Saturday, May 29, 2010

Suzi: Dishwasher Relationships

A few years ago I heard the director of a homeless shelter speak. 
Someone wanted to donate a dishwasher to the shelter, and she refused it. The people who came to stay at the shelter washed the dishes in the evenings, and she found that it created not only a sense of accomplishment and contribution, but it also formed a deep camaraderie as the residents worked together. Did it take more time washing the dishes by hand? Yes…and that was exactly the point. The benefits of the time spent together far outweighed the potential time savings of the machine.
Sometimes, we work hard to find “dishwasher” solutions. Who has oodles of time to spend on anything when there's a better process? But as we look for the quick way out, we can miss a depth that will only come from spending time with someone…lots of time.
Today, I'm setting my lists and planner aside; pass me a towel…let’s wash some dishes together.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Suzi: Yes. I did.

This year I will be married 13 years.  It’s so cliché but he’s my best friend and can still make my heart flutter.  It doesn’t even seem possible that we’ve had 18 years together (5 dating before marriage)!
In those 18 years, we’ve had the opportunity to do some amazing things:  We’ve lived in small towns and big cities, both domestically and abroad; owned and sold a house; graduated from college; had careers; worked in various churches; hosted parties with dear friends; camped and hiked; and much, much more.  A lot has been packed into our time together.  Our lives were full before; now, even more so.  Cooper adds a most wonderful chapter in our story.
Now that the little guy is here, I really am enjoying being a mom.  (Can you tell by the fact that I can’t seem to write about anything else?)  In contemplating all this mommyhood stuff, I am remembering the things that I promised myself I would never do if I became a mom.  Ever.
You know how little kids get stuff on their faces?  What does a mom do to get it off?  She licks her finger and wipes it off, right?  To me, that has always been disgusting.  For all of these years I have told myself that I would never do that.  It’s just plain gross.
Fast-forward to Day Six of Cooper’s life.  We’re going to the embassy to file Cooper’s passport paperwork.  We step out of the car, and I realize that he’s got crusty, dried milk on his face.  Clearly we can’t meet our country's official representatives with our child looking like this.  So what do I do?
I wish I could say that was the first and only time I’ve done that.  I wish.  Just like that I have crossed the line and gone past the point of no return…I have become That Mom!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Turn to Page 4... Walkin' By Faith

Something I was reading today triggered this memory and I wanted to share.
Suz & I bought a house in the summer of 2001.  We'd moved back to Missouri after an adventurous few years in Chicago.  It was a house we loved and we were back "home" for as long as the ride lasted.  It lasted for three years.  We've learned since then that we don't lay roots that deep and we've rented ever since.  But those few years of the good ol' American, white picket fence dream were wonderful.  We had parties and Christmas and good times with just us and the cat.  But then the east wind began to blow, a call came and we were back on the road... this time to Eastern Europe.
But what to do about that house?  We didn't know really how long we'd be gone, but we kinda knew this was the end of home ownership for us.  You don't put a house in your parents' basement alongside the photo albums.  You sell a house.  Yep, just like you bought it.  
Short Tangent: When Suz & I go to a cool restaurant or, you know, MOMA or something, we look around for awhile and then one of us casually remarks, "We could totally do this.  It's just [fill in the blank: paper mache', wooden spikes, an American flag out of baseballs]."
So, we decided to sell the house ourselves.
Suz did the research.  I shot some pix and put an ad in the paper.  Oh, and bought a sign from Wal-mart for $10 or so.  My point I'm about to make in all this is when you put God in charge of your direction, everything becomes His call and not yours.  Yes, you get up in the morning and make the choice to use Colgate instead of Crest.  But, the big stuff is left up to Him.  Call it a cop-out; I call it Faith.  And it's the bedrock of our existence.  Watch this:
We prayed about this move long before it was time to start packing.  Both of us knew there was a change coming before we'd discussed it together.  When we put the house on the market it was the final litmus test of what we were about to embark upon.  When God is in the midst of your details, there's no denying the results.
The ad went in the paper on Friday to come out on Saturday.  I put the sign in the yard on Friday evening.  On Saturday afternoon a couple was out house hunting.  They'd experienced a personal tragedy near their current home and wanted to move on, but had found nothing.  As they were driving through the neighborhood, the wife told her husband to turn down our street with the feeling something might be there.  They hadn't seen the ad.  Our street was a dead-end.  They saw the sign and then the house.  By the time I got home to meet them, their extended family was running rampant through our house.  The $10 sign came out of the yard that night and the ad came out of the paper on Monday morning.  We had a contract.  We sold our house in less than 24 hours.  We knew we were in the midst of His design.
 Now some would shake their heads and mutter, "Seller's market; a happy coincidence!"  I choose to stand still and see the Glory of the Lord.  Do I have questions about what our future holds?  With Cooper, now more than ever!  But take my word on it, pick a path drawn by the Master and I promise you'll have peace in the process.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Suzi: What day is it? Who cares?

A few nights ago we were at someone’s house, and Cooper needed to eat.  I excused myself and went into a bedroom to nurse him.  This process takes us a while.  When Cooper gets warm and cozy he has a tendency to fall asleep, so, it takes a while to wake him back up.  Then there’s burping, changing his diaper (and perhaps changing his clothes) in addition to the actual feeding.  It can easily take us 40 minutes to cover this process with my pokey eater.
We had been in the room for about 30 minutes when I started to feel a little awkward about how long this was taking us.  I started thinking, “Cooper, please hurry up.”  Then I looked at him…I looked at his eyes.  He could care less how long we had been in there or how much longer we would be.  He had taken a break to stare at the bedspread he had never seen before.  Then he took another one to listen to the evening call to prayer, which we could hear much better than we can at our house.  Eventually, we finished and rejoined everyone else; the plump, pokey eater dozing in my arms
Cooper wakes up in the morning (or in the middle of the night!) and just does what he needs to do.  He doesn’t know what time it is or what day of the week it is or how long anything should take.  He doesn’t know that on Saturdays you’re supposed to sleep in or on Mondays you’re supposed to feel blue because you’re back at work.  Everyday is the same for him.  I love that…although it’s forcing me to confront my very scheduled ways.
The other day, Cooper and I sat outside on a lovely afternoon.  We watched a cat nervously scamper by, saw a beautiful white butterfly float through the air and studied the green pods in the carob trees.  It wasn’t scheduled, and it wasn’t on my list of things to do.  We weren’t doing anything…it was wonderful.
Letting go of some of the structure in my life is both exhilarating and terrifying.  Cooper has only been with us for a month, and already I feel forever changed.  What else will change for me as we travel this road together?  I can’t wait to find out.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Um... Something's Missing, but that's OK

Having lived overseas for some time, I don't knock anyone's accent, lack of pronouns or spelling skills.  Whenever your language group is the minority, you're just tickled pink when someone is willing to try to speak your native tongue.  Most of the well-traveled areas of Amman are signed in English and Arabic.  When you get off the beaten path, well, things go mono-lingual pretty quick.  Many of the cabbies can make out what I'm saying, but I've met very few cops who can give directions or write tickets in anything but the local dialect.
Not that they should... We're in Jordan in the Middle East... I should be speaking their language.  These characters in the States who are all about the "Speak English or Get Out" should spend some time in a box where the exit instructions are in Sinhalese (I'll give you a hint: pretty looking hieroglyphics that say, you're staying in that box).  Yes, I understand it costs more to have multilingual translations of your tax forms or baking instructions, but having been in the situation, I have to say I don't mind the extra effort.  Like everyone else, I'm just here to do my job, help my family and go on my way.  I  always apologize for my lack of Arabic anything, much less grammar, and offer my sincere thanks to anyone who gives me a little English respite.
That all being said, the rest of the world really, really wants to help us English speakers out.  They want us to understand and benefit from the multi-lingual world around us.  So, when I get in a cab, I'll know it's got Electronic Fuel Injection.  Or not to sit in the restricted row.  And what Major Corporation hasn't made the mistake of calling physically fit, single females... um, misfits?  But there are times when I'm at a complete loss.  Just because there are English letters, doesn't mean I totally get the concept you're trying to sell me.  I want to be fashionable and update my closet.  And I want to understand why the trashcan that's shown up at shops all over town (from a recently unloaded Chinese cargo container?) and even at Carrefour is encouraging me to Tea myself.  Green Tea?  Black Tea?
Maybe I'll treat myself to some cereal, sit down and be thankful I can read it at all.  Hello, World... I'm one of those Americans who skipped out on language study... and I really appreciate your English skills.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Eye Surgery on an HP 2600n

We have several HP color laser printers in various offices around the city.  Over time, it seems the magenta starts to fade and, no matter what brand of toner used, it doesn't seem to get better.  After doing a ton of searching online, I stumbled across a two-year old forum entry on HP's site with a link from Don Thompson.  Ironically, the printer's cooling fan blows dust from the toner cartridge into the image scanner.  The angle of the mirrors that reflect the magenta color happen to be directly inline with the fan's jet stream and get coated during use.  There's nothing on HP's site about this issue or even an explanation of the fix.
Don's PDF instructions were absolutely perfect... I was able to strip out the imaging engine, wipe down the mirrors and get everything back together without a missing screw or popped bracket.  Needless to say, there was a prayer meeting before the procedure and a sacrifice of praise afterward... and only a little bit of flop sweat in between!  Below are the side-by-side results using the same toner carts.  Thanks to Don for not silo'ing his info!

I Can

Last night Jonathan, Shaylyn & I joined the Reeds & others at the kick off of the I Can initiative in Jordanian schools.  The concept springboards from a children's book by the same name that tells the story of a young boy who finds inside himself the capacity to create, thus overcoming his fears.  The program included traditional dances and songs written for the event.  Participants received a bilingual copy of the book along with a commemorative can to spark their own creativity.  Members of the Royal Family attended the event along with the Mayor of Amman, who addressed the crowd at the Cultural Palace in the Sports City complex.  Linda Reed taught piano lessons to the author's son and wrote the music to one of the songs performed during the show.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Outta Water

This is what life in the desert looks like... We haven't run out of water in our 3rd circle apartment before, but add another human who's burning through onesies and conservation starts to hit home.  For those unfamiliar with how it works here, everyone in the country gets an allotment of water each week.  The water comes from the city pipe into our building for several hours on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.  Depending on how much roof space you've got for your tanks, you get one or two square meters of water to last the week.  We're blessed to have four square meters of capacity on our roof for our apartment.  We've never tapped the full supply until last night.  I noticed the pressure wasn't the same and ran upstairs to the roof.  Yep, both tanks empty.  On Monday.
So, we wait til Tuesday night.  In the meantime, we've got bottled water to drink and flush with... it could be worse.

Haiti tees

Suz & I follow Mark & Kristen & their brood rather closely, having been on Kristen's Fabulous, Fabulous Christmas Letter mail list for many years.  Some of you may remember their harrowing Haiti earthquake experience. Over at their site, they've got haiti tees for sale designed for their family.  Funds go to help with Kembe's adoption and Heartline Haiti, the group that took care of Kembe before his move to the good ol' US of A.
Good cause, great family... and a wonderful blog worth following!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Chinny... chin... um, chin

Yes, I had to Google "chinny chin chin" to make sure I was spelling it correctly.  Those English lit majors will, no doubt, immediately recall the heady days of discovering the written word and how challenged you were by the story of The Three Little Pigs.  Oh, who can forget the dastardly deeds of that Wolf and pre-hiphop trash talk of the Pigs who finally outsmarted him with their intrepid construction skilz?
The first site that popped was  Was it a social commentary on the double or split or "Leno" protuberance? Nope, it's artist Ruth Bellotti's take on us... the middle class, the urban jungle and all the modern trappings we find indispensable.  I can't decide what I liked best... the 1:1 scale toy soldier, the Big Mac box locket or the burned out hulks of model cars.  It's good to poke at yourself just to make sure you're not taking life too seriously and for $25 Ruth will sell you a predoodled notebook to make a note of it.

Jordan Post Visit

We're lucky to have a Jordan Post office right around the corner.  Along the normal shipping stuff, it's where we pay electrical & water bills.
Cooper took a walk around the block to pay the church's electric bill today (a staggering $8.90).  As soon as we stepped inside, the normally blase' ladies behind the counter got all excited.  Cooper was scooped up to get a first hand look at the intricate workings of the Jordan Postal System.  Apparently, that comes with intimate expressions, blessings from God and somewhat stern interrogations of Dad as to why he's out and about at 3 weeks old.
"Oh, you're so cute!"  *kisses/kisses/kisses*
"You shouldn't have him here!" *oodles of kisses*
"He should not go outside!" *Tickles under the chinnychinchin*
Now who am I to keep this little bundle of joy from lightening up a set of postal maids?  Despite their protests, I think it's worth it.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Suzi: Apparently Joy Can Be Messy

Yesterday I got peed on, pooped on, and spit up on…all within 30 minutes.  The spit up got in my hair that I had just raced to wash while the baby slept.
I haven’t slept too much – those regular nightly feedings can be a killer.  And why is it that at 3 a.m., like clockwork, either an evil conspiracy of gas bubbles invades Cooper’s tummy or a wave of wakefulness falls on him that lasts for a full hour.  Why? What crazy person would willingly sign up for this madness? 
I did, and I’m enjoying just about every minute of it.
How?  How could lack of sleep, explosive bodily fluids and crying bring any sense of satisfaction or happiness?  Apparently joy can be messy.
Everyone says that children grow up too fast and that you should enjoy every minute you can.  So before Cooper was born, I decided I would do just that.  Now, when he’s wailing at the top of his lungs, and I have no idea why, I tell myself, “One day you’ll miss holding him in your arms.  Just keep singing; the crying won’t last forever.”  Or when he dirties the clean diaper before I even get it all the way on, I remind myself that one more diaper and a few more minutes really isn’t that big of a deal.
Have I had some moments of complete frustration?  Absolutely.  Have I shed a few tears?  Absolutely.  Do I know there will be much greater frustration and a lot more tears to come?  Without a doubt.
But in the meantime, I’m going to keep singing and talking to this little guy, rocking him and pacing the floor at 3 a.m. while thanking the Lord for this beautiful gift that came at just the right time in our lives.  And I’m going to keep loving being a mom.