Monday, December 10, 2012

Since I Haven't Posted in Five Weeks...

I know.  It's been a while.  Sorry.  Kinda.  It hasn't been entirely my fault.  For five of the past seven weeks we were internet-less.  It is also known as the month in which TE Data became afraid of three white girls.  I'm pretty sure customer service will be using multiple calls we made for training purposes. Not kidding even a little bit.  Once internet came back to us, we got sucked in.  It would make sense to have a massive catch up but in the process of trying to write one, I find myself stumped by having too much to say and not the ability to say any of it.  So instead, here is this.

I have a friend who picks a song of the week.  Its fun.  I think my theme song for the past several weeks has been "I Surrender" by Hillsong.  It's how I start each day because it is only by the grace of God we've made it to this upcoming winter break without breaking.  Not being over dramatic.  It's been tough. That's not right - it's been T.O.U.G.H.  Each day starts with, "OK God, I'm glad you've got this because I sure don't."  Thankfully he's had it every single day and he will continue to do so.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

My Austrian Things

(read while humming "My Favorite Things")

Libraries, palaces, concerts, and operas,
Musicians, artists, and history surrounds us,
Musems full of paintings only genus brings
These are a few of my Austrian things.

A bus full of singing and crisp apple struddel,
Homes, lakes, and fountains, gazeebos - beautiful
Bright yummy packages tied up with string
These are a few of my Austrain things.

Walking in gardens and over hill dashes,
Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes,
Silver white meadows, the first seen since spring,
These are a few of my Austrian things.

When hamseens come, when students run,
When I'm feeling sad,
I'll simply remember my Austrian things and then I won't feel so bad!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

101 Things in 1001 Days

When I moved in with Sarah, one thing that I noticed about her right away was that she was always doing or planning something fun.  It turns out she has this handy little list of things she wants to accomplish - most of which just happen to be - fun.  She introduced me to this challenge she has set for herself through something called Day Zero.  The challenge is 101 Things in 1001 Days.  After checking it out, I decided it sounded like something I would enjoy.  Seeing how list making is one of my favorite things to do, I took it up.  I even had a little help from my friends.  So without further ado, here are 101 things I have decided to do over the next 1001 days:

Sponsor a child
Read through the entire bible
Memorize the Sermon of the Mount
Eat like a Third World citizen for a month – donate the difference in grocery bills
Complete a Daniel fast for a week
Donate 1 million grains of rice
Observe lent each year
Perform 5 random acts of kindness
Buy a bag of groceries for someone in need once a month for a year

Debt free
Give intangible gifts one year for Christmas
Leave a 100% tip for someone
Buy a stranger’s dinner anonymously
Donate $25 for every item completed to a related charity
Pay for Spring Break entirely in EGP

Educational/Professional Self Improvement:
Complete my master’s program
Get PYP certified
Get a new job

See the Grand Canyon
Experience each of the four seasons
Tour a European church
Run out of pages in my passport
Tour a winery
Go desert camping
Sisters weekend away
Visit Pompeii
Go to an internationally known museum
Go to the Netherlands
Roommate weekend away
Mail a postcard to my band director from Austria
See a show in the West End
Take a spontaneous get away
Do a hike longer than 10 miles
Tour the Fairy Tale Road
Get my international drivers license
Drive on the other side of the road

Visit Upper Egypt
Climb Mt Sinai
Count to 100 in Arabic
Drive in Egypt
Barter at the Khan in Arabic
Visit Siwa

Something New:
Get a tattoo
Learn to knit
Learn to tie a tie
Get my diving certification
Go to the batting cages
Learn to use all of the settings on my camera
Pick fresh fruit
Conquer a fear - Go repelling

Read a book over 1000 pages long
Read a book set in each country I’ve visited
Read my height in books
Complete a short story once a month for a year
Write a children’s book
Send one handwritten note per month for a year
Read all of the Newberry Award winners

For myself/my health:
Go a month without sugar
Go to bed before 9:00 every night for a week
Complete the 100 push ups challenge
Complete the 200 sit ups challenge
Try Zumba
Don’t eat out/Otlob for a month
Leave work at 4:00 everyday for two weeks
Take the stairs for a week
Buy only what’s on the grocery list for a month
Get up every day without snoozing for a week
Go to the gym four days a week for a month

Cook a new international dish every month for a year
Make a German Chocolate Cake
Make homemade donuts
Cook a turkey
Make soft pretzels

With others:
Go play bingo
Send out holiday cards
Surprise gift #1
Surprise gift #2
Host a tea party
Host a multi course meal

Chosen by others:
Dad – Write a short story about a fictional biblical character
Mom – Be home long enough for a Project Runway Marathon
Erin – Hot air balloon ride
Gregg – Eat pizza in front of the Coliseum
Liz – Watch The Grinch together
Bladen – Play cars together
Sarah – Go diving in 3 different oceans
Kim – Watch fireworks in a new place
Kris – Ice skating in Paris at Christmas (as randomly chosen my a roommate)
Ryan – Volunteer in an orphanage

Watch The Godfather Trilogy
Watch a new movie for each letter of the alphabet
Perform 5 random acts of kindness
Do the splits
Eat an entire meal using chopsticks
Eat something I can’t identify

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

The Boab's Family

On the walk from the market to my place, there is a building that has been under construction for about a year now.  That's pretty typical.  Buildings are slow going up around here.  As the buildings are under construction, a boab and his family will move in.  These men and their families live in the depths of the parking garages/basements and are on call 24/7.  They look after the building and the residents.  This man is no different except that his building doesn't have any residents yet.  I've walked past them for about a year now.  We nod hellos and I smile at the children.  They have a little girl that looks to be about 5 or 6 years old.  I look forward to seeing them as part of my market routines.

Yesterday they were gone.

There are a lot of reasons that boabs move on.  Sometimes it is their choice and sometimes it is not.  I'll never know why this family is gone.  I just know I walked past the building yesterday and there was a new family.  It's sad.

I was quite surprised to be sad.  I didn't know them at all.  Then I remembered.

It's funny how a moment can stick with you.  Everything about it remains clear as day.  I had gone to the market right off the bus.  It was weekly shopping day and I had my hands full walking home with a heavy work bag over my shoulder.  The building was just about a third of the way home.  I was almost there so I was starting my search so I could nod my hello.  There they were, sitting on the stoop - mother on the top step, daughter on the next step down, and a doll in the little girl's lap.  I didn't know she had a doll yet there it was being tenderly held in her hands.  She was intently playing with its hair in a very peculiar way.  Her hands were running throughout the hair with no rhyme or reason.  I glanced at the mother and that is when I noticed it.  She was picking lice out of her daughter's hair.  Daughter was picking lice out of her doll's hair.

She was playing mommy with her baby.

She wasn't putting it in a stroller or wrapping it in a blanket.  She was doing what her mommy did - taking the itchy insects from its hair.  The mother and I caught eyes and she turned away quickly, looking ashamed.  I smiled at the little girl and kept walking with a small lump growing in my throat.  She smiled back at me with a glowing face and twinkling eyes, proud of her baby.  I wanted to say something to the mother.  No.  Not something.  I wanted to say so much.  I wanted to tell her she is a good mother, caring for her daughter.  I wanted to tell her that her daughter is beautiful and sweet.  I wanted to tell her she was doing her best for living in the garage of a building under construction.  I wanted to tell her to lift her eyes, she has nothing to be ashamed of.

But I didn't and now I never will.  I don't know where they are.  I will most likely never see them again,  except in that 10 second memory.  I still see them on that stoop that is getting closer to being completed.  I still see them in the faces of little girls and their babies.  I'm thankful for it - this memory tangled with sweetness and heartbreak.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Still Alive

It's offical - I've been called out.  Apparently I haven't blogged in over a month.  Didn't believe it until I looked at it.  Oops.  I've been neglectful.  Sorry.  However, I kind of have an excuse.  It's the beginning of the school year.  It's been busy/crazy/stressful.  In fact at the end of each day, this is the way I've looked.

So when you are stressed, I've learned some ways to relax.  First, start your day with with sweet faces like these.

Then follow it up with this book:

After that, meet up with a good carpool buddy to face the ring road with.  Then you are ready to take on the day.  Do this each day and it spirals into joy.

Other things that work are learning something new like how to do this:

Time with friends, working with Lift Off, attemping squash, watching Downton Abbey, and reading good books help bring balance into life.  So do friends that help put things in perspective.  Spending time with these girls help too:

So at the end of the month, things are looking up, calming down, and becoming more balanced.  Now I'm leaving work looking more like this:

So I'll be back to blogging more regularly.  See you soon!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Because Love is Hard

It's been three weeks since I've been back in Cairo and I'll be honest - I'm exhausted.  The plane touched down at 5:30 a.m. on the 12th and since then, I have had two days of semi-rest.  Between One Wild Week (VBS meets day camp), newbie orientation, and the first week of prep back at school, it's been a lot.  Physically, mentally, and emotionally, it has tossed me around like a rag doll.  Every day as I get ready, I've been praying to just get through the day - help me prioritize, give me clarity of thought, grant wisdom with the time I've got today, don't let me be forgetful or drop the ball anywhere, help me not to overcommit, and let me love them well.  Overall, most of that has gone well (I think) but I question the last bit.

Let me love them well.

From my seven year olds to the newbies to my team to my friends - I question it all.  Did those little ones get the best I could give them coming straight from vacation?  Was I understanding and patient enough with the people moving to Cairo and beginning to adjust?  Have I chosen correct words and tone with my new team?  Have I helped them in whatever way I could?  And my amazing friends who have actually made me laugh and tolerated a brain dead Dana over the past three weeks - have I been as appreciative as I should have been and have I reciprocated?

Because here's the deal - love is hard.

Love is hard because it involves other people.  From seven to 107, people are hard to love. People don't listen.  People are stubborn.  People should know more than they do.  People hurt our feelings.  People demand our time.  People have expectations that pull us in a hundred different directions.

And I am one of those people.  Yet, I've been loved.

As tired as I've been, I've been loved well.  I have people who listen to crazy stories.  I have people who gently push me to not be set in my ways.  I have people who let me admit I was wrong about big and small things.  I have people who correct me when I'm harsh, short, or unkind.  I have people who let me invade their lives through their homes and their computers.  I have people who give of themselves and don't complain.  I have people who listen until I fall asleep and they don't get mad that I've passed out on them.  I have people who make me laugh and humor me.  I have people who pray with me and over me.  They are patient and kind and tolerant of me.  I have taken from them for three weeks straight and have not asked for anything in return.

They push me to be better and try harder because they embody love.

I want to be that.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

A Happy Ending

The cherry on top of an already amazing summer was South Africa.  With Christa and the Sheasbys there, it made perfect sense to take in a bit of winter and beauty before heading back to Cairo.  I went in expecting this to be a fun trip but it exceeded my expectations in just about every way!

Having never been and never really knowing much about South Africa, this made for a really interesting trip.  While there were a lot of fun things along the way, it was really interesting to talk to different locals and get their takes on the countries history, current standings, and anticipations of what the future holds.  There were some pretty diverse opinions and views on things.  Even though the future is pretty uncertain, I know one thing for sure - South Africans love their home!

While we didn't make it to the top of Table Mountain, Cape Town provided some beautiful things to see.  From Shark Cage Diving to Penguins to amazing views, I loved it.  Christa was a great hostess and provided an amazing tour.  She shared some of her favorite places, opened up her home, and humored ever whim that hit.

After Cape Town, it was off to the Sheasbys and Durban.  I don't know how I got away without pictures of this amazing family.  It was so good to see my friends again and see what they are doing now.  I fell in love with their kids all over again.  One day was spent in Valley of 1,000 Hills.  I had heard a lot about it and really wanted to go.  So glad that happened!  I think I said "Wow!" or "It's so beautiful!" about 527 time that day.  Maybe more.  Be thankful I'm limiting it to one photo.

After Durban, it was off to Johannesburg.  We got to see another type of township, learn more of the history, see a play, and drive right up to rhinos and lions.

One thing that makes a trip so wonderful is your travel buddy.  I mean - 10 days with lots of plane and car rides ensures you need to choose carefully.  Not only someone who you can laugh with, have good conversation with, be silly with, and make decisions with, but someone who can tolerate you for that long as well as giving you time with your friends.  Thankfully, I found that.  Kris made this an amazing trip and I could not be more thankful to have had him there.  

Friday, August 17, 2012

Houston Top Ten

1. Gregg - Gregg Johnson is the best brother in law in the world.  He is one of the most giving people I have ever met.  I mean - he gave us four get aways and kept the kids.  One of these was the night he got in from a week on a business trip.  Jet lag + three very tired kids.  He's a keeper!  He is full of grace in all things.  He loves my sister well.  I didn't know it eight years ago but I was getting the best brother in the world.

2.  Erin - Finally time with my sister!!!  After seven months, time to just be with her - on the couch, in the kitchen, being crawled on by kids, in the car, hiding in her bedroom watching Jimmy Fallon, shopping, eating out, and talking.  Just talking.  Face to face.  Laughing and crying together.  Watching her be an amazing mother in the easy and in the hard.  People watching at fun concerts, planning musicals, walking on the beach, eating ice cream, playing in bounce houses and water hoses.  She's my favorite person in the entire world.  Three weeks is not enough but I'll take each second I can get.

3.  Liz - Little girl isn't so little anymore.  She is a fireball of three year old glory.  I cannot believe how grown up she has become.  She talks in points while counting them off on her fingers.  She says things like, "Ummm....of course!" and "It's a deal!"  She is learning the oldest sibling tricks of sending in the little brother to ask for things you've told her no about.  Girl can climb and has an adventurous spirit about her that I absolutely adore!  Yet, no matter how big she gets, some things never change.  Her smile can still soften your heart.  She sings nonstop.  She doesn't like to sit still.  She is a girlie girl.  That is my favorite.

4.  Bladen - My little man.  I'm not going to lie - He's my favorite little boy in the world!  And that's what he is - all boy!  Running around with swords, wrestling, tickling, crashing cars, building with legos, chasing, throwing balls up and down the stairs, grrrr-ing, and loving blue.  Like I said, all boy and I love every single ounce of him.  From sliding down the stairs on his belly to the "ta-da" kick at the end of jumping on the trampoline, he puts me in stitches.  The best part is that he is still a cuddle bug.

5.  Ginny - Oh. My. Goodness.  I have only spent three weeks with her but she has stolen my heart.  This is the happiest little girl I have ever met.  When she smiles, it not only lights up her whole face but mine as well.  She has the best little belly laugh.  She has this little pout when she starts crying that is the cutest thing I've ever seen in my life.  Waking up at 7:00 with this little girl was no problem.  At all.  Ever.

6.  Mom and Dad - My parents are so supportive!  They gave up weekends to see me, shared their music with us via a Doobie Brothers/Chicago concert, looked at photos for hours, and watched their step to avoid toys in their living room so we could invade their house.  I could not ask for more supportive parents.

7.  BCF - The church I could worship with if I were there.  I love their heart for Jesus, for others, and for my family.

8.  The girls! - Fajitas are never as good as when I'm with Sarah, Kim, and Mandie.  It was so good to catch up, talk, do pedis, and just be with these girls!

9.  Emily's wedding - So beautifully Emily.  I didn't expect anything less.  She was stunning!  We had a great time seeing friends and meeting people I've only heard about.

10.  Watching my world's collide - Seeing the Johnson children in gallabayas.  Shopping and going to Black Walnut with AIS people.  Having Jen over to Erin's house for Fry Night.  Seeing my world's intersect makes me feel less segmented and more whole.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Do's and Don'ts of Costa Rica

DO:  Make sure you pay attention to the checklist provided for you.  DON'T take your hiking boots (or bug spray, or poncho) out at the last minute to make sure your weight is alright.  Tennis shoes and umbrellas work but only if you plan to leave them in the trash can.

DO:  Take a hopper plan (or boat) from place to place.  DON'T panic if the airport or waves look a bit daunting.

DO:  Pay attention to the plants around you.  DON'T forget to see the beauty of the small things like the leaves that insects have enjoyed.

DO:  Take a walk in the rainforest.  DON'T keep your eyes on the ground - Things are all around from ground to canopy.

DO: Enjoy the beach.  DON'T forget the sunscreen - even on cloudy days.  :(

DO: Make plans to stay in a local area away from tourist areas.  Get to know the people who live there.  Go to the places they go.  DON'T miss finding out about where they live and what life is like where they live.  Especially if they are as wonderful as the people I met.  Geovanny, Ivan, Ronaldo, Marixa, and Kate made our trip so much more fun!

DO: Take the walk to the beach.  DON'T worry about the 20 minute walk.  You'll see some cool things along the way and it will be worth it when you get there.

DO:  Keep your eyes open when walking around.  DON'T be surprised if the creepy crawlies in your room are crabs.

DO: Go with a guide into the rainforest.  These are bionic men.  They can see a leaf flutter at the top of a tree and get their telescope set up in less than five seconds to see an animal the size of your fist. They can smell an animal walking down a path.  I'm telling you - bionic men!  DON'T be that awkward person (not me) trying to zoom in if he puts the locust in an unfortunate location.  Get a full shot and just be glad you get to see the gigantic insect.

DO:  Keep your eyes open.  DON'T be surprised to find yourself surrounded by monkeys, watching a large group of agouti run/hunt, a tapir foraging, or thousands of red eye tree frogs making their way back up to the top of the canopy.

DO: Go scuba diving.  Just do it.  It's incredible to be swimming by a sea turtle, a shark, an octopus, a ray, schools of fish, lobster, and so many more things.  DON'T forget that you can breath underwater and that as awkward as closeups can be, it is fun for other people to laugh at.  Thank you to Ivan for documenting my first dives and not making me wear the wetsuit!

Most importantly, DO go with a good friend.  Go with someone who will push you to try new things like diving and ziplining, go hiking with you, fly the hopper plan, walk all over the area with you, take cute pictures with you, and laugh.  DON'T go with someone who is afraid of a week of being natural and helping you remember that it is a very good thing once in a while.

Thanks for a great week, Mandie!  You DO make my life so much fun and I DON'T think I can wait to do it again.