the perfect post. really.

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There was a post I worked on today, but it just didn’t jive with me, it didn’t ring true. So I scrapped it because something else has been on my mind lately and I’m guessing I’m not the only one … Continue reading

thoughts for this Lenten season

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It’s been a little rough around here this week. One of us caught a bug and it is cycling through our home… slowly. And just when it seems that we’re done it pops up again. Yesterday I could barely walk … Continue reading

being a little brave

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For far too long I’ve let perfectionism get in the way of sharing my work with others. When I know something isn’t perfect I don’t want to expose it to others for evaluation for fear if they see the flaws … Continue reading

of gifts and feeling small

LadybugShe moves slowly at the sink. It’s Monday and there’s two days worth of dishes to wash by hand. She rubs her head, but it’s not the dishes that bother her.

We spent the weekend thinking and praying about what we needed to do next. What sort of responsibility were we willing to bear for our house-helper’s son’s education? We went back and forth about how financially it didn’t make sense to do it; but in our hearts it didn’t feel right not to.

Monday came and we had made a decision. We wanted to help her son go to the same school our kids did. For the next few years we would pay tuition, books and bus fees for him. It’s what felt right, would be easy to get him in since we were already paying for three and we both agreed.

When she arrived that morning we told her the news. She seemed happy, but not overly so. I assumed it was simply a matter of personality. But later, when I had a friend over who speaks Hindi, she had some questions that needed translating. Things she wanted clarity, with no chance for miscommunication.

Her head had started aching badly. Stress. Tension, which is her typical word of choice when she’s feeling overwhelmed. She appreciated the gift, but after three years, then what? Where would her son go then?

We talked back and forth. Our thought was not to leave her completely on her own at the end of the time, but I wanted her to feel some responsibility for this as well. In my mind three years was a solid foundation and enough time to save and make a plan. Even if it wasn’t this school, that should be enough time to sort out a new one. And it’s India, anything is possible.

But she felt overwhelmed and fear had started to creep in. The next day was no better. Her head still ached and all day long she was distracted, to the point I couldn’t focus either. She had talked to other people. Formed a new plan– one that involved me helping her to find a new school, a cheaper one that still met all of her hopes and expectations, but one she could afford if we were no longer in the picture.

I wasn’t as keen on this plan for a variety of reasons, but today we decided minutes before she arrived to take her around to a few schools. Buy applications, see the schools and talk with the administration about possibilities. Honestly, she had never seen anything except a government school and her eyes were opened at the opportunities available for her son. By the third school, our kids’ school, she started to feel overwhelmed again. She became so overwhelmed her headache returned and she felt nauseated so we took her home.

To say this was not the reaction I had hoped for is an understatement, but I’m trying to put myself in her shoes. Though I know that’s impossible. Still, it feels so strange hold out a gift that I’m not sure she wants or perhaps she simply doesn’t know what to do with it.

Maybe she feels very small right now, even if she can’t express it, as she enters a world that is as foreign to her as a slum would be to me.

Anyway, we sent her home and I’ve felt drained all day. Wanting to help and knowing how to is such a challenge here. So let’s see how the next few days will work out and if we can figure out a solution that makes everyone happy.

Let’s see.

the weight of privilege

JournalsI pull all the kids’ notebooks down and begin scribbling. I won’t remember details years from now, so I write them down. Month-by-month, marking time in these journals so one day they will read them and smile or cry, and hopefully remember.

Stringing words together is something I’ve done so long I can’t remember a time when I couldn’t.

I’m writing in one of the books when our house-helper  stops me and asks what I’m doing.

In our unique brand of broken English and gestures I explain these are books I’ve kept for the kids since they were born. I write in them to remember milestones and funny stories. She thinks this is a good idea, but not possible since she doesn’t know how to read or write. I knew she couldn’t read, but I didn’t realize until earlier this week that she couldn’t write anything. Nothing in Hindi and definitely nothing in English.

She’s incredibly kind and bright and can speak 2.5 languages, but has had no formal education. For some reason I thought she had gone to school before marrying at eighteen. Apparently her parents couldn’t afford school for her and her older brother. So at seven she took over household chores for her working mother. She made meals and did laundry while most kids at seven play video games, learn how to read and write, and play outside.

We talk about her son. He’s four and she’s trying to get him into a proper school so he can learn English–everyone wants to learn English. Her husband is a tailor, she’s a maid; she wants her son to have the freedom to choose what he wants to do. Like many Indian parents she has pinned high hopes on her only son, but getting him accepted into a school is proving difficult.

Education is a business here and so the more money you make the better schools you can afford. An English medium school is what she wants for her son– like the one my kids attend. But it’s out of her price range. She applied to one school, a less expensive one, but because neither she nor her husband can read or write the school denied him admittance.

When she told me today that he had been denied, Jon and I revisited the “what if” we’d talked about last summer when she was a new employee. Back then my husband and I weren’t sure of her character, but now we know her to be a sweet spirit and perfect fit for our family and we try to help her when we can. One way is to teach her how to read and write in English. Something we’ve talked about before, but plan to start Monday.

I leave my writing and go into Jon’s office to talk out the questions. What if we pay for her son to attend the same school our kids attend? What if we do for her what we can’t do for millions of other kids who linger around our neighborhood during the day without supervision or any chance for education?  What if we start this and have to leave suddenly? Can we bear the financial weight of one more child in school at a time when we’re trying to do so many other things that right now? Is this what’s best for her in the long-run? Always so many questions.

We think back to our home church in Atlanta and the message of doing for one what you wish you could do for others. And we feel the weight of privilege on us. Privilege in that our children will probably never know what it’s like to do without education, food, clothing or shelter, while so many others go without. And living here, we see it daily. Right outside my back window, in fact.

The questions linger as we try to sort out what’s best and how to help without creating a dependency that isn’t sustainable in the long-run. So we’ll see what happens in the next few days as we meet with the school about possibilities. I have no idea what to expect, but like everything else here, we take it one day at a time and see where it leads.

Tomorrow I will be blogging over at my friend Lori’s place. She’s a deep well of encouragement so I hope you’ll pop over there and have a look around. 

a slow start

To get the right word in the right place is a rare achievement… Anybody can have ideas–the difficulty is to express them without squandering a quire of paper on an idea that ought to be reduced to one glittering paragraph. – Mark Twain

Thus far, it’s been a slow start to the year as far as writing goes. Perhaps it’s the fact that my kids have been out of school since December 23rd and I’m living on mere slivers of quiet time and 3 cups of tea (I usually drink one) a day.

Or perhaps it is because the house is drafty and cold and if I’m not near a heater when I’m sitting still I’d just rather go to bed and burrow under my three blankets.

Or maybe it’s the holiday blahs I get this time of year when you want to have family and old friends around to celebrate Christmas and ring in the New Year with, but living thousands of miles away makes that impossible. And skype just doesn’t cut it. Sorry, it doesn’t.

And taxi drivers. What do they have to do with writing? Nothing. But they stress me out and I need to talk about it. There, I feel better already.

Perhaps I could blame those external reasons, especially the taxi drivers, but when the truth comes out, and for me it always does, I have to admit I’ve been scared of writing.

As I sit down and stare at the screen I’ve felt overly self-conscious about words looking back at me. I question my voice– is it really me? I question my motives, my grammar, my creativity. Too many drafts started with no hope of completion. So instead I run from writing and hang out on Facebook and at Downton Abbey. The people there don’t press on me for too much and there’s nothing at stake. It’s a no-pressure relationship.

It’s also wasted time– well, maybe not Downton– the clothes, the snobbery, the beauty of Downton and the Dowager’s one-liners. Sigh.

Anyway. Here, on this little blog, I feel like I should somehow have evolved from my cross-cultural ranting to actually being helpful. And quite honestly, I’m not sure what that looks like here, but it’s the direction I want to go in.

You see, I have an idea of what my passions are and the sort of community I’d love to have in this little corner of the world, but to put them out where everyone can see and to try to build something here means I have to actually do something that I’m not quite ready for yet.

Mysterious enough for you? I know, it’s absurd.

So for now, words are scary. They just are. And I’m sorting out my purpose and passions and hoping I’ll have clarity on this sooner than later which means the blog might be quiet for a while. Or maybe not.

Aren’t you glad you stopped by?

making art

Today I’m linking up with (yes, I know, I never link so this is high tech stuff for me!) Emily P Freeman at www.chattingatthesky.com in conclusion of her series We Will Make Art that happens to coincide with the release of her lovely book A Million Little Ways.

So, what art am I creating these days? Well, I’m still editing that novel that you’ve been wondering about and I’ve been painting some as well. The painting is a hobby that helps me relieve stress because I can actually see a finished product. As a producer, I like to produce things. Finished things that I can hold in my hands. Like this. My Ode to the 80s. Not my usual, but it always makes me smile because I love the colors. And I love it that it was made with potato stamps.

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There are others, but I’m not sure about putting up a gallery online. I paint for two reasons: because I love to see what will happen on a blank canvas and practically because I’ve had a challenging time finding things I like here to hang on my walls. Calendars seem to be popular, but I’m not really into that. So I make my own decor.

And then there’s this book.

I actually can’t believe I’ve spent so long (um, years and years!) on writing one thing. It’s about to drive the Hubs insane. My very industrious and highly productive husband gets things done and I’m sure the thought of hours and hours spent working alone on something that only one other person has ever seen before makes him suspect. Perhaps I’ve been making up this book thing to have an excuse to spend so much alone at my computer. If only.

No, there’s really a book about a girl, Caroline, who has a hard time telling people no and has been in love with someone for years. That is until she meets…

Well, now, you’ll just have to read it when it comes out in 2025 won’t you? Seriously. I’m working so much lately trying to get it ready for beta readers this month. I’ve even considered doing the whole NaNoWriMo thing just to finish this baby. I need accountability and community in this writing life. I also need to finish this one thing so I can develop some other ideas that have been swirling around for, well, years. I LIVE IN NEW DELHI for Pete’s sake. I’ve got some material to work with here.

So that’s my art. Not all of it, of course. Because there are four little creations that I’m watching grow and develop and hopefully I’ve had a hand in shaping. They, of course, are the greatest works of my life. And along with some serious procrastination issues are the reason writing has to wait at times. But they are so worth it. So very worth it.

 

 

 

permission to breathe

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I look around the house at the mess everywhere. With guests staying here and a house-helper who has been out for a week now, I can’t find a corner of this apartment that isn’t a disaster. There’s more to do … Continue reading

in which I blog after a very long hiatus

I scratch the new mosquito bite on my foot and wonder… Is this the one that will give me dengue and propel me and my family into a two-week battle to keep our sanity and our platelet count up?

Even though the media is only reporting about 1,300 cases, the numbers can’t be true. It’s not possible. Everyone knows at least one person who has it. I know several people who’ve had it or have it now. And there are 23 million people in this city, what are the odds if it’s only 1,300? But apparently politics and an election year is playing a role in keeping these numbers down, though full hospitals that have to turn patients away indicate otherwise. 

I hate mosquitoes. When they’re not infecting people with life-threatening diseases, they are keeping us awake by buzzing in our ears and biting us at night. Me and the kids can’t see that they actually have a purpose in this world above being annoying, though I suppose there is one. Just like there’s a point to this blog, though sometimes I’m not sure what that is either. I digress.

It has been quiet on the blog for a while now due to my utter lack of inspiration and overwhelming exhaustion. The last post showed a very cute, cuddly pup. That cute pup was almost the end of me. What a mess he was, twenty-four hours a day. Peeing, pooping, biting, barking. I think I lost seven pounds and three years of my life in the six weeks we owned him. Yes, I said owned. I’m the mom who gave the dog away. I need to start saving for my older boys’ therapy sessions because I’m sure it will come up some day sounding like this, “I can’t commit because mom gave our first pet away.”

But, you see, it was either me or him, so the kids narrowly decided Kenobi had to go because they like my fried chicken.

The hubs was out of town and I gave the dog and all of his belongings to a family with bigger kids and as of today I hear he still poops all over the floor and has grown a foot or two. At least it isn’t my floor anymore.

So perhaps I’m back to blogging again. It’s my plan. Seriously. With so many things that I feel are sucking the life out of me, it’s something that actually energizes me. It’s my way of dissing on mosquitoes, politicians and naughty street dogs that I try to domesticate. 

Let’s see if this inspiration sticks and where it goes. I’d like for it to go somewhere. 

Stay tuned.

a Jedi and grace

It’s eight A.M. I’ve already cleaned up three messes and I’m considering re-naming our dog Mr. Peebody or Mr. Weesburger. I’ve never had a puppy before, obviously, and I’m sure I don’t have enough of my imported Lysol wipes to make  it  three more days at this rate.

It’s been a little over a week since we scooped up a sick little puppy from the street and brought him into our family. And I’d love to say it’s been a wonderful experience, but sleep-depravation and constant clean-up make that a bit difficult at the moment. Still, the kids have loved having Kenobi in our family and friends with dogs say it will get better, six months from now, that is. Sigh.

Kenobi, that’s his name. Last week we watched all six Star Wars movies, hence we now have our own little Jedi. A doggie Jedi who decided to jump from our 2nd floor terrace (1st floor outside the US) on Sunday while we were gone and lived to tell the tale. Boy-tears were shed as we searched the empty terrace and neighborhood. Thankfully, he was found at the other end of the street by a neighbor and our landlord’s maid happened to see him and told us otherwise I have no idea how we would have found him.

Jack and Kenobi

So I have made it through an entire week of whining, cleaning, going to the vet every day (not me, but the Hubs) and getting to know this little creature. It’s hard to say if he is laid back because he’s still on a few medications. But so far our little Kenobi allows the kids to tote him around like a baby and smother him with love. Well, mostly love.

Just catching a ride.

I’m still not sure if I’m a dog person, but I suppose it’s too late to turn back now. He’s been adopted into our family and he’s ours. Mess, whining and all.

And it seems a deeper illustration can be drawn from all this. Something my mind keeps going back to when I’m reaching for the Lysol, plastic gloves and paper towels for the 100th time.

There’s something about the way he was a helpless, dying and frail little thing. Then, miraculously he was given life, abundance, hope even though he did nothing to deserve any of it. Then two days later, he jumped from the terrace in search of freedom, not realizing that if left on his own in his present state he would surely die.

This dog is always trying to run, escape his crate or whatever confines we’ve given him for his own good. Kenobi and I are a bit similar I think.

Something about this last week with our new pup reminds me of grace, sacrifice, and Jesus’ love for me. 

And perhaps it’s not so strange that God would use a dog, of all things, to remind me of his faithfulness during a time of soul dryness and physical exhaustion and frustration that I never seem have it all together and I just want to roll over and play dead.

With everything else going on in our lives, including the pup, I’ve felt a little undone lately and it’s all I can do to stay afloat (you could say I’m doggy paddling, perhaps? Sorry, I had to do it).

Look at those eyes!

So there he is (cute, right?), my little reminder that I’m a work in progress. That we all are and even people who look like they have it all together probably don’t. That sometimes we hit the puppy pad and sometimes we don’t, but even still there is someone who loves us regardless of what we do or don’t do as the case may be (Kenobi is about 1 in 4 with hitting the puppy pad, if you were wondering). Grace abounds.

*this is my 100th post. If I wasn’t in India I’d do some sort of nifty drawing and give away some dal or chai. Too bad I’m scared of the post office here.