Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Digging Deep in Turkey

We are back from two amazing weeks in Turkey!

I'm talking about a sunrise hot air balloon ride over the astounding rock formations of Cappadocia. Celebrating Margaret's 13th birthday in the resort town of Bodrum. And spending an entire week on a boat cruising the Aegean and the Mediterranean. Throw in an ancient city built entirely underground plus two short days in Istanbul and you start to get the picture of our remarkable experience.

This was no small trip, and our eyes, ears and taste buds had something new to experience every day. I won't soon forget the sound of drums parading through the streets of Istanbul to wake the faithful in time to cook and eat a meal before sunrise during Ramadan. Or platter after platter of fresh, juicy peaches that made my supermarket versions seem like nothing more than mush and fuzz. And the sight of hundreds of majestic mountains coming right down to the edge of a brilliant blue sea.

It was stunning and unforgettable. We loved it.

But vacations are also work. They throw us off a bit with necessary adjustments to our schedules and our habits, as they offer up something we can't get at home. Forgoing my crisp Washington Post and cup of Constant Comment tea each morning was an easy trade for the sights and sounds of Turkey. Putting my ailing shoulders to sleep on airplanes, in shuttle buses, hotel beds and a boat was worth views I'd never seen before nor will likely again.

The adjustments we make in order to travel remind us that we are not wed to the way things usually are, day in and day out. We sacrifice some of our stability to embrace a new experience.

And sometimes these changes are particularly uncomfortable.

I could see this most clearly from my daughter's perspective. A nervous stomach makes 8 plane rides, a 7 hour time difference, and bus trips on windy roads cause for anxiety. New foods and the back and forth motion of a boat (ask me about the dingy ride from hell someday!) are cause for concern.

But every stomach dropping, dry mouthed, clammy-feeling moment was under girded with, "We are in Turkey!" "This is a trip of a lifetime!" Jet lag doesn't last forever!" And photos of happy teen aged girls jumping off the side of a boat on "One, Two, THREE!" will always tell the tale of the summer when we ventured out with our dear friends and experienced a different part of the world. We put our daily lives aside for a while to experience something new.


Our continued discomfort and grief navigating life without Jack makes us feel off kilter too, even at almost three years out. Watching Margaret with our friends' teenage son reminds us of what we used to see each day, two brown heads together, leaning down, laughing. A happy birthday song with sparklers crackling on her cake throws the question into the atmosphere, "Is your older brother still older when you have now turned thirteen?"

And these feelings seem to increase rather than lessen over time. Yes, we can eventually grow accustomed to the rocking of a boat, so much so that by the time we reach shore again, our bed will sway for days afterward. But can we ever wrap our brains around a family of three? Will this ever feel normal? Will I always look at moms at the airport, whether they are heading to Riyadh or Spokane and silently count, one, two, three, sometimes four or five small heads and think, "Good, Mama, good. You won't be leaving one all alone if...if... if something goes horribly wrong."

In traveling on this most unwelcome journey, we face discomfort and change daily because we have no choice. But there is no reward for buckling down. There is no grand pay-off of an incredible vista, precious photograph, or historical site if we just dig deep and move forward.

There is just a life that needs living. So we do it. And there is laughter. Great new memories. Time shared with beautiful, generous friends.

But things are hurting worse right now.

Is it because we just flew halfway around the world, yet Jack's experience of a great vacation was a fountain coke and a Hampton Inn? Is it because we are once again in summer, and the feeling of dread of fall, September, and the accident weighs heavy on us once again?  Or is it because in life, there are discomforts, rearrangements, modifications that are worth it, but this one, which has left every area of our live so very different, will yield fruit, but will never, ever seem worth it to us?

Monday, July 21, 2014

Talking Turkey

We are on a boat in beautiful Turkey. Stunning views, warm water, and delicious food. I'm doing a bunch of reading and even having a little white wine with lunch. Margaret is loving being with kids her own age. I'm not sure she even realizes we are on this trip with her!

 My only complaint is the heat which, Hello... Turkey in July....should not have surprised me! I am wilting a bit.

 We explored an early church in an underground city which was amazing-- tunnel after tunnel after tunnel. We also floated high above valleys rock formations in a hot air balloon. 

Here is our latest meal:

Not too shabby, huh? and that's just LUNCH.

And here we are in a salt lake, followed by a sunrise view from the basket of our balloon.. 

We are tying blue ribbons in honor of Jack along the way.

Some days have felt a bit like Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (plus boats!) because we are covering a lot of ground, but I am so grateful for this experience.

The friends we are with are beautiful and caring, and I realize life is less about an incredible setting and more about the people around us.

Speaking of amazing people, I wish you were here.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Thrifty Summer Styling

Blame it on the nightly ice cream or the 2 (still) injured shoulders, but late spring/early summer found me with 3+ social events looming on my calendar and a closet full of clothes that were too small. We have a major family vacation coming up, and I knew any new clothes would have to be of the "twice-loved" variety. Let's see how it all turned out:

Wedding #1
Elegant country club setting in Bethesda, MD. Stunning young bride and groom. We will not discuss the epic argument that transpired by the three people pictured below on the way to the wedding.

Strapless dark blue Target dress purchased for $5 at the thrift store. When I got it home, however, I realized I'd over-estimated my cup size, so there was a lot of gaping fabric. A quick trip to the tailor to have it taken in put the dress up into the $45 dollar range. And, it was now so tight in the ribcage,  it was hard to breathe, and laughing was out of the question. New at Target, the dress would  probably would have been about $25.

Win? Not so sure.

P.S. I forgot to get my roots dyed before the wedding.
P.P.S. Yes, Margaret is wearing a brand spanking new dress. No one said life was fair.

Wedding #2:
Outdoor wedding at a national park on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Perfect weather! Service under the trees, then reception with live music in a big, breezy barn. Gray cotton J. Crew dress from thrift shop $6.50. Cool and comfy, plus pockets for my cell phone. Definite win.

Wedding # 3:
Took place at our annual camping trip in West Virginia. Read more about those trips here, here, and here. Ceremony in meadow surrounded by mountains. Vows under an arbor made by my brother, the groom.

I ran out of time to buy a "new" dress and pulled out dress # 2 again. It was cool and comfy, and this got the price per wear down to just $3.25. Win-Win!

 (Margaret helping bride and groom put flowers on arbor a few hours before the ceremony)

(My big brother the groom)

More thrifty finds to follow!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Angel Watching Over Me?

As a little girl, I pored over my picture Bible, sang Vacation Bible School songs around the house, and prayed earnestly that God would somehow be as real to me as he was to my mom. 
“Mom! Come here!” I called out one night, long after bedtime. I was around 7 years old. My sister slept soundly in her twin bed next to mine. My mother opened the door to our darkened room and asked me what was wrong.

“An angel! I saw an angel on the ceiling, right by the door!” 
I couldn’t really describe what I’d seen. It was more a shadowy, safe presence, than anything else. Angel is the word that came to me, even though I saw no wings, no halo, no face. Maybe I'd been sleeping and had dreamed it up.
“That’s great, Anna” my mom said, not making it sound all that great.

“Go back to sleep.”
So I did.
I felt dismissed and decided to keep any future angel sightings to myself. It wouldn’t be until I became a parent that I would fully understand that having a wakened child go back to sleep can feel more important to moms and dads than whatever heavenly visitors may have stopped by. I mean, I'd actually once crawled right into Margaret's crib, my boob in her mouth, just so she and I could get a little sleep.
I didn’t mind that no one else had seen what I had, and I didn't tell anyone else about it. Seeing an angel, a shadow, or whatever it had been, was odd. Sure, I’d asked God to become real to me, but I thought angels were limited to my picture Bible or their annual shout-out at Christmas. Later, they would become "in vogue" and could be seen on everything from lovely Christmas ornaments to cheesy plastic keepsakes. I decided I'd stick with my Bible verses and songs, thank you very much, and leave the matter of angels to others.

In fact, I wouldn't give angels another thought for the next 34 years...

What about you? Have you ever thought about angels?

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Wonder-filled Wednesday

The spring after Jack's accident, my childhood friend Brenda pulls into the parking lot of the small school where her husband is headmaster. She is going to deliver the monthly chapel message to the students. She has asked our permission to share about Jack's life and death, and how a perfectly imperfect little boy had a meaningful, trusting relationship with God.

A familiar Christian song plays on the radio as she pulls into the parking lot, and as she looks toward a tree on the grounds that she sees several times every day, she notices something she has never noticed before. A bald eagle has made a nest there. She takes a picture for me, thinking of course of Jack, our rare bird.
Gathering her purse and her keys, she listens more closely to the lyrics on the radio: “I will rise when He calls my name, no more sorrow, no more pain. I will rise, on eagles’ wings, before my God, fall on my knees, And Rise. I will rise.”
A rare bird and the healing words about the promise of heaven seem fitting as she walks into the building to share Jack’s story.