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The Kneading Dough Blessing

My Blessing to My Three. That even if you are kneading dough, perhaps especially if you are kneading dough, that you be fulfilled in each moist, sticky moment of contact. That you have mind-bending conversations while pouring the heavy whipping cream in a bowl or sprinkling poppy seeds throughout the batter. That you feel immense joy when returning phone calls over your lap top at a coffee shop, running your small business. That you smile while you ride your bike down the streets of the new city where you have moved, exploring each little organic food co-op and french bistro. That you know both the thrill of nose-diving in the air, and the centering pull of regaining balance. That you face each day’s battle with the confidant knowledge that it is the very battle that is meant for you. That you celebrate the shape and outline of your nose each time you look in the mirror. That you always leave room in your life (and your belly) for an occasional bowl of ice cream. That you spend time meandering through used bookstores and have the pleasure (often) of seeing the exact book you “need” jump into your hands. That you might someday be kissed in the stack of books of a library or in a parking lot by the person you’ve been waiting all of your life to meet. That you might find the perfect pair of leather boots that will travel decades of your life with you. That you have many crisp, well-seasoned pickles to accompany your deli sandwiches. That you go skinny dipping and swim with dolphins (perhaps at the same time) at least once in your life. That you will participate in a post-secondary learning situation, which will open your mind and enliven your soul. That you will have some friends who will know you all of your life and hold up a mirror to help reflect back all of your many gifts. That there is never enough room in your suitcase to carry around any bit of regret. That your siblings will join you on your path, from time to time, to remind you of where you’ve come from. That you always know and feel the love that has brought you here. That you will always know and accept the peace that passes all understanding.

* * *

I wrote this poem four years ago now, when my daughter was about to return from a Rotary Exchange Year in Japan and now, she is graduating from college in two weeks with a degree in Japanese Language and Culture (which she did in 3 years–see The New Global Student for benefits of study abroad including reducing time in college). My blessing remains–although I am not so sure about the swimming with dolphins. I’ve started to believe that is an unethical practice, at least as a commercial venture. Also, for at least one of my kids, the ice cream may need to be made from coconut milk.

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“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything & your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies & little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
C.S. Lewis, from “The Four Loves”

This lesson just keeps coming up on my path–perhaps it circles through on everyone’s path–time and time again. If you want to love deeply, you will, at one time or another, experience a broke-open heart. No other way around it. Maybe just maybe you have an option of whether to be vulnerable in your adult relationships, but the moment you open your heart to a child, there is no option but to be in this place of love and vulnerability. Being a parent is one wild ride but I would choose this ride again and again. It is the place where I have learned to open my heart; where I’ve learned to bleed in the name of something higher than my own selfish needs.

Hannah is in Japan once again. And Josh is not “out of the woods” for another month or so. We are living on the little island of our own home, as if each day were a winter storm, shutting us in the house as we try to spare Josh any unnecessary germs. There have been moments over the past few days where I realize I am holding my breath, no longer breathing freely. Ah, but this does little to protect my own heart or my children. I must learn, once again, to let go. I am vulnerable. My children are vulnerable. It is our human state. The lesson is to make peace with the fragility and vulnerability of life and still breathe deeply, open wide the heart and yell “yes, yes!”

Well, Hannah is launched. Left home Saturday morning. I spent the weekend reading Into Thin Air, which I’ve been meaning to read for perhaps the last decade or so. I think it was my way of avoiding grief. I told myself I wouldn’t grieve her leaving because well, it wasn’t Japan and it was in the same time zone and I could call her on the cell phone, rather than relying on chance Skype conversations in the middle of the night. But this is different. She won’t really be home to “live” again. Only to visit. And so I found myself in tears on the way home from the grocery store. Nothing major. Just realizing she wouldn’t be at home to unpack the groceries, which is something she always liked to do.

Anyway, I just ran across the blog of Hannah’s religion teacher, Ellie Roscher. Ms. Roscher was very inspirational this past year to not only Hannah but her entire class and they chose her as the graduation speaker. Her speech was, hands down, the best speech that I have ever heard. Every member of my family that was present agreed. I see that she has just posted the speech on her blog. Yeah! Read it here.

Ms. Roscher also wrote a book about her time as a missionary in Uruguay,  How Coffee Saved My Life and Other Stories of Stumbling Towards Grace .  She gave a copy of this book to Hannah this past fall. I read it and found it tremendously helpful as I worked to understand the value of Hannah’s time abroad in Japan. I would recommend the book to any student either preparing for or returning from an exchange. Hannah read the book this spring and it really helped her too as she finally began to absorb and process her experience in Japan. Thanks Ms. Roscher for giving your heart to these kids for five years and all the best to you as you move more fully into your writing life.

Chris commented to me a few weeks back that he could hardly believe the baby stage was about gone–that he knew it was slipping away but he halfway expected it to keep cycling back through. It is sort of shocking when a person realizes the baby phase is really gone, no more to come again. As for me, well ask me later. Last night, Josh was up to nurse about ten times at least. He has a cold and this always drives him into frantic nighttime nursing. Lately, he is biting down when he latches on at night and I was quite certain I had a beaver in the bed with me last night, gnawing and gnawing away. But I didn’t start this entry to complain. I have a plan to wean Josh after our trip to Long Beach in May. First nighttime weaning, and then, hopefully soon thereafter, all out weaning by my 41st birthday (mid-July)–I can be flexible, to be sure. I do know, however, that when I drop Hannah off at college in the fall, I am not planning on bringing Josh with–so we will be weaned of this parasitic relationship by mid-August at the latest. And then, the baby stage will really feel gone to me.

It struck me, however, that Chris’s realization also could apply to Hannah. I keep thinking of her going away to college sort of like her year in Japan–that she’ll go away and come back and it will all be the same. Of course, even the year in Japan changed her–dramatically changed her and it hasn’t really been the same. Still, she did come back and has been living with us this year for her senior year of high school. I rarely see her, but know she is here because when I get up in the morning, the kitchen smells like a food co-op deli. I do know that Hannah’s breakfasts involve tomatoes, onions, often eggs, sometimes pinto beans and salsa. I am not quite sure what she is making–I do not ask. I do know, however, that over half of my refrigerator is housing her food. I am telling you, those big bags of fresh spinach and collard greens really monopolize the precious cooling real estate. So sometimes, as Chris knows, I get a little hung up on this issue and the constant rearranging that I have to do whenever I need to get an item out of the fridge. “Could be so much worse,” he says. And he is correct. And this is the end, after all. The end of having her just down the hall. The end of the time that she will be living here with me. She’ll come back to visit, but it will never be the same again. This stage of her life is almost over, never to be repeated. She is ready to fly. And at least I know that when she does fly, she’ll have the ability to cook herself some very healthy, well-balanced meals.

Well, it’s almost been one year since I started this blog. I originally intended that this blog would only be in existence for one year. I was going to use it as a way to post pictures of Josh (after he was born) for Hannah, so that she could track her new brother’s development while she was in Japan. I had also planned to spend time musing over the strangeness of having two teens and a baby at the same time. Finally, I planned to use the blog to discuss issues inherent in foreign exchanges. As is typical in life, none of this really unfolded as planned. In the end, it just seemed too personal and too raw to comment on the difficulty of having a child abroad for a year. Also, that year is really a process. You cannot effectively comment on a process while it is taking place. As of now, Hannah has been back home for one month. Only now, is she getting the first glimpses of what that year might mean to her, and how it might impact her life.

Hannah and I went to see the movie Babies last night and they followed the first year of four babies from across the world. One of the babies was from Japan. It was an interesting movie and effectively shows how a movie can be made with no words and how one can understand across language barriers. It was beautifully done. Anyway, after the movie, Hannah discussed how it would be to go back to Japan on her own and to travel around someday. This is the first she’s ever talked of returning to Japan. I hope she does; she has an amazing command of the Japanese language already. She will be continuing to learn Japanese this year at Macalester College, where she was admitted for PSEO (post-secondary education that you can do as a high school student in Minnesota and the state pays for it) during her senior year.

Finally, however, this blog did not end up tracking the “normal, average” development of the first year of Josh’s life. Instead, it was almost more about Josh’s health issues. These issues continue to unfold. We did not get the “syndromic” diagnosis that I referred to in a recent post. We were actually very disappointed. This diagnosis would have meant that Josh’s hearing loss was not progressive in nature. It would have also meant that all of his issues were already evident. As is, we are facing further issues, further testing to discover the cause of his hearing loss. It is very possible, at this time, that other physical issues will become evident as time roles on (there are other things that develop at the time the ears develop–in essence, what “instructions” to the body were lost during that time). Genetic testing also continues.

I am not yet certain whether I’ll continue this blog. I may still decide to end it next week and let it rest as it is, a testament to this year. I may, instead, begin a blog that is more devoted to the hearing (and any other health/developmental) issues. I do see how much support there is in the deaf community through blogs. I haven already appreciated that support myself. I also value the wealth of knowledge, experience, and advice available through deaf and HOH blogs. Right now, however, we are in a process of our own. I am not sure I have the strength or energy to blog this all right now. I may decide to take a hiatus from blogging for a time–at least until life begins to feel more normal again; until we find some firm ground to stand upon.

I plan to think about his over the next week. Will let you know what decision I come to soon.

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