What I’m Learning, Summer Edition 2018

I love to think about all I’m learning, maybe to a fault. At the end of each season, I try to reflect on what I’ve learned in the past three or four months. Here’s the I-just-moved-in-June Summer Edition 2018.

1. Not all spinach is equal. The spinach here looks so beautiful. I was in awe with the first packet I bought. For those of you who’ve eaten with us, you know I add vegetables everywhere and my children (mostly) comply. This spinach was grass. I felt like a horse. I couldn’t even eat it with a good attitude. I ate it but I need to rethink how it fits into our diet.

2. Mornings are so much better when breakfast is already made. Last week, my oldest begged me for crumb cake before he went to bed. I had more energy than normal for 9 pm so I thought, “Why not?” I finished baking it before 10:30 and left it cooling. The next morning, when a dear girl woke me up (why is she always hungry at 6 am?), I had breakfast at the table in ten seconds without having to talk. Since then I’ve tried an egg casserole and also a fresh whole grain bread delivery service (I hate to even tell you that. Please don’t be jealous. Yes, it’s amazing.). I’m trying to think ahead most nights so breakfast can be prepared ahead of time. My kids love to cook and I’m just not always up for the coaching and cleaning required by crepes lovingly created by small people.

3. Textiles make a home. Well, I really believe that people in community make a true home and that true home derives its meaning from the Maker of both people and community. But when trying to settle in, linens, rugs, curtains, placemats, door mats, duvet covers make it feel like home for me. When the floors and windows and beds are bare, I haven’t yet made it “home.” I’m grateful for progress in this home-making season. We’re not there yet but we’re getting closer.

4. Living overseas opens up the world for my children. I know this in theory. Yesterday I asked my daughter what she’d like to do for her fourth birthday and she said she’d like to have a juice drink, go to the Pyramids and get a teddy bear. I laughed because for her at four, all these things are possible!

5. Language is absorbed so quickly when you are three. I admit it, I’m slightly jealous of my daughter’s language learning opportunities. She goes to a local preschool where the teachers love her so deeply and only speak to her in Arabic. I was expecting her to grow in her language abilities quickly but nothing prepared me for that first time she turned to me after three weeks of preschool and asked me for a napkin in Arabic. I was utterly charmed although I didn’t understand what she was saying at first.

6. Buying more than one fly swatter is the wise thing to do. I am not always wise. Where did I buy that again? Time for a trip to the store.

7. Having outside space to play in a dusty, polluted city means that my floors will always be dusty. Having dusty floors is 110% worth giving my kids a place to play that isn’t inside a building. Even if it means mopping my entire house on a daily basis.

8. My husband really values my happiness. I have been looking for a rocking chair since I arrived and yesterday, I went to a craftsman who makes them by hand. He makes some beautiful rockers. I told my husband that I thought the price was 300 (from a previous visit) but later called him from the store and said, “Honey, I wanted to check with you about the price. It’s actually 800.” There was a long, unexpected pause. “I know you really want a rocking chair for the baby but that’s expensive!” I was confused until I realized we were dealing in different currencies. He thought I was going to spend $800 US dollars on a rocking chair!!! When I said it was in pounds, meaning $44, he starting laughing and told me to buy two. (I just bought the one.) A friend pointed out that he had earlier agreed to me buying a $300 rocking chair without question. He really values my happiness. (Furniture here that is imported can be very expensive. IKEA is not for college dorms here but for the fanciest and most Western apartments, and the one rocking chair I could find there did cost over $300 so I understand why he was confused. But the last time I spent $800 on a piece of a furniture was never.)

9. I want to help and serve more people than I can. I see needs and pain and grief, and I want to be part of the answer. Yet the needs around me are unfathomable when you mix such a large, multi-cultural city quite close geographically to many recent world events. So I’m learning to bless as best I can, and trust that the Maker of all people sees the needs of His creation. I’m listening for His voice to know when and how to help individuals who have begun to populate my new life here and I’m offering up to Him the burdens of those around me, while trying not to put those burdens on my shoulder without His direction to.

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Things I’ve Done List

I don’t have any bumper stickers on my car.  One day, I’m going to find the courage to commit and put one on the back of my amazingly awesome Mom-mobile also known as a 2006 Toyota Sienna.  

This morning I saw the one I’ll start with.  It said, “I do my own stunts” and featured a person flying through the air.  I liked it because it affirmed a recent realization: I don’t value a lot of my own work. It doesn’t make sense yet, but keep reading and it might.

I love making lists.  In high school, one of my dearest friends taught me to put things I would definitely accomplish that day on my list so I’d have the joy of crossing them off.  I’m not above putting things like “shower” and “get dressed” on my list.  I’m also not above putting things on my list after I’ve done them.  I’ve had people object to that and to them I say, “It’s my list.  Back off.”

But my things to do lists are always longer than my time to do things so I end the day looking at five or ten things I didn’t get to.  This became discouraging.  So I changed my methodology and frankly, I think it borders on genius.  

I now make a “things I’ve done list.”  And I don’t shy away from capturing my accomplishments, friends.  Did I shower and get dressed?  That counts.  Read seventy-seven four picture books to my son?  On the list.  Cook dinner for my own family and a friend’s family?  Two entries, right there.  Have a baking day? Every item baked is an item I’ve done.  Have a hard conversation with someone?  It didn’t keep me from my work, it was my work, and so I record it. Write in my journal? Write a few thank you notes? Send encouraging texts to my friends? Care for the souls of others? All of it is on that list.  

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My daughter’s scribbles add some artistic interest to my log.

When I read this post on how to bullet journal (I have my own version of how to bullet journal but I love this article and it’s really the only one you ever need), I realized that I was creating a log.  By creating a log, I am valuing what I actually do each day.  Some of the log represents significant accomplishments that anyone would recognize as such.  Some of my log represents the way I pour into the lives of others that don’t feel important enough to write on a things to do list.  But since I’ve done them, they qualify.  As I consider them, I see their importance.  

I’ve started including “being” activities too.  Maybe you’ve heard people say, “You’re not a human doing, you’re a human being.”  Yes, and thank you for the reminder.  Instead of feeling like I’m wasting time or being selfish when I sit down to practice painting a watercolor sunset, I add it to my log and think, “Way to invest in something you love! Way to become more human!”  

Reading a book to my four year old before he takes a nap?  Incredibly valuable.  But until I started valuing my work enough to log it all, I didn’t see how much I was able to do in a day.  Now I’m patting myself on the back for doing my

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I did a lot of laundry that day.

own stunts, and writing it down.

(I learned after I wrote this post that some people call their log their “ta-da list.”  Yes, I am trading in my “to-do” list for my “ta-da” list.)