Tag Archives: mom

Today’s choice

I am moved to tears. Daily. By a blog. (Well, I was. BWIHIA – Back When I Had [regular] Internet Access.)

And Dreamboat finally asked me to stop reading it before I come to bed.

The family behind the blog continues to experience heartache that can be overwhelming, and I deeply identify with some of their circumstances. But, do you know what is emerging from their pain? Beauty. Because they, the writer of Chasing Rainbows and her family, choose to learn from every circumstance. Because they choose to overcome. To not just continue living. But, to thrive. To practice gratitude for the good things in their life.

I want to be like that. I want to focus on the silver lining. The joy that exists alongside the darkness and the despair.

I firmly believe that joy comes through gratitude. 

Just let that sink in…Without actively cultivating, or practicing, being thankful, we don’t have joy.

As a mom, it drives me crazy when my kids ask for something the second after they’ve just received a treat.  Can’t they be grateful for a little while?  Gratitude doesn’t seem to come naturally to them.

But, unfortunately, that sounds just like me. Maybe they got my ‘wanting’ genes.

Or, maybe it’s human nature.

I (and possibly, you) want and want and want something, like a house or a job (which is something I really-need-to-find-right-about-now-when-our-bank-account-has-been-depleted-from-this-year-of-travel), and the minute I achieve it, I start wanting something else. The minute I finally get the shoes I’ve lusted after, there’s another pair I must have. That’s true for me, even with groceries. Especially the fresh, organic kind.  I constantly have to remind myself to be grateful. To say thank you. To Dreamboat. To the kids. To friends. To colleagues.

And, of course, the more I speak out my gratitude, the more I become aware of how blessed I truly am. Which then, makes me grateful.  See the beautiful cycle?

We have a family rule, which I love. Before the kids can ask for something, they have to first thank us for three things. Isn’t that awesome? Even though I know they’re saying ‘thank you’ to get something else, it still has the desired effect of making them grateful, and reminding them of how much I do for them, and it makes me happy too. It’s a win-win.

“When we lose our tolerance for vulnerability, joy becomes foreboding.” Think about it. (Quote from Dr. Brene Brown).

We get to choose our attitude. We can choose to live and be content in our circumstances. To open up to others and allow them to get close to us. To be vulnerable. To be present and find the gifts in our lives right now. To find joy.

I know this may sound trite to some of you who are hurting. Suffering. Grieving the loss of someone, or something. But we all face pain. Life can be hard (I would actually say, “Life IS hard”).

Just this week, two hours after finally arriving at our destination in Colorado, joyfully reunited with our two older kids, we sat down to eat with family. For what should have been a raucous reconnection.

But. Instead. Peanut reached out to poke/pet (interpretation dependent on whether you were the toddler or the dog) the family dog. And it bit him. In the face. One tooth went into the outer corner of his left eye. Five additional bite marks were so covered in blood, it was difficult to see how badly his face was hurt.

My darling Dreamboat, concerned about the blood dripping all over my shirt, was trying to stop the flow of blood down Peanut’s face. (Good thing Dreamboat wasn’t aware of how much I spent on that shirt, or he might still be standing in the kitchen, mopping up blood from Peanut’s face.) Within minutes, we decided to bundle him back into the car that we had just gratefully exited (after ten days of driving). We waved a hasty goodbye to the older Littles, and drove an hour to the nearest emergency room.

During the five-hour-visit, Peanut was treated, his eye examined, antibiotics administered, and one bite-mark was stitched up.

Dreamboat and I came crashing down from the adrenaline rush, me with uncontrollable shakes and he with an overwhelming desire to sleep; and had to explain, repeatedly, again (as we have to do as least once a day), that yes, Peanut is four years old, but he doesn’t speak. At three-and-a-half-months-old, he was hit by a car that drove through the wall of his daycare. And since then, he is developmentally delayed. That this dog bite doesn’t even register in Peanut’s Top Five Medical Emergencies. We interpreted his signs, answered their medical questions, and their curiosity, as they treated our frightened, hurting, little boy.

We finally left the hospital, drove an hour back up the mountain, and climbed in to bed just before 3:00am. To wake the next morning and learn, that the dog had been put down.

This sweet dog was well-loved. By all three of our children. By its family. By me.

Just recently it saved the lives of two family members from a pack of coyotes when they were lost, trapped, overnight. It had defended their car from thieves. Their house from intruders and bears (yes, this is Colorado, wild bears get hungry and daring, especially in the spring). But, it had started biting non-thieves, and children that frightened it (Peanut was the second child to be bitten, and its owners were deeply concerned about potential, future, episodes).

That night, through our tears, we raised our glasses and made a toast to the sweet, life-saving, Peanut-biting, dog.

You see, life IS hard.

We all have heartache. Sometimes it is fleeting. Sometimes in comes in the form of a little boy, and stays with me, for each day I am lucky enough to spend with him.

But, there is beauty, and deep joy in life as well. I am grateful to be reunited with my older kiddo’s. And that my Peanut’s eye is going to be fine. And that his little face is healing nicely. And I am grateful for each day I am lucky enough to spend with him.

I am grateful for the beauty and tranquility of these magnificent mountains, restoring my soul.

I am deeply grateful for friends with whom I can be vulnerable with my pain and fears, who bring me great joy.

Today, I am choosing joy. Tomorrow, I hope to choose joy as well.

Will you join me?

16 Comments

Filed under August 2013

Trailer Trash

I live in a trailer.

And most of the time I love it. Especially on the rare occasion when everything is put away and I can actually see and use the miniscule ‘dining’ table. (As long as I don’t put any weight on it, because the screws around the legs have lifted out of the thin flooring, and it’s about to fall over).

When our family arrived back in the US, we spent three weeks on the West Coast, visiting friends and family, and finally taking the kids on the long-awaited visit to Lego Land…the one thing that we had originally used as bribery, to get them to at-least-not-fight this year-long-adventure.

Then, in a stroke of luck (from Dreamboat’s perspective. My opinion wavers on this one.), an Keystone Outback Ultralight 230 RS (I had to ask Dreamboat to repeat that several times) was for sale in Michigan. (That’s 2,500 miles or 3,582 km from where we were in Seattle.) Dreamboat went and picked it up. Yep, he drove 5,000 miles to go there, hook up the trailer, and tow it back to meet us. So that we could head out again. But, for the first ten days, without Miss O and G-ster. After I safely (and tearfully) deposited them on their flight as unaccompanied minors, to go visit my parents, Dreamboat, Peanut and I, headed out on our last 3 months’ adventure. A US history tour, living in our trailer.

Early morning coffee al fresco

The beautifully described plan, as Dreamboat explained it to me, was to drive a few hours a day, find a lovely place to park (and have electricity, water, and wifi). Then we would hike, or take a bike ride to explore the spectacular scenery. And enjoy hours of job searching, reading, and quiet. I would have plenty of time for my workouts.

While we have seen countless awe-inspiring vistas, our desire to travel without a plan, hasn’t gone to plan. Most of the RV parks are full. Those that aren’t, don’t have hooks ups. And, then I wanted to see Banff. And it was ten-hours-out-of-the-way. Each way. And then, we decided to take up my aunt’s Facebook birthday message to Dreamboat, and go visit her. But, after another ten-hour-drive-to visit her in Kalispell, our emails, phone, and Facebook messages, didn’t connect. And so we left the next morning.

In reality, so far, we have finally stopped driving and set up the trailer after 8pm (the night we went to Banff, it wasn’t until 2:00am). Then, we get up early in the morning to see what the area has to offer, grab some breakfast, and race through packing up the trailer and tying everything down in order to hit the road by the 11am check-out. Then, we sit in the car, enjoying the views, but not able to enjoy internet access or exercise or even much phone access, for another nine to ten hours.

 

Banff!

We’ve been lucky enough to see a stunning array of wildlife. We’ve taken countless pictures of mountains and waterscapes so beautiful they don’t seem real, while still buckled in our seats. And, I’m more grateful than I can express, that Peanut has been a happy, delightful, traveler. And, without the older Littles, I’m able to spend a vast amount of time chatting with Dreamboat, or alone with my thoughts.

Wildlife crossing. Really.

While my thoughts swirl around my dreams and hopes and fears, my inner peace and direction have grown. I keep reminding myself of this inner calm I’ve reached, as I have watched the heat of the tranny (‘transmission’ for you car lingo neophytes) rise steadily into the danger zone. Then to finally hit the top of the pass and breathe a sigh of relief, knowing the engine will get a much needed break from puling the trailer uphill, only to start worrying about the breaks, as we head down miles and miles of steep grades, with runway truck ramps after every turn, and the acrid smell getting stronger and stronger.

Things took a definitely downward turn, for our transmission anyway. And our trailer is currently parked in some friends’ neighbor’s driveway, in Idaho. (Yep. You read that right. Right now I’m grateful for friends around the country. And grateful they’re really good neighbors.) Tomorrow we have an appointment, three hours away at the closest dealer, for the transmission.

Ironically, while this trip so far hasn’t gone according to plan, I’m much happier than I expected.

And, I’m embarrassed to say, that I spent a lot of time and energy complaining to my Seattle friends about it.

It’s true that this portion of our year of travel is my least favorite. There are countless reasons: I find the adventure of visiting other countries more exciting. I am clean/neat obsessed and living without space to put things away might make me require a strait-jacket at the end of two weeks, let alone three months. I dread all five of us being in such small quarters all day, every day. I have driven across the US before, so there’s not much novelty to this trip.  I am not the history-buff my Dreamboat is, and while I enjoy the occasional historical marker, I’d much rather get the Cliff notes version. I am deep-down, unapologetically a City Girl who will miss the activity and sparkle.

And, most importantly, after a few days with my amazing friends in Seattle, it is even more painful to say goodbye, again.

But, life is bitter sweet, right? There is joy to be found, deep joy even, while in the midst of things that are painful, or simply not fun. So, I am loving the time with my Dreamboat. Celebrating his joys. I am soaking in the quiet without my oldest Littles. I am sifting through my dreams and working through my fears. I am working on some long-overdue posts.

It’s three days until we’re supposed to meet Miss O and G-ster in Colorado. Fingers crossed we make it on time, without having to rebuild the transmission, or worse. But, if we don’t, they’re in great hands, and Peanut is getting unlimited time and attention from me and Dreamboat. And I am mostly loving living in a trailer.

5 Comments

Filed under July 2013

Coward’s way out

This one was untitled, because I couldn’t bring myself to write down what I think it should be called. Because this post is about not liking one of my kids.

Gasp. I can’t breathe. I feel like I shouldn’t admit that to myself, let alone write it down and then post it!

I see and hear others gush about their lovely, smiling offspring. It’s not just others—my FB page is full of admiration for all my kidlets. Here’s a recent pic of them.

My kiddo’s, smiling for the camera

But, this morning, and for several days now, one of those cherubic smiles was missing. And, I was biting my tongue (really hard) to keep from nagging them, wishing for the clock to speed up so it would be time for them to head off to school. (Yes, the kids are attending local school while we’re in our little, Spanish village. That makes me sooo happy. Especially today!)

My irritation has been building with this child. I’ve not been enjoying time with them, mostly due to their lighting-speed launch from ‘normal’ to ANGRY. And, for being unkind to my other kidlets. Dreamboat and I have talked about what to do to make it stop. And our frustation. And our sadness.

I was just about to pull back a little emotionally, to allow some space between us, to try and hide from them how taxing I find time together. Because of course, that always works. Right?  Because when someone pulls away from me, without explanation, it always helps the situation improve. Right?

Then I read my little one’s letter home to a friend.

And my heart broke.

This tender child wrote that they’re lonely. Missing their friends. Struggling. Lost.

As I myself wrote just this week, “the people that are the strongest are usually the most sensitive.” The strength of my little one’s anger, is an attempt at a self-protective shield from the pain they’re feeling. I know that.

Or, I should have known that.

And, I know from friends telling me of their kids’ reactions to culture shock, and the many books I’ve read on the subject, that anger is one of the main responses to being in a new environment. It’s natural, normal, and healthy.

I knew that too. At least it my head.

This emotional reaction will help my kiddo work through their unease of being new, different, uncomfortable. They need to work through the pain and privilege of currently inhabiting both a local home, and a new, foreign ‘home’. To maintain their friendships and identity in their local home, but to establish new friendships and identity in their new, temporary home. Their reaction is a reminder of how important that work is, and what is at stake. And what they can gain from working through it.

What wonderful people, and friends, they will become if they can learn to overcome their feelings of unease, but remember what it’s like to be new. To be the foreigner. And to reach out to others, throughout their lives, who are also new and in need of friendship and support.

I should have been there, offering the support and understanding they need, drawing us closer. Pointing out gently the process they going through. Instead of taking the coward’s way out. Instead of withdrawing.

Yet here I was, about to distance myself from this child who needs me most. I wasn’t looking beyond the emotion, to see the root of the issue. To look for understanding. Instead, I allowed my buttons to get pushed (which my children are so very well-skilled at finding). I lost my clarity, blurred into oblivion behind my own emotional reaction.

I share this today, hoping you will avoid the mistakes I’m making, not only if you have kids, but with friends. With parents. With spouses. With partners.

Be bigger than me.

Be the gracious and understanding person I wish I’d been. Don’t withdraw. Don’t cause more pain.

If only I had said, “Sweetheart, you don’t seem yourself. Is something bothering you? Are you finding it difficult to settle in here? Would you like a date with me to have some special time together?”  I wish I had immeditely offered additional encouragement, supporting them while they figure out how to adapt and get their equilibrium back.

The good news is that I’ve not blown it completely. I have a chance to make it right.

And guess what?

I’m off to plan some special time tonight with my kiddo.

5 Comments

Filed under February 2013

My boyfriend is no girlfriend

This is a long one. I plannned to divide it in two, but couldn’t find a way to make it work. So, grab some coffee and settle in, or read it in parts. As you wish.

———-

Before I was ready to hit ‘publish’ on the previous post, I asked Dreamboat (my legally permanent boyfriend) to give me his input. His response: “I got bored half-way through.”

I laughed out loud. Love that man.

But, he’s no girlfriend.

And, he got me thinking.

One of the secrets to getting through the circus that is my life, as graciously as possible, is having and keeping friends. Good, wonderful friends.

Being so far away from home, and unable to speak the local language, makes me miss my friends, themselves scattered all over the globe, even more. I’ve spent a lot of time this last month thinking about how wonderful they are and how much they mean to me.

It wasn’t always that way.

My first seventeen years were mostly lonely. Difficult. Painful.

Thank God for family – the people who become your first friends, and are stuck with you, while you figure out how to be a friend too.

I was watching “The Bachelor” today, when in one of the girls said in her cameo, “all of the girls are going to be so jealous of me.” She meant it. When asked what she has to offer the Bachelor, instead of talking about her unique qualities, she was thinking about the other girls. And how to make them jealous.

Why is that?

Why is it that girls are known for being intentionally mean to other girls? Why do we so often compete with each other instead of support and encourage each other?

It made me sad. (But, to Dreamboat’s huge embarrassment, the show, I find hilarious.  I think we should make a drinking game for every time someone cries. Or for every time there’s a kiss.)

But, back to my point. I think girls being mean stems from insecurity.

We think that deep down, we’re not good enough. (Not pretty enough. Not kind enough. Not lovable. You fill in your insecurity…)

For me, it’s more personal than watching a reality show on TV (well, VPN’d into a US IP address, and watched on my laptop with ear buds so as not to irritate Dreamboat unnecessarily. I save that for other times). I know what it looks and feels like first-hand.

Growing up on a ship limited my pool of friends. There were many wonderful people who lived on board for a short time, whom I loved. But then they left. And I felt like I was in constant mourning—saying goodbye to friend after friend, after friend.

Of the other families that lived on board long-term, like we did, there were two other girls my age (WHY is it that when you’re young, age makes SO much difference?). They were six months older than I was, and in the grade above. Not always, but most of the time, I was the odd-man out. It wasn’t pretty. In fact, it got so ugly, that for a while we met weekly with our moms and were refereed by the school principal, to sort out our regular ‘misunderstandings’.

It was hurtful. And I blamed them.

Looking back, I’m not sure I was any less catty, or petty, or mean. I do know that I was insecure and trying to find my place.

What happened when I was twelve didn’t help. There was a boy whom I admired more than anyone else in school (as did most of the kids onboard) for his kindness, ability to have fun in any situation (and we were in some doozies in various countries), and athletic skill. We didn’t have much opportunity to play sports, but he seemed born an expert at them all. One Saturday morning, while he was talking in the hall outside my cabin, he was asked whom he thought was the prettiest girl onboard. After being badgered a bit, he answered, “Heidi. But, I’d NEVER date her.”

I could feel my insides shrivel up.

HIM saying it, made it so much worse. I was completely blindsided. For weeks it hurt, even to breathe.  You may think I should have been grateful for the compliment on my looks, but appearances you can’t help (at least not much at twelve). You’re born that way. But, I took what he said to mean that who I was—ME—wasn’t good enough.

Now, I can’t blame overhearing that conversation, and its impact on me, for all my insecurities. Or for my part in the cattiness with the other girls. But, it took me a long time to know that I’m beautiful inside.

When I was seventeen, the older two graduated, a new influx of long-term people moved onboard, and my world changed. Brightened. Friendships with other women blossomed. Especially with Susan. She helped turn the tide. It sounds like a weird womance (since ‘bromance’ is out there, we should have a word too, right?), but I remember when I first saw her. She became a loyal, fierce friend. In fact, a few miserable months into my first marriage, when I finally was able to whisper the painful mess I was in, I called Susan. We haven’t had much time together in these last many years (more years than I want to say), but the last three months in Guinea, while we were volunteering on the Africa Mercy, she was there too. We laughed, cried, laughed some more.

Here we are with another friend, who also meant the world to me. I wish she’d lived onboard more than those few months our senior year!

Here we are at Miss O’s birthday party a couple months ago. Susan showed up to do the set up and the entire cleanup.

Susan, and the many, many wonderful friends that have followed, yes, including friends I’ve grown to love and appreciate from those lonely years onboard, have been a source of strength, wisdom, comfort, support, and lots and lots of fun.

I don’t want to consider where I’d be without those feelings of being whole and known, sometimes, too close for comfort.

They’re from many different languages and cultures, with strongly opposing views and faiths. My Facebook newsfeed is an education in juxtapositions, which I find highly entertaining and also thought-provoking (that’s a good thing).These friends who help provide me with a sense of ‘home’, no matter where I am, are old and young. Many are ‘unique’ and ‘quirky’. I like them. I need them. I learn from them.

Yes, because I move around so much, home is not always a place. For me, home is an experience of belonging. To create that with new people, takes physical and emotional presence. It’s intentional. While I’ve watched some of my friends chose to emotionally distance themselves from the hurt of potential goodbyes, I’ve chosen the other path. To continually open myself to new people. To see them as adding to my life’s riches, and taking them with me as I go.

Staying close to those who are far away—yes, it’s painful. It means leaving pieces of my heart with people and places—requires nourishing and treasuring them when I no longer have the physical proximity. I keep them in my heart, wherever I may go.

Here’s my group of girls who joined a little ‘bon voyage’ party as we left Seattle.

If I could go back, and talk to my twelve-year-old-self, in an effort to avoid ‘the lonely years’, I’d start off with reprimanding her for being myopic. For being overly focused on myself. Selfish. (I know it’s the usual tween affliction and necessary to grow into an independent adult, but really, it’s soooo not attractive. Or helpful.) If she would just take the time to really look at others, she would see them absorbed in the same struggle to become their best selves. I would tell her that eventually, she would learn to turn her sensitivity outward. To be empathetic to others. To be a source of strength when they feel insecure and in need of encouragement. Then, I would tell her that the world is a big place. Without limitation. And that she should celebrate all her successes, AND her friends’ successes. That life is not a zero-sum-game (pulled from my ever-reducing vocabulary from global econ class). Our life is not reduced by the successes of others. There is no limitation and need to compete. If anything, my life now (and could have been true for my life at twelve) is enriched by others’ successes.  I would tell her that there is limitless satisfaction in being part of others blossoming. Sharing in their joy as they grow into their talents.

I would also tell her to start speaking her mind a LOT sooner. She has some great insights to give her friends, and the wisdom is wasted when she’s silent. Those truly worthy of her friendship want the wisdom. (Such a simple thing to say now, but if she could do it, she might sidestep that abusive first marriage).

Another life-lesson that has saved me in countless ways, and that Dreamboat and I taught in our management training workshop, is MRI—Most Respectful Interpretation—which basically means to think the best of people. Assume if someone’s acting strange, that unless they say otherwise, then the problem is with them (an issue at home, late night, work disappointment, etc.). Dale Carnegie, who coined the term, explains it much more eloquently, for a management setting. But, the basic principal is it’s not all about me. Don’t assume it is.

One of my dreams is to make a difference. For my life to count by being part of something bigger than myself. I got to do that in a really big way, by volunteering on a hospital ship. But, I also try to do that in small ways. Everyday. No matter where I am. Everyone needs relationship and intimacy. It’s beautiful to be known and loved.  And, as I give of my heart and my time to others, I receive in return the strength I need, to help keep my vision, passion and courage alive.

While Dreamboat is my lifetime friend (thank God for his honesty. I need it.) and I’ve lots of male friends whom I love, including my brothers…

One of my brothers may love me just a little bit less after posting this pic of him, but I just couldn’t resist.

 …sometimes a girl craves time with her girlfriends!

 

6 Comments

Filed under February 2013

God is great. God is good. Let us pray.

While I perused my book this afternoon, and soaked in the tub, ignoring the eighteen, yes EIGHTEEN, attempts to open or unlock the door, I was also mulling over whether to write this post, about some comparisons between Muslims and Christians, and how they challenged me.

You see I’m more comfortable with my public self being seen as funny and kind. And a bit shallow. I’m very new to blogging, and I’ve seen vitriolic comments on friends’ posts, where they voiced an opinion on something deeper than soapsuds. But, I can’t stop thinking about this, and this year is about doing what’s right and what my heart is telling me.

And, I took a vow of honestly when I started writing. So, here goes.

As you may know, we spent the first three months of our year ‘off’, volunteering in Guinea with Mercy Ships Then we went to Morocco, for the two weeks over Christmas. Both these impacted our family in countless ways, which I won’t go into now. Travel isn’t new to me—I’ve spent time in over sixty countries. But, I was continually surprised by Morocco. The people that I met, the countryside I observed, the customs that I learned–in fact, the entire experience was amazing. Inspirational.  (And, I’m still in awe of their abundant, delicious produce).

Morocco is a majority Muslim country. Their two main tenets or “wings” are: 1) love God, and 2) do good deeds to benefit yourself, your family, the community, and mankind.

They have a beautiful saying that ‘No bird can fly conveniently with only one wing or with one wing weaker than the other.’ And, a Muslim can’t be welcomed in Heaven unless he is keeping a good balance of the two Islam wings.

Because of my American passport (the whole ‘One Nation Under God’ thing), most Muslims associate me with ‘Christians’.  What may be news to you, is that includes all things “Hollywood”. Including your worst-nightmare-styled-cheap porn (as opposed to the quality, expensive variety. But, I digress). And, right-wing Teaparty politics. And, blowing up an occasional doctor who works at an abortion clinic.

I find it fascinating, and sad, that pornography and political extremism and murder are synonymous with Christianity, to much of the Muslim world.

(I know this is completely off-topic, and not at all important, but I’m dealing with my aging skin as well right now. I also find it fascinating, and sad, that the not-so-fine lines, are becoming a permanent part of my reflection in the mirror.)

I had all that knowledge in the back of my head upon arriving in Morocco, where Moulay, our ‘Guest Liaison’, asked me to not let the ‘call to prayer’ disturb us in the early mornings, but to be “overwhelmed by feelings of blessings and prayers for our good health”.

(Isn’t it crazy that we had a ‘Guest Liaison’? I know!  It sounds so fancy and sassy at the same time.) If you want someone to buy amazing, Moroccan treasures, and then ship them to you, let me know. Moulay’s your man.

And, as Moulay forewarned, each morning, and an additional four times throughout the day, the call to prayer is sung by each mosque’s Imam (leader), and amplified through their loudspeakers. Did you know there are mosques on most corners? At least one per block of every village, town, and city in Morocco? They’re hard to miss during the call to prayer, FIVE times a day. Especially when you’re warm and snuggled with your love under a duvet in the early morning. And when you’re trying to have a conversation, or keep a train of thought, during the other times throughout the day.  But, I guess that’s the point…

The sound wasn’t pleasant to me at first. It was foreign and a bit frightening. And, very off key. But, that may have been because I could hear six different Imam’s singing. And their timing was more than a little off. Not even One Direction would sound good with that many harmonies going on at one time. Or at close to the same time.

I found out the Imam’s are all saying, “God is great. God is good. Let us pray.” And pray, they do. Even in the really fancy, western mall, there’s a prayer room. So Muslims can take a break during their shopping, to stop and worship God.

Even more glaring than the call to prayer, were the cats and the beggars.

There are stray cats all over Morocco, (OK. So the 3 cities and a couple little villages I got to know). Not really many dogs to be found, as in other parts of the globe. But cats. Lots of cats. Miss O, who is 10, was all set to be dramatic and upset that the cats go hungry and are unloved. (Currently, her tears are saved for the imagined misfortunes of animals, and of course, if she feels slighted by me or Dreamboat.) But, NONE of the cats we saw in Morocco were skittish, worried of mistreatment. The cats there aren’t afraid of people.  None of them are scary skinny. All seemed fed and sleek. On NUMEROUS occasions, I saw people dropping off scraps for the neighborhood felines. As a result, and another one of my many side-notes, Morocco doesn’t seem to have a rodent problem. Anywhere.

You may not be interested in cat care, but our curiosity grew until the kids volunteered me to ask someone. I learned the second Muslim tenet applies to animals too. So, they’re treated WELL. And the same tenet spells out that it applies to all ‘mankind’. That’s why, when we were stopped at red lights, and there were beggars, the taxi drivers would roll down their windows, kiss the cheeks of whomever was asking for food or money, and hand some over. The first time it happened, I thought the beggar was a dear friend or relative of our taxi-man.

The locals didn’t shun the homeless. Or look the other way. In fact, people called out blessings to them, asked about their health, and prayed for them.

I was in awe. And kept looking for signs that it was just a mirage. But, as far as I could tell, Morocco is a country that reminds its people to pray five times a day, remembering that God is good and great. Whose inhabitants believe, and demonstrate, that beggars and strays are to be cared for, and who are kind and welcoming to people of other faiths—even the violent, pornography-loving kind (‘me’). And, it’s clean. Pristine. Without any apparent graffiti problems.

I find it fascinating, and sad, that terrorism and political extremism and murder are synonymous with Muslims, to much of the western world.

I’ve been around the block enough to know nothing is really that black and white. Or, that simple. Dear me. Not even my feelings for my precious kiddo’s, for whom I’d give my life, are that simple—they are children, after all.  And, there are ongoing Muslim riots in France. Last week was the terrible hostage crisis in Algeria, led by Muslims, where the death toll still isn’t final. And the killer in the Aurora mass shootings was a Christian. As was the shooter at Sandy Hook Elementary.

I guess what I’m saying is, let’s all be inspired by Morocco to not just ‘talk our faith’ (whatever your faith may be). Let’s show it. Let’s make time to pray. Let’s do good deeds to benefit ourselves. Let’s do good deeds to benefit our friends and families. Let’s do good deeds to benefit our planet. And all mankind.  And I’m also saying that what looks different, can be frightening. But, if we look a little closer, we might see more similarities than differences.

My visit to Morocco is going to be the fodder of life-lessons to my kiddo’s and my inner-Heidi, for years to come. I’m going to remind us that we have choices to make as we live out our faith. And no matter what, we can do what’s right. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said; “The time is always right to do what is right”.  I often forget this. I procrastinate. I justify.

Our time in Guinea was focused on helping those less fortunate. Which I loooooved. But, in many ways, I learned more, and was challenged more, and received more wisdom, from our ‘vacation’ to Morocco.

3 Comments

Filed under January 2013

Part 2 (the better part) of “Bad attitude”

There’s no question, I have been blessed with some of the best friends in the world. Truly.  Here’s a response I got this morning, to yesterday’s post:

——————-

I’ve been keeping up on your blog posts and loving how real and true you are.  A few thoughts to cheer you up:
1. The days are long but the years are short. You are making the most of these short years!
2. You are forming lasting, life-enhancing, incredible memories that will last a lifetime.
3. The kids are thriving – even in a foreign country!
4. You are still calling the husband Dreamboat.
5. Keep track of any movies you really want to see. I will rent/watch them all with you when you get back! Girls movie day/evening!
6. Your view is better than mine (and just about every other mom we know).
7. When we are uncomfortable and/or unhappy, it’s usually a time when we are to learn something meaningful.
8. Toothpaste is overrated.
9. I despise laundry. In any country. I do not like it on a boat. I do not like it with a goat. I do not like it, Sam-I-am.
10. Across oceans and time zones, someone is missing you dearly.

Enjoy your adventure!!  Too soon you will have all the Target and Costco amenities at your fingertips…..embrace the adventure that awaits you now, each and every morning.

—————

I feel loved. And reprimanded. And supported. And reminded of how very, very lucky I am. And now I have some of my equilibrium back.

Isn’t she amazing?

So, I’ve gone and done all the laundry. Hired a housekeeper to come over once a week and clean the floors. (Dreamboat and I had a lengthy ‘discussion’ about cleaning today. And a housekeeper was his recommendation. I think to keep me happy. Looove that man.) And made pizza and brownies for the kids tonight. And Dreamboat and I are going out for a drink after dinner.  And I’m going to start on a list of movies to watch with my friend–the anticipation of time with her will make watching them together, even sweeter!

I hope all of you are blessed to have friends just like her in your lives..

H

xoxo

1 Comment

Filed under January 2013

Bad attitude

So, I feel a bit badly about this post. It’s not happy and doesn’t sound like me. But, it is honest. It is where I am right now. Next week will be better, maybe even in a couple of days. Promise.

I know the phases of culture shock, and that settling in is just ahead. But, I can definitively state that the ‘honeymoon’ phase of living in the Spanish village of Gaucin is firmly behind me. Right now I’m stuck in ‘cranky’. Which is my nice word for it. Dreamboat and the kids may have other words to describe it.

Most of my friends think of this year of travel as a collection of amazing locales. And fabulous cuisines. And they’re right. I did too. But, you know who’s cooking and cleaning in each of those places? And doing laundry? And wiping dirty bottoms (not just my own)? Yep – me.

Right now, following my dreams looks a lot like being a housewife. Just with a change of location.

At this moment I’m in this little Andalucian village, perched in the mountains above the Mediterranean, and gazing over the spectacular views. It is even more picturesque than it sounds. Stunning. See…

View from my bedroom. Really.

View from my bedroom. Really.

 

Sun setting over Gaucin

Sun setting over Gaucin

 

Calipha, 'our' donkey.

Calipha, ‘our’ donkey.

And I feel stuck. Trapped.  And I feel badly for feeling badly.

And I wonder why we’re here and how long I can last.

I look back on the three months in Guinea with longing. Not really wanting to go back to life on the Africa Mercy, but missing the constant knowledge that we were making an impact in the lives of others. And missing the challenges of life in Africa. Truly. (I am one of those crazy people that thrives with obstacles to overcome.)  And I miss lots of activity. And I miss my friends. (And I miss having a scale. Where’s the reward in eating well and exercising daily when I can’t know how much weight is melting away?)

And, I have to admit, I’m a city girl. In addition to a certain level of activity and availability, I’ve gotten accustomed to a high standard of coffee (my mom’s entirely to blame for that one – and I’m grateful to her), which our drip coffee maker does not live up to. And that last cup, five hours after the pot was initially brewed, is simply gross. No matter how much heavy cream I add.

The nearest movie theatre is an hour away, and without a car, it’s unlikely I’ll see a movie while we’re here. Funny thing is, I don’t really care about whether or not I see a movie, but being unable to see a movie is a different story. That makes it feel like it wasn’t my decision. Back to being trapped.

And Dreamboat is loving it here. Which is irritating. He’s reveling in the quiet. In the beauty. And the older kiddo’s have just started in the local school and are immersed in Spanish, just like we wanted.

First day of school

First day of school

And, apparently, not in need of future therapy for it. They’re happy and making friends.

I’m obviously not like them.

Part of the issue is that I miss having a job. I know. Crazy, right? But I’m more comfortable in my role as worker-person, than house-wife person. I’m trying not to be bored, to figure out my new role. I know it’s good for me. For us. But, really, so far, I don’t like it much.

But, I think I’m going to start looking for our next place in a larger town, with easier access to trains and buses. With, stores big enough to handle the pushchair (stroller) without knocking people out of the aisles like bowling pins. Which sell both toothpaste and veggies under one roof…to keep from having to constantly apologize to my family for my attitude. Which I’m going to change. My attitude, that is. I’m going to focus on my many, many blessings. And the view. And how lucky I am. And I’m going to learn to slow down and enjoy the quiet. And I’m going to speak up more and allow Dreamboat to give me the perspective that I need. To help me get balanced again. And I’m going to continue enjoying all the many, many cuddles and kisses with my Peanut. Whom, by the way, is also thriving.

And I’m reminding myself, that even though I’m worn out by details of everyday life, sometimes that’s where victories are won. I’m in the right place. For now.

9 Comments

Filed under January 2013

What exactly, are we teaching the kids?

We went to poverty stricken Guinea, in West Africa. To teach the kids to have a heart for those less fortunate. Then we went to Morocco. Here, the little kids, and many adults, have learned to holler in French,

“Give me money!”

You should see my kids’ faces as I walk on by. Or, answer “Non”.

Or, even worse, dare to ask them, “Pourquois (why)?”

My kids look at me as though they’ve never seen before…Then the questions start…

Now they’re not sure whether we’re supposed to love our neighbors as ourselves, or, shun them. While giving disapproving stares. Not quite sure where to go from here. It’s not the conundrum I was expecting to face. I’ve explained that the local children we’ve seen here are healthy and well. And that it would be offensive if we were back home in Seattle, and asked obvious tourists walking through the city, to fork over money to us. I think I just gave them their next fundraising idea.

Not sure the message is clear to them yet.

Or to me.

 

1 Comment

Filed under December 2012

Flashbacks

“It’s difficult to explain what it’s like for me to be here.  I naturally want to say “back here”, but that’s not really true. I guess because I grew up on the Anastasis, Mercy Ships’ first floating hospital, it’s very much like coming home.  Even though this is a different ship, and the majority of the people are new to me.  I think being here is the closest thing to ‘home’ that I have. Most of the time that’s a good thing. A great thing.  Occasionally, not so much.

When we arrived at the airport in Conakry, there was a man there, also headed to the Africa Mercy (AFM) who looked JUST like my first husband. Same build. Same hair. Same swagger. Same outgoing personality that won over everyone he met. And even the same first name. Hopefully he didn’t see my shock (and horror) as he came over and introduced himself.

You see, the last time I was in West Africa, with Mercy Ships, I was engaged to be married. Our relationship progressed through each port of call to which the ship sailed. There weren’t many red flags. But, in retrospect, I can clearly see two. Neither were make-or-break issues. But a big one showed up as we were driving away from the wedding, when he coolly stated.

“I’m not going to do any of those things I promised.”

Thinking he meant he didn’t want to be the first up each morning, to make coffee as we’d agreed during our pre-marital counseling, I figured it was no big deal.  Little did I know he meant that he would not be living out our VOWS… At all… By ANY stretch of the imagination.  Which he did a good job of clarifying for the four years we were married.

The unfaithfulness was not the most painful part. Not even close. Neither was the physical abuse.  Neither was the loss of trust in what was supposed to be my best friend. The hardest part was the emotional abuse. The brainwashing. We’re all gifted with plenty of natural ability for self-doubt, without someone else coming in to confirm, and even increase, our belief in those lies. He called me;

“Fat, ugly, bitch.”

And, the sad part is, I answered to it.

And through it all, I smiled. No-one, NO-ONE knew the depths of my pain and confusion and depression. Not even me.

After we separated, some friends of ours invited me to dinner.  The husband asked me;

“What did you do to make him leave you?”

You see, this man and everyone else was fooled into believing his lies. Even the girlfriend that called and asked me for his new phone number, had fallen for his lies.  And the other new girlfriend whom he took to Europe on my credit card.

People thought of me as a strong person. I had thought of myself as capable. Intuitive. Wise.

That was the hardest part.

I was broken.

And it took me years to rebuild.

But, rebuild I did. And I have to say, that I like the new and improved me even better. And the lessons I learned.

And you know what? My pain was nothing like his, which drove him to such terrible choices. I’m whole. In fact, I’m better for it. (You know the saying, ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’? Well, it’s true). And believe it or not, I would do it all again. The exact same. To be who I am. To be married to Dreamboat and have our three precious kiddo’s. And be spending this amazing year together, living out our dreams.

So, when we arrived in Conakry, Guinea, to begin this adventure of a lifetime, and teach our kids the importance of making our lives count, of aligning our priorities with making a positive impact in other people’s lives, I was also being reminded of a ghost from my past. Multiple times a day. I saw him at coffee break morning and afternoon, during meals, during meetings, ashore, and what feels like, around each corner.   And, I’ve realized that that chapter is long closed. The scar is healed over.

And I’m softer, wrapped in the joy and reality of my life now. And, West Africa, which I truly-deeply-madly love, is mine again.

11 Comments

Filed under November 2012

It wasn’t pretty

Oh. My. Word.  I brought Peanut to Boulder, Colorado, for some alternative therapy to help speed up his development.  The trip was almost bad enough that the hoped-for-development-milestones weren’t quite worth it.  Almost. (OK.  That’s not true at all.  I’m a mama. We do crazy stuff for our kids).

It started out badly, in a rush.  We had 2 house-showings the day before. The two older kids were headed to camp the next morning. Dreamboat’s birthday was 2 days after I left. And the list goes on.

On our way to the airport, after we dropped off my car for repairs from backing into another car (I admit no fault — total deniability.), we were thrilled the Express Lanes were open in our direction (LOVE that invention). Then Dreamboat accidentally took a wrong turn onto an off-ramp that deposited us downtown. I should stop here.  The day took a definite downward turn.

Finally arriving late to the airport, after more wrong turns…once again, deniability. ( I directed absolutely none of them), and with my stress-induced-adult-acne going into overdrive, and after Dreamboat handed me some cash as I had NONE, I gratefully chose the “family in need of assistance” line at security–to the chagrin of the passengers around me.  There were some pointed, passive-aggressive comments about ‘cutting’ being spoken very loudly. Directed at the back of my head. I kept telling myself if they were only brave enough to be passive aggressive, then they didn’t deserve an answer…but I think that’s when the shaking started up in full swing.

After what felt like an eternity, Peanut, his car seat, his stroller, my briefcase, our suitcase, our shoes, and all the jewelry I wisely chose to wear for the airport screening, made it to the gate. We were the last people on the plane.  While finding our seats, I got a text from my sweet cousin saying she was waiting to pick us up on the West side of arrivals at DIA, to spend a little time together while she was to take me downtown Denver to pick up my rental car.

Wait. What???  Oh. No.

I had given her our departure time to pick us up. Not the arrival time.

So she, 10-and-a-half-months-pregnant (ok. Maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration), her husband, and their 2 year old little girl, had driven and hour and forty-five minutes to pick me up. I fessed up to my idiocy and profusely apologized.

They went to Ikea instead. While I continued to lament my idiocy.

When Peanut and I landed, I called the rental car agency to see if I could pick up the car at the airport, instead of downtown.  They couldn’t help, as I’d booked on Hotwire (trying to save money). I called Hotwire and listened to their lovely hold music for 49 minutes and 32 seconds before I accidentally hung up. You know that made me happy.

I talked with the local car rental desk who let me know the downtown office was closed anyway.  More joy.

Peanut only screamed twice, when he banged his head into the sharp suitcase handle hanging over his stroller.  Which, as the good mother that I am, I left there.  Because otherwise, how would I manage him, his stroller, his car seat, my bag, my computer, and our suitcase?

I lugged all our stuff onto a tram and headed out to the rental car lots.  By the way, Peanut has some latent fears from his accident.  Trams are one of them.  There was lots of screaming and tears.  From both of us. And I don’t have a traumatic history.  It wasn’t pretty…but it was loud. We got high scores for sheer volume.

After pleading my miserable story to the rental agency, and after trying to charge me DOUBLE the rate, she found me an available car.  Cheap person that I am, I went with a two-door option that was $5/day cheaper. Once again, I’m an idiot.  But, after only 20 minutes, I was able to maneuver the car seat into the back and got Peanut safety buckled.

I should just skip this part.  You don’t need to know how truly idiotic I can be.  But, in the interests of full disclosure, here goes.

It was a car with a button start. Keyless…

And I couldn’t figure it out. For a good 10 minutes.

I sat in the parking lot and kept pushing the damn ‘start’ button to no avail.

That’s about when I realized I’d only printed directions to the hotel, from the downtown car lot.  But, after figuring out how to start the car, and after only a couple of high-speed u-turns on the Denver freeways, I made it.

And, the nice gentleman from the liquor store (yes, that was my first stop), who carried my purchases out to the car, mentioned the car was still running.

Wait. What?? Oh no.

Yep. The ‘off’ button doesn’t work if you hold it down too long (which you have to do to start it).  And I left our car running in the parking lot while we bought wine and all the fixin’s for Mojitos.  And I talked myself out of buying a bottle opener.  Once again, the whole ‘cheap’ theme seems to not be serving me so well…(I’ll remind Dreamboat of this when discussing future purchases.)

When, late that evening, we finally made it to our hotel, the clerk at the front desk commented on the length of our stay.  You see, Peanut’s therapy is a two-week, intensive course.  The clerk asked if I’m here to visit family.

“No” I said, as sweetly as I could.

“Oh. Are you here for work?” she continued…

“No” I said, as sweetly as I could.

“Oh.  You just want to be HERE for two weeks?” she inquired?  By now, we had her FULL attention.

“Yes” I said, as sweetly as I could.  You see, I didn’t want to get into Peanut.  And his accident. And why we’re here for treatment.  And the hope I am trying to not feel.

She pursed her lips, arched her eyebrows, stopped asking questions, and handed over the room keys. I’m sure she marked my file to keep a close eye on us. If this were a TV show, I would have been entered on the ‘person of interest’ list that involved a room search and time in the local jail.

Then the real fun started.  In my kitchenette, I unpacked our ‘groceries’ and got out a glass.

I dug through the drawers and found the kitchen gadget that looked just like a bottle opener.  It wasn’t. It isn’t.

I hurt my fingers, and my ribs, when my hand flung off the rim of the bottle. After several failed attempts (ok. It was MANY attempts), eventually I gave up.

No wine for me.  (However, I did eat ½ a bag of chocolate chips).

But, peanut gave me lots and lots and lots of kisses. And cuddles.  And we’re safe. Unlike many people who went to watch the movies in Aurora just a few miles from here.

So, after a trip from hell, I go to bed grateful.

4 Comments

Filed under Aug 2012