Saturday, September 29, 2012

50 Years of Marriage

Now that is something to celebrate! And so we did, this summer in Idaho when the family was able to gather, but today, September 29, 2012, is the actual anniversary day.

Mom and Dad's wedding in New York City

The early years: my parents, the original hipsters. Dad smoked a pipe, too. And, isn't my mom beautiful?

"Like everything which is not the involuntary result of fleeting emotion but the creation of time and will, any marriage, happy or unhappy, is infinitely more interesting than any romance, however passionate." ~ W.H. Auden

Happy Golden Anniversary Mom and Dad. Thank you for giving your family the gift of a committed, loving, and interesting union.

Thursday, September 27, 2012


I have used the term "bittersweet" often in the past four years to describe how I feel about this stage of motherhood. I cannot think of a better word to express the mingling feelings of  bitter sadness and pain that come with separation from my children, and the sweet joy and thankfulness that come with knowing that they are maturing into adult children, following God's calling on their lives as He so lovingly provides for them.

The days between August 14 and 29 were bittersweet and intense mothering days for me: first, there was Tayta's surgery, and one week post-op, we were taking our third child, Artist Son, to college. Though it hasn't been easy, Dear Husband and I have made the effort to take each of our children to college. For each child this transition has meant moving  to a "foreign" country and being left in a new place after which Dear Husband and I, and any remaining siblings have returned to Jordan many miles away.

Dear Husband deftly handled the transition of both of our sons to college: He helped Active Son move into his dorm room at Boise State, while assisting Artist Son as he packed for college and passed his driving test. Arriving two days before me, Dear husband and Artist Son picked me up at Logan airport in Boston; I was coming from Chicago, where I had left Tayta, one week post-op, with Oldest Daughter.
 Artist Son in at the harbor in Gloucester

This was my first trip to New England, and although it was brief and limited to Gordon College and the surrounding area, I enjoyed taking in its distinctions from western United States geography and culture:

Dear Husband, good as he is with direction, was wise to pay for the GPS feature on our rental car as the roads followed a windy, haphazard, old-wagon-trail path. And, as a local informed us, "It seems we don't like road signs".

We could drive for five minutes and be in the next town. There were so many small towns clustered together, we often didn't know what town we were in or passing through.

Where is Starbucks? All we could find was Dunkin' Doughnuts after Dunkin' Doughnuts. Old Boston made up for the lack: there was a Starbucks on every block.

If you eat out, of course, order the seafood. In Gloucester the locals prefer The Causeway. We waited an hour and a half for a table, the waiting area being the parking lot where we enjoyed colorful conversation with some locals.

Artist Son's dorm, Drew Hall: Its situation makes up for its modesty.

Artist Son and his roommates, both Massachusetts residents

Artist Son's side of the "forced triple."  The bottom bunk is Artist Son's for now but there is talk of rotation. A high ceiling and the sky light help to open up the otherwise close living quarters.

Artist Son's corner, with his roommate's fridge

The library, located to the immediate left of Artist Son's dorm

This old stone building, nestled among trees, is the most most beautiful building on campus. The Academic Dean, who we were privileged to meet since we share a mutual friend, has his office here, as does (I think) the provost and the president.

Here is the beginning of the running/walking trail which can be picked up behind Artist Son's dorm.

There is plenty of beauty to behold, just a few steps from campus.

The trail goes past a swimming hole...

...and a large pond. The music building is in the backround.

We made sure to take this picture a couple hours before we left Artist Son at Gordon--before my tears started.

At the Signing ceremony, a New England college tradition, Artist Son signed his name, indicating that was joining a community of scholars.

After the ceremony, we said our good-byes, and that is when those bittersweet tears flowed. They were expected and so, not resented. How grateful we were to be leaving Artist Son to begin his academic journey away from home in such a fine place and amidst such caring faculty and staff. And oh, how we would miss him! We were thankful, too, that God allowed us to accompany Artist Son this far on his journey, and to spend even a short amount of time with him at the place where he will spend his next four years.

Leaving Boston, I flew back to Chicago to an unexpected mothering blessings: moving Oldest Daughter into her first apartment.

Back story: One of the things I have worried about. living so far from our college-age children as we do, is not being available to them at important junctures in their adult lives.When I first learned that Oldest Daughter would be moving to Chicago during the summer in preparation for starting graduate studies in the fall, I longed to make a trip from Boise to Chicago so that I could help her. She had no car, no furniture, little money, and no place to land, as her apartment wouldn't be available when she arrived. But with the restrictions of finances, not to mention Tayta's surgery, Artist Son's departure for college, and our impending return to Jordan, I saw no way.

First, God provided a furnished condo, via a Boise friend, for Oldest Daughter (and Tayta, and then me) to stay in while she waited to move into her apartment, and it was located just a couple miles from her new apartment. When I returned to Chicago for a one night stay before heading back to Madison for Tayta's second post-op appointment, Oldest Daughter informed me that she was packed up and ready to move. We took two rental-car loads over that night, and completed the job in two car loads the next day--we even managed to move her mattress, so she had, at least, a place to sleep. Wait. I was there! God had allowed me to help Oldest Daughter move into her first apartment! 

The moving crew
(we let Tayta carry only the light things)

The living room: I think there may be a couple pieces of furniture in there by now.

By the time Tayta and I got on the road to Madison, mingled with my joy and thankfulness was a strong desire for home and rest. I thought of Odysseus, straining for home. At that point, even the Madison Ronald McDonald House, to which we were headed, held out a vision of home and stability to me. That is when I knew I needed real stability and rest, a firm foundation. Tatya and I took some time to recount God's blessing in our lives and his perfect provision for our family during these two weeks. How thankful I was that God had given me the strength and the means to be with my children during these important times in their lives.

As long as I am a mother I suppose my feelings about my children will always be tinged with bittersweetness, but as each of them moves a bit farther from the nest, the sweetness begins to overwhelm the bitterness, or at least mingles with it in such a way as to bring delight--most of the time. Such is a mother's life.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Flowering Jordan Calendar~August

I'm still a little behind, but picking up speed...

Wildflower Spotting: a good spring (wet) in Wadi Sir, about six or seven years ago.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Forget not all his benefits

When we actually managed to meet together for family devotions this summer, Psalm 103 was the psalm we reviewed together, having memorized it for the first time many moons ago:

"Bless the Lord,
O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name!

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his

who forgives all your 
who heals all your diseases,

who redeems your life
from the pit,
who crowns you with
steadfast love and

who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is
renewed like the

I do not want to forget any of the benefits that the Lord made very real to our family this summer. First, I would like to remember all the Lord's goodness to us in regards to Tayta and her facial surgery. God has been so good to us!

I wrote here about Tayta's rare tissue disease and the plans for surgery, and if you've read along you've already read some of the ways God has provided for Tayta and our family. The later, August 15th surgery date turned out for the best in so many ways. For one, Tayta was able to enjoy, and participate in to the fullest, all the family trips and  summer outings, including our church's annual family camp (that's biannual to us, of course). 

As Tayta professed Jesus Christ as her Savior some years ago, we had talked with her about baptism, leaving the decision to her. On the last day of family camp, Tayta told Dear Husband that she would like to take the step of baptism, publicly declaring her faith and trust in Jesus. It was an occasion for much rejoicing. My parents were thrilled to be present for her baptism, a first for them as our other children were baptized in Jordan. Had Tayta's surgery happened on the earlier, "preferred" date, she would have missed family camp altogether.

On August 14, Tayta and I flew into Madison, Wisconsin, in preparation for her August 15th surgery. We were transported to what would become our perfect home-away-from-home in Madison, the Ronald McDonald House, by a RMH volunteer.


The Ronald McDonald House, which provides housing and services for out-of-town families with children in the hospital, is a wonderful community charity. In part supported by McDonald's, it is also funded by many local businesses and run by volunteers as well as paid staff. The RMH provided us with very comfortable accommodations just a couple of blocks from the hospital, and volunteers from the community brought in a home-cooked dinner each evening. We were thankful that they had room for us the three times we needed a place to stay: the night before surgery, the five days after surgery and release from the hospital, and a final night before Tayta's second post-op check-up. The house had full occupancy each night we were there.

Tayta and I decided that it was better that we had to travel away from home for her surgery as her recovery time at the RMH passed peacefully and comfortably, and there were no distractions for me. I was able to give my full attention to Tayta and her recovery needs. I'm not sure I can say enough good things about the Ronald McDonald House and its staff and volunteers!

Nor can I say enough good things about all the kind and competent health care workers who cared for Tayta during her surgery and hospital stay. We were very impressed with all the staff at The American Family Children's Hospital, where Tayta had her surgery...

...though I have to admit, Tayta and I were very thankful to be released as soon as possible. Once the tubes and monitors are no longer necessary, hospitals, no matter how nice, are just not the most relaxing and comfortable places to recover. Not to mention the poor food choices for someone who must sip through a straw. 

And now for the post-op/recovery pictures: below is Tatya in PediatricICU soon after her surgery. They provided a couch/bed for me so that I could stay with her at night. I thought the room pretty cheery for ICU.

The nursing staff was great and tried to let Tayta rest as peacefully as possible, despite needing to regulalry check her vitals and test the live tissue connection with a Dopler instrument.

Tayta was glad to move to a gliding rocker  the next day and,below, is how she looked for two days following her surgery: sad and pitiful. Her pain was minimal (the nerves in her face were severed during the surgery but will slowly regenerate) but she experienced discomfort from the swelling, which peaked a few days post-surgery, and from the tissue donor site under her left arm. She's sipping a chocolate milkshake. The first one was good, the fourth and fifth, not so much.

Two days post-surgery and still no smiles from Tayta. She is still looking pretty sad and pitiful but says she is fine. I made this picture smaller for any squeamish readers. Tayta wanted me to include it, but then she likes dissections and is thinking of pursuing nursing studies. For my readers with medical interest, or just curiosity, since many have asked, the head drain is for the one incision the surgeon made on Tayta's head, just in front of her left ear.(She had a 6 inch incision under her arm/back as it was the donor site for the tissue transplant). The yellow "popcorn" sutures held the transplanted tissue in place. Medical wonders, for sure!

Life suddenly improved when Tayta could leave the hospital, wear her glasses, and manage at least a half smile.
Five days post-op

At one week, Tayta's surgeon removed the sutures and gauze from her face, along with her head drain. Her smile is  growing.

 Dr. John Siebert, Tayta, and Dr. Seibert's PA

The pictures below were taken three weeks post-op, just before flying back to Jordan. As you can see, Tayta's kept her sense of humor through all this, an important quality for coping with looking "ridiculous" for some weeks. I like her spunk.

Two days ago,  back in Jordan, I took these pictures of Tayta, now four weeks post-op. The swelling continues to slowly subside, her skin tone is returning to normal...

...and best of all, her smile is back in full force. It will be weeks, even months, until the swelling subsides completely. Tayta will need a second, minor revision surgery anytime after six months from her first surgery. In this outpatient surgery the surgeon will correct the atrophy in her left lower lip, sculpt any residual tissue bulkiness from her left cheek/chin, and tuck the scar just inside her ear. Officially, there is no cure for PRS, however Dr. Seibert's patients have not experienced further tissue loss after undergoing this free-flap tissue transplant surgery. This is our hope and prayer for Tayta. Again, I say, medical wonders! And again, I give thanks to God for all the goodness with which he has blessed Tayta and our family as we've dealt with this disease and surgery. 

We are so very grateful for all the people who have prayed for and offered words of encouragement to Tayta as she underwent surgery, and now as she recovers. Thank you!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Meditations on Packing

Last week we undertook our biannual ritual of packing the necessities and treasures acquired in the US over the summer in preparation for our return to Jordan. While there is always some anxiety accompanying this process, this years' packing was the easiest ever, and that even after finding out that we had less baggage allowance than we had thought (international baggage allowance has been reduced to one free check on bag). I ruminated on the reasons for this:
  • We are are packing for just three people and so we need less things.
  • We have reduced our consumption of sweets and processed foods, so we don't bring back as many "treats"--just a few bags of chocolate chips.
  • More things are now available in Jordan
  • I am creating/crafting from recycled materials, so there is no need to bring back fabric, etc.
  • We have two college students plus medical bills, which translates into less money to fritter away on "stuff". (I'd like to think that I've never frittered away money, but alas, I'm afraid I have.)
  • Kindles. Don't tell Amazon, but I would purchase one at double the price.
The night before we traveled, a dear friend and fellow overseas dweller for 18 years and I reminisced, and laughed loudly, about our many packing and transporting-of-goods adventures--and misadventures. Especially trying were the days of raising small children overseas. Imported clothes, shoes, toys, and books, if they were even available, were exorbitantly expensive, so we packed all our garage sale finds of Fisher Price toys, Duplos then Legos, shoes and clothes, which the children grew out of so quickly at that age.

I'm glad we can look back and laugh at those then anxiety producing moments, which are now part of our family lore:

Dear husband, of UPS training, has worked for two days to pack twelve (or more--what was I thinking?!) 70 pound boxes/pieces of luggage back in the days of more generous baggage allowances, occasionally calling out to me in exasperation, "Do we really need this??" I learned not to launch into a logical defense of why each suspect item was needed, but to simply and meekly reply, "yes, we do," and leave the room.  On this point, my dear friend's recollection of the packing process is identical.

It is sometimes embarrassing, not to mention expensive, buying a two-year supply of personal hygiene products. A grocery store checker once asked me if I ran a shelter for women.

My children learned to pull carry-ons holding half their weight at a very young age. They were drilled with the procedure for getting through check-in and boarding the plane: "Don't ever complain about your carry-on being too heavy. Just smile confidently and keep going."

Some of the more unusual items we've packed back to Jordan: a large bouquet of silk flowers (undamaged, I might add, despite dire predictions by Dear Husband), pots and pans, Italian pottery, drum cymbals, a microwave, smoked salmon, live plants, china tea cups, picture frames, and specimens for biology class. This year Dear Husband didn't so much as raise an eyebrow when I informed him of my plan to bring back a number of lavender plants in my carry-on. He's seen it all. I know it is his dream to travel light someday--just his passport, wallet, notebook/computer and Kindle, all in one small case, which makes his willingness to juggle two carry-ons through four airports all the more appreciated by me.

We've now unpacked all our tangible goods; the suitcases are empty and put away. My heart, however remains full of summer memories, memories of God's gracious and generous provisions for our family and of good times with our children, who are now residing in three different time zones--four, if you count Tayta here with us. Retro-blogging, here I come.