29 December 2009

Avatar

I’m not sure even where to begin.

David and I watched Avatar on Saturday afternoon – our first date in over a year – and I just feel that I need to sit down and think about it. It’s been three days, and I haven’t taken the time to absorb it. With most movies, I can talk about them for a few minutes and then put them away in my mind as a “good show” or “fun two hours.” Not that Avatar wasn’t a good show – quite the contrary. But after seeing it and not having anyone to talk to about it (David’s not being the type to discuss films), I guess I need to write. It’s been gnawing at me, but I’m not sure why yet. So let me explore a little.

Without revealing too much, the basic plot of the movie is that a medically discharged Marine (paralyzed from the waist down) is asked to serve on a tour to the planet Pandora. On the corporate side, there is a metal found on Pandora that is worth billions. On the scientific side, there is a race of humanoid aliens that needs to be studied…and perhaps politely asked to move their village because of the large metal deposit beneath their home. On the military side, life on Pandora needs to be subdued if not completely crushed – including the aliens – to keep the mission and its personnel safe. And – guess what – this discharged Marine, Jake Sully, is caught in the middle.

But it’s so much more than that. The movie is chock full of colonialism, cultural diversity, newfound life and vitality, faith, values, might and right, self-discovery, betrayal … The list goes on. It’s a little overwhelming, actually, which is why I suppose I’m having trouble absorbing it. Maybe this is a good time to say that I loved the film. Although it’s not perhaps my favorite movie of all time, it’s definitely one I’ll want to watch over and over again, even though it is close to three hours long.

On a more review-type note, the movie is a violent one (in a Sci-Fi way), and I would definitely not take young kids to see it. There’s also a good deal of inappropriate language you don’t want to teach your kids. As for sexual content, it’s there but very limited and not at all explicit. The plot is complex with a few twists that catch you off guard. Great work on the music (another high-five for Horner) and fantastic special effects. Although there was not enough character development for any of the minor characters, Jake Sully definitely got his fair share of depth. The movie has adventure, romance, war, and science fiction, all rolled into one and fairly balanced.

All in all, I’d give it 4.5 stars out of 5. Maybe if you see it, you’ll know what I mean about needing to absorb it. And if you do watch it, let me know so I can have someone with whom to discuss it! As for me, I’m hoping to see it in 3-D. :)

05 December 2009

Losing hope

After all that God had done for us to get us to this point in the process we’re going through with jobs, I was so sure that He would see us through the final round to success. But was I wrong to hope as I did? It’s all out of our hands now. We’ve played all our cards. But there has been nothing yet to suggest we have any hope of succeeding, and the time is almost up for this particular process. The little optimist hiding inside me says that it’s not over quite yet, but each day I wake up thinking maybe this will be the day, and each night I go to sleep weary and confused. Maybe I was wrong, and God is trying to teach us a very difficult lesson: to give up our dreams and trust Him to lead us to something different. But if that’s true, why does my heart wrench each time I think of what could be, and why does all our research into other possibilities end up fruitless? Don’t they say that if God closes a door, He opens a window somewhere else? So if He has closed the door to this future we had hoped and planned on, why hasn’t He opened a window for us? I just don’t understand. I am confused, discouraged, weary, and heart-broken. And I feel very much alone.

05 November 2009

From despair to delight

Forty-eight hours ago, my heart was heavy. The past several weeks (months, really) have been hard for us as a family as we’ve been looking at our future, and everything seemed to be going wrong. Nothing was working out the way we had hoped, and I was near despair. My mind was full of questions. Where would we go from here? How could be manage financially? Would we end up in a place where David and I had to both work full-time jobs in which we’d never see each other because of overlapping shifts? What was God trying to teach us?

And then yesterday, everything turned around, with extra emphasis added this morning. It was funny to me because in my Bible study, we’ve been studying the Patriarchs, and yesterday I read about Joseph’s being taken up out of prison to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams and being set as ruler over all of Egypt during the seven years of plenty and seven years of famine. It was just a perfect parallel to me. I’ve never been in prison, but these past few months, I have felt imprisoned by fear, doubt, hopelessness, confusion, and even grief.

Yet in these past two days, God has lifted my head! I wish I could say it didn’t take His miraculous work for me to be reminded of His faithfulness. I should have been just as aware of HIs presence when everything seemed hopeless, but I doubted. I guess I didn’t doubt Him as much as the plan I was so sure He had set for us. And now I am reminded of His goodness and faithfulness to His children. I don’t want to wax eloquent on trusting God; needless to say, I am still learning how to lean on my LORD. But the relief I feel in these two acts of God – which I really do believe were miraculous – has brought me to tears over and over again since yesterday. God’s ways are higher than mine, and that sure is something to thank Him for!!

20 October 2009

Foreigner in a strange land

I’ve known since my first day of American sixth grade in January of 1994 that I would always be different. Maybe it started before that, when I got teased in 2nd grade for wearing a pair of red “bell-bottoms” (which I don’t actually remember being bell-bottoms, but that is the phrase the kids used) from a thrift store. Didn’t I know those were so out of style? So maybe that was a clue. But in sixth grade, I really felt it hard. Really, really hard.

Since then, I’ve learned to adapt a bit. I’m not a great adaptor, even as a TCK (Third Culture Kid); I like to be comfortable, and I’m not at all good at meeting people. Plus I stink at languages and get embarrassed about that easily, so okay, I’m not as flexible as they say TCKs should be. So sue me. But I’ve moved an awful lot, and I’m really trying to feel at home where I am – enough so that I can make friends but not so much that I will be crushed when I leave.

And I’d felt reasonably at home at the church we’re attending here in Visalia. Sure, I’m constantly aware of the economic chasm between us and most of the church-goers, but it’s something I’ve put toward the back of my mind and don’t usually choose to think about. And I was beginning to feel as though I fit, sort of. This morning at MOPS, I even opened up a little to share some of our family prayer requests. It felt very awkward but relieving to talk about my life instead of just keeping it to myself all the time. And everyone seemed so sweet and interested. It was such a heart-warming experience.

But during discussion time, after hearing our speaker, something just switched off in my brain. We talked about relating to kids and husbands, and the ladies were all talking about dates with their husbands and short trips alone without the kids. All of a sudden, I felt like a complete and utter alien. Dates? Trips? to luxurious places in particular? Are you kidding me? The last time David and I went out with friends without Timothy was in June, but the last time we went out just the two of us without Timothy was a year ago November – to the senior play at Hillcrest, in fact (just after our anniversary). Yep, that was our last “date.” And a trip without Timothy? To anywhere? You’ve got to be kidding me! Not happening. Timothy and I go on trips without David. That’s how it works. A real vacation – to go rest somewhere, just we three? Not a chance. It hasn’t happened in the two years since Timothy was born, and it’s not likely to happen anytime soon. So yeah, I felt completely alienated.

And then, to top it off, we were reminded about the fundraiser MOPS is doing at Macy’s. I mentioned earlier about sixth grade, right? The one time I have ever been to Macy’s was in sixth grade. A dear lady from church, Irene, took me and another impoverished young lady to Westwood and gave us some spending money. I went to Macy’s because all the girls at school talked about it, and I thought maybe if I had something “in",” they’d accept me. (It didn’t work, by the way.) I got a nice, casual button-down long-sleeved plaid shirt that I maybe wore twice or three times ever. And I’ve never been to Macy’s since. It’s just not something that’s ever crossed my mind. I shop at Walmart. I don’t have trendy girl clothes, make-up, jewelry, or shoes. I wear nice jeans and a nice hand-me-down or thrift store shirt with my Nigerian slippers. Sure, sometimes I’d like to dress up and be a little more feminine and fashionable, but I just don’t have the money. Good grief. In an economy like this, when we are scraping to get by every month, to find enough to pay the bills and the rent, how can I possibly consider spending a day at Macy’s??

I want to clarify here that I’m not criticizing my fellow moms, or American culture, or whatever. I admit sometimes I want to be like that, to be able to throw my money away on luxuries. As much as I hate to admit it, I’m materialistic – just like you. And I already feel like I’m not a wise spender. And it’s not that I don’t want to have wealthy friends. That’s silly. But I do wish I didn’t feel like such a foreigner. I wish someone could understand where I’m coming from and identify with me in my current situation. For once in my life, I wish I could belong. Ah well, as I’m learning in my Beth Moore study of the Patriarchs, it’s my spiritual heritage to be a foreigner – teaches me to always keep my focus on the great things to come. And there are great things to come when I cross over!

17 October 2009

The line between faith and foolishness

This is something I’ve often thought about since my college roommate first told me about her now-husband who believed in voluntary poverty and chose to work for room and board rather than a salary. Please don’t in any way think that I think he is or was foolish. Although I don’t know him very well, through his wife’s eyes, I understand him to be smart, wise, and caring, and I’m glad she’s happy with him!

But the question came up then in particular, and now I’m facing it in my own life. What do I mean? Let me give you an illustration from a friend’s personal experience, tweaked a little for his privacy. I have a friend who had a medical condition that was chronic. He spent a few weeks in a spiritual revival a few years ago, and he was 100% convinced that God had healed him of his medical condition because of his faith and prayer. He proceeded to dispose of his medication – just threw it away. He truly believed that God had healed him. The next day when the medical condition persisted, he felt a little foolish. He had to purchase new medication and make sure he took it faithfully from then on. God hadn’t healed him. Was it because he didn’t have enough faith? Or was it because it wasn’t part of God’s purpose? I don’t pretend to know the mind of God, but I think it wasn’t because of my friend’s lack of faith.

So at what point does my faith in God’s power and plan become foolishness? How do I know if I am believing the right things? God helps those who help themselves, right? I believe there can be miracles, and I believe God has absolute power to bring about any situation He sees fit. I also am convinced He has something specific for my future, and that He will bring that about. But is that foolish? What assurance do I have that this specific plan is His actual plan? What if I’m wrong? What if I’ve misunderstood all the supposed signs I’ve witnessed, misinterpreted the events around me? I know it happens. How do I know my faith is based on truth rather than delusion? I desperately want to trust and give Him my complete faith.

I’ve never been one for theology in its formal sense, but I figure there have to be answers to my question – answers that are practical and helpful rather than theological. It’s at times like this when I wish I were back at Wheaton, surrounded by spiritual leaders and mentors, people I could have called upon with such questions, or fellow students with whom to discuss the issues. Alas! I am alone and must wait on God.

27 September 2009

Catching up with Timothy

I know I’ve been absolutely horrible about working on Timothy’s blog. And trust me, it’s not because he’s not funny or interesting! Considering how lax I’ve been on my own blog, I guess it’s hardly surprising I haven’t done much work on Timothy’s. But I’m here to say that’s going to change! So if I have any readers who were reading Timothy’s blog and gave up, the good news is I’m getting back to it! That’s a promise. If I make that promise publicly on my blog, I’ve got to keep it, right? ;)

So let me direct you to the latest post with a teaser photo.

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16 September 2009

Deepening the pain

A little while ago, I wrote about the pain of knowing that a friend is dying, and that it’s a slow death.

Well, this week I’m grading argumentative papers for my class, and a common topic has been physician-assisted suicide (PAS). And guess what – in these papers, a common example for justifying PAS is people who are suffering from the illness with which my friend is afflicted.

How do I deal with this? I blog about it.

Over and over again, I see this example and (sorry to be graphic) just want to throw up. I have to wonder if in a few years, my friend will be looking for PAS. If I had a debilitating illness that made me lose control of my body at some point, and if I knew I were going to die, would I be interested in PAS? Probably. How can I really say? But I’m pretty sure the thought would cross my mind, and often.

I don’t believe in PAS, or euthanasia, or whatever you want to call it. I know of people (though don’t know them personally) who have taken what others would consider “a sad death” and transformed it into something beautiful. But I haven’t been there. Is it fair of me to say that people like my friend should never consider PAS? I’ve never been really sick in my life, nor injured. How can I possibly understand what people in that situation might feel?

And it frightens me to think that this person I respect and admire might someday opt for PAS. Right now I’m sure he would say it will never be an option, but what about when things start to go downhill fast? When he can no longer walk, kiss his children good night, even speak? I could never blame him for wanting out, even though I see it as wrong.

How can I reconcile these thoughts? And how can I bear to think of my friend’s being in such misery that he just wants it all to end?

Oh, God, I ask that You would shower him with your mercy and me with your peace.

03 September 2009

My pain runs deep

When I was maybe in 8th or 9th grade, my brother had a tape that included a song with sound clips from Star Trek V: The Final Frontier: “I can’t stand the pain…Your pain runs deep.” (The song is called “Painkiller” by Mortal.) I don’t remember the song at all (nor the movie, for that matter), but I do remember the way the sound clips were arranged, and I can replay them in my mind.

… Part of the reason I started blogging again was for this post. I’ve been mulling it over for two months, but I don’t really know how to write about something so painful to me. Even thinking about it is like sticking burning needles all over myself.

Someone I love is dying.

I’ve never really been able to say that before. I have been so blessed with loved ones who have great health. Sure, I’ve lost older family members, but either they went quickly, or I didn’t know them well enough to really and truly say I loved them. Maybe I’m heartless, but it’s true. My great-grandmother had just turned 96 when she died, and I loved her. But at that age somehow it’s different.

But this person is much younger, younger than my parents (who are not by any means old). He has little kids still.

Maybe you know him. I won’t give his name because I don’t know if he’s made it public yet. Let’s just call him Kevin.

Kevin has been a mentor and a friend, even though in recent years things have changed as I’ve moved away and started my own family. When I was younger, he challenged me to leave my comfort zone in ways I found terrifying yet exhilarating. He’s encouraged me and built me up, especially in times when I needed it most. He’s shown me what it means to have an older brother in Christ. I guess in some ways he pushed me out of the nest and taught me how to fly.

Of course Kevin isn’t perfect. He’s got his faults just like the rest of us. But his death will be a tragic blow to countless individuals literally around the world. And I carry that pain around inside me.

No, he’s not likely to die overnight. He still has a little while to live out his dreams and see his kids grow a few more inches, to be a mentor and friend to many more people. I know he has so much he wants to accomplish and see. Kevin doesn’t give up easily and will fight as long as he can.

But in the end, we all die, and Kevin is likely to go sooner than most of my loved ones. And his last few months are likely to be painful and debilitating. I wish I knew how to handle that fact, handle the grief. If only I could hang out with Kevin face-to-face and cherish the remaining moments of his life! But for now, this post will have to be my coping mechanism, until I figure out how to deal with this in a more constructive way.

Thanks for bearing my pain with me.

29 August 2009

Staying focused on the positive

We moved today, from a town of about 10,000 to a town of about 120,000. Quite a change, let me tell you. And it was a very long day, exhausting. Yet here we are in our new apartment, all of our things and furniture sitting in the living room waiting to be dealt with tomorrow. And that’s a blessing.

Lots of things could have been different and better today, but I’ve been trying to look on the bright side instead of the dark side.

It was 109 today when we were packing up the U-Haul, and I was finishing up packing the kitchen and cleaning up the house in Coalinga. It was hot in the house; I was too busy to think about turning on the swamp cooler until mid-afternoon. It was hotter outside – poor David. But on the bright side, it wasn’t raining! I can’t even imagine how hard and miserable it would have been to move if it had been raining, since there would have been no covered place to load the truck.

We had to drive all the way to Avenal to pick up the truck. It was twenty miles out of our way, either way, and it meant more time on the road, which of course meant more gas for our little Forester (who still needs a name, by the way; I’m open to suggestions). On the bright side, we got an extra 36 hours or so for the truck, so we didn’t have to take it to the U-Haul tonight at 9 pm, after we’d finished unloading. We can go to bed, and David can return it tomorrow. Plus, now we know how to get to Avenal.

We had wanted to get everything done quickly, but it took much longer to pack the truck than either of us expected because we really did have to maximize all our space, especially the vertical space. It was grueling work and took a long time. On the bright side, we were in Coalinga long enough to have a delightful lunch out with my Auntie Mary. We’ll sure miss seeing her several times a week.

Uncle Martin wasn’t available to help us drive the truck and unload this afternoon. On the bright side, he helped us load the truck in Coalinga, return borrowed furniture, clean the house, and rescue me from spiders in the laundry room. And when we got to Visalia (click on the link to see where we are), friendly neighbors helped David carry the big furniture upstairs to our apartment while I was putting Timothy to bed and unpacking the cooler (borrowed from Uncle Martin). A neighbour who is moving out even offered to sell us some of their furniture for a bargain.

I couldn’t fit our two frozen pizzas in the cooler. On the bright side, Uncle Martin bought them off of me, and we used the money to buy dinner tonight. And thank God for sweet tea at McDonald’s.

Packing the truck and cleaning the house took all day instead of just a couple of hours. It was hot and exhausting work, and we didn’t even leave Coalinga until almost six o’clock in the evening. On the bright side, it was a much cooler drive for Timothy and me in our non-air-conditioned Forester than it would have been earlier in the day!

I couldn’t get the wireless to work on David’s computer, so we’re going to have to call our provider on Monday and figure out how to make it work (unless my dad can troubleshoot remotely tomorrow after church). On the bright side, my computer is working just fine with the wireless router, so we do have an Internet connection!

Our apartment doesn’t seem to have hot water. The two showers I’ve taken here have been lukewarm when I’ve wanted a hot shower, the kind that soaks into your shoulders and massages away the knots. On the bright side, we have running water! And my shower was far from cold, which was another blessing!

In any case, as I said, several things about today could have been better. But I’m choosing to be positive and look at the ways in which God blessed us.

23 August 2009

Moving on

The day after the Perseids, I started a post about memories of meteor showers past, but I never finished it, and I wish I had the time to do so. It’s the kind of blog post that needs extra time and energy because it’s actually creative. I miss doing creative writing…

Anyway, we’re moving again this week, to a new town. It’s all happened so quickly that I can barely keep up. But it must be a God-thing because everything just fell into place without any hitches. And as sad as I am to be leaving a church of people I’d sort of gotten to know, a library hour for toddlers, art-time for toddlers twice a week at the Imaginarium, and my fantastic aunt and uncle, it feels right that we’re moving on. Sometimes you can just tell. Peace. That’s what it must be.

Visalia is about ten times the size of the town we’re in right now, and I’ve already found the Walmart nearest our apartment. Yeah! You know you’re moving up in the world when you go from having to drive an hour to the nearest Walmart, to its only being five minutes away! :) We’ll also have our pick of many, many churches for worship and fellowship, so that’ll be interesting and hopefully good. I’d really love to find a playgroup for Timothy, or a MOPs group I can join.

So somehow we’re going to pack up the house, get it cleaned up, and get everything truckloaded over to Visalia this week. I’m swamped with papers to grade Monday and Tuesday, so it won’t be until Thursday or Friday, but I think it will happen. We’ve already found an apartment we like (it even has a pool!) within walking distance of work, so we’re excited about what God has in store for us. It’s a new adventure, and I’m absolutely determined to be positive about it!!

09 August 2009

Returning at long last

I can’t give all the reasons for my having taken a vacation from blogging this summer, but I think I need to return, to some extent. I’m a writer. It’s what I do. It’s not a passion or a job; it’s like breathing. I don’t think about it. It’s an instinct, and these past two+ months have been a hellish withdrawal. Although many of my reasons for taking a break are still valid, I’ve realised that for my sanity and the wellbeing of my relationships with those around me, I need to write. Whether anyone reads it or not, I have to express certain things or I will spontaneously combust!

So here’s to blogging and to all you faithful readers who’ve stuck with me these past three years. Thanks for making the effort. I hope it’s been worthwhile.

29 May 2009

Hiatus

For various reasons, none of which I really want to talk about, I think I'm going to stop blogging for a little. I'll try to keep up Timothy's blog when I think of it, but this one is just going to hibernate for a little while, along with my Facebook account. Don't ask me why because I won't talk about it! So thanks to all you faithful readers. I hope to be back sometime in the next year...hope being the operative word. Sai wata rana.

28 May 2009

Cute tidbits

I thought the other day, as I watched Timothy play during a break from my work, I’m going to miss so much of his development because I’m sitting at a desk in another room. I envy the moms who are active in their toddlers’ development, the ones who plan activities, art projects, trips to see museums, etc. I sometimes try to do those things, but at this point in our lives, if I don’t work, we don’t eat. Not that any mom sits and watches her little ones 24 hours a day! But maybe if I weren’t working, I’d see more things like this:

  • The other day, I was cooking dinner, and Timothy came into the kitchen to play. (He really likes to be in the same room I’m in if I let him.) He climbed up onto a chair at the kitchen table, put his plastic peahen on the table facing him, and proceeded to “talk” to it. He used a high-pitched voice and jabbered away at the little peahen. He stuck his face right up into the peahen’s face (it’s about 1-1/2” high) and talked to it! I had to turn around from the stove and just watch for the duration, which was several minutes. It was priceless!
  • One day last week, I was really tired and went to lie down after dinner. (This is the first time I’ve ever done that.) Timothy came to me and brought me toys and books as I lay there. He climbed up and sat with me. When he brought a book, he lay down on my chest and let me read it to him lying down. When he left the room, he came to bring me his precious Pippin-Bear. Then he gave me a kiss and went out the bedroom door. Within seconds, he was back with his Pascal-Bear. He gave me a kiss again and headed out. But before he got to the door, he turned around and came to give me another kiss! This was so reminiscent of our nighttime routine that I just had to laugh.
  • Yesterday, I turned around from working at the computer to look into the living room, where Timothy was playing quietly. (Quiet is always worrisome when you have a toddler!) My little boy was sitting across the living room, facing away from me, reading a book, and he had his little hat on! I can never get him to wear the hat, but he was sitting there inside, wearing it, happy as a clam!

These are just some examples of my cutie. I hope I get lots more of these glimpses, even though I’m working. At least I get to work from home!

22 May 2009

Dreams

My name is Saralynn, and I’m a dreamer.

Every night, I dream. It’s been this way for as long as I can remember, and I’ve never really thought about it a whole lot.

But some nights, I do think about it. I’m no psychoanalyst, but every now and then I wonder if my dreams have any meaning. They’re never profound. Sometimes they’re funny. Now that I’m married—to someone who never remembers his dreams—I realize that maybe I’m a little strange. I can remember dreams from as far back as ten years ago as if I’d dreamt them yesterday. Is that unusual?

I come from a family of dreamers, too. My dad has told me that he dreams sometimes about being at school, ready to take an exam, and suddenly realizing he’s never attended class. I haven’t had that one yet, but then I only spent four years in college.

We do have two dreams in common, though. A few years ago, I dreamt more than once within a few weeks that my teeth were falling out! When I mentioned it to Dad, he said he’d had the same dream several times.

The other dream we share is the Travel Dream. This only began for me relatively recently, but it’s a real plague. I can remember distinctly at least half a dozen of these dreams—getting to the airport and not knowing what the flight number is or when the plane is taking off; getting to the gate and discovering we’ve forgotten to check in our baggage; deplaning and realizing there’s some sort of problem in customs… Oh yes, the Travel Dream is quite fun.

But some dreams aren’t fun. I remember clearly my first nightmare as a young adult. It was the spring of my junior year of high school, and it was just awful. I can still see the images in my head and shudder. It even had a monster in it, one I never actually saw but was running from after seeing all my friends killed.

And since I’ve been married, I think I’ve had more bad dreams than ever. My analysis of that fact is simply that I have more to lose now, so more things will disturb me. Sometimes, I’ve even woken up crying and had to wake David to comfort me. Weird.

Last night, I dreamt that Matthew McConaughey sent a car in reverse through a wall just to get someone killed. In the dream, it was someone I knew, and I was screaming, “Michael! Michael!” and scrambling to pull away the plaster and rubble. Then, when I arrived at the car, it was my baby boy, Timothy! He was badly hurt but still conscious, and I tried to get him talking to see if he still had any idea who or where he was. (This of course is dumb because he can’t even talk yet, except for a few words.) I ran all around the accident scene, trying to figure out how to call 911 and wondering how we would pay for the medical bill—all the while crying because Timothy was hurt.

Oy! What a dream! After something like that, I’m almost afraid to shut my eyes tonight. What will I dream of next?

15 May 2009

Tammy’s stars

Last night I discovered that there are glow-in-the-dark stars all over the ceiling in our bedroom. I’d known there were a few clustered over our bedside lamp, but I hardly ever use the ceiling light (mostly because we have no curtains!), so I’d had no idea the stars were all over!

So many emotions went through my mind as I lay there in the dark, gazing up at my starry sky. One thought led to another, and I ended up crying myself to sleep…

…But I want to tell you the first thought I had. Actually, it was a memory more than a thought. I had the very distinct memory of sitting out under the stars with Tammy when I was 12.

We were at the seventh grade camp-out, and I’d just returned from a year on furlough in Los Angeles. It had been a difficult year for me, full of pain and loneliness, plus the normal grief of entering puberty. It had been, quite frankly, a hellish year for me. My poor parents tried to help me, but they had their own worries, and there was little they could do for me.

So I’d returned to Nigeria with such excitement and anticipation. I was coming home at last—to my friends, my school, my house, even my cat.

When I got back, though, I discovered that everything had changed. Everything. I had missed a year in the lives of people who had kept living without me. While I’d spent every day agonizing over my far-away friends and not fitting in at school or church in L.A., my friends had gone on with middle school as usual. The world didn’t stop turning when I left Nigeria. And of course, at 12, I thought it should have! I was devastated to return to a place that no longer had a niche for me.

On the seventh grade camp-out, we had some fun, and then the girls all started singing songs around the campfire—songs they’d learned in choir while I was gone. I couldn’t take it anymore. I walked quietly to the lake, sat on a rock, watched the stars, and cried. I couldn’t help it. I was just so disappointed. I needed to fit in, to feel as though I belonged. If I didn’t belong here in Nigeria, where did I belong? Certainly not in L.A.!

And after a few minutes, Tammy came down to sit beside me. I don’t remember if we said anything; I don’t think so. I think she just sat with me while I cried.

Finally, I’d had my nice cry and tried to laugh it all off. We looked at the stars together, and I told her that we’d rename the stars in Orion’s belt. One would be Reuben, one would be Monique (Tammy’s brother and sister), and the middle one would be Tamara. Those would be my special stars.

And I’ve hung onto that memory for the past 14 years. It’s one of my hardest and sweetest memories of all.

[From that point on, Tammy and I actually went our separate ways and hung out n two different crowds at school, but I learned to adjust as the years went by. And we’d had our magical moment.]

02 May 2009

Our new home!

We moved! I spent all day yesterday and all morning today unpacking and arranging. We still have a sore lack of furniture for the amount of space we have, but we don’t actually need much.

So let me give you the grand tour, showing you each room (as much as I took pictures, at least) in its different stages.

Here’s the master bedroom.  bedroom 1 - Adams 4-21-2009 9-23-51 PMmaster bed repainted 4-26-2009 12-23-34 AMmaster bed painted & carpeted 4-30-2009 4-30-32 PMmoving in master bed 4-30-2009 4-28-32 PM

And the finished product! Notice the giraffe on the dresser. This piece of furniture has been in our family since my dad was a kid and perhaps even one generation before that!

master bed finished 5-2-2009 6-48-19 PMmaster bed dresser giraffe 5-2-2009 6-48-34 PM

This is the second bedroom, which we’re using as an office for now:

bedroom 2 - Adams 4-21-2009 9-24-18 PMbed 2 painted & carpeted 4-30-2009 4-28-47 PMoffice 5-2-2009 6-48-57 PM

The living room:

living room - Adams 4-21-2009 9-23-01 PM living room painted 4-26-2009 12-22-41 AMmoving in living room 4-30-2009 4-28-02 PMliving room finished 5-2-2009 7-55-13 PM

The blue bathroom, which we actually liked blue:

blue bathroom bath 2 5-2-2009 10-02-14 PMbath finished 5-2-2009 10-01-50 PM

We didn’t paint the kitchen, just cleaned it. But it still looks a lot better than it did!kitchen 2 5-2-2009 7-58-04 PMkitchen finished 5-2-2009 7-57-31 PM

And last but not least, the third bedroom, which is now Timothy’s room:bedroom 3 for Timothy - Adamstimothys door 5-2-2009 6-46-46 PMtimothys room 5-2-2009 6-47-08 PMtimothys animals 5-2-2009 6-47-31 PMtimothys bin 5-2-2009 6-47-46 PM

So that’s our little cozy home. We like it a whole lot! It will get nice and hot in the coming summer, but we’ll survive with our swamp cooler and ceiling fans. We’re just glad to be moved in and all set up! Now for some bookshelves…

And the funniest part is that now that I have all these microwave recipes, since we didn’t have gas for over a week in March-April, we now have no microwave! Ha!

Wedding woes

I have been thinking of and feeling so many things recently that I feel as if my brain had been removed, put through a blender, combined with some horseradish, and then replaced. There are so many things that I want to write about, to express, but it seems we never get to say all that we want to, so let me at least make a start with my wedding woes.

I was on Facebook last night - which has become a rather rare occurrence between work, moving house, and watching Timothy - and I saw some photos that my friend Laurie had posted of her friend’s bridal shower. It wasn’t the pictures themselves that made me pause, since I only knew Laurie and none of the other girls. Rather, it was the event itself that caused me considerable vexation. Why should a wedding shower vex me?

I realized last night as I was lying in bed that I have only been to one wedding shower (besides my own) in my 27 years, and that was for my sister. I thought further and realized that I have only been in one wedding (besides my own), and that was my sister’s.

I know I’ve completely overanalyzed this now, but it really made me think hard, and everything I thought just made me sad. Two years ago I was asked to be a bridesmaid in the wedding of my best friend and roommate, Heather (see The Missing Bridesmaid), but I was unable to go because I was in Nigeria and couldn’t afford the airfare. Now I wish I had gone. To be honest, I don’t expect to ever be asked again to be a bride’s attendant.

Two of my friends are getting married this summer. Jessica, once one of my two best friends from high school, is getting married in Texas in June. Anna, once a good friend from Wheaton, is getting married in Ohio in August. And oh! How I’d love to be at both weddings! They are both people whose weddings I always imagined I would attend.

When I was 11 or 12, I expected I’d be in all my best friends’ weddings, but somehow, that’s not how it worked out at all. I know now it was a silly dream, but I just expected that’s how it would be. If you had told me then that my friends and I would drift apart, or that we’d live on separate continents, I never would have believed it. Now all but one of my best friends from my Hillcrest days is married. A part of me has kept dreaming, kept hoping that someone would think of me as a close enough friend to ask me to be in her wedding, but the realist in me says I’ve set myself up for disappointment year after year.

The fact is that I don’t make friends easily, and I tend to cling to friendships like a drowning cat – claws extended. How can I expect anyone to want to maintain a friendship with me in such a situation of desperation? At Hillcrest, we were all forced together since our class was so small, and I think my friends were decidedly glad to have freedom after the tightness of our tiny school. It hurt when we left high school and I heard so seldom from the people I’d loved so dearly and spent every waking moment with for 9 years.

But I’d heard that in college we would make the best friends we’d ever have. So I bulldozed through the frustration, loss, and bitterness (or am still bulldozing, perhaps) and tried to make some friends. In my four years at college, I would say I only had three close girl friends and one close guy friend. Sure, I had lots of friends, and I’ve since graduation become closer to some of my classmates from Wheaton, which is just kinda weird. But in my whole four years of college, we’re talking about four (4) friends. I know without any doubt that these are friend for life, and that no matter what happens, where we go, or with whom we end up, when we get together, it will be like coming home. And one of these dear ones is already married.

It comes down to this: neither of my friends getting married this summer is one of my close friends anymore – whether or not I like it. And it’s expensive to travel all the way from California to anywhere. (This is part of why, as much as I like California, I would rather live in the Midwest.) And at weddings, the bride hardly gets to say boo to her guests unless they’re attendants or family. Is there really any point, then, in my making the pilgrimage to either wedding? I don’t want to be just another name in the guest book. I want my presence to mean something to somebody. So I guess it’s better to just save my pennies this summer, cry a little, and wait. The wedding season of my life is nearly over, but I still have four close friends who are unmarried – one from Hillcrest and three from Wheaton – so I want to make absolutely sure I don’t have to miss the weddings where my presence will mean diddly squat. So here’s to saving pennies – with disappointment, with a little residual bitterness, but most of all with hope.

16 April 2009

David’s exam – the rundown

Thank you to everyone who thought of and/or prayed for David as he took his USMLE Step 2CS yesterday. I meant to write to those of you who offered to pray, just to remind you, but our plans changed at the last minute, and we didn’t have Internet at all on Tuesday or Wednesday until we got home at night. We sure appreciate all your support!

David says that there’s no way he can possibly tell how well he did on the exam. Some cases went smoothly, and he felt great about them. Other cases didn’t go quite so smoothly, and these made him anxious.

But the good news is that it’s over! We have to wait until the end of June for his results, but since there is nothing at all we can do about it between now and then, there’s no point in worrying, right?

Thanks again!

12 April 2009

Party’s End

He’d had a rough night.

Actually, to be more accurate, he’d had two rough nights and an even rougher day between them. As he lay on his bunk, his head was pounding. There was still music coming from somewhere. You’d have thought they’d all be hung over. But no, it seemed just as one partygoer passed out, five more rose to take his place. All he wanted was a quiet room, alone, to sit and think. But in this place, there was no such thing as “alone” and never a peaceful sort of quiet. He’d never before realized how many peaceless kinds of quiet there were. Now he knew.

The party had started on Friday afternoon, and oh! Such a party the world had never seen. Indeed, he thought, it may have been the biggest celebration of all time. Then again, maybe not. He wasn’t one to know much about celebrations. He was more of a do-er than an enjoy-er.

First there had been the announcement of the victory. The king had stood up on the table in the largest banquet hall in the palace, and he had lifted his cup to the greatest victory of all time. Oh, there had been major victories before, and many minor ones as well. Millions of people over the years had been slain, all for the glory of the king. Soldiers on both sides had lived, fought, and died. But this, this was different. This was the ultimate victory. If the king was right, this victory would mean the end of the war. There  may be more skirmishes and small uprisings, perhaps, but the end was determined. And the king had won.

He groaned and wished his head would stop pounding. There had been a huge feast, dancing, drinking, and revelry. He couldn’t even count the number of women who had approached him with overflowing cups of wine and other intoxicating drinks. Grasses had been passed around for smoking. It seemed as though the entire kingdom were relishing the delights of victory.

He himself had not enjoyed a moment. Ever since he had woken in his bunk on Friday afternoon, he had been miserable, utterly miserable. Throughout the announcement and the celebration, he had been wracked by all sorts of uncomfortable emotions: guilt, shame, despair, regret, self-pity, and—yes—even penitence. He had tried to slip away from the bright lights and noise, but everywhere he went, it followed him. He got high-fives in the corridor, handshakes in the dormitory, and congratulatory grins in the dining hall. Even in the lavatory, other men would wink and give him a thumbs-up as he relieved himself. It was totally out of hand. Every remark and gesture made him sick to his stomach.

Oh, his head! What he would have given for a healer with some herbs to make his pain go away. Yet even as the thought came to him, he dismissed it. He knew that the pain was not mainly from his head. No, the pain was from the depths of his being. For he had done the unthinkable, the unforgivable, the worst deed in history.

Then suddenly, the noise stopped. It didn’t fade away into the distance or lose volume gradually; it just stopped all at once. He rolled over and sat up on the edge of his bunk. Every muscle in his body was sore, but he stood in spite of the aches and pains. Why had the music stopped? Why were there no longer shouts of victory and happiness?

He slipped on his shoes and made his way out of the dormitory and down the long, twisting corridor, to the great banqueting hall. It was full of people, still, but they all lay prostrate on the warm stone floor. Every single man, woman, and child had his eyes tightly shut and his face pressed as firmly to the floor as the forces of nature would allow. For a moment, he was puzzled. And then he saw the dazzling white light exiting the room behind the king. Curious, he followed as quickly sa he could, tripping over the stiff forms on the ground. Oh, they were not dead. No, they only seethed with shock and dismay. What had happened? He dared not speak to any of these, for he knew he was a foreigner. He had known that since he had found himself in this place only two days previously.

He crossed the hall haltingly and tip-toed down the hallway, following the king and the light. He turned the corner just in time to see the king shutting the door into the private royal advising chamber. Feeling no shame at all, he crept up to the door and put his ear to the crack between it and the wall. He was surprised at how well he could hear. Everything else was so still.

Why are you here?” the king spat. “You don’t belong here. This is my realm to do with what I please.”

You know why I’m here,” came the reply. The voice was deep, gentle, yet authoritative. He knew that voice. And suddenly his knees felt weak. He collapsed onto the floor in grief and shame.

You can’t have him,” answered the king in a growl. “He’s mine. He betrayed you, and those who betray you all belong to me.”

And yet I would redeem him if he confessed and sought forgiveness and repented.” The other voice was firm. “It is my right to take him back. I have paid his ransom. You know the rules. He is free.”

We’ll see about that,” hissed the king.

Indeed,” replied the other voice. Then, more loudly, the voice called out, “Judas!”

He staggered to his feet, leaning heavily on the door.

Judas!” the voice came again. He set his shoulders, turned the door handle, and entered the king’s chamber. All in an instant, he was overcome by all things good—warmth, light, peace, joy, and love. He fell to his knees again, weeping tears he knew not of shame or joy. Perhaps there were some of each. His chest heaved with sobs.

Judas,” came the voice in light. He looked up into the brilliant face of his lord, the man whom he had loved and the man he had handed over to suffering and death. The man he had betrayed.

My Lord?” he whispered. The Lord reached out his hand and touched Judas’ shoulder.

Have you anything to say to me, Judas?” he asked.

The betrayer hung his head. “Lord, forgive me for I have sinned. It was I who led the chief priests to find you. It was I who sentenced you to suffering and death. It was I who caused you to be crucified.”

Yes, it was,” the Lord responded.

Judas gulped back a sob. “I am responsible, and I am sorry. I cannot imagine how you could ever forgive me, Lord, but I want to change my ways. I want to serve you again as I once did.”

The Lord lifted Judas’ chin to look him full in the face.

Death has no dominion over me. I have risen, and so shall you. I have paid the price for your sin by my death, and in my resurrection, I choose to free you to eternal life in glory with me.” He smiled. “Judas, oh, Judas! Once upon a time, you were a man close to my heart who devoted his life to serving me. It is my will that you should do so again.”

From across the room, the king let out a sharp cry.

“This isn’t fair! We had an agreement!”

The Lord turned to the king with burning eyes and said, “And as I have conquered death, so have I conquered you. Be gone!”

The Lord took Judas’ hand and gave it a squeeze. “I have redeemed you by my grace. Enter into my rest.”

And so Judas left the dominion of Satan, amid the weeping and gnashing of teeth as the others discovered that in fact, they had lost the greatest battle of all time and eternity.

He is Risen! Alleluia!

************************************

I don’t claim that this is at all theologically sound. I’m not trying to cause unrest, and I certainly am not interested in being burned at the stake as a heretic. This is just a literary interpretation of some of my own private thoughts of what may have happened to Judas Iscariot after his death. Please take it with a grain of salt.

07 April 2009

Need prayer

As David’s Step 2CS licensing exam looms ever nearer, I’m beginning to compile a list of people who have committed to praying for him (at least once) during a one-hour period of his eight-hour exam. If you can commit to joining us in prayer, please leave a comment or contact me by email, telling me during what hour you would be willing to pray for David. The exam is Wednesday, April 15th, from 8AM to 4PM (U.S. Pacific time). I will add your name to my list and contact you on the 14th (assuming I have your contact information!) to remind you to pray. I would like to have a public list (on Facebook and on the blog), so if you would rather not have your name listed for whatever reason, please tell me, and I will put your initials only.

I would like to recruit at least five people to pray during each hour of the exam. This is a lofty goal, perhaps, but God can do anything! Thank you!!

01 April 2009

Coalinga – Week 2

the covered door to rest of house at Polk St 3-28-2009 12-40-56 AM On Sunday, we were glad to be back at my aunt and uncle’s Presbyterian church, which I have attended as a visitor since I was born, practically. The church supports my parents as missionaries in so many amazing ways, and the people are incredibly kind. David and I even got to attend Sunday school while Timothy was watched in the  nursery – what a  blessing! My aunt and uncle had a barbecue in the afternoon, which we enjoyed immensely. (It actually rained, but we were inside and cozy must of that time.)

our new bedroom at Polk St 3-24-2009 1-46-16 AM Monday, we decided it was time for us to move in. Our landlord had put sheet rock up in the doorway leading to the rest of the house, so at least we would have our privacy. We got all our things over and started settling in. We don’t have all the furniture we need, but we were making do. I was also starting to grade assignments like crazy. I’m an online teaching assistant, and the class’s first written assignment – a 2-3 page essay – was due Monday night. I tried to get as many done early as had been turned in so I wouldn’t be swamped on Tuesday and Wednesday. Fortunately, this worked. But our little house was cold, and I mean frigid. I called up my uncle to see if we could borrow some blankets, and I sent David over to pick them up. All evening, we’d had the oven on at 200F to help warm the place up. We piled at least six or seven blankets on the bed, and when I crawled in, I felt like an Arctic explorer. I’d hardly ever been so cold, and I sure wished our landlord hadn’t removed the wall heater. (Don’t worry; I didn’t leave the oven on at night!)

our new living room 3-24-2009 1-46-04 AM Tuesday started well if cold. My aunt Mary lent us a space heater, so I changed Timothy’s diaper and dressed him in front of that. I got a lot of work done, went grocery shopping, got a bit more unpacked. A friend from church stopped by with some lifesavers from Costco (paper plates, paper towels, and toilet paper – yay!). our nook at Polk St 3-24-2009 1-46-27 AM We ran some errands, including going to the police station to get David fingerprinted for his CNA training course. When I finally got my act together that afternoon to start making dinner, I discovered that the stove wouldn’t light. I didn’t smell gas, either, so I figured there must be a problem with it, but I had no idea what. Frustrated, I told David we’d have to eat out because I wasn’t prepared to do microwave dinners that night. We had a short meal at McDonalds so that Timothy could play in the kids’ area, and we came right back. Our landlord then came over to start working on closing the hobbit door. I started to fill the sink for dishes and realized there was no hot water. I told him so, and about the stove, and – shocked – he said they must have turned off the gas. He’d been waiting for our April rent to come in before he paid his bill. He assured me it would be on the next day.

our kitchen at Polk St 3-24-2009 1-46-36 AMIt wasn’t. In fact, eight days later, there is still no gas coming into our house. We told my aunt and uncle the next day, and we started looking for a new place to live. This was just the last straw… or so I thought.

Fortunately, that night a kind lady from church gave us an electric blanket to keep us warm. This has been immensely helpful!!

Wednesday, our landlord told us that we needed to change our mailing address from the one he had told us the week before. That’s where he gets his mail, so we needed to add “1/2” to our address. Oh, and by the way, he said, we couldn’t receive mail at the house. Because of certain new rules at the post office, we needed a new mailbox set at the curb. Our landlord said he would put one up soon, once he got the funds.

Okay, so this was after I’d already notified almost everyone about our address change. There was no way I was going to write back and tell them to add “1/2” to the address. I was already ticked off about having to go to the post office to collect our mail. It’s a short walk, but I hated the thought of having to go to the counter several times a week and physically ask a real person for our mail, looking sheepish every time. So when I went to the post office and told him about the whole thing, I said, “You know, we’re not staying at this house. We’ll only be there through April at the latest. What do you suggest?” He gave us ideas, and after careful consideration, yesterday we began renting a PO Box. I think it’ll be much more convenient for everyone.

laughing again at the gate 3-28-2009 12-42-16 AM On Thursday, David went for a routine physical at the doctor’s office – the only doctor’s office in town that performs these specific physicals. We ground our teeth at the cost, but it’s over. Phew.

And that was the majority of our week. I put out a request for microwave recipes and appreciate all your responses and support! I also got to borrow my aunt’s rice cooker and crock pot, plus a few microwave cookbooks, so we’re in good shape for now. I tried my hand at Swedish Meatballs last night, which weren’t very tasty but satisfying, and tonight it’s sloppy joes. Tomorrow I’m going to try Jambalaya in the crock pot. Yeah!

It’s a new and exciting challenge, living without gas. The funniest part is that it’s so similar to our lives in Nigeria. We did all our laundry and baths at my parents’ house because we didn’t have water. Well, now we have water but no heat, so we still do laundry and baths somewhere else! Oh dear. As my aunt said, it’s like I brought Nigeria here with me.

So we’ll be moving as soon as we find a place that’s available. There are two possibilities we’re looking into. Both are houses and more than 1 bedroom, so we’ll have more expenses and more bills to pay. But we’ll also have  more space, and I think we’ll be better off than we are here, in the long run. In the meantime, write to us at our PO Box!! (Ask me for it.)

“Water for Life”

In  my Freshman Experience class at college (a required and stupid class for new freshmen), I met a girl named Sarah Day. She was a “Smithy” (girl who lived in Smith Hall), and I was a Fischerite (those who lived in the “opposing” freshman dorm, Fischer), so we didn’t see much of each other at all during our freshman year outside of that 9-week class. She was outgoing and brilliant, and I was shy and had a hard time getting through my first semester of college. I didn’t keep up with Sarah a whole lot during our school days, but she went on to student government greatness and was a political and international mastermind (to me, a lowly English Major). She, too, was a TCK (Third-culture Kid) who had grown up overseas.

Now, Sarah has a vision that I want to share so that it can perhaps be your vision, too. Sarah dreams of working for NGOs and other organizations as a photographer, specifically working with projects that help provide clean water to underprivileged people. If only I had such high aspirations! This is really on Sarah’s heart, and I as an adult TCK in the developing world have seen how desperately clean water is needed in some places. Many countries can afford to provide clean water on their own through the public health system, but some cannot, due to politics and bad infrastructure. Sarah wants to help publicize the need and make that clean water available by her photography. Would you like to help?

She has entered a contest that will give a few people the chance to make their visions a reality. By voting for her project, we can help send Sarah to Africa, Asia, Latin America, and all around the world to minister to people in her talented way. If you feel able or called, please visit the website here (the sooner, the better, for there is a time limit) and vote for Sarah’s project, “Water for Life.” We appreciate your support!

29 March 2009

Coalinga – Week 1

I don’t even know where to begin. The past few weeks have been such a roller coaster of ups and downs, hope and disappointment. I’ve felt both liberty and bondage, relief and despair. This must be what being an adult is all about.

We moved up to Coalinga on March 18 – so excited, so hopeful. We’d paid our last month’s rent the week before as a sort of deposit so our landlord could do some work on the place before we moved in. We were moving into a little one-bedroom place that was being sectioned off of the main house behind. The doorway to the main house had to be walled in, and the landlord had ripped out a gas wall heater and left the gas stub and the hole in the wall bare. (My aunt used the term “hobbit door” since it’s about 5’7” high. the hobbit door at Polk St 3-28-2009 12-40-44 AMIn this photo he’s already worked on one side of it; you used to be able to see all the way through.)  We were eager to be on our own, and I was especially glad to have my own kitchen space so I could be me. I loved staying with my dad’s brother and sister-in-law; they are such awesome people! Sometimes, though, I felt like I couldn’t be myself because – let’s face it – I’m not the world’s neatest person, and with my eyesight being pretty bad, I have a hard time cleaning up messes that other people see. And trying to constantly clean up after a 16-month-old and keep him out of trouble just about did me in. So it was a relief to have settled on our own place.

When we moved up the 18th, we brought a small moving truck, since my aunt & uncle had given us some furniture as a house-warming gift. We made the long drive (six hours by car) in about eight hours. I drove our car, and David followed in the U-Haul. (I have great respect for anyone who has driven a truck, even a small one!) It was a hot journey, as the air conditioning in our car doesn’t work. David, meanwhile, was wearing his jacket in the U-Haul because he didn’t want to take the time to figure out how to turn off the A/C. ;) And we left San Diego around noon, so we hit L.A. during the beginning of rush hour. Yuck. It wasn’t terrible, but it was bad enough that a few times, I thought I’d lost David at a freeway split. I was glad to get to the mountains and know we were together.

We arrived in Coalinga a bit after 20:00, so we drove the last hour or two in the dark. Lots of bugs on the windscreen… We rested that evening and the next day were able to get keys to our new place. We discussed some of the issues, and our landlord said he would definitely get everything taken care of soon.

So Friday we drove the U-Haul over to unload. We had a delay because our landlord’s car was in the driveway, and we couldn’t reach him either by knocking on his door or by phone. So we waited for a few hours, finally got a hold of him, and tried again. We unloaded pretty quickly but were disappointed that no work at all had been done to section off our apartment, the hobbit hole was still wide open with the gas stub sticking out, and our landlord’s stuff was still all over the kitchen. We had to unload so we could return the truck before we got charged extra, but we decided not to move in yet, since my aunt offered to let us stay with them as long as we needed to.

Saturday, I went over for a few hours to get some work done for my job on the Internet. Our laptop can’t connect to my aunt’s wireless network, and we’d been told by our landlord that we could get a good signal from a local wireless hub for free. Right. It wasn’t free, and it isn’t even a good signal, but I figured we’d be here awhile, so I went ahead and signed up for the service. I got my work done, and that was that.

Thus ends our first week in Coalinga.

28 March 2009

Looking for teachers

Part of my job is looking for teachers for our school in Nigeria, Hillcrest. We’ve almost got our staff sorted out for the 2009-2010 school year, but there are a few positions still not filled. We’re looking for a fourth grade teacher and a high school math teacher. Hillcrest is a very special school to me, and I want to help find the absolute best teachers there are who fit in with the school’s ministry and needs. If you know of anyone who is looking to teach in a Christian school overseas, and you think Hillcrest might be a fit, please have him or her visit the website or contact me. Spread the word!

27 March 2009

Desperate for recipe ideas

Okay, so our whole living situation right now is completely out of control, and I’m going to blog about it soon. I was hoping to wait until it’s over, but that doesn’t seem to be anytime soon, so I’ll have to try to find the humour while still in the midst of the frustration!

Our biggest hurdle right now is that our house has no gas, thanks to our landlord’s not having money to pay the gas bill for March. No hot water, no stove, no oven. Yeah, fun. And it’s not likely to be turned on anytime soon because we decided to move out, so we have no incentive to pay for it.

My thing is that I need to cook for my family without a stove and oven. I have a microwave and a fridge, and a very tight budget. I’d really appreciate any ideas you fine folks might have for microwave meals that are cost-effective.

And I promise I will give the whole story soon. If it weren’t so frustrating, it would definitely be laughable!

11 March 2009

Moving

David and I came up to Coalinga with two thoughts in mind. One was to visit my dad's sister and her husband while we were still in California. The other was to scout out if this could possibly be a place for us to live for a few months. David is still hoping to do an accelerated BSN program in August, but there are a few hurdles to jump first (sadly, none that we can jump).

My aunt knows someone who is willing to rent us a cozy little place in town for a fabulous price, so we jumped at the chance. We'll go back down to San Diego tomorrow, pack up our few things, mail our boxes (to ourselves), attend our church one last time, then head back up here next week. We're hoping to visit my mom's sister in greater L.A. on the way up, as well as meet with a medical friend of my dad's to "network." We should be back in Coalinga Tuesday night or Wednesday (in time for choir practice).

It's been wonderful to be here, finally making real plans, getting ready to put down some temporary roots. My aunt's church is such a warm and friendly place, and I'm excited to be part of it for awhile. They have always been another church family for us whenever we've visited and have been extremely supportive of my parents as missionaries. I hope that somehow, I can give back a little to the people who have given us so much.

I do have a job possibility, too, but I'm not sure it's something I'm really qualified to do. It's more in David's field, but there are complications that make it impossible for him to take the job. So, if we decide I need to work a real job, I'll take it. Otherwise, I'll continue with my two jobs that I'm working part-time from home. We should be okay until we figure out David's situation. It's such a relief to finally have made a decision!

And if David gets into the nursing program, we'll be moving to Nebraska later this year... We'll see what happens!

08 March 2009

A different silence

Yesterday, my aunt Mary and uncle Martin took David, Timothy, and me to a living history exhibit put on by an organization for the deaf and hearing impaired. It was a silent exhibit, with everyone using writing, gestures, and sign language to communicate. People even got thrown in "jail" for talking or making noises.

There were several sections to the exhibit, and you could visit each section, perform a task, and then get a checkmark from that section. If you then visited all the sections, you could become a "member" of the historical village. Well, I didn't get to do that because David took my paper outwide with Timothy, but I still had an interesting time walking around to the different sections with my aunt, trying to understand. There was a kitchen, museum, library, classroom, judge, boutique, snack bar, fishing area, quilting circle, and storytime area.

I found it frustrating, since I don't understand sign language and certainly can't communicate with it. I can sign the alphabet and my name and a few other things, but generally, I've lost almost all the ASL I used to know. I knew I was doing something wrong when I realised suddenly during a signed lecture that I was watching the lecturer's face instead of her hands. I've never been good at reading lips, and she was showing facial expressions, but still, I had to concentrate on watching her signs to try and fathom anything. My biggest frustration was that since I was at the exhibit, it was almost assumed that I knew ASL, so others would try to communicate with me through signing. But I didn't understand a thing!

It was just like being in Nigeria, surrounded by people who couldn't speak English.

But it was fascinating to watch everyone else actually communicating in ASL. I've never had much exposure to the hearing impaired, so although I learned some sign language in grade school, I've never used it and now have forgotten almost everything. I realised yesterday the different kinds of silence there are. Just because a person is deaf, for example, doesn't mean they can't make any sound! I knew that already, but it really became vivid for me yesterday.

It made me truly grateful that I have no hearing difficulties (listening, maybe, but not hearing!), and that I can express myself through tone of voice, musical notes, stressed syllables, volume, pitch, and all the rest. I'm not a big talker, but I'm grateful for the ability to talk. And to hear! This morning at church, I belted out the songs and thought, What on earth would I do with myself if I suddenly went deaf? How could I cope with not being able to hear music?

In addition, it was cool to learn about the deaf community on Martha's Vineyard in the 19th century. It was a neat program. Quiet and neat.

26 February 2009

Green card

David got a phone call this afternoon from my grampa’s wife Julie, saying that they had received a letter for him in the mail that felt like there might be a card inside… and that it was from Texas!

Well, we knew that David’s green card application was being processed in Texas, so David almost flipped out with excitement. It was just like watching my ten-year-old brother Luke (then nine) at Christmas flitting around while we were getting ready to open presents! Here was this 35-year-old grown man practically jumping up and down. I had to calmly remind him that we had to wait until Timothy woke up from his nap before we could drive to my grandparents’ house to get the letter.

I think the wait nearly killed him. We ended up waking Timothy from his nap and heading out. David insisted on driving, and when we got there, he said, “Just stay in the car. I’ll get the card and be right back.” Gosh. Okay, so we watched him go to the front door, saw Julie hand him the letter, watched him open it, and then we heard her say, “Congratulations!”

Yay! David has his permanent residence card! We celebrated with dinner out, just the three of us. We’ve waited for this for so long! (And yet not nearly as long as so many people have to wait.) Tomorrow (after he takes the TOEFL) we’re heading to the Social Security Administration. Yippee!

23 February 2009

I’m Linked

I’ve joined LInkedIn (actually a few months ago) and am still looking for contacts, so if you would like to be in my professional network, let me know. Here’s my public profile. Please feel free to make suggestions on how I can make it better.

http://www.linkedin.com/in/saralynnbnege

22 February 2009

Some answers

This week was hard, and I’m glad it’s over. It’s not that there was anything in particular going on. It was just a bad week. We all have those. You know what it’s like. And now it’s over. Phew.

We did get a few things done this week. The most fun news is that David passed the driving test for his California driver’s license!! Yay! We all knew he could do it, but it’s still a relief to have it over and done with. Congratulations, David!

We were also able to finally start the application process for David’s first USMLE exam. We submitted all the necessary documents and now have to wait—possibly several months—to schedule the exam. He actually applied to take the most complex test first, for reasons that are difficult to explain unless you know the process, so we’re hoping that sometime in the next eight or nine months he’ll be able to take that exam and maybe one or both of the other two.

One of the downsides of this week was hearing that it may be another two weeks before David receives his green card, and we’ve heard differing opinions on whether we can apply for his SS number before we get the green card. In any case, we’re a little wary of applying to jobs for him until we have his SS card in hand. So we’re taking a break from that for a week or two.

I’m still actively job-hunting. A friend told me about a possible part-time job at a church nearby, and initial feedback was positive, so I’m going to follow up on that this week. I’m also training to be an online teaching assistant for a college, which would be part-time, too, but still something. And a friend has offered to pass my resume on to a family friend who works in publishing. So… who knows? They’ll probably all fall through, but at least I don’t feel as desperate as I did last week.

Also, David is going to be taking the TOEFL this Friday(the Test Of English as a Foreign Language), which should help him if he ends up doing any academic training (grad school or nursing). And I signed up to take the CBEST, which would then allow me to apply to be a substitute teacher in California.

Other fabulous news is that David has agreed, after reading a very persuasive piece of mail from a very special person, that it’s not in our best interest for him to join the military. YAY!!!

However, we still have no idea what our long-term plans are for 2009, how long we’ll be in the area, whether or not to start looking for an apartment, etc. It’s frustrating to still be in limbo, but we’re trying to take it all one day at a time. I still have many more “down” days than “up” days, but at least I can put on a happy face for my blog-readers. :)

17 February 2009

Slump

What does one blog about when one is so depressed that one simply wants to stick one’s head in the toilet and flush? If anyone has any answers to that besides “God will see us through” or “$&%#*@$#,” I’m all ears.

In the meantime, I will spare anyone who might actually still be reading this blog the misery of reading about my despair.

Have a good day.

06 February 2009

Hard decisions

We’ve been in the States for a week now and are faced with lots of hard decisions. My aunt and uncle have been super nice about letting us stay with them, and we’re slowly settling in. We’ve got cell phones now and just got a computer the other day. We’ve just found a great car that fits our budget (though we haven’t finished the transaction yet), and now we’re making decisions about work.

I suppose the easiest thing to do would be to not blog about it until we’ve made our decisions, since that way I won’t have to go back and forth. But now you all can experience the yo-yo life I’ve been going through for the past few months.

Originally, when we planned to come to the U.S., we thought David would do his medical licensing exams and start applying to residency programs this fall, to begin next spring or summer (2010).

There were complications with that, and delays, so we thought our next best option would be to look for work and take another year to do David’s examination process. We’d both have to work, especially if we stayed in California, and David would start applying for residency programs to begin in mid-2011.

But if we’re going to take that long to do the exams and residency application, David thought maybe he should do a 12-month accelerated BSN so that he’d have a ready-to-go career as a nurse in case something went wrong to delay his residency entrance. The problem with that is its cost. But we figured we could  manage it somehow with loans and grants.

…Except that when we sent David’s transcript in to a service to be evaluated for the BSN program, we were told that it must be sent to his school for verification (probably because of his lost diploma). That will set his BSN applications back several weeks, if not longer. By that time, the programs will probably all be full for the fall semester. There goes that idea.

So now David has visited an army recruiting office and is dialoguing with them about enlistment. It’s not our first choice by any means. In fact, I’m very dubious about it. He can’t be an officer because he’s not a U.S. citizen, so even though he has a bachelor’s degree, he can only serve at the bottom of the totem pole. Yuck. On the other hand, it would be a stable job with benefits in a gloomy economy… but would require his being away for two months of basic training, plus specialty training, not to mention any tours overseas. Hmm, this doesn’t sound great to me.

But since he hasn’t gotten his green card yet, technically, I have a few weeks to find him an alternative job. I’m desperate—beyond desperate. I’m panicking. If I can’t find anything for him, or a full-time job for me that could at least help keep us afloat, we’re doomed to the military life. I have to believe that since God is merciful and gracious and loving, He has something better for us in mind than the army. But my hope is failing… failing…

05 February 2009

Holy Cross Catholic Church

We left Jos on Saturday, January 24th. It was heart-wrenching, and my mom was crying. But we felt that we were doing the right thing, and so that was a comfort.

The next day, we decided to go with David’s sister-in-law Stella and her household to mass. We woke up a bit late to join them for the 8:00 service, but we decided to go anyway. We got dressed hurriedly and waited downstairs. Around 8:15, the others showed up, ready to go. Stella has three kids, aged 11 months, 4, and 5. She also has three helpers in her house, two young ladies and a young man. And we were all going to church. One by one we piled into her SUV. It felt like one of those clown shows at the circus in which the clowns keep getting into and out of the vehicle that obviously can’t hold that many people. Well, there we were, in an SUV supposed to seat four passengers. Stella and David were in the front, David holding the baby Sasha. In the back, the three helpers and I were squeezed in, three of us holding kids on our laps. It was the kind of thing that ought to have been photographed except that they probably saw nothing funny in it at all. Just picture it: six adults and four children all fitting into an SUV!!

When we got to church, the sanctuary was full, so we found seats on benches outside at the back under a tree. The sermon was already in full swing, but I couldn’t hear to understand it. One of the helpers took the two older children to children’s church while the other took care of Sasha. After we’d been seated on the bench for ten minutes or so, a man came to tell us there were about 20 seats in the front; would we please go with him? I declined, preferring to sit outside with Timothy, but Stella went with him inside. For the next hour, we enjoyed ourselves immensely, listening to the singing and liturgy but not having to participate. Timothy played with seed pods, threw dirt, and chased two goats across the churchyard. I’ve hardly ever enjoyed church more!

So our last Sunday service in Nigeria was a great hit amongst us. We’ll remember it fondly. Thanks, Holy Cross Catholic Church!

30 January 2009

in America

Just a quick note to say that we made it here to California safely and - for the most part - soundly. We're exhausted and dealing with a lot of emotional stress while we finish up college applications and figure out our lives.

I'll keep you posted...

17 January 2009

The next few weeks

Timothy trying to kiss ChiatoI hope Chiato delivers her kittens before we leave! It would be so fun to meet her kittens and get to name them! But we'll just have to be patient, I guess. You can probably induce kitty lpregnant kittyabour, but I don't know anything about it, and since I don't want my kitty to end up with a kitty C-section, I'll just wait patiently, thank you very much.

Well, we're very nearly "all packed," which is not at all the same thing as "ready to go." There are still piles and piles of stuff in our house that I'm not sure what to do with. A lot of it is good stuff that I'd hate to just throw away. But to whom shall I give it? I have another whole box full of borrowed items that we need to return. And then there's our few dishes and silverware that we've held onto after selling the rest. There are still pieces of furniture - our dining room table, living room furniture, two bookcases, David's dresser, and our "hanger" (wooden structure for hanging our clothes, since we have no closet) - and all of David's stuff, which he refuses to pack until the last minute. When I asked why, he said he didn't need to pack any earlier. "But what's the advantage of waiting?" I asked, to which he responded, "Because I can." Ah, of course. Very logical.

We plan to send most of our things down to the capital on Tuesday with a neighbour who's traveling with an empty van. She'll leave the luggage at a guest house for us to pick up on Saturday when we get a ride with other friends. At least, this is what we hope will happen. This is Nigeria, so we must expect that several things will change between now and next Saturday. Assuming all goes reasonably well, we'll spend our last three days in Abuja and fly out next Tuesday, the 27th, to arrive in San Diego in time for dinner on Wednesday the 28th. Wow. It's so crazy I don't even know how to comprehend it all.

From the 28th on, things get pretty hazy. Our top priorities immediately will be getting a cell phone, a car, and David's driver's license. Then we job hunt and finish our applications to schools for David to do a one-year nursing degree. If he gets a fabulous job, we won't go to school, but if we get lousy jobs or no jobs, he'll start school in August. (At least, we hope so.) Where? Good question! No clue. It's all pretty fuzzy. Oh, and what will we do until August? Again, no idea.

Some people have commented to me that they're so moved by our leap of faith, but I'd better clear that up right now. There's nothing moving or spiritual about this for me. There should be, but I am one of the greatest worriers of all time. I can't sleep at night for worrying about everything. David, probably, has huge faith in a benevolent God and knows that everything will turn out all right. And I know it in my head, too. My heart, though, is all twisted up in knots about this venture. So don't even think about applauding my faith. I don't belong on a pedestal. Please take me down!