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.


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