Monday, December 26, 2011

Reverse Culture Shock

While I've been living in Cairo, someone there introduced me to the website First World Problems. It's this website that showcases problems only people in Western, developed coutries have. It cracks me up. I also call it the website of brats. Since being back for a visit, I've been so aware of what a brat I sound like and often find myself thinking #firstworldproblem (yes, I think in hashtags sometimes - don't judge). So here are a few things that have stopped me in my tracks:

- I'm up early on the 26th and want to go hit the day after Christmas sales but my money is in the bedroom my parents are sleeping in. Guess I'll have to put off that shopping list and just hang out in my pjs.

- My skin is itchy and dried out from the heater and I don't have any lotion.

- I think in hashtags.

- Well, I can't use Kahula in that recipe and I don't drink coffee. Wait! I can run to Starbucks for a cup! Or McDonalds, or any other place within a two second drive.

- Frustrated at HEB, I couldn't find the exact ingredient I needed while standing with about 15 other options right in front of me.

- I want to make a new cookie recipe but we still have leftovers of two pies and a sheetcake in the kichen.

- All I've done since getting home is eat.

- So which church are we going to go to on Christmas Day?

Yep - I feel like such a brat!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Cairo Christmas Dreams

For as long as I can remember, I've had very vivid dreams. Thankfully, the majority of them are good ones. I've woken myself up laughing from time to time. The best part is that I remember them too. I had one about Johnny Rosenauer when I was in college that still makes me laugh when I think about it. So it's no surprise that when Christmas time comes around, I have fun Christmas dreams. I really do love it. However, last night's Christmas dream beats them all, hands down....

I dreamed that we were lighting the advent wreath and talking about the symbolism of each candle. It was so beautiful and my grandmother was lighting each one. As we lit the last one, the candle burst into the loudest song I had ever heard. And it wasn't a sweet Christmas Carol either. It was loud and intrusive. No matter what we did, it kept singing. Since we couldn't get the candle to stop, I roused myself awake. It was the first call of prayer for the day. Basically, I dreamed we were celebrating the incarnation of Jesus to the sound of the call of prayer. And when I heard the call when I got home, all I could think was Happy Birthday, Baby Jesus.

Merry Christmas, Cairo Style......

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

My First Expat Thanksgiving

As Thanksgiving approached, it was so bizarre. It almost seemed a non-event because, well, all around us, it was. With the elections and the fact that we aren't in America, it wasn't a big deal. So a few of us got together and decided to make our very first Thanksgiving meal. One of the best decisions I've made in the past three months!

We started Wednesday afternoon by taking our list to our neighborhood market for shopping. Yes my American friends - we shopped the night before. And it was beautiful. And easy. And we found everything we needed. And it was all delivered to us. Don't worry, it's OK to be jealous.

Thursday morning came early but it met us with warm kitchens, delicious foods, and lots of talking/laughter. Everyone spent the day in the kitchen whipping up amazing dishes. I learned how much you can make without the canned foods we take for granted in America. Can you say only two cans used? (chicken broth and cranberry jelly) Oh my goodness, yum! Our table was the picture of gluttony. I learned that I actually do like sweet potato casserole!

As we sat around the table enjoying our hard work, we spent time looking ahead. We all enjoyed it so much we decided to do it again in seven years. We spent time talking and teasing about what life will be like in 2018. There was a serious amount of laughing involved and I feel secure to say that I good time was had by all.

As we ate and laughed, I couldn't help but feel truly thankful. If you would have asked me a year ago, I never would have thought I would be celebrating Thanksgiving in Cairo, Egypt. Yet, here I was surrounded by some pretty amazing girls. I knew Jen was fabulous before coming over but the past few months have confirmed it! Not only is she funny and a great cook but knows how to love people well. I didn't know Emily at all before coming and now I'm so thankful I do! Definitely one of my new favorite people and I'm so glad she stayed one more year. Tessa is my buddy in trying to figure out KGII in Cairo. She has a tender heart and is quick to help out anyone who needs her.

I did miss my family on Thanksgiving but I was reminded of a very important fact. You can have family wherever you are. These girls share life with me here and I'm better for it. But the family isn't limited to them. I've been so blessed to know several different people here in Egypt. They are making me better for knowing them. So for Thanksgiving 2011, I'm thankful for my little Cairo family!

Excuses, Excuses, We Use Them Every Day....

When I accepted the position in Cairo, one of the things that I was most excited about was the fact that I had an established blog. It was to be one of the strongest ways to keep in touch with those around the world and a way to keep track of this part of my journey. As you can very obviously tell, that hasn't happened - at all. I've been trying to think about why and here's what I've come up with:

1. Time. Yes, this can be said for all of us not matter where we are and what we are doing. However, it's gotten pretty busy here. Thankfully, not all of it is work. In fact, most of it isn't. Building a community is time consuming and worth every exhausting moment. Birthday parties, working out, hanging out, going out, girls' nights, shopping, exploring, softball games, cooking together, and so much more. I wouldn't trade a moment of it but by the time I sit down to share about it, my body is exhausted.

2. Learning a new culture. If the act of building a community weren't exhausting enough, the sheer magnitude of learning your surroundings would be enough to wear you out. When you live somewhere so different, you have to relearn everything from how to walk down the street to how to navigate streets/taxis. You learn that you really could kick some butt in charades because it is your best means of communication while you try to learn bits of the language around you. Plus trying to sleep through the new speakers the mosque got a month ago to further amplify the 5:00 a.m. prayer. It can overload your senses and leave you brain dead.

3. Relearning myself. Moving somewhere so different than all you have ever known will change you. I was warned but not prepared. Everything you know, think, feel, believe, and hope for are filtered through entirely new eyes. Every filter you thought through before is replaced and you start all over again. You feel more confident and sure of yourself. However, you also find yourself different. You know that if you really said what you thought about that facebook status update, it could start a fire of debate so you don't. You know that sometimes, it's better to talk about things rather than write them out because you can't discuss your new thoughts on a blog like you can face to face. You can't share because lots of people will not understand from lack of experiences.

So yes, life is full and good. There are good and bad days - many more good. So I'll try to share more but in the meantime, thank you for understanding!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Singapore - Part II

Sorry for the break in these posts. Nothing says "Welcome Home" like a week-long cold. However, I'm so thankful that it held off until I was back in Cairo! Now that I can breath and sleep through the night without waking up coughing, I thought I would share a few fun memories of the week. They are random and completely out of order. Thanks for humoring me so I have them for longevity:

- On Thursday, Levi and I were headed home from the zoo when the taxi driver decided to be chatty. He was nice and Levi was playing with the "Cute"s (stuffed animal sugar gliders he got for himself and Caleb) so we chatted. He asked where I was visiting from and I told him Egypt. He looked at me like I was crazy. I explained and he shook his head knowingly. "Yes, you have the Obama accent. It is easier to understand than the Australian or British accent. You open your mouth really big." Um, thanks? Then he said I didn't look American. I looked "European, you know, like Venezuelan". Hmmm.....

- The boys were awesome! Everything we did, they asked if I had done it before or seen it before. I think they found it funny that their normal was new to me. They had a ton of questions about Egypt vs Singapore as well. Do we have ______ in Egypt? Can you ______ in Egypt? However, I think that my favorite moment with them was Thursday afternoon. Jennifer had to leave for a girls' weekend and I was watching the boys until Justin got home. Jennifer had been gone for about three minutes when they decided they missed her and wanted to make her cards. So we went to the school room and made her "I miss you" cards. What is it about four year old hearts that is so adorable? I don't know if you got them, Jennifer, but your boys were really trying to make beautiful cards for you! :)

- One thing I loved about time with Jennifer and Justin were separate "expat" moments. Most revolved around food. With Jennifer, it was in a grocery store. We stepped into the grocery store in Singapore (where everything is imported). As we walked among products from America, China, Thailand, etc I caught myself singing along to the song - Feliz Navidad. I got so tickled! Then a few nights later, we were running some errands for some things I can't find in Egypt. As we were waiting for the light to change so we could cross the street, she pointed out the girls next to us. Apparently Singaporeans love their corn. They had a styrofoam cup of corn they had bought from a street vendor. Corn! Then the next night, I was with Justin and the boys in a 7-11 and something caught my eye. Instead of an Icee, there was a mashed potato machine. I asked Justin about it and he said they are in most 7-11s. Again, I got so tickled! I think it had become normal for Justin but in that moment, he just laughed with me at my surprise. I mean, you go into 7-11 to grab something really quickly and grab a cup of mashed potatoes on the way out.

- On Wednesday, Caleb woke up ill so that changed our day's plans. I wandered over to the Botanic Gardens and spent a few hours there. It was stunning! Flowers, green, and water everywhere! There were several areas that I loved but my favorite was probably the Orchid Garden. So many varieties and colors! When you live in the brown of the desert, you forget how vivid nature can be. I told Jennifer that I was going to feel like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz when she lands in Munchkinland. This was the first time that happened. I seriously have more pictures of flowers than I know what to do with. The whole time I thought about my grandmother. She loved flowers and she would have enjoyed this one. I can only imagine all she would have had to share. Even now, she would have loved it!

- Stateside, I tend to not wear anything sleeveless because I didn't like I arms. After three months of covering up, I got to exercise what my Cairo Jen calls "The Right to Bare Arms". It was glorious and I didn't think about how they looked once!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Singapore - Part I

***Up front I have to share that my computer is being difficult so there are no pictures on this post. I'm so sorry! Check out facebook if you would like to see some of them.***

One of the things you come to learn about working in Egypt is that nothing is predictable - nothing. So when Jen walked into my room two weeks ago and said "Welcome to Egypt - we have all of next week off." I wasn't entirely surprised. Thrilled, but not surprised. So we started talking about what to do with our days off and within a day or two, my plans completely changed. Originally I was going to spend the time at an oasis but within a matter of hours, I was booking a flight for Singapore. My lovely friends, Justin and Jennifer Willerton, agreed to open their home to me for the week. Six days later, I was on a plane to Singapore!

When I got there, the Willerton family were waiting for me at the airport. We went outside and all I could say was "Oh my goodness!" over and over again. It was SO green and SO clean! If that was all I could take away from this trip, that would be enough. Thankfully, that wasn't all there was.

I loved spending time with the Willertons. They are such an amazing family! The boys are so fun and respectful. I enjoyed them so much! They were generous, playful, and sweet with their time and energy. I loved every moment with them. As sweet as they were, I enjoyed their parents even more. I told Jennifer that I really enjoyed seeing them be "Justin and Jennifer" this trip. The last time we were able to spend time together, the boys were 18 months and just over three years old. They were in hard core Mom and Dad mode. Now I got to enjoy watching them be a couple and having conversations with them. We were able to talk about expat life, challenges of our individual homes, and catching up on what is happening in each other's lives. They carry Jesus with them and it is so evident when you are with them. It is restful and rejuvinating.

One thing that I deeply love is seeing a diversity of people living and working together. That is Singapore. Nations, religions, and races all intersecting in this one city. Though they do not agree on beliefs and come from different backgrounds, they all live together. I think that we are better for being in places like this. We are stretched to examine our beliefs about all sorts of things. We are stronger in ourselves and our relationships.

And yes, it was GREEN! I never thought I would say that I loved a hot and humid place. However, it was so different from other hot and humid places I've been. It made for some of the deepest and most varied shades of green I've ever seen. I couldn't get enough of it! I never really considered myself an outdoors girl but I enjoyed soaking up every moment of sun I could get. Whether is was Night Safari, the zoo, the Botanic Garden, the sky walk, or just around the city, being outdoors was a joy. It did my spirit good to walk in gardens filled with so many different plants, zoos filled with life, and rain. It is a place full of life!

On the day before I left, a friend asked me if I was excited about my first trip out of Cairo. I told him I was excited about the trip but not necessarily about getting out of town - I'm doing fine. I thought about that conversation as I walked through the gardens. I needed this - green, outdoors, diversity, and most of all, friends that held a common history. Singapore was a gift.

Up next, fun moments in Singapore.....

Friday, October 21, 2011

Pros and Cons

The most commonly asked questions that I have been asked over the past few weeks is "What do you miss?" and "What are you enjoying the most about Cairo?" I thought I would share the answer to those questions. So in usual Dana form, here is another list post.

We all know family and friends are what I miss most but it isn't the thing that I miss most. The things I miss the most are:
- Convenience (calling a friend whenever I want instead of checking schedules, getting any type of produce at any time of the year, being able to pick things up that I need {oven thermometer, ingredients, things for school, etc}, watching college football with ease)
- Live theater
- Clean air - yes, after this experience, I would classify Houston's air as clean
- Tex-Mex and barbecue
- Green spaces to enjoy being outside
- Rain (no comments, Texas friends - I literally can't remember the last time I saw rain and I hear it's nasty here)
- Organization and predictability

Things I'm enjoying:
- While there is political junk going on, everyday day life is significantly less stressful. I no longer walk around with knots in my back and always feeling like I'm dropping the ball somewhere.
- Not feeling guilty for not having something planned for every night of the week.
- Investing in people/relationships instead of programs
- Traffic is still annoying but so much better when you are a passenger instead of a driver
- Missing the political scene in the U.S.
- Trying new foods
- Being a bit more adventurous than before
- Walking places
- Laughing at myself and everyday life around me - a lot

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Ten Signs You Don't Teach in the States

- You know who is at work because everyone in on facebook
- Along with facebook, your internet history includes youtube and you don't have to be nervous about it.
- There are staff trips that leave from the school in which people bring their own "pop".
- If you don't get your students to the bus quick enough, you might interrupt their driver's prayer time.
- Your instructional time in anywhere from 1 1/2 - 3 hours per day.
- You don't flinch when a child looks at you and says "What!?" when you've told them to do something.
- Your students need to "make toilet".
- You have to send a note home to parents (of 4-5 year olds) that students must be able to "clean themselves" after using the restroom before coming to school.
- NCLB and RtI have no meaning on your campus.
- The attendance policy states that if a child misses 20 or more days, they MIGHT have to go to summer school to be promoted to the next grade.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Year Later, I'm Still Captivated

A year ago this weekend, I went to Colorado for the Captivating Retreat. It was a truly life changing weekend. When I shared about it a year ago, I kept it pretty light. Right now, some dear friends are coming together there again for the advanced weekend. As I pray for them, I remember this sweet word from the Lord.

On the flight to Denver, I told God about all of the things I hoped for and if I only got one of them, that would be enough for me. And I meant it with my whole heart. God, being who He is, not only did everything that I hoped for, He did more. Just because He can. Just because He loves me. I so wish I could sit down with you and tell you all about it. I can't. However, there is one part I have to share. It can't be held in.

During our Covenant of Silence time on Friday night, we were to spend time asking God a few questions: What do you say about me? How do you feel towards me? By what name do you call me? This was something I had been desiring to hear so badly over the past couple of years. God has led me out of what was known and expected of me. The repercussions of that have been more blessing than I have ever hoped to know coupled with more pain than I knew was possible. This pain was tied to past areas of injury that were still healing. I needed to hear from God, especially in these areas.

Throughout our time that night, the Lord spoke very healing and sweet words over my heart. However, I couldn't hear my name. We were given a white stone to consider in reference to Revelation 2:17. ( I will also give to each of them a white stone with a new name written on it, which no one knows except the one who receives it.) I held my white stone, rubbing it with my thumb. I could feel my name right there but I had no idea what it was. I would get a word or phrase but it didn't feel like my name. Sweet but my spirit didn't respond to it. Then it came:

Wild Woman

I knew this was it because two things happened immediately. 1. My heart leaped and a giggled slipped out of my lips. 2. I heard in the back of my head, "That's not me." Thankfully, I was able to recognize what just happened - it was the first thing my spirit responded to and it was the first thing that was attacked. I sat with it a moment asking God if He was sure. "You know me. I'm a 30 year old, single, first grade teacher that loves to sit in bookstores and drink hot tea. Wild Woman? I trust you but I don't see it." God told me He knows. He's sure. We weren't finished but He sent me to bed.

That night, this Texas girl woke up with very cold toes. I slipped on socks but was wide awake. God was ready to finish this. As I laid in my bed with just God to keep me company, this is what went down:

God: What are you struggling with?
Me: The "wild" part.
God: What does wild mean to you?
Me: Edgy. Crazy. Sporty. Extreme.
God: That's adventurous. Not wild.
Me: What does wild mean to You?
God: Look around. These mountains that take your breath away. These aspens you are falling in love with. That stream you sat by earlier. The stars that you've been waiting to sit under. All of that is wild. That is my creation. It is strong and beautiful just as I made it. It is exactly where I want it. It is under my care. In my hands, it is perfect in every way. There is nothing that can make it better aside from Me. That is what wild means. Untouched by man. You, Dana, are my Wild Woman. Made be Me - In your beauty. In your strength. In My care. You are untamed, wild beauty.

I'm thankful God is an emotional God. I'm thankful He understands the need for tears. I'm thankful He allows us to process things in bits. I'm thankful He is sweet to continually reveal the layers of what He said that night. He has shown me more of what wild means to Him.

Now my white rock sits in Cairo, Egypt. When I glance at it and see the words "Wild Woman" written on it, I smile. There is still a part of me that shakes my head at that. No one but God would call me wild. Maybe that's part of the reason He chose it. But when I sit with it, when I remember, it takes my breath away.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Lessons Learned in Cairo

- It is possible to become pretty instant friends with some amazing people.
- It is possible to feel the need to protect someone even though you speak two completely different languages.
- It is possible to no longer be surprised by things.
- Sometimes it takes moving around the world to become more clear about what you want to do with your life.
- Sometimes moving around the world shows you that your dreams aren't limited to a place.
- You can break old habits and learn new ones.
- You can keep in touch with the dearest of friends even after you move away.
- You can learn how to use chopsticks in a country with no Chinatown.
- You can learn that uncertainty isn't as scary as you thought.
- Your normal can change but in the end, its OK.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Confirmation

June 15, 2011 is a day that I will never forgot. I remember I got up about 9:00 because it was the first day of summer vacation that I had to sleep in. Between appointments and Grandma's latest trip to the hospital, rest just hadn't really happened yet. I got out of bed and went through my morning routine. As I was finishing up, I decided to jump on facebook and there to my surprise was a message from Ms. Jen Cates. There is was an open position to teach Kinder in Cairo with her. You can go back and read all of the details but I thought I would share a bit that I left off now.

I remember reading Jen's message and just knowing that if I responded yes, I would have the job. I can't explain it but I knew more clearly than I have known anything in a long time. I remember sitting with my hand on the keyboard drumming my fingers on the home row of the keyboard and just staring at the screen. I would start to type my yes and a million questions flooded my mind - uncertainties, the unknown, the what ifs, the what I'll be missings. Then I would erase it and type but no and everything in my would tighten up - as if it were the biggest mistake of my life. I had to get out of my head. I had to remember that no matter what I decided, if it wasn't aligned with God, what was the point. So I stopped and prayed. I felt the need to turn on iTunes and let it randomly choose a song. The one that came on was "I Will Follow" by Chris Tomlin. It brought me to my knees. My what ifs and all of that didn't matter. What mattered was my willingness to go where the Lord was opening doors. So I prayed something that I never prayed before. I asked that for once I not look eight steps down the road but to take the first with my eyes on the Lord. So I sent in a yes. The doors started flying open and seven weeks later, I landed in Cairo.

Fast forward a bit. The first few weeks were good but a big rough. It took three weeks but I was finally able to visit a church. The worship leader was good and everyone was so kind. We were wrapping up service and it was announced that we were going to learn a new song. He started playing and the lyrics to "I Will Follow" came on the screen. Tears, ya'll. I tried not to but there I was, the new girl crying in church. It was contained well but not stopped. It was a reminder of why I'm here. It doesn't matter the momentary circumstances, I've been sent here. It was a beautiful and humbling reminder.


Friday, September 16, 2011

A Riddle Seems Appropriate

What has four triangular faces, a square base, and five verticies? If you don't know, this won't let you by:


That's right! A pyramid! Two weeks ago, we saw not one, not three, but six of them up close and personal. I've seen them in pictures, on TV, in movies, and nothing - NOTHING - prepared me for what I was about to see.

We decided that the pyramids were a must when we arrived. After much hemming and hawing, we decided to go on a Friday since most people would be at Mosque. Smart move. We arrived at about 9:30 in the morning so we could beat the heat. First stop, the camel guy. Yep, we had the name of a camel guy. He helped us buy our tickets and took us to meet the beasts. The were T.A.L.L. To get on them, they would sit all of the way down and we could cimb on like on a horse. Then the drivers had us lean as far back as we could. The camel would climb up into the standing position as we rocked back and forth. The threat of a face plant seemed very real to this girl! I've never been so thankful for Jackie Hutton teaching me to stand in a saddle. However, once we were up and moving, it was smooth sailing for us. The camels were tied together in groups of five. Here is my camel who I lovingly named Clyde.

The nice thing about our camel guy was that they took us in the back way. We couldn't see anything for a while. In fact, it looked like we were getting further away from where the pyramids were. Then we turned the corner and there they were. The driver stopped the group, we leaned back and everyone avoided falling off. We got off and the pictures began.

The guys - Gavin, Marco, Colton, Adam, Matt, and Brad

The girls - Denise, me, Jen, and Anne

On a side note, notice the difference in the clothing of the guys and girls. In Egypt, we are definitely the more covered of the two. I miss shorts. Alot. However, on this day, guess who got sunburns and who did not. :) Ha!

After everyone got a few pictures that we were wanting, we got back on the camels and started moving closer. The pyramids looked big from a distance but this was unreal. The closer we got, the bigger they seemed to grow. We went by the smaller one first but didn't get off. And just to be clear, small is a very relative term. However, as we came around the corner, I got this shot. It is probably one of my favorites of the day.

There it was, the biggest of the pyramids. It was massive. We were advised not to go in as everything inside had been moved to the museum. Instead, we decided to enjoy the lack of people there.

First thing we did was climb the pyramd. We didn't get very high but still - we climbed a pyramid!

It was tiring so I decided to take a seat. Check out the size of those "bricks"! But this one just doesn't do it justice.....

so we zoomed out a bit.

(Can you imagine how loud it was when those bricks fell off of the pyramid?)

As we were at the pyramids, the Friday mid-day call to prayer sounded. However, since it was Friday, their holy day, it wasn't just the call to prayer. It was the hour long reading of the Qur'an. We were at the pyramids, overlooking the city of Cairo, and from speakers all across the city, we could hear men reading the Qur'an in Arabic. It was so surreal. There we were, standing overshadowed by the past and listening to the present. How much has changed, how much has remained, and how much is to come. I felt very small.

After playing at the pyramids, we decided it was time to go see the Sphynx. We started walking over before we remembered that we had camels. So we went back and rode them down.

Just so you know, riding camels on sand is great. Riding camels down rock pathways is scary! They were sliding and slipping all over the place and we were a good 8 - 10 feet in the air. I was riding the lead camel and was thinking I was over-reacting to the sliding I was feeling. Then I noticed the other nine got silent as we went along. Needless to say, we were all pretty nervous. However, we made it down and saw the Sphynx. Not quite as big as I had always imaginged but there it was in all of its glory.

Me and Denise in front of the Sphynx (which I apparently think of as a girl because I keep wanting to type "her"). While we were there, several people were taking fun pictures of them "kissing" the Sphynx. All around us were children giving us advice and moving us around so we could get the perfect shot. It was a bit annoying - not only because they were in the way but also because they wanted tips for their "help". So, we got our pictures, remounted the camels, and went home. Two and a half hours of sun, sand, and wonders of the ancient world.

Cairo: The City of Overstimulation

I know it's been two weeks since I last posted. Sorry. That is the funny thing about Cairo - while we've only been here about four weeks, it feels like four months. That isn't a bad thig, just how it is - we all think so. There has been so much going on that sitting down to post seems to have taken the back seat. Things are either super busy or I'm so overloaded that nothing can come out. So on this quiet Friday morning, I thought I would just share some observations.

Cairo is a loud city. Loud. The Egyptian people don't know what a conversational voice level is. It constantly sounds like they are trying to get each others attention arcoss the room when they are three feet away. The funny thing is that most of the time, they are just talking. The cars honk all of the time. All. Of. The. Time. The thing about it is that all of the honking means something and you learn very quickly what they are "saying" to you while they honk. Egyptians like their music - especially turned up loud. I've actually had to ask taxi drivers to turn down the music. The calls to prayer sound five times a day. From speakers. All around the city. They are fading into the background but they are still there. Especailly on Fridays when they read for an hour. The streets are built up on all sides so that all of the sound travels as through a tunnel.

Cairo is a crowded city. You learn very quickly that walking on the side of the road means almost rubbing up against cars parked on the side. Taxis drive within inches of you and you just get used to it. People are everywhere - not quite like Times Square but constantly there.

Cairo suprises you every day. Some mornings you get up to go to work and find a small lake at the bottom of your road so you have to walk through sand, rocks, and piles of trash to get to the bus. Taxis will "fail", kick you out, and then speed off once you pay them. You go to the pyramids and see emaciated or rigored animals all along the way. You find yourself interacting with local people very differently than you thought you would - especially men.

And living in Cairo is so beautifully different than anywhere else. You learn the beauty of fresh produce (even if it isn't the best season quite yet). You learn to love not having a car. You learn how to quickly love and appreciate new people - some of which you may not have interacted with in your life before here. You learn that despite what you've known before, it is not only acceptable but encouraged to invite yourself to people's homes/events. You learn to crave the community of like minded people and the joy of learning from those so different from you. You learn to expect the unexpected and just go with it. Everyday you feel the pride of just doing it - jumping in with both feet. You lay down at night and think, "I can't believe I did it." And every night, "it" is something new. At the same time, you lay down every night and feel humbled. You don't know it all, you can't do it all, and you still have a lot to learn.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Ramadan and Other Misconceptions

Since arriving, people have been asking me how I'm doing. I'm doing pretty well but overall, I would have to say that I am on cultural oveload. It isn't bad enough to make me homesick (it's called the honeymoon period). However, I am exhausted each night from the shear overload of things I am observing and learning. Between Egypt and Islam, it's been a culturally learning experience.

When we arrived in Cairo, we knew that we would be hitting the ground during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. I didn't know anything about it but that was changed quite quickly. All I knew was that it was a month of fasting. Since landing, I've learned that it is the celebration of the month is which it is believed that Mohammad first received the Quran. Each day from sun up to sun down, people fast from food, water, and work. The hours of business change and everything is closed down. Most people stay home to sleep, pray, and read the Quran. As we walked around looking for apartments, setting up life, and learning our way around, we have been hiding in corners and ducking into buildings to drink our water. Only certain places were open to eat. It is a respect issue. Then when the sun goes down and the last call to prayer of sounded, everyone breaks their fast with a meal called Iftar. The streets are EMPTY and quiet. Then once everyone eats, the city comes to life. Businesses open and people play, work, eat, worship, and go about life. It is like the season of Christmas in most Western countries. There are lights and bright lanterns everywhere. Mosques are lit up in blues, greens, and reds. At the end of Ramadan (tomorrow), the feast breaks and brings on a four day holiday called Eid. Everything will shut down and people will go on vacation.


(The mosque on my street. Excuse the spots, its the flash reflecting off of the sand in the air.)

In terms of living with surrounded by those who are Muslim, there are a few misconceptions that I've learned about. The biggest one would be the calls to prayer. I expected that five times a day, the city would stop and everyone would prayer. Wrong. The call is sounded five times a day (and yes, it is loud) but the city keeps going. Taxis keep driving. Businesses that are open keep serving customers. Realitors keep showing spaces. Life keeps going but the reminder is there.

I've also learned something interesting. On Ash Wednesday in the Catholic faith, you get ashes on your forehead. In the Islamic faith, bowing prayer is such a focus that on their foreheads are callouses that look like the ashes. But the callouses does rub off. It's almost easier to tell who is more devout than others.

During our orientation yesterday, we heard the overview of Middle Eastern history from the Middle Eastern point of view. The focus was on World War II and the current string of revolutions. Very interesting to hear the other side of the story that CNN doesn't present. I won't share much here because I don't want to start a debate but if you're interested, let me know.

There's so much more. As I shared earlier, cultural overload of learning new things. Another day I'll share what I've learned about Egypt itself. Until then, ask what you want about what I've shared. I may or may not know the answer. If I don't, I'm in a good place to find out.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Settling....

Well, I've offically been in Egypt for 42 hours and it has been busy! So far we have been on a tour of the part of town we are living in. It isn't that big but seems huge since I'm still adjusting. I keep thinking that this is all of Cairo but I know I am wrong. Mind boggling! I'm starting to get my bearings a bit but I know it isn't a permanent since of stability because.....

We've been apartment searching and we found one! I say we because I have also found a roommate. We were a pretty good match in terms of what we were looking for. She's a sweet girl and we are getting a beautiful place. I'm very happy with it for a couple of reasons. I'll just be honest, it's a nice place. Not only is it nice but I'll be in the same building as my friend Jen who recuited me to come. Super excited about that! We go to negotiate terms and sign papers tonight. Then they will have about a day and a half to clean. We go shopping on Thursday to get what we need for settling in and will move in that night. That is, if all goes well. I'm learning that Egypt moves at its own pace. I'm going to have to adjust to that a bit more. I think that once we are in and are making it more of a home, things will feel a bit more settled.

I'm doing OK with home sickness. It hits a couple of times a day but I don't let myself dwell on it. When I'm overwhelmed or if I see pictures, it seems to hit more. But overall, I'm doing better. I'm crying less. That may change once I get to Skype but for now, email is GREAT! I've met some really nice people that I'm excited about. Some I feel more comfortable with than others. I know it will get there. It's just hard establishing a new social life - especially when you are initially an introvert but open up more as you get to know people. Some here have been very easy to talk to so that's helpful. I'm just hoping that we'll stay in touch once we are spread out to our new homes rather than in our current little bubble.

So there you go. Less than 48 hours in and things are going pretty well.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Timely Words

Last week, my family packed up and spent the week in Ruidoso, NM. When asked what I wanted to do before heading to the dessert, it was a no brainer - beautiful mountains. Don't worry, pictures will follow. There were many things I hoped for and was more blessed by what I got. Because He is God, His ways are always better than mine. Instead of star filled nights, we got a cloudy sky that intensified one of the brightest full moons I've ever seen. Instead of afternoon hikes in the mountains, we got daily showers that made the greens vibrant and the air smelling as clean and thick with pine.

Before getting the Ruidoso, I was praying to hear from God. It's a kind of big season in my life and I wanted to hear from Him. All week I waited for it but it was not His timing. On the last evening, Mom asked what I needed to do this week. I was going over my lists and was internally getting overwhelmed with a touch of panic. So I spent some more time that night on the balcony waiting to hear from the Lord. In fact, it never came in the mountains. It came in the car on the way home. My niece had received a tiny tea set to play with her princess toys. On the way home, she was trying to "pour tea" into the smallest cup ever and then help the closest Disney princess drink it. Needless to say, this isn't the easiest thing to do for a two and a half year old. I tried to help her by showing her that the tea pot could clip to her car seat straps and it wouldn't fall. She did not think this was a great idea. She wanted it off immediately and Aunt D could not get it off quick enough. As I tried to unhook it, she tried to help me get it off quicker. I finally had to explain that it didn't help. Her sweet fingers were getting in the way of what I wanted to grasp. And as much as I love those sweet fingers, I couldn't get it done. I finally had to simply say, "You have to let go so I can help you."

Punch in the gut.

As I we were driving back, my lists and plans for this week were mounting in my mind. My anxiety was beginning to grow - could I get it all done? So much to do with increasingly less time. I very simply felt the Lord say, "Dana, you have to let go so I can help you."

Ouch.

That's what I do. I make plans and lists. I get an idea of how I think things will go and I set my nose to the grindstone. The fact of the matter is, God sees how it works. He sees the timing of things and the best way to do them. If I can remember to get out of His way, He can/will help me. He's ready and willing.

I still made lists for this week. I'm still being responsible with my time. However, I'm not stressing over them. I'm willing to let them go if needed. It will get done with the Lord's help.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

What's in a Name?

As you may or may not notice, the name of the blog has changed. I've been reflecting on a lot of things in the past few weeks and in that reflection have come to realize its time to refocus this place. Authors change their titles time and time again. I'm no Jane Austen and this is no Pride and Prejudice but it's my writing. So why in the world would I choose the title "A Life Well Loved"?

When I look at my life, I am overwhelmed by the amount of love I have experienced. If the only love I had ever known was that of God, it would be more than words could ever say. He has captured every tear that I've cried and shared in every joy I've experienced. He's given me life at no cost to me and at full cost to Him. He has opened doors of opportunity and taken away what could have been the greatest pain in my life. My ashes have been exchanged for beauty. He didn't give me just His love, He gave me more. I've been abundantly blessed with a family that supports me, fights for me and along side me, and embraces me - scars and all. I've been given friends who live life with me for better or for worse and find joy in it along the way. All of these people loving me enough to push me to be more than I am. They challenge me to rise up to be more like my Jesus. I definitely have a life in when I have been loved well.

Yet, a life well loved isn't just about people. It's about the journey we're walking. I've learned what is means to look back on my life and to embrace it. I've learned how to love those moments when my heart was shattered so that only God Himself could mend it. I've learned how to love and appreciate more deeply those moments that felt like perfection. Life is made of both. Looking back, mine is one in which I wouldn't change a moment. Every tear and every laughter have brought me to now. It is a now that I am so thankful for.

So what do we do when we have experienced such great love - that of God, people, and life itself. You give it away. This is where I am - the living gift of love. At the end of it all, I want to look back and know that this life was lived for the fullness of those around me. I want this world to be a better place because Jesus did something beautiful through this ball of flesh that I find myself wrapped in. I want it to be more that a life well lived. I want it to be a life well loved.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Following Up

A couple of posts ago, I asked people if there are any unanswered questions in regards to my upcoming move. I know you've all been waiting on pins and needles but even if you haven't, here you go:

Do you know where you'll live?
- I know the area of town that I will be living in. I'll be in a part of the city that is home to many expats. When I get there, I'll have someone to help me find an apartment. This is very exciting for many reasons: For one thing, I'll be surrounded by others who understand the transition to another country. Also, my friend that I lovingly refer to as my recruiter will live there. Finally, not only will I have the opportunity to interact with the Egyptian culture but hopefully a few others as well.

When do you leave?
-August 20th

What special items are you taking to give you a little comfort from home?
- Mainly photos in frames. I'm taking a few other small knick knacky types of things that have sentimental significance (a cross made by a life long friend, a willow tree angel from my sister, etc). That's mainly it.

Do you have any thoughts, questions, anxieties about your spiritual life in Egypt?
- Jen has been so helpful in regards to everything Egypt - including this. She has not sugar coated this aspect of life at all. I am fully expecting this to be one of the most challenging times of my walk with the Lord. This born and bred Bible Belt girl is literally about to enter a whole new world. I'm a bit nervous about it but as with all things Egypt, more excited. I know that with the challenge comes the growth. Jen has a church community there that she has plugged in with and has "introduced" me to some of the girls at the church. It really helps knowing that I already have someone to call as soon as I get there. I am also hoping to have the opportunity to build relationships with those of the Muslim community that I'll be living in.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Trade-Offs

Thanks to everyone who asked questions. I'll get back to you on the next post. As it usually happens, as soon as I say I don't have anything to share, something comes to me. So.... here are some trade-offs that I have learned from my recent move:

1. Getting rid of an obsene amount of "stuff". The trade off? - Having a better understanding of not only how I view material possessions but what could have been a better use for that money. Lesson learned.

2. Going through each photo and document in my home page by page and picture by picture. Took LOTS of time. The trade off? - Remebering the good and purging the things that weren't so important after all. That and being thankful my bro-in-law has an awesome shredder at work because I burned mine out. Note to everyone reading - shred your stuff immediately!

3. Watching everything I own that wasn't sold, donated, or trashed go into tubs. The trade-off? Simplicity. Enough said.

4. No longer having my own place to live. The trade off? - Getting the best "roommates" ever for a whole month. And already missing them after 36 hours away.

5. Sharing a room with a toddler for a month. The trade off? - Greeting each day hearing, "Aunt D! Want out - Hold you!" Translation? The cutest little boy ever wanting to be scooped up and played with. Yes, please!

6. Being surrounded by toys everywhere you go. The trade off? Watching my niece's imagination come alive. She's so pretty! Don't believe me? Click here.

7. Finishing the biggest physical part of this transition. The trade off? Enjoying time with everyone you love the most instead of spending hours in the warehouse of an apartment. Freedom!!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Taking Requests

As is most likely expected, my mind is pretty occupied with Egypt. There are other things going on but Egypt is all consuming. Since that is going on, I am having a hard time thinking of things to blog about. So...

I'm taking requests. Is there anything you want to hear about - Egypt or another topic? Do you have any questions about Egypt I haven't addressed? Your wish is my command. Let me know and I'll see what I can do....

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Road to Egypt - And We're Off!

Since accepting the position in Cairo, it has been a whirlwind. Having never left the US means that this has all been not only busy but also new. Aspects of it have been overwhelming but never anything less than exciting. Especially when other people hear about it. I think the word that I have read/heard more than any other has been WOW! It makes me laugh every time. I've also been pretty surprised by how little people know about the world. One person asked me if they eat cows in Egypt since they worship them there. They then quickly followed it up by saying how lucky I was going to be because if anything goes wrong with my computer, that is where all tech support is outsourced to. Really!?!?! My other favorite response has been, "Oh! I've always wanted to go to Europe and now you'll live there!" Ummm....Not quite.

More seriously though..... It has been an adventure already. It's been quite fun. Along the way, I've had scattered moments of wondering what I've gotten myself into. I've had things come up that make me wonder about God's timing. I don't understand it but I trust it fully. In His faithfulness, God has provided answers all along the way. I just wanted to share some moments that I personally want to preserve so that when I look back, I remember them all.

Other than telling my boss about my resignation, the other big task before me was getting my passport. After a few hits and misses, I decided to make sure it happened. I was told to be at the post office e.a.r.l.y to be sure I got in line. So that morning, I got up e.a.r.l.y and was at the post office at 5:45. In the morning. Alone. I definitely had my appointment that day! As I waited, I was working on one of my lessons for bible study. Eventually, another lady came in and sat by me to wait. We started talking about why we were getting passports. She was trying to take her family on a cruise. She was also very sweet and encouraging about Cairo. At 7:30, the sign up list went out and we were appointments one and two - at 10:00 a.m. So I left to take care of some things and came back at about 9:30. She was already there and we starting chatting again. At one point, she said the following to me, "I brought something for you. I hope it is OK. I saw you doing your bible study this morning and thought you might like this." She reached into her purse and pulled out a three page prayer. Her aunt had gone through cancer several years ago and this prayer was something she prayed throughout her treatment. The prayer was all about praying against the enemy and his plans. A prayer of spiritual warfare. She said that since I'll be living in a foreign country for the first time, she thought I could use it. I didn't know what to say. It was so thoughtful and seemingly random. Only God. We were called in for our appointments at the same time. I went first. When I got up to go, she came over and gave me a hug. She told me that whenever she gets her passport, she'll pray for me. Whenever she uses her passport, she'll pray for me. Even though she knows I'll have people praying for me, she wants me to know I have strangers praying for me too. God, You leave me speechless....
_____________________________

There have been some days where getting ready to go have been downright overwhelming. I remember one day I got my list of things needed for my work visa, professional file, insurance, retirement contributions, and housing. I started crying. The night before I had finally sat down and made a list of things I needed to do to shut things down here. Now I had multiple "to-do" lists and an apartment to pack. Overwhelmed! That week I was supposed to go to a meeting for Houston Project, drive a cat to Flatonia, empty my classroom, drive to San Marcos to get a service record, and get another load ready for the parents to take back. Within a matter of hours, three of the five things were cancelled. God gave me time. It was a much needed, greatly appreciated gift!
____________________________

I have been doing a month long sort of my belongings. Do I trash/recycle/sale/donate/store with the Johnsons/store with the folks/take to Egypt? It has taught me a lot about treasuring material possessions. I told someone the other day that all I could think about was the amount of money I spent on things that I don't need. It has totally changed the way I view shopping - for anything. Last night, I started feeling a bit panic-y. I was looking around my apartment at the stacks of boxes and the growing empty spaces. I found myself thinking that my life was in tubs. God gently told me that it isn't my life that's in tubs, just some stuff. I'm going to live my life, not store it.
______________________________

I have been praying over the past few months about finding a way to serve my city. When Houston Project was announced, I learned that my Sunday Bible Study would be in the 5th Ward, not the place I had been previously. I was SO excited! It would be closer and it was in a better location for follow up and involvement. I was psyched! Then I got a new job. :) This week, I really was thankful to be a floater/administration team member. It was amazing! I found myself asking God why would He give me a place to serve and fall in love with so close to leaving. He reminded me that He isn't leaving that place. He's there. I can go back again when I'm here but until then, I could pray His Presence not only into the apartment complex but into the people as well. After all, He doesn't just need my hands to do His work. He needs my heart to be willing to do as He asks. For this area, He asks me to pray. I can do that from Cairo.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Road to Egypt - The Rubber Meets the Road

As summer break began, I was anticipating many things about the first two weeks of summer. I usually set those two weeks aside for selfishness, laziness, and getting caught up on sleep/rest. Then I get productive with everything I don't have time to do during the year. I was having a hard time relaxing and letting go of my anxiety about the school year I had just finished and the pressure of the one to come. To help with, I decided to have lunch with a girl I know. She has been blessed with a job but she too struggles with not being in the right place for her.

As we sat in a very crowded Panera Bread, I remember talking to her about how she manages to keep working in a position that didn't seem to fit. We didn't talk about it too long but listened patiently as I shared my concerns and was encouraging when I shared my goal of applying to work overseas in a year or two.

The next day, my grandmother fell and broke her hip. We spent the next few days in the hospital with her and had a spontaneous weekend with the parents. Week one was gone without the selfishness, laziness, and getting caught up on sleep/rest.

During that week, I was listening to a bible study about believing that God has been with us all along. There was a point that rooted itself in my mind and I couldn't shake it off. It said that sometimes we are wisest to hurry over when God calls us. We should be prayerful but pray as we take steps, not just sit and pray. Move and act on it. I was really thinking about Thailand and wondering if I had made the right decision. The decision to stay put never totally settled for me but I knew Thailand was wrong. I wasn't sure what was going on.

Week two of summer began and things started off the way I was hoping it would. I knew I was moving from my bee-infested apartment and was so excited to find a place that was amazing! The week was going great.

On Wednesday morning, I woke up and got starting with my morning. At about 10:30, my phone beeped that I had an email. I hoped up the laptop and the following facebook message was sitting in my inbox from my friend, Jen Cates:

"So... we have to open another KG class for next year. I'm think he hasn't hired anyone yet, but before I said anything to the director, I thought I'd ask if you were interested...? It could be 1st if a 1st gd teacher moves down instead."

I sat and stared at the screen on and off all morning. That quote from the bible study immediately came to mind when I read it. I know why it took me hours to get back to her. I had a knowing. I knew that if I put it out there, I would get this job. I don't know how I knew but I did. So I prayed and did something that is very difficult for me. I took the first step without thinking eight steps down the road.

That afternoon, I went over to Erin's house to "use her computer". Once the kids were taking naps, we sat down and I told her what happened. She listened and was very encouraging. When Gregg came home and the kids went to bed, I let him in on the news. I wrote my resume and off it went. My Johnson family were so encouraging and prayerful for me. My sister praying for my heart (thankful for a female heart) and my brother-in-law praying for adventure (thankful for a male heart). It was/is the best of both worlds. I swore them to secrecy until my mind was made up.

Over the next week, Jen was amazing to answer my questions that I sent her daily. I have never been overseas but here I was thinking about a HUGE move. She was patient and never made me feel like I had a silly question. As the answers came, so did an unexplainable peace. By the time I talked to the director, I had made a decision. He offered me the job and gave me until the end of the week to get back to him. It was time to tell the folks.

Erin and the kids went with me to surprise them in Pleasanton. I was nervous and to ease my jitters, Erin and I made up silly excuses for just showing up. We went with the ice cream dinner after church. They played along when we got there for as long as we did. After dinner, the kids were content and happily playing in the living room. The four original LaMores sat at our breakfast table where we had eaten nearly every dinner together growing up. I shared my news with the folks and over the next 30 minutes they listened, not one interruption or question. When I was finished, my dad stood up and said, "That sounds cool, Dana." Mom just shook her head yes.

I was shocked. No, I was S.H.O.C.K.E.D. Not one protest or question. The Lord had provided the words that they needed to hear. That night there were some tears but more from distance and love than anything else. Vacation plans immediately began because we all knew a vacation was a must.

The next morning we loaded up and drove back to Houston. Mom and Dad would follow the next day for a belated Father's Day celebration. We got back around lunch time and I went up to visit the grandparents. I told them what was happening and Grandma was so excited - clear as a bell as she shared about how much she loved traveling and learning new cultures. Grandpa was shocked but very sweet about it.

That night, I got to Metro extremely late due to dinner with Grandpa. Thankfully, that meant I didn't have to wait log to tell my closest friends. They knew of the possibility but they didn't know my final decision.

The next day was Friday. I officially accepted the position to teach Kindergarten in Cairo, Egypt for the next two years. I felt better that the decision was made and the director knew. God had overwhelmed me with peace, excitement, and more support than I knew what to do with.

But He wasn't done yet......

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

The Road to Egypt - The Rearview Mirror

Just as in every time God does a mighty work in my life, I can alway look back and see how He has been preparing me for quite some time. The way to Cairo is no different.

This past year at school was a difficult one. From the beginning of the school year, it held its frustrations and trials. By the time I went to Colorado the first weekend in October, I was already burnt out. Throughout the year, I became increasingly bothered by the way that public education was turning. As we began looking towards next year, I did not have the same anticipation of a fresh start that I usually had. I felt dread, especially with all of the changes due to budget cuts.

In the midst of the ever growing frustration and discouragement, a few things began to happen. While I was in Colorado (Sept 30 - Oct 2), one of the sessions really hit close to my heart. The last session focused on the need to be a part of the larger story. We spent time talking about the fact that wherever we go, the Kingdom of God goes with us and He lives His life through us. One of my favorite quotes from that morning was to the effect that even the smallest person can change the course of the future. At that moment, I knew that there was a big change coming in my future. I didn't know what or when. I started asking my small group to pray that whenever that time came, I would be prepared to follow God without fear or hesitation, no matter what it looked like.

Fast forward to the spring. I was growing increasingly discouraged and frustrated with the state of education. I didn't understand it because my school was/is the best I have ever worked in: amazing adminstrators, wonderful coworkers, sweet children, and an overall campus of diversity and respect. However, some policies and expectations are a lot to handle. I felt the urging to do the bible study "Believing God". It was a bible study that pushed me to look at my level of faith and the realities of God's character and activity. Each lesson addressed very specific things going on in my life almost day by day. I've never had a study that pushed application like this one did.

Another study that I was involved in was my Sunday Bible Study, Roots. We were spending time in the book of Ezra talking about how we learn from history and how we react to the world around us. How would God have us relate to our world in a way that reflects Him?

In the middle of the study, the first hint of what was in store came my way. I was blocked into a parking spot when a woman I hadn't spoken to in quite a while called me. Her brother is a director of a school in Thailand and he was in the States recruiting teachers for the next session. I wasn't really feeling it but I thought I would see what happened. We kept missing each other and never touched base. Even though it wasn't to be, it really got my mind going. I had some reservations in working there. I decided that if I were to ever work overseas, I wanted to work with native students - not Americans living overseas. I decided that I didn't want to be responsible for raising my own support (another post for another day).

As the spring semester went on, things at work got more and more tense as budget cuts were being made. As stressful as it was, I was blessed with favor by my principal. I ended up requesting a position change and he granted it. I felt incredibly blessed. The next year was going to be everything I was asking for.

Even through there was favor there, I still didn't have peace. I was feeling the need to teach something more than just towards a standardized test. I was tired of being stretched too thin to be more than I was physically and mentally able to be. I was exhausted every single day. I couldn't shake Thailand. I didn't regret not going. I was thinking about the need in other countries for more than just academics. There was a need for learning that would bring about change. Just a couple of weeks before school let out, I had dinner with some of my favorite friends. As we waited for our dinner to arrive, I let the girls know that I felt that I was being called to teach overseas in a year or two. They were amazingly supportive.

Three days later, my mom randomly asked me if I have ever considered teaching internationally. Completely out of the blue. I almost swerved into another lane.

The last week of the school year came. It was sweet with the kids but crazy in every other way. On our work day, I attended a meeting about the next year's schedule, the lack of support teachers, and the highest standards I've ever worked under. I was so overwhelmed, all I wanted to do was cry. It was only by the grace of God that I left that meeting without quitting.

I walked out that day so excited about a summer of no plans. There would be time to relax, step away, and not think about anything important for at least two months. That was June 3.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Announcement Time

Yes, it has been very quiet here on the blog-front. Yes, I have been very busy (and secretive). Time to let the cat out of the bag.....

I have accepted a kindergarten position in Cairo, Egypt. It is a two year contract and I'll head that way in about seven weeks. It all happened very quickly and I'll tell the full story in more detail over the next week. It really is a God story. It is incredibly exciting and very overwhelming at the same time. I'm busy with tons of preparations while trying to squeeze in as much time with people as possible. There are so many things I'm looking forward to.

So prayer request time. I know there are the general ones for culture shock, safety, relationships, etc . Right now I'm going to focus on the next seven weeks.

- Pray for energy and motivation to get the packing done. I've had so many people offer to help which I greatly appreciate! However, its something I really have to be involved in myself. I get overwhelmed by the huge sort: sale, trash, store with the parents, store with the Johnsons, or take to Cairo. Thankfully, only three more weeks of this part of it!
- Wisdom with my time as I'm trying to balance packing, appointments, people, and responsibilities.
- Balancing the excitement of going and the reality of temporary good-byes.
- Sleep - being able to shut my brain off as well as just getting enough.
- To set aside time with God each day. He's making this happen and making His presences know all over the place. He is my stablizing peace right now. I just don't want to get so overwhelmed by the process that I don't spend time with Him.
- If you've moved overseas and know of something in the preparation time that I'll need prayers for, pray as you feel led! You know better than I do what the next few weeks physically and emotionally look like!

Thanks to everyone in advance for your prayers! More of the story to come soon!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

One Picture


I finally found a recent picture that I liked enough to share and wrap this thing up. I'm with the cutest niece in the world waiting for the carousel at the zoo. Incredibly hot day but so fun! Thanks, Erin!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Two Songs

These are not the two best songs ever written or even my two favorite songs. However, these are two songs that make me smile every time I hear them:

1. New Shoes by Paolo Nutini




2. It's All Been Done by Barenaked Ladies

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Three Films

Three Films:

1. Lars and the Real Girl
2. Hitch
3. Becoming Jane

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Four Books

Four Books:

While the Bible is the obvious number one, I've decided to go with four books that are high on my recommended list.

1. The Book Thief - Best piece of fiction ever written
2. Sacred Pathways - Helped me understand my brothers and sisters in Christ all the better
3. Pride and Prejudice - How could it NOT be on this list!?
4. Radical - The beginning of rewiring my mind and heart

Monday, June 06, 2011

Five Foods

Five Foods:
1. Pineapple
2. Green Beans
3. Ice Cream/Frozen Yogurt
4. Berries
5. Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Six Places

Six Places:

1. Colorado/the mountains - Where my soul finds rest
2. My bed - We're taking some time to get reacquainted after a busy couple of weeks.
3. The Johnson's house - where my favorite people live
4. Huntsville State Park - where I go when Colorado is too far away
5. Guadalajara's - Where I unwind with the girls (and the guys about once a month) on Friday nights
6. My kitchen - When I have a new cookbook, this is one of my favorite places to be.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Seven Wants

Seven Wants:
1. A passport and stamps to put in it
2. To figure out what I want to do besides teaching
3. My apartment to pack and move itself this summer (hey - a girl can dream....)
4. Season tickets to Broadway Across America or TUTS (or both)
5. To write a book
6. Enjoy some rain soon!
7. In honor of Rock of Ages last night - I Wanna Rock!


Eight Fears

Eight Fears:

1. Statues - The bigger they are, the scarier they are.
2. Octopus - They are creepy smart and, well, just creepy.
3. Being a disappointment to others.
4. Ending up alone.
5. Flying cockroaches - The ones that crawl don't bother me. When they fly, that's a whole different story....
6. That I'll be a lifelong teacher - not really a fear but something I'm starting to dread.
7. Falling - Heights are fine. Falling from those heights is scary.
8. That when I die, my life would not have furthered the kingdom of God or left the world a better place.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Nine Loves


Nine Loves:

1. God
2. family and friends
3. aspen trees
4. an amazing book
5. laughing really hard
6. a clear night sky with stars as far as the eye can see
7. a good pedicure
8. seeing dreams come true
9. my future family - I don't know who they are but I adore and pray for them already

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Ten Secrets

Since I've become sporadic with my blogs, i decided to steal this from my friend. I thought it looked fun. Hope you will enjoy it!


Ten Secrets:


1. Even though I'm no longer a vegetarian, I still feel guilty every time I eat any kind of meat.


2. I often struggle with putting my beliefs into action. My heart is in the right place but often my hands and feet don't follow. God and I are working on it in major ways.


3. I regret not sticking with anything as a child - dance classes, softball, Girl Scouts, athletics, art lessons.....


4. I am equally an introvert and extrovert. Sometimes it makes me feel like it sends mixed messages to people and they don't get to know the real me.


5. Whenever a speaker talks about how we all have spiritual children even if we don't have any children of our own, a small part of me dies.


6. I would love to get my masters but I have no idea what I want to do. Everything continues a career in education (which I don't think I want too much longer) or requires another bachelors degree first.


7. My inner thrill seeker is itching for my next adventure. I now want to climb a mountain.


8. I find ironing therapeutic. I love the rhythm of the back and forth while making things look better. it feels productive and calming.


9. As curious as I am about things long past, I am thankful that I don't know all of the answers to my questions. I think it is God's way of protecting me.


10. I've always wondered what it's like to get tackled wearing full football gear. I'll never know....

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Year Eight, In the Books....

While the end of the school year is still a week away, you will be glad to know this will most likely be my last post of the 2010-2011 school year. I hadn't planned on doing a recap post but thanks to Completion Ceremonies on Friday, why not.....

This week I spent a lot of time getting ready for the ceremony. Thinking of awards for everyone took some time and then there was the end of year movie. It was fun but it drove my inner perfectionist nuts! After more hours than I would like to admit, it let it go. There was also room decoration which meant the obligatory talk about how to act during the ceremony. We also had to have a talk about how Ms. LaMore was going to be wearing a dress for the first time this school year and it wasn't going to be a reason to freak out. This discussion was based on the glasses incident in January when I lost a whole day of teaching to kids staring at me instead of doing any work at all. So after a week of prep, we were ready to celebrate!

Friday morning came and I was ready. We got in and settled. We reviewed how things were going to go, what good behavior looked like, and how to show appreciation for each other appropriately. That was the last thing that went as planned.

First, I opened the classroom door and let the parents in. Apparently I should have sent a note to the parents that I would be wearing a dress because they freaked out more than the kids did. One dad went so far as to look me up and down, repeatedly smile and wink, and to tell me in a low voice (and much too close to me) that I should wear dresses more often - with his wife right beside him. A.W.K.W.A.R.D. It also confirmed why I don't wear dresses to work.

We finally get everyone inside and seated. The kids were super excited about seeing their folks. Seriously, they reacted like they hadn't seen them in a week. Once they settled back down, I started to do the welcome. About half way through, one of my girls gets up, collects her three best friends, and goes to the back of the room to get a picture from her mother who whips out the camera and starts shooting away. Seriously!?

We get them seated and start the awards. Just as I was about to start the second award, a huge cockroach decides to join us in the middle of the floor. Oh the joys of working in an old school. All of the kids start yelling and crawling over each other to get away or get a better look. I'll let you decide which were the girls and which were the boys. Overly Attentive Dad steps in to be heroic and take care of the bug.

Once we get them settled down, we got going again. We got to one of my students who has a disablilty. I was talking about what a joy he is to our class and how he makes us all laugh. At this point, one of his peers in the back decided to give an example of something funny that he does and starts to imitate one of his stems - right in front of the child's parents. I wanted to melt into the floor.

Once I got him to stop, we were able to go through the rest of the ceremony relatively easily. We all cried during the video (even though I knew what was coming) and had snacks. While the kids ate cookies and juice, there was lots of picture taking and visiting.

At one point, I noticed a couple of girls crying. I went over to check on them and my heart broke. They were sobbing because they don't want to go to second grade. Why? Because they don't want to leave me. In my eight years of teaching, this has never happened to me. What made it so hard was that I love these girls - L.O.V.E. them! I usually don't do this but I pulled them on my lap and we just sat together. I let the parents entertain their kids but we just sat and cried together. I reassured them I would still see them next year and that we still have all of next week together. One went to her mom and was OK. The other was inconsolable. I finally was able to distract her but as the day went on, I would catch her crying over and over again. Lots of hugs and comforting words were shared.

As bad as this is going to sound, I kinda needed that. To say that this year was not an easy one would be an understatement. I loved the kids but the politics of teaching really got to me. And thanks to the great state of Texas, next year isn't looking any better. I needed a reminder of why I do this job. I needed a reminder of why I come back year after year. I got it - in two pair of tear filled eyes with arms that wrapped around my waist, not wanting to let go. I got in in a smile that snuck out when I told one how proud of her I am for her reading and speaking up. I got it in a hand that held on like I was her last bit of hope. It wasn't what I expected when I started the day but it is what I got.

And I'm thankful.....

Friday, May 06, 2011

Happy Mother's Day, First Grade Style

Today in my classroom, we spent a large amount of time working on cards for our mothers. Honestly, we are in the middle of an insanely two weeks so it snuck up on yours truly. So today, we focused and made cards telling the top ten things we love about our moms. As I was directing the seven year old love, I gave examples about my mom and decided that this adult heart wanted to love on her mama in the way only a child can. So without further ado...

The Top Ten Reasons I Love You, Mom:

10. I know my mom loves me because she reads me.... - everything! I remember growing up that you loved to read to us. No matter what, if we put it in your hands, the story was read. You made reading fun and important. I not only loved that you read to us but you enjoyed being a reader yourself. This has been something that has impacted me more than just about anything as an adult. You not only loved to read but you made me love it too. You made me realize that by giving someone a love for reading, you can change the entire course of a person's life. For that, I love you!

9. I know my mom loves me because she helps me .... - keep overanalyzing things to a minimum. In my nature, you know that I look at everything from mulitple points of view. You know how to ask the right questions to bring me back into focus. You know how to lovingly tell me to let it go, I'm reading too much into it - in good and bad ways. For that, I love you!

8. I love when my mom sings.... - songs to my niece and nephew. Growing up, you would sing us songs that no one else knew - A: Your Adorable; I Love You, A Bushel and a Peck; The San Antonio Song (that hasn't been sung yet but it's just a matter of time). You have this love of singing and you share it with us. I love these songs because they feel intimate. No one knows those songs but us - like a secret love note from you to us. For that, I love you!

7. I know my mom loves me because she takes the time to... - share the gift of touch. Your touch is unlike so many others: rubbing our eyebrows, playing with our hair, rubbing our feet, or just the amazing hugs you give. Each one would be weird from anyone else but from you, its soothing and special. For that, I love you!

6. I know my mom loves me because she makes me laugh by.... - your insane love of the Spurs. Growing up, you didn't care two flips about this basketball team and now you L.O.V.E. them. I roll my eyes when Manu "sends you a message on facebook" but the truth is, its just down right funny. I laugh when I call you during basketball season - especially during the play offs - and one of the first things I get is a run down of the game the night before. I laugh that you are so excited about a Manu t-shirt. If you would have asked me to believe this even ten years ago, I would not. But for that, I love you!

5. I know my mom loves me because she... - saves things for me between visits. Whether you keep Jeopardy games and concerts saved on your DVR or just see an article in the paper you think I will like, it tells me that you think about me even when I'm not there. You not only think about me but know what will catch my attention. That's because you pay attention. For that, I love you!

4. My mom takes care of me by.... - taking care of herself. The way that you desire a good life for yourself sets such an example for me. Whether it is a physical, emotional, or relational need, you make sure you are well. Sharing in your successes with you is an indescribable feeling. Knowing that you are making yourself and your life a priority so you can enjoy life with us takes care of me too. For that, I love you!

3. I know my mom cares because she.... - takes the time to talk multiple times a week. Even if it is just listening to a crazy student story from the day, you are always willing to stop and visit. Not only do you listen but you pay attention and remember what I say. You know my weekly schedule and ask how things are going. I know that I am your priority because you take the time to know about me and about my life. For that, I love you!

2. I know my mom loves me because she works hard to.... - make sure we know we are loved. I know I am loved in the simple things like making sure you have treats we like when we come visit. I know I am loved when you worry about me coming home alone at night even though at my age, you had a six year old and a three year old. I know I am loved because I know you pray over so many areas of my life. I know you always have and you always will. For that, I love you!

1. I know my mom loves me because she is the best mom in the world!

Happy Mother's Day, Mom! I love you!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Thanks!

This weekend I spent some time in Pleasanton with my folks. It was a good time. Dad surprised me by taking my car to get the headlights cleaned and a full tank of gas. So appreciated! Our iTunes/iPod tutorials went well. Mom and I did some shopping and talking. Girl time is always good with her. Lots of time for all three of us to visit. I survived the "church of the Spurs" on Saturday night and finally got to meet my friends' sweet baby this morning.

No trip to Pleasanton would be complete without a trip to Wal-Mart. I REALLY don't like Wal-Mart and only go when I'm visiting the parents. Since I don't like it, I don't give it the time or energy to look nice going there. So when I walked in to grab something for Mom on Saturday, here is how I looked: no make-up, pony tail, glasses, t-shirt, and yoga pants. Not "People of Wal-Mart" worthy but Clinton and Stacy would have had a fit! So I put my head down and focused on getting what I needed so I could leave quickly. As I walked through the produce department, I noticed from the corner of my eye a man putting out tomatoes. He was an older man that was about 5 inches shorter than me and quite stout. His teeth were not in the best shape. We met eyes for just a moment so I nodded and smiled a quick hello. He stopped what he was doing, looked me straight in the eyes, and said, "You have a pretty smile." I thanked him and kept on going.

As I grabbed the couple of things Mom needed, I noticed I was smiling a lot. It's amazing that one sentence from a random stranger can make you feel so good - especially when you know exactly how you really look! While it may not have come from someone expected or hoped for, that compliment totally made my day.

So to the produce packer at Wal-Mart, thanks for smile. Apparently it was very needed.