Saturday, May 2, 2015

When the unexpected happens

Last night I knocked on a door and was invited into a home.  As I walked through the door- I walked into a new world.  Another family's world.  I gained a privilege afforded to only a few.

Sabida came to America 5 months ago by way of refugee camp.  Originally, she is from Somalia. She is a single mom of 10 kids.  At least I think that is what I concluded- communication was a touch challenging.  Primarily because of my lack of the Somali language.

Sabida's kids go to school with my kids.  Souleman is Olivia's classmate.  When I first met him he didn't speak a word of English.  He had a few "accidents" because he didn't know how to tell someone he had to go.  Can you imagine the frustration and humiliation of a 10 year old boy in that situation?  Back then, he never spoke.  He wouldn't make eye contact.  He never smiled.  When I met him 5 months ago, he stole my heart.

His 3 sisters are easy to spot in the hallways at school.  They are covered from head to toe in beautiful scarves and colorful dresses.  Two of the older sisters rarely crack a smile.  They often appear overwhelmed and distressed.  I have been determined to crack the code as  I smile and wave each time I see them in the hallways.  No response.

Until last night.

I sat in their living room, with my daughter by my side.  As we entered their home, we were offered a Mountain Dew and were whisked to a couch and invited to sit.  It was an impeccably tidy house with potently delicious smells wafting from the kitchen.  My mind went to my own living room, trashed with piles of mail, junk, toys and folded laundry strewn about the furniture.  Signs of hurriedness and a general lack of commitment to housekeeping.

I had arrived at 5:20 to pick them up for a school function I was in charge of.  I was suppose to be back to the school at 5:30.  Ironically, the evening's event would discuss cultural diversity and building relationships among parents within the many cultures of our school community. So OBVIOUSLY, I needed to get off of this couch and to the meeting!

Yet, there I sat at 5:30 (late for the event) on a couch in the home of this Somali family. (You do catch the irony, right?)  Olivia and I were very certainly the first Americans to step foot into their home.  The oldest brother - a high schooler-(bless his heart) found himself as the interpreter.  I'm still not sure if any of them knew why I was there or why there about to get into my van.  I DO think they understood we would be going to the school.  I think.

I sat on the couch, wondering how I would fit these 8 people, plus Olivia, into my mini-van.  I decided we would be creative and risk breaking the "rules."  Whomever wanted to come, could come.  Where there's a will, there's a way.  Thankfully, the oldest (and tallest) 2 would stay home.

At 5:45 I kindly, yet assertively stood and asked if they were ready to go.  I began to sense we might sit on the couch all night if I did not do so.  We all shuffled out to the van.  Never in my life have I realized how nice our van is.  We have a button that opens the doors.  The kids were delighted over this.  It took 10 hilarious attempts to communicate, "You don't have to pull the door handle."  Once they realized it was automatic, we had to push the button 10 more times to watch in amazement.  And FORGET ABOUT IT when they realized we had a 'tele' in the car and can watch a movie.

The event at school was a success.  I assigned myself Sabida's friend for the evening.  She was the only one at the event who spoke zero English.  I can't even imagine.  She hung in there, smiled a lot and was a good sport.  We gave the thumbs up to each other about 100 times and used " it's good?"/ "it's not good?" about equally as many times.

The ride home seemed much more relaxed.  Probably because they now knew the crazy lady who just showed up at the door and shoved them into the space-age mini-van isn't a total maniac. 

Olivia and I  took them on the scenic route on the way home.  Our neighborhood has a street festival every 1st Friday night.  It was the first gorgeous one of the season and the neighborhood was out in full force.  We drove past street performers, sidewalk cafes and even a fire juggler.  The family stared out the window, clapped and declared, "It is beautiful" and "Dayton, Ohio is beautiful." I nearly cried, which would have once again regained my spot in their minds as the crazy lady.  The oldest daughter told me, "We no car.  Don't see Dayton.  My mother says it is beautiful."

I hadn't considered this.  Of course they don't see much of the city.  No car.  No English.  I drove them past our house and told them we would love to have them over for dinner sometime soon.  The oldest daughter answered, "We can't."  My heart sunk.  Perhaps I had offended them.  "No car."  When I told them I would pick them up, they clapped and said lots of excited things in Somali (which I'm choosing to believe were not things along the lines of  "The crazy lady won't leave us alone." or "Oh, crap, now she wants to have us to her house with no way of getting out of there.").

I knew the ice had been broken when I was about to turn onto their street to deliver them safely home and there was a quick conversation in Somali which was soon followed by a request to go to Kroger.  They usually have to walk nearly a mile to get to the store.  I would gladly save them this walking trip.  What are magic vans for?

I kept the kids in the car (to watch a movie, of course) while Sabina and her oldest daughter shopped.  They came out with a full cart of food.  How long had it been since they stocked up like this?  I have no idea.  9 kids.  No car.  No English.  No husband.  A struggle I can't even fathom.

Olivia and I helped unload the food into the house.  A perfect end to a perfect night.

A man in a truck drove by and yelled at Sabina as we all had bags full of food to be carried into the house.  Apparently, he had some negative opinions he thought he needed to share with her... loudly.  He drove away before I could give him my opinion back.  I wanted to punch him in the face.  Sabina yelled, "Sorry.  So sorry."  as he peeled out.  Two of the only English words I heard her say other than "good." 

He was an idiot.  He has no idea.

She is brave.  She is smart.  She is amazing.  I saw her handle her brood amazingly in the few hours I was with her.  I want her to teach  me how to do it.  I want to learn all that she knows.  I want to hear her stories and where she comes from. I want to know the names of the delicious smelling spices cooking in her home.  I hope someday she is able to tell me all about it.  If she wants to.  She served me last night in ways she will never know.  She trusted me.  She allowed me to peek into her world.  A sacred space.  I met Jesus in a new way last night.  He opened up His heart to me through Sabina and I am humbled.

How was I chosen for such an honor?  It is a mystery.  For all of this to be shared with my daughter is beyond words.  I wish for YOU such a grace and a pleasure.  I am truly the wealthiest person on the planet today.  I hold a treasure worth more than any earthly value.  God's heart through a human experience. 

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Out with the old, in with the new

It's a rainy Saturday.  The trees are popping with these little green things.  Leaves?  YES!  They just might be!  The tulips are out in full bloom.  Birds are chirping (even if they start a bit too early for my liking).  All signs that Spring has sprung here in the Miami Valley.  Hibernation has ended.  New life abounds. Neighbors have been busy in their small yards here in our sweet little city neighborhood.

I've been spring cleaning up in here.  In doing so, I've unearthed some treasures.  As well as a whole lot of crap.  It's made me want to shake the dust off of the blog.  And my memory.  It's good to remember.

Gymnastic Championships were last week.  Congrats to Performance Gymnastics Academy for the first place finish for Level 3 at the Rec level this year.  Olivia has successfully completed Level 3 and will move up to Level 4 team next year.  (A year ago that would have been all "blah blah blah" to my ears.  Now I know... that means YAY she did it!!!) 

My formerly shy daughter has become a confident 9 year old who works hard, encourages her team mates, giggles and follows instructions well.  I know mom's are proud of their kids.  It is fun to be proud of your child not just for what she does and her accomplishments, but for who she is and how she treats others. And it's doubly awesome when they accomplish much while being an awesome person all at the same time. I just might explode some days!  (Some days she gives me reasons to explode for other reasons.)

Seriously though.... when did this little peanut turn into this big girl?

I must have blinked or something.

Because this guy ...
well- never mind.  He's still a turkey.

If my mom were here to behold the kid Quinn is turning into, she would shake her head and tell me she knew from the instant we met him he was going to be a genius.  It's true!  I asked him the other day if he ever gets tired of talking.  He thought for about 10 seconds (the quietest he had been all day) and said, "No. Not really,  I just never run out of words."  That is the truth.

Time flies when you're having fun.  

Friday, February 6, 2015

Here we are

More like EEK... I HAD a blog. 

I just can't get my act together.  Too much life happening around here.  Not to mention I have had the Januaries.  If you don't get the Januaries and you have no idea what I am talking about, stop right there and thank the Lord! 

All is well here.  The holidays are over.  Both boys are now 7 years old.  Olivia will be 9 years old in 13 days.  The days are getting longer.  There is still snow outside of my window.  The high here will be 34 degrees.  It's practically a heat wave.

We leave for a week in Florida in 7 days. 

Hope is on the way.

I mostly wanted to post here just to say, we are alive.  It was touch and go there for a few weeks as we had cabin fever, an entire week off of school because "it was too cold to live" apparently.  Whew  WHY DO I LIVE HERE?

That is all. 
 Lots of gymnastics
Lots of this and that. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Fast Forward through October. Oops.

Rats.  I let an entire month go by without blogging.  Which isn't a shame for you, the reader, but is a shame for me because my whole goal for this blog is to keep a journal of life.  First grade and Third grade are so magical and I've been busy.  I've made choices other than recording pictures and stories and that makes me sad.

To sum up October, the boys finished soccer, Olivia began a competitive season of gymnastics, we all trick or treated and Olivia advanced to the District Speech contest.  It's been busy, along with a trip for just Steve and I to South Carolina.  Gramma came to visit and then there is the usual stuff like volunteering 8 hours a week at the kids' school.  But here are some pictures: enjoy.

a keeper

candy angel

A woodsman

 My gymnast 
silly memories



Friday, September 26, 2014

What do kids, Cat scans and toilet bowls have in common?

It's been a busy week.  Who am I kidding?  They are all busy weeks.  During the school year I think the summer is going to be full of lounging around, lazy days.  Instead, I find us with full and busy summer days (when we are not on the road traveling.)  During the school year, I figure once I *settle into a routine* life will fall into a rhythm.  And it does.  A crazy double time kind of rhythm.  To be honest, I like it that way.  I kind of love frantically running from one thing to another.  If I'm home for more than an hour, I feel like I have to clean something, so I try to not be home as much as I can.  (Except I like to clean toilets.  That's weird, right?  I find delight in squirting that think blue liquid in the bowl and imagine the germs losing as I scrub with that brush.  It's my favorite!)

I spent time in each of my kids' classrooms this week.  Next to cleaning toilets (ha!) this is my favorite.  Actually, classroom time nudges out the toilet cleaning.  I don't actually contribute that much to the betterment of the kids' education, but I get to be around the kids and experience and smile and encourage and hug.  I get the blessing.  My kids light up when they hear it is "their day "for me to be in their classroom.  I know it won't always be that way, so I soak it up for now.

This week I had extra on my plate.  It was my bi-annual CT scan/blood test on Monday and the follow up appointment with my oncologist's PA.  I will assure you, cleaning toilets beats Cat scans and *internal* exams any day!

I arrived at the hospital Monday afternoon ready to spend a chunk of time waiting, drinking dye and getting poked with needles.  I am familiar with the routine.  No surprises.  Except the small panic attack I  had as I parked the van.  A few deep breaths and I pressed on.  When am I going to get over that one?  In my mind I knew all was well.  I feel great.  I hadn't even been nervous.  But as I pulled the van into the garage, just like that, my chest tightened up and my breathing was strained.  My head and my heart know one thing but my body won't always cooperate. 

As I laid down on the metal table, snuggled in with a warm blanket and a pillow under my knees- the nurse shot the contrast into my IV.  The weird taste hit soon and then the warmth of the contrast rushed through my veins.  It is weird but definitely not painful.  The panic was gone and was replaced with an  feeling of thankfulness.

I live in a country with top notch medical care.  Machines that can take pictures of my insides to make sure there is nothing growing.  A God who is Great and Good and Gracious.  Medicine that has killed the cancer.  Insurance to pay for all of it.  A healthy body to clean toilets, love kids and rush from one thing to another.  I received the all clear for another 6 months . There is so much to be thankful for.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

In the blink of an eye

Three years ago today I received a call in the morning from the hospital.  I needed to make some decisions for my dad since he was unresponsive and the doctors were concluding there was nothing left medically to do.  "I'll leave now and be there in three hours."

Steve was able to stay home with Olivia (then 5) and Quinn and Turner (3 at the time.)  I kissed them goodbye, choked back a tear, hugged Steve and climbed into the red Corolla that my Dad had driven and would now belong to us.

It's a scary thing, getting into a car alone, heading up the road for a 2 1/2 hour car ride knowing on the other side you will face doctors and tell them what you think they should do to make your dad the most comfortable for him to pass away.

I got to his room, where he had been for about 10 days; some of which had also been spent in the ICU.  He pulled out of that one about three days before this September 20th trip.  In those 10 days I desperately wanted to spend every moment with him.  He was alone.  No family, no friends to visit him.  Just me- 2 1/2 hours down the road.  We invited him, no, begged him to move to Dayton to be near us after my mom died and I began my chemotherapy for Stage III Ovarian cancer.  But he was born and raised in Toledo, OH and that is where he would die.

He was sleeping.  His arms puffy, his breath shallow.  I kissed him on the cheek and let him know I was there.  I told him a kid story or two.  After about 30 minutes he opened his eyes.  They twinkled a touch and let me know he knew I was there.  For real.  My mind was not just making it up.  I held his hand and he gave a faint squeeze. 

Earlier in the week while he was still able to speak yet unable to move his puffy, fluid filled arms, he told me, "I'm not going home this time, Babe."  If you've never heard someone say those words or something similar, let me tell you... I hope you never have to hear them.  It seemed like a lie to say, "Sure you will, Dad."  Because it was obvious.  Even if he rallied, he would have to go to a rehab center or something more permanent.  Heart breaking doesn't even describe those words.

Soon after he closed his eyes again, a female doctor came in to talk with me about "my dad's wishes for end of life care."  (I'm pretty sure she was visibly shaken by my own bald head.  I had finished chemo treatments a short 2 1/2 months before this day in September and barely had a covering of peach fuzz.)  I must have been an amazingly pathetic sight.

My dad's wishes for end of life care?  We had never talked about these things.  You think we would have.  After my mom's death.  My illness.  His illness and nearly 2 weeks in the hospital.  But no, he would not talk about these things.  So, it had to be my best guess. 

I suppose he would want to be comfortable.  No machines.  No heroic efforts.  He would want me.  I would stay with him, until the end. 

So they moved him to a different floor.  A floor people go to die.  I carried a bag with his belongings.  Pants.  A belt.  His goofy big brown shoes.  His black wallet that I  had undoubtedly gotten him years past for his birthday, Father's Day or some other gift giving holiday.  It seemed to be about as old as he was. 

They "settled" him into the room.  There was no telling how long we would be there.  The kind nurse showed me how to pull out the chair into a bed.  She showed me a shower down the hall.  They would bring me dinner, if I felt like eating.  It had been hours since I had, but I was pretty sure I wasn't going to eat.  It was about 2:00 in the afternoon.  I called Steve and told him what was happening.  I texted my best friends to ask for prayer.  Strength and courage is what I would need the most of.

It's super scary being in a room with your dad like that.  It's just the two of you.  It's for the last time.  I wanted to  make sure I told him all I had to tell him.  I held his hand.  Combed his hair.  Told him stories.  I reminisced.  I thanked him for every single thing I could remember to thank him for.  I reminded him again of how much Jesus loved him and all about what Jesus had done for him on the cross.  I told him before, but it felt really good to tell him again.  Even if it was just to remind myself. 

At 4:00 pm, I called my Aunt who was on her way to Ohio to be with us.  She was a day or so away.  I was telling her the details of the day.  I turned to look out the window and cry for a moment with her.  I turned back around and realized I no longer heard my dad struggling for breath.  It was just the hum of the machine.  I ran over to him.  He must have just left.  I hugged him, held his hand and kissed him for the final time on the cheek.  I went to get the nurse.  She confirmed what I already knew. 

At 4:10, she made it official.

At 4:20, one of  my best friends, Sarah, walked through the door.   Steve had called her and she offered to drive down from Ann Arbor, MI to be with me.  They agreed, I should not be alone.  She sat with  me for several hours and hugged me, cried with me and prayed with me until I was ready to get back in my Dad's Corolla and drive back to Dayton.  The whole family would return with me the next day to take care of business.

September 20, 2011- 3 years ago- is a day that is burnt into my memory.  It is special and horrifying at the same time.  God got me through.  He gets me through each day.  There is hope in this story.  There is love and beauty in this story.  It is my story that I don't ever want to forget yet desperately wish I could all at the same time.  A sad chapter that I would re-write if I could but insist on writing down so I don't forget.  Jerry Printki, you are not forgotten.  A blink of an eye.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Beauty in the eye of the beholder

The kids have been back in school a solid three weeks now.  Olivia is in third grade and at our Public Montessori school, that makes her top dog in her classroom.  (Montessori is an educational philosophy that among many other things, includes the integration of multi-grades per classroom.)  For example instead of 1st grade classrooms, 2nd grade class rooms etc.  we have levels.  The 6-9 level means that ages 6-9 years of age are in a classroom together.  (*Normal people* would say 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders are grouped together in the same classrooms.)  In turn, that means kids will have the same teacher (and some classmates) for three years.

Since Olivia is in 3rd grade, she has been in the same room, with the same teachers and most of the same kids going on three years .  The 3rd graders serve as "mentors" to the younger students.  I love most things about this philosophy.  Along with all philosophies, however, there are some very big downsides.  For now, it is working and I am very happy with what we have experienced.  The boys are both 1st graders (6 year olds) which makes them both little fish in the big pond.  Again, a good thing for them to experience.

Perhaps even more than the Montessori aspect of our school, I LOVE the cultural diversity my kids are gaining.  (Honestly, the multi-cultural atmosphere of our school and the Montessori nature go hand in hand.  As does the heart of Jesus... therefore, its a win/win/win in my mind.)

Here is a snapshot of my kids' day that has me nearly overwhelmed.  I can almost feel my head and heart ready to explode.

I volunteered for two hours in Turner's class this morning and I interacted with kids who are: from Nepal, Iraq, Turkey, Congo, adopted, poor, middle class, white and African-American.  I thought about the way that Turner will see the world differently because of his friends; for better and for worse.  I'm jealous of his education.  Not a traditional education in any sense of the word.

When I picked the kids up from school the first thing Olivia told me about was the new boy who joined her class today.  She gushed.  She exploded with excitement as she told me about him.  "He's from Somalia and he's only been in the United States for two weeks.  He doesn't speak any English and he's never been to school before.  By the end of the day he learned to say my name!"

I've been processing this for the past several hours.  There is a lot here for me.  So many emotions.  Most of them overwhelmingly positive.  Perhaps at the top of the list, privilege.  Both the positive and negative kind.  What a privilege to welcome this family to the U.S., Dayton and our school.  I can't think of a better place for him to be as a newcomer to Dayton, OH  than at our school and in Mrs. Taylor's classroom.  With my sweet and caring daughter as a friend.  I am overwhelmed with the reminder of the privilege it is to live in America.  People flee their countries every day to come here.  For a chance.  For a million other reasons I will never comprehend.  I was born here.  Two of my three kids were born here.  No choice, just grace.  Its not perfect...but man oh man...

Dayton Public Schools get a bad rap.  I hear a lot of "We used to live in Dayton but we moved out because of the schools" or "Wow.  Your kids go to Dayton Public?  Do you think you'll move?"  Maybe someday.  You never know.  Never say never.  Not this year.  It's a mixed bag.

So, people may think we are crazy.  They may judge us, maybe even think we are robbing our children of a better future- a better education.  In my opinion, our school is beautiful.  My kids are getting an opportunity of a lifetime. 

And so am I.