Monday, December 28, 2009

And they will live Happily Ever After!

Mr and Mrs Ben Brown enjoying a quiet moment after the reception. Despite a snowstorm two days before, all went well. The bridal party (pictured in the second photo) gave it a big THUMBS up!
Pictured are Jolene's brother, Ian and mother Vicky, the happy couple, Phil and Peter Sasso-Lundin-our "pseudo family" members. The wedding was at Phil and Peter's house. It was a beautiful day.

Wedding Bells

Scenes from the beautiful wedding day and reception. It was a beautiful day and reception. We are so blessed that Ben has found Jolene as a life partner. I'm very proud of both of them (as the top picture shows) although I was a bit "teary-eyed"! My second son, Phil was there for support during the service. Friend JE did the officiating and a beautiful job she did for us.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

All is calm, All is Bright

Thankfully the snowstorm seems to have dumped it's blessings to the north and south of Pelican Rapids and we're digging out nicely here. Wedding and reception are still on as scheduled...if you're reading this, come on out to Ohe's Barn tomorrow from 1-3 pm for a wedding reception!
It's going to be a nice celebration of love, happiness and optimism! (can I buy decorations for that?!)
Being here with Ben and Jolene and seeing their love and their care for each other has calmed many of my mother fears. It will all work out, they've got love...the rest are "details" right?!
Keep your fingers crossed for a clear day on Sunday and for the power of snowblowers to make all this white stuff negotiable!
..God Bless us Everyone!

Friday, December 25, 2009

What to do in a snowstorm...

Growing up in MN has given me plenty of opportunities to experience snowstorms. Before global warming (no political comment intended, just that it seems like there WAS more snow when I wa younger), we would have at least one "don't leave the farm for three days" sort of storm a year. The wind would blow, snowbanks would pile up outside the picture window (great for sledding) and we would hunker down for long winter's naps and lots of TV watching.

Currently I am safe here with my son and his bride to be, their two cats, lots of opportunity for TV watching and a very expensive wedding dress. As I'm typing this I am trying to figure out if we should bundle up the cats and the dress and make a run for it getting us at least to Pelican Rapids where we could be ready for the wedding. Maybe it's God's way of making me laugh because I'm the one who pushed this issue about getting married while I was home. Maybe it's just a fact of nature--of course it should snow in December...get over it Nadine.
Maybe we can push the reception back to 3-5 pm Sunday giving more of a chance for everyone to dig out and recooperate.
Maybe we could have a reception in July and I could donate all the food to the food shelf.
Maybe I should just stay put and not worry because I can't control it anyway.
Maybe I'll have another bowl of oyster stew and an answer will become clear.

Anyway, hope this finds you safe and warm and not trying to deal with life's big questions. Or if you are, may you have loved ones around you and a friendly animal curled up on your lap. It does help.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas from Minne-SNOW-dah

Just a short post to wish all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I am with my son Ben and his soon to be wife and we're enjoying a simple but warm holiday. Have travelled many miles to be here and this is what I wanted from Santa. Also been able to see many family and friends so i am all warmed up "inside" too. Just to make life interesting, there is a bunch of snow forecast for this area. Oh well, makes for a great story.
I just dodged the East Coast snow bullet last weekend, I was in JFK on Friday and on Saturday they received over 14 inches of snow. Uffda!!
Sunday is the small wedding (very private with only parents and sponsors) and then a little larger reception. Being able to be here with the kids to get things done has been a blessing and it makes me feel a part of the festivities. I am thankful that Ben has someone who loves him and who he loves. Everything else is just details right?!
Hope this finds all of you healthy, happy, warm and safe this holiday season.
YES I know pictures are needed. Stay tuned for details.
Love from the Desert Teacher with a snowball in her hand!!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Different Prophets: Same God: Same Shopping Opportunities

I've been re-bitten by the Christmas bug and so I've been out Christmas shopping recently.

Friday I visited the Friday Market (which actually goes Thursday-Sunday) and was able to flirt with my old Jordian boyfriend (still dont' know his name, nor he mine, but he does know me)
"oh my dear, it is so good to see you" (he says and then immediately goes to buy me tea)
"Please sit here (on a box) and take your time. I know you will make a good choice" (as I'm digging through his boxes of "Treasures"
Part of the reason why I enjoy visiting this man is that I truly believe he's my father reincarnated. Also, he's got good "junk" and he doesn't mind when I sit down to dig through his stuff. Sometimes I don't find any goodies (as my dad used to call them) but most often I do.

Friday's "find" was a beautiful rug for my office. Not the fancy kind that was really expensive (and this area of the world is known for their beautiful rugs) but the basic, rugged kind that I don't feel bad placing on the floor (and not on the wall). It goes perfectly with my new office. Also I found some prayer beads for my WWB canoe gals from this summer. These are old beads and I know they've gone through many prayers. Just what I wanted.

As I left my friend said "you are happy, I am happy. I know I will see you again". What a great way to say goodbye to someone.

Sunday evening found me with another older gentleman, this one the owner of the Gift store outside of the Shiite mosque. I know, I know, the shiite are supposed to be the "bad guys", but I really like this man and he's got good stuff. I patiently waited while he was making deals with three moslem women. I didn't laugh when I saw the young boy with them try on a t-shirt with the face of the prophet "blocked" (Muslims do not believe that their prophet should be personified). I was very polite when he offered me tea (a custom here) and I even ate the dates he offered to me (I've actually begun to like them).

When the Muslim women left, he gave me his full attention. I motioned to some prayer beads in the corner and he shook his head
"no, those are junk. Here you want these".
and he proceeded to bring out lovely prayer beads, varying in shapes, sizes, colors and of course prices. It was a very interesting conversation even though few words were spoken.
After finding just what I wanted, I asked about jewelry.
Again, he shook his head over where I pointed and told me he would bring me
"good stuff".
He dug around in his shelves and pulled out this box which, for all the world, looked just like a fishing tackle box to me. However, inside there was beautiful silver jewelry with lovely gems. I thought I was in trouble when he brought out the silver scale (which determines the price) but we were able to arrive at an agreement on a beautiful necklace and bracelet (Merry Christmas to me!)
Just then his daughter and grandson came into the shop. His daughter spoke fluent English which lived up the conversation but took away some of the charm of "speaking" with this wonderful gentleman.

As I left, I then noticed posters of the Ayatallah (the one that the Americans are supposed to hate) and again realized that I could never/possible would visit this shop if it were in North America.

I try hard not to let politics get in the way of my thinking here. I stick by my discovery last year that 99.99% of muslims are peace loving, good people regardless of what may be on the media.

This morning I got a lovely Christmas card from one of my students, a very devout muslim. I was very touched, by her thoughtfulness and her warm wishes. The fact that she honored my holiday was very nice and it reminded me of what I'd like to believe is God's wish for all of us: Peace on Earth, goodwill to all.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Day the Grinch became Santa

My Spousal Unit is not exactly "into" the Christmas spirit. It's sort of the family joke that he truly is the Grinch. But he was able to move past that image last Thursday as he became Santa Claus for our AIS Holiday Party. Other than the fact his stuffing started to come out, his beard almost came off and his "big butt" was sliding down as he exited the stage, it went really well. The kids were satisfied that Ol St Nick had made an appearance even though it seemed like he was being mobbed as he entered. One parent commented that it was the Arab children who were more excited to see him than the North Americans. The parents got lots and lots of photo opportunities (thanks U and A for this photo of your lovely lil girl) and we got a great story for our blog! Life continues to amuse us here in the Middle East.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Forensics, Flowers and Food

This is our speech team for 09. David and SP, another drama teacher, did a fine job with this group. It grew from last year and we were pleased with their progress. They were a great group of kids and did a great job of hosting other students. Anna is pictured on the top row and David in the front. They are "dressed down" because it was the last night banquet and we were tired!!
To thank you for my hard work on the tournament, the other coach, SP gave me flowers. Not just any bouquet, but a HUGE bouquet of roses, orchids and greenery. I've never been given any gift so large. It sure brought a smile to my face...even if the orchid aroma did become very overwhelming after a while.

This culture is very very good about arrangements, both flowers and food. Recently when we were feeding the 1250 people at the teacher's conference, the lady in charge of catering came up to me and said:
"You know what these people do? They EAT the fruits!!! And they wreck the arrangements. Int this country, the fruit is for display...not for eating!(Unfortunately, a whole arrangement tipped over when some misguided soul took an apple from the bottom of the pile instead of the top)
We are definately all about the show here!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Peerless Leaders

I just finished working with a fine group of AIS staff members to plan and execute the Professional Educators Around Kuwait (PEAK) meeting. On Saturday, there were 1300 teachers in our school for workshops, networking and lunch. I was in charge of facilities and stage management stuff. It was a huge amount of work, but fortunately the TEAM that put it together was outstanding. We worked hard, we discussed and argued in a spirit of teamwork that I've never witnessed and STILL we kept smiling.
Oh yes, we always kept our sense of humor.
-Even when HH had to go to rescue a box of books from customs and the man from our school who is charge of transportation asked her if she knew where they were because he was lost.
-Even when we were scared to hold the banquet outside despite the 20% chance of rain. Kuwait had an unusual three day rain last week which resulted in flooding in several areas. We were nervous.
-Even when the tables arrived for the vendors and they were nothing more than small ratty pieces of plywood and steel frames, with stained table clothes. (we made it work)
-AND ESPECIALLY when we discovered at 5 pm the night before that the beautifully set dining area was set up for 300 people NOT 1300 as we had ordered. (Lesson learned..."get it in writing!")...It all worked out.
The sun shined brightly on Kuwait, people came, learned, laughed, ate well and stay around to enjoy each other's company. The biggest problem we had was a room change. And the tables and chairs were all arranged by lunch and everyone had a place to sit.
Hats off to all of you! Let's do it again (but...let's rest up first!)

Singin' Christmas Carols in my Sandals

I found this picture online earlier this year and i laughed and laughed. It's fitting backdrop for our Christmas 09. Enjoy. PS what do you think she's thinking?!!

We went to a wonderful Christmas concert Saturday evening. The music was lovely, the selections were tasteful and fun and the group was entertaining and energizing. There were even several opportunities for audience participation, which is always fun.

We had friends who were singing in the concert. I had worked hard for the past 3 days planning and executing a conference for 1250 teachers in Kuwait and I was tired. No, not tired...exhausted. Anyway, we went because when friends are singing, you go and support them. Especially here where there's no family members to fill the chairs. I was fearful of falling asleep so we purposely sat in the front row. But not once did I yawn. It was splendid.

I took darling photos (on friend TC's camera) of grown up adults and little children of several nationalities in santa hats, dr seuss hats, reindeer hats--even a snowman hat singing Christmas Carols. Contrary to what you might think, Christmas is acknowledged here in Kuwait, there are lights and displays in the malls, Christmas trees for sale and plenty of gift opportunities in the malls. Although I have yet to see a manger scene in a spotlight along the side of the road, I would imagine they exist within Christian churches here.

This Thursday we are having a Christmas staff party complete with David playing the part of Santa (YES there will be pictures!)
As we were rehearsing carols tonight, my friend TF says, "Can we SING that song? (O Come all ye faithful) and I said it's CHRISTmas, TF. She reminded me again that she is a very faith based Catholic girl and I didn't have to tell her twice the true meaning of Christmas. (she even taught at a catholic school for 14 years, silly me!)

At the Brown hacienda, we've got a cute little Christmas trees and a cute manger display safely tucked away from the cat. Today I got my first Christmas gift (from my secret santa!) I will write my Christmas cards on the airplane back to Minnesota and hopefully mail them upon arrival.

Christmas IS Happening in the Middle East, it's just not the biggest show in town right now like it is in most of North America. And for us, the holiday season is pretty much the same except to a lesser degree. With one exception: I truly don't think I've ever worn sandles to a Christmas concert before. I'll add that to the list of "firsts".

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Thoughts from the Mother of the Groom (MOG)

Soon Ben will be marrying his love, Jolene, in a small private family wedding. It's a wonderful feeling to know that my son has someone in his life that he loves and who loves him in return. We are very happy that they have found each other and welcome Jolene to the Brown family.

While we are happy for them, we are also nervous for them as they begin their lives together. We have fears, concerns, plenty of advice, etc ...BUT then we have to laugh at ourselves and remind ourselves that our parents probably had the same fears for us, and so on and on throughout the generations. What is important is that there is love and that they believe in each other and completely support each other. They are also friends, which is a very important key to a relationship.

There have also been a few tears of sadness of my part because my parents and David's mom won't "physically" be a part of this celebration. I know they would all be happy for Ben. Maxine had a chance to know Jolene, and liked her alot. Oh well, they'll just have to do their jobs as Guardian Angels.

I am very thankful that Ben and Jolene are waiting until I return to MN so I can be a part of the celebration. I think I've found the right outfit to wear.

Wait, I think my mom is "sending" me a message...
--Note to's not about's about them!!!

Your prayers of good wishes for the happy couple,
and for patience and good humor for me are always welcome!

Sunrise, Sunset

The Brown and Walbridge Families
Invite you to an Open House Reception
Celebrating the Marriage of
their children
Sunday the Twenty-Seventh of December
Two Thousand and Nine
From 1:00 – 3:00 in the afternoon

Ohe’s Barn
Rural Pelican Rapids