Dano, Melissa, Kennedy, Ethan, Erin, Abigail, and Emily

Dano, Melissa, Kennedy, Ethan, Erin, Abigail, and Emily

31 May 2011

A Whirlwind Month – Part 2

I don’t know if it was all the work I did ;) , the good feeling our house emits, or just bounteous blessings, but after eight days we were signing a contract on our house! We were very surprised and feel so very, very blessed. We were planning on coming back in the summer and spending a good part of July in Ohio sorting, packing, swimming, and playing with friends. Dano and I immediately began trying to figure out how in the world to make it work…to get out of the house.We decided to cancel our spring break to South Africa and take the entire family back to Ohio instead.

We had our stopover in Dubai, where we enjoyed a wonderful stake conference for our church, then flew out of Dubai on Saturday, April 16. We arrived home late that night. Everyone was sooo happy to be in our home. We didn’t really talk about it being the last time. I think we knew what we were there to do. Unfortunately there was no swimming, but there was basketball, football, kite flying, taco salad, biscuits and gravy, taking in the view out the windows, playing on the playset, running in the rain, kids’ slumber parties in the guest room, lunchtime visits with friends at school, and cleaning. Oh, the joy of cleaning. I think that’s why there was so much of the former…to avoid the cleaning…and the sorting…

In three short days we were able to get it all done (including a trip out to Amish country) and we were (mostly) ready for the packers on Thursday. They packed our overseas shipment on Thursday and Friday. As we had decided to have our own mattresses with us, they were packed and we were left bed-less. We were offered to stay at the Greif homestead, Marycrest Farms.
We had not been able to stay there previously so were very excited to spend the Easter weekend there. I could write an entirely separate blog on the history of this remarkable place. It has such an ambiance that embraces you from the moment you drive through the gates.
It truly felt like another home for us.

The kids enjoyed running down the hills and climbing the trees. It made our two acres seem small and confining. The children were pleased to find a piano in the family room and quickly put it to good use.

They were happy the Easter Bunny found us at Marycrest. He had not been able to find us in Jordan last year.

It was a beautiful Easter day and we were glad to enjoy ham (perfect timing for that!) with our good friends the Porters.

I think this spontaneous trip to Ohio was just what our children needed. They had a great time enjoying friends
(Thanks to the Carters for hosting everyone!)
many of the things I wrote about before.

We surely love Ohio and look forward to moving back there…..someday.

13 May 2011

A Whirlwind Month – Part 1

Dano spent the first two weeks of March in London at London’s Business School. Fortunately Greif now has a very nice driver who can also take our family where we need to go; very helpful when Dano is not here. He returned to host the Greif board of directors for their visit to Jeddah. When they flew back to the U.S., Emily, Abigail, and I flew with them. (A short time ago Dano and I decided the best thing for our family was to sell our house.) So with mixed emotions we selected a realtor and I headed home to prepare it for sale.

I was a little apprehensive about flying half-way across the world with the two little girls. We had a two a.m. flight to Frankfurt which is normal for flying out of here. Flying with these four men made that first leg of our trip seamless. (Except for the stroller which somehow became a three-wheeler during the flight. I think the airline must have stowed it with the landing gear so it came down with such.) They ensured I didn’t have to carry a carseat or bag, much less a child. Their layover was longer than ours so they shuttled us through the Frankfurt airport to our gate and saw us successfully on our next flight. These men are a tribute to why Dano enjoys working at Greif - titles aside, families and people matter most.

From there it was just a long trip. Emily decided fifteen minutes before take-off would be a great time to…relieve herself. The flight attendant would not let me get up to change her. She promptly fell asleep upon take-off (Emily-not the flight attendant) and had to sleep in “it” until they turned off the seatbelt light thirty minutes later. Details spared, it was fortuitous that I took an extra change of clothing for her. Although, in regards to the airplane bathrooms, they are not quite large enough to pass as changing tables, and I did feel so badly that we were leaving that “gift” in there at the beginning of a nine hour flight.

The rest of the flight was kind of a blur. Abby slept for about two hours. Emily slept off and on in their idea of a bassinet, not like the airline bassinets I’ve previously written about. This one was more like a coroner’s body bag for infants. If I could have found the camera Dano packed for me I would have snapped a picture. It was a vinyl gray bag that lay on the floor and zipped up both sides. It was weird, but the only way she was going to get some rest. Abby, on the other hand, enjoyed watching Tangled. When she finished watching it and asked to watch it again, the moderate-television-watching-mom in me thought one movie was enough. I then looked at my watch, realized we had five more hours to go, and eagerly pressed ‘play.‘

We landed in Chicago late. I quickly maneuvered us through customs and headed to retrieve our luggage. Ours, by chance, were the last ones off, minus Emily’s carseat. There was not much we could do as we had to run to our next flight. I rechecked our luggage and ran with the girls through security to find our flight. By this point my two little troopers were tired and getting hungry. The security officer told me not to waste my time; there was no way I was making it to my flight and to go rebook it. The ticket agent was less than helpful or empathetic. With both girls now crying we stood there for twenty minutes as she stared at a monitor with her fingers clicking on the keyboard at about 140 words/minute. What are they really doing when they do this? Seriously, it was like I was in a comedy. After all that, I was certain she was going to be a hero and tell me she’d gotten us on the next flight. Nope. She got us on the flight six hours later. Again, seriously?!! I knew by then we were drawing a lot of looks. I wanted to start crying myself.

I loaded our crippled stroller, Abby’s carseat and backpack on a trolley and begged special approval to take it between terminals. The agents at the other end were able to get us on standby and we thankfully got on the next flight. I was able to call Dano from the airport lounge phone to let him know we’d missed our flight. Our good friend had already been to the airport to pick us up. He didn’t find us, of course, but was able to convince airport workers to let him take our luggage. We joked about how secure that is!! Later that evening, though, we finally made it, twenty-eight hours from the time we’d left Jeddah. Needless to say we slept well that night.

The next two weeks were packed. My sister and her husband and baby came to visit for the weekend and I was able to meet my super-adorably cute nephew. It was so fun to have them there. Her husband’s brother and his family came down from Midland for a visit; also very fun to have them, though I did feel a little guilty inviting them into CRAZY. Dano’s dad came out to do any the touch-up work that needed to be done and my mom came out to help with whatever I needed.

Many details aside, we made it out of the house as it was snowing. Emily didn’t think that was very funny. Abby thought it was great! And sadly, just like that, there was no turning back. Our house was listed and there would be a sign in the yard the next day. We’ve had this house for six years now which is the longest I’ve ever been in one house. There are so many memories of family and friends there. We truly made this house our home. I know they say when you sell a house the first thing you have to do is remove all emotion. I kept telling myself this over and over. But, the emotions are there and always will be. I know we’ll drive down Highlands Drive many times over the next many years and the memories will flood every time…of moving in,
celebrating birthdays, family slumber parties, planting trees and bushes, building our playset, football games, shooting rockets, flying kites, basketball games, holidays, bringing home Abigail, baseball games, catching fireflies, swimming, burying Piper, soccer games, roasting marshmallows, watching wildlife, rocking on the front porch, getting up in the middle of the night to watch meteor showers, and marveling at rainbows.
This is the end of a long chapter of our lives, but the pages were full and the ending is sweet.

02 May 2011

My First Azza

Recently one of Dano’s colleagues lost his father. Dano told me he would be going to pay his respects. I asked if I could or should go with him. I have never met this gentleman nor did I have any idea what proper Islamic protocol was. I asked one of my friends what would be appropriate for me to do. She is a wonderful and open source of information. Hopefully I can pen with respect what she taught me about this element of the Muslim faith.

Following Muslim tradition, a person is buried the same day they pass away, if possible. There is no preparing the body as we are accustomed to, aside from washing and applying perfumes. They are then wrapped with a white cloth called khafan. They believe that once a person has died, the body belongs to Allah. There is a gathering of family members to say goodbye and then the men only are permitted to the burial site. Many Muslims choose to be buried in Mecca, a very sacred site. They are buried on their right sides facing Mecca. Their graves are not marked as they never revisit the graves of those who have passed on. Then three days of mourning begin. They believe that once the buried person is left alone, they meet Allah and their day of reckoning begins. They must answer for their lives and actions. The family meets for the three days time to accept friends and family who come to offer prayers on behalf of the departed. This event is called the Azza.

Of course, following Muslim tradition, men and women would never gather together. This man’s family and friends are extensive so the Azzas were not even held in the same house. Dano visited his colleague at his home and I went to a family home clear on the other side of town. My friend offered to go with me to explain to me and translate for me when necessary. She explained that this would also be favorable for her before Allah.

She prepped me that I should not wear makeup as this was a time of mourning and the women do not wear makeup whilst mourning. She also suggested I wear my hijab (head scarf). I assumed as much and already had it out. This would be the first time I would ever wear it in public.

It was killing me to go empty handed. It just seemed wrong! I felt like I needed to take at least a plant or small bouquet of flowers. Dano assured me his esteemed coworker told him this would not be appropriate. The most valuable and appreciated offering I could bring would be my prayers of mercy for their loved one; that’s really all they want. They take the first few days of the after-life very seriously.

Women of the departed’s family all dress in white. My friend was not sure why this was. She actually thought it was funny that I asked. She said it’s just tradition, a custom, and she’d never asked why. It was actually quite beautiful. Everyone else wore black abbayas and they were in white dresses. We arrived just as Maghrib prayer was beginning. We sat in the rows of chairs while the women of the family and any others who wanted to join in, prayed in the open courtyard. When prayer was over, a designated family member began reading from the Qur’an. They do this in a somewhat singing fashion. My friend and I had been quietly conversing back in our corner about everything that was happening and I was enjoying taking it all in. Then I suppose the reader reached a part where the traditional prayer is said on behalf of the deceased, because almost instinctively it grew completely quiet and everyone bowed their heads and held their hands open in their laps, palms open or up, many of them reciting the words along with the prayer-giver. I was amazed how many of them had this lengthy prayer memorized. I mentioned this to my friend at the conclusion. She told me when you attend Azza you kind of pick it up. Unlike us, who only attend a funeral if we really knew the person or have a reason to go, anyone is welcome at Azza. It is mutually beneficial to attend; it gains favor for you in the sight of Allah and adds blessings and prayers for the recently departed. I thought it might be awkward for me to go considering I didn’t know the family. No, I believe they were happy I was there. I was happy to be there. There was a peaceful feeling amongst those women. Although I have somewhat different beliefs than they do, their sincerity is beautiful. In the end, don’t we all want to be accepted by God?

Dano’s experience was slightly shorter than mine. He went with a friend to their colleague’s home, offered his thoughts and prayers on behalf of his departed father, not shaking hands but rather placing right hands on each other’s shoulders and saying, “Azzam Allah Ajrakum” which means “May God make better your bereavement.” They visited for a few more moments and then left as several members of the royal family were arriving. (This man and his father are quite prominent in the area.) This is where our cultures were the same…Dano stayed a mere ten minutes whilst we stayed for forty-five minutes.

I am grateful for this opportunity to see this part of the Muslim culture. It continues to remind me what a good, God-fearing, family-oriented people they are. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with this family during their sorrow.