January 30, 2011

Gone With the Wind

I am halfway through the 1010 pages of Gone With the Wind.  I am trying to finish before I start my new Bib1e reading plan with Lydia and Candace and Korrie this February.  You may not know this but Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler are complete jerks!  I sure hope they both undergo some major character redemption, though at this point I can't see that happening.  The book is very interesting though, and it is shedding much light on the peculiar ways of my Southern husband and his family and most of our friends.

The South was an aristocracy.  It may as well have had a king and lords and noblemen.  The class system was very much in place, not just between races but within races, and there was so much cotton money down there that, paired with free slave labor, the rich had nothing to do but throw balls and pay long visits to relatives and fuss and fret over social etiquette.  No one said what they meant and women were supposed to be stupid and beautiful and men were supposed to carry on crassly with one another but fawn over their coquettish, pedistel-riding women with ooey-gooey patronism.

At least this is the way it was in Margaret Mitchell's historic novel.

Not that my beloved Southerners are like that now, but some characteristics of the way of life that died out when the Yankees won the war can still be seen today.  Men still carry on in very manly ways with each other (obsessing over college football and basketball, smoking cigars in gentlemen groups, drinking but not getting drunk), they still fawn over their ladies (opening doors, saying "Miss" and "M'am", fiercely protecting sisters and mothers and widowed aunts), and people rarely say exactly what they are thinking, so as to preserve social pleasantries.  I, myself, bred a Yankee, am blunt and unrefined and I probably shell-shocked my inlaws at first.  That was a decade ago, though, and I can now say that I am a nice combination of Northern ruggedness and Southern grace.  Call me a Rankee, or a Yebel, but I will always like baking powder biscuits better than the Southern variety, even as my piercing nasal accent has gone with the wind.

January 29, 2011

girl power

This kid is not only gorgeous, but she is as tough as nails.  Medically speaking, she could have given up months ago and no one would have blamed her.  But not our Glory Girl.  She just keeps on truckin'.  Please don't forget to pray for her whenever you get the chance, and remember her mom and dad and big sister and grandma, who's "real lives" have been abandoned indefinitely in order that she might pull through. 

I am so proud - so infinitely proud - to call this little girl my niece, and to call the people surrounding her my family.

January 28, 2011

Sawatdee Kaa!

We are home again.  We like it in Thailand, because it has a long-standing friendship with America, and it is clean, and the health care is fair and cheap, and the food is amazing.  We like the colors and the smells and the palm trees.  It is a nice, close retreat spot for us when being embedded in the ancient ways of the Far East becomes too much and we just need a good plate of lasagna and some unflavored milk.  We would never just go there without cause, though, so the fact that we were required to go for a conference made for the perfect exodus at the perfect time.

And now we are more than happy to be home again, where everything smells faintly of incense and human waste, and the sky is clear, and the air is cold, and women wear red and men wear black and the people are strong and resilient, whittled into heroes from years of living with adversities beyond our imagination. 

Ah, we like home.

But like I said, we like Thailand, too.  Here are some pictures of our time there.

Here is the view from our hotel room.
 Here we are waiting for the mall to open.
Here we are trying to pass the time when we were all sick as dogs.

Sawatdee Kaa!

January 21, 2011

nothing like a good conference

No, I have not been napped in the streets, never to be heard from again (though I feared as much this evening as I walked through downtown Bangkok for Daniel's turkey and bell pepper 6-inch on wheat).  We have been at a conference, on floor 35, which is exactly 35 floors above the nearest internet service.  On top of that, we have been sicker than dogs, Daniel enthroned nearly permanently upon the toilet and me with a bag of inhalers and antibiotics to treat my bronchitis.  The kids have enjoyed the childcare program and we have enjoyed seeing so many friends from our past and present, but overall we have been a coughing, moaning, stressed-out mess (quite typical of a family with young children at a week-long conference).

The other day, Daniel and I got separated in our hotel, he with the kids and both of our phones and me with the only room key.  We played cat and mouse for 20 minutes, up and down to and from the 35th floor, until finally I left this sweet love note on the door for him to find.
Ahh, family life.  Sweet, adventurous, real, international family life.  Wouldn't want it any other way.

p.s.  I am definitely not pregnant, by the way;)

January 12, 2011

Treading on the faint pink line

I almost didn't publish this one.  Then I did.  Then I tried to take it back off the blog.  Apparently, it didn't work because I just logged on and here it is.  Too late now.  Oh well, maybe someone out there needed to read this.

So anyway.

We had a pregnancy scare yesterday.

You know, there’s logic, which goes a long way – but then there are the weird symptoms and the gut-feeling and you break down and buy the test and pee on it and then you find yourself, in the middle of an adoption process, with a houseful of little boys, in the jeans you JUST got back into, staring at a very faint second line.

There was a time when I had prayed so hard for that line to appear that I thought Heaven would tell me to shut up about it.  I cried so many tears that I had no more tears left to cry, wondering if I would ever see anything, anything in that second window.  And now my fickle thoughts are bent on other desires.  I want sleep.  I want to wear long earrings again.  I want a second career someday.  I want to make recipes that aren’t “kid-friendly,” and I want everyone at the table to sit square in their chair and cut their own meat and get up to refill their own glass of milk.

I spent the day pacing, my mind racing, wringing my hands and crying a bit between loads of laundry.  All the while, though, there was a flutter in my heart.  A mother is a mother is a mother.   No matter what, there is that part of a woman - that part that lies still and strong, right against the bones - that will always want another child.  We shush it.  We deny it.  But it is there.
Bedtime finally came and I tossed and turned through the night, waiting on the first morning pee to set this all straight.  Sleepily the next morning, I took test after test after test, all with a very blank, very white, very sterile-looking second window.
So what was the deal with that test yesterday?  Was it an evaporation line?  Was it just a bum test?  I think it was a wakeup call:  who is L0RD of your life, Kayla Rupp, and what is it that you really fear?
King Caspian in the newest Narnia movie says, “I have spent too long wanting what has been taken from me, and not what I have been given.”  Can anyone say CONVICTING?!  And when it comes right down to it, don’t we all tread on an indiscriminate pink line?  We wish the prognosis was clearer, don’t we?  We want definitive answers.  Will my children ever walk away from their faith?  Will my husband ever fail me?  Will I find a lump in my breast in my 40’s?
Will Glory live to see her kindergarten graduation?
The line is faint.  The jury is out.  There are no guarantees beyond the moment we are in.  We can plan and contrive and stew and make lists and buy the right B!ble study programs and wear our hair the way our husbands like it and stand a good way away from the microwave but the truth is, even when we take our birth control pills at the same time every day, we might find ourselves pregnant in the middle of an adoption process.  The funny thing about life is, we are usually a little disappointed when we aren't.

January 10, 2011

Chainsaws and Platinum

If love stories make you nauseous, beware.

I have gotten hooked on a cooking/homeschooling/home-and-gardening/photography/crafting blog that happens to be written by a gal who can write.  It is basically my online dreamworld.  The Pioneer Woman.  Check it out.

The Pioneer Woman wrote a long series of posts, at one point, about how she met and fell in love with her cowboy husband.  It is called "Black Heels to Tractor Wheels," and it is now a published book.  I have not read the whole thing, but it has caused me to think back and smile on my own love story.  I, too, fell in love with a country boy, and I, too, can remember the day.
A boy that I had met on Spring Break drove from Arkansas to Michigan in his old Ford F150 pickup, because I needed a ride to Memphis for our summer job.  On our way south to Memphis, we stopped at his mother's home in Arkansas to get his things for the summer.  It was May, 2001.  I was 20, and he was 21.  We were heading into our senior years of college.  I still had soccer legs and he still had bare patches in his beard.  We had only had one conversation in person.

When we finally reached the farm that his ancestors had homesteaded by covered wagon, it was well after dark.  After briefly meeting what would become my mother-in-law (in her pajamas), I was put up for the night in his childhood bedroom - which was then still covered with the graffiti of a 7th-grade boy, but is now full of beds and toys for our kids.  I woke too late for farm life the next morning, as the sun was already shining brightly through the curtains.  After pulling on my jeans, I headed out into the house, which I could see by the light of day was unlike anywhere I had ever been.  Vines and trees and flowers were painted up and down the walls.  Old trinkets from generations long buried were hanging on little nails everywhere, crowded into antique hutches, and suspended from the ceilings.  There was a second-story porch accessible from a nearby room, the railing of which I leaned over to smell the rugged smells of the morning.

That's when I heard the Ford F150 grinding its way up Doe Run Trail, around the bend, and up the hill to the house.  Daniel had been up for some time, apparently, long enough at least to have cut down a tree for his mother before leaving for the summer.  He did not see me on the porch.  He did not know that I was watching him as he jumped down from his truck, shirtless in his Carhartt overalls.  He did not know that I was watching him as he grabbed his chainsaw from the truck bed, nor did he know that I was watching him as he walked to the house, chainsaw over his shoulder, birds chirping, the smell of coffee coming from the kitchen.  He did not know that I had overheard his mother and grandmother murmuring about the two of us as they shuffled around in their slippers downstairs.  He did not know that at that moment, my ears were flush and my heart was pounding and it was either his shirtless shoulders or it was love.  As it turns out, it was both.

One week later he would kiss me on the practice field at the University Of Memphis campus (our after-work courting location).  Six weeks after that he would propose to me on a dock in Waldoxy State Park, Mississippi.  A few days later he would pay cash for a $250 platinum diamond ring in downtown Memphis - on his lunch break.  (That figure, by the way, is not a typo.)

The following May, one year after his studly strut to the house with his chainsaw, there were tears in his eyes as my dad walked me down a black-and-white tiled isle.  The next 10 minutes were a blur.  I couldn't cry for the giant smile plastered to my face.  We vowed and we prayed and we kissed and I whispered into his ear, "We're married."

There is a prequel to the story - about how we first met, and how when I first heard his last name spoken aloud my tummy flip-flopped as if "Rupp" had been my name in a dream or, if I believed in such things, another life.  The story is, of course, still being written, and I fall in love with this man more and more every year.  But I will never forget that morning in May when I knew that my journey had ended, or rather had just begun, and I had at long last come home.

I love you, Daniel Rupp (and you went shirtless on purpose that morning, didn't you!)

January 06, 2011

"behind the scenes"

Our trip to a local orphanage this week doubled as this month's field trip.  We didn't get to hold any orphans, but we helped prepare the place to receive orphans in the near future.  My kids wanted to help paint, but they are still too little for that.  They spent the day kicking around a dirty soccer ball and eating Dutch butter cookies and climbing in and out of the laps of whichever cute young lady was taking a breather.

Today in class, as we filled out our field trip form, Bright complained about how little he was allowed to help at the orphanage.  I took the opportunity at that point to teach him a common idiomatic phrase.
"Bright," I said, "do you know what 'behind the scenes' means?"

This phrase could summarize my current human experience.  I am firmly planted behind the scenes, for at least the next 16 years.  We had a discussion panel last night in our apartment, during which the visiting group from Memphis asked us questions about our life and work here.  I was not on the panel.  If I had been, my answers would have been vastly different.
Q:  What is it like to learn a new language?
A:  I don't know.  I don't have time to learn anything beyond where to buy good brown sugar.
Q:  What is your role in the work?
A:  My role?  My nose is frequently 1 ft. from a pair of poopy buns and my hands are frequently 6 inches deep into a bowl of biscuit dough (though never subsequently, I can assure you).
Q:  Are your parents supportive?
A:  Yes and no.  They are proud of me, but they are not just missing my presence.  They are missing the childhoods of their grandchildren.  Theirs' is a sacrifice for which they should be recognized and applauded, but not envied.
Q:  How did you come to be here?
A:  My husband said, "Babe, I think we're moving to East Asia," to which I replied, "Let's go."
Am I a key player?  I know in my head that I am.  I know that my casseroles make those on the front lines a little happier.  Happiness makes them more effective.  Those who I serve are always very appreciative, too, which goes a long way in keeping me out of the pity party.  But sometimes, when I am sitting up in this apartment, looking out over the city that pulses with the busy lives of millions who have never heard the truth, my heart aches.  It just does.  It aches.  And I wonder, am I doing what my heart has felt pricked to do since I was a small child?

"Bright," I began, "the phrase 'behind the scenes' refers to the people who are not seen, and usually not heard, but who make it possible for those who are to do what they do."

A good lesson for him, and a good reminder for me.

January 05, 2011

raising them abroad

It has crept up on us, and we have a hard time admitting it (though it really is a sweet gift we are giving them, whether they see it that way before they're 30 or not).  Our children are growing up over here. 

January 03, 2011

Man, I love this job.

Kids:  watching their Mandarin video lesson
Me:  just finished my last sip of coffee with cocoa and Equal, pulling on my favorite pants from college and my Hershey Track and Field T-shirt from 5th grade.
The day ahead:  BUSY

We have a group here from America right now, Memphis to be exact, which is our favorite city in the world (we have our reasons).  Daniel and I are SOOOOOOOOO busy, but we are both happy as larks because this group being here means we each get to do what we love.  Daniel gets to lead others in the act of changing the course of peoples' lives forever, and I get to cook for all of the them!

Last night I made a chocolate sundae pie and popped it in the freezer at midnight.  This morning, after I get off this addictive little computer, I will bake a batch of blueberry muffins, a batch of fat-free bran muffins, and a batch of chocolate chip muffins, all to bring to the orphanage tomorrow for our day trip with the group.  This afternoon, I will bake sweet potato fries.  Tomorrow I will enjoy 12 hours of my kids, sans naps, in a place that will soon house the fatherless.  I will then come home and put my kids to bed without help for the 7th night in row, and then collapse into my bed for some Mma Ramotswe (the book I'm reading) and my nightly cup of apple tea.  The next morning I will start cooking for 12 dinner guests, who I will welcome at 6 p.m. with a big smile and a perfectly set hairstyle.  That last detail was facetious.

All of this will happen alongside 3-5 hours of homeschooling per day, and loving and feeding and wiping the butts of my kids.

Its amazing how it works.  Something that takes just a little effort, if it is something one hates doing, feels like being dragged through hot coals.  Where as a week and a half of working one's fingers to the bone alongside a husband who only runs into the house long enough to grab a power-nap and a plate of stew and a quick bath, feels like getting ready for the prom or painting a nursery or the announcement of "Couples Skate" in 1988 when you are all hyped up on Super Ropes and frozen Cokes and a boy named Sean wants to hold your hand.  What I mean is, it energizes us to do what we love, for whom we love, for what we love, no matter how hard we work.

Speaking of love, I love that I have figured out a way to make fat-free bran muffins in East Asia and I'm going to go now and make them!   

Stay busy doing what you love this year.