they have something like ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). Years ago, most of us didn’t know about that terminology.

Scatterbrained over the Years

Misplacing things was a given. Fortunately, my Mum was “a good looker” (as she liked to say) and my husband too, sometimes finding things where I swore I’d already looked.

Over the years, I’m sure I’ve “lost” dozens of sweaters, Mexican “rebozos” (shawls), and umbrellas, often on public transportation. Once I lost a good new coat in an airport bathroom! In a taxi, I left a hymnbook. On a bus, I left school papers and grades, put up signs on several buses and finally got my bag back from someone who, of course, wanted an award. Absent-minded professor indeed!

One of the most memorable situations related to my carelessness was the time I left a passport on a Greyhound bus in the US. That meant I had to stay there longer than planned, and missed a semester of school in Mexico! Even so, there were blessings in that unexpected “extra time”, things that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

Much later in my life, modern technology brought those amazing but all-too-small memory sticks. It’s so easy to forget them somewhere (despite their name), and often I did in classroom computers, internet cafés, and so on. Sometimes I was able to recuperate them, relieved that important information wasn’t lost.

As I reached my 40’s, I began to use reading glasses. In recent years, I was fortunate that my husband was often at home and could bring my glasses to school when I forgot them. Embarrassing, but he patiently took them quite a few times. Once I had to go to a nearby store to buy some new ones.

Another challenge is organization. Making to-do lists is one way I try to keep track of things. My family gets a laugh out of my little lists and post-its all over the place. Of course, I end up having too many, and not finding the one I need when I need it.

Scatterbrained as a Traveler

My mom, and later even my daughter, would remind me upon taking a trip: “Always check how many pieces of luggage you have with you, and count them whenever you move from one place to another”.

On a trip this month, I didn’t have all that much luggage, but I forgot to take that advice into account. In a major airport, after unloading everything onto the security conveyor belt (having left one piece at the bag drop already), I started to take things out of their trays on the other side.

Laptop in backpack, check. Watch on wrist, check. Purse in hand, check.

Then off I went, for what was easily a kilometer walk to my departure gate.

After a short wait, it was time to board the plane. Great, very few passengers, so it was quick.

Upon finding my seat number, I reached for my belongings and realized I had my backpack but not my carry-on suitcase! Too late to go back, but I was given the lost-and-found e-mail to ask about it and “pick it up on my return”. Sorry, I wasn’t planning to return anytime soon!

Fortunately, that happened in Canada; in some countries, that loss might have been permanent. However, it’s going to cost a pretty penny to get that bag back, with special fragile heirlooms included.

Scatterbrained or ADD?

For me, it would seem that extreme absent-mindedness can be related to an attention deficit. Now, as I wonder whether I have some degree of ADD or ADHD, I thought it would be worthwhile doing a little research. This page talks about some symptoms that adults may recognize in themselves.

Anyway, I decided to try a checklist to do a little self-analysis:

Considered lazy or stupid as a child. No
Poor organizational skills, lots of clutter Yes
Tendency to procrastinate For sure!
Trouble starting/ finishing projects Who read my mind?
Chronic lateness No
Frequently forgetting appointments, etc. So-so
Constantly misplacing things YES!
Frequently interrupt others Some
Poor self-control No
Easily flustered and stressed-out So-so (Hubby would say YES)
Low self-esteem and sense of insecurity So-so
Hypersensitivity to criticism Yes (afraid to read student evaluations)
Trouble sitting still, constant fidgeting No
Impulsive, overly talkative No


Okay, there are more characteristics listed online, mostly ones where I’d say “no”. Basically, I wouldn’t say I’m hyperactive (which isn’t always part of ADD), and compared to some people I know, I’m not as bad at procrastinating, or forgetting commitments. But as for misplacing or forgetting things, I could almost get a Guiness record! Perhaps I have a partial attention deficit.

So… unless I see a specialist (which I don’t plan to), the jury is out. What about you? If you identify quite a few of these characteristics, and especially if they are affecting your studies, work or relationships, do consider getting help!

Blind Curve: Expect the Unexpected

“Blind curve ahead, trail users exercise extreme caution”, says the sign. True, there are bushes in the way and you can’t see what might hit you if you don’t stay on the right side. Joggers don’t want to smash into speeding bikes, or vice versa! There might be other joggers, skateboarders, or even a coyote or bobcat… The asphalt trail is also open to maintenance vehicles, which would be more dangerous indeed. Caution is a must.

I’d never seen such warnings on a trail before, but I had run into them on highways plenty of times. All the same, it’s pretty obvious you shouldn’t switch lanes on a two-lane road when you can’t see whether traffic is coming in the opposite direction!

In the case of the road or path, a blind curve is a warning sign in itself, telling us to prepare to avoid an undesirable accident.

A curve in an asphalt road in the mountains

But what about those blind curves in life? Don’t you wish there were warning signs? A lot of times it doesn’t happen. Bam! You run right into things like “It’s cancer”, or “He up and died”, or “She left me”. Just in case, should we always “stay in the right lane”? It helps, but doesn’t guarantee zero accidents. Continue reading

Spring at Last

Winter’s snows are but a memory now,

yet their abundance fills

rushing rivers and springs,

their white foaming down waterfalls.

The first bright dandelions dot dirt roads,

and their cousins, the more daring daffodils

show off their frills

in gardens, on hills.

Bold birches bare their stark white bark

against blue skies flecked with clouds.

The wind whispers in the tall pines

and brings the occasional

whiff of spruce.

Hillsides are still

a mixture of dark ever-green

and light browns,

with pale spring greens

and dusky pinks

barely a promise

in almost-budding tree tips.

The new warmth hints of summer,

but winter seems to have been

only yesterday.


(Vermont, May 2018)

Reflecting on How to Answer When Told “You’re a Strong Person”

When my husband passed away after 36 years of marriage, several friends encouraged me with the words “You’re a strong woman!” In other words: “You can handle this.” Much as I was thankful for their trust in me, more than once I answered: “I’m weak, but I have a strong God!”

Strength Doesn’t Appear by Magic

When friends face tragedies, a common response is to console them by exhorting them, “Be be strong; have faith.” But strength and faith aren’t resources we can drum up as if by magic. They aren’t innate in us; the truth is that they grow in the middle of challenging experiences. In the long run, I’ve found, my true strength is God-given.  Continue reading

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