Friday, June 28, 2013

Five Minute Friday: In Between

In between. Like the PB&J in a sandwich or the blueberry filling in a pie. I'm stuck in the middle right now. Last June I had a job I loved. Then my time overseas ended and I came back to North America, but couldn't work while I waited for my green card. After months of sitting around trying to fill my time with small jobs for relatives, I finally got my green card at the end of April. But I'm still sandwiched between those two pieces of bread, the bottom crust and the top. With five weddings, and two small family reunions on both sides of my husband's family this spring and summer, there's been a lot of time spent traveling and not enough time staying in one place to start working in earnest.

But, I keep reminding myself, it's the in between times that, really, are the sweetest. What would a sandwich be without the spreads? Who would eat a pie without filling? I've been in between this year, but my life has been full of new experiences and exciting discoveries. Traveling in South Korea and Vietnam last summer. Driving a truck and trailer filled with my earthly possessions from BC to Maine. Moving our things into our first North American apartment together. Christmas at home in snowy BC for the first time in three years. Another cross-continent drive to bring my car east in January. Jonathan introducing me to new parts of Maine, and both of us exploring the area we now live in together. It hasn't been normal, but it has been memorable.

I'm ready to settle down into our life here now, come fall and the return of a less-hectic schedule. And I'm ready to have a job again, to have a routine to follow. This past in-between year has been crazy, but one thing I can say about it is that it's definitely been interesting. Normal and routine are good, but sometimes it takes chaotic and in-between to appreciate the more mundane parts of life.

My musings on the prompt 'in between' for Five Minute Friday. Join in next week if you feel inspired!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Rhythm

Last June I woke up every morning, went to worship in the main building on campus, walked five minutes to another building, sat at my desk, and started editing the ESL textbook pages that were set in front of me. Everything in that office had a rhythm. The clack of keyboard keys. The jarring ring of office phones and the jangling songs of cell phones. The quiet Korean chatter between colleagues, punctuated with a burst of English here and there. The occasional impromptu meetings at the table in the corner where those in the meetings would try to discuss the issues our office faced in hushed conversations so as not to disrupt the rest of us still sitting at our desks working at our computers.

Even our physical activity had a rhythm. In the ten minutes just before lunch and again just before the end of our work day, Chilli, the only man in our office, started up the exercise song - a upbeat, high-energy marching-type song. At the starting notes, he stood and urged the rest of us to rise from our desk chairs and join him in a rhythm of stretching, and arm and leg exercises. The entire first week of working in the office I couldn't keep the grin off my face while I mimicked my coworkers' actions and fumbled through the series of exercises. Even months later my mouth formed a slight grin while I expertly followed the music through the routine.

The rhythm of office work is behind me now. Most of the time I'm glad to be free of the unyielding work hours, the frustrating rule of having to stay at the office for the full 40 hours a week even when I'd finished all the work my coworkers could find for me. But sometimes I miss it. Miss the hushed conversations. Miss the mix of Korean and English fluidly filling the office. Miss the camaraderie of having others around to work with, to go to for help when I had a question, to talk to in a moment of down time, and even to join in our office exercise routines. Sometimes, I miss the busy rhythm of office life. And in those times, I dig out my copy of the exercise song and play it loudly, reminding my arms and legs of the rhythm of my ESL textbook office in Seoul, South Korea.

Me with some of my coworkers ~ June 2012
Photo by Glenda Quiring

My musings on the prompt 'rhythm' for Five Minute Friday. Join in next week if you feel inspired!

Edit: My husband and I drove from Maine to Michigan this week for a wedding on Sunday. When we arrived in Berrien Springs on Friday evening, after the wedding rehearsal, I checked my e-mail, and to my surprise, found a new comment on this blog post from Lisa-Jo telling me that I was her Featured post on Five Minute Friday this week. I was so surprised and honoured to be chosen. Thank you so much, Lisa-Jo, for choosing me and for your kind and encouraging words! I love the FMF writing community!
My post is featured on the right sidebar of her blog

Monday, June 17, 2013

The power of prayer

This past week and a half I read two blog posts that almost, almost broke my heart. Two families nearly lost an important member. Two sets of parents on two different continents came so, so close to losing a child. I know neither family - at least not in person - but through reading their blogs I feel like I know them both.

The most recent near-misfortune post shocked me when I read it on Saturday night, a day after it was first posted. Alissa writes a blog that I found through another blog I read. She has five children, and when I first read her blog I found her kids so interesting to read about that I went all the way back to her first post and read her blog the whole way through up to the present. I found it full of fun kid-antics (at least fun for me to read, maybe not so fun if you're the parent) and enjoyed Alissa's commentary on life with five kids. She posts sporadically, so when I checked my blog feeds and saw a new post, I was looking forward to reading it. Then I read the first sentence and my heart almost stopped beating. "Today, my son, Lucas, drowned." It resumed nearly-normal beating pace as I quickly read the second sentence, "But he is going to be okay." This morning she posted an update blog explaining the circumstances (it features Florida Hospital, all you SDA folks!)

I don't know Alissa or her family. They live in Florida, I currently live in Maine. But I've felt an interesting connection to her and her family as I've read her blog for the past year. I don't have any Mormon friends or relatives, but from the very few things I've learned or read about Mormonism, it seems to me like their focus on mission and their home and family values are similar to Seventh-day Adventist values. Probably for that reason, I feel some kind of small kinship with the couple of Mormon bloggers I follow.

I read about the earlier near-tragedy on the evening of June 6. Zane, an almost-two-year-old living with his missionary parents and older brother in Tchad, Africa, suddenly became quite ill within a few hours. His parents started him on IV quinine, the best treatment for malaria. Several hours later Zane started to have a seizure, turned blue, stopped breathing, and all seemed lost. But then he started breathing again, and he lived. Read his father's blog post or another doctor James' blog post for the full story, for all the emotions surrounding Zane's seizure and recovery.

I don't know Zane's family. I don't know James' family. But I do know James' sister. She was one of my housemates for a year at Southern Adventist University. And somewhere during that year I learned that the doctor working at an Adventist hospital in Tchad whose blog I read was her older brother. I had started reading his blog in June 2009 when a little boy named Caleb died while on IV quinine for malaria. A man in my church who worked as an aviation missionary in the Congo years ago knew Caleb's parents who are also aviation missionaries in Tchad at Bere Adventist Hospital. One Sabbath at church when I was home from college for the summer the man got up and told our church family about Caleb's death and burial. At home that afternoon I found James' blog and read the two posts he wrote about the tragedy, and I've been reading his blog ever since. I read about when James and his wife lost their first child before she was even born. And I read about their first-born son Adam's death from malaria in December 2011. I don't know any of these missionaries in Tchad, but I have read their stories, and I have felt - though of course not as deeply as they have - their pain.

This past week I was reminded yet again how important prayer is, for those around me and for myself as well. Although I read both of those almost-tragic posts hours and days after each took place, I am reminded that prayers for safety are always needed. I need to be faithfully praying for those around me, for my relatives and friends, for those I go to church with, for those I read about in countless blogs, and for those I know who are serving as missionaries, both here on this continent and overseas. I am so glad for the prayers of others who have surely been praying for these two families, and I want to be part of the prayers that get sent up to heaven for them and for others all over the world every day.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Listen

Photo by Glenda Quiring

Listen. It was the only way I'd ever be able to learn pieces. In violin lessons I would muddle through the beginner's technique - how to stand, how to hold the bow, where to put my fingers - but when we got to the actual playing part of the lesson, I'd stop watching my teacher and just listen. Listen as he played the short, simple song first for me. Listen to how each note sounded. Listen as I started to try to replicate what my ears had just heard. Listen to the scratch of the bow sliding off the strings, to the note I was playing that wasn't quite right. Listen as I slid my finger slightly up the fingerboard and then, when that didn't correct the tone, as I moved it back down just below where it had been to begin with. The notes on the page meant nothing to me; they were just a pretty pattern. But the notes in my head, the notes my ears picked up, those actually meant something.

At home after my lesson, my mum would put on the Suzuki Book 1 cassette tape, and I'd listen to my song over and over again as I helped set the table for supper or dried the dishes after we ate. When I practiced, I had to think about my feet, then where on the strings my bow went, how to keep my bow hold loose and relaxed, if my fingers were exactly on the coloured dots covering my small fingerboard, which finger to put down to make which note, if I was supposed to be using an up bow or a down bow. But, while my bow went haywire and I seldom got the up bows and down bows right, I was learning the notes. I would listen to the song on the tape, then hit pause on my little purple tape recorder and try to mimic those notes. Slowly, slowly, I learned my song. The notes became clearer and more on tune. The bow still sometimes went back and forth in the wrong direction, but the song had become recognizable. The notes on the page still boggled my mind, but I didn't need them; I had the notes in my head. I didn't need to know how to read the music because in my brain the notes had been woven into lines, and the lines had joined to become an entire song.

When I played my song for my teacher at my next lesson he asked me how I'd learned it so well. "Oh," I replied, "I just listened."

My musings on the prompt 'listen' for Five Minute Friday. Join in next week if you feel inspired!