Friday, December 13, 2013

Crazy Thankful

I have fallen WAY behind on blogging lately!  I have been intending to write a post about hard goodbyes and the frequency of those here, but I just felt struck with an abundance of reasons to be crazy grateful tonight, so I am going to jot down some of that instead.

*  It is the Christmas season!  (Decided to do a whole separate post on it, I love it so much!)
Most of all, I am really thankful for grace this Christmas.  I am a person who always has a million more things on my to-do list and expectations in my mind than are humanly possible.  Yet, somehow, I feel incredibly pressured to cram in everything to make things (especially at a beloved season) PERFECT!  I am thankful for reminders again this Christmas that, not only is perfection not possible, Jesus came down to earth to save me from my striving and performing and failed attempts to make things perfect, and I am loved and covered in His amazing grace!
Through beautiful reminders in The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp (a sweet gift from my mama) and bloggers I love like Carissa over at 1+1+1=1 in her post "Choose Attitude over Activities," I have been reminded that the experience of this season for my family (and others around me) is more about WHO I am and how I encounter Jesus in this time than whether or not I pull off all the crazy crafts and projects and whatever else!

*  Muna Tamang is in my home again!
Having house help was a huge adjustment for me when we moved overseas!  It is quite common here, and if people have any means to do so, it would actually seem a little odd culturally not to have someone working in the home to help.  All of the basics of cooking and cleaning and keeping our home take more time here, so I have gotten to the point that I (mostly) stop apologizing mentally whenever I communicate about our house help to other Americans.  Our friends had a woman working for them when we came and lived with them for several months a few years ago (before moving here), and I just loved her.  Through a long set of circumstances (some less than pleasant), she is now working for us in our home, and I cannot even begin to describe what an incredible blessing it is!  She is absolutely wonderful!  I fancy myself a person who can get a fair amount done in a day, but she blows me away!  And, more importantly, she is just so sweet and an absolute joy to be in our home!  My kids adore her, and I just can't help but think of a million reasons that I am thankful to have her working in our home again!

*  I have things that keep me warm.
It is cold here.  I have friends and family who live in places that are actually much colder, but they all have central heating!  The houses here are made of cement and marble and stay quite cold, even when the outside temperature warms up to be quite pleasant during the day.  Combined with windows that don't quite fit right, let's just say that I usually have to put things IN my fridge to defrost at night because left out on the counter, they stay frozen!  However, we have a big gas space heater and lots of warm blankets and fleece sheets sent by loving family members and jackets and sweaters and just so many things to help us stay warm, and it is definitely not to be taken for granted here, as that is not the norm of what people have available here!  So crazy blessed!

*  My garbage is getting collected regularly!  Not a given but seems a new pattern of late and really thankful for it!

*  My parents visited us!  Here!  In Nepal!!!
Part of the reason for being behind in blogging is that I was completely wrapped up in the joy of my parents' first visit here in Nepal!  They flew all the way around the world to be with us, and it was such a great joy and blessing to have them here!  We are always glad to spend time with them, but it meant so much to have them here, seeing our home and life here and sharing time with us for a few weeks.  We got to do some really fun things, including a trip to Chitwan, which was beautiful, but it was also great to have them just do some of our "ordinary" things with us.  So thankful they were able and willing to come and for the memories of time shared here with them!  And, we are still enjoying tons of treats they brought for us--new clothes, cheese, candy, toys, books, and goodies!  Not only nice to enjoy the treats, but is a good reminder of them and their time here every time we use one of the treats!

*  I am surrounded by really incredible people!
I am constantly struck by all the really amazing people that we work with and have in our lives here.
I have a wonderful husband and two really cool sons.
Even friends and family who are far from us continue to bless and surround us with encouragement and prayers.
Really, really blessed!

*  Gingerbread and a hot cup of tea
It may not rank up there in significance with many of the things on this list, and I wouldn't have even considered myself a huge fan of gingerbread, but it was yesterday as I sat, truly delighting in a homemade gingerbread cookie and sipping my tea that I was just struck by how crazy thankful I am for even all these little things that fill my life and how many huge things I am thankful for as well!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Chocolate "Dilemma"

I have known for awhile that there are issues with the chocolate industry.  I've seen things go by in friends' posts or heard little snippets, but I never checked into that much.  Perhaps it seemed like one more thing to worry about.  Perhaps I just got busy and distracted.  Probably, at some level, I didn't really want to know more or think too deeply about it.

I like chocolate.  I mean, I don't know a lot of people who don't like chocolate.  It's so good.  Especially, a good dark chocolate or some yummy baked treat with chocolate in it!  So.  Good!

Living away from my "home" culture has sort of intensified my chocolate cravings as well.  When other things are unfamiliar, it is a comfort food and a treat that is available when not all of the usual comforts (or comfort foods) are.  And, seriously, there is something about dal bhat (the lentil and rice everyday meal), as much as I do like it, that just feels like it needs to be chased with a little chocolate.
So, the thought of giving up chocolate feels like a big deal.  As I've processed some of these things recently, it actually seems sort of ridiculous to admit how big of a deal it seemed.

But, a few weeks ago, my friend posted a link about the labor issues involved with chocolate.  It wasn't the first, but I took the time to read it and really absorb it.  The article was highlighting the issue for the sake of considering what you are buying for Halloween candy.  We don't do Halloween, but I decided to read the whole article anyway because it was really just drawing attention to the bigger issues involved.

I won't attempt to restate what she and others have already done.  I am just beginning to dig into this more myself.  Her post at and the documentary she links to in the post, The Dark Side of Chocolate, are good sources for some information on the issue.  The key thing is that child labor, child slavery, and child trafficking are BIG issues in the cocoa industry in Africa where a big percentage of all cocoa for the world's chocolate is produced.

This issue has stayed with me, mulling over and over in my mind and heart.  It's about more than the chocolate.

My first thoughts honestly turned to what my options would be for chocolate if I make the choice to not purchase from companies taking part in child slavery and unethical, unjust labor practices.  For us here overseas, it isn't just a matter of spending a bit more money to buy from companies that are committed to ethical sourcing in the cocoa purchasing and production.  So, largely, it would mean giving up these items.  There are some possibilities that some shop owners might be willing to order items for us if they know we and other foreigners would buy them, but chocolate is already the same price or more as it is in the States when we are making notably lower salaries...and are still making more than the vast majority of the population here.  Chocolate is already a splurge, an indulgence here for most people.  I'm not sure if it would be realistic for friends here to purchase items that will be quite expensive if we could actually get them imported.
Now, a quick aside is that I am still crazy lucky and certainly far from deprived, as it only takes a mention of something we are missing or would love to have before my parents or a friend graciously tuck some in a package to send to us!

The really humbling thing is that I realized, as I was initially struck by the justice issues at the heart of this, my thoughts so quickly became wrapped up in how this would affect me and where I would get my chocolate and my "dilemma" of making "sacrifices" when we are already often out of our comfort zone.  Is it really a dilemma to figure out which kind of chocolate we could acquire or whether we'd have to cut back or maybe even *gasp* do without indulgent treats when young boys are stolen from their families and kept as slaves so that I can have my cocoa?

This is about more than the chocolate.

Do I really think that by deciding not to purchase chocolate from these companies that it will affect REAL change?  Honestly, no.  I am one consumer in a market that probably barely makes a dent in what these companies are selling.  Even if I rallied as many friends as I could think of to avoid purchasing from these companies here, I seriously doubt that a small dip in the Nepal chocolate purchases would even register on the radar for chocolate executives.  Even if friends elsewhere band together in mass, would it make an impact?  Perhaps.  But, the issue isn't just the chocolate companies themselves.  Poverty is bigger than just money, though most perceive money will fix it.  So long as people are willing to sell fellow human beings, injustice will exist.  Could there ever possibly be an amount of money that would "fix" that problem?

I respect companies that are trying to do business differently, and I applaud and would love to support their efforts.  The truth is that it is hard to do business with integrity, to commit not to sacrifice justice for the sake of profits.  And, I want to support businesses that seek to make a real impact by walking the harder road, by sacrificing the easy or maybe more profitable path.  But, I still don't have any illusions that just choosing to buy from these companies will fix the problem.

I truly believe that nothing short of the kingdom of God breaking through to change and redeem hearts and lives will cause real change and freedom from injustices.  For the shackles of poverty to be broken, lives and cultures and hearts (not just the ones where the poverty exists, by the way) need to be truly changed and transformed.  Choices are made about what is most valuable or for what things we are willing to make sacrifices.  And, for me, that is what this choice is about.

It is about more than the chocolate.

Whether or not my choice to not buy this chocolate makes any direct impact on these companies or the cocoa industry, as I have mulled over this, it comes down to a heart issue for me and for my household.  Choosing not to buy a Snickers bar or a pack of Gems won't change the chocolate industry, but it shapes who I am, who we are as a family.  It's about how I make choices.  It's about what I am willing to prioritize, even if it costs me something.  Will I, will we as a family, make our choices based on what is convenient and comfortable and focus on what I want or desire?  Or will I choose to fix my heart on justice, on mercy, on humility (Micah 6:8)?  Am I willing to make hard choices, whether or not I can see their impact, just because they reflect the values that I believe are true and right?  Am I willing to try to raise my children to believe that another child's freedom is a bigger issue than skipping some sweets?

I'm sure there are many, many more issues that could and should shape my consumer choices.  For now, this is the one that has grabbed my heart and represents a step for me in the choices I make--a test case, if you will, that God has been using to reignite my passion for issues of justice.  I pray my eyes and heart will be open to see what should be truly shaping even my seemingly small or tedious everyday choices.

I'm embarrassed to admit how much of a dilemma the chocolate became in my mind, but really, as I've said, it is about more than the chocolate.  It's about what guides my life and choices and the state of my heart, and it's about how I try to help shape the attitudes and choices of my children.  And, I believe with all my heart, that THAT can make a change in my small corner of the world and be an agent for God's kingdom to break through the injustices of this world.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Walnut Incident

There is an older man who is the groundskeeper at our office building location.  He lives on site and cares for the garden there and the grounds.  I am trying to get the boys involved in helping with the plants and taking care of our outdoor space, but the reality is that, even with their enthusiasm, sometimes the work takes a bit more time WITH them.  We needed a bit of help, and this older gentleman doesn't have a full schedule with his work at the office, so he has been coming once a week (though it is a little unclear what his schedule is, and he has seemed to appear at unexpected times as well).  
Between the times we go to the office, the times he is here helping us or another family in our colony, or the times that we just end up seeing him when we are out walking on the road, he is a person we see every day, usually multiple times.  Our interactions with him have been fairly limited, though.  He always tries to interact a bit with the boys.  They know who he is, but they haven't seemed to warm up to him terribly easily.  They aren't rude, and they will even point him out when they see him walking, but I think we all are a bit unsure of quite how to interact with him.  He doesn't speak any English, and he rather mumbles in a gravelly voice when he is speaking, so it is hard to understand him, even when he is saying something I probably should know in Nepali.
Last week when he was here working on the yard, and we had been outside doing something, he pulled a walnut out of Isaiah's nature "collection" box and held it up and said, "Babu..." (something that basically meant you can crack this open and eat it).  I told Isaiah what he was trying to say, and Isaiah got really excited and wanted to crack it open right away, mostly to see the inside, I think.  I went in to search for something, and I tried the opposite end of our can opener, but it was not nearly strong enough.  Isaiah took the nut back outside and was not about to yield the quest to crack the nut.  By the time I got back outside, this man was using one of Isaiah's bigger rocks from the box to smash open the walnut.  Isaiah was practically squealing.  He was so excited, and he was SO impressed that this man was using rocks to crack open the walnut.  And that it worked!  Because of using the rock, the nut inside obviously also got smashed, so the man scooped up little pieces and gave them to Isaiah.  He told Isaiah to eat them.  Isaiah looked at me, and I quickly settled my inner argument and tried to just smile and give a little nod to Isaiah that he could eat them.  
Why the inner argument?  Let me describe a few more of the details here.  The man had been working in our yard and around the outside of the house and had quite dirty hands.  The rock (and the walnut itself) had been outside there for quite awhile.  As I watched the dirty hands use the dirty rock to smash up the walnut on our dirty (think pigeon poo and various other ick) little patch of cement there and then scoop it up with the dirty hands and hand it to Isaiah, there was a part of me that could honestly only think of the very probable intestinal repercussions of consuming the walnut.  Even just the "dirt" here has so many pollutants, and even with being pretty intentional, we still often end up with some angry digestive systems.  
But, as I watched Isaiah, this wasn't really about the walnut.  He was impressed by this man.  He now had connected with him and thought he was incredibly cool.  They had bonded in some odd way without understanding a word each other had said.  Saying no would have squashed that and contradicted the value that Isaiah saw in him at that moment.
Isaiah ate only a few scraps of the walnut and wasn't interested in eating much more.  Then, he asked if he could share one of his Oreo cookies (a notable offer from my son) with the man.  I said he could, of course.   He wanted to then see if the man wanted something to drink, so I brought him a glass of water.  Then, Isaiah asked if he could sit out in his little chair and finish his snack outside and watch the man as he worked in our yard.
The next morning, Isaiah woke up vomiting.  Yup.  Thankfully, it was actually pretty mild and short-lived, but he felt pretty crummy for most of the day.  The thing is, even though it is terribly hard to watch my son being sick, I wouldn't change the decision for the world.  I only wish I let it be that simple more often to really see and connect with people.

P.S. If you talk to Isaiah, please don't tell him eating the walnut made him sick! :) 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Captured (Again) by The Story

I have been realizing some things about myself lately and some things that I greatly desire or need.  It has been a challenging phase of parenting for me, which has left me discouraged (and exhausted) many days, especially with starting a new school year.  I have known that my own strengths are not enough for this season, but really living grace and abiding in God's presence have been long-standing challenges for me.  As we were reading a passage from Acts 2 recently, I was struck by verse 43:  "Everyone was filled with awe..."  It goes on to talk about miracles and signs and wonders, but what struck me was that the order was seeming to suggest that it wasn't because of the miracles that they were in awe.  Those things came.  But, they were in awe because of the apostles' teaching and the experience of community they were living and the presence of the Lord among them.  
I have been realizing that, in this season, I have really been lacking (and longing for) a sense of awe, a wonder, a consuming passion for God and His kingdom.  In reflecting on some of the challenges in parenting, I truly believe that the most significant thing I can do as a parent for my boys is to be radically and contagiously in love with God!  There are no methods or logic or decisions that can make me a perfect parent, and I cannot ultimately control my boys' hearts and minds and decisions.  I want for them to love God and live for Him, but the most powerful thing I can do is let them see that be what consumes me!
In case I haven't mentioned this before, I'm a type-A person who really struggles with just "being."  I like to-do lists and productivity and having defined tasks I have accomplished.  I have always tended toward doing the "right" things or trying to find the "perfect" method or decision for something, even if it is getting closer to God.  Yet, I have felt this challenge lately to just "be" with Him, to let Him capture my heart again with His love and His grace and His presence.  
I have still often not made the space that I should for this, but the times that I have, it has still been a challenge for me.  I am often too distracted or having a hard time really setting aside my mental to-do list.  
Tonight, through seeing a few posts from a mentor of ours and hitting some frustrations with the Sunday School lesson I was preparing, I started digging into one of the books we have from this mentor Bill Jackson. This particular text is his "NothinsGonnaStopIt:  The Storyline of the Bible," which is largely his materials he had put together for his presentations he has done for many years on the Story.  On the cover, it says, "One God, one Story, one plan."  As I read words and phrases, I could feel a stirring in my soul that I have had every time I have engaged this amazing Story.  Really encountering and digging into this bigger Story of God has, for many years, been a passion for my husband and me that I realized tonight I haven't really directly engaged in quite awhile.  It is what prompted us to name our first son Isaiah Jackson--Isaiah meaning "God is salvation," and Jackson after our mentor and signifying this one Story throughout history of God's salvation!  
"What it means to be human, then, is to reflect the image and glory of God to the world."  That's a quote from Jax, as many call him, and as I read that and other lines, that passion was being reignited.  That's my purpose--to reflect the image and glory of God to the world, to my boys, to my family and friends, and those I meet.  Even just reading little tidbits tonight for a few minutes has been renewing my mind and my heart, and I realized this is exactly what I need in this season.  I have had many amazing and powerful times just sitting in God's presence, but reading and soaking in His Story connects so deeply for me, and it just jumped out to me as the fresh breath of life that my soul needs in this season.  So, I've decided to focus on reading this whole text of NGSI and just bought "The Eden Project:  A Short Story" (by Bill Jackson) to read as well.  And, I am feeling that filling of awe that I know that I need and desire!  

Saturday, June 22, 2013


Today our countdown to our trip to the States is down to 15 days!  We are going for a month and will visit friends and family and enjoy some places and foods we have missed.  So, obviously, we are excited!  But, I've also been finding myself feeling a bit nervous, which seems strange, and I couldn't really explain.
Things will be different than what has become normal for us here, but it's been less than a year since we left, so it's not like I've forgotten how to act in America.  (Well, I guess you can confirm the truth of that with friends and family after we've been there!)
Definitely I'm nervous about the LONG travel with two active little guys who resist sleep, the youngest of which slept about 3 hours during the 34-hour journey moving here!  Trying to block that part out of my mind.  But, it wasn't really what was going on inside me with this feeling.
We have been concerned about how the trip will affect Isaiah.  He has had a harder adjustment to living here this year and asks often to live where there is a McDonald's, and we have been praying that he won't have major setbacks when we return in the fall.  So, that makes me nervous, but there was still more.

Today, I pulled out a scrapbook that a dear friend had put together for us before we left.  She had gathered notes and photos from some other dear friends.  I have to confess to this being the first time I've actually sat down with it and read all the notes.  That seems so bizarre to even admit because it is sweet and wonderful, but I had set it aside when we first moved here so that I wouldn't get homesick right away.  Then, I came across it in the middle of a hard stretch this winter and teared up just looking at it, so I decided it didn't seem wise to dive into it in its fullness and kind of hid it from myself for later.  Today, as I was trying to finally organize some boxes of things here, I sat down and read it, and I realized this nervousness that I had been sensing that I couldn't explain.  

I feel nervous about how much I will miss everyone all over again when we come back.

Nepal feels like home to me now.  I have been realizing recently how attached I have become to the idea of living here for a long time.  We have amazing friends, an incredible opportunity to be part of a great business and vision, and I am happy here.

But, the distance from family and dear friends who have known me and been a part of my life in deep ways, some for a long time, is hard.  I think I have sort of kept myself from thinking too often or too deeply about how much I miss them.  While that is probably partially healthy in order to really be "all here" mentally and emotionally this year as we got settled, I think I have been in a bit of denial of the emotions of it.  Facebook helps me stay delusional in feeling connected to still to my friends and family and what is going on in their lives.  And, I kept thinking, of course I feel excited to SEE people, but I kept wondering why I was MORE excited and what that nervousness was, and today split it wide open:  Actually seeing those people will be wonderful but also remind me how much I miss them.  To connect to the full joy and special gift of this time ahead, I have to be willing to open up to the pain of leaving again and face how much I have truly missed them.  

So, there it is.  Nervous.  Praying to let it all open up and be all the messy fullness of smiles and laughter and hugs and tears.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


I had planned to write on something else tonight, but life here with two little guys takes some unexpected turns.  Too often, they involve vomit.  Today was one of those days.  Everything was going along just fine for most of us.  (John was feeling sick and came home early from work.)  In the middle of a story, Isaiah felt like throwing up, so we ran to the bathroom.  False alarm.
A bit later, as I was finishing washing my hands, I heard Isaiah yell from upstairs.  I called to him to ask if he was ok and started over to the stairs.  He came around to the first landing and was saying he threw up upstairs.  Just as I tried to hurry him to come down and get to the bathroom, it came out, the projectile vomit.  I will spare you the details, but it was gross.  Lots of clean-up.
We decided to put him to bed in our bed since his bed didn't have a mattress cover.  It got wet last night, and since it is monsoon season, nothing (especially not a waterproof mattress cover) dries in just one day unless you hit a lucky patch of sun during the day.  We did not.
So, about an hour ago, I came up to our room to check on him and found him sound his own vomit!  He is a really sound sleeper, which is amazing most of the time, but this is one of the few times I really wish he was not QUITE such a sound sleeper!  I woke him up, and he really didn't even know he had thrown up.  So, now our bedding is in the wash or will be in morning, hoping to catch one of those lucky sunny patches to dry them tomorrow...but not too early, or it will wake up my boys early.
All this adds up to a pretty gross afternoon and evening, and I'm hoping (but likely not) it is done for the night.  I hate cleaning up vomit.  I mean, who likes it?  It is so sad to see my kiddos sick, but it just adds a super gross element when it has to be vomit.
It sucks to have my son feel sick, and it sucks to clean up vomit, but the thing is, I'm OK.  I know that might sound like it should be obvious, but as I've written before, I've had a lot of issues related to sickness, particularly with my kids being sick.  Fear that has made it so often MUCH larger than life.  The causes for vomiting here are often notably more unsettling than a stomach "flu" bug, and that was one of many things that would make me terribly afraid the last time we were here and had Isaiah being sick so often.  But, one thing is that we've now seen and known a lot of people who've had all those nasty things (dysentery, giardia, salmonella, food poisoning and parasites of many forms, and all other manors of things that wreak havoc on the digestive system), and it becomes sort of a bizarrely "normal" part of life to just deal with, roll through, and move forward.  Seeing others' experiences, accumulating much of our own, and now knowing the systems of how to deal with things medically when they come up (doctors, medicines, stool sample testing, etc.) have all helped quite a bit.
But, there is something much more than those things, and that is that God has just set me free from so much of the fear and anxiety that sickness for my kids used to bring for me.  Friends and family have prayed, and I just believe that the Holy Spirit has worked some miracles in my soul because all the logic and knowledge and experience in the world would not have calmed the panic in me in the past, and as much as I feel drained tonight and a bit of dread that it's not yet over, I can honestly say that I will go to bed and sleep because I am OK.  And, today, in the midst of these things, OK is a major victory!  

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Summer Bucket List

I was planning to write something a bit deeper, like the thoughts and emotions that are rolling around inside my mind as I consider our upcoming visit to the States, but it's a low brain-power night, so I'll keep it lighter.
I know a lot of people make "bucket" lists, and I've seen a bunch of summer bucket lists lately, but I figured I'd go ahead and make one of our own.
We do have a trip planned for about a month back to the U.S., so it actually is something we're thinking about a lot--What are the things we really want to make sure to include in our time there?  As well as what are things we want to do here for the remainder of the summer time before we (and others) jump into school in the fall.

*  Catch fireflies.
I never expected to be able to do this here in Nepal.  I grew up doing this, but there never were any when we lived in Los Angeles, so it was kind of a fun surprise to realize they are here.  Well, I haven't really seen them in broad strokes, but there seem to be a few outside our friends' home.  We got to try it one evening, but there were only a few out, so we're hoping to get to do it again here and back in the Midwest when visiting my family.
*  Camp in the yard.
We actually just did this one a few days ago.  Well, we adjusted and decided to camp in our house!  Ok, I decided.  It's nearing monsoon season here, so it's pretty likely to get rained on.  Oh, yeah, and we don't actually have a tent!  So, bedroom camping it was.  It made Isaiah so thrilled that I promised him we would try it again this summer.

*  Play flashlight tag.
No real explanation needed on that one.  It's just fun.

*  Roast hot dogs and marshmallows.
My parents have a fire pit in their backyard, and if by some chance, we actually go the chance to catch a beach campfire while we're in LA, that would be super fun as well!

*  County fair!
I didn't know until recently that this would even be an option, but with a bit of shifting dates from original plans, we are going to be visiting my family during the time of the County Fair where I grew up (which is a short distance from where my parents live now).  This was a BIG part of my childhood, so I'm actually really excited about taking my kids.  It will be an interesting experience to share something that I grew up as a rural 4-H kid being a key point in the summer with a bunch of inner-city kids that my family works with now and my kids, who have never been to a county fair!  Good times!  Unless they have changed the schedule from when I was growing up (and John pointed out in a very mocking way that he couldn't really imagine a serious debate that would necessitate such a change), it should be the day of the cattle show.

*  Go to the beach!
We live in a land-locked country after being within a 10-minute drive from the Pacific Ocean for many years, so we are very much looking forward to a little beach time while we visit.  It's kind of funny to think have infrequently we actually went to the beach when we actually lived there, and now, being far away from the load of stuff necessary to take with little ones, hassling for parking at the local beaches, and then loading of wet and sandy kids back into a vehicle, it seems like such a simple and fun day!  :)

*  Go to McDonald's.
This is primarily on the list for half of my family.  Zeke likes to talk about it because Isaiah talks about it a lot, but when we went in Thailand, he actually asked for rice and barely ate his burger!  But, it is seriously one of the main things Isaiah talks about anytime we bring up visiting America.  So, we'll have to do it!  Probably many times.

*  FOOD!
Ok, really, this deserves its very own list!  Let's start with things we can do here.  I am determined to make a lot of popsicles and smoothies this summer, especially since there is an increase in fruit available right now.
As far as our visit to the State, I really do enjoy the food here, but there are definite things that I get excited about when I think of being able to eat them!
Mexican food--real, authentic stuff!
Ice cream
Really, dairy should probably have its own list as well. :)
Mini donuts at Venice Beach
Panera mac'n'cheese (for Isaiah)
salads (which will also help balance out the dairy!)
Chicago-style pizza
Ironically, I feel excited to visit the Nepali restaurant that we used to go to in LA, though I'm embarrassed to show how little of the language I've learned in our time here!
Avocados from California
Auntie Anne's pretzels
good Udon noodles
Ok, I'm going to stop now before I eat my arm.  Suffice it to say, there will be a lot of food involved.

*  Visit the Museum of Natural History.
Isaiah really loved it when we lived in Los Angeles.  We might have to try our luck and squeeze in the Science Center the same day, which is right next to it and a great museum with a fun aquarium area in the Ecosystems exhibit.

*  Go swimming.
We can do this BOTH here and there!  Barring rain in the morning, we are planning to go tomorrow morning.  It will be the first time I've taken the boys here, so we're looking forward to it.

*  See fireworks.
Not sure how feasible this is.  We'll be here for the 4th of July.  Do they do fireworks here?  I'll have to find out.  Maybe we can get in on some leftovers once we hit the States.

*  Spend time with a LOT of people!
This might be the only time you will hear this introvert say that!  But, there are a lot of people we are missing and excited to see when we visit the States, and there are some good friends here in Nepal that are only here near us for a season or are leaving soon for a year or are just a bit less busy than they were this past season, and we want to have time to just spend with them!  Our time in the States will likely feel a little crammed, so we just want to make sure to soak up time with family and good friends!

I'm sure there are other things we want to and will do, especially since we're still thinking about what we want to make sure to hit in our trip to the States, but that's my start at least for some highlights to aim to hit this summer!

Sunday, May 26, 2013


In case I haven't mentioned it before, I'm a planner.  I'm a recovering perfectionist, type-A, driven, achievement-oriented, list-making lady.  Grace is a challenge for me to wrap my brain around most of the time and an even bigger challenge for me to really receive, extend, and live in.
Life has a funny way of refining you, and the past couple of years have brought many challenges to those tendencies in me.  Since moving to Nepal, life has felt in a nearly constant reactionary mode, which is a huge stretch for me.  Letting go of to-do lists and control.  It has grown me and continued me on my ever-deepening understanding and experience of the Father's grace!  
But, let's be honest, I'm still a planner.
A couple of weeks ago, a friend and I were able to get away a bit for the weekend, and I have to admit one of the best parts for me was being able to jot down a list of some goals for the upcoming season.  I have prayed, and I know that I need to hold them loosely, but I am eager to be back in a season that feels intentional.  It is a fine line for me between intentional and driven.  I know that there are gifts God has given me, and I need to stay submitted to Him to continue to refine those gifts, as they are also the areas of greatest weakness for me.  (Isn't it funny how that is so often the case?)
Just this morning, I heard a message on Pentecost, and the pastor was focusing on how we need to remember that is it not our own strength, not our own power that we need to live out of.  That is hard for me to really remember often, so I'm making my list, I'm focusing on some goals, I'm setting out to be intentional in this next stretch, while at the same time trying to fully rely on God to carry them out or the grace to release them if He shifts directions on me!
All that said, here are my goals through the end of June:
*  Review Nepali language lessons and catch up to the place I left off on our last trip (but haven't really touched since then).  I really feel like it's important for me and would help Isaiah a lot if I got back into learning Nepali and working on it.  It has been something that has kept getting set aside, and it's time to dive back in!
*  Make some charts for Isaiah for chores and for media use.  He does much better with things if the expectations and boundaries and very clear and he has some control in managing them.  
*  Have my quiet times in the morning.  This might be one of the hardest for me because I am not a morning person, AND my kids are waking up ridiculously early these days, but I really want to start my days in the presence of God and not dragging into the day with eyes and heart half-open.
*  Related to the morning times, and also a notable discipline for myself, is to set a bedtime for myself and sticking to it.  I usually have a pile of things I want to get done after the boys go to bed, but I am realizing that my family needs me to be more present more than they need lots of stuff to get done.  
*  Exercise three times a week.  Ironically, it's not that I don't like to exercise.  Much more could be said on the inner workings of my psyche and things I internalized from the culture I grew up in, but it feels self-indulgent.  Selfish.  Ugh.  But, my boys need to see it modeled, and I need to keep up that habit to be in good health, so I keep trying to reset my brain to see it as something that is not purely selfish.  Starting small with probably 10-15 minutes, three times a week.
*  Blog at least once a week.  I like to write.  Blogging has been a good outlet, and I hope to go beyond that in some projects, at some point, but for now, I want to make it a priority to set aside time to do that each week.
*  Read a book.  We read a lot of books every day, but I'm talking about one without pictures.  One just for me to read.  I haven't decided which one yet.  I'll probably choose one of the many I've had on my list to read about parenting.  Any recommendations for AMAZING books to read?
*  Have one date night out and set aside one date night in.  This is something we talked about before we came, but it has been harder to arrange than we had anticipated, for many reasons.  I'm an introvert and can be a homebody, so while I love the quality time, it is also easy for me to default to just staying in, but I know that I always enjoy getting out for an evening just with John, away from what is essentially my workplace and the distractions of things to get done here at home.
*  Set aside one time "off" and continue this monthly.  I love my kids.  They are amazing, but with homeschooling, I am with them ALL the time, and I have been remembering my own need to have a little time "off duty" every once in awhile, even if it is just to get out on my own to do some errands!
*  Settle curriculum for homeschool for fall.  I want to get our curriculum ordered so that I can bring it back with us from our trip to the States this summer, and I really want to get some plans mapped out for the year for both boys.

Writing it out kind of feels like a lot on top of the effort that daily life here (and anywhere really with two little balls of energy circling around me) takes.  Humbly admitting my need for His strength to stay on track!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Where I Come From

I was making a simple cucumber salad the other night.  To call it a salad even seems too grand given that it is basically a soured cream and over cucumbers, but my mom and grandma and my great-grandma used to make it.  Standing in the middle of my kitchen in Kathmandu, Nepal, it made me suddenly feel Mennonite and Midwestern and connected to where I come from.  And, I found myself lost in something deeper than just nostalgia or sentimentality, though there is certainly much of that mixed in.  Nothing is perfect this side of heaven, and there were certainly challenges to growing up in any culture and family, but I found myself thinking about the uniqueness of where I come from, what I come from, and realizing that I could fill up an entire list of 1000 gifts with just these things alone!
I am grateful for the gifts, for the joys, and even the challenges!
Because I come from:
*  generations who have been faithful to the Lord and faithful to family
*  knowing not only all of my grandparents but many of my great-grandparents as well and sharing my growing up with them
*  great-grandparents who were married for 75 years, grandparents who were married 71 years, and parents who are still married after 38 years!
*  people who value peace as more than just a political statement
*  being known instantly in an entire area where I never lived by simply identifying myself as one of "J. John's grandkids"
*  riding in tractors and digging in dirt and feeding newborn animals from a bottle and people who are connected to the land and the food they have worked hard to produce
*  "corn days" that gathered entire extended families to store away what an entire season had been dedicated to growing
*  canning days and baking days and sewing days of beautiful women gathered together and working as one to make wonderful things from scratch
*  attending weddings, baby showers, and funerals and seeing the beauty and lives walk gracefully through each
*  four-part acapella singing that still gives me goosebumps
*  potluck meals with whole tables dedicated just to home-baked desserts
*  joyful simple living as a choice
*  an astounding work ethic and perseverance
*  knowing who my 3rd cousins, twice-removed are :)
*  a town that all gathers for the Friday night basketball game
*  teachers who knew me and were part of my life before, during, and after I was in their classes
*  wide open spaces to run and ride my bike without anyone worrying about where I was
*  night skies full of stars
*  countless numbers of books being read to me, even at the ends of long and weary days
*  never being allowed to leave the house without eating breakfast and knowing there would always, always be food--good food--in my home
*  knowing always that I was loved and treasured
*  never having an extra-curricular event (years and years of sports and academic programs and whatever else) without at least one family member present
*  special "global meals" prepared by my mom to help us catch a broader vision of the world
*  being protected by and taken care of by my dad, even when I couldn't admit to needing it
*  parents who gave me the freedom to choose my way of faith but modeled a life of faith
*  a community that comes together to support when hard times strike
*  Christmas celebrations that bent the "rules" for simplicity
*  "sticking Psalms"
*  picnics, parties, and "ordinary" Sunday afternoons at my grandparents' home
*  tire swings in big, strong trees
*  4-H livestock shows and county fairs
*  overnight stays at my grandparents' home filled with milkshakes, "Button, button, who's got the button?", and hearty farm breakfasts
*  extended family gatherings for holidays
*  decorating for Christmas the day after Thanksgiving
*  annual trips to Chicago to see the Christmas windows at Marshall Field's and choose a new ornament
*  family trips to Chicago to museums, Cubs' games, Ed Debevic's, and other restaurants
*  Bible Memory club
*  respecting elders
*  a community that values self-discipline and sacrifice
*  a great-grandmother whose gift of hospitality made bologna sandwiches taste like the most amazing feast
*  parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins who prayed and still pray for me, for their friends and families and communities and this incredible world God created and loves
*  sharing battles and victories with my little brother
*  "being rooted and established in love"

This is a fraction of the list of gifts.
I come from blessing, from love, from abundant gifts beyond what I can ever express or count.
And, it is a gift just to be able to remember where I come from.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Exploring New Territory

I realized that it has been awhile since I've written anything here!  After a pretty chaotic stretch (thus my previous post), we had some travel, and then things have been fairly uneventful for a couple of weeks, which has kind of felt odd.
Anyway, we're still here.
I feel like I constantly have little questions or lessons about life here, but every once in awhile, I have these moments of realizing something or learning something that catches me off guard a bit.
Today, we were out for a walk.  I was letting Isaiah lead the way on our walk.  We started going a way that we have been many times, and then he wanted to take a different turn than we had taken before.  Lately, he has been uncharacteristically eager to explore new paths and places he hasn't seen before.  After we turned a different direction on a road, he wanted to turn onto a path that looked like it led down beside a small field into the middle of people's homes.  It didn't seem like a dead end, though, so I followed him, and we went exploring.  It was definitely a spot that we got asked right away about a dozen times where we were going.  A group of kids came around my boys and started to try to talk with us some and mostly watch us and talk about us.  I'm kind of used to it, but it really frustrates Isaiah, especially when he feels like they are laughing at him.
A man nearby at what appeared to perhaps be a tiny shop started to chat with me.  I frequently get asked about the boys going to school, so I was expecting that question, and it is hard to explain sometimes that I teach them at home for now.  But, a question that I wasn't expecting came up, "Don't they have any friends?"  It kind of caught me off-guard, and I said, "Well, yes, they have friends."  I didn't really understand the reason for the question.  He said something about here being better for friends or something.  As I started thinking about it, I hardly ever see a Nepali kid older than a toddler playing by themselves.  Most of the time, kids are playing in a group or at least with another friend, and I very rarely see an adult around, so I realized that it must have been quite odd for the two boys to be on a walk with their mom and no other kids.
I mean, most people also think my kids are notably older than they are because they are a little bit big for their age by American standards, which means they are REALLY big compared to Nepali kids their age.  The other boys that came around them, for instance, were roughly the same size as Isaiah, maybe an inch or two taller.  I assumed that they were probably a bit older than him, but it turned out they were 9 and 10 years old!  (Isaiah's 4 1/2.)
It was just one of those moments that I realized that "normal" is so different here, and we are constantly learning how odd we must seem to people here!  American culture is so much more individualistic, and the culture here, which I realized is even quite evident in kids and their common experiences, is much more communal.  It is new territory to us to find a mix of being ok with being odd at times, preserving our home culture, but also learning from and adapting to another culture and figuring out how to experience life here fully in a culture that we often are unaware of what is "normal."  Forging ahead...

Monday, March 25, 2013

When It Rains...

Yeah, it has felt like it's been pouring lately around here.  Life anywhere gets a little hectic with two young boys, but trying to do life in a developing nation that is not our first culture sometimes feels like it exponentially increases the chaos factor.  And, you hit stretches that just feel like you're in a downpour that might never let up.
Ours started in early February with an emergency room visit and hospital stay with my youngest.  As we got back home from that, my older son got the virus (croup), and then John and I both proceeded to have some form of horrible respiratory infection/virus, and my youngest got another cold or virus of some kind.  Coming out of that, John hit a super busy stretch at work here, and the boys and I got a round of vaccinations of stuff you never have to consider in the States.  We were supposed to get the 2nd round of one of those the following week, and we hit a major transportation strike, which led to our vaccination "adventure" that I wrote about earlier.  The following week was lice, followed promptly by an intestinal virus for 3 out of 4 of us.  In the midst of that, I decided that I would take advantage of John's brother visiting to come along with me to finally get some things that I have been needing in one area of town that I never bother to attempt by myself with the boys, only to be cut short by a bandh (strike) that got announced that morning as we were on the way there!  Just as the last one of us was finishing up the tummy bug, we discovered our bathroom covered in tiny bugs after a hard rain that day.  They seem to have been bird mites, caused by nemesis creatures here--the pigeons!  (Ok, I have a few nemesis creatures here!)  That, along with totally ruining the cake I was baking for the group I was supposed to be hosting the next morning, was my breaking point.
I have had some ups and downs over this last stretch, but I felt like God kept bringing me back to a good place, and I had just started to feel like God was using a reminder to focus on gratitude to renew my mind and focus on how much we really do enjoy life here and are thankful for how amazingly blessed we truly are here!
But, those (avoiding adjectives because only swear words are coming to mind) little bugs!
It was rain that drove them inside, it would seem.  A downpour of rain that turned into a hail storm.  Just as we were preparing to leave the house, Ezekiel handed me the umbrella, and I put him back, telling him we didn't need it.  Fifteen minutes later, the skies turned dark and opened up and just dumped on us.  I ran to the office, pushing the boys in our double stroller (please imagine the entertainment factor to the locals).  We got inside just as the pouring rain turned into hail--balls of ice falling from the sky ready to pelt you and the head in waves that just keep coming.  Metaphor, anyone?
The thing is that the hail storm turned out to be one of the highlights of our week, maybe even our month.  The boys had never seen hail before, and they were absolutely giddy.  From the top floor of the office building, it was quite an amazing site to see the streets filling up with the tiny white ice balls.  The boys insisted on going up to the roof and scooping up handfuls of the hail and dancing and laughing as rain continued to fall.  Even I felt light as I ran home through ankle-deep water that had run over from the ditches where garbage collects.
And, then a flood of tiny bugs turned it back into the head-pelting stuff falling from the sky.
An infestation of bugs?  Really?  How in the world do you give thanks when things are covered in little disgusting bugs that threaten to take over?!
I was trying, really trying to thank, to praise, but I really just broke.
And THAT is where I am challenged to give thanks...for the breaking.  Ouch.  It is painful and runs counter to most everything I or culture has sewn into me to celebrate the overcoming, the moments of human stretch, to suck it up and press through obstacles and endure.  But the moment of yielding...maybe there is the greatest victory.  Yielding my strength and my prove-myself endurance to One far greater, that brings "beauty from ashes," that redeems the messy and the painful, allowing my stubborn and prideful heart to be transformed into something for His glory.
Every single time in this last season that I have hit the end of myself, God has come through in amazing ways, and this was no exception.  We got a referral for a professional exterminator who turned out to live around the corner, and within less than 48 hours and with really impressive service, they had taken care of the bugs (and my other nemesis creatures here--the cockroaches)!  My dear friend Laurel showed up the morning of the group to host with cookies to replace my ruined cake.  Maybe only someone who is part Mennonite can truly appreciate the significance of that!  :)  The group that I was hosting is an amazing group of women who came around me as I cried in sharing about my bugs and the end of my stamina, and they prayed and lifted me up and encouraged me and refreshed my soul.  Not to mention the list of sweet gifts, like our new furniture arriving the next day, booking our travel plans for an upcoming trip to Thailand, and a whole leftover pizza to pull out to save dinner preparations and ice cream and care package toppings to end the night.
It doesn't seem the rain storm is done quite yet.  John had perhaps the longest few days of work he's had yet, which meant long days for me with the boys.  As I sit here typing, my big toe on my right foot is throbbing from what would seem to be an infection, which I tried to get a quick consult for at the local hospital, only to be told that I need to see a doctor, and there weren't any there today.  While I'm excited about the upcoming retreat for the company in a couple days, it involves an 8-hour bus ride with two little boys.
Given my track record, it is likely I haven't "learned my lesson" in any final sense, but I can pray that I will keep growing in seeing the breaking point as a gift in itself and have eyes that stay tuned into all the many gifts around it as well.  When it rains, it pours.  And sometimes hails right down on your head.  And, I can only hope and pray that I will more and more often dance and laugh and yield to the wonder and the gifts of it all. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Bandh Days

They have these things called a "bandh" here.  I have seen it transliterated a bunch of ways, so I'm not sure if I'm representing the word accurately, and I have a feeling I won't do it justice trying to describe it either, but basically, it is a strike that is protesting something.  Sometimes they have one just for one aspect of things (education or transportation or something), but then there are ones when most things are closed down.  No taxis or buses run, and if you try to drive your own car, friends have told me that you will get harassed and usually have your vehicle damaged by those who are protesting.  What are they protesting?  That is a good question and one that I have rarely been able to get an answer for.  I have stopped asking because the response has almost always been a shrug or "No one knows."  Seems pretty effective then, huh?
Up here in our area, it really just plays out as most shops being closed and no transportation running (though it seems to be acceptable to use motorcycles).  In some areas of the city, there are actual protests and/or demonstrations and people actually preventing others from traveling or having shops open.
Since we have lived here, we haven't hit any that lasted too long.  Mostly for us, it just means things are quieter up here, and it is just kind of inconvenient if we had hoped to go somewhere that day.  A lot of the guys who work at the office here but don't live in this area stay over in the bunk beds in the guest flat the night before a bandh (and sometimes the night of it as well) so that they are able to be at work that day.
Last week had a bandh that turned out to have a bit more impact on us.
As I have mentioned before, a hospital near us has a private clinic at which they have some time set aside every Wednesday morning with two British doctors and a nurse specifically for expats to come in and be seen.  I took the boys in last week on Wednesday, thinking I should get Zeke's immunizations done after just turning two, and it turned out that all three of us (Zeke, Isaiah, and I) needed to have some shots.  It caught Isaiah off-guard, and he melted down.  The nurse there is so sweet and gentle and patient, and it is a very low-key environment for here, and he was still just absolutely hysterical in fear of the shots.  The bad news was that one of the shots was part 1 of 3 needed for the rabies vaccine!  Part 2 is supposed to be given 7 days later.  So, we needed to go to the Wednesday clinic again this week to get the second dose.  I was certainly not looking forward to it and knew Isaiah would get all worked up again.  Even though he acknowledged the shots barely hurt, the experience for him was dramatic because he got himself so worked up and scared.  I figured I would just step up my game and take the iPad along and let him zone out, get the shots, and then go out for lunch to sweeten the deal.  The problem was that Wednesday ended up being a bandh.  That meant no taxis or buses or any way to get down the hill to the clinic.  There is a small hospital up quite near us that I had heard had the rabies vaccine, but given Isaiah's reaction in what seemed the most likely to be comfortable situation here, I was not eager to try the local hospital here, as the few times I've tried things there have been a much bigger cultural gap and less than impressive care.  I emailed our pediatrician friend, and he said 1 or 2 days off the timing should be ok, so I thought we would wait and see if we could get down to the clinic on Thursday.  I knew it wouldn't be the same context or people as on Wednesdays, but I thought it might still be a better setting and experience for the boys.
Thursday...still a bandh.
I had considered walking on Wednesday (and now wish that I would have), and I just decided to go for it on Thursday.  So, I set out with the boys in the double stroller, walking down our hill.  An advantage of the bandh, actually, is that it makes it a little more feasible to walk down that hill that is usually busy with big rattling trucks and buses going up and down and motorcycles zooming all around on a road that is not super wide and has no sidewalks.  Without the usual vehicle traffic, it almost felt calm going down the hill.  Almost. After clutching on to my heavy load as we went down the steep hill, we bumped through the roads with giant potholes and the parts all torn up from construction to get out to Ring Road.
Ring Road is the major road that circles around the city of Kathmandu and is always busy.  Though the hill is an obvious challenge for walking, Ring Road is probably the biggest barrier to walking down to the area we go to often for shopping or seeing friends because it just seems absurd to think of crossing it with the boys.  There are floods of all sizes of vehicles zigzagging around each other and often big traffic jams.  So, it was a bit surreal to come up to Ring Road and just turn and walk right along it with no vehicles around us.  Not next to it; ON it.  Rolling along Ring Road with a double stroller and no vehicles anywhere around us.
I wasn't totally sure of the turn-off from Ring Road to get to the hospital, so I asked a few people when I came to one that I thought might be it, and they nodded and pointed up the road.  Turned out it was not the road I had been on via taxi.  In fact, "road" is perhaps not the best word, as it soon turned into a narrow, winding path filled with rocks.  Hey, that is why we got a stroller with those giant tires!  Isaiah commented on how many people we were asking about getting there after about the 4th person, but we kept pressing on, as it seemed we would eventually be able to wind our way through there and come out somewhere I could identify.  We came across one older Nepali woman who seemed to say that we could walk together to go there (turns out, I was right on that, which is notable since my Nepali is really lacking still!).  That seemed so great on one hand and so sweet of her to offer her help, which I needed, but a part of me was thinking about how most Nepalis walk quite a bit slower than I usually do, and with a long walk already, I was kind of eager to wrap it up.  I was shocked at this spunky woman who was kicking along at fairly close to my usual pace!  She was kind and chatted a bit with us as we walked with a few phrases in English, and I tried a few in Nepali.
She had to turn off to her destination before the last little bit but pointed us in the right direction, and we finally came out just around the corner from the hospital gate.  John looked it up on google maps, and it seems like it is about 2.5 miles total.  Isaiah commented on how tired he was as we rolled into the hospital driveway.  I guess riding in a stroller really takes it out of you!
When we went into the private clinic at the hospital, the person at the desk said we needed to see and doctor and have a prescription written in order to get the vaccination...and none were available.  As we were told later, there weren't even any doctors on duty at the clinic that morning.  I was pointing out that we got the first part at the clinic there the week before and had it on record and that the nurse had even filled out the dates we were supposed to come back and get the other doses.  It is significant to note that medical records are completely kept by the patient.  For example, when we were in the hospital with Ezekiel, and he got an x-ray, they just handed us the x-ray, which was then our responsibility to take to the doctors and keep track of, and it is now here in our file folder, which Isaiah actually found super interesting.  No records are kept at the hospital, and honestly, records are quite basic and not very detailed, which is a shift from America where they seem to make notes of absolutely everything.  So, when we go in, we bring any of our papers with us.  In this case, it was just our yellow immunization cards.  All that to say, there wasn't anything that could be consulted to show that we were set to have our second round.  They said they would call the primary doctor who does the Wednesday morning clinic, which I thought meant they would be able to just ask her and get permission to give the 2nd dose, but after a bit, they told me she was teaching a class and couldn't come.  Yeah, I wasn't really expecting she would be able to just drop whatever she was doing and COME.  Apparently, verbal permission over the phone was not an option.
The man said, "It would have been better if you had come yesterday."  You think?!
So, they told me I could go out to window #1 and get a ticket.  The directions were a bit unclear, and I wasn't really sure what they were suggesting as a solution.  Thankfully, one of the guys came out from behind the counter and walked out to show me where he was telling me to go.  As it turned out, in the general (non-private) portion of the hospital, you go up to a counter, pay a fee, and they then assign you to a room to go to for a consultation or service.  I paid 50 rupees (roughly 75 cents) to get tickets for me and the boys.  They told me to go to room 6.  When I walked around the corner and finally located room 6, I saw a few benches with about 35-40 sick people piled on them, coughing and some of them looking barely conscious, waiting to be seen.  I feel like I totally wimped out, but I just couldn't do it!  I went back and asked the woman in the private clinic when a doctor would be available, and she said evening.  (It was about 10:00 a.m. at the time.) She said I could just wait at the other room, and I told her I wasn't going to wait for hours piled in with a bunch of people who were clearly quite sick when my boys weren't sick!  We just needed a shot.  Sort of had some emotional flashbacks to our recent hospital stay, and I just couldn't do it.  She said she would take us over and tell them to take us in "soon."  And then we would just have to go to the pharmacy to get the viles for the vaccination and take them to room 8 (another room at the far, dark end of the main area there at the hospital with more sick people waiting).  That is when I told her I wouldn't do that, started crying, and loaded the boys back into the stroller to go.
We walked through what is normally a busy area, past shops all closed up, and no traffic running.  We were aiming for a restaurant that Isaiah was requesting, but that was also closed, so we kept walking a bit, and a fairly new restaurant that we had tried was open, so we went in and had a really nice brunch together.  The boys were in surprisingly good spirits, which helped me shake the frustrations of the clinic.
After lunch, I geared myself up for the walk back up the hill.  We walked back out to and across a still empty Ring Road.  As we came close to the base of the big hill, I contemplated just making the boys get out and walk, but the chaos of trying to corral them both up the hill while pushing the stroller didn't seem entirely worth it, so I opted to just take a deep breath, pray, and power up the hill pushing roughly 70 pounds worth of boys and stroller.  Needless to say, we entertained more than a few people as we passed.
We obviously made it to the top, and as we stopped to buy a few potatoes at the veggie stand, a street dog came and snatched the chocolate donut the boys had left setting in the stroller.  Icing on the cake.
After our whole trek, the discouraging fact remained that we still hadn't completely the vaccinations!
Friday morning came, which was sort of the critical point of either getting them or...well, I don't actually even know what would happen if we didn't get them, but I know that was the last day that it really was ok for us to complete the 2nd dose.  I resigned myself to just going and getting it at the local hospital here, so we went, got seen pretty quickly, and with a fairly short jumble of communication (which included them asking me why I hadn't gotten the shots on Wednesday), got the prescriptions, took them to the pharmacy counter at the front, and he said, "Oh, we don't have this today.  We are out."  He said he could get them for later that day around 5:00.
We were kind of out of options.
So, on the way back from an outing to the library later that afternoon, we went back, and the pharmacist told us it would be "some time."  Now, I have learned enough to know that is not a great sign.  I asked him how much was "some" time.  He said 6 or 6:30.  After asking him 3 times if it was at least DEFINITELY coming (not a safe assumption that it was), he said yes, it was DEFINITELY coming!  I took the boys back home, fed them, bathed them, and took them back to the hospital there in their pajamas, connecting up with John as he finished work to go with us.  We arrived at 6:10 or so.  He said, "Ten minutes, coming."
At 6:45, someone finally came up on a scooter with the vaccinations.
Ezekiel had a 20-minute nap that day, and bedtimes are usually soon after 7, but we were in neck-deep, so we had waited and were finally going to get these darn shots!  They looked at the immunization records for a long time and told me how they are different from the ones here in Nepal and asked me what they were supposed to do with the records.  They also asked me, "Why didn't you get these on Wednesday?"  Seriously?!  What on earth?!  I may have lost my sanity for just a moment there and asked them if no one else had noticed the bandh the last few days.  I really may have lost my mind completely if one more person had asked me why I hadn't gotten them on Wednesday.
Ezekiel gave a half second "meh" when he saw the needle and was giddy as could be the rest of the time, having great fun climbing on and off of the bed in the "emergency" room we were in.
Isaiah was a different story.  I had started to think maybe we were going to avoid the drama since he had been talking about the shots so calmly for the last day or two.  I think he had just started to believe they weren't ever really going to have to happen!  After a huge and completely hysterical resistance and finally just being held to get it, he sobbed, "That...didn't...really...hurt."
Whew.  Did I mention that this vaccination has three doses for the series?!  Something to look forward to.
Hey, but at least we got our pictures in the paper!  HA!
Kantipur--Front Page!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Hospital Adventures

First of all, if you happen to be reading this and have not yet read my last post "Counting the Gifts," please don't read this post yet.  I'm going to write a bit about our experience in the local hospital here, and it was rough, but God was looking out for us in so many ways, and we love this place and consider it our home, so it is important to know all of that first before reading about our challenges in this experience!

A few weeks ago, my youngest son Ezekiel started to have what seemed like a cold and cough, and then quite quickly got much worse the one night.  His breathing was labored, and his cough had a terrible "bark" to it.  He had croup last winter when we were still in Los Angeles and ended up with a trip to the E.R. there, and I was pretty sure it sounded awfully similar.  When he had it that time, though, they had told us that taking them out in the cool air actually helps when it is croup, as it helps reduce the inflammation in the airways a bit.  I tried that a few times during the night, and it wasn't seeming to have much effect.  I just kept praying for him and hoping for morning.  Every once in awhile, I would have this panic of wondering if we should do something immediately and not knowing even what or how or where that would be here.  

A little aside is that I have some issues related to illness.  Illness for my kids is like my own personal hell.  I know that no parent likes having sick kids, and problems with breathing are particularly scary, I think, for any parent.  But there are some deeper things for me that get triggered, and it can be hard for me to work through them.  I grew up with a sibling who had a lot of illness and quite serious illness much of the time, and from a lot of things with that from childhood, my kids getting sick often takes on a larger than life dynamic in which I struggle to see what is happening in the present, and fears and other feelings get triggered from the past in a way that used to be nearly paralyzing.  I came face to face with it the last time we were here with Isaiah being sick a lot during those few months, and by the time we were arriving back in the States, I realized much of what was happening internally and had some amazing friends pray for me in a very powerful time that set me free from much of the power of that.  I forgot to really write about it in my post on counting the gifts in this experience, but I have to say that I am so grateful for God's work in freeing me from much of that.  It still gets triggered and can challenge my decision-making or ability to be logical, but I am conscious of it, and it has far less power over me.  Had I had this experience two years ago with one of my boys, I am not sure I would have made it through without major breakdowns.

Anyway, back to the current story...when we were all up for the morning on Wednesday, John and I made plans.  Isaiah went to work with John, and I took Ezekiel to the private clinic at Patan Hospital.  As I wrote before, there is a time on Wednesday mornings that two British doctors have set aside just for expats to come in.  I was so thankful it was a Wednesday, and I had kind of convinced myself that it was, in fact, "just croup" again.  Since we had been through that before with Zeke, I guess it scared me less, and I had seen that he responded quickly to the treatments they gave him.  Plus, I was thinking his breathing had calmed some, so I figured maybe we would be able to get some medication, possibly a breathing treatment, and head home.  When I was signing in at the counter for the clinic, the young man who works that desk said, "He is very sick.  He needs a breathing treatment."  Not a great sign.  

The nurse took his temperature, and after some Celsius/Fahrenheit conversion, I realized his fever was quite high.  One of the doctors was freed up fairly soon and called us in to the exam room.  She examined him a bit and then said she wanted to consult with the other doctor.  She said we definitely needed to go over to the E.R.  A bit of panic started to set in for me again, but thankfully, the first doctor offered to walk us over and get us settled there.  I can't really quite even describe the overwhelming feeling of walking into the emergency room there.  It is a huge open room filled with cots and people everywhere.  There are a couple of sections on the side and end that have curtains that can be pulled, though I only saw that happen once.  The rest of the room has no dividers.  Just cots that have leathery cushions on top and are spaced about three feet apart from each other.  I am fairly used to being stared at here.  It's not really abnormal culturally here, and we are obviously quite a sight that doesn't exactly blend in with the surroundings!  But, it felt a bit like a gauntlet walking between these rows of beds, cradling my sick and lethargic little guy, with people all turning and staring in this warm, dingy room that smelled like toilet.  

The smells.  Oh, my.  No one likes hospitals.  They smell funny anywhere.  But, in the States, hospitals usually smell like disinfectant and alcohol and have startling bright lights.  Throughout the time we were sitting in that room, the strong smells of human waste and some sort of sour smells kept wafting through the room in varying degrees of intensity.  A woman with a large push broom would occasionally do a round through the rows of cots, and it was unsettling to watch the literal piles of dirt get pushed around.  

We were taken over to an empty cot on which I sat and held Zeke in my lap.  At multiple times, the man who was with the patient in the cot next to us was actually leaning back on our cot.  Some of the sequence of things has gotten a bit blurry for me (probably for the better), but early on, after taking his temperature again, a woman (nurse, I think) told us that we needed to go out and pay at the counter and have something signed and then come back.  Charts and paperwork here are all kept by the patient as hard copy documents, and the processes often require a stamp from some other department or counter in order to move forward with a procedure or treatment.  So, I carried Zeke out of the room to the entry area of the E.R. and waited for a bit, and a woman there finally took the paper, had to look up several things and write down things and punch some numbers into a little calculator, and then she showed me the calculator with the amount to pay.  Then she marked paid, and I went back and sat on the cot with Zeke and our papers again.  

They gave me some paracetamol (acetaminophen equivalent here) to give him for the fever, which he hated!  At some point, they brought over a mask and plugged in the nebulizer.  I saw several masks in use throughout the time for various patients there.  Unfortunately, I never saw one get cleaned.  That isn't to say it didn't, but I was cringing a bit to think about it, as the machine and the mask both looked a bit dingy.  While I was holding the mask for him to have the nebulizer, I watched several people go and spit in the main hand washing sink and one woman walk barefoot into the bathroom (note the toilet smells I mentioned earlier and that these are just holes in the ground with places for your feet on either side).  

The doctor wanted him to get a chest x-ray, which I think I actually had paid for in that first trip to the counter, so they told me a room number and pointed, and I had to walk out of the E.R. and down the hall, carrying my papers and my kiddo, to the x-ray room.  The woman there looked at my papers, stamped something, and handed them back to me.  I tried to ask her if I was supposed to sit nearby and wait, but she didn't speak any English, so that is what I did.  (A side note is that I REALLY wished my Nepali was much better during this experience!)  A man came out soon from a nearby door and called us into a room that was dimly lit except for a bright light directly above the hard table in the middle of the room.  Not going to lie--it kind of reminded me of an interrogation room you see in T.V. shows in the States.  All the rooms there are cement block and, as I said before, dimly lit.  He placed the x-ray panel thing on the table, motioned for me to lay Zeke down on top of it.  Big surprise, Ezekiel seemed rather scared.  The man came back, took the lead vest thing he had given me to put on and disappeared.  I waited.  He didn't come back.  Looked around the corner.  Couldn't see him or anyone anywhere, so I took Zeke back out of that room.  I went up to try to ask the woman what we should do next, which didn't .  Thankfully, within a couple minutes, someone else handed her our x-ray, which she put in an envelope and handed to me.  I took it and walked back to our cot in the E.R.  

Another stint of waiting in the E.R.  One of the doctors from the private clinic came to check on us (which the two of them actually did several times!), and after sorting through a jumble of communication and getting some forms and numbers and such for us, I had to make another trip out of the room to the lab to get his blood drawn.  There is a narrow room with one man behind a counter that is sectioned off at the front of the lab.  There is a line of people that wait their turns to place an arm on the counter and have the man draw blood while the rest of the line watches and waits.  Then, back to the E.R., assuming somehow the results would make their way to us at some point.

We sat for quite some time there.  Occasionally, someone would pull over a movable screen in front of the cot of the person they were with so that s/he could use a bedpan.  The little girl two cots over from us had an I.V. in that they were having trouble with at several points, so there was a large pool of blood next to her cot for a good hour or so before it got cleaned up.  I kept thinking, if my little guy wasn't sick before coming in there, he surely would be after spending hours in that room.  A woman who was there with another patient came over at several points and stood right next to me or right behind me, looking at Ezekiel's chart/papers for several minutes at a time.  A group of women across the aisle from us unabashedly stared and pointed and talked about me/us/him.  People  who were there with patients often walked up to other cots of people they did not know and asked what was wrong with the person there.  At one point, there must have been something exciting happening with someone in a cot at the end section because, suddenly, there were 25-30 people gathered around watching.  I had a moment of panic in there when I looked around the room and realized that I didn't see any of the doctors or nurses that had been dealing with us and that I knew spoke English.  I wasn't sure what was happening or what we were supposed to be doing or what we were waiting for.  We were just sitting there.  I felt terribly alone and started to feel very afraid.  A verse that had been at the beginning of a story we were reading that week for school came to mind:  For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).  I prayed and prayed for God to replace my fear, as there wasn't even anything directly that I was afraid of.  I was so tired and overwhelmed, and the tears were brimming to the surface.  About that time, one of the doctors from the private clinic came in to check on us as her time was ending for the day.  She examined took a look at his chest and said he really needed to be admitted because of the "indrawing" beneath his ribs.  Despite sounding better, it seemed his little body was still working much too hard to breath.  I tried not to burst into tears on the spot, as this was definitely not what I was expecting.  She talked with the other doctors, and soon, I was seeing the doctor and nurse I had seen before, and they were talking about arranging for him to be admitted.  They said I would need a deposit first, though, so I called John and had to wait there in the E.R. until he came.  Had I known the amount, I actually could have paid from what I had on me, but they made it sound like it would be a lot, so we waited.  Total time in the E.R. was a little over 4 hours.  Well, that included the random trips out of the room, but start to finish, that's what it was.

Thankfully, Isaiah was able to go to our friends' home, as I wasn't eager for both of my kids to need to experience this E.R.  John came, we paid our deposit, took our stack of papers, and walked ourselves up to the children's ward.  We went to what seemed to be the nurses' station and showed them our papers.  The pediatrician that had come to see Zeke in the E.R. was there (really nice young doctor).  A nurse took us into a room (cement block, same as the rest of the place) and showed us the "bed" (cushioned cot again) next to the window.  There were two other beds in the room with people in them (no dividers), and there was a bathroom (with a "squatty potty"), which filled the room with toilet smell every time the door blew open a smidge.  There was one leathery cushion that seemed sort of like a pillow and a sheet on the bed.  There was one thin blanket.  Apparently, you have to bring your own pillow and blankets.  Have I mentioned that winter is cold indoors here?!  Our sweet friends brought us a couple pillows and blankets from their home nearby and some homemade cookies.  He is a pediatrician, and as I mentioned in the previous post, was a gift beyond words in the whole experience.  I can honestly say we would have had a much different experience there (and not for the better!) if it hadn't been for him!  

The pediatrician had asked before we got admitted if we wanted to be in the normal children's ward or a private room.  I said it would be really great to have a private room, and he said we should really be in the children's ward.  Not sure why he asked me.  Our pediatrician friend confirmed that, until Zeke was more stable, he should stay in the regular children's ward for closer observation and treatment.  What he didn't tell me until later, which was very wise of him, was that Ezekiel was really on the verge that first night of needing to be put in the ICU!  So, while a big stretch for my Western personal space boundaries to be in an open, shared room, we stayed there.  

Nurses would come in and hand us a thermometer and then leave the room.  I actually realized the 2nd night, when we had moved to a private room, that I have never had to use a mercury thermometer for my kids and not even for myself for many, many years, and I was embarrassed to admit that I wasn't totally confident to even read it myself and had to carry it, along with a sleeping Zeke, to the nurses' station to read it, as they didn't come back to get it that time.  They had him use the nebulizer every 6 hours, and they kept wanting him to take oxygen, but he was fighting it so badly and would get himself all worked up and start gasping and coughing again.  Early on, they told us that we shouldn't fight him and get him all worked up like that, so we should just wait, and we would try to put the mask in front of his face when he slept.  Later, they would ask us why we weren't giving the oxygen to him all the time.  Zeke ended up with a secondary infections, so he had to start antibiotics.  They would ask us if he would take pills or liquid better.  Um, neither.  I think he was so on edge about the whole experience that the oral medications just were the straw that broke the camel's back, and he would just refuse and fight and spit it out.  While I understand the original hope was probably that he would be less afraid if a parent gave it to him than if a stranger did, when that proved not to be true, I was really wishing that someone else would give it to him and be the one for him to be furious at!  Given the struggle with the oral medications, that did mean he ended up with his paracetamol in suppository form several times.  At least the nurses did give him those!

By the second day, thanks to the efforts of several friends, we were able to move to a private room.  Once that had been decided, in the midst of one of the fights to give him medicine, some people opened the door to our room to watch us, left, and then came back with some more people to watch us, which pretty much cemented our determination to move to a private room.  Pretty much the same kind of room with the same toilet smell, but at least we were the only ones in it!

The doctor (pediatrician, mind you) that checked on us first in the private room asked us, "Why won't he take the medicine?"  Um, he's two.  He afraid.  And he's two!

After his fever broke, he finally got a fairly peaceful stretch of nearly two hours of sleep that second night (MUCH longer than any stretch he had had for several nights), which was ended abruptly by a nurse coming and turning on the lights to give me a thermometer and tell me it was time for him to take his antibiotics. Thanks for that.  Pretty sure it would have been ok to wait a bit for him to take that stuff.  

We were planning that we'd be able to go home that third day, but when some doctors came in to check him, they said they thought maybe he should stay again.  I literally just started crying.  They clearly didn't know what to do, and after standing there silently for an awkward amount of time, they left.  Our friend called and even came by and checked him again himself, and while he was certainly not 100% for his breathing yet, he said he thought he was ok for us to go home.  

Apparently, the checking out process can often take several hours, but again, with our friend being there and pushing things along, we were able to get things processed relatively quickly (probably an hour and a half from the start of release papers to actually leaving).  John went to pay the bill.  Now, here it is a LOT of money, but the total amount we paid for all of it (E.R., treatments, x-ray, lab, one night in a regular room, one night in a private room) was less than our CO-PAY had been for our E.R. visit last winter.  Puts a bit of perspective on things.  We stopped at the pharmacy there before leaving to pick up more antibiotic, which the pharmacist told us to give him for 5 days, which I was pretty sure was not enough, but we got more later after verifying with our friend.  He also told us to take it three times a day--at 6:00 a.m., 2:00 p.m., and 10:00 p.m.  Yeah, pretty sure three times a day is sufficient, and we're not going to wake him up at 10:00 to space them out exactly!

Well, this has obviously gotten quite long, so I'll wrap it up.  It was a really intense and overwhelming experience--definitely the most challenging situation we've faced here.  I'm including a few photos to give a glimpse of our surroundings there.  I neither had my camera nor the presence of mind to take photos in the E.R., and it would have been awkward to even take them in our shared room, so here is our private room.

Everything had a number on it...which kind of reinforced the prison cell feel.
Imagine this same size of room with two more beds in it.  This private room actually had the second cot for someone who was staying with the patient to sleep on.  There were no other chairs or beds other than the patients' ones in the other room.  Oh, and when John asked about a crib or a rail or something--in the *children's ward*--they looked at him like he was crazy.

The private room did have this wardrobe thing and a sink as well, though it was pretty unsettling to actually look at the surfaces around the sink.  Not the color they should have been.

Weird picture, obviously, but I was trying to capture the peeling paint, shaky ceiling fan, dingy box fluorescent light view.

No, this is not a cattle chute; it is where you line up for the pharmacy window.  I can only assume the metal bar contraption is an attempt to get people to actually form a line, which is rare.