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Wednesday’s Creepy Bedtime Story

The Crack in the Kitchen Door

When our older child, Kirti, turned three years old, we’d still had no visitors in our new village location. We thought it was time we put ourselves on the map and acquaint our friends with our new area. The kids were asleep and Ken, too, who had just returned exhausted from Delhi. I stayed busy in the kitchen with the next day’s final preparations. The last thing to be done was to boil water to drink. We had no well or running water and brought it in vessels from far away. I had some large pots on my stove and was impatiently waiting for it to boil so I could go to bed.  It didn’t help that I kept peeping under the lids, holding up my blackened kerosene lantern, to see if it was boiling yet. Life was simpler than we sometimes desired.

In the midst of the boiling, I turned around and looked at the door which led into the large hall and the boys’ bedrooms. It was closed and locked, but when I was alone with my imagination, I was more on the cautious side. I had a fear that a snake may sneak its way into the house. Even so, how would I ever see it with my blackened lantern? When I turned to the kitchen door, I thought I saw something white in the crack at the bottom. However, knowing my fears were apt to take my thoughts on an irrational journey, I decided to buck up and just get on with my work —which I did, quite successfully.

The water was about to boil, but suddenly Ken was too! He bellowed loudly from the bedroom, “Frieda! Get in here quick!” Alarmed at the sound of his voice, I dashed into the bedroom and waited for his instructions… but there was silence. Then I heard the sound of his breathing, the gentle rippling sound of sleep.

I looked back at the door and saw something entering; it moved slowly into view, I reported its entry; “There’s something coming in the door and it’s… it’s a…” and then yelled, “…SNAKE!” Ken jumped up and was out of bed in a flash. I followed behind. He shut the bedroom doors hoping to keep the snake in one room. Then he grabbed my boiled water off the stove and threw it in the direction of the snake as I held the blackened lantern out for  “light,” which gave him almost no visibility.

“I don’t see it.” He said. We looked everywhere in the kitchen, which seemed to be the only the only room where it could be. Yet, it was not. Ken opened the hall door and with a broom, carefully pushed the wastebasket into the hall, hoping that the snake might have gone into it, for that was the only place left for it to hide. Then he went to the boy’s rooms and woke them up. Because the large hall had many windows, there was more moon light.

The boys reluctantly woke and each grabbed some kind of weapon; a stick, a broom, a brick, or whatever they found. When they had all circled the waste basket (at a safe distance), Ken knocked it over. Nothing happened. With a stick, he began emptying every scrap of garbage and trash out of it. Still nothing. (Great! I thought, the snake is still at large in the kitchen.) When the last piece of rubbish was pulled from it the snake raced out. Ken killed it immediately with his stick. He took the lantern from me and looked closely at the snake. It was a krait, which though small, are more poisonous than a cobra.

It was another lesson to me about my useless worry. I wondered if I’d ever really be able to give up fully my fears of scorpions and snakes. How deep could this trust lesson really settle into me? And who was I trusting to keep me safe? There was only one answer, because only ONE could do this. God.

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Tuesday’s Creepy Bedtime Story

Once Upon a Scorpion

Before we had moved out of the mountains, we lived in The Queen of the Hills, Mussoori, a beautiful mountain town in the foothills of the Himalayas. We rented various houses to live in on the edges of steep mountain sides, but never stayed in one place for more than a few months at a time. Our shortest rental was only two weeks. Once we changed houses 11 times in 19 months. The reason was that no one wanted to rent to a young hippy couple with 50 children. Go figure that!

The worst house we lived in was also the house we kept going back to out of need for a house. It was on the back side of the mountain, the shaded, dark, wet, cold, gloomy side of the mountain. Of course, it was the cheapest. Its House Speciality was scorpions (not crispy deep fried)!  Once, when our stay was only two months, we killed 25 scorpions inside the house. A day would never go by that I didn’t give a thorough check  in all corners, sweeping frequently and shaking my shoes out in the morning. One morning, as I banged my shoe, a scorpion dropped out.

Himalayan scorpions won’t kill you, but their sting will certainly not go unnoticed; they are guaranteed to cause unmentionable amounts of agony. Interestingly, it was not in that house my scorpion encounter happened. There was a time when I was staying in a house with the girls while Ken stayed in a house with the boys. We also had kids of our own, who stayed with me.

It was night, and the baby would wake up at least once wanting to be fed. I, my kids and the girls all slept in one room. As usual, half way through the night, I heard my baby cry. I reached down to the floor, where I had placed a candle and matches so that I needn’t put on the light and disturb everyone. I slipped my bare feet into rubber flip-flops and walked in the direction of the cry. The baby was in a large drawer I had pulled out of a cupboard to use as a bed. I walked carefully with my candle held out in front of me. There was a definite sound of a “crunch” underneath my feet. I stepped back and held the light to see what I had stepped on. I could not see anything on the mottled cement floor. So, I decided to proceed.

When I reached the drawer, I could not find place for my candle, so I set it on the floor. Then I saw the large scorpion which I had delicately and brutally squished quite directly under my rubber slippers! I was horrified! Taking off my flip-flop, I swatted it again and again. It must have nearly been in pieces when I finished with it, but I was still not satisfied; I went to a shelf and grabbed as many books as I could carry and stacked them up, one on top of the other, and placed them neatly on the scorpion. I fed my baby, and went back to bed, prayed that the scorpion was thoroughly dead and quite unable to crawl out from under the books, and slept with my eyes open.

In the morning, the girls wondered at the stack of books in the middle on the floor. So, I told them what happened. That was it, as soon as I’d finished, hysterical laughter burst forth from all sides of the room! I no longer had that heroic feeling of saving them from that huge scorpion, no, I felt very much the opposite —like a worm, or a mega sized chicken. I guess now, to my brave girls, I was today’s joke! Admittedly, I was a true coward (but only regarding scorpions, and maybe snakes).

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Monday’s Creepy Bedtime Story

Shhhhhh…

During our first year of marriage I was enlightened to Ken’s fascinating ability to dialogue; a captivating a story teller who could also come up with some pretty hair-brained ideas.  Although entertaining, it could be hard to discern whether or not he was sincere, or just brewing a bunch of confabulations.  The first adventure began with a bang, but ended in a puncture:

Halfway through the night, I was disturbed by Ken when he suddenly pulled himself up on one elbow and looked suspiciously around the room, “Shhhhhh…” Wary, I was quiet and silent and scared, wondering what or who was in the room? I barely whispered, “Huh?”

After a pause that seemed forever, he suspiciously replied, “I think there’s a snake in the room.” In a flash he was sitting upright and took a quick scan of the room. We didn’t speak, but I couldn’t help wondering why it was necessary to be quiet for a snake? Perhaps if we spoke it would understand our plan of attack? Ah, no.  More likely, if it knew we humans were near, it would get angry and hurdle itself up on the bed?

After I endured a few minutes of imaginative thinking (along with sweat forming in my tightly clenched fists), I finally heard the distinct, familiar sound of heavy breathing, the sound of blissful sleep, coming from Ken’s side of the bed. It was obvious; he was oblivious to what had just occurred, and in the morning, would feign complete innocence. I frowned inwardly and felt quite dismayed. He had his little fiasco, and I was left terrified.

Alas, it was the exciting new beginning of our shared future (no getting out of it for me) —my husband’s infamous sleep dialogs and night excursions were off to a grand start (with more to come). I would eventually get used to them and it would become entertaining —like going to the movies; I’d wait in eager anticipation to see what bazaar thing he would do next. But like air wheezing out of a puncture, it always came to an end with the blissful snore.

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Satisfied

The setting that made me feel
Just plain…

Satisfied

I stepped outside onto the cement porch. It was a wintery day and I took a breath of fresh, cold morning air. My view looked directly upon the orchard, which was wrapped in a beautiful heavenly mist. Was it heavenly, or was more of this world? The fog lying on the orchard reminded me of the gloom and darkness, that for years, had settled as a weight over my life. But on the other hand, its mystical loveliness compelled me to feel awestruck. The years I spent groping in the darkness were not for attaining satisfaction —that had never been my quest. What I chased after wasn’t the pursuit of happiness. It was truth —God. Although the scene in front of me was a cloud, I now walked in sunshine. Early mornings were a stroll with God. I could walk in the mist, I could walk along a cliff, and —whether or not I literally did these things, it hardly mattered. I am SATISFIED.

Click play to listen the song.

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Five Days of Intermissions – day Five

DAY FIVE and GOODNIGHT

Fizzling Out

It’s 9:20 pm and I was sitting bed writing on my laptop which was on a small table meant for a sick person to eat in bed. The keyboard on my laptop had died, so I worked on an external keyboard balanced on my lap. It’s past “busy” timings. Relaxed, I read my email.

I review the news; a two-week old baby and her mother and grandmother were pulled alive from the rubble of the earthquake in Turkey. A young mother in America saved the life of her two children and her mother from a fire by lowering them on a rope from a window on her third-floor apartment. There are robberies, murders, coups, terrorist raids. It’s amazing to think that all this is happening somewhere, while I am running a village school. How small the world seems, and how trivial my life seems, how marvellous to consider God who puts up with the disorderliness of humans!

At bedtime, after the news, my husband returns from his permanently busy day. He is too tired to talk when he arrives in at night —just too exhausted to re-live or recall it. So, we smile at each other in solemn appreciation and agreement that we have both managed another successful day.

When my husband was literally pioneering the land (nothing but rocks, more rocks, snakes, and more snakes) he slowly saw the land transformed into fields, then he worked in the fields and sun all day, returning totally beat. If I had washed the bedsheets, I’d rush to get the bottom sheet onto the mattress before he lay down on the bed. After that I’d make the rest of the bed around him; he was too tired to move. We’re satisfied, but our minds keep on secretly ticking away, pulsing with ideas and brain storms to introduce and birth in the “morrow.” 

When will it end?

Regarding all daily Intermissions:

Don’t look back at the busy day part; but when you have finished your usual full day, review the intermissions; the intermissions are the part of the day that give your life enrichment, enjoyment, stretches your experiences and increase your awareness. What would life be without intermissions?

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Five Days of Intermissions – Day Four

Day Four

Cupids Arrow

You stole my heart
But I’ll let you keep it.
Bollywood

My husband and I ate super with our hostel boys; all twenty-two seated at three long wooden tables end to end. They were pleading with us to tell them our “love story.” At home, I was not the revered “Principal,” just one of the family. We were compelled to give in —I hoped it matched up to their dreams and high romantic Hindi movie expectations; the kinds with A-Z in them.

I began my dialogue and the room of teenage boys went silent (which was an extraordinary phenomenon). A crowd of eager faces surrounded me, straining to catch every word.  I assured them it would be the “shortened summary” rather than the “full version.” But they continued to press and demand, Tell us, Aunty, how did you meet? How did you fall in love? We were cornered, so I began:

Once Upon A  Time

“Uncle and I were volunteers at a children’s home along with a British fellow, Brian. One sunny hot day, Brian went across the dusty campus to see Uncle (Ken) and announced that he needed to talk to him concerning a serious matter. Obviously, Uncle showed immediate concern. Brian did not work up gently to the matter, he burst forth like a bomb; “It’s about Frieda.” Ken looked alarmed, “What’s wrong? Is she sick?” Brian looked impatient and shook his head. “No! She’s fine! Open up your eyes, don’t you see her? There she is across the campus! Ask her to marry you!” Brian turned abruptly and left Ken feeling rather befuddled and highly perplexed.

Next, Brian made his way to the opposite side of the campus where I was. Again, his approach was straight to the target; he drew cupid’s arrow, “Frieda, you’d better start praying, because Ken (Uncle) is going to ask you to marry him.” Now I was the one who was puzzled. What a remarkable thing to say!

Dear Brian left the two of us in a state of wonderous confusion, that is, we were both doubting if it was true? What was true? Truthfully, was it what we wanted? And in truth, it had never occurred to either of us before. Whoa! Were we mixed up!

I began to think about Brian’s declaration, but became so emotionally excited, that taking Brian’s advice seriously was difficult. He told me to pray about it, so I prayed about it the best I could. As I put the matter before God, one thought kept running in the back of my mind which blocked God answering me with a “no.” It was the over-riding thought that I wanted to marry Ken. I had to tell God quite firmly, and yet as politely and sincerely as possible, “Lord, if you don’t want me to marry him, you’re going to have to stop me. Otherwise, I’ll say ‘yes’.

Ken also thought about it seriously, and the more he thought about it, the more he thought Brian might have a good idea. So, Ken hatched up a plan. He decided I needed to help him go shopping in Dehradun. He was strategic with his plot, down to the last detail. First, he told me to go in the night before and meet him in Dehradun the next day. He even arranged a place for me to stay with friends. This request was unusual, obviously premeditated, and had the looks of a conspiracy. Ken and I had never done anything outside of the children’s home together.  Certainly, we’d never gone shopping together; it was nothing but suspicious.

I spent the night in Dehradun and met Ken at the rendezvous spot the next day. Ah-ha! Trailing behind him were about a dozen little boys, the ones he was taking shopping. My hopes were dashed! But when he saw me, the shopping plan went kerplop. He turned to the boys and basically said, “Get lost” … of course that’s not really what he said, but that’s what he meant. He also made a rendezvous spot and time with them.

With obvious nervousness, he asked, “Do you want to get a cup of coffee?” I willingly complied; Ken loved coffee. It turned out he was a patron to the only chai shop in Dehradun which served coffee. It was Deepak’s Chai Shop, located directly across from the main post office.

We sat down across from each other on the simple, well-worn and smoothed out wooden bench from having countless bottoms sliding across it. The table was dirty and stained from numerous spills; crumbs were immediately dealt with when a young boy whisked a filthy rag across it. The crumbs went flying in different directions. It was now clean. 

I began to think it might really happen like Brian said, for Ken was acting very peculiar. He was nervous, and assuredly, I felt just as nervous. Without further ado, he began his speech:

Frieda, you are mother to all those girls at the home, and I am father to the boys; it’s like a family. I think it would be a good idea for us to get married… what do you think?”

It was not a romantic red-roses lined poem, nor the on his knee’s stance,

BUT HE WAS SERIOUS, AND HAD ASKED ME

THE QUESTION!!!

For me, nothing at that moment was more important than to answer his question. I had prayed about it. I loved Ken and held him in respect, but had never expected to be asked this question.

God did not stop me… I wasn’t ill, I could still talk, there was no lightning bolt that had struck me, nor any apparent negative response from God, so in answer to Ken’s question, I replied, “Yes, it seems good.”

And there you have it, an agreement was struck. He breathed a sigh of relief, and said, “Let’s go get some lunch.” Then he took me for lunch at a more expensive restaurant to celebrate.

Our short romance, no dates, and Ken’s proposal may not have been a Bollywood production, but the great thing is that we’ve had a marriage that has lasted now for nearly 45 years, and I suppose that’s how the Hindi movie love story ends up, with humour, a few times of unhappiness, and lots of emotions. Sure, marriages are full of all those things, but ours ends in a “happily ever after.”

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Five Days of Intermissions – Day Three

Day Three

Intermission
What do you say to Geeta?

Never bend your head.
Always hold it high.
Look the world straight in the eye.
Helen Keller

Geeta was unaware of what had happened when she arrived home from school, opened the door and walked apprehensively into her house. She’d heard wails from outside. Upon entering there were men on the right, a few women on the left. Turning slowly, there she was; her mother lying motionless on a cot with a long scarf draped over her face and body.

That day it happened, I visited Geeta. She was ten years old and an only child —very bright and very brave, but very sad.  As I entered her house, it was evident that her personal needs were unmet. No one had held her close and let her cry. She sat alone in a room full of people. Women were scarce, those who were there were involved in wailing; her father and uncles sat silently.

The front door was locked from the inside, so her father had been summoned; upon breaking it open, he found Geeta’s mother hanging from the ceiling fan in their small house. Suicide. But why? Her father’s world was turned upside down and he had no idea what to do. How would he raise Geeta by himself?

Geeta’s life was dramatically altered in that instant; her childlike joy left, never to be the same.  I understood. It happened to me when I was a child; my mother was murdered. I knew her confusion and grief. We both lost our mothers in a sudden, terrible death.

The enormous difference between Geeta and I was that in my loss, I had no lack of women who wanted to, decided to, and did, mother me. Mothers make all the difference to survival, even if they’re not your birth mother. Lack of love makes orphans. Children find it difficult to receive substitute love for the deep wounds that were inflicted. We all seek love; a human need.

Geeta regrets not knowing “why” her mother left her. She dealt with anger towards her mother for leaving her, she felt grief and bitterness, but finally, healing came as she began to realize her mother was a person with problems, and she wished she could have helped.

Me? I was stubborn and refused to be comforted, even though all my forgiving mothers never gave up on me. I decided the only one who could have stopped my mother’s death was God; I blamed him. I searched the world for love, for truth, for reasons, for answers, for healing balm that to me seemed not to exist. I flew from one side of the world to the other and found no answers, until I realized love is relationship, and that…

Love demands
Sacrificial, relentless Forgivenes

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Five Days of Intermissions – Day Two

Day Two

Village Babble

“Living in a city shouldn’t make you cynical 
and living in a village shouldn’t make you vulnerable.”
Amit Kalantri 

(Wealth of Words)

At 5:30 pm today I walked to a nearby house and was accosted by three village women. They were poor, smart and slightly cunning and knew without a doubt what they wanted. The older woman (who is known for talking) recited to me clearly that she had some matters to put into my mind.

You need to remember that one of my grand-kids needs to be admitted into your school in K.G. class. You also should hire my daughter as a classroom assistant and you can include my brother’s daughter as an assistant as well. Make sure you tell my daughter where she should study and don’t forget to tell my daughter-in-law EVERYTHING she needs to know. (I wondered what that was?) If she does what SHE wants to it will just make me sick.”

Then, in another quick breath, she summed it all up by announcing that she wanted to “put all that into my ear.

I meditated, then put my fingers into my ears and probed; “yep,” I said, “it’s there.”

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Five Days of Intermissions – Day One

Day One

Getting the day’s work done is impossible, because remembering everything that needs to be done is hopeless. After a busy day, I have no recollection what I did or what I didn’t do. Is the phrase “busy day” being used correctly? Instead of uselessly writing about the business of my day, which doesn’t come to mind right now, I’ll write about the “intermissions” which tend to be more memorable.

Day One Intermission

A Naughty Boy
A refusal to correct is a refusal to love;
love your children by disciplining them
Proverbs 13:24
MSG

A certain boy in the school was continually brought to my office to deal with his wayward behaviour. As Principal, all ill-mannered students arrived in my office, often just entering into it was enough to make them cry in fear. I knew why that was so, and felt bad about that; I didn’t have a strict bone in my body. It was the parents and teachers who put such fear into the students.

That boy regularly came to me. He’d sit in a chair directly across from me while I sat at my desk. I’d question him about his misdemeanour, we’d have a little chat, he’d promise to be good, and afterwards he’d happily be on his way back to class. He enjoyed being in the office. I began to wonder why? It happened repeatedly.

One day, a teacher came and asked me to come to her class for the same boy was mis-behaving. I trotted off with her. Indeed, he was running around the classroom. I gave him a scolding and as usual, told him not to do it. He agreed. I turned to go, but as I turned, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted him facing me with his thumbs in his ears and the palms of his hands wagging up and down. I whipped myself around and caught him with his tongue sticking out at me as well. I thought to myself, this is enough!

I yanked him out of the classroom and shoved up against a wall outside the door. Even that much was quite a surprise to him. Then, in as threatening a voice as I could muster, I bellowed, but in a whisper, “In our school, teachers are not allowed to hit students… I hesitated for the punch line, “but I’m not a teacher!” It was very satisfying to see his eyes go wide and his jaw drop open —I hoped that this time I’d made an impact!

A week later he was back in my office again, smiling broadly. He’d missed me. Acting up gave him the privilege of visiting with me. It was clear, this little boy just needed love, and someone who cared enough to correct and input his life was love to him.

As mother and principal; discipline is LOVE.
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Clean Sheets

I sat down in the rickety-rackety old bus heading towards Delhi. Those buses are the cheapest way to travel, not to mention the dirtiest —windows are open, dust floods in, people get travel sick and dangle their heads out the window to vomit… vomit streaks down the outside and the repugnant smells seep back in. But Delhi trips are a necessity and must be done. This time, I was on a mission to get my new passport. I planned to spend the night in a cheap hotel near the railway station, rest and freshen-up, go to the American Embassy in the morning and jump straight back on a bus home. That was the plan, I expected.

Arriving in Delhi dirty and travel weary, I made my way to the hotel which was the usual grovel with the dirty (previously white) sheets. But its restaurant made it popular; a wide variety of continental and Indian menus and bakery items for all meals. I had my shower, went to bed, and went for breakfast. I gobbled it down in record time and was soon heading towards the embassy to get my work done ASAP.

The waiting lines were as usual, but kept moving. I fumbled along with the formalities and forms to fill, proceeding from one booth to another, gradually making my way to the last and final booth where my passport would be waiting for me. And lo and behold, as I stepped up to the counter and gave my number and name, the shining new passport was unveiled. At last, the work was done. I reached in my purse for the payment and pushed the exact amount needed towards the clerk.

My husband had given me American dollars to pay for the passport, so I was flabbergasted when the clerk refused good American dollars and stated, “We only accept rupees.” Why hadn’t I gotten that right? WASN’T THIS THE AMERICAN EMBASSY? Of course, without internet, without phones, it wasn’t as easy to communicate. I pressed and pleaded; couldn’t I pay in dollars? The answer was still “no.” I DID have enough to pay in rupees, but after that I’d be virtually penniless, nothing for bus fare. I’d gotten that far in the embassy, and assuredly didn’t want to go through it all a second time, the ride to Delhi was anywhere from 7-9 hours long, hotel stays with dirty white sheets, it was too tiring to even think of doing it all again. I paid in rupees and received my gorgeous passport. In confused frustration I left the building. At that point my thoughts went blank, until…

…I walked outside. Once I outside, I thought, now what? I had no idea. At that time, there were no mobile phones, only pay phone booths, which were beneficial if the person you were trying to contact had a phone. We had no phone at home, so contacting my husband was out of the question. There was nothing left to do but cry, which I proceeded to do.

It was not a good day. Stuck in Delhi, a city I didn’t know and didn’t like, with no place to go and almost no money. Suddenly, I remembered a friend who ran an organization downtown. I had my tiny phone number/address book with me. I found a public phone booth and phoned him. Speaking through muffled snuffles, I let him know my situation. In a soothing manner, as though talking to a child, he questioned, where are you? He suggested I wait for him inside a nearby restaurant. Adding, order yourself some food, I will pay.

You might be able to guess the end of the story. His organization had a guest room, and I gratefully enjoyed a free room with a good meal that night, slept in a bed with clean (white) sheets, had breakfast in the morning and to top it off, was given bus fare home.

All that drama was a lesson; a cleansing of my insignificant worries and distrust, like sleeping once again in clean white sheets. Misfortune comes and it’s easy to fall apart and focus on “poor me.” We trot right into a little pity party and burst into tears… (or is it only me?), or just become engrossed in worrying. I’m so glad, none of those are actually helpful, because they aren’t a particularly good alternative to bad luck.  

I stalwart lead forth on a quest,
On my sheets at home I had slept,
Undeterred from my stance
A new passport I grasped
And stood in the street and wept.

The moral?

  1. Be a good Samaritan, you may need one
  2. Relax, stop worrying, hakuna-matata
  3. Choose clean sheets

And then the BIG question looms:

Is it luck or is someone
bigger than us
out there in control?