Saturday, January 31, 2009

No Regrets - Day 2

Today's Question:

If you were certain your life as you know it would end in a few weeks, what would be your biggest regret?

Sadly, it would be the fact that I have spent so much of the last decade focusing on my weight. Being upset about it, being depressed about it, allowing it to determine what I can and cannot do; allowing it to affect my marriage, my emotions, my health, my activity level.

If I had invested all the time I spent obsessing about my weight actually doing something about it, I would be a size 0. Not that I want to be a size 0. I just want to be healthy and happy and feel good about myself. I think that I have allowed myself to become so self-defeating in my internal dialogue. I've convinced myself that I will always be this weight, that there is nothing I can do about it, that it's out of my control.

And that's simply not true. The truth is I make decisions, small ones, every day that keep me where I am. The truth is that I choose to stay how I am because it's easier than changing. Yes, losing weight would require a tremendous amount of committment and work. Yes, I would have to deny myself somethings that I like. Yes, I'd have to exercise even though I don't enjoy it.

But all that can't be as hard as this. It can't be harder than knowing my kids aren't going to have pictures of me in their childhood because I hate how I look in pictures. It can't be harder than knowing that every time my husband looks at me, there is disappointment in his eyes. It can't be harder than the shame I feel.

So I want to stop obsessing about the weight and actually start doing something about it. I KNOW all that I need to do. I know it all. Doing it is the problem. But even if I make a few choices every day that are better than the choices I've made in the past, I'll come out ahead. I'm not promising anything. I'm not going to tell myself I will work out an hour a day. I'm not saying I'm swearing off soda and snacks.

But what I want to do is when I find myself beating myself up, I want to make the conscious choice to take that time to build myself up instead.
Friday, January 30, 2009

No Regrets

Last week at church we were all given a copy of the book, One Month to Live, by Kerry & Chris Shook. We have a guest speaker this week and next who is going to be discussing the book and the effects it could have on our lives.

It's a day-by-day kind of book. Each day's reading ends with a few questions to help you think about how to apply what you've read. I'm not going to be able to consolidate each day's reading for you, but I do want to pick one of the questions each day - something meaningful to me - and share the question and my response. It will be not only for your benefit, but mine as well as I'll be able to go back and look at the decisions I've made and thoughts I've processed. So here's day 1's question:

As quickly as possible, without thinking too hard or too long, make a list of five things you'd change about your life if you knew you only had a month to live. Choose at least one thing to begin changing today, right now.

1. I would stop hating myself because of what I weigh. I would realize there are better ways to spend my precious time.
2. I wouldn't worry about the small things, like if Hubby drops his dirty laundry on the floor rather than in the hamper or if my children don't put away the dishes in the right place.
3. I would spend more time with God.
4. I wouldn't waste so much of my time watching tv.
5. I would make sure to laugh every day.


So that's it. No elaboration. No long speech. Just the question and answer, every day. I'm going to post them all under the label "No Regrets," just so I can find some motivation when I'm starting to slip back into old habits. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the questions, so feel free to either post them here in the comments or if you do it on your blog, let me know!
Thursday, January 29, 2009

Driving in Doha

Ok, so I know I may have complained about the driving here in Doha. I've seen things that have made me laugh and have shocked me into silence. Well, someone actually made a little video of what a typical intersection in Doha is like. Take a look.




Now do you see what I mean?!?! And I would have to disagree with the filmaker that this is the "worst intersection in Doha." They are all pretty much the same.

I'm convinced that God sent me to live in Doha in response to my decades-long prayer to give me more patience. There is no place I've ever been that has caused me to exercise patience more than here!

Edited to add: I just noticed after watching it again something very normal. At about 55 seconds in watch for the white van in the lower left corner. He makes at 78 point turn (or so) and then ends up going exactly where he was in the first place!!
Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Catch Up Time

Whew!! I feel like the last 5 days or so I've been running around like a chicken with my head cut off! From the time we got the news that the kids had both gotten a seat at the school, we've been going non-stop trying to prepare them.

First there were the school supplies to buy. Going by the school-supplied list, we hit store after store trying to round everything up. When it was all said and done, we had more than two laundry baskets full of stuff and our wallets were quite a bit lighter!

Then there were the last minute academic things to stress with them, the emotional and social "tips," the lectures about choosing friends wisely and standing true to the values they hold.

On Sunday we went in and met with the middle school counselors to work out the kids' schedules. They've got some great classes on their schedules and are looking forward to beginning classes next week.

This week, however, is a whole other matter. This week has been like going to camp almost! Emily's group is working on a photography project and has been going all over Doha - the zoo, a boat ride, the souq (a traditional Arab market), museums, etc. Daniel's group has been doing "culture-building." They are divided into teams and each team is creating a culture from scratch - complete with music, religion, art, daily life, etc. Today I dropped him off for the culmination of the week, an overnight campout on the beach. He was so excited!!

Both kids have met several kids and had time to find their way around the school, locate their classrooms and get settled in. Come Monday when regular classes begin, I think they will be much more confident now that they won't be venturing into the unknown. They've really enjoyed the week so far and I think this is a great move for them. In just a few days, I've seen them both perk up and return to being the happy, enthusiastic children I've always known.

And as for me? Well, I've been keeping myself plenty busy. After dropping them off on Monday, I headed home, jumped on the treadmill, showered and headed off to a meeting for the facilitators of the Esther Bible study. That ended just in time for me to dash back to school and get the kids. Collected everyone, rejoiced that the day went so well, and came home to make dinner and clean. Laundry, can I just say, is the bane of my exisitence these days. Normally, I don't mind (too much) that I don't have a dryer and have to hang my clothes to dry. However, the temps have been so low lately that things are taking forever to dry. Like a couple of days. And when I have loads and loads of laundry to do, that just doesn't cut it. It's dragging out and driving me crazy.

But I digress.

Tuesday I dropped them off and headed straight to my very first Women's Ministry Leadership Team meeting. I've taken on the position of co-leader for Women's Bible Studies. Following the meeting, I had to get to school to pick up Emily (who only had a half day). Got her, ran to the store to get snacks and goodies for later, ran home, ate lunch, cleaned a little more and then it was time to go get Daniel. Got him and came home and cleaned like a maniac. We were hosting a meeting here in our home last night for the kids who are going on a mission trip to Jordan in April.

In a move I am quite proud of, I gave myself a break and didn't force myself to bake the cake I had planned on making for the meeting. I realized that chips and salsa would be just as good and take way less time and create way less stress for me. I whipped up some hummous, cut some veggies and put out bowls of chips and M&M's and I was done.

The meeting went well. I think there are about 15 kids going and they will be meeting bi-weekly until Spring Break in April. I loved listening to them pray and sing worship songs!! I really love our youth leaders! While that was going on, Daniel and I were packing him up for his campout.

Then today, I dropped off the kids and needed to head straight to Bible Study. Of course, as I got out of the car to help Daniel get his gear, he says, "I don't think I packed my sweatshirt, Mom." (That would be the one that I handed to him and said, "Put this in your bag.")

My response was not something I am proud of.

Now, yes, I live in the desert. And I know that last summer I was complaining mightily about the heat. But, y'all, it's pretty cold here these days. Not ValleyGirl cold, but cold enough to really need more than a polo shirt if you are going to overnight on the beach. So, good mom that I am, I ran home, grabbed the sweatshirt and drove it back to him, wandered through the school looking for him, got yelled at by the guard for parking in the wrong place (hello, it's a dirt parking lot - you want perfection put in some lines!!), and finally headed off to Bible study.

Don't you just love going to Bible study when the Spirit of God is just all over your morning?!?!?!

That was sarcasm there, folks. But God is good and it was an amazing lesson. Some of the things I'll be sharing with you sometime soon here are:

  • our tendancy to compare ourselves to other women (looks, $$, status, clothes, etc.)
  • our view of ourselves and how we feel about how we look
  • our understanding of God's providence

Esther has SOOOO much to teach us, ladies!!

Well, I've got about an hour before I have to go pick up Emily. We are going to have some mother/daughter time and hit the mall together since Daniel is on his campout. So, I'm going to go, um...take a nap! Yeah, that's what I'll do!! These early mornings aren't agreeing with me very well. I'm so used to waking up naturally, around 7:30. 5:45 is just not working for me!!!!
Tuesday, January 27, 2009

AWOL

Sorry I've been out of touch the last few days. I really want to give you all an updated on how the kids are doing now that they've started school (sneak peak: really well!!!), but the last couple of days have been extremely hectic for me and I've been running around like a chicken with my head cut off. Tomorrow after Bible study I should have some time when I can post before I have to pick up the kids from school. (That still sounds so strange coming from my mouth!)

Just know that the silence is for good reasons. I'll give you the blow-by-blow tomorrow! Thanks for your patience!
Saturday, January 24, 2009

Beginning a New Chapter


This week will mark the beginning of a new phase in our lives. Our children will enter a formal "school" setting for the first time. Their feelings are mixed, which is normal, I suppose. Feelings of excitement are tinged with apprehension.

However, I think I'm having a harder time accepting this shift in our lives even more than they are. For many years, being a "homeschooling mom" has been a huge part of my identity. It was the focus of many of my waking hours, the basis of many of my friendships, and a source of both pride and frustration. Whenever I was asked what I do, my reply was always, "I'm a homeschooling mom." It's become who I am, what defines me.

So now, as we are counting down the hours until they are no longer home with me 24/7, where does that leave me? When pressed about how long we would homeschool, my answer was always a confident, "As long as we are all happy with it." I was sure we would all always be happy with homeschooling. And I think we have been.

Circumstances I never foresaw have driven this decision. I never would have imagined we would be moving to the Middle East and even when I knew it was a possibility, the viability of homeschooling here was a major consideration. I thought it would work. I prayed it would work. But it has been devastating to watch my once outgoing and happy child lose confidence and become full of insecurity. As their social circle shrank, their unhappiness grew.

And so here we are. All of us moving into a new and unknown frontier. I think the transition will be much easier on the children than on me. Once those first few frightening days are over, they will quickly make friends and begin a new life, one separate from me. And that's ok. That's great. I've never been one of those overprotective, I-must-control-every-aspect-of-my-child's-life type parents. That's not why we homeschooled. I pray that they find their paths and their joy at this school.

But for me, I think it may be a little harder. My mom is worried that I will sit home and become a hermit, depressed and lonely with nothing to do. I hardly think that will happen. I've taken on a new role as co-coordinator of women's Bible studies at our church. I'm leading one of the studies myself, Beth Moore's Esther study. I'm hoping to find more time to take care of myself - both by working out at home and by spending more time at the gym. I want to spend more time in Bible study, growing deeper in my relationship with God. I will probably need to get a full-time job at some point in the near future.

And yet with all of this to keep me busy, I still wonder who am I now that I'm not going to be homeschooling? I imagine that it's similar to what a career woman feels when she decides to stay home with her children. It's a loss of identity. I look forward to learning all that God has for me during this time of change.

I know that several of you came to this blog because of homeschooling. I'm hoping that you will stick around. I've already seen a drop in the number of subscribers, coming on the heels of my announcement that we'll be putting the kids in school. I understand that. But I hope that once all the dust settles, this blog will return to its roots - the chronicle of one woman's attempt to live a simple, quiet life in this modern, crazy world.

I hope you'll come along for the ride.
Thursday, January 22, 2009

Thankful Thursday


Well, there are big doings around here this week! I got the call this morning that our children have been accepted at The American School of Doha and can begin at the start of the second semester in a week and a half!! So I have much to be thankful for.

  • I'm so very relieved and thankful that they obviously passed the entrance exams. Unfortunately, the school didn't really give me any results to look at, but the very fact that they were accepted validates all that I've done with them.
  • I'm thankful for bloggy friends who reminded me that there is so much more to raising children than academic teaching. I know that, I really do. But sometimes I just lose sight of that when I'm faced with someone who is strictly looking at their academic work.
  • I'm thankful that I know that somehow God is going to provide the necessary finances to make it happen. It came out to be more than Hubby had been expecting (I think he assumed some of the annual fees would be halved, since they are enrolling at the half-way point of the year), so we are scrambling to make it work.
  • I'm thankful to have the assurance that I do that this is the right thing for my children right now. I'm a mom who planned on homeschooling all the way through high school, so this has been a big adjustment for me. A BIG adjustment. But God has given me peace (well, most of the time I'm at peace with the decision!!! LOL!!) with this step and I know that He will a) provide the finances, b) protect my children, c) bless my children and d) enrich my children's lives.
  • I'm thankful that this school is WAY better than anything we would have ever had access to in the US. The facilities are amazing, the course offerings are great, the extracurricular activities are phenomenal. I think that they are going to be very happy there.

In other news, here are some more things to be thankful for:

  • My mom underwent an angiogram this past week and came through it with flying colors. She had a heart attack several years ago and has stents in her heart, so we are grateful everything is A-OK.
  • I started a study of the book of Esther (thank you, Beth Moore!) yesterday. I'm facilitiating a small group and they are all such nice women. I look forward to getting to know them as we study this fascinating woman.
  • I'm thankful that I saw a promo this morning on our satellite network that they will "soon" be airing the 5th season of...LOST!!!! I'm so excited I can hardly stand it!!
  • I am feeling more and more at home here. That in, an of itself, is huge.

For more Thankful Thursday posts, be sure to visit Lori's Reflections, who is hosting Thankful Thursday for the next couple of weeks.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Today

"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."
~ Abraham Lincoln ~

* * * * * * * *

I must admit that I am no fan of the man who, today, will become our nation's 44th president. I do not agree with many of his policies and stances. I believe that a cult of personality has built up around him so that many believe our nation will find its salvation in him. Of course, we know that our salvation is only in God.

However, that doesn't make this occasion any less historic. The fact that an African-American man has been elected president just 43 years after the march on Selma, Alabama to guarantee the voting rights of African-Americans, well, it's stunning. Our country has come a long way and we should be proud of that. I'm sure many would say we still have a long way to go in our efforts to eliminate racism.

So, while I am unhappy with the character of the man being sworn in today, I am pleased by what his inauguration represents. I pray that this will be a healing step, that it will bring pride and inspiration to many who, perhaps, have felt hopeless and disenfranchised.

And as to his policies? Well, I trust far more in my God than I do in any man. I know that God is completely sovereign. For whatever purpose, He allowed the election to turn out the way it did. Perhaps I'm wrong and Mr. Obama will end up being a president who serves this country well. Or perhaps he will lead us further and further down the path away from our roots as a nation built on Biblical principles. I fear the latter is more likely.

Either way, however, my trust is in God. That can not, will not, be shaken. Yes, I am sure that decisions will be made which will horrify me. But I will continue to pray for our nation and its leader. I hope you will do the same.
Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Day of Reckoning


Oh, I am so nervous!! Today is the day my children will take their placement tests for the school.

(Yes, I know it's Sunday so that seems really strange. But it's a different world over here, my friends. The school's weekend days are Friday and Saturday. But I digress.)

Today is the day that the world will see if I've been doing a good job for the past 13 years. If I've taught my children well. If I've been diligent. Shudder!! (Have I mentioned I have a problem with diligence?)

Today is the day when all that work and effort will either pay off or be revealed as simply not enough.

And I'm terrified.

Terrified because I look back at all the times we didn't do "school" because of life. The days where someone was sick or needed to go to the doctor. The days we spent organizing our home. The days when a friend with a sick or dying loved one needed us more. The days when we opted to go to the park during beautiful weather. The time spent visiting far away family. The days spent preparing for our move across the world.

And, while I think I made the right choices on those days, I realize that many people wouldn't agree. I know that many people think that if you homeschool, you should follow that 180 day, 6 hours a day, 5 days a week schedule. And that's just not been our reality.

The reality is real life is what happens outside of the classroom.

But will all that we have done "academically" be enough? What exactly will be on the test? Will Emily remember that algebra formula we've drilled so hard into her head? Will Daniel remember to indent his paragraphs?

When you are the homeschooling parent, all the burden falls on your shoulders. There's no one else to blame. And, likely, there's no one else to compare to. Are other 8th graders having trouble remembering division now that they've moved on to algebra? Do all 6th graders stumble over their multiplication tables once in a while? Is their handwriting really as bad as I think it is?

Am I the worst homeschooling mother in the world?

We'll find out once we get the results of the test, I guess.
Saturday, January 17, 2009

No, I'm Not Converting. . .

but let me just say that this morning I was honestly thinking those Muslim women may be on to something.

As I stumbled out of bed, my back was aching, my eyes were bleary, I was still half asleep. And I was thinking of all I had to do today. First up was going to the grocery store. Well, let me just say that I didn't feel like washing and then blow-drying my hair, doing my make-up, ironing clothes, touching up my rather grungy-looking pedicure, etc. just to go to the grocery store.

And then it hit me. The freedom that Muslim women must feel. I mean, you just throw on your abaya (the black robe), and some manner of headcovering and you are set. Let's look at some examples.




Ok, now this is the least helpful one, in my humble opinion. You still have to do your make-up, right? However, I would like this because I think I would get claustrophobic under the fabric of a veil.








This is the look I'm going for. Yes, you'll need to slap some eyeliner and mascara on, but that's fairly easy. No one can tell if you have a zit, no one need know if you've been doing your moisturizing routine. If you get a piece of spinach caught in your teeth, no one is snickering at you behind your back.



Now, this is the one I could never pull off. I'm a klutz by nature and tend to fall down stairs and off boats and things. Having a sheer piece of black fabric completely covering my face would probably mean I'd be spending a whole lotta time at the ER. Although this would be the most helpful when you need a gallon of milk and don't want to get dressed. You could pull this one off straight out of bed in the morning.






Uh, no.





I hope that nobody (like the government!!!) misunderstands this post. While I don't agree with the belief system that mandates this form of dress, I do respect their culture and know that it's an important part of their lives. That's fine. I'm simply commenting on how much easier it would be for women if we didn't have to worry about what we looked like everytime we step out the door. This must make things so much easier!!!
Thursday, January 15, 2009

Thankful Thursday


I'm so glad the past week or so is over!! It's been horrendous. Sorry not to have been around much here, but I guess I hate to dwell on the negative or pretend everything is ok when it's not. It's just been one thing after another, but things seem to be picking up in the last couple of days, so we are moving forward - with thankfulness!!

  • I'm thankful that our ladies' Bible study is starting up again!! This semester I'll be facilitating a group of ladies through Beth Moore's study on the book of Esther. I'm really looking forward to it!!
  • I'm thankful that Emily's wrist wasn't broken the other night. While all four of us were goofing around and being silly, she injured her wrist and was in such pain we honestly thought it was broken. Fortunately, after a late night trip to the ER with Hubby, it turned out to be just a bad sprain that is already feeling much better.
  • I'm thankful that the cleaning person we had has been arrested and will be deported back to his home country. That sounds horrible, but he stole from us and left all of us feeling very violated and with a total lack of trust. Now, knowing that he will not be coming around again, we all feel a little more at ease.
  • I'm thankful that God is patient with me even when I am not patient with myself. Too often I spend time kicking myself and beating myself up over my faults. God just picks me up, brushes off the dust and says, "Let's start again." His grace overwhelms me.
  • I'm thankful that our weather here has been magnificent! Highs in the low 70's, lows in the mid 50's. Just perfect and bright and sunny!
  • I'm thankful that our church's youth group doesn't talk down to the kids. They are treated as young adults, with the capability of understanding more than a 5 minute short devotional in "teen-speak." They've studied some deep things and have planned an amazing outreach trip to Jordan for the spring.
  • I'm thankful for my husband, who is wise and caring.

God has given me so many blessings. It's easy when things are going bad (in sets of 10's, instead of 3's!!!) to overlook them. I've tried to keep them in sight throughout all the "stuff" this week, but I could have done a better job. Hopefully I'll learn from this experience and next time around, I'll be better prepared.

For more Thankful Thursday posts, click on the button above or go here!

Monday, January 12, 2009
The past week has been very hard. We have been hit with one thing after another, in every different arena you could imagine. Physical ailments, emotional struggles, scary events - we've had 'em all.

I've been in a foul mood most of the time. I've allowed my emotions to take over. I'm ashamed of who I've been this week. I've screamed at my children until my throat was raw. I've cried over the silliest of things. I've moped away hours on end. I've done everything except turn to God.

Of course.

This is my pattern. Only after falling just about as far as I can go do I think of turning to God. I struggle and fight and bemoan my circumstances. I cry and worry. I get angry and bitter.

And, as is often the case, it is music that brings me back. Music has a way of speaking to my soul and reminding me that in God there is hope and redemption. As I drove home last night I had an old, old cassette tape playing. One of my favorite bands of all time, Lone Justice. It's one of those bands that isn't really a Christian band, but their lyrics are infused with Christian imagery. I believe that the lead singer and songwriter is a Christian. Unfortunately, they only released two albums before breaking up.

I was particularly struck by one of the lyrics in a song called Beacon. I wasn't able to find the complete lyrics online, but the line that struck me was this:

"Victory hides in darkest places."
It's usually in the worst of times that we are able to truly see God work. I need to remember to allow Him to work in me (and through me). As long as I allow myself to wallow in my misery and frustrations, as I long as I try to conquer my problems by my own will and power, I will fail. I'll be continually disappointed in myself.
But if I allow God to draw forth the victory from the dark places, peace will follow. And yes, the victory is often hiding. We don't see how something good, even great, can come from something good at the time. But if we look back over the course of our lives, we can often see that it was through something that initially appeared to be bad that great joy came to our life.

I think the trick is to fully trust God, in the good and the bad, and allow Him to work. Harder than it sounds, but better than we can imagine.
Saturday, January 10, 2009

Imagine

Modern day America.

A world body has decided that the lands belonging to the United States of America should be returned to Native Americans. American citizens are neither consulted, nor considered. The world at large has decided, following an outcry over the treatment of Native Americans, that they should be restored to their rightful homelands.

With the help of the world, Native Americans take over the former United States. It is a violent takeover. Where once peace reigned, violence now dominates. Americans are forced from their homes, often leaving behind all that they own. The borders with Canada and Mexico are swamped as they search for a place to live, free from the violence. There they find only squalid camps set up hastily. Basic necessities are lacking.

Decades later, the situation has not improved. While some refugees have managed to establish themselves in new locations, many still long for home. Many still live in poverty and squalor. Many still resent having lost all they worked for their entire lives. Many still consider themselves "Americans," even though that word now lacks any real meaning to the world.

These fight back. They want to reclaim all that is theirs - their land, their property, their very identity. Picture the movie "Red Dawn," where a group of high schoolers become heroes after fighting a resistance against Russian invaders. Do they employ radical, violent means? Yes, but it's seen as heroic in the movie. These people are fighting for America.

Now, imagine that, still decades on, an effort to make peace is made. The Native Americans agree to restore some land to the Americans. The world is happy - peace is on the way and Americans should be grateful to have some of their land back. After all, compromise is the best way to deal with this problem. Hope rises.

The land given to the Americans consists of desert and swampland. There is no fertile ground. It is the worst possible land in the country, but still, they now have a place to call America. It is split into different sections, divided only by the fertile land in between. Oh, did I mention it is surrounded and controlled by the Native Americans? They decide on what gets in and out. They control the movements of the citizens in this new America.

The resistance continues in the face of this insulting offer. The Native Americans crack down hard - stopping the flow of basic human necessities. Americans are not allowed to leave their own territories for work, even though there is no need for work in the small enclave they have been given. Poverty levels are above 80%. Unemployment is rampant.

In response to the continued resistance, which includes attacks on Native American cities, the world body condemns Americans branding them as terrorists. Many believe that they are, at heart, a violent people who will never be satisfied. Most "civilized" countries stand firmly by the Native American government, feeling sympathy that they are on the receiving end of the constant resistance movement.

Finally, the Native Americans have had enough. Following attacks on their country by ineffective and outdated weapons that have left 8 people dead, they fire back. Using ultimately superior weapons, they attack the enclave of America. Hundreds upon hundreds die, including innocent women and children. Many thousands more are injured and left homeless. Food is scarce. Electricity, heat and cooking fuel is non-existent.

And yet the world stands idly by.

* * * * * *

Think this could never happen? It is happening as we speak. Only the names have been changed.

I thought about titling this post "The One Where Lori Loses Half Her Readers." I know that many evangelical Christians stand wholeheartedly with Israel, based on an interpretation of the Bible that I believe is flawed. We are the new Israel, the recipients of God's covenant promises. The land called Israel today is not what God is referring to. He's not interested in the political boundaries, He's interested in the hearts of those who love and serve Him. We as Christians are called to love ALL men.


The government of Israel is just that - a government. It is a secular system which does not seek God or His will. Unwavering support based on a flawed belief is what has made America the target of Islamic attacks. Our refusal to see both sides of the argument and to side with Israel in every instance has instilled hatred for us. Trust me, Israel is not the kindly benefactor of the Palestinians that has been horribly mistreated. Violence abounds on both sides with a gross inequality in the number of deaths and suffering.


I pray that people will open their eyes to the suffering of the Palestinian people. Understand the situation from their perspective. They had lived at peace in their land for centuries prior to 1948, when their land was suddenly ripped out from under them. Do a little research and don't just accept the media and the government's point of view.


Edited to add: My husband would like me to correct myself that all was not happiness and roses in Palestine prior to 1948. They had lived under the rule of many other empires - the Ottoman's, the British, etc. By the very nature of where they live, their land has always been contested and fought over. However, things have escalated to new heights since modern-day secular Israel was established in 1948. The purpose of this post is not to endorse actions taken by Palestinians, but to encourage people to see the other side of the story.
Thursday, January 8, 2009

It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Worst of Times

(Has that title already been taken?)


Well, let's start with the good. The American School was really, really amazing! The facilities are incredible. If you have ever watched "High School Musical" with your kids and said, "yeah, that's not what schools really look like," you should see this school. My school had crowded halls, no open spaces (unless you count the field), and was antiquated. Or maybe it's me that's antiquated. Anyhow, this school was beautiful. I was very impressed. And I was impressed with the kids and classes I saw as well.


We are taking the plunge and going to turn in the application and enrollment forms. I'm nervous. Not about how they'll do there. They both are very smart and very social. I'm nervous about stupid things, like their handwriting. That's not something I've really stressed over the years. I mean, come on, how much of real life is handwritten? Notes to yourself. Shopping lists. That's about it. Most of what we do is electronic now, right?


I'm nervous about the social effects it will have on my kids. While I trust them to make wise choices, I know how strong peer pressure can be.


I'm dreading the homework. I don't even want to talk about the homework.


Jennifer asked why I was opting to put them in school. It's not that homeschooling isn't working for us. It is. But having moved across the world, it's a different situation. There is no active homeschooling support here like we had in Miami. We have made only one friend who homeschools and she has a 6 year old son, so there are no peers for my kids. There are no activities, no field trips, no friends who "get" what your life is like (for either the kids or me). Also, we live in a completely Arab neighborhood, mostly conservative Muslim. They pretty much ignore us, so there are no friends in the neighborhood for the kids. The only place they've made friends is at church and even that has been a slow process. They need more of a life.


Also, they need more than I can offer them here. This school is amazing. The entire 8th grade is going to Malaysia next week. The electives they offer, the after school activities - all of it are things I can't provide for them here.


We were told to get our applications in first thing tomorrow morning as there had been several withdrawals and we might be able to get both kids in within a week or two.

Now, the actual process of enrolling them in school? That has not been so fantastic. A medical exam is required. "It just takes 10 minutes," the registrar told me. "Go to you local clinic," she said. Well, that was a big mistake.

Medical care is subsidized here. You pay about $30 a year and receive almost free care at the government run clinics. Unfortunately, the old maxim "You get what you pay for" is true. Here's how it went.

Being that most everything shuts down from 1 pm until 4 pm, we arrived at the clinic around 3:45 so we could get in and out quickly. Ha!! At 3:57, they opened the doors and I walked up to the window. The women, completely veiled, were talking amongst themselves on the other side of the glass. Finally, one manages to take note of me and harshly says, "4:00! Go sit!" I tell her I just want to ask if I'm in the right place and she shouts, "It's not 4:00!"

Keeping my mouth shut, as I've learned to do here, I sit down for the next two minutes. At 4, myself and several other people walk up to the window, only to be ignored again. Finally we are told around 4:10 that the doctor isn't here. "Wait," one of them says to me. I cannot tell if it's the same woman or not. Wait where, I wonder. Here at the window, or go sit down again? Finally she takes my children's health cards, makes a note and hands me two laminated numbers - 4 and 6. "Go down there," she says. Down where? There is a whole hallway of "down there." Some man walks up to me and takes my numbers and points to a door that says Pediatric Clinic. I go there but the door is locked. I sit to wait. A minute later another man walks up, tries the door and walks in with his three children.

You aren't called. The numbers mean nothing. It's just whoever gets to the door first. The doctor sits at a desk and waits. Finally we make our way in, I explain to him why we are there and show him the required form. He scribbles something in Arabic on a piece of scrap paper, hands it to me and tells me to go next door.

Next door they take my children's vital signs, check their vision and weigh and measure them. Then they look at the Arabic writing and begin to write orders for blood, urine and stool tests. Uh, wait? All this is necessary? Yes, I'm told. I notice that they have recorded Daniel at weighing half the weight of Emily, when he is actually a couple of pounds heavier. I point it out to the nurse (?) and she tells me not to worry about it, the machine adds a little bit. I repeatedly explain to her that it's a huge difference and impossible. Finally, she relents and calls him back in to be re-weighed. When she realizes her mistake, there's no acknowledgement of her mistake. She merely whites out the incorrect number and walks off to take care of other people while I wait. Yes, wait for the White Out to dry. For 15 minutes. Finally the other nurse (?) notices I and the piece of paper and picks it up and reminds the other woman to finish it. We are then told to go back to the doctor next door.

Where we are told to go to the lab. We make our way down to the lab and she hands us empty vials and says she needs first, ahem, fruits of the morning, shall we say? She opens at 7 and we can turn in our samples and see the doctor at 9 am. Hubby wanted it done NOW, so he took the kids back over to the clinic and asked the doctor to fill out the papers right then and there. Of course, that was a no go, but he did learn that we needed some kind of Qatari official card listing their immunizations. Oh, and by the way, they'd have to be immunized for TB. Which leaves a scar. And isn't given in the US. I had a fit at the thought of scarring my kids for a vaccine they don't need.

This morning I trudged off to the National Healthy Authority to get the card. After figuring out the right place to go, I got the joy of sitting and watching the lone woman there continue her filing for 10 minutes while I sat ask her desk. Finally she asked what I needed. She quickly filled out the card and told me that Emily would not need to be vaccinated, but Daniel would because he was under 12. No other explanation, no listening to me. But the mandatory TB test? Oh, that's only done some other place and only on Sundays. Then the test would be read three days later and then the doctor could sign off.

Finally Hubby announced he wasn't waiting until next Wednesday. He went back to the doctor and convinced him to sign off on everything else but the TB test. So I trudged back to the school and turned it all in. That "10 minute visit" turned out to take hours and hours of time and frustration.

Anyways, the papers are in. We've been told to expect a call next week for placement tests. We aren't sure yet if Emily will get in at the same time due to space limitations, but we will see. Thanks for you encouraging words and support!! I'll keep you posted!
Wednesday, January 7, 2009

What We Are Doing Today

Ok, can a post have a more boring title or more boring content? Sorry!

This morning the kids and I are off to the American School of Doha for a tour. I'm still completely torn about it. There are so many good reasons to send them there, but there are some reasons not to that are just ripping my heart out.

I had always planned on homeschooling. Does sending them to school now mean I've failed - both in that goal and in preparing them for their futures?

What will happen financially - will I be forced to get a job? That is a big fear for me. Not that I'm afraid of working. Truthfully, I always enjoyed my working days. I just am sure that God wants me in the home full-time. I've had to let go the part-time help that I moaned about just yesterday, so now even more of the burden of keeping up with the house falls on my shoulders. Plus I want the time the kids would be home from school to be relaxed and fun - not just rushing about trying to get dinner ready and the house cleaned and homework done.

We will be so limited on when we can take vacations. I know that seems petty, but when you homeschool and can pick up and go whenever you need (or want) to, it's definitely a factor. You aren't tied to anyone's schedule but your own. You don't have to travel at peak season and pay peak season rates.

I'm going through with the tour and probably we will apply for the school. At this point in time, they only have space available in Daniel's grade, so Emily would probably stay home with me by herself for the time being. However, Daniel being already enrolled would give her priority if a space opened up in her grade. I'm doing it because I think the benefits outweigh the negatives. But it's hard. My heart hurts just thinking about it.

On another note, can I ask you to pray for Emily? She's just been plagued by fear lately, some of it justified, some not. She's usually such a confident, outgoing young lady and it makes me sad to see her so fearful. Would you pray for release from that fear and for a spirit of boldness to be evident in her? It would mean alot to me.

I'll drop back in later and let you know our thoughts about the school. It's probably going to be fantastic, I know. It's just a big step to think about.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Dear Internet, (or "Please Fix My Life")

Well, here's a glimpse of my life the last few days as see through the eyes of needing some advice.

1) Does anyone know how to remove Super Glue from a micro-suede sofa? Not that anyone spilled some on the sofa in an effort to repair the camel from the nativity set or anything. No, it wouldn't have been that. If you asked your husband to do something and he didn't and then you attempted to do it and made an even bigger mess, it's all your husband's fault, right?

2) Does anyone have a tip for getting Super Glue off one's fingers?

3) Does anybody know how to convince my kids that thinking about putting them in school does not (necessarily!) mean that we don't want them around? Daniel came to me this morning and asked why I don't just send him off to a Swiss boarding school. To which I replied, "No, I wouldn't do that. But maybe a German one."

4) Does anyone know how to get my house to clean itself? If I have never mentioned it, I have a young man that comes once a week to do my floors and random chores. I'm blessed to have his help and can only do it because labor is so inexpensive here (we pay about $20 for his time and he's glad for it), but honestly, every time he's supposed to come I start realizing how messy it is and how much work I need to do before he can do his work. Sigh...how is it that having outside help makes me more tired?

5) What can be done for a torn shoulder muscle? Hubby and I were tossing around a medicine ball the other night and ever since the top of my right shoulder is killing me. Ugh.

6) How do you get clothes to dry (without a dryer, mind you) when it's only in the 50's outside? It's taking forever. Finally I put the most stubborn items right smack dab in front of the space heater we bought.

7) How does one notify the internet that you will no longer be blogging because you perished in a house fire ignited by laundry being hung up too close to a space heater?
Monday, January 5, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - Cheap, Fast & Good!


Well, I'm still working on cutting back my grocery costs. This week, my menu will still be focusing on using what I already have here in the house. Here's what I came up with:

Monday - Spaghetti with meat sauce, tossed salad and rolls

Tuesday - Chicken with rice and broccoli (from the back of a Rice-a-Roni box)

Wednesday - Stuffed Squash (Koosa Mahshi) with a chopped salad

Thursday - Tuna Casserole, tossed salad, steamed veggies

Friday - Creamy Pasta Primavera, Caesar salad

Saturday - Homemade pizza, tossed salad

Sunday - Bezella (an Arabic meat and veggie stew, served over rice)


So once again, I'm trying to serve several meatless meals. The only meat I'm using here is the beef for the stew, a small amount of chicken and 1 pound of hamburger divided over two meals for the spaghetti and the stuffed squash.

And I have to say that the Clam Chowder from last week was a big hit!! Hubby loved it! He's generally pretty hard to impress with food, so when he raves about something, I know it's a keeper.

We have been seriously considering putting our children into the American School here in Doha. Hubby and I both feel it would be good for them emotionally and academically. However, it's quite pricey. If we do, I will probably need to look for a job. In order to avoid that, I'm trying to find ways to cut our budget. It's not that I don't want to contribute financially, but I'm convinced that I can better serve our family by being here, in the home. If I can make changes to our spending, I hope to avoid having to go back to work. So I'd be grateful for any tips you have to help in that area!

For more Menu Plans, be sure to visit The Organizing Junkie!!
Sunday, January 4, 2009

What Will You Do With Your Year?

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Haven

Ha - ven (hā′vən)

noun

1. a port; harbor
2. any sheltered, safe place; refuge

Synonyms: refuge, shelter, oasis

* * * * * * * *

Do you feel that your home is a haven? Is it a place of safety and refuge for your family? Or is it a place of discord and chaos?

I spent many years feeling hopeless because my home was chaotic and filled with stress. I seemed powerless to make it better. As a stay at home wife and mother, I had grand expectations that life would be perfect, like a 50's sit-com. Why couldn't I be wearing a beautiful dress with pearls and heels while I vacuumed and baked fresh cookies? Why weren't my children's biggest faults the results of mere mischievousness, rather than outright rebellion and sinfulness?

The biggest question - how to gain control of my home, physically and emotionally - haunted my waking thoughts.

But what is a haven actually? Is it what we see in the pages of "Better Homes and Gardens?" Beautiful rooms with fresh flowers that look as if no one really lives there? Magazines and the internet are filled with advice on how to make your home a haven - candles, cozy blankets, fresh flowers, soothing colors. All that is well and good. But is a haven about what a home looks like or is it about what goes on there?

Is it more about the love than the looks?

I still am far from where I would like to be in this arena. More often than not, my home is still chaotic. Still messy, still stressful. But I would like to think that I've made great strides towards making our home a place where my family can come to and feel safe and find the opportunity to gain strength and nourishment. Here are a few of the steps I took:

Routine
- Implementing routines is one of the fastest ways to bring order and peace to both your home and your spirit. I know, I know - the idea of routine sounds dreary and monotonous to many of us. We want to be spontaneous free spirits, right? Well, that's great - to an extent. What many people don't realize is that by implementing routines, you free up time that allows you to be spontaneous. Your home is already clean, so you feel free to go meet a friend for coffee. Your exercise is done, so you don't feel guilt all day about not doing it. Because you have set goals and accomplished them by following your routine, you feel happier and more relaxed. A great place to start setting routines for yourself is Flylady. Yes, you will get an insane amount of emails if you sign up for them. But if you just print out the routines and follow them on your own, you will make great strides.

Prayer
- Nothing of true, lasting value can be accomplished without the help of God. Pray about your home, your attitudes, your family, their attitudes. Pray that God will help you to be kind and loving to one another. Pray that you will be responsive to one another in love. Pray that you will be the woman that God wants you to be.

Baby Steps
- Yes, we all want beautiful homes. We all wish that we could go out and shop till we drop to furnish our homes with all that our heart desires. That's not a reality for many of us. What I do is keep a running list of the things that would make our home more, well, "homey." I set aside a small portion (about 8 dollars) of my weekly allowance and save for what I want. Oftentimes, little, inexpensive touches can make a big difference.

Another way to implement baby steps is to tackle your home a bit at a time. Don't be overwhelmed at all there is to do, or by how far you have to go. Just start somewhere. Success in little things breeds success in big things. When you begin to notice a difference in just a small area, it motivates you to keep going.

Quality Time
- Quality doesn't replace quantity time, but how you choose to spend your time together makes a difference. This is an area where we still struggle, spending too many evenings sitting in front of the television. But we are improving and making efforts to find other ways to have fun together. Board games, going for walks, working on a project together, shooting hoops, learning something new together, etc., are all ways that we have spent time together lately that have bonded us together like and evening watching tv never would.

I want our home to be a refuge, a sanctuary. A place where we breathe a sigh of relief when we walk through the door. Home...It's one of the greatest words in the English language - fraught with possibilities. Don't spend another year wishing about what your home could be. Take those baby steps - implementing routines, prayer, doing a bit at a time, and building family bonds.

Soon your home will be the haven it was meant to be.
Thursday, January 1, 2009

Thankful Thursday - A Look Back



Happy New Year!!! I hope you have a happy, safe, blessed and wonderful 2009!!

Before we move any further into the New Year, I want to stop and be thankful for all that God did for me in 2008. Here's just a smidgen of it - I couldn't possibly list it all!

  • God, in His infinite wisdom, moved us to Qatar. Now, moving to the Middle East was something my husband's family had encouraged us to consider since, oh, the day we married! And I was adamantly against it. But somehow, when the subject came up this time, I was ok with it. And what a blessing that has turned out to be. We are in a stable job market, with enough income to pay our bills. Just after my husband left for Qatar, his company in Miami laid off many people and those they did keep took a major salary cut. It has turned out to be a blessing for us.
  • Through this move, God has taught me some major lessons. Being lonely for many months after moving here, I learned to rely on Him. I got more deeply involved in reading my Bible and in spending time with Him. I learned to be flexible and to laugh at what would have driven me to the point of rage before.
  • God led us to a great church where the Bible is taught and where we are slowly but surely beginning to build bonds.
  • I am thankful for the growth I have seen in my children throughout the year. Both have stepped up to the plate when asked to help and I have seen a new maturity in them.
  • I'm thankful for my husband. He is wise and faithful. I'm thankful to the Lord for leading us together in a miraculous way. I'm thankful that he is the calm counterpart to my emotions.
  • I am thankful that my children have finally seem to accepted living here in Qatar. For one, in particular, it was a difficult adjustment, but having made our trip back to the US seemed to be kind of a watershed moment. Since our return (not counting the initial first 48 hour tears) there have been much fewer tears and complaints and life is moving forward as normal.
  • I am thankful for this opportunity to learn about God's wisdom, God's faithfulness, God presence and God's peace. All of it has impacted me in a way I have never before experienced this year.

I expect 2009 will be even better.

For more Thankful Thursday posts, be sure to visit Grace Alone.

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