Friday, August 28, 2009

Comment on 'Name' Post

This comment came via email regarding the previous post:

I think Lily is a good name and applaud your decision to keep it the legal one. But, perhaps you could also call her Lilianna for a while at her 3-year-old request, just not making it legal, but more as a nickname. That would please her for now, perhaps.

I used to imagine that I wanted my name, Diane, changed to Diana. Somehow that seemed better to me as a young child. Now, as an adult, I am SO glad God named me Diane and not Diana!! "Diane" means "perfect" in the sense of "complete." For reasons known to me and God and a few others, this is just the right name for me. I am glad my name is still Diane.

Would anyone else like to comment on their own name?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What's in a Name?

Today Lily told me that she wants to be called "Lilianna."

Later in the day I got to thinking, "Why not?" In the next few days we're going to be submitting some official documents for her adoption. We can give her any name we want.

I mentioned it to Bayo, but he didn't think it was a good idea. He said for the sake of her identity, it's good for her to have the name that she has grown up with. If she goes through an identity crisis when she's older, she might even say, "After all, I even named myself!" I think he's probably right.

Lily was lovingly named by her first foster parents, and we never considered changing her name when she came to our home. It's a beautiful name and it fits her perfectly. Besides, now my mom has her two flowery granddaughters: Iris & Lily.

If I had given birth to a girl, we would have named her Emily. But I was delighted when a Lily came to live with us.

When I was in junior high, I remember wanting to change the spelling of my name. I wouldn't be surprised if a number of girls/women have had thoughts of different names or slight variations of their name. I just didn't expect to hear it from a 3-year-old!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Have you ever wondered why books have blank margins on the edges of the paper? What would it be like to read a book without margins? I think it would drive my eyes crazy, and I would quickly toss it aside. Margins provide breathing room.

Although it was great to be in the U.S. for June & July, we had very little margin. There was virtually no wiggle-room, no breathing space. I thoroughly enjoyed my visits with family, friends, and churches, but my schedule was just too jam-packed. Whose fault? Mostly my own, trying to do too much.

One Sunday morning, I spoke in three services at two different churches within a span of three hours. While I was sitting in the pew, waiting to be introduced at the second church, I felt so weak. I just prayed, "Lord, I can't do this on my own power. Please help me to stand up and speak." It was, by far, the best talk out of 25 this summer. I was able to really connect with the congregation. Hmmm, that sounds like 2 Cor. 12:9 "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."

In our 60 days in the U.S., we drove 7500 miles and slept in 27 different places. I have to tell you, the boys were real troopers! They travelled amazingly well. Of course, the DVD player in Grandma & Grandpa's van probably had something to do with that!

Our time was roughly split between staying in hotels and homes. We thoroughly enjoyed both. Sometimes we just needed to be our own little family unit with no conversational or behavioral demands. But on the other hand, when we stay with the same families over the years, we really develop some good friendships.

Now that we're back home, and have some margin, I am even more aware of the imbalance in our lives in June & July. When I'm in Nigeria, I check my three email accounts with some degree of regularity. One is checked daily and the other two every week or so. When I was in the U.S., I completely forgot about the two accounts that I check periodically. Now I'm wading through months of emails (mostly junk) and finding a few that really needed answers weeks ago. So I've just finished writing about 10 emails that all began with an apology.

I'm reading consistently to the kids every night now, and I even find time to read a book myself. I still feel like that is a luxury right now because I had to go without. Let's face it: if you can't find time to read for 15-30 min. a day, then your day is just too full!

Since this was my 7th furlough, you would think I would have had a wealth of experience from which to draw. But my two major hindrances were that Bayo was not with me and all of my visits were condensed into two months instead of the usual three.

When Bayo is along we share the driving (he drives on the interstate; I drive in the cities), the child care, and all the set-up, presentation, and take-down of our programs. While he's driving, I can read a book or make contacts for our upcoming visits.

One Sunday morning, I was speaking at a church and Tobi was running the powerpoint on the computer. The boys were sitting in the pew just 12 inches in front of me, and they started to push each other with their hands and legs. What to do? How could I communicate to my boys while standing in front of the church speaking? The evil eye and tight face would be seen by all. To make matters worse, the mic I was using was bringing in a faint country music station. I thought I was going to lose my mind. In the end, I just decided to block out all the distractions and concentrate on what I was saying. It was hard being a single parent.

I'm reminded of a missionary who was preaching from the pulpit while on home assignment in the U.S. and he saw his five children in the front pew start misbehaving. He calmly said to the congregation, "I'd like to read some Arabic so you can hear what the language sounds like." Then he said in Arabic, "You kids better sit down and behave right now." Instantly the children became angels. It's too bad my children and I don't share a language apart from English!

We temporarily divided our family in order to provide stability for Lily. Even though the summer schedule was demanding, I have to admit that we achieved our goal. I have not noticed any negative residual effects in Lily due to the absence of three family members. And I am very confident that all of our adoption issues will be resolved before we travel again!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Change, Please

When making a purchase in Nigeria, it is often difficult to get change from the vendor. Sometimes change is genuinely hard to come by, but other times it is a business technique designed to get you to spend more money.

A couple of years ago, the government minted some new one naira coins (worth less than one penny) and two naira coins. The coins aren't worth much, but they do help to finish up a transaction properly. Strangely enough after seeing the new coins around for a couple of months, they seemed to drop out of circulation. People were used to carrying paper money and didn't want to be bothered with heavy coins.

A couple weeks ago when I bought some items at a major supermarket, my total was something like N3,446 ($22.09). I gave the cashier N3,500. Now, this supermarket never has the coins to make a transaction exact. I knew that so I was expecting him to give me N55 change. Well, he gave me N50. I told him that's not right for the store to keep my N4 change. It's better for the store to lose N1 than for the customer to lose N4. (And vice versa: if the larger amount were in the store's favor, then I would say they should keep my smaller amount.) This has been going on for a long time, and since I had just come back from the U.S. where everything is so precise, I said something. He acquiesed and gave me N55 change.

Well, when I stopped at the same supermarket today, the cashier recognized me, and got out some brand new coins and gave me EXACT change! I smiled, and said, "I'm happy!" He grinned broadly. This is the first time I have seen coins this year! Maybe even in the last two years!

Then I went on to the outdoor vegetable sellers and encountered another variety of "no change." I bought N300 of guavas, N350 of lemons, and N100 of mangos for a total of N750. I handed the seller my N1000 note. And then the cajoling began:

Seller 1: Madam, come and buy N250 bananas.
MB: No thank you. Bring me my change.

Seller 2: Madam, come and buy oranges.
MB: No thank you. Bring me my change.

Seller 3: Ma, what of carrots?
MB: No thank you. Bring me my change.

Then I decided I would take a new tactic on the game. "Please bring me a stool so I can sit down and wait for my change." I had hardly seated myself when the N250 was produced. It wasn't that they didn't have change, but they really wanted me to spend my whole N1000 in their market.

What's the big deal? Couldn't I have used bananas, oranges, or carrots? Well, probably, but 1) I don't want them to wear me down everytime and 2) maybe I have a plan for that N250 change.

In all of these situations, it is essential to maintain a sense of humor and lighthearted banter--never anger. Nigerians like a lot of good-natured "back and forth" in the market.

And once in awhile I do give in: Earlier today I bought a bunch of plantain from an old man who was carrying his load of plantain on his head. I bargained the price down to N400 for a small bunch. When I gave him N500, he said "no change," and wanted me to buy two more plantain to make up for it. I agreed--maybe because my whole family was desperate to eat plantain.

In spite of all these stories, I must admit that there are some fine establishments that always produce exact change without any prompting.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

African Rainstorm

It's August so we expect a downpour nearly everyday. Today I asked three Nigerian women: Do you prefer rainy season or dry season? All of them responded that they like rainy season because they don't have to suffer to look for water. I said, "But when you wash your clothes, they never get dry in the rainy season." They laughed and said it's true. One lady said she washed her clothes three days ago and they're still not dry. But that is considered a minor inconvenience compared to the luxury of having rainwater every day.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Fayette County, Iowa

Here's a recent comment from someone who lives right near the quilts that I pictured in my blog on Aug. 17:

Greetings from Zion Lutheran Church in West Union, Iowa. I was really pleasantly surprised when I saw the barn quilts along Hwy 150. They happen to be neighbors and landlords. My husband farms the land around these barns. The first one I drive by 4-6 times a day going to and from work here at the church.

Fayette County has 52 barn quilts. Visit this link: and click on Fayette County on left sidebar and then tours on top bar. You'll eventually find a brochure. The first barn quilt you have pictured is called Harvest Star and the second one is Gentlemen's Fancy. The barn owners had some input into choice of design and colors.

Last fall the county tourism group hosted a bus tour of the barn quilts in Fayette County. I understand that the other counties do this too and buses come from out of state to also tour the quilts. Fayette Co. is working on getting more quilts placed on barns. Some of the quilts are placed on other barns that are not red and white. The barn just needs to be in good condition and easily seen from the road.

Thanks for promoting Fayette County and its rural way of life from Nigeria. May God's grace touch you today.

Pam L.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Barn Quilt Update

Thanks to my friend Sue in Iowa for this informative link on the barn quilts!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Barns & Quilt Blocks in the Heartland

As I drove through Iowa in June & July, I was thrilled to see a number of barns boldly displaying a large quilt block. Each one was different and stunning. This trend seemed to be most popular in Sac County and Fayette County. I don't remember seeing any quilt blocks in 2007 when I was in Iowa. As near as I can tell, each block is about 5 or 6 feet square.

What a unique idea! I love the way the quilt blocks and the barns are linked together in the history of Iowa. I don't know the story behind this new trend, but would love to hear about it from someone who knows.

I didn't see any evidence of this unique pairing in Minnesota. I'm trying to convince my dad that he should put a quilt block on his new barn in northern Minnesota!

Can't you just visualize a quilt block right above the garage door? By the way, that's Grandpa with two of his grandsons on the tractor.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Happy Birthday Tobi!

Tobi turned 9 today.

I told him if he's ever in the U.S. for his birthday, he'll be able to celebrate it on the 15th & the 16th. Why? He was born at 4 a.m. on the 16th in Nigeria which was 10 p.m. on the 15th in the U.S.!

Tobi opened some gifts from the family early this morning. I have found a creative alternative to wrapping gifts: I just pop the gifts into colorful cloth bags made by the Women of Hope. This really cuts down on wrapping time (took me about 2 min.) and they can be recycled through numerous birthdays.

After church Bayo and the kids took a birthday cake to Bezer Home to share with the kids there. They all loved that.

For the past couple weeks I tried to convince Tobi to have a small party with just 3-4 friends, but he really wanted to invite his whole class plus some others. I acquiesed--hopefully for the last time. The kids weren't bad, but when you put about a dozen 8-10 year old boys together, the result is generally chaotic.

The biggest miracle of the day was that it DID NOT rain!! In August we have a 95% chance of having a downpour at 3 p.m. I knew an outdoor party would preserve my sanity. However, I did have Plan B which would have been a video inside.

Even though we didn't have rain, the kids sure did get wet--from super soakers and water balloons. We even got out the 3-man-slingshot. We have never used it on our compound before because it really packs a lot of power. I had the kids lay on the ground and aim their water balloons straight up. They had a lot of fun trying to catch them on the way down.

Later in the evening, Tobi was reflecting on all the stuff he has, and he has decided to give a number of things away. (Mom is saying "Praise God!") We'll work on that after school this week.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Baby Moses

Last week a hospital called the ministry and asked us to come and pick up a baby. The baby's mother died of AIDS complications in June. The relations were not too happy about having to care for her sickly baby. In fact, it even appears that they had basically stopped feeding the eight-month-old boy. He is quite emaciated and has bed sores and a flat place on his head from lying down constantly. They were waiting for him to die like his mother, but they said he kept refusing to die!

Esther, the matron of Bezer Home, went to the hospital to pick up the baby. She gladly welcomed that sickly, love-starved baby into her arms. When she brought him to Bezer Home, all of the children swarmed around him. His eyes roved from face to face, completely unaccustomed to all this attention.

I asked Esther what she named him, and she said, "Moses." How appropriate. Now I jokingly refer to her as Pharoah's daughter or Princess of the Nile.

Does the baby have HIV? We don't know. Does it matter? No. Every child needs to be loved no matter what their circumstances.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Fat and Fresh

I knew it was coming and I'm not really sensitive about my weight, but I still cringe a bit when someone tells me how fat I'm looking upon returning from a journey. I just smile and say thank you because they genuinely mean it as a compliment.

The other expected compliment is "you look fresh," generally meaning well-rested. The only thing that really got to me this time was when people would link the two comments: You are so fat. I can tell you really rested! Well, to me fat has absolutely nothing to do with being rested. It's really easy to get fat in America. I'm afraid my rest quotient was in the negative numbers though.

In general Nigerians like to have some surplus flesh on their bones, but not to the point of obesity. I believe it literally means that you have enough money to eat well and take care of yourself. I get a kick out of it when someone tells me: "You're really adding weight. I can tell that your husband is taking good care of you."

Overall, I have to admit that Nigerians have a pretty healthy attitude towards body image and weight. It's been good for me to be part of this culture and to absorb some of these attitudes. I get right in the swing of things and tell people how fat they're looking after a vacation. I love seeing their faces light up after that compliment. Thankfully I didn't have any cultural confusion on this point in America. Somehow I don't think my American friends would have appreciated the 'compliment.'

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Thinking Like a Nigerian

My Grandma had major heart surgery in Rochester, MN in June. My mom, dad, aunt and uncle were at the hospital before, during, and after the surgery. But within a day or two, they started to go to their respective homes (about 1.5 hours away and about 6 hours away). I was horrified. I said, "But who's going to stay with Grandma?!"

My mom gently explained that what they were doing was acceptable. They didn't need to be with her 24/7. And moreover, my Grandma really didn't need constant company if she was going to get adequate rest. I understood what she was saying, but I still felt a twinge of guilt that someone wasn't sitting with Grandma.

In this area of my thinking, I have become very Nigerian. If you are hospitalized in Nigeria, you have to bring someone to take care of you--especially for your feeding and your bathing. It is just expected that a family member is always present. In general, there are a lot of people around who are not necessarily working and can take the time to be in the hospital with a patient.

In a similar vein, as I was making various presentations this past summer, I occasionally noticed that I was using some Nigerian terminology, and I couldn't think of how to express that thought in American English. For example, I would mention that the MF youth ministry trains youth on computers, and then they are able to get a small job with those skills. "Small job" didn't sound right in the U.S. At least I didn't say "small-small job" which would have been very obviously Nigerian. As I'm thinking about it now, I could have said, "Youth are able to get part-time or entry-level jobs with these computer skills."

I can tell I've been here a long time!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


A few weeks ago I made a journey to my hometown, Amboy, MN, for the burial of my aunt's ashes. (Aunt Brenda died in Dec. 07.) It was an opportunity to see my cousin and meet his children (ages 14 & 10) for the first time. It was also a time to see my Grandma as she was just recovering from heart surgery.

As I was nearing Amboy, I remembered my high school friend Jeri as I passed her former residence. I was only going to be in town from 8 p.m. on Friday til noon on Saturday, but I thought I would see if we could get together for a few minutes.

I called her from the road.

"Hi Jeri, This is Mary Beth. How are you?"

"Not very well. My mom just went into hospice today."

Wow. Now I knew that I really needed to see her. I got the boys settled at my Grandma's house with my aunt, uncle, cousin, and his children, and then I took off for the nursing home in Mapleton, 11 miles away.

Being with Jeri at this time brought back memories from 22 years ago when her dad was dying right at the end of our senior year. A few of us got permission from our parents and principal to drive into Mankato to be with Jeri in the hospital at that time.

There were a couple of relatives and friends in the hospice area. Jeri's mom was already in an unconscious state. After awhile I asked them if it would be o.k. for me to pray with them and their mom. I just put my hands on Jeri and her mom and prayed for her mom.

I was at the cemetery when I called Jeri the next morning. She said her mom had passed away shortly after midnight. She was just 64 years old. My sympathy goes out to the Cox children who have now lost both of their parents.

I thank God for the prompting to call Jeri. I hadn't had any idea that her mom was ill, much less terminal. It was a blessing to be with Jeri at this significant moment in her life, especially as I am usually so remote from the happenings in the lives of my high school classmates.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Jet Lag

Missionaries here have always said that they feel the jet lag more on one end of the journey than the other, but I hadn't consciously remembered which end it was. Now I know: it's flying from West to East, i.e. against the day.

Last Wednesday, August 5th, was the first day of school for the boys. I set an alarm for 7 a.m., but it didn't go off. I suddenly woke up at 7:45, and shouted, "We're late!" Bayo said, "Don't worry, that clock is fast." Ten minutes fast was not going to help us much that morning. It was a real bear pulling the boys out of bed. Their bodies were telling them: It's 2 a.m.!

Each day has been a bit easier. I don't allow any naps because that would only make the situation worse. It's best just to try to get used to the new day. Tobi has really struggled with falling asleep. He's often awake in bed until about 11:30 p.m. Tonight I think he slept by 10 p.m. so we're gradually making progress.

Jet lag going the other way (Nigeria to the U.S.) is almost non-existent because we are gaining hours. We just stay up until it's time for bed. Within two days we're usually feeling pretty good.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


It was great to be reunited with Bayo & Lily after two months of separation. Lily literally flew into our arms when we arrived. Bayo is just happy to have his family all back together so that life can be more normal for all of us.

Bayo had come to Abuja on Friday because he had to do some work there before we arrived on Sunday night. I'm sure it wasn't easy having a 3-year-old tagging along, but I'm glad he brought her so she could have an experience outside of Jos this summer. And now she can talk about "going to Abuja."

When Lily would start to tell me something, she would often preface it with, "Auntie..." then realize her mistake and say, "Mummy..." She did that because she has been around her "aunties" all summer. David, age 5, got on her case right away about the correct pronunciation of "Mommy." Nigerians speak British English so "Mummy" is correct to them.

While we were driving back to Jos, Lily asked me if today was Sunday. I told her that Sunday would be in 6 days. She said she wanted us to go swimming on Sunday. It made me smile that she remembered what our schedule had been like shortly before we traveled. During the month of May we went swimming almost every Sunday afternoon.

As I was unpacking, Lily was my assistant. I would set something out and tell her which room to put it in. She would gladly run and do it and come back for more. I love a 3-year-old's enthusiasm for helping Mommy.

If we get some sunshine this next Sunday afternoon, we just might be at the pool!


Well, we are finally all back together in our home. We left my parents' home on Friday and arrived at our home on Monday. It was roughly 72 hours of traveling. The three flights were not even up to 18 hours, but there was just a lot of wait time throughout the journey.

Transitioning back in always takes awhile. The kids slept in the car from Abuja to Jos, but once we arrived home, we didn't allow them to sleep because we wanted them to sleep well tonight. Well, it's now about 2 a.m. and we're all up. Bayo is trying to get the boys back to sleep. I think I even heard Lily's voice recently. I guess she's getting into this transition too. I decided that I'd rather work on my blog than try to get back to sleep.

Tobi finds transitions to be quite hard. It's interesting to me that he has been able to articulate why he's feeling sad. Today was a dark, cloudy day with a heavy rain in the morning and another one in the afternoon. Tobi said, "I wish we could come back to Nigeria when it's the dry season instead of the rainy season because I don't like this darkness." The sun often does come out in the rainy season, but today was just exceptionally rainy.

We did not have electricity when we arrived at our home. Welcome back to reality. I was ready to go and buy petrol so we could run our generator just to make the house seem warm and alive, but thankfully the electricity came on about 15 min after we got home. Over the past decade I have often brought lamps from the U.S. so our home can have a homey glow rather than just the stark light from the flourescent tubes. Here's a little-known secret: I can plug a 110 lamp directly into my 220 socket after putting a 220 light bulb in it. So I turned on lamps in all the rooms that we were using. That helped Tobi.

He also recognized his need for a friend. Right after we ate lunch, he went in search of a neighbor on our compound. They played Risk all afternoon. Later in the evening Tobi said, "When I started playing with my friend, I felt better." He continued: "I'm SO glad school is starting on Wednesday." Tobi is a decent student, but school for him is all about his friendships.

By the time we ate supper about 6 p.m., we did not have electricity so the home was dark. Right after we finished eating, I herded all of us outside to enjoy the last few moments of daylight.

I finished our unpacking today, but not the putting away, so I guess that really doesn't count. I still have a long way to go.

Hopefully within a week we'll feel like we've been here all along, and life will resume its normal rhythms.