Saturday, November 23, 2013

Clothes Closet

Monday Tami and I went to volunteer at a local clothes closet. It provides clothes, minor medical care and other services to Syrian refugees. The refugees had to be registered to receive any help. Because of the demand from the refugee community the women are only allowed to visit the clothes closet once a month. They are given a tote and six minutes to pick out 5 clothing items for each of their children, only five items. Many of these refugees leave their native country with the clothes on their back. Sure, some people take advantage of the system, but for the few that were helped that Monday there are thousands more in a city of 14 million. Can you imagine not being able to provide for your child's most basic of needs? Basic needs. I'm not talking about a failure to have the perfect pair of shoes or accessory to match their outfit for our Christmas card photo. Basic needs: food, shelter, proper clothing. I cannot.  
Said all that to say...I have a lot to be thankful for.  I am thankful for the country we live in.  I am thankful for the freedom we have. I am thankful that we are not a refugees.  I am thankful for my husband and sweet boys.  I am thankful that I was able to travel with my man.  My list could go on and on...and it should.  Most of all, though, I am thankful to God who makes anything on my list possible.  Sometimes I just need a little perspective, you know.    

Relections of London

My grandmother, Helen, loved all things London. For my grandparents' 50th wedding anniversary my grandfather surprised her with a trip to the United Kingdom. As we toured around, I thought about them often. I wondered how a couple in their 70's made it through public transport. They came home with 4 or 5 rolls of film with only scenery. There were one or two pictures of my grandmother out of all those pictures. While they were in London, my grandparents came across a carport sale (of sorts) raising money for a local humane society. She purchased some china. I'm sure it's not of much value. There were only 4 place settings so she took it to Castner Knott and matched it to a similar pattern. That china is what I have in my dining room today. She was fascinated by the culture of England and so was I. They have such an air a of formality that we are lacking in the states. So, I'm starting a campaign. We're going to call it Project Helen in her honor. With this campaign I am going to start conducting myself like a lady. I'm going to start wearing panty hose. I'm going to start using words/phrases like "Brilliant," "proper," "mind the gap","rubbish," and "Holiday," just to name a few

Feel free to join me. I'm bringing the UK back to the US. Yep, I'm doing it. Well, maybe not the panty hose. Those things are awful!  Oh, and I'm going to eat more scones.  Yes, more scones. Those are delicious!

London, Part 2

Before we left for this trip, we booked tickets for Les Miserable at Queens Theater in London. I will have to say, minus a delay in our flight, running like crazy to get there, not eating dinner until 10:30 pm and then having a major snafu with our transportation home, it was really a cool date! I'm not sure how Fred will top this one with our current date night budget.  

We woke up the next morning and headed out from London on our way home. Traveling the world is always fun, but traveling with my best friend is beyond a blessing.

The trip from London went well...until about an hour before we landed in NYC.  I started feeling crummy.  I figured it was jet lag.  Nope.  I spent the majority of our layover in NYC laying on the floor covered in a blanket and shivering beyond control.  These bouts of shivering were briefly broken up by several trips to the bathroom to vomit.  It was a good time.  Only I can add throwing up in the JFK airport to my list of "things I experienced" on our trip.  Classic.  We made it home that night exhausted, but still smiling.  It really was a once in a lifetime opportunity for us.  Or at least a once in a lifetime of while are kiddos are at home.  Many, many thanks to our family in the states who took care of our three precious boys, one of whom contracted mono while we were gone.  We couldn't have made this trip without their tag teaming efforts to love on them.   

Istanbul, Part 3

The next morning the girls and boys split up to divide and conquer. Tami and I hit public transportation for a little work at a clothing shelter. Refuges (mostly from Syria these days) are serviced here. They usually leave their politically charged country with the clothes on their backs. They were allowed to look through small bins of clothes for 6 minutes to pick out 5 items of clothing for each child. We ran out of warm clothes quickly, especially coats. One mother looked at me with the eyes only a mother can have for a child and across language barriers made the point that her child did not have a coat. She will not get to come back to the clothing closet for another month. I pray it does not too cold between now and then. My heart broke for her.  Really broke for her.  

After serving there for most of the morning we headed for a little relaxation at a hammam (Turkish bath). I will spare the details of the bath and pictures. You'll have to google it to get all the details, but let's suffice it to say that I have not giggled like that in a long time. Once that experience drew to a close we treated ourselves to a cup of corn (a common street food) and started our journey home on the metro. While we were at the hammam, the boys visited the ruins of an ancient castle. Fred was telling Sierra where they were going. Shortly after that conversation this sweet girl disappeared and quickly returned with this garb...

Princess indeed.  Is she not the cutest thing?!?  There may have been a little stress over the fact that her pink crown did not match her purple shirt.  Grin.

Not to be left out the boys hit the hammam the next morning. Tami and I waited at home to hear about their experience. Fred loved it and vowed that if he lived in Istanbul, he would go once a week! 
Dan and Tami had heard of a market relatively close by so we headed there. It was basically a giant flea market. We did not buy much, but enjoyed the sights. Before the big kids came home from school (their school day runs from noon to 6pm) we went to Real (basically an international Walmart). I love a grocery store. I really do.  We walked up and down aisles and I oohed and aahed. (I know. I'm pretty easily impressed.)

After six days of fun we headed out of Istanbul.  We said good by to Dan and his family and headed toward home.  

Istanbul, Part 2

Sunday morning we woke up and headed out for the Eurasia marathon. Fred and I were signed up to run the 15k (9.3 miles). We ran across one of two bridges that span the Bosphorus, from Asia to Europe. This experience will go down as one of the top ten coolest things I've ever done. Over 100,000 people participate in this race and the city virtually shuts down. Getting to run next to my best friend was beyond amazing. He let me pick the pace. It must be love.  
 It is important to note that Dan and his family also participated in the 8k fun run. I think Zeke might be hooked!

This is kind of a Where's Waldo picture.  Can you find us?!?  Did I mention there were a lot of people participating?!?
Okay, see the blue globe thing?  To the right of that you will see Fred's yellow buff (Aunt Jemima) hat and my blue Memphis hat is right next to him.  Coincidentally, that Memphis hat has seen a lot of races.  Now it can add two continents to its list.  We met six Americans while running: four from Texas and two from Boston.  It was neat to see how your ears pick up English when other languages are being spoken all around you.  

Before the race began, they played the Turkish National Anthem.  Everyone around us was singing...loudly.  It made me smile.  Shortly after that we were ready to video and caught another song.  The video does not capture the excitement well, but everyone (except us) was singing in another language.  Good times.  

Once the race was completed we met up with Dan, Tami and family for a little lunch. Then Tami and I made the trek to get Kaiyah. Boy, was I thankful for Tami during these rides on public transportation!! Mercy. I have never seen so many people crammed on such tight spaces. Tami kept laughing at me. I think it was my facial expressions. We went from bus to metro to subway to walk to bus to walk. Please keep in mind that I had just run 9.3 miles. One way to get Kaiyah (in the same city with traffic) took 1 1/2 hours. The trip home took just the same. By the time we got home I was limping and laughing at myself.  For someone who really likes her personal space these bits on public transportation really were...what shall I call it...exciting.  

Istanbul, Part 1

We made it!  A little late, but better late than never!!  We arrived in Istanbul right on time...well, according to our new flight schedule. Upon arrival I took Dan and Fred's picture as they were embracing to see if it would evoke tears in my mother in law.  It did.  I know I will be paid back for this some day.  

Dan whisked us away and quickly introduced us to traffic. Lots and lots of traffic. We went to the Istiklal, met up with Tamil and the kids, and had a delicious Turkish dinner. After dinner we went to a meeting with the fam and were introduced to savory of the two foods I did not care for. After a long day of travel we encountered more traffic and were home in about two hours after leaving. Kaiyah, who is normally shy, whispered to me, "I'm sorry I won't get to spend much time with you tomorrow. I have a sleepover at a friends house." It was precious.

The next morning our gracious hosts treated us to a traditional Turkish breakfast (yum! boiled eggs, tomatoes, cucumbers, cheese, fried cheese, and fresh rolls) 

and then toured us all around Istanbul (after dropping sweet Kaliyah at her sleepover). We saw the Spice Market, the Grand Bazare, the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, the Basilica Cystern, and the Topkapi Palace and had another great Turkish meal in that area.
 We were probably not the most reverent visitors at the Blue Mosque the day we visited, but come on, who wouldn't laugh a little at this picture?  The lady in the marked prayer room was checking facebook on her Iphone so I didn't feel too bad for laughing and snapping a few pictures.

Fred got new running shoes right before we left and he wanted to break them in before the race.  As you can see in the picture they were bright orange.  (We do not buy running shoes based on color.  It's a formula based on price and shoes that match our running style.)  Anyway, it was cold this day and Fred wore the above outfit with his yellow buff on his head.  At one point during the day Dan told Zeke if he got lost to tell people to help him find the really tall guy with orange shoes and an Aunt Jemima hat.  Brothers are so funny!

And we're off...

Well kind of...Some time late Tuesday afternoon we got home.  Bags were packed, my mom was here and we were making last minute trip preparations.  That's when I noticed the microwave was not working.  Huh, that's weird.  Shortly after that my mom requested a tutorial on working our television.  I explained that it was super easy to use.  Just press this button and it should just come on.  Just press this button.  Press.this.button.  Nothing.  Upon further examination I realized our microwave, tv, Wii, Dvd player and bathroom light were not working.  Long story short...a transformer blew in our neighborhood and we'd had a power surge that took out all of the above mentioned items.  Bummer, right.  This is what we call a "first world problem".  My microwave, tv, dvd player, wii and bathroom light don't work and I don't have time to deal with it because I'm leaving on a European vacation.  Yes, I have real problems.  Ha! 
The trip began early Wednesday morning...early mainly because I couldn't sleep for fear of leaving my passport or having the wrong flight time, etc. Despite all of this around 10 am we left Nashville and headed to NYC. 

Once there we boarded an all night flight to London. We got an exit row with an empty seat in between us.  I literally heard angels singing as we settled in on the airplane.  Okay, not literally, but it was a nice moment.  

Once we touched the ground in London we did not waste time nor did we stop. We stored our luggage and grabbed the first tube into the heart of London. It is important to note that Fred slept the entire flight.  Seriously, he was snoring before the plane taxied out. I slept none. None the less when we got off the plane at 6:20 am I was feeling spry. Upon looking back at pictures one can see that I was not as spry as I felt. (A little make would have helped, but NO, I was feeling great!) We quickly located a proper English breakfast. We both had scones with clotted cream (and a lot of other deliciousness), it is beyond me why this is not served in the US! 
 Below is a traditional English breakfast.  Baked beans?  Whatever, it was on Fred's plate, not mine.

After a couple hours of the bus tour we met up with some friends of ours who are serving in London. We ate lunch and visited with them at a delightful restaurant and then continued our bus tour. Have I mentioned that it was cold?  Who knows the formula for converting Celcius to Farhenheit off the top of their head?!?  Clearly I should have familiarized myself with this formula.  We saw all the big sights of London and then took a boat tour of the River Thames. Once off the boat we saw Big Ben and Westminster Abbey

Yes, TJ Maxx is a London sight.  It's right up there with Parliament and Big Ben.  

By this time I was running on about 30 hours with no sleep and I was ready for our hour long commute back to the airport. We shared fish and chips at a pub and then settled in our little (I mean little!) hotel room where I may or may not have fallen asleep in mid sentence.
After a good night's sleep, we left our hotel room with plenty of time to make our next flight to Istanbul...we thought. In hindsight, we would have done well to familiarize ourselves with the layout of the LHR Airport, the time it takes to get from one concourse to another at 4am, and the rules regarding check-in time prior to flying out. In any event, thanks to the kindness of a British Airways ticket agent who read the desperation on the faces of the dumb yanks before her, we were booked on the next flight out and just had a little extra time at the London airport to enjoy another good British breakfast! Thank goodness for sleep and make evidenced by this picture!!  We were waiting for our flight in the London airport in this picture.  

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The move

It's been a while since I've written a post.  I've had a lot on my mind, but I just haven't had the ability to put it down on paper.

We are moving.  There, I said it.  Whew...I feel better.  

Fred and I have known about this for some time now, but October 26th Ellendale Baptist Church in Bartlett, Tennessee officially voted for us to be their new pastor.  Then, on November 3rd Fred read his letter of resignation from the only church family my boys have ever really known.  It was tough. There were a lot of tears (and there are still tears yet to cry, although I feel like I've really reached my limit). The week between the 26th and the 3rd was one of the hardest weeks of my life.  
It's been difficult to write all this down.  On one hand I have people that are over the moon excited about getting to know us and starting a new chapter together.  And then on the other hand I have people that are broken over a chapter coming to a close.  It's just tough.  In true fashion to me I decided to do the only thing that I know to do.  Make a list.  It really is the only way I know how to organize my thoughts.  This is by no means an exhaustive list...

Things we will miss about Paris:
-Having friends that are more like family.  They love my kids like their own.  It just doesn't get much better than someone loving my kids.  
-The Fish Fry Parade.  Best Ever!!
-Our workout partners.  I can't speak for Fred, but mine is my friend, confidant, and sometimes therapist.  Lots of problems have been solved as our feet have rhythmically hit lots of Paris pavement. (Speaking of the one above...we always ran the parade route before it began.  Good times.)  Fred also likes all the open highways for bike rides.
-Wednesday lunches at Dairy Delight with Jerry and Patsy.
-Getting directions that begin with..."Go to the big fish and turn---".
-Running all my errands (grocery store, bank, recycle center, dry cleaners, library) and being home in an hour.  As a matter of fact there is no where that I go that takes over 15 minutes...without traffic.  There is never traffic.
-Football games where half the town is in attendance, wearing red and cheering loudly!
-Jasmine and Culver's.  Okay, they are in Murray, but they are super good.
-Summer time and boats.  I love going to Walmart and seeing people in "beach" attire.  It makes my feel like I'm on vacation.

Things we are looking forward to in Bartlett:
-Making new memories, forming new relationships and beginning a new ministry
-Having family close by.  Fred's dad and sister actually have offices in Bartlett.  Fred will be able to meet his dad for lunch. Fred's sisters will be able to just "stop in".  Won't that be a treat?!?
-Sports leagues for the boys.
-Being able to attend Memphis basketball and football games.
-The Grizzlies
-The Children's Museum, The Zoo and The Botanical Gardens
-The Mexican Ice Cream place on Summar Avenue and many other restaurants.

Our last Sunday at Springhill will be December 1st.  Our first Sunday at Ellendale will be December 8th.   We are sad with what we are leaving.  Our babies turned in to boys here.  We grew as a family and had to depend on each other.  We are excited about the future though.  God is taking care of us every time we turn around and we are forever grateful for all He's done.
I think Clayton summed up everything we are all feeling.  He said, "I have tears in my throat and a smile on my face."  I couldn't have said it better.
Andrew is super excited about moving to Memphis.  I don't want to forget how he says Memphis. Forgive me for ending a sentence in a preposition.  Also, forgive me that Andrew does not have on a shirt.  That's just how we roll.