Tuesday, March 14, 2017

It's not a long list, but I have learned something

Not long after we got married, I followed several blogs written by women who got married within a year or two of us. I found myself frequently seeing blog post titles like "10 Things I Learned in 3 Years of Marriage" or "5 Tips from 5 Years of Marriage" or something similar. Now, maybe I'm just not very self-aware or maybe I don't learn like this, but I could never identify so many things.

I always hesitate to write about marriage at all because I feel like we haven't been married very long and what do I know anyway? I have written on cross-cultural marriage, but that's different. I read a lot of books about that, and it is a bit abnormal. My experience there is a little more unique, though I would say that cross-cultural marriage issues are exactly what same-culture marriage issues are, just exaggerated.

In honor of our 8th anniversary today, I'm sharing my 1 marriage tip. It combines what I learned in reading about cross-cultural marriage (but is applicable to all relationships), my experience of 8 years, and the marriage tip I found in a Dean Koontz book a couple of years ago.

There was a couple that was from the same culture at first glance. They were both white, born in the USA, same religion, and both spoke English as a first language. The wife was the daughter of immigrants and saw family relations much differently than the husband. They had gone to counseling to work out some disagreements about their relationship to their birth families. They were each asked, "How often do you see your parents?" in two ways: first in terms of rarely, sometimes, often and second specifically how many times per week or month or year. The wife said that they rarely see her parents, while the husband said they often see his. In specific terms, they see both sets of parents once a month.

It's not a story about how often a married couple should visit their parents. It's about how we all interpret vague words from our own perspective.

Being a cross-cultural couple, Rodgers and I recognize this much more frequently in our communication with each other. We have learned to ask, "What do you mean by _____?" or "Give me an example of _____," to ensure we've understood each other.

Rodgers has learned to ask me, "What can I do to help?" instead of calling from another room, "Let me know if I can help," or just assuming that if I need something I'd tell him, which I don't because I expect him to see what needs to be done the same way I see it.

I really should tell him if I need something, and this is what I'm learning.

Isn't it obvious what needs to be done? Isn't it obvious that I can't possibly put away the cold groceries and get the boys in the shower and start a load of laundry because the water is finally running again and we have mountains of dirty clothes and throw something together for supper at the last minute because we were late getting home and everyone is hungry and grumpy all at the same time? On one hand, I say, "Yes!" It should be. But on the other hand, "what needs to be done" is one of those vague things that is defined by our own experience, our own perspective. And this is one that I think is less influenced by culture and more influenced by the roles one performs in the household. So this is for everybody.

This is my one tip.

When I need something from my husband, I have to say exactly what it is in very specific words. But, I can't be emotional (that confuses him) or bossy (that stimulates his defiant personality). I find it best to pose it as a question or invitation, keeping in mind that he may have priorities that are actually more important than mine. (Who knew, right?) And also, it's best to give a little forewarning. For example, "When we get home, my priorities will be putting away groceries, getting supper going, making sure the boys get in the shower, and starting a load of laundry if the water is running. Are you available to help me with any of that?"

He always says yes because we're a team and when I have too much, he picks up my slack if he has been made aware of it. I also pick up his slack when needed, though not with as good an attitude as he would have. Maybe that will be my lesson 8 years from now.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

an ordinary day

Several times during our last trip to the US, I was asked, "What does a typical day for you look like?" In a word: unpredictable. On a daily basis, what I've planned doesn't pan out, unexpected urgent tasks come up, and I just have to go with the flow!

I've learned that I need a weekly priority list rather than a daily to-do list. What must get done this week? What needs to be done this week but can be postponed? What would be nice to get done this week if I have time? Then I can do those urgent things but still follow my priority list to get done what needs to be done when I have the time.

Tuesday last week was a typical day, in that it was completely unpredictable. I had planned to work on the computer, doing Maisha Kamili record keeping, planning social media posts, and maybe even get some educational reading done. That did not happen...

5:02 am
My alarm started going off. I hate mornings, and pre-6:00 in the morning is especially abominable, but Rodgers and I have been exercising together and early morning is the best time for that. My alarm starts very quiet and gradually increases in volume over the course of 3 minutes. It's a gentler way to wake up.

5:35 am
I was up and ready to exercise with Rodgers. Our video lasts 25 minutes.

6 am
While cooling off and drinking water, I read through some emails and Facebook updates. Rodgers turned on the kitchen faucet and discovered that the water was running again! We had not had water since the previous Wednesday. Even our rooftop water storage was empty. I had tons of laundry piling up. I put my "top priority" load in the washing machine, after pre-treating and scrubbing the dirt and sweat in boys' white school shirts.

6:25 am
Nate was up; I reminded him to feed the cats. Then I went to wake up Ben while Rodgers reheated waffles leftover from our breakfast on Saturday. We ate breakfast, and I got the boys ready for school while Rodgers took a shower and got ready for his errands.

7:30 am
The Ken-Tex men left the house for the day. I got myself ready for the showered and dressed, mentally rearranging my priorities. Now my priority was keeping the washing machine running as long as we had water. I would not have uninterrupted time on the computer, so that would have to be done Wednesday morning.

8 am
I hung up the first load of laundry and started the second. Then I did my Bible study and washed dishes from Monday, which had been postponed in hopes that we would have water on Tuesday. (And we did! Yay!)

9:30 am
Rodgers sent me a text that he was heading to Mombasa to get the car a/c checked out again. It hasn't been working for months, and the weather is only getting hotter. I don't know when he asked the a/c man about his availability, but suddenly, he was available, so all plans were canceled in order to take the car to him.

By the time I was finished with the dishes, the second load was almost done in the washing machine, so I read a blog post. Magazine article may be more accurate - it was Christianity Today, "God Wants You to Get Some Sleep." It mentions a book called Liturgy of the Ordinary, which was intriguing considering my word for the year. Then I hung the laundry and started the third load in the washing machine: towels. At that point, I could hear water trickling into the rooftop water storage. This was very good news.

Since the water was still running, I stripped the beds and put clean sheets on. Maybe I would get 4 loads of laundry clean in 1 day!

If you've never put sheets on bunk beds with mosquito nets, I have to disclose: it is a very strenuous activity. Always consult your physician before beginning a new exercise program.

I did a little organizing in the boys' room. They are responsible for keeping it clean, but it helps when I make sure things are where they belong, put some things up in the top of the closet, etc.

I heard goats in the yard. Rodgers and the boys always chase them out, but I can't be bothered. I have too much else to do.

11 am
Rodgers texted me that there was a leak in a pipe in the a/c. I was skeptical that it was the real problem since we've had the pipes fixed a dozen times. But ok. The only welders are actually on the island of Mombasa, none in the suburb where he was, so he was off to the main city.

Some of the clothes were dry. I brought them inside to make space on the clothesline for the towels. I made myself a little reading plan for the 4 non-fiction books I have been "meaning to" read, but haven't gotten around to.

12 pm
The washing machine chimed again that the load was finished. Water was still running. I hung the towels and put the sheets in. Then I heated up some leftovers for lunch and turned on the TV. After lunch, I read for about 30 minutes, then fell asleep for 15.

In the middle of that, Rodgers called me and said there was a bigger problem. The a/c condenser was leaking, too, and it was not accessible, so I would have to get the kids from school, and he would be home late. I brought in the rest of the clothes, which were now all dry except for jeans.

2:30 pm
I hung up the sheets - all my laundry was done! Since I would be cooking supper and helping boys with homework at the same time, I started prepping veggies. I had to dice several tomatoes and an onion and cut zucchinis and carrots into spears. I also put away the clean dishes, which were dry by this time. Then I got dressed in "going out in public/walking to school" clothes.

because everyone needs a treat now and then
4 pm
I left home for school. It's about a 20 minute walk, filled with people running out of their shops to call after me and boda-boda (motorcycle taxi) drivers pacing me, trying to convince me that I need to hire them. We always take a tuk-tuk home when I walk to get the boys from school. Sometimes they want to walk, but at the end of the school day, they are so tired.

4:30 pm
We got home and I gave the boys a snack, and we all relaxed for a few minutes. We had lollipops because it was a hard day, and we all needed a treat!

5 pm
Then they started their homework, and I started cooking supper, bouncing back and forth between the kitchen and each of the boys to give homework help.

6 pm
We ate supper. I called Rodgers to see if there was any chance he'd head home soon - not yet. He'd had some trouble getting the right part. After supper, the boys helped clean up the dining room, and I put away leftovers.

7 pm
I sent the boys to the shower. We read some picture books while they had a bedtime snack. (I know! They just had supper a few minutes ago, but they always want fruit or yogurt at bedtime.) Then they brushed their teeth and got in bed. They like to fall asleep listening to me read chapter books. We were reading Superfudge (again).

my clean laundry chair - it was so hot and sunny that almost everything was
dry before dark
8 pm
Once they were in bed, I turned on the TV to keep me company while I folded all. that. laundry. I think it took me an hour. Finally, I laid down on the couch to watch the end of Bones.

9:30 pm
Rodgers let me know that he was getting something to eat, then would head home. I expected him around 11 or maybe later. I went to bed early, reading a book until I fell asleep.

11 pm
I heard Rodgers come home. He took a shower and got in bed. I kissed him and fell right back to sleep.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Nate 20 questions, age 7

Nate posing with Darthy (short for Darth Vader, of course)
His words. My words. (Commentary.) 

1. Who is your favorite person in the whole world? uh...God.
2. What is your favorite color? Gold.
3. What is your favorite tv show? That's a hard one...You can choose more than one. Henry Danger. Ninja Turtles. PJ Masks. Lion Guard.
4. What is your favorite outfit? Jeans and my Superman shirt.
5. What sport do you like best? Running.
6. What is your favorite song? He's Making Diamonds.
7. What is your favorite cereal? Milo.
8. Who is your best friend? Aaron, Munda, Ben.
9. What do you want to be when you grow  up? I want to be a robot builder. I'm gonna make things like Baymax.
10. What is your favorite book? Fudgie (That's Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing.)
11. What are you really good at? I'm good at games.
12. Where do you wish you could go on vacation? Texas!
13. What is your best memory? Going on a diving board. Going in an airplane.
14. What would you buy if you had $1000? I would buy my own motorbike.
15. What vegetable do you hate the most? Cauliflower.
16. If you could have a wish, what would it be? I wish there were break dance cars again.
17. What is your favorite flavor of ice cream? Strawberry.
18. Who is your biggest hero? Kid Danger.
19. What do you like to do best with your friends? Play with them. What do you like to play with them? Chasing.
20. What do you want for dinner on your birthday? Popcorn shrimp with popcorn.

Friday, January 6, 2017

One Word 2017: Ordinary

We all know Romans 12:1-2, right? (Present your body as a living sacrifice,
Don't conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed...)
Read The Message paraphrase

Last year, my word(s) was (were) "be still." My goals were to intentionally observe a Sabbath every week and to spend time daily being still in prayer. I felt like I did this well the first part of the year. Then we traveled to the US. With my schedule out the window, this was difficult - both the weekly and daily goals. When we returned, I felt that I was behind on so many things that I really had too much to do, and I wasn't very good at being still. Then, a million crazy things happened with Rodgers' family, and with him gone a lot taking care of their business, I was even worse at being still. This is a discipline I still need to work on, and I intend to. It is so good to be still. And I have seen what Sabbath does for me physically, mentally, and spiritually. It is all good things!

This year, as I contemplated what to focus on for 12 months, two things came to mind. One was a song. The other was a devotional.

There's one line of the song that brought the devotional to mind. Though I would call this my theme song for the year, I really don't like this line, "We were made for so much more than ordinary lives."

If taken a certain way, I can agree. We were made for paradise, for abundant lives in Christ. However, there is a lot of ordinary in my life, and that's as it should be. There is a lot of ordinary that I must do. And I must persevere in following Jesus in the ordinary.

This is what brought to mind My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. I had to Google for a bit to find what I was looking for (linked). He emphasizes the necessity and the calling of a follower of Jesus to be exceptional in the ordinary things of our lives. He wrote, "It is ingrained in us that we have to do exceptional things for God— but we do not. We have to be exceptional in the ordinary things of life, and holy on the ordinary streets, among ordinary people— and this is not learned in five minutes."

We do have ordinary lives. I do. We moved to Kenya in 2012, which sounded like such a huge adventure, but I spent most of my time that first year feeding the baby, washing bottles, potty training the toddler, disciplining, cooking, cleaning. Ordinary things. Ordinary life. It still is even this year - my kids are just older!

This quote about being exceptional in ordinary life has come to mind several times over the past few months, thus, I'm going to stick with it. My word for the year is "ordinary."

Last year I started a Bible reading plan called "Four Streams." It goes through the Old Testament once a year, Psalms twice, and the New Testament and Proverbs 4 times. I only got through 283 days of it, but I have to say I really, really super like it. I'm still going. I've just started the fourth time through the New Testament. I like that it gives a variety of readings each day, some Old, some New, a Psalm and/or a chapter of Proverbs. I like that the New Testament is divided in such a way that I'm not reading all of the gospels back to back. And 6 to 7 chapters a day is totally doable (except for those months that we had no regular schedule). I will keep this one up. I intend to start again when I finish it.

A new discipline I'm adding this year is also an old one -> scripture memory. I was memorizing Bible verses before I could even read. I was a Bible driller when I was older. I've memorized a lot of verses and short passages, but I've never memorized a very long passage. Let me take that back. In college, I memorized Psalms 27 and 34, but I don't remember most of them. I looked at several suggested chapters to memorize, I found a plan for memorizing the entire New Testament in 5 years (click and scroll to the bottom half of the page, it takes memorizing 4-6 verses per day), but in the end my short list had me choosing between 3 books: 1 Peter, James, and Ephesians. Memorizing the first 2 in a year would average out to 2 verses per week. Ephesians is about 3 verses per week. And I'm going with...


A memorization challenge may seem extraordinary, but I believe that memorizing and meditating on scripture is one way to keep myself focused on Jesus in the mundane parts of my life.

So there it is. One word: ordinary.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 year in review


Nate turned 6, and the main thing he wanted for his birthday was to go to Wild Waters in Nyali. It's a real-live water park. It's no Schlitterbahn, but it was fun. There were several big slides the boys got to do, then this small play area for kids where they could just go wild. 


We had to go to Nairobi to renew Ben's passport. We took a few extra days for vacation, and we got to do some sightseeing: the National Museum of Kenya, Nairobi Animal Orphanage, Junction Mall (not really sightseeing, unless you're country folks like us), and a movie in the theater. We even got drive thru fried chicken, which was simply an amazing experience to have. Nairobi is like a different country.


The March heat was even more intense this year. Check out the blazing sun.


As a domestic nomad, eras are marked in my memories based on what house we lived in, with a few outlines in roadtrips (we did major roadtrips) and family vacations. I wonder if time spent in airports will punctuate my global nomad children's memories. 

This time, we were heading back to Texas! It was hardest to return to Kenya this time because Nate is old enough to know what he's missing over there and how long it will be before we are back there again.


We spent our time in Texas traveling over 5,000 miles, staying with so many different friends, enjoying everyone's cooking, their swimming pools, horses, satellite TV, hot tubs, pets, kids, and proximity to local attractions - including an airport! 


We wound up our time in Texas and headed back to airports. Rodgers and the boys got to go to Charles de Gaulle for the first time (we always fly through Schipol; I had been to CDG before).


This is the cooler season in coastal Kenya. But we brought water balloons with us from Texas. The boys were holding out hope for hot days without rain so that they could play with them.


August is a break from school here, but we spent the month planning and holding "camps" for Maisha Kamili Kids. We had the high schoolers overnight at an MK staff member's house, then two days of fun at our house - one for the primary school kids and one for the college and university students. 

We have less water supply issues in this neighborhood than we did in our last one. We've only had to fetch water from outside sources three times this year! In our last neighborhood, we had to fetch water from outside daily for several months at a time. Here, we have four taps/faucets/spigots/whatever that come directly from the water line. Our bathrooms and one kitchen faucet are all from stored water on the roof. There are weeks every other month or so when the water pressure is so low that this spigot, our closest to the ground, is the only one that has any water, which means our roof top water storage is definitely not being filled, and we have to haul water into the house.


Ben turned 5! He and Nate both got real bicycles for their birthdays this year. They both still use the training wheels. I think Nate could ride without on a smaller bike, but his is super heavy. We don't have a lot of options for such things, though bicycles are quite common here.


 The last month of school for the year! October was full of the normal work, school, life busyness.


We were so proud watching the boys in the end-of-year program at their school this year! Nate was scout on duty, and he raised the flag and led the singing of the national anthem at the beginning. Ben is also in scouts, and they showed off some marching skills and recited the scout motto and pledge. They are both in taekwondo and demonstrated some attacking and blocking moves. Their classes sang songs and recited poetry.

This school break, we visited the MKKs at their homes - as many as we could get to in the time we had.

We invited friends to join us for Thanksgiving, like we did two years ago. Except for the sweltering heat, it was almost like home. 



This is a long school break! Besides working, visiting MKKs, and hosting the annual MKK Christmas party, the boys and I have spent a lot of time at home. They help with chores, play a lot, watch too much TV, and spend some entire days just fighting. Normal stuff. 

Some updates have been made to the Coffee Cottage (our tiny house on the family land) this year, including some interior paint. a permanent bench on the front porch, and solar power! There are rumors of a water line coming through the area, so we may even have running water one day. 

We took a weekend getaway and played at the dunes for my birthday. It's hard to get time off when our office is in our house and Rodgers could be called at any given moment for any reason at all. Staying in a hotel out of town is one of the best ways we've found to have a real day off (or three).