Sunday, December 30, 2012

A New Year.... not the same old....

It is approaching... that evening of madness and mayhem that we in the world officially recognize as the end of one cycle and the beginning of another.  Perhaps I will actually finish this posting in one sitting and this will be the last of 2012 posts and not the first of 2013.

Just did some research on why exactly this day is the chosen one....Julius Ceaser declared it so based on the Julian calender.   Prior to that, a number of other dates were celebrated as the turn of the year, including the first new moon after the vernal equinox.... which would put it just past Spring with it's new life and re-emergence from winter.  Regardless of when it is celebrated and what traditions one holds to... it typically is a time of taking stock of the old year, letting go, and making some decisions and plans for the new year.  We get to start anew.  So we make promises to ourselves about the things we plan to do and accomplish, and we bid goodby to both the joys and the
                                                                heartaches of the past year.

I thought it might be interesting to compile a list first of things I am glad to let go of from 2012:

Idaho education politics
US politics and US politicians
School shootings
Bad renters
Sad goodbys
A house that is way too large for one person
Snow that lasts into April and sub zero temperatures
New Years Eve spent alone with a bottle of wine and three sparklers

And  .... the things I hope to say "Greetings and come on in !" to in 2013:

Self control -  food, wine, exercise
Closer walk with Christ -  Real
More travel to new lands and new adventures - Greece, Israel, Italy, Bulgaria, Croatia
A kinder me, a more genuine and focused human being that loves others well
Visits from friends and family
A deep rich kiss for New Years Eve 2013 -
(they always say be specific, so I want it to be with a man that I am not related to and that I like a lot.  Incidentally, he likes me too.)
Just sayin'... this is the year.
Contentment... utter and complete regardless of the accomplishments of any of the above

 The funny thing about writing things down and visiting them regularly is, they are much more likely to come to pass.  Are you paying attention Career Pathways alumni???  I wrote some intentions down last year and look where it got me....  You too can dream big and reach for those things you always thought should belong to you but were too afraid to go for.   Look,  here is some end of the year advise.  I haven't always lived my life well.  I've made some egregious and destructive choices that I had to repent of.  The thing is, my choices culminated in results.  (funny how that happens) The choices I made rarely ended with the results I desired.  That in turn led me to think about how I was making choices, and finally..... (I can be a little slow and am also a late bloomer) I figured out that between GOD's good will and my willingness to intelligently seek harmony with that will by paying attention... well, good things happen. 

Please, I am NOT advocating some hocus pocus "creative visualization" NLP like snake oil product, but thought does posses energy.  It does have power and you can use it to get to where you believe you ought to be... but I have observed and experienced that you have to wield that thought carefully and with some divine guidance otherwise you may end up with something you can't even handle.  Father knows best. 

Last bit of information from the world of me, take it for what it's worth..... This is the year to slay fear.

F = Falsehood
E = Experienced
A = As
R = Reality

 New Years Eve has for me, this past 20 years been fraught with extreme emotions of one kind or another.  It was a twice repeated anniversary for a love of my life which has since been exiled to memory and regret.... but that's another story.  This year I am hoping for NO TEARS and
NO FEARS.  I will board a boat bound for a trip up and down the shores of the beautiful Bosphorous and I will eat and drink and allow my heart to be merry.  I will watch the fireworks with new acquaintances and celebrate the turn of time.  The next day, New Year's Day... I will rest and think and maybe write some more.  I will read and walk and be alone.... and I will say a grateful prayer of thanksgiving for 2012 and for all I have learned, and all I have been given... by grace, to accomplish. 

"Perfect love casts out fear"
                                            Happy New Year!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Advent 3 & 4 - Approaching

I have 5 children.  All but one resides in the US...though 3 of them have lived and worked internationally, the youngest is still an international adventurer and now living in Italy, and will make his way to Australia soon.... or so I hear.

I remember what it was like to bring each one of these precious human beings into this world.  I remember the long journey from that first tinge of other worldliness... there's just something about the beginning of carrying the seeds of another human being within... to the moment of birth and separation. Those were the sweetest of times.  I crawl into those spaces in my memory on occasion and yearn for closeness with my children again.  Alas, one of the curses of living on this earth in my cultural space and place is that most families no longer live and love in the same community over the years.  Only now that I am closer to the end of my run on this earth than the beginning, can I mourn for that loss.

It is of course the Christmas season and naturally I am thinking about Christmases past.  We call it the "winter holiday" at the international school I work at.  Ostensibly because there are so many different belief systems represented, that to call it "Christmas" really would for the majority of our students, be a misrepresentation.  I love however the way the children at the school are intrigued by all things Christmas.  Of course some of them are familiar with the holiday, as they do study celebrations and belief systems of the world, so they also understand intellectually what Christmas is.  I had fun helping some second graders write their essays about what they would do over holiday.  I even got to explain to several children why it's called "Christmas, and why it is capitalized. 

So our holiday has begun, the children are off to various places in the world, staff are flying out today to either visit new places or to go home to see family.  Some of us will remain here.  I chose to stay because I was told that the first year overseas, it is difficult to visit home, then have to leave to return.  I think it was a wise choice.   My kids used to flock to our home in North Idaho for Christmas celebrations.  We had so much fun together back then, and if I close my eyes I can still hear the sounds of brothers joking with one another, grand kids squealing with delight, my daughter laughing, my two chef sons clacking around in the kitchen. There will be none of that this year.


My lovely granddaughter has come for a visit.  Isabel arrived two days ago, and I think so far she is enamored of this city.  Of course she brought snow with her.... yes it snowed here yesterday in Istanbul, enough for the ministry of education to call for a school holiday on Friday... so we are free today. 
 She and I took advantage of that freedom to put up the fake tree that the last tenant left behind.  I wasn't going to have a tree this year... but I have NEVER not had a tree, so we put it together, strung some lights and decorated with the sweet little homemade ornaments sent to me from Isabel's siblings.   I played some Christmas music, we ate leftover Indian food, and planned for the rest of the day, which included marathon shopping, dinner, and watching The Hobbit in the local theater.

I love the Peter Jackson films interpreting Tokien's stories.  He manages to embody the whole of the works... including the emotional depths of the character's journeys, which are spiritual allegories.  J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were great friends, and much of both their fictional works characterize the enormous task of a life adventure, particularly the Christian walk.  (Though Lewis' stories are much more simplistic and lack the intricately descriptive narration of Tolkien.)  Last night as I watched the scene where Bilbo Baggins leaves Rivendell to join the dwarfs on their very dangerous journey, and again when the dwarf king is attacked and he comes to the rescue in spite of his great and seeming insignificance I found myself weeping over his struggles and turned to see that Isabel too was wiping away tears. Bilbo is anything but a warrior, 
yet he attacks evil with absolute and utter lack of fear or consideration for personal safety when it comes to defending others.  I identify keenly with Bilbo precisely because he is weak flawed and insignificant.  Yes, there is much in the Rings trilogies that strike a cord with those of us who have suffered loss, yet continue to battle daily for place and peace in this world. 

I have left my home, my friends, my family to strike out on an adventure.  It isn't always easy, and while it hasn't been physically dangerous (other than walking in Istanbul traffic and riding in Turkish taxis), I have had to fight some wicked and destructive personal monsters.  I long so dearly to rest in my own Rivendell.  To be at peace in my home, to sit with sweet loved ones knowing that evil is vanquished, and neither destruction nor death can ever steal innocence and life away again.  I long to be courageous now, to battle injustice and hatred and to be a part of building a better place to reside.  In the meantime, I sit with my first grandchild after a day of shopping for gifts, grateful for the presence of at least one of my kin. 

Christmas day approaches as I finish this post.  Today we will visit holy places... The Blue Mosque, The Hagia Sophia, and The Chora Church.  I imagine this too will bring a flood of emotion for me.  The Christmas journey is a story of impossibility, danger, labor, fear, joy, sacrifice and ultimately triumph.  I read a story today that said on  Christmas eve in medieval Scotland, the bells tolled a long and heavy dirge... to announce the death of the devil.  With so many of humanity's children these days, a dirge also does play.  Our world is still veiled in darkness, but Christmas will arrive... and with it a promise of victory and joy and celebration.

In the meantime... I will see you on the road!

"So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazereth in Galilee to Judea to Bethlehem the town of David... because he belonged to the house and line of David."  Luke 2:4

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Advent - The Waiting

Taken Dec. 2012 in Sandpoint Idaho by Gary Lirrette
Still recovering from Friday flu... and opted to take a Monday to recover and rest.  The still of the day settles into my body, mind, soul.  I always worry about calling in sick to work... it is an angst ridden decision for me even when I am most certainly ill... but a dream just before waking this morning convinced me that it would be a mistake to try to be effective with kids today, so I made the early morning call, and went back to sleep for 4 more hours.

I have a morning routine that I have kept for years.... something about routine grounds me.  I do break it every once in a while, but for the most part... it remains the same as it was in Idaho for the 16 years I resided there.  I wake, make coffee and a small breakfast then sit quietly reading morning devotions and saying my prayers for the day.  If I am late rising, or sick... or some other interruption occurs... it throws my day off... spinning often into directions I would rather avoid.

As I began my readings today, I realized that the day would be best spent quietly preparing for the Christmas season.  Advent is 2 Sundays gone, and the day we arbitrarily choose to celebrate the coming to our mean world, the King of Heaven and Earth... is fast approaching.  I am not ready.

I mistakenly decided, back in August when I was packing for my move to Istanbul, that it would be better to leave all reminders of Christmas' past behind.  I miss these simple things terribly now.  Surprised by the depth of my yearning for some of the sweet ornaments made by my children, cards from old and dear friends that I store to read again and again, a tree fresh from the woods, my favorite Christmas cd's,  lights and candles and the smell of Christmas cookies baking in the oven.  Thinking of these brings on a flood of emotion, and I DO miss them.  So I started streaming Christmas music from you tube yesterday, and I wrapped the packages for my mother and sister that I have been shopping for since I arrived here.  I must have stood and stared at this pile of gifts for several minutes.  Something about it was comforting.

I know enough about psychology and the brain to understand that over the years I've encoded and stored similar images about 55 times and that they directly stimulate the pleasure center of my brain because of their association with happy experiences.  But there are some things quite outside of the brain... hope and faith and love... these aren't so clinical and though I've questioned at times the validity of my beliefs.. they continue to stand rock solid and UN-changeable in my heart and mind.  I read an interesting side story, or maybe it was just a comment under a you tube rendition of "Oh Come, O Come Emmanuel", that said the writer's mother told her that she had wept while listening to the song at even the young age of 2.  How is that possible when there are no memories yet stored?  False memory?  I don't think so.  There is something in the words and the perfection of notes in that particular hymn that stirs the heart.  It is my favorite Christmas hymn because it so perfectly expresses the desire for the beloved to return to us, to rescue and comfort and disperse the gloom of night...
                                               Oh come again       Emmanuel.........yes. I too weep.

I don't understand how it all works... the religion thing.  I don't know why so many different kinds of faiths exist on this earth, and why we hurt and kill each other because of it.  I don't know.   It all seems so tragic.
I do know that this season, Christmas, means more to me than pine trees and cookies and gifts.  It means more than family gatherings and white elephant staff parties, it even means more to me than religion... it is the anticipation of something impossible, something pure and clean.  Divine and human goodness embodied in a baby who will grow to change the world....Kindness and Love that does not disappoint but challenges and encourages and walks with me daily.  Oh what manner of sacrifice did the creator bestow!? 

And yet, I am living in a country that is 98% Muslim.  I love the bittersweet call to prayer.  I love the fact that grown men still prostrate themselves before their maker.  I love the fact that humility and modesty are still much desired character traits in this faith.  I don't love the growing sense of foreboding,  that anything outside of this format must capitulate or be extinguished. Very very few of my current neighbors know this Jesus of whom angels sing and before whom wise men kneel.  Instead they know only of an orgy of consumption, a distinct lack of kindness & understanding, and a history of behavior, much of which was markedly Un-Christlike.

So it's hard being here at Christmastime in some ways... no Christmas cards, no carols, no manger scenes.  But it's easier in others.  No orgy of commercial X-mas blanketing my every waking moment.  It must become... in the purest sense... the REAL thing this year.  It either resides in my heart, or not.  The trappings, decorations, scents, lights, glitter and shimmer....stripped away.
It is still the same mean world... but I am anticipating....something MUCH greater.

Season's Greetings.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Turkish Anomolies - Or Strange Things I've Pondered Since Arriving.

My last post was a rather somber reminder that things are not equal in this world of ours.  As a German friend (& countless others)  said once to me when I was grieving the sorrows of this journey... "Life is not fair".  Terrible things happen to innocent people and terrible people seem sometimes to skate through life unscathed.  I for one believe in imminent judgement and sometimes instant karma, but also I am eternally grateful for GRACE. 

 Eye also think, it helps not to take one's self, or one's existentialist ruminations too seriously.  While I will fight for justice and mercy to the last ounce of my puny existence,  I also know I will never make it without a sense of humor or appreciation for the absurd.  This particular post will celebrate the curious, the ironic, the anomalies that make life so interesting currently.  If you have things to add... please do comment.  I need a chuckle every now and then.

This was a shop that I just happened up on while touring with the Travel Junkies through Eminounou.  No kidding... it was an "eye shop".  Every permutation (color and size and expression - wise) of the large plastic eye was  available in bulk bagged quantities.  Mind you this wasn't a warehouse.  It was a store on a side street in the tourist district surrounding the Egyptian spice market area.  The door was wide open and there were papers and a calculator on the desk as if a brisk business had been had all day.  Why or What or even Who.........  I leave such questions to minds greater than my own.

 Same walk about... now here's the weird little thing about his picture...we were exploring "hans" or shops of the back alleys.  This was an open area in back of a thoroughfare.  No traffic back here, just some storage and private spots for laborers to go have some tea.  I spied this sort of vine like tree behind a wall and was surprised at the brilliant blue flowers blooming in late November.  Sure enough, someone had taken the time to duct tape plastic flowers to the living tree, all over.  I have no idea who else will ever see this tree given its location, but at least I appreciated the artistry that went into it.  A bright spot in a grey, wet chilly day.

If this were a fish pond, it would make sense that there were so many of these silvery creatures swimming around in here.  The funny thing is, it isn't a fish pond.  It is a deserted hamam and there aren't supposed to be fish in here at all.  This magnificent
bathhouse is maintained by someone who must feed and care for the creatures.  My ocd friend
(who is an irony in and of himself) counted to 37 while he was waiting for me to explore the recesses of the building that went very deep into stunning rooms that most likely could tell many many tales.  Why are there fish in a hamam?  I don't know, but while I was standing there, a young kid, about 13 I think, came by and "herded" the fish by waving his hand expertly over the surface of the water.  I could tell he'd spent considerable time amusing himself thus.  I smiled at him as I watched his skill determine the course of the school.  He grinned back shyly.  It's amazing how one smile can open up worlds of understanding.  I don't know his back story, but I imagine he too could tell some stories, particularly about this magnificent building that now houses boxes and secrets and fish.

I wanted these two pictures side by side.  Both are identified as "Angels".  One is a naturally occurring (if I read the Turkish sign correctly) image within a stone cut found in the famed Hagia Sofia..  The other is a painted icon in a primitive cave church in Cappadocia.  I am intrigued by their similarities.  I think it's a bit spine tingling. 

Ok,... back to earth.  We went out one lovely late summer night to a Fasil... a traditional Turkish feast followed by music and dancing.  It was a pleasant evening and we took a taxi home.  We'd had a bit to drink and were all of us in high spirits careening down our road the way only Turkish taxi drivers careen, taking pleasure in how well they can navigate curves and blind corners at breakneck speeds.  We were oh so close to home on one of those little side streets that branch off into Ortakoy, having directed the taxi driver to take a short cut when suddenly he slammed on the brakes.  Why?  Because an earth mover was digging up the road we were on.  We had a pissing match for a bit, no idea why or where the taxi man thought the excavator was going to yield to but the lesser vehicle (us)  eventually backed out. I LOVE Turkish taxi rides!!!

When I saw a large crowd quietly gathering in Taksim, I could tell something different was going on.  Street musicians are a dime a dozen (and sometimes extremely good) on Istiklal Ave..  I was really astounded though at this guy.  A Turkish hippie.  And his instrument... he said that only 4 or 5 people in the world know how to create it.  He played it with his fingers and it sounded like music of heaven.  So sweet and gentle, as was he.

I tried to download the short video I took, but I am unable to get it linked.  You will just have to come to Istanbul and see if you can find him yourself.

Journeyed to the Grand Bazaar on Saturday.  It's a good thing there are no bars in there... some people might not ever come out.  The bazaar is a true oddity in that hundreds of shops sell EXACTLY the same Chinese made Turkish look alike brands of Kitsch.  I argued with one guy who told me his Ukelele's were made "right here in Turkey miss..."  I pointed out the PRC label glued to the inside of the uke... but he persisted.  Oh well.  There are 5,000 shops in this covered area which has been in operation since 1461.
One man offered my companion some money or a trade for me.  One, about 28 years old made a marriage proposal, and one would not let go of my hand.  His neighbor, about 70, asked me "can I have you now?"  I am not sure what he had in mind, but I had a great time at the bazaar and I will return before Christmas.  As we found an exit out into dark open air (time ceases in the bazaar) we made our way down an unfamiliar avenue of even cheaper shops, many of which were selling bridal array, o\Ottoman era wear, and shoes.  A weird combo I know, but it got weirder. 
Yes these are little Turkish "man/boys".  Small boy size mannequins used to display children's suits, but obviously... they needed some Turkish facial hair... so someone obliged.  This was not the only shop with man/boy mannequins.  Why do they do this?  I just don't know.

There are many other things on the list of Turkish anomalies.  Here is a bulleted sample:

  • They take this special plant... and put bits of glass and aluminum and kitsch all over it 
  • They complain a lot about everything
  • Food is packaged, injected, altered, supersized, chemicalized, mistreated and generally taken for granted as an entitlement
  • They raise billions of dollars for cancer research but refuse to change what they breathe, eat, smoke, put on or into their bodies
  • They have this piece of cloth that they almost place in a position of worship even though most of them are against idol worship.  
  • They think they are the most fantastic place on the face of the planet, without having visited any other place for any significant length of time.
Ok, by now most of you get it.  Yeah, so this place(Turkey)  is odd and different and people don't do things the same way they do them in other parts of the world.  Time is really relative here, people are hard to figure out (shaking your head left to right might mean yes, I am in complete agreement)  and they drive like maniacs who understand exactly where each other is headed.  Sometimes I don't get it, sometimes I do, and most of the time........  I love it. 

Hey.... you in the burka, don't look at me like that again ok..........?

 & Laughter.