Thursday, December 31, 2009

I Think I've Got a Crick in My Neck

Before I start, I just have to ask - do normal people say you've got "a crick" in your neck when you've strained your neck? After I typed the post title, I started thinking that I don't know if I've ever heard anyone say that outside my family. Being from Western PA, they've got all kinds of weird sayings and expressions that this might fall under. Like red meaning to clean or yuns being a strange version of y'all or a licking means a spanking. 

As in, "Yuns better red up the living room or I'll have to give you a licking and I might get a crick in my neck!!"

I'm just a hillbilly at heart, it would seem.

But I digress.

As I was considering what kind of post to write for New Year's Eve, I thought I should write something kind of summing up the year. But then I realized that I had already done that.  In fact, it seems I've spent the better part of the year looking back.  Thinking about how my life used to be.  Wishing for the way things were.  

And isn't that just a waste of time?

The reality is that my life is now here in Doha. That I'm no longer homeschooling.  I don't get to be a stay at home mom anymore, but instead I work full-time.  I have teenagers who don't listen to me as though the sun sets and rises upon me anymore.

And that's life.

Life changes, people change, things happen.  It's time to stop wallowing in missing my old life and embrace the changes that have come to me.

Living in Doha is providing us with opportunities we never wold have had in Miami.  Especially given the current economy, we might well have been jobless had we stayed there.  My children have the opportunity to receive a better education than I could have ever given them had I continued to homeschool.  The school, paid for mostly be Hubby's company, is top-notch.  We, eventually, hope to be able to travel to places we never would have dreamed of going while living in the States.  

And even though I miss being the one to introduce my kids to new things, and spending every day with them watching them learn and grow, I know that putting them into school was absolutely the right decision.  They are learning and doing things which I could never have given them.  Some of the lessons have been hard (girls can be mean!), but all in all, it's been good for them to have people who aren't so lax and have higher expectations from them than "Mom."  

Harder than giving up homeschooling even, was giving up being a stay at home mom.  To be honest, I'm still trying to find the positive in it, but there are some things to be grateful for.  My salary covers the balance of the kids' tuition that Hubby's company doesn't cover.  Being at the school allows me the opportunity to get to know the kids my kids are with and to watch them interact with others their age.   

And, no, my kids question me and challenge me and push my buttons every day.  It's frustrating and maddening.  But it's also part of the process  of them learning to be adults.  I want my kids to be strong-willed and independent.  I am proud of them and how they deal with events in their life.  They've been challenged and changed and stretched in every direction just as much as I have over the last two years and, for the most part, have come through it beautifully.  I'm so proud of them.  I know that the struggles we are having right now are like the butterfly emerging from the cocoon - the struggle of it makes the butterfly strong enough to fly on its own.  

So my point to all this rambling?  It's time to stop looking backwards.  It's time to move forward, embracing where I am now.  I've got to be excited about what the future holds and live each day fully rather than just making it through the day.  I have a good life and it's time to make the most of it.

Or my mama might just come over here and give me a licking.


Thursday, December 24, 2009

What Christmas is All About

Merry Christmas to all of you!!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Reflecting Back

It's the night before Christmas eve. The gifts are all bought and wrapped. The turkey is defrosting in the refrigerator. The (beef) sausage for the apple, sausage and cranberry stuffing is waiting patiently in the freezer. The house is as decked as it can be. The year is drawing to a close. And what a year it has been.

In January, we made the very difficult decision to end our homeschooling journey and enroll our two amazing kids in school here in Doha. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done, but we felt it was the Lord's leading. Two months later, it was my turn to leave home and enter the workforce. A job opened up for me in the high school office of the kids' school. It has been a perfect way for me to keep in touch with my children's lives, get to know their friends in some small way, earn some extra money and expand my social life somewhat.

Over the summer, we made the long, long journey through Saudi Arabia to visit Hubby's family in Jordan. It was a trip which none of us were looking forward to following last year's horrible experience when our kids and their cousins didn't get along and made everyone miserable. After 3 days of travel, wearing the traditional black abayas and head coverings all the way, we pulled into Amman, only to be sideswiped 5 minutes after entering the town. Not an auspicious start. However, we were happily surprised when everyone got along, was happy and enjoyed their time together.

Sadly, just weeks after we came home, we got the call that no one ever wants to get. Hubby's father passed away at the age of 91. He was a deeply loved man, a godly man. The knowledge that he was already in Heaven with the God whom he loved so offered comfort, but he remains missed every day. Knowing that the next time we go, we won't be seeing his smiling face, or hearing his words of wisdom, or feeling his strong hugs makes it almost impossible for me to think what it will be like without him. There will be such a void.

And this fall we moved to a new home. Our new home is perfect for us. It's a five minute walk to school, closer to friends, allows us to use the amenities at the school like the weight room, track, basketball courts, and pool, and is easier for us to maintain.

And so, again, it's been a year full of change. In fact, I wonder if we will ever again have a year that seems "normal." This life we have chosen certainly has its ups and downs. It's good to know that as we enter a new year next week, we have the promise that God will be with us. That He is always with us - through the good and the bad. The highs are made much sweeter by His presence, and the lows are softened by His comfort.

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, 
who have been called according to his purpose." 
Romans 8:28
Saturday, December 19, 2009

Chasing Contentment

"I have learned to be content, whatever my circumstances."

Philippians 4:11

Let me start off by saying that I am still learning.  In fact, I'd have to say I'm in the kindergarten of contentment school.

Living in Doha has been a challenge in more way than one.  Besides the whole matter of adjusting the the culture change, there is another issue which is like a constant thorn in my side.  You see, most of the people who live here (well, Western expatriates anyways) are here for the money.  Salaries here are much higher than in the States.  And there's nothing wrong with that.  Heck, that's why we are here.  Hubby is making much more money here than he would ever make in the U.S.  

However, because of foolish choices we made in the past, we aren't really seeing the benefits of making all that money.  We have quite a bit of debt that we are working hard towards paying down.  Which means that almost everything we bring in which either doesn't go towards groceries, school tuition, or the orthodontist pretty much goes towards that cause.  Which is a good choice.  I know that, I really do.  But...

It's really hard to remember that when almost everyone you know is going on fabulous trips all the time.  Now, to understand why this is such an issue for me you have to know that I love to travel.  If I won a million dollars, I would first tithe and then blow it all on traveling.  Just a sampling of where some friends are headed to this vacation:

Rome, India, South Korea, Bali, Switzerland, London, Turkey, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bethlehem, Dubai, Hong Kong, Barcelona and Vienna.  There's not a single place I wouldn't love to go to.

But the worst?  The one that is like sticking a knife in my heart?  It's the people who are going home.  They are so lucky and it stinks that I can't be happy for them.  I'm just so jealous and borderline depressed.  I mean, I know that in the grand scale of life, not being able to travel is so unimportant, but it's feels awful not to be able to do what everyone else is doing.  

I find myself resenting being here.  Resenting that we gave up so much back home and still aren't able to just do whatever we want, whenever we want.  Resenting that I left all my friends behind. Feeling like we are the only people here who ever even think about money.  Disappointed that life here didn't turn out to be all that we hoped it would.

And then today I found this quote on a friend's Facebook status message:

"I found out that the things that hurt us the most can become the fuel and the catalyst that propel us toward our destiny. It will either make you bitter or it will make you better." T.D. Jakes


I can allow myself to wallow in self-pity and become bitter by my disappointment or I can use this situation to draw closer to Jesus.  I firmly believe that it is in the hard places where we grow to depend more on God and see His hand working.

I have to cling to the knowledge that God is in control of my life.  That in whatever circumstances I am in, it's His will and He is working to accomplish His purposes.  That I can trust Him to do what is ultimately best for me.  

I hope that I can learn to find contentment in that.  The knowledge that God is always working in my life, through the good and the bad, should help me to keep things in perspective and to stay positive.  

My life is in His hands.



Thursday, December 17, 2009

At Long Last...

So I am a big, fat liar.

Back during our Thanksgiving/Eid break, I promised to have pictures of our new house up by the end of the week.

Well, that didn't happen. I'm lazy. Sorry. (I think subconsciously I was waiting for Christmas decorations to be up. Everything looks better with Christmas decorations, doesn't it?).

But, finally, here they are. Please be gracious and remember that we are still working on the place. We haven't painted and we still need to find some artwork to grace the walls. But I'm happy with how it is so far.

They are in pretty random order, but here goes!




Let's start with the important thing.

My bathtub.

Finally I can take a nice, deep, luxurious bubble bath. At the old house, I had an awful tub. It was too short, too shallow and too narrow. Trying to take a bath in it was like trying to take a bath in one of those banana split dishes. This one is fabulous!!








This is a view from our dining room to the living room. I love how our front door is all glass and let's in tons of light. Even though this picture is really dark. You'll just have to trust me on this one.










This is just inside the front door looking towards the dining room.

See what I mean about needing artwork on the walls? The whole wall along the right, which you don't see is plain, plain, plain. Blah!











This is the other half of the living room. Since we went from having a living room, family room AND loft in the other house to just having a living room in this house, it required a little creativity in trying to fit in the furniture. So this couch kind of divides the room in half - a tv watching area, and behind it, a sitting area for reading or visiting.









This is from the dining room into the bedroom area. That's our door to the right of the piano. Unfortunately, you won't be seeing the bedrooms. Well, your eyes probably consider themselves fortunate. It's not pretty back there.
This is our piano that we got for free when our church was going to throw it away. Free is good!!!





And here's the living room from the other angle. Don't ya just love my fake poinsettias there in the bucket? I do!!









This is our guest bath. I don't know why I thought you might want to see that. Sorry.

















Here's my kitchen. I love it, but it just drives me a little crazy that the table and cabinets don't match.
Call me crazy.

Here's the kitchen from the other side.
See my cute little Santa cookie jar on the counter there? He was cause for much excitement in the house when I bought him. Not, as you might think, because of all the cookies he might hold or because he's so cute, but because...
Wait for it...
He came with a Wal-Mart sticker on him. Wal-Mart. My son was more excited about that than about the cookie jar itself.
It's the little things that make you happy, I guess.



And, here it is. The one item that is most beloved and appreciated in this house, besides my husband.
The dryer. (Do you hear a choir of angels singing?? I do.)
After 18 months of not having a dryer, this little gem is like manna from heaven. Oh, how I love it!!





Here's the front of the house. Well, there's a wall around the house, but here's the front from inside the wall. Doesn't that make you feel special? Like you got to go inside and get a secret scoop??
You should.
See me in the glass of the door there? Hi!!!





And here's our little yard'ish area. (I just can't bring myself to call it a yard.) The pampas grass was already there, but almost dead when we moved in. We've resuscitated it, made the rock border, added the bougainvillea in the center and put in hibiscus along the wall. Hopefully it will all fill in and just be gorgeous someday.








And that's it. Home, sweet home. I cannot tell you how our quality of life has improved since we moved here. Walking to work/school in the mornings. Seeing friends in the neighborhood (remember the bulk of houses in our neighborhood are leased by the school for faculty). Not being looked at like we have three heads. Being part of carpooling since we aren't on the "wrong" side of town. It's been great.
Life is good. God is good.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009
So my daughter joined this group on Facebook.  When I clicked on the link to see more, I thought it was just hysterical.  The title?  

You Know You Grew Up in the Middle East If:  (italics things that I find especially true for us here in Qatar)

1. You can't answer the question, "Where are you from?" (And when you do, you get into an elaborate conversation that gets everyone confused and/or makes you sound very spoiled.) 

2. You flew before you could walk.

3. You have a passport, but no driver's license.

4. You think California is cold.

5. You watch National Geographic specials and recognize someone.

6. You run into someone you know at every airport. 

7. Conversations with friends take place at 6:00 in the morning or 10:00 at night.

8. Your life story uses the phrase "Then we went to..." five times.

9. You can speak with authority about the quality of various international airlines. 

10. You feel self conscious around all white people.

11. You get offended when someone turns down an offer for food.

12. You live at school and go home for vacation.

13. You treasure pork and root beer as highly-valued commodities. 

14. You have ever had to wait for prayer call to be over to finish shopping.

15. You are fascinated by any wildlife bigger than a gecko.

16. You know the true meaning of "football." (and in your mind can hear the shout, "GOAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!") 

17. You know that it truly is a small world.

18. You have ever gone to the "hammam" or endured a "shamal."

19. You get all the jokes in Aladdin.

20. Rain is still one of the most wonderful sounds in the world.

21. You haggle with the checkout clerk for a lower price.

22. Your wardrobe can only handle two seasons: hot and warm.

23. Your school memories include duck-and-cover drills.

24. You are used to being stared at. 

25. You think VISA is a document stamped in your passport, and not a plastic card you carry 
in your wallet.

26. You call a chicken burrito a "shwarma."

27. Your dorm room/apartment/living room looks a little like a museum with all the "exotic" things you have around. 

28. You've heard of or tried "hubbly bubbly."

29. You've woken up in the middle of the night to watch the Superbowl on cable.

30. You have sat in a "men's" or "women's" section in an airport, hospital, or restaurant. 

31. You know the geography of the rest of the world, but you don't know the geography of your own country. (Isn't Philadelphia its own state?)

32. Your best friends are from 5 different countries.

33. You're spoiled. You know it. You're VERY spoiled. 

34. You ask your roommate when the houseboy is scheduled to come clean.

35. You have never spent a summer with your friends from high school because you all go back to your home town/state/country June - August

36. Camping involves duning, getting stuck, and counting how many camels you saw.

37. A sports tournament involves flying to another country in the Middle East.

38. You remember when the first McDonalds in your country had its grand opening. 

39. You got days off school for Christian and Muslim holidays.

40. You secretely wished the rulers of other Middle Eastern countries would die so that you got days off school.

41. Not being able to eat in public during the day during the holy month of Ramadan. 

42. Traveling to the states required buying candy, CDs, and Abercrombie and Fitch clothing 
for your friends back overseas.

43. You are used to giving directions according to landmarks, not street names.

44. It's normal to wake up and have four or more Pakistani men fixing your AC. 

45. You didn't know how to do your own laundry until you left for college.

46. How come the houses in America don't have servants' quarters?

47. You are used to seeing Arabic commercials dubbed in British English about Lux soap, Carnation condensed milk and Dove shampoo. 

48. Seeing police drive on the shoulder of the road and cut people is not unusual.

49. You understand that being addressed as "ma'am/sir" by Filipinos is not an insult.

50. You know someone is referring to Pepsi when they say "Bebzi". 

51. Having a walled in, cement house is standard.

52. Ford Explorer sized cars seem small compared to Toyota Land Cruisers and Nissan Patrols

53) You could hear the call to prayer anywhere in the city.

53) You covered your lunchbox with SunTop stickers.

54) You ate La vache qui rit and thought the "Laughing Cow" was laughing because the cheese tasted so bad.
Sunday, November 29, 2009

'Tis the Season (To Get Things Done!!)

Well, the Thanksgiving weekend is almost come and gone.  Luckily for us, we still have several more days of vacation, thanks to a handy little holiday you've probably never heard of called Eid Al-Adha.  (Which, by the way, thanks to Wikipedia, I can now semi-reliably inform you celebrates Abraham's willingness to sacrifice Issac out of obedience to God.)  There are some perks to living in an Islamic country after all.  Hubby is off work until Wednesday, while the kids and I are off until next Sunday.

Since that ends up to be a grand total of 10 days for me, I came up with a to-do list for the time-off.  Here's a little snapshot (which means it's the things I can remember off the top of my head):

1. Landscape the front yard'ish area (I just can't call it a yard - it's a 15' x 10' plot in front of the house)
2. Finish organizing the house so I can take pictures and post them here on ye olde blog.

That's pretty much the gist of the list.  I mean, it's broken down more specifically, but those are the two main basics.  Oh, and bake Christmas cookies.  Can't forget the Christmas cookies.

So today was the landscaping day.  Hubby and I went off to the local plant market and picked up some plants that were very familiar to us, being from Miami - bougainvillea and hibiscus.  The bougainvillea we picked is beautiful!  It's shaped like a tree and has branches from differently-blooming trees grafted on to it so it's producing purple, orange and pink blooms.  I also picked up some hyacinth bulbs that are just about to bloom - can't wait for that!!  

I've been slowly but surely getting other areas taken care of.  The books that were just laid onto the bookshelf flat have now been re-homed to a different bookshelf so that it looks neater.  Christmas decorations have gone up.  The master bedroom has gotten more orderly and pleasant looking.  Artwork is finding a home on the walls.  It's all starting to really come together.  

Tomorrow I'm planning on going through the kitchen and organizing the shelves, laying down shelf liner, and cleaning the refrigerator and stove.  I just don't know if I can contain myself, I'm so excited!!!

*Ahem*

Yeah, so I have to tell you about my new love.  No, I'm not leaving Hubby.  But I have been spending more time with a new friend - the rowing machine.  Hubby and I have been heading over to the school to exercise in the mornings.  Tired of walking endlessly around the track I headed up to the gym a few days ago and decided to try the rowing machine when no one was around in case I made a fool of myself.  I loved it!!  I'm enjoying the fact that I'm getting my cardio in and also working out my arms and back muscles. And it's great for me because I have and old ankle injury that rowing doesn't aggravate.  I'm starting small and working to build up my endurance, but so far it's an exercise that I'm finding challenging and enjoyable.  Hooray!!

Well, I should be off to bed - it's almost 12:30 am and I want to get up early to hit the gym.  (Now there's a sentence I never thought I'd say!!!  Actually I just want to get there and get done before Mr. & Mrs. Fit-and-Snobby get there at 8:30 to do their 294 mile run and spot each other with free weights.  Ugh!)  I'm going to try to take pictures this week and get them up here.  Emily is having some friends over, so I'm motivated to have everything looking all beautiful all at once, LOL!!




Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Nearly Perfect Day

Today just about everything went right.

When I got in the car to drive to work, the thermometer in my car said...78 degrees!!!!  I haven't seen anything below mid-80's since March, so that was so exciting for me. Of course, it was only 7:15, but it only got up to the mid-80's.  A beautiful day!

The kids were off school, due to parent-teacher conferences being held from 8 to 12 this morning.  Shortly into my work day, I realized that the teachers would be leaving school once the conferences were over.  Trying not to get my hopes up, I started hoping that we'd get to leave early as well.  I mean, face it.  There's not much to do at a school when there are no students and no teachers.  But no one seemed to know for sure.  The office manager, who was hired just before me in the spring, didn't know what happened and the principal was down in the gym all morning for the conferences.  We were bored silly up in the office, giggling and laughing and just hanging out.  Eventually, we made our way down to the gym and asked if we'd get a half day too.  To our surprise and delight, the principal said we would.  Whoo-hoo!!

I decided to take advantage of the time off and run up to the mall to look for a pair of khakis (which she needs as part of the school's travel uniform for her trip to Amman with the Forensics team next week) and a plain black blouse and pair of pants, which she'll need for her performance piece.  We found the khakis and a blouse, but before we found the black pants, we ran into friends. Emily stayed with them at the mall and hung out while Daniel and I went off to do the grocery shopping.  By 3:00 I had gotten the groceries and (most) of her clothing needs for her trip.  I was so excited as I had planned on having to do it later and now here I was, when I had planned on still being at work, having that done already!

Ibrahim agreed to drive carpool for youth group tonight, and then he ran an errand or two, so I ended up with over 2 hours alone in the evening.  And do you know how I spent it?  I did laundry (with a dryer!).  I made a huge batch of meatballs so that I can make our favorite family recipe for spaghetti and meatballs tomorrow.  I tidied up.  And I had an amazing peace about it.  It felt so good to just be able to care for my home in peace and not be in a rush and a feeling of being overwhelmed.  

I miss just being a homemaker more than I ever thought I would.  I've been so frustrated ever since we moved because I just haven't been able to get caught up and get the house fully in order.  Today, I was reminded of how good it feels to just care for my home and family.  

One benefit of living here in an Islamic country is that you get the Muslim holidays off as well.  So the second Eid is coming up  the day after Thanksgiving.  (Please don't ask me to explain what Eid is, or why there are two of them - I honestly have no idea.)  Now generally people get off 3 days for Eid, but since I work at the school I'll have off a week for Eid, plus Thanksgiving Day.  With weekends, I'll end up with 11 days off!!!!  I can't wait to just have some time to focus on finishing up all that needs to be done here at the house.  Pictures will then be posted, I promise.

In the meantime, I'll keep plugging away and hope for more days like this one!
Thursday, October 29, 2009

It's The Most Wonderful Time of The Year!

Here in Doha, that is.

Fall has officially arrived in Doha and with it a host of fun activities.  People finally emerge out of their air-conditioned cocoons and life bursts forth with a whole host of things to do.  Temperatures have cooled off to a relatively mild range of the mid-to high 90's (like I said, relatively mild).

This weekend, the kids will be joining their youth group of an overnight retreat in the desert.  It sounds like a ton of fun - dune-bashing, swimming at the inland sea, a barbeque under the stars and sleeping in tents on the sand.  While they are off enjoying that fun, Hubby and I will watching some of the world's greatest female tennis players face-off.  The WTA season championship is held right here in Doha and we've got tickets for Friday night.  One of the nice things about living in Doha is that things like this are dirt cheap.  I paid about $30 for two really nice seats at the match.  It should be lots of fun.  I'm hoping to see at least one of the Williams sisters play, but it's a round robin, so I'm not quite sure who will be playing when we go.

Also going on this weekend, the inaugural Doha Tribeca Film Festival gets underway with celebrities like Robert DeNiro and Martin Scorcese coming into town.  We probably won't be catching any of the showings, but it's neat to think that such exciting events are happening right here in Doha, a place that many people have never even heard of! There's also a walk for breast cancer that will be happening this weekend and several holiday bazaars coming up in the next few weeks.

Both the Doha Community Orchestra and Doha Philharmonic are just starting their seasons, as is the Doha Players (our local theater troupe).  

Also exciting news in Doha is that our first IMAX movie theater just opened up!  (Not that we ever go to IMAX movies, but it's good to have if we decided too).

Last year, we left town in late October and returned in early December.  Then there was settling back in and Christmas and we didn't get to experience any of the fun of this time of year in Doha.  It's nice to be able to have so many great things to choose from!
Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Whew! It's Been Quite a Week!

This week has been filled with a big high and one big low.  I'll get the low out of the way first so that we can move on to happier things.

On Saturday evening, Daniel was telling me that he didn't feel well.  He said he'd been coughing (though I hadn't noticed anything) and that he just didn't right. I shrugged if off, but let him stay home the next day as he did feel slightly warm in the morning.  When I went home at lunch (thank goodness we moved so close to the school!!) he felt warmer, but still didn't seem to badly off.  By the time I came home from school, he was significantly warmer and miserable.  We thought it best to get him checked, so I dressed him (literally - he couldn't dress himself, poor baby!) and Hubby took him to the ER (he's become the official parent to accompany kids to the doctor since he can often communicate better with them than I here in Doha).   His fever was 104.6 when he arrived, but soon reached a high of 105.8!  He was given an injection of something designed to bring down the fever, which it did. He was diagnosed with the flu (swine or otherwise, they are testing so we'll never know) and given a raftload of drugs, including Tamiflu.  

Happily, he has not needed even one dose of fever-reducing medicine since that first injection.  He's felt much better ever since.  He did stay home from school the rest of the week though.  (They are off school today and tomorrow for Professional Development days).  I figured since he was still coughing he didn't need to be spreading that all around. I'm just happy that he's well and back to his old self.

On the upside of the week, we got.....drumroll, please...A DRYER!!!  A dryer. A dryer.  A dryer.  It's an amazing invention, you know.  The first load I did was a load of towels.  When you have been using scratchy, stiff towels for a year and a half, the feeling of softness of a load of towels just fresh from they dryer is amazing.  I just kept rubbing my hands all over them and giggling.  

Then I did jeans and they came out soft and warm and weren't able to stand up by themselves.  And they were done in an hour!!  I got all 8 loads of laundry (I'd been saving it all up for the big arrival!!) done in less than 24 hours. That would have taken me days and days to do before since I'd have to line dry everything and wait for it to dry so that I could use the dryer rack for the next load.  I was so excited and I'm so thrilled.

But, we are in Doha, and that means that there's always a little something that goes wrong.  The guys who delivered it weren't putting in a vent hose.  So I asked them about it and in their broken English they informed me that it only puts out a little heat, so it's not necessary.  

Excuse me??

But they could not be persuaded and claimed to not have any on them.  Finally I let them leave, figuring it's just easier to install it ourselves than deal with the people.  Since I was desperate to do laundry, I just shoved the machine over to the back door of the kitchen, opened up the door and vented it directly to the outside.  Ingenious, aren't I?!
Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Million Tiny Pieces (of Information, That Is)

Wow - it's done.  We moved.  

We moved fast.  We moved hard.  We moved until we were ready to drop and were left crying, in fetal position, on the crowded, dirty floor of our new home.  (Of course, that may have just been me.  Hubby is just slightly more in control of his emotions.)

And the house?  It's fabulous!  It's about half the size of our previous house, but it's so much better designed.  Here are some things I love about it:

The dishwasher is right next to the sink where it belongs, not across the room.  The bathtub is wide enough that I don't have to have my arms pinned to my sides when taking a nice hot bubble bath.  Oh, and the hot water heater must have some kind of control on it, because I haven't been burned once!!  Amazing!!   There's tons of cabinet space.  Their are closets.  Closets, people.  You never realize how much you appreciate something until you don't have it.

We are still working on getting everything in place, but once that's done, I'll post some pictures.  I'm excited to show it off, I just don't think you'd enjoy seeing the chaos that it is now.

Moving on, yesterday was a big, albeit unpleasant one, for my kids.  Braces went on!!  Emily just got hers on the top, bottom to come later.  Daniel only got them on his two front teeth for now, pending some necessary extractions.  But I'm amazed.  He has always had a huge gap between his two front teeth and in just a matter of hours, it was almost gone.  The doctor said it will be completely gone by Halloween.  How is that possible?!  He picked red (his favorite color) and Emily got green and orange, the closest she could get to the colors of University of Miami.  Believe it or not, I'm considering doing it as well, but just can't get over having braces in my 40's.  Any thoughts?

I bought my Thanksgiving turkey last night.  No guarantees I'll find them later, so figured I'd better grab one now.  Pumpkin pie filling, however, still eludes me.  I'm thinking I'll do pecan pie instead, but it just won't be the same.  Sigh...

Exciting news for Emily!  She has joined the forensics club here at school and tried out and made the travel team!!  She'll be traveling with the team to tournaments here in the region and competing against other international schools.  She's so excited!!  We are really proud of her and excited too, knowing that forensics is a great way to improve public speaking skills and make her into a more well-rounded person.

Daniel, too, will be getting to travel soon.  As part of the curriculum here at the American School of Doha, all middle schoolers participate in something called Week Without Walls.  Last year, the kids started school during that week, so Emily didn't get to travel, sadly. Daniel did take part, but 6th graders stay here in Doha and do service projects.  This year, he'll get to go to either the United Arab Emirates (Dubai/Abu Dhabi) or Oman in February.  Either one will be exciting.  They'll be doing adventure camps and other activities meant to stretch them and help them grow.  It's a great opportunity for him.

Well, that's our update from here.  It's been a busy week or two, but I'm hoping things will start slowing down now and we will get all settled in the house and in life in general!!  Thanks for hanging in there with me!!
Monday, October 12, 2009

Finally, Resolution!

So several weeks ago I mentioned that we had found a house we wanted to move to.  It was a perfect house for us for a number of reasons.

Ever since then we've been in a holding pattern.  Hubby's company, upon being given notice that we were moving, informed him that they expected us to fulfill the contract which THEY had signed even before we agreed to move into the house.  The THREE YEAR CONTRACT!!!!  This, of course, after they told Hubby when we moved in that he could take this house permanently and move out when he found something we liked better.  Now, remember that he took this house before I even arrived in Doha, so I had no say in the matter.

It seems that with the slowdown of the world economy, Hubby's company is also feeling the squeeze and was determined that no properties they rented would sit empty.  So we have been going back and forth with them in regards to whether or not we would be allowed to leave the house.  Finally, today, we got final permission to leave and move into the house of our choice.  Hooray!!

I'm so excited.  I really think this is going to be an excellent move for us and here's why:

1) We will be thisclose to the school.   Two minutes.  I timed it tonight.  That means I can drop off the kids quickly during our weekly half-days, we could walk to school once it cools off, if one kid has an after-school activity I won't have to sit there and wait for an hour, but can easily run home and back when they are done.

2) We will be surrounded by school staff.  This means loads of kids, mostly American or Canadian.  It will be really nice for me too, to have neighbors who are friendly.  Not like the man currently to our right, whom I've met a total of three times, each one to complain about something that wasn't even our fault.  I don't know everyone in the neighborhood, but I know a lot of them and I think it will be great.

3) We'll be more centrally located for things like carpools and such.  Where we are now, there's only one family from our church anywhere even close to us.  In our new home, we will be right smack dab in the middle of all the carpooling families so the kids can more easily be part of the "group."

4) The house won't require as much upkeep.  I think I mentioned that our current house is big.  About 4000 sq. ft, with 5 bedrooms, 6 bathrooms, two kitchens (one inside, one outside), a loft, dining room, and both a family room and a living room. The new house is 3 bedrooms, 2 1/2 baths, with just one roomy kitchen (with place for a dishwasher right next to the sink, instead of across the room like here!), and a large living room.  I'm not sure how I'm going to fit everything in, but it will be a relief not to have to spend all of our free time cleaning.

So we are hoping to be able to start moving our things into the house over the weekend and be fully moved in by the end of the month.  It's going to be a busy few days, since we are hiring movers to move just the big furniture and will have to do the rest of it bit by bit in my car.  But I'm excited and can't wait!
Friday, October 2, 2009

Thank Goodness THAT is Over!!

Well, we survived our week of virtual school.  Just barely.

(In case you are behind the times, the government of Qatar closed ALL schools in the country last week due to H1N1.)

The first day or two was crazy.  Teachers and students were both trying to figure it out - how to communicate solely through websites and email, how much work is too much, how to make it work when you have more kids than computers.  It was nuts.  But as the week went on, everybody learned and adapted.  Now, with regards to my kids specifically, Emily definitely handled it better than Daniel.  She got her work done every day and even managed to have the most active week ever socially.  She was out every night except Sunday!

But then there's Daniel. He struggled with understanding exactly what was expected of him.  So did I, truth be told.  One of my main complaints is that each teacher did things a different way.  You had to look everywhere to make sure you weren't missing things. I've just sat down and made a list of all he's got to do by the time school resumes on Sunday (yes, Sunday - don't forget in Arab countries school goes Sunday-Thursday) and it's quite a bit.  He'll be a busy boy tomorrow!

But in talking with a friend of mine about how the week went the other day, she pointed out that, while the kids may not have gotten as much done academically as they would have normally, they learned other valuable skills.  They learned to be more self-reliant.  They learned to be bold enough to speak up when you don't understand and seek out the teacher's help. They learned to help each other out (without cheating and giving each other the answers!!).  They learned flexibility and self-discipline.

It wasn't a week I'd want to repeat again and I still don't feel it was necessary.  I think the government completely over-reacted, as if swine flu would disappear within a week.  But it's good to know that in the event of an actual emergency, their education would be continued with minimal disruption.
Monday, September 28, 2009

This is Not Working Out As Expected!!

So I mentioned that the kids were off school this week in my last post.

Well, not exactly.

Our school is very high tech.  Which is great.  Usually.  But they decided to have kids do "virtual school" this week while they are home.  Assignments are being posted on our school website where each child is enrolled in their individual classes.  Kids are to go online, do the work, and submit it electronically.  That way we won't need to make up the days we are missing on weekends or **horrors** in the summer.  So that's great.  However, the implementation of that idea is causing quite a bit of frustration.  

For one thing, internet access can be unreliable here.  It's generally good but, like everything else here in Doha, things go wrong with no explanation or warning.  Also, sporadically throughout the day, the servers for the website (located in Holland!) have gone done, leaving people in the lurch.

Each teacher is doing their assignments in a different way, leading to confusion amongst the kids.  Assignments are not being posted until mid afternoon, but are expected to be done the next morning, meaning kids are staying up late trying to get things done in time.  Instructions are not clear, neither are due dates. Some teachers are seeming to forget that the kids have 8 different teachers assigning them work and are really pouring it on with short turn-around times.  

I feel like I should be better equipped to deal with this, having homeschooled my kids for so long.  But in that situation, I was giving the assignments, knew the due date, knew what was expected and was not at the mercy of 16 people who are trying to figure this virtual thing out for the first time with my kids as guinea pigs.  Sigh...

And I'm dealing with it as both a parent trying to help her kids get everything done, correctly and on-time, and also as the front-line person in the high school, getting all the calls of complaint and confusion from parents and students.  

And then today I hear that we may also be forced by the government to remain closed next week as well.  If that happens I will bawl my eyes out!!  Already I'm not understanding the purpose of closing the school for one week, as if the H1N1 virus is just going to disappear in that time.  It's been a very unpopular decision and I'm hoping the government wakes up and lets schools reopen as soon as possible.

Ok, enough venting for now.  Something more uplifting next time, I promise!
Saturday, September 26, 2009

Why is Swine Flu Out to Ruin My Life?!?!?

So, the last couple of weeks before school let out for the week-long Eid break were a nightmare due to swine flu. About 10 percent of the kids were absent and I got to be the lucky one who had to compile the lists of who was out, why they were out, if they had any siblings in the elementary or middle school, etc. It consumed half my day!

Now, the government of Qatar has opted to force all schools to remain closed for ANOTHER WEEK!!! Of course, just the kids get to stay home. Staff and faculty have to report to work. Yuck.

And yet, I'm reminded by this little ditty not to place blame on our friends, The Pigs.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

I'm Trying to Stay Calm, But...

I'm really excited!!

Our big goal for our Eid break was to look for a new house to determine if we should stay where we are or move.  There are so many reasons to look for a new place.  The biggest thing, though, is that our kids are really isolated here in our current house.  We are in a very conservative Muslim neighborhood that looks at us like we have 3 heads.  One neighbor has been somewhat friendly, an older Jordanian woman, although we have had our ups and downs with her. But there are no kids around.  

Also, I've decided that this place is just too much for me to keep up with.  Even though Hubby helps out a lot, I hate the fact that we spend most of our free time cleaning.  The house is about 4000 square feet, 5 bedrooms, 6 bathrooms, 3 large sitting areas, an outside kitchen and maid's room that are constantly covered in sand and dust.  Ugh!

So anyways, I think we've found the perfect place.  It's just blocks from the school (the kids can even walk home once it cools down a bit more),  it's in a neighborhood that is chock full of staff from the school so it would be kid-friendly (not to mention more Lori-friendly), it's much smaller but the rooms are still spacious, there's a place for (drum roll, please....) a DRYER!!!,  it has built-in closets, and it has a nice space for a garden right in front of the picture window in the living room.  

So now we just wait to see if: a) we can get out of this house easily enough, b) the landlord at the new place will accept our offer of 12,000 riyals (which is how much our housing allowance is and we don't want to go over that) even though he asked for 14,000 riyals and c) everything else works out.  

Please say a quick prayer!!
Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Safari Shopping - Score!!

Oh, it was an exciting day today!!  I went to do my normal weekly grocery shopping and found some really exciting things.

Fresh chicken breasts - No IQF chicken breasts over here.  If you buy frozen chicken breasts you get a 2.2 pound lump of freezer-burned horrible chicken breasts.  For some reason, fresh chicken breast are impossible to get at the butcher counter as well.  You can find legs, thighs, gizzards - everything but chicken breasts.

Calgon -  I. Cannot. Wait.  Calgon, take me away!  'Nuff said.

Clorox Clean-up - Please no lectures about using natural cleaners.  There's nothing like some good ol' bleach to get things really clean.

Wheat Thins - Crackers seem to be hit or miss here. Usually I can only find Ritz (blah). Triscuits are my real dream, but they only seem to come in Rosemary and Olive Oil flavor generally.

Lean Cuisine Fettucine Alfredo w/Broccoli & Chicken - yumm-o!

Sadly, there are always some things that I can't find when I need them.  Today's list of elusive prey included alfalfa sprouts, some American brand of frozen pizza, chocolate chip ice cream, and more. And, frustratingly enough, I once again saw the cleaning fluid for Swiffer Wet Jet, but they don't sell Swiffer Wet Jets themselves, nor the cleaning pads to go with them.  Grrr...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Some Encouragement For Homemakers

Since working, I've been finding myself less and less devoted to making my home a haven for my family.  

However, we are now in the middle of looking for a new house and it's stirred ideas of all that I could do in our future home.  Somehow our house here has never really felt like "home."  Maybe it's because it's too big, maybe it's because we haven't ever painted, I don't know.  But now that we are looking at other places, generally smaller places, I'm feeling a little more...domestic.

So I've been going through some of my favorite homemaking sites.  There's such a great wealth of information on the Internet.  I hope you can find some things that not only encourage you, but also give you practical ideas on making your home a better place for you and your family.

The Hip Homemaker - loads of great ideas and articles on tons of topics

Creative Homemaking - lots of tips on decorating, cooking and more

Old Fashioned Homemaking - very encouraging articles for today's homemakers

Homemaking 911 - recipes, articles, tips and more

Ladies Against Feminism - for the Christian woman, a great site

Proverbs 31 Homemaking - all kinds of helpful things for the Christian homemaker

Heart4Home - creative, fun and practical ideas

As we enter a new season, let's make a commitment together to put more effort into caring for our homes and families!
Friday, September 11, 2009
8 years ago, at just about this moment, I was preparing to go to my weekly Bible study.  I had the radio in my room set to the local NBC channel and was listening to the "Today" show, when word came across that a small plane had hit the World Trade Center.  Just minutes later, we realized the awful truth.

Our country, our fellow citizens were under attack.  Confusion reigned.  Fear was everywhere. What would the next target be?  How many planes carrying terrorists had been grounded, and allowed those men to walk free to attack another day?  How many people had lost their lives?

Would life ever feel normal again?

And, as it should be, time has softened the pain and made the events of 9/11 recede in our memories.  But today, on the 8th anniversary of the worst terrorist attack ever on American soil, let us just take a few minutes to think about those who were killed on that day.  They were mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters.  They were you and I.  

2,997 lives lost.  2,997 families who were left forever scarred.  Those lives deserve to be remembered.  
Friday, September 4, 2009

Ramadan and Ramblings

I'm so touched by your encouraging comments.  Thank you so much.  I'll continue to blog when something interesting happens (this, more often than not, is the problem - not much interesting going on in my life), but I hope you'll understand if it's not as often as I used to post.

So, I haven't mentioned it, but we are smack in the middle of Ramadan, the holiest month of the Islamic year.  It's a time of fasting and self-reflection for Muslims.  From sunrise to sunset, they can neither eat nor drink.  But when you live in an Islamic state, you are affected too.

Last year we were so excited for Ramadan to arrive as it meant that Hubby would be working only half days.  Little did we realize that during Ramadan everything shuts down in the afternoon!  We spent almost every afternoon sitting at home bored to tears.

This year has proved to be different since we are in school.  School ends at 2:30 (I still work until 3:30 though) instead of 3:00.  By the time we get home and get schoolwork done, things have opened back up again.  It's much less disruptive this year.

At the end of Ramadan, there is the Eid holiday. Then 40 days later comes another Eid holiday. I think Hubby gets 4 days off for both of those, while the school will have a week off each time.  We were planning on painting the interior of the house during the first Eid, but now Hubby has talked me into waiting until the second holiday.  It seems that there is now a glut in the housing market, and now after years of overinflated prices things are coming down.  We like our house, but would rather be in a compound with other kids around.  So we agreed to do some house-hunting for the next two months and either move or paint this house.  I don't know what will happen.  Like I said, I like the house and it's only 10 minutes from school so it's an easy commute.  But if we find something affordable where the kids can go out and be with other kids more often, we'll move in a heartbeat.

Thank you also for your condolences on the loss of my father-in-law.  It's been a hard week and I am desperately wishing I could be in Amman to support my husband.  He'll be home on Sunday evening and I can't wait to wrap my arms around him.  


Thursday, September 3, 2009

It's Been a While, Hasn't It?

I'm so sorry to have just dropped off the face of the planet like that.  Here's a quick re-cap of all that's happened in the last few weeks and then maybe you'll feel like giving me grace.  :)

School started on the 23rd.  It was a big day for us - Emily was moving up into high school and Daniel into 7th grade.  Since I work at the high school, I was anticipating it being a busy day myself.  Little did I know how crazy it would get.  Remember back last in the spring when I was having problems with a coworker?  Well, she chose the first day of school, only the most hectic, crazy time of the entire school year, to quit.  She finished out the day, wiped all school-related documents off her computer, and left.  

The end result is that I've been doing double-duty, but that I will be moving into her position (which pays more money!).  The funny thing is that, even with doing my job AND her job, I'm still not that much busier than I was when I was just doing my job!!

Emily and Daniel seem to both be settling in well in their new classes.  High school is proving to be a lot more work for Emily, but she has risen to the challenge and is showing herself to be a devoted student.  Daniel seems to be the lucky one so far with very little homework assigned yet.  I'm sure it's coming down the road, though!!

This week, though, it's been exhaustion and grief which has kept me from checking in with you.  On a very sad note, Hubby's father passed away on Sunday evening.  At 90, he lived a long, full life.  He was a sweet and godly man who treated me like one of his own children and we miss him so much.  Hubby left that night for Jordan and the funeral was yesterday.  He'll be home this weekend.  If you think of it, please pray for my mother-in-law.  They were married 52 years and her life is going to be so very different now.  Although she lives with my brother-in-law, he isn't home very often due to his business so she'll be spending days and nights alone.  It's going to be a very hard transition for her.

I do want to do a better job of keeping up with the blog, but to be honest, I just don't know if it's of interest to anyone anymore.  It started off being more about homeschooling and homemaking, but now, since I started working, seems to have become more and more mundane ramblings about my life.  And I often wonder why anyone would be interested in that?!?!
Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Solitude

When you hear the word solitude, what comes to mind? For me, I think of something along the lines of Thoreau's "Walden," one solitary person in the middle of nowhere all alone. But that's not easy to find in today's world.

And yet, I'm a person who needs solitude. Sometimes I just NEED to be alone. It recharges my batteries. Not that I'm anti-social or anything. I am actually very friendly, I swear!! It's just that I get overwhelmed when there is always someone there. Even if it's just someone in the same room, but not interacting with me, it drains me.

I guess I just feel freer when I'm alone. Free to just sit there and stare out the window. Free to talk to myself (which I do when I'm trying to work things out in my head). Free to read in peace and quiet. Free to do whatever I want without someone judging me or interrupting me.

I had one of those days today. I started work the other day and today was a particularly annoying day. Nothing huge, just annoying. So I got in the car, drove to the store, picked up a magazine and just pulled over on the side of the road and read. All alone.

Back in Miami, I had a multitude of options when I wanted to be alone. I would often go to the library and find a corner to retreat to. Other times, I'd go to the local park and read under a tree. But here in Doha, I don't really have many options. There are no libraries. Parks, when it's cool enough to be outside, are packed unbelievably full. So I have to be creative.

Being alone is different from being lonely. I think the ability to be comfortable with yourself when you are all alone is a mark of maturity. If you haven't tried it lately, give it a shot and see how it improves your mood.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Back to Reality

And so vacation is over.

We returned to Doha late yesterday afternoon.  The return trip through Saudi Arabia was more pleasant, but still not something we want to repeat.  From here on out, we'll be flying any time we want to leave Qatar.

Once home, we discovered a thick layer of sand/dust covering everything in the house.  Apparently a week-long sandstorm struck while we were out of town, oozing in through vents and cracks around the doors.  Everything, and I mean everything needed to be wiped down, or changed, or washed.  

I've gotten about half-way through the laundry.  It's at times like this that I really miss having a dryer.  The whole procedure would take much, much less time and ironing wouldn't be necessary for every little thing.  Someday I'll get one.  Someday...

Then, of course, came the necessary re-stocking of the grocery pantry.  Ever since I (self)diagnosed myself with PCOS I've been studying up on the best way to deal with it and, lo and behold, it seems to be eating healthy and exercising.  (Darn it!!  Why couldn't, just once, the cure for some disease to be sitting in front of junk tv while scarfing down crunchy Cheetos??)  So, as we drove back home, I made up my shopping list.  I'm trying to focus on whole, natural foods and going to be phasing out processed foods.  I'm still promising myself that I'm going to kick my Pepsi habit, as I know that one of my biggest problems.  However, I can proudly report that I lost 5 pounds during my time in Jordan.   Whoo-hoo!!  Now if I can just maintain the habits I was following there - no  late night snacking, plenty of fruit and very little between meal snacking as well.

Tomorrow I want to finish up the laundry, mop the second floor to get rid of the final layer of grime, finish dusting (it's everything I tell you!!), take Daniel to the fish store to replace the fish which all died during our vacation (only the nasty ugly ones were left who were eating all the other ones though, so we aren't TOO heartbroken), and go brunette.  Yes, I want to dye my hair darker.  Hubby doesn't know it yet, and he likes it lighter, but I just can't stand looking at it anymore.  It's brassy and gold and I hate it.  Anyways summer is pretty much over once I start work on Sunday, and blond is for summertime, right? 
Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Interesting Facts About Saudi Arabian Hotels

 - Much like American hotels have Gideon Bibles, Saudi hotels have copies of the Koran, along with a prayer rug

- Some Saudi hotels have signs on the ceiling pointing towards Mecca, so Muslims know which way to pray

- Toilets may not face Mecca

- Toilets have, in addition (hopefully!) to toilet paper, little sprayers to clean oneself with.  Kind of like the ones by your kitchen sink.

- Apparently the tv's are merely decorative because we have yet to figure out how to turn one on

- Beds are as hard as sleeping on a slab of concrete

- So are the sofas

- If you are sleeping on the sofa, don't be surprised if there are multiple bars poking into your back.


Monday, August 10, 2009

Photos from Our Trip

In backward order (because I stupidly loaded them that way and now I'm too lazy to re-arrange them), here are some photos from our trip so far:



This is Daniel with his cousin at the Treasury in Petra.  Daniel is in red.



Here they are after having climbed to the highest point of Petra, the Monastery.



Here's me by the banks of the Jordan River.



And here's Emily at the Jordan River as well.  Can you tell how stinkin' hot it was?  About a billion and three degrees or so!  Still it was an amazing experience.




Here's a sign with the explanation of why they believe this is the true baptism site of Jesus.  I'm hoping if you click on it you will be able to read it.




This is where they say the baptism site is.  As I think I mentioned, it's now away from the Jordan River, which has changed course over time, but you can still see the remains of the ancient churches which were built to commemorate the site.



Here are Emily and Daniel at Mount Nebo, the place where Moses looked out over the Promised Land.



This staff with a serpent wrapped around it commemorates this spot where Moses saw the Promised Land.  You can't tell from the photo, but the entire sculpture is made up of small votive candle holders and, according to my father-in-law, you used to be able to see the sculpture lit up from the candles all the way from Jerusalem.  Air quality has diminished now to the point that it isn't possible, but it's neat to think about.



Here's Daniel at the Roman Amphitheater in downtown Amman.



Miss Emily during our very looooooong drive through Saudi Arabia. She occupied herself for a bit by taking silly shots of herself.    I like this one the best.


Driving through Saudi Arabia (yes, it looked that barren ALL the way!!) we passed a small pick-up truck carrying some unusual cargo - a camel!!

That's it for now.  I'll try to post some more pictures after we get home.  We head out tomorrow.  Even though we are all going to miss Amman and our family here, I think we are all ready to get home to our own place and normal life.  We'll drive into Doha on Thursday night and I'll start work again (grrrr...) on Sunday so I'll have a couple of days to unpack and restock the house before getting back into the grind.

Have a great day!!






















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