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paris

“Daddy, I don’t want to watch the news,” my four year old laments to H.

“Well sorry buddy, Daddy has to watch the news right now so you are going to have to be patient,” H responds with understanding.

“Can’t I watch something on the computer?” he whines.

“No.”

“Can I play on your iPad?”

“No.” ...continue reading What #Paris Can Teach Us About Mindfulness

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“This song is sad,” Patrick said, describing a woeful classical piece that came over the speakers in my truck.  My heart squeezed.

In that moment, I realized that even the kids could sense the quiet.  The overwhelming stillness was palpable in the air.  How does one explain this kind of loss, this kind of tragedy, to a three year old?   ...continue reading The Day the Horns Stopped…

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steaming-coffee-cup1This morning, a beautiful sunny morning in Amman, we gathered the boys up early to go grab breakfast at Crumz, a local chain that can be best described as the Jordanian version of Panera, only with friendlier people and wait service.

On any given Friday morning you can spot quite a few American and European dips or expats enjoying their coffee and pastries in an environment that gives you a cozy little feeling of being home for an hour or so.  But what I also love about the place, is that you can find just as many local families there, having a morning coffee before Mosque, enjoying the start of their weekend with their kids.  The scene is endearing, families of multiple cultures taking a few moments to sit and enjoy the coffee, the good food, and the company of their loved ones. ...continue reading An Eye Opening Morning

I’ve been meaning to share this for a while.  Back in August, H and I took a break from the kiddos and went on a trip to Ajloun Castle, a historic site about an hour and a half north of Amman.

I won’t bore with too many historical details, but the castle was impressive, and I can only imagine what it would have been like to have come over a hill to a view across the valley of this fortification.

It was built in 1184 by Izz al-Din Usama, a commander and nephew of Saladin, founder of the Ayuubid dynasty and the first Sultan of Egypt and Syria.  It’s purpose was to protect the Ayyubid territories from the crusaders to the south and the west, as well as protect the newly developing iron mines in the Ajlun region.  It originally had four towers.  It was invaded and destroyed by the Mongols in 1260, and eventually rebuilt.  To read more on the history, this guy, has a great post on Ajloun.

You can see the castle as you approach from miles away.  I would say we were still a half hour drive through back roads from the castle when we were first able to get a glimpse of it.  I’m no expert, but I can gather that it must have been quite the strategic vantage point.

For me the most exciting part of the trip, perhaps, was when we stepped off the bus and I inhaled the air filled with the scent of pine!  Ajloun is mountainous and dry, and literally covered with pine trees.  Wagonwheel immediately started playing in my head!  I even stole a pinecone to take home.

On the way back we had lunch at the Lebanese House in Jerash.  It has a wonderful open-air dining atmosphere, with beautiful views, where you can feel encouraged to take your time with your afternoon meal.  We’ll go again with the boys at some point because they have a tot play area on the lower level- which means WIN for everyone!

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I need to take a moment and be thankful and grateful for all that I have in my life.

I'm learning more than ever that we, as US citizens, have already basically won the lottery of life. We could be born of or to anyone in any country.  No matter what our struggles have been, we have been blessed with the freedoms and rights of our great nation.  The vast majority of the global population has not had this luxury.

There is a woman here, a refugee or gypsy I would assume, that has a little girl about three and little boy about 18 months I think....the same ages as Little P and Little R.  She navigates between intersections along the road we live on, dressed in full black abaya.  She sits with her kids and waits for the kindness of others.  She does not beg, I've noticed.  She sits at a corner lamppost, holding her youngest, while her daughter dutiful takes the givings offered by strangers out of their car windows.  Very few people give.

Now I know we've all seen the commercials, and we've all seen the beggars on the streets of Manhattan and DC, at intersections in the suburbs, hanging out on off ramps with a sign.  H and I rarely gave anything to those people because we knew that most of them had no reason to be homeless.  And when we gave it was usually in the form of food or drink, not cash, because we all know that those who are truly homeless are mentally ill or suffer from addiction.  The US has an infrastructure that can and does help many of these people.  Between the government and the churches and other charitable organizations, being poor in America is not really being poor at all.  One can dig enough wasted food out of a garbage can outside a McDonalds to keep persisting.  And hell, all it takes is one dollar from a stranger to get a burger off the 99 cent menu.  As much as we like to complain that our government does too much or too little for those in need, we really shouldn't complain at all.

Jordan is a country with an extremely high unemployment rate- so much so that the government has mandated jobs in the service sector which have ballooned to absurdity.  There is valet just about everywhere, even at the grocery store, and workers who put your groceries onto the cashier belt, and even more to load your groceries in your car.  The baggers at the grocery stores in the mall will push your cart to your vehicle if you want them to, and will hail a cab for you if you need it, all for a measly 1JD tip.  The gas stations are full service, with a separate guy to wash your windshield and pump your gas.  Most of them are very kind, and it's overwhelming.  One of my taxi drivers was a university student on break, which explained his impeccable english.  Every building has what's called a boab (or three or four), and for a monthly fee they do everything you ask them to.  They take our trash out, water our lawn/plants, wash our porch and our cars.  They will come in and help you move furniture if you ask them.  Most of them are Egyptian migrants.  That's right- all of the building workers are Egyptian.  So are most of the construction workers.  All the families where we live have two or three house staff- all of Asian descent- Asian migrant workers. (Sound familiar?)

The refugee woman, as I'll call her, has no options.  There is nothing for her to do but sit and hope and pray to whomever she prays to for the kindness of others.  She likely has no papers confirming her identity, therefore making it impossible for her to work.  This about it:  with no ID or Birth Certificate or Passport or Resident Card, she can do nothing.  She could never be a maid or a nanny for an Embassy family.  She is also likely illiterate and for that reason cannot work.  She can't write to make a sign as the "homeless" in the US would do.  She cannot read and try to learn about what her limited options may be.  Education is not free here.  She cannot get grants to pay for her GED.  Finally, and most importantly, she has two young children who must be taken care of, so therefore cannot work.  Add to this the significant possibility that she may be a widow, or her husband a meager farmer who is equally illiterate, and it is clear that her "job" is survival.

I've watched the refugee woman for a while now and today my heart broke in two because her youngest was clearly very upset.  She was sitting on the corner wrangling her screaming little one while her girl sat obediently beside her.  As I was driving by her it started to rain.  It's cooling off here, probably in the sixties today, and her little one was dressed in a brown t-shirt.  I have no idea what color the shirt should have been.  I imagine his fussing was from both hunger and cold.

I've heard stories that some of these women give their babies opium so that they calm down so they can continue to beg.  Before everyone is so quick to crucify them for doing such a thing- how on earth would she know anything different if her mother did the same before her, and her's the same before that?  How can we ridicule such an act if it is a cultural norm to her people?  Would you not do anything to offer your hungry child relief if you had no food to offer him?  It is very easy to pass judgment from a place of knowledge, but knowledge is such a privilege in this vast world.  And remember, we've already won the game of life, we have forgotten how privileged it is to have the knowledge we have.

Today, this scene just pierced me to my core.  I cannot even fathom what this woman must deal with on a daily basis, and she has no knowledge of any other way of life.  Today, I decided to do something instead of sitting back and doing nothing.  I decided to make a little difference in someone's life rather than just say "Oh, how sad."  After all, I was driving home in my giant SUV with a trunk full of groceries that I purchased with the income of our family.  They would be unloaded with the help of my nanny (from the Philippines), who would give my two boys snack in their cute kid bowls.  I would then put jackets on them to go enjoy the fall-like weather outside.

So when I got home and we unloaded the groceries, I filled one bag with two pears, an orange, an apple and a liter of milk.  I filled another bag with a couple pairs of sweat pants (which our kids never wear), some long sleeve shirts, a couple shirts of mine, and an extra fleece blanket that we never touch.

Patrick asked me what I was doing and I told him that I was taking these things to people that had nothing.  That we have so much and we are going to share it with a family that has none.  He asked to go with me.  So I put him in the car and drove 1/2 mile down the road to where the refugee woman was.  She was sitting against a telephone pole, with her head down and hidden, her little boy sleeping in her lap, her little girl sitting beside her.  I pulled up and parked and the little girl came running to the passenger's side of the car.  She looked hopeful (not high on opium).  I rolled the window down and handed her the bag of food.  When she went to run back, I handed her the bag of clothes.  She lit up like it was Christmas and ran back to her mother and woke her to show her the bag full of clothes.  The little girl immediately started pulling out the shirts and looking at them.

Her mom looked up and met my gaze.  She nodded and murmured something I'm sure was thanks.  I smiled and nodded in return.  Her eyes were grey and sad and filled with weariness.  In that moment we shared a connection, that of a mother who simply wants to provide for her children.

So take a minute today and be grateful of your blessings.

Love and Happyness to All,

~M