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.

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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.

the problem with never and evidence of my insanity

When we moved here I said “I’ll never…” many times. Too many times. I’ll never ride that, let my kids do that, eat that; the list goes on and on. And as a result many things on my “I’ll never” list have come back to bite me in the, well, you know what.

One such thing has happened and it’s a pretty big NEVER. If you know me you know that I am not an animal person. I don’t like animals, mostly because I’m terrified of them. And they smell and make a mess, and I like things pretty clean. I’ve only had one pet that I was sad to lose, Fluffy my gray cat that lived outside who died when I was a teenager. And unfortunately now I hate cats because I developed an allergy to them and can’t be anywhere near them without sneezing and breaking out into hives. No more Fluffy, ever.

And dogs. Don’t get me started about dogs. I’m terrified of dogs, I always have been. Last summer we were at a friend’s house and the dog started running around frantically and barking (at me I thought) and guess who ended up on the dinning room table clutching my three-year-old so we could escape? You guessed it. My husband still cringes at the memory.

Imagine my horror when we decided to move to India and what do they have an overabundance of? Dogs. Yes, lovely street dogs who sometimes turn nasty and bite people, but mostly just poop everywhere and take baths in the drains. Lovely, lovely, street dogs.

But India has changed me in many ways, it does that to people whether you like it or not. When we arrived one of the things I lamented was that our children could never have a pet. I would never, NEVER, have a pet in India. It’s too complicated with us traveling for long periods of time and there was no way I would ever want to walk a dog here (you have to carry a large stick to keep the other dogs away). The street needed to stay on the street– which included the dogs on it.

A few weeks ago a very pregnant dog showed up at our church (do you see where this is going?) and had a litter of puppies. They were so cute, but I never wanted my kids to touch them for fear of every possible disease being passed along. There was one dog in particular that had blue eyes that my 2nd born loved, animal lover that he is, but sorry kid, because we’re not having a dog. In India. Never ever.

The little guy looking for a shady spot.

The little guy looking for a shady spot.

Yesterday my husband had gone to a meeting at our church. The little dog that had been so cute and full of life no longer had any energy and had lost weight. He looked like he was dying. I cried when the Hubs told me. Death on the street happens every day to dogs here, why was this one any different? I couldn’t explain it, but my heart felt heavy.

Maybe I’m just tired of all the suffering around me that I can’t change. Maybe it’s the heat. Maybe I’ve finally gone crazy or soft or both. Heaven knows I don’t need one. more. thing. to look after, right?

The Hubs trying to get medicine into him.

The Hubs trying to get medicine into him.

We decided to go for it and take him from the street and try to help him (totally my call). One I couldn’t believe I made because I’m not an animal person, I have no idea what we’re going to do with a dog or if this dog will even make it. He’s very sick. While his brothers and sisters were bouncing around, he lay dying from various infections, malnutrition and dehydration.

Sugar Baby's tub has a new owner.

Sugar Baby’s tub has a new owner.

It’s been a long day, maybe an even longer night. The Hubs has been to the vet three times and has to go back in the morning. The dog can’t stay outside and I don’t particularly want him inside (he still smells quite bad and has other issues I’ll not mention here), but he’s a baby and he cries when we leave him.

This is not going to be easy.

So tired.

So tired and missing his mom and siblings.

Our first pet and it’s not what I would have imagined or chosen, exactly. We don’t even know what to name him. But here we are, doing what we can for a little guy who would be dead tomorrow if we did nothing. This is so not me, not my normal, but maybe normal is changing and that’s not a bad thing.

Gratefulness and Air-conditioning

cherriesAs I wrestle with the words that want to be written and wonder if I’ll ever be able to really say all that I want and need to say, I thought I might share something that came to mind today after reading something I read on FB (vague enough for you?).

It was a status update that unintentionally reminded that I need to be more grateful. Really grateful. Not just a little bit because I feel guilty, which is so easy to do here. But truly grateful because it’s the posture that gives me the best chance for finding joy in the mundane and beauty in the ordinary. Or what some might call, “My Life.”

So, until I can get some of the other stuff out that’s been brewing around in my head for months now, I thought I’d give you a little glimpse into a summer in Delhi and the things I’m most grateful for today.

This is exciting stuff, so don’t miss this.

Okay. Well, first of all I’m VERY grateful for air-conditioning. It’s averaging at about 109 degrees every day. When the power goes out, we melt or just sit very still under the fans as they blow hot air on our sweaty heads. We get snappy and frustrated at each other and hate people who are going to the beach and swimming in blue pools back home. But when there is power we like people back home again and are a little less snappy because our apartment is sort of cool. And hey, we at least have AC in every room which is more than most people in this city have during these long months when it’s just dry, dusty and of course, blazin’ hot.

Second, I’m grateful for health. I know, as soon as I write this we’re going to be hit with the plague, or typhoid or an amoeba or something they don’t even have a cure for. But for today, we are all healthy, albeit a little tired from the aforementioned heat.

Thirdly, I’m grateful for a time to slow down, sleep in, eat summer fruits and not have to go to the bus stop. I hate the bus stop. It’s on a main street and I still get the “best” looks from people passing by. Thankfully I’ve mastered a somewhat blank look that tries not to make eye-contact but is fully aware of all the attention I’m getting because I’m not from around these parts. No bus stop = no mid-day stressful cultural interactions. Yay!

Finally, I’m grateful that I’m beginning to dream again and that maybe the fog is lifting and I won’t be scared of my keyboard anymore. I’ve been terrified of it as of late for reasons that would make sense only to me and it’s time to get back to doing what used to be life-giving. I’m easing back in slowly, but I’m finally moving in the right direction.

So gratefulness. It’s good stuff and something we need more of around this place as week four out of seven of summer break is in full  swing around here and the natives are getting restless and we may or may not have watched three movies during the course of the day.

You do what you have to do to survive, right?

day in the life

There is always reverse culture shock when you go from an extremes– like from India to the US or the US to India. Having just been back earlier this year I didn’t expect I would need “transition” time, but I as is the case often times, I was mistaken.

It has taken me a few weeks to get back into “American” mode and even by that I don’t exactly mean it in the fullest sense–I’m not sure that’s even possible anymore. When you live somewhere for a time, not just visit, whether you like it or not it becomes a part of you and it is not easy to jump back into being (nor should you) the person you were before you left. Clear as mud, right? Perhaps some over-pondering has gone on as well.

Anyway. It’s been several, um, say about nine years since I’ve been in Georgia and around family during this time of year. When I arrived the leaves were beautiful and the skies were blue. I have to say how lovely it was to soak in the climate and sleep without the nuisance of mosquitoes buzzing around my head. But the holidays bring out so much of the materialism in our culture, it’s hard for me to wrap my head around what a balanced approach looks like in this area. It’s been a little stressful honestly for reasons I can’t fully articulate, so I’m just going to leave it at that.

But the food has been another story. Yes, the food has been wonderful. That may sound quite shallow, but there is something about my mom making biscuits (American ones, not cookies), gravy and bacon for breakfast that makes my heart happy, if not also clogged by all the grease. I’m also very pregnant, which doesn’t help either. Cravings can now be fulfilled and believe me I’m making the most of my A) ability to drive myself places and B) the beauty that is the Publix Bakery. Cherry Danish anyone?

I’m also resting. Which is something I’m not always good at doing when we come into town for visits. But this seems like a time in life when I’m not overly concerned with taking care of anyone but me and this little baby boy who should be making an appearance any day now. My current goal is to make it through the next week after that… well, I have no idea. I’m learning to live with the tension that exists in life or my life at least. That’s probably not very American, but it seems to be human as none of us really know what tomorrow holds no matter how much we plan.

Life really is just moment-by-moment.

So in this moment, I’m finishing my lemonade, eating a peanut butter cup and enjoying a pumpkin spice-scented candle. Perhaps tomorrow I’ll do some more nesting-type things like cleaning bathrooms, sewing and vacuuming. But probably I’ll just eat a bag of Doritos, watch a video with my daughter and monitor the flight status of my boys who will be arriving here, finally, tomorrow night after five weeks of separation. I’m very much looking forward to the moment they arrive and the big hugs from our guys. Being together again will be good for us all.

birthday blues

We asked our sweet almost six-year-old what he wanted to do for his birthday– a party at McD’s, perhaps? But alas, he wanted his birthday at home with his friends. So we decided to switch things up a bit: we invited only school friends (to meet some new people) and we did the party on a week-night, which was his actual birthday. Sounds simple enough, right?

I made the invites, he chose the friends he wanted to come and all was well. Everyone had a week to RSVP. However, by the date given for the RSVP I began to get nervous. Only a small number had replied and so far it had only been the girls, which made up about half the list. Well, that day came and went so I asked Ben to ask some of his classmates. Why did I do this you ask? Does a five-year-old asking another five-year-old really know what his parents are planning? I should have known of course they would all say they were coming, but I chose  optimism instead of my usual go-to-move which is realism.

The day of the party came. I am currently approaching 34 weeks pregnant and very uncomfortable, but for him I persevered through an uncooperative sciatic nerve and worked all day cooking, game-making and trying to have everything perfectly vegetarian for our guests, something I would have never even considered in the US, but it’s a must here.

By party time everything was ready and our first guest arrived. A sweet girl who doesn’t know a word of English. Ben adores her and they are good friends even though she’s a head taller than him. Then, forty-five minutes later, the next guests arrived. Yes, forty-five minutes and several mosquito bites later (we were standing on the porch and outside the gate looking for party-people) another girl from his class and her twin brother who is in another class showed up. Then soon another girl or two– all dressed to the nines for an Avengers birthday party. They looked more like they had dressed for a Barbie or Disney Princess party.

I started to panic. We played a game involving Captain America’s shield. I panicked some more. Where were the boys? Where was his best friend that he had wanted there so badly? Why did these kids look at me like a bunch of deer in headlights when I was trying to be fun and engaging? Panic had set in indeed.

I decided we should eat some dinner since it was now past seven and our American bellies were growling. The hubs and I started making plates of food to give to the kids– just pasta, sauce, fruit salad and veggies with dip. The first child said no thanks and it was a domino effect after that. I should have gone for the deep-fried nuggets and potato Smiles that everyone else serves at these things. Rookie mistake.

Utterly defeated by this point (and wondering how the five of us were going to eat an entire pot of elbow macaroni) we moved on in my well-crafted-kid-party program. I pulled out the shortbread cookies, colored icing and sprinkles. Like everything else, the cookies all started crumbling before we could get the icing on. One child dressed like a small bride refused purple icing, along with everything else. Truly, I did not understand these children.

By this time parents had started showing up to collect their children–yay! We hurriedly put candles on the cake and sang a Happy Birthday to our special boy. He looked happy. I was still in panic mode, but I willed myself to enjoy the moment. The kids did eat cake–the white part at least. Some weren’t sure about the layer I had tinted blue so they left it. Then, one mom couldn’t believe her kids had not eaten anything else, started asking the other kids if they were hungry and for some reason they all decided now was the time, after dessert, that dinner sounded better. Some ate a little– at this point I just wanted it over. I didn’t dare mention the last game involved popping balloons. Neither did the hubby. We were done.

Two hours from start to finish, but there were moments that felt like an eternity. The parents all showed up and I learned to never have a birthday party on a week-night with people you don’t know, especially when you are very pregnant and when RSVP means call only if you can come since most people don’t like to tell you no. The last guest left so he opened his gifts, took some photos and said goodnight to the birthday boy who said he’d had a fine birthday and seemed genuinely happy.

Mission accomplished.

things I saw this weekend

When you drive around the city you never know what you’ll see. This weekend was no exception, only it wasn’t only while driving. And in typical Indian fashion some things were funny, others are just downright heartbreaking and unbelievable.

Anyway, here are a few things that captured my attention for various reasons and have contributed to me be being fully over-stimulated and in serious need of chocolate and an early bedtime.

1. The first thing, which completely broke my heart, was a woman who was standing outside our church asking for money who had no tongue. We typically don’t give money, and afterword I wondered if we made the right decision because perhaps this was done to her just so people would give and bad people were benefiting from her pain (reminded me of Slumdog Millionaire). But in any case we gave her a little and felt terrible there wasn’t more we could do.

2. As we drove home we happened to see three camels on one side of the road and on the other, an elephant. The kids love this sort of stuff. I’m still astonished that a camel is considered a legitimate travel option in a city this big. Hey, whatever floats your boat!

3. A man on a motorcycle with his shot-gun strapped across his back without a case. We decided not to honk at him when he cut us off.

4. Another sad case. A lady at one of intersections close to home who was on crutches and had an ex-ray pinned to her dress to show she was legit.

5. In Big Bazaar (grocery store) tonight a bunch of people were waiting for the elevator. We had a cart with five heavy bags and our three kids behind a couple who had a four-year old and a small pack of diapers in a huge cart. They got in and no one else could fit. I guess that 1lb pack of Huggies was a little too much for the mom and dad to manage.

6. A Westerner driving a motorcycle. Now, I know this doesn’t sound weird, but here it’s not something you see every day. The Hubs told me that last year alone about 750 in our city alone died in two-wheeler accidents. They aren’t the typical transport of choice for the safety conscious, i.e. Americans.

Okay, so there’s a few glimpses from my world this weekend. I’ll go now and enjoy my chocolate cake. Feel free to pick your favorite or share something you saw this weekend.