Wednesday, November 16, 2016

CELTA Certification -or- My Intense Back-to-School Experience

As I've thought about ways I'll like to engage with my society in Mafraq, ways I might contribute to development efforts of the refugees in our city, I began to focus in on teaching English. Learning English a felt need for Syrian refugees who are in the process of immigrating to the west, and a desire for personal development for those who plan to remain in the Middle East. And as I considered opportunities for my own personal development and instruction in this area, I applied to take the intensive CELTA course offered by Cambridge English and the British Council of Amman. Since I love to learn and enjoy teaching, it seemed the perfect fit.

The course in three adjectives: excellent, practical, and INTENSIVE. Friends who has taken the course had used these same adjectives to describe it to me, but you have to experience it to appreciate that they meant intensive in all caps. Of the sixteen trainees in our course, I was the oldest. The youngest was (nearly) twenty and the rest were somewhere in between, though mostly in their twenties and thirties.

The CELTA is a lot about methodology for communicative classroom teaching of English, so age and homeschooling experience were not necessarily helpful prerequisites. Indeed, my self-described weakness was overthinking things. Many of my co-trainees had classroom English teaching experience, but again, not a helpful prerequisite, as they had to break old habits and focus on learning and teaching the CELTA way. And, many of the trainees were not native English speakers--a growing trend in the ESL world. I was very impressed by the hard work and effort they put into this course. Did they ever know their grammar!

Practical should probably be put in all caps as well. The strength of the course (and the really hard part!) is that it has the trainees teaching real students on day two of the twenty day course: twenty minutes to start, and then forty minute lessons every other day throughout the course. All lessons are observed by other trainees, as well as one of the CELTA trainers, who is writing a thorough assessment of his or her observations. These are then discussed with the trainee teaching group each morning after classes are finished.

Here I am teaching the use of ago, since, and for with the present perfect and present perfect continuous. I'm glad to see that I look happy in this picture as it was my most difficult lesson of the course!

Afternoons were for input sessions, in which we were the students. Our trainers taught these sessions using CELTA methodology, of course, giving us example upon example of how this is done. 

Evenings, and yea, early mornings were for preparing lesson plans. For a few of my nine lessons, the pressure felt intense. Sleep hours were few and restless. A couple of trainees confessed to staying up the entire night to finish preparing for their lessons.

But we all went through it together, and we all survived.  All sixteen trainees passed the course! Below is a group shot of the trainees, trainers, and our wonderful students on the last day of the course. We had a party to celebrate (note some of the remaining food in the foreground of the photo) and many celebratory selfies were taken. Some of our students are shown here, holding their certificates. They were a joy to teach and were so appreciative and encouraging.

I returned to Mafraq last Thursday and promptly came down with a cold/flu on Saturday. I heard from a couple fellow-trainees that they were sick as well. I'm feeling better today and so I organized my CELTA notebook before putting it on my desk. A new cycle of English courses will begin in January at our church's community center, and I hope to be teaching one of them!

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

The Summer's Main Event

The cancellation of my late afternoon appointment gave me an opportunity to finally spend some time sorting and uploading photos from the Main Event of our summer: the celebration of Active Son and New Bride's wedding. And mostly, if gave me an opportunity to remember what a wonderful day it was and to give God thanks, once again, for his faithfulness to our families. These images brought many smiles to my face this afternoon!

Our family arrived in Boise just under two weeks before the wedding, but since I was mother-of-groom, this was no problemo--Active Son, New Bride, and most especially, New Bride's fantastically talented mom had all the wedding details in hand. This was a whole different wedding-feel than when we celebrated Oldest Daughter and Music Man's wedding two summers ago!

Relaxed though we were on the Big Day, we still managed to generate a few stressful pre-ceremony moments: The borrowed car that Oldest Daughter drove to transport Tayta, a friend and herself, stalled on the way to the pre-ceremony photo-shoot. Next, I discovered a awkward tan line, acquired by not bringing sunscreen to Artist Son's sun-baked graduation ceremony two weeks earlier. My friend's tan-in-a-bottle lotion (sort of) helped with that. Finally, Dear Husband misplaced the keys to our get-me-to-the-church-on-time vehicle. It was no problem to borrow a friend's car, except that this vehicle sans keys was also to be the getaway car. We did end up borrowing a car so as to get to the photo-shoot on time, and our friends tracked down a second set of keys and brought the getaway car to the ceremony. Whew!

It was nice to have a few minutes with Active Son before the ceremony. He was so happy, calm, and so ready to get married. (Smile)

 Active Son and New Bride's first moments together at the wedding venue, Scentsy Commons in Meridian, Idaho.


 What a blessing these two are, to each other and to so many who love them. 

Active Son and his groomsmen and ring-bearer

...and with his Best Man, Artist Son

This is just one snapshot example of the deep and wide faith community which surrounds Active Son and New Bride. 

Our families, united by Love and Marriage


I couldn't be more thankful for the wonderful family that Active Son has married into, and for the new parents he has gained--not to mention four more brothers, sisters-in-law, a niece, a nephew, two more sets of grandparents and a whole bunch of uncles, aunts, and cousins.

Indeed, New Bride's mom has become an esteemed and treasured friend. New Bride's dad shot this candid picture of us before the ceremony. (((Smile)))

Dear Husband had the privilege and honor of officiating the ceremony and pronouncing the eager couple husband and wife--after a well placed pause. ((Smile)) 

We returned to our home church for the reception, the church I have attended since high school, the church where Dear Husband and I had our wedding reception, and the church where John and Lisa put down spiritual roots during their college years at Boise State.

(photo credit to Oldest Daughter for this favorite photo)

These two pictures show a just a little bit of New Bride's mom's baking and decorating talent...

...and how Active Son and New Bride love to have fun together.

We brought an Arab tradition to the reception: The bride and groom where hoisted into the air amidst clapping, drumming, and chants of blessing.

Congratulations, Active Son and New Bride on your marriage and the beginning of your new life together as man and wife. You're off to a fantastic start! And thanks be to God for expanding our family and our hearts yet again. We are blessed.

#loveit #lovethem #soverythankful 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Cashmere Wedding Throw

(...who by now, three and a half months on, is New Bride. And I really need to think of a better blog name for my Daughter-In-Love as just "Bride" doesn't really work. )

I'll never be able to back-blog all the happy days of this past summer but some Happy Days are not to be missed. One of those was our first official celebration of Active Son's and New Brides wedding week: a small family and close friends bridal shower for New Bride, well, Bride to Be, depending on how you look at it.

The ladies of our family hosted the shower at the home of our ever gracious and generous entire-Boise-summer hostess, with Oldest Daughter flying in just hours before the event. That's our hostess/friend pinching a berry from Tayta's awesome chocolate-berry trifle, and that is her punch bowl that we packed the trifle into.

And though not all the ladies of the family could attend this shower, the intention was to celebrate New Bride and her family, and the joining of our two families in marriage.

As I've had the great pleasure of getting to new New Bride's mother, I've gained sweet glimpses as to the loving and nurturing heritage that New Bride brings to our family. And I've gained a new friend--and prayer partner!

I prepared a couple special gifts for New Bride, with her and Active Son's colors in mind. Of course they would need some felted wool potholders for their first kitchen.

But the gift I really enjoyed creating for them was this recycled cashmere throw. The colors are a nod to the brighter palate of pinks and orange one might find in traditional Jordanian embroidery, with a little of the ubiquitous Jordanian aqua accent color thrown in, rounded out by the lighter earth tones of the arid land. And, magenta is New Bride's favorite color.

It is now gracing Active Son and New Bride's sofa in their Arizona apartment.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

In Him All Things Hold Together~A Mother's Tale

As I visited the other day with a Jordanian friend, whose house is full of children, ages 10-21, she asked me in an empathetic voice, "But isn't it hard having all your children so far away?" Oh, yes it is, I replied, but it is good. I wouldn't have chosen it, but because of it I experience God's goodness to me and our family. Too many ways to recount in a blog post, but I want to remember a very significant and meaningful way God let me experience that at the end of my time in the States this summer. Here's the extended version of what I told my friend:

Due to some uncertainties as to where our kids would be in August, Dear Husband let me make my return ticket to Jordan for August 23, about three weeks after he returned to Jordan. As the summer and fall plans of our children slowly became clear, what also became clear was that these three weeks were a generous gift from God during which I was able to spend time with each of them, and in three different parts of the country.

This also meant saying good-bye four different times--and that's just my kids. About mid-way through the summer a phrase bubbled up and skipped around on surface of my emotions: Pulled apart. That two-word phrase expressed the tension I was feeling as a mother, as a daughter, as a friend, and as a wife. All at once and in too many places. A few weeks later, as this phrase was again resounding in my heart, God answered my new mantra with this precious truth from his word--well, it became precious to me at that moment.

 ...And he (Jesus Christ) is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:17)

There are more awesome truths about Jesus packed into this passage, but this is the particular one that God brought to mind for my comfort and encouragement, the perfect antidote to my tension.

The first good-bye was to Active Son and his New Bride. We packed their moving van and hugged and waved goodbye as they headed to Arizona, New Bride's homeland, full of family, where they hope to work and study for the next few years. This good-bye was made easier by knowing that Active Son and New Bride go together, looking forward to establishing themselves as a family.

After Active Son and his New Bride pulled out of Boise, I had about a few days to spend with Tayta before she returned to college and a new job as a resident advisor in the dorm. We visited friends, shopped, packed, and had some sweet times together, picnicking on the Boise river and knocking around downtown, drinking coffee/tea in the District coffee house. It was a good time for us to debrief the and look forward to the coming year.

After Tayta left for Houston, I moved from our summer lodgings to my parents home so that I could spend my last two days in Boise with just them. I hadn't realized how physically and emotionally spent I was until I arrived at their house, but of course there is no better place to crash then at home with mom and dad. They took good care of me and we enjoyed two gentle days of watching the Olympics, a couple ladies meals out, and relaxing walks. Perfect. Thanks Mom and Dad.

And so I began my solo journey back to Jordan. My first stop: a little over a week with Oldest Daughter and Music Man in Chicago. They had recently purchased a townhouse in the city and as it turned out, I would arrive during a week that Oldest Daughter planned some new-house projects and organizing. We accomplished a lot, I think, and had fun doing it together. And we even had time for a day of shopping in the city, two trips to the Lincoln Park Conservatory, a trip to the Chicago Botanical Gardens, with the bonus of attending Music Man's last summer Chicago Symphony Orchestra concert at Rivenia Music Festival, Itzhak Perlman conducting. I loved spending this time with Oldest Daughter and Music Man in their new home and it is comforting to know just where things are and how things are in their house when I think of them throughout the days we are apart.

One final stuff-it-all-in packing job, and I was headed back to Jordan, flying out through Boston Logan international airport since this is the airport we flew into at the beginning of the summer to attend Artist Son's graduation. Earlier this summer, I wrote about Artist Son's plans to attend graduate school in Houston this fall. Through a series of soul-searching events, Artist Son, with the affirmation of all who care about him, including the recruiting professor, decided to withdraw his application and take the desired and needed year off from a formal study program. Thus, he is still in the Boston area, living, working, learning, and making art. And his senior exhibition is now hanging in a local gallery. I hadn't seen him since June and probably wouldn't be seeing him until next summer, so I was thrilled that I had a five hour layover in Boston and would be able to have dinner with Artist Son in the airport.

Four hours is not a long time, but God's economy is perfect. It was enough time for my mother's heart to be assured and encouraged that all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well. And what a wonderful thing it was to receive a great Artist Son hug before making my final turn toward home.

On the other side of the Atlantic and 20+ hours of travel, I was greeted by Dear Husband, smiling, alert, and fresh, even though he was picking me up from the airport at 3am. What loving and generous gifts he gave me by encouraging me to enjoy the time I had with each of our children while he lit and stoked the hearth fires of home, cleaning away three months of dust, bringing the seriously wilted garden back to life, and chasing away the cockroaches that took up residence in our apartment while we were away.

It is good to be home, even with pieces of my heart walking around Chicago, Phoenix, Gloucester, and Houston, because I know that in Jesus we are held together.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Autumn Crocus

Yesterday I had a little time while waiting for my husband to finish in a meeting at the hospital, so I wandered over to a place on the hospital compound where I once found wild autumn crocuses blooming under a planted palm. September is the month to begin looking for such blooms. They are rare, and this is the only place I have ever spotted them. As it turns out, my timing was perfect--several petite bunches were blooming and in their prime.

Autumn Crocus
Colchicum tunicatum
Wildflower spotting: Mafraq

Monday, September 05, 2016

Flowering Jordan 2016 Calendar~September

I'm back in Jordan and pulling myself up onto the blogging wagon once again. Try, try again...

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Wildflowers of Jordan 2017 Calendar Available for Purchase

US Friends, My Wildflowers of Jordan 2017 is available for purchase for a short time, before I return to Jordan. They are $10 apiece, which includes postage, or $7 if I can hand it to you in person. Please send me a message (desertmom88 at if you would like to one. Payment by check or Paypal. Thank you! 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Post Graduation Doings in Boston and the North Shore

We took a couple days after graduation to relax in Artist Son's familiar surroundings, allowing us to take another step into his college life and experience. On Sunday, we attended his church in Salem,  After lunch we drove to Gloucester to drop off his belongings at his part-of-the-summer residence and visit some art galleries along the bay.

Wharf and gallery poses

We celebrated Artist Son's birthday by going into Boston to visit the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, a beautiful residence and personal art collection which became a museum at the bequest of arts patron, Isabella Stewart Gardner.

Beautiful gardens and architecture as well as beautiful art. It was a wonderful way to spend the day.

Notice the arc of light which follows the lines of Rembrant's left shoulder, up to the tip of the feather in his cap.

This work by Raphael was my personal favorite. The upward gaze of the monk's imperfect eyes and the rich red of his robe drew me into the painting again and again.

I liked this sketch, also by Raphael, noting particularly the balance of his composition and use of reds.

Artist Son chose an Italian restaurant for his birthday dinner, and his friend and mentor joined us for the celebration. 

A delicious carrot birthday cake was prepared by his friend.

A couple of scenes from Salem's harbor, taken just before heading to the airport. We were headed to Boise where we would be reunited with Active Son and his Bride To Be, and to prepare for their upcoming wedding--these were celebratory days for our family!