Saturday, June 28, 2014

Prayers and Angels

Twelve days ago Madi boarded a plane and flew to the US...all by herself. As we formulated the idea and plans of sending her back to the US early, we thought it was a great idea. Madi had won a State Department writing contest, and the ceremony was going to be held in Washington DC. As long as she was going to that, we decided to send her earlier so she could attend trek and girls camp. I was convinced it was a brilliant plan, really...

...until the night before she left. I woke in the middle of the night in a sheer panic. My heart pounded. My mind raced. What were we doing sending our daughter across the world, by herself!? I had been so sure she was up for the task. She only had one connection in Korea. And she had, afterall, made over 12 overseas flights in the past three years.  Many of our friends here in Jakarta had sent their children on similar solo travels. But at 1 AM, none of those things mattered. My mind spun with worst-case-scenarios. What would she do if she couldn't find the gate? What would she do if she missed her connecting flight? I uttered a silent prayer that all would go well and struggled to sleep for the rest of the night. 

The next morning I put on a brave face. How could I expect Madi to be courageous and brave, if I couldn't hold it together? 

We spent the day doing all her requested "lasts":

Egg and bacon bagels at our favorite bagel store. 
(Love Charlotte's photo-bomb!)
Jamu for pedicures and cream-baths (arguably one of the best parts of Jakarta!)

As the time drew closer for her departure, I felt the panic simmer.  More silent prayers.

Elise took this picture of us walking back from Hero...I love it because it shows our house and our neighborhood - the walk we've taken countless times.
Madi and I rode in a taxi to the airport together. As we pulled out of the Kemang Club Villas I recited a list of goodbyes. "Goodbye palm trees. Goodbye pool. Goodbye embassy guards. Goodbye large green gate. Goodbye Hero. Goodbye flower stalls..."

Somewhere between the green gate and Hero there were tears.
I held it together for the airport checkin and security. But it was a frightening moment when we had to actually say goodbye. I held my daughter tightly and had a glimpse into future goodbyes: our own Jakarta goodbye in only one more month, the way-too-soon college goodbye, and so on. 

And there was another prayer, right there in the immigration line at Soekarno Hatta Airport. I prayed Madi would be safe and that we would survive all these goodbyes.

The next 24 hours were scary. We had sent Madi with a cell phone and plenty of pulsa (minutes) and assumed she would be able to contact us from the Korean airport. So when the time of her arrival came and passed without any text messages, I felt overwhelmed with worry. I haven't prayed so fervently or so frequently in a very long time. Charlotte's nighttime prayer echoed my feelings exactly, "Dear Heavenly Father," she prayed, "Please help Madi not die."

You can imagine my relief when I received a text from Madi via Jennifer Schoeny's phone: "Hi Mom. This is Madi. I'm safe and alive."

Prayers of gratitude!

Now the angels. 
An angel (Jennifer Schoeny) picked up Madi from the airport and welcomed her back to the USA and to her home. If that isn't enough, she also sewed Madi a pioneer apron for trek! 

An angel (Karen) delivered poison-ivy block to Madi the night before trek. Madi later told me there were moments on trek where she had to walk off the trail through poison ivy, and she attributes her safety to Karen's timely gift. 

An angel (Jessica) played her violin during a devotional and bestowed a much-needed hug to Madi.

An angel (Carri) took photos of trek and sent them to me in an email. They were the first pictures I'd seen of Madi since she had left. You can imagine how much joy they brought me.

Many angels - some of whom I haven't even met yet - fed, watched-over, and helped Madi have an incredible experience at trek and camp.  And more angels (Molly Kay, Lisa, Magen, and Maria) who provided facebook updates about trek and dispersed hugs when they saw Madi. 

Angels (grandma, poppy, granddad, nana, and Allison) attended Madi's award ceremony at the State Department since we couldn't be there. My parents flew all the way across the country and Owen's parent drove 16 hours from Mississippi to be there. Madi felt so loved and supported.

Over the past twelve days I've thought often of Elder Holland's talk "The Ministry of Angels." In his talk he said, I have spoken here of heavenly help, of angels dispatched to bless us in time of need. But when we speak of those who are instruments in the hand of God, we are reminded that not all angels are from the other side of the veil. Some of them we walk with and talk with—here, now, every day. Some of them reside in our own neighborhoods. Some of them gave birth to us. Indeed heaven never seems closer than when we see the love of God manifested in the kindness and devotion of people so good and so pure that angelicis the only word that comes to mind.

Today, I am grateful for the peace and comfort of prayer and for the angels who have taken care of my daughter. 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

People Who Make a Difference

I'm indebted to people who make a difference in my life...but even more so, I'm indebted to those who make a difference in my children's lives.

We are well into summer. How have two weeks gone by since the last day of school?

Before the school year slips too far from my memory, I want to write about two people who made a difference to my children this year.

Miss Sheryl was Charlotte's Kindergarten teacher this year. She was everything I could hope for in a Kindergarten teacher: kind, nurturing, and consistent. She challenged Charlotte to focus, learn to read, and make progress on school work (not the easiest task with my youngest child).

Charlotte was happy to go to school everyday. Perhaps this is the greatest gift Miss Sheryl gave us.  

The year end program was a wonderful mixture of music, dance, and Indonesia. Charlotte was the only American in her class. But she sang the Indonesian National Bahasa. She played her recorder and danced at the same time! (Love those black socks and shoes? It was part of the costume, very Indonesian).
 Charlotte's theater debut was as a dragon fly and frog. Oh the joy!
And to think I prayed so hard for her to go to another school...when really, this was perfect for her. 

Now, Miss Pickles. 4th grade came with many social challenges for Amelia. But it will perhaps be her most favorite school year because of her incredible teacher. Isn't Pickles a great name for a 4th grade teacher? 

Miss Pickles' classroom was purple, because Miss Pickles loves purple. There was also a class pet: a hedgehog named Prickles. And books, books, books, everywhere and all the time. 

The best part about Miss Pickles is that she completely "got" Amelia. She embraced Amelia's unique qualities and made her feel special. They shared a love of reading. Amelia read so many books this year - most were recommendations from her teacher. And our favorite read-aloud chapter book was a special personal-loan from Miss Pickles: The Thief Lord.

We may be well into summer, but these two teachers will stay with my children for the rest of their lives.

Thank you for making this year wonderful!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

My Classroom

You should probably know I'm sitting here in my classroom and the tears are coming fast. I'm not at the ugly cry stage (yet), just the waterfall stage. The emotions are so strong that I'm tempted to eat the entire batch of brownies with peanut butter frosting instead of sharing them with my English faculty at our lunch party. So to keep myself from gorging on chocolate and peanut butter, I will do what works best for me as I process emotion: write.

I'm done with grading the final exams. The essays sit neatly stacked in my locked cupboard. I've entered grades and comments in powerschool. And so, for all intensive purposes, my job as a JIS English teacher is complete.

Last night, as the kids and I waited for the Visual and Performing Arts year-end program, we gathered in my room to eat pizza, watch a little "White Collar" on the big screen, and begin packing up my room. How I have loved my classroom. A haven for me. A gathering spot for my own children.

Here's what I have loved about my JIS classroom:

The view from my window is one of my favorite sites in all of Jakarta: the giant tree whose branches dwarf the library and English building and shade the Freshman huts, the faded-blue sky barely visible past through the green, and the sun warming the leaves with its golden light.

My Comfy Corner - after VERY productive class lessons, I would invite my students to get comfy on the couch and giant pillows, and we would simply talk. Sometimes I shared stories (they really liked any story involving love or embarrassment).

This was also a great place for after-school relaxing. How I have loved having Truman and Amelia walk up to the High School, buy Milo and a quiche at the Wantalan Cafeteria, and start their homework in my Comfy Corner. I will miss these moments. I will miss looking over at Amelia reading her book, or seeing Madi's cello propped in the corner, or even the pile of swim bags.  

My Wall of Dreams - This is where my seniors "left their mark" on my wall. I encouraged them to write down their dreams and their aspirations. 

Some of my favorite legacy quotes accompany their handprints: 
"Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you're there." 
Ray Bradbury


"You see things and you say 'Why?' But I dream things that never were and I say 'Why not?'"
George Bernard Shaw

I don't know if I will ever have my own classroom again. I will teach at NOVA this fall. And I'm already scheduled to take the Virginia teaching licence test. But how that will all work out, I just don't know. And maybe that is why this is so sad for me. To leave something I don't really care about would be soooo easy. To leave something I have loved, is very hard. This year has been a blessing for me and my children. I feel blessed to have used my talents to teach writing and literature and to be close to my own children. Almost a piece of heaven.

Truman took this photo of me at my desk (it took many tries so I wouldn't look too old and tired!) Do you see the bell? I used it to get my students' attention (worked like a charm! Thanks, Katie, for the idea) and for great games of family feud. 

This has been the place where I taught HamletRomeo&JulietThe Book ThiefThe RoadTo Kill a Mockingbird, and Frost's poetry. This has been the place where Elise and Madi would drop by to say hi and usually ask for some candy, cash, or a hug (or all three). 

I'm not crying anymore - the writing has worked. And I didn't even need to sneak a brownie. So I will end this post and get back to packing up my room - a place that has been a large part of my Jakarta home. 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Goodbye Parties

Four parties in one week. The school counselor encouraged us to make time for "goodbyes" - so I guess we're doing that pretty well.

Party #1: Jamu with my High School English Department

Really, we DO work hard as teachers. However, it's finals week here at Jakarta International School, and after a day of grading essays, we met at Jamu - the most lovely spa in all of Jakarta.

Neck and Shoulder massages. Pedicures. Cream baths.

This is our fourth outing as a dept. to Jamu over the past two years. How I will miss these fun ladies (Shana, Melody, Leizel, Gloria, and Beata) whom I've learned so much from and who have made working such a joy! And of course, I'll miss our relaxaing, rejuvenating, celebration time together at Jamu.

Party #2: Amelia's Goodbye Party
The coolest part of this party was the demographics represented by her closest 4th grade friends.
Laura is Columbian, Annabelle is half Australian-half Indonesian, and Bianca is Italian. 
They are all bilingual except Amelia. 
It was brilliant to listen to their conversation around the dinner table, each with their own accents, backgrounds, and stories to share.
I love how we've met people from all over the world and we've come to realize just how much we truly are all alike.

Party #3 Our First Boy-Girl Party!

Elise hosted a party with 5 boys and 5 girls from school. They did a photo scavenger hunt around the neighborhood, dined at Lottemart at Lippo mall, and swam with glow-sticks.
After a difficult couple years in elementary school, it has made me happy Elise found a good group of friends.  Again, the demographics are fantastic! Her friends are from the following countries: Scotland, Sweden, England, Indonesian, Australian, New Zealand, and Vietnam.

Party #4: JIS Faculty Farewell Party

Two Elementary Schools+One Middle School+One High School= 250 faculty members!

Last year our farewell party was held at the Ritz Carlton hotel. This year it was held under beautiful blue and white tents with twinkly lights. There were five food stations: middle eastern menu, Indian food, hot dogs/hamburgers, Indonesian, and a dessert bar.

My mom and sister (both public school teachers in America) tell me this kind of end of the year celebration is not normal. Their typical public school, faculty parties are potluck, in the library, served on paper dishes. So, knowing this will be the end of luxurious parties, I tried to enjoy every moment. 

 Brian, Carrie, me, and Shana - some of my most favorite JIS people.  
(Two of those plates and the chocolate ice cream cup are mine. See? I really was trying to enjoy!)

Below, I take a minute to chat with Tim Carr, head of JIS. I shared with him how Amelia had woken up so sad. When I asked her why, she replied, "Because after today, I will only have 5 more days at JIS." 
I feel the same way. I have loved my time here as a teacher at this wonderful school.

It started to rain just as I left the party. Thunder rolled overhead and mingled with the music from the live band. I walked to my car without an umbrella and didn't mind stepping in the puddles. I laughed with Shana as we tried, in vain, to find cover under a porch. Somehow the rain, the thunder, the music, and laughter all rolled together and seemed a fitting end to this wonderful time.