Perspectives on safety

Perspectives on safety

I was at a play place a few weeks ago chatting with another mom about our summer plans.  She made an off-hand comment about how play places like the one we were in made her nervous and how nice it must be to spend the summer in a safe place like America.

At that particular moment, I couldn’t see any of my three kids, including my one year old.  They were all climbing or bouncing or playing somewhere in the jungle gym in front of us.  In America, I would NEVER let my children out of my sight.

One of the conversations we will be having soon with our girls is how to interact (or more appropriately NOT interact) with strangers when we travel.

Random man kissing your child on the cheek and giving her a piece of candy in Beirut?  An everyday, socially acceptable occurrence.

Random man kissing your child on the cheek and giving her a piece of candy in America?  Call the police.

This guy?  Total stranger.
This guy? Total stranger.

When we are back in the States, one of the most common questions we get asked is about safety.  These days I very rarely feel unsafe in Beirut.  The last time we were in America, we took the kids to see a movie.  The theater was empty except for another family and about halfway through the movie, two teenage boys came in and sat down in the front row.  My heart began to race and immediately I started thinking about what to do if they started shooting at us.  My brain was telling me that they were probably just bored and theater hopping, but my pulse was telling me a different story.  After about five minutes, they left giggling and it hit me like a wall of bricks.  In that moment I felt more scared for my safety in America then I do in Beirut.

It’s a weird thing.  And I blame the media almost entirely for it.  What stories do you read in the news about Beirut?  Bombs and violent protests, right?  And what are we hearing right now from America?  Rapists in the bathrooms and child traffickers in Target.  Seriously.  I’ve spent two thirds of my life living in the USA, and yet there is a small part of me, in the deep deep recesses of my mind that is actually nervous about taking my kids there.

It goes back to what I’ve blogged about before – that what is known is more comfortable, it feels more safe, it’s easier to relate to.  I can’t even begin to describe what a strange feeling it is to realize that in so many ways Beirut is becoming more “known” to me than the US.  I felt this in a way when I moved back to America after living overseas for a few years when I was young.  I didn’t know what clothes were cool, what bands teenagers my age were listening to, what TV shows were popular.

But this – where I feel “safe” –  hits at a deeper, more primal level.  It throws me off.  It shakes up my thoughts on my identity.   But in the midst of all the inner turmoil, I can’t help but be thankful for a God who is always there, even in a scary place like… America.

DIY Linen spray

DIY Linen spray

If you are on facebook, there is no way you’ve missed how popular the use of essential oils has become.  My newsfeed is full of moms sharing miracle cures for everything from teething to fevers to cranky children with the use of oils. I was intrigued.  While traditional modern medicine can be lifesaving, we tend to gravitate towards a more natural approach when appropriate.  Last year I actually bought a set of essential oils from a friend who was leaving the country, but just a few days later I found out I was pregnant with Luka and decided to hold off on trying them until I knew a bit more about them. So I did what I thought was good research and decide to buy some oils from a company that claimed to be kid safe.  I even bought the book that detailed how to use the oils properly during pregnancy and with small kids. To be quite frank, the book made me incredibly uncomfortable.  No science, no talk of risk, all it turned out to be was a list of what moms had tried and liked with their babies. But I thought I’d give one of the recommended “recipes” a try to help my healing after Luka’s difficult birth.  I ended up with incredibly painful burns on my legs from the oils. I am so thankful that I tried them on myself before using them on or around the kids!  I went back to the research drawing board and discovered that according to most trained aromatherapists, the types of oils and the way of using them recommended by this company was actually incredibly dangerous, especially around babies and small kids. bear I’ve learned a lot through my past 5 months of research and still really like the idea of using oils, but am definitely using them with caution.  For our family that means no oils for babies under six months, diffusion only up from 6 mos – 2 years, diluting properly after 2 years and using only kid safe oils (so no peppermint, thieves, eucalyptus, in addition to others). So all that is just background to this part of the post, haha. I kept seeing different recipes for linen sprays using essential oils to replace things like Febreze and decided to give one a try.  We line dry all of our clothes on a balcony in a very dirty, polluted city and sometimes we lose electricity in the middle of a load being washed, so my wet laundry sits in the washer for several hours.  So I loved the idea of something I could spray on our drying laundry to give it that just-washed smell that gets lost. An added bonus to this spray… it keeps the mosquitoes away!  So I’ve been spraying it on the sheets and curtains in both the girls’ and our room about an hour before bed, and it’s made a huge difference in the number of bites we wake up with in the morning! IMG_5958 DIY Lavender Linen spray (adapted from this recipe) 2 cups of water 3 tbl vodka 16 drops lavender essential oil Combine the vodka and oil and then add the water to the spray bottle.  Shake well and go to town!  You could use any oil if you are just going for the fresh scent (lemon is another I’d like to try), but lavender has the added bonus of repelling mosquitoes and helping one sleep, so perfect for a bedtime linen spray.

Perceived safety

Perceived safety

The streets of Beirut have felt more dangerous the past few weeks.  People are nervous.  Every car looks suspicious.  Everyone is anxiously wondering when and where the next one will be.

But the reality is, you could be in Boston, London or Beirut when a bomb goes off.  Here in Lebanon, there is a higher chance of being injured in a car accident than by a car bomb.

But I’m not afraid to walk the streets of London.  Up until the new year, I’ve never been afraid to walk the streets of Beirut either.  I think a huge part of that is the perception of danger.  Is it actually more dangerous to be in Beirut right now?  I don’t know.  But I do know that it feels more dangerous than it has since we moved here five years ago.  That feeling is powerful.  Even if it’s not at all based in reality, it is still very powerful.

Case in point: last week, the ISF asked people who were parking their cars in unmarked spaces to leave a note with their name and number on the dashboard.  The idea is if the car appears suspicious, the owners can be called before a window is smashed to make sure there is nothing dangerous inside.

Last week as I was walking to work, I noticed that nearly every car on our street had a phone number on the dash.  Some were just a name and number scribbled on a piece of scratch paper, but others had taken the time to print out a list with all their contact information –  home, cell, work, etc.


Oddly enough, just seeing those numbers on the dash of every car I walk by made me feel safer.  I know, I know, they don’t actually protect me from anything.  But there is something comforting about the whole neighborhood doing what they can to help people feel safe.  For me at least, that’s more than half the battle.

FAQ: Do you feel safe?

FAQ: Do you feel safe?

After our whirlwind trip to the States for a banquet last fall, we wrote a newsletter answering some of the most frequently asked questions we received about life and ministry in Beirut.

As we travel around the country this summer, we continue to answer some of the same questions… many of you blog readers don’t get our newsletters, and we won’t see you, so I wanted to continue answering some of those questions here… because I’m guessing that they might be on your mind as well!

One of the big ones: Do you feel safe?

The short answer is yes.  We do feel safe living in Beirut.  Even though it is a big city, the (random) crime rate is much lower than what you would find in most major cities in the US.  Isla and I feel completely comfortable walking around our neighborhood alone – even into the evening.  We have never felt threatened or targeted or unsafe because we are Americans or Christians.  So yes, in our day to day lives, we feel very safe.

The flip side of that answer is that we live in an unstable region and an even more unstable country.  The possibility of major conflict is always just around the corner, and that is something that we really had to wrestle with before we even made the decision to move to Lebanon.  (We wrote a few blog posts about the ideas of fear and safety way back when… you can find them here and here.)  We have different ways of dealing with the ever-present tension – Caleb likes to be as informed as possible, while I avoid reading the news or listening to the rumors as much a I can.  We have contingency plans in place but pray we never need to use them!  It’s not something that we think about every day – we just try to go about life as normal.

For more answers to other frequently asked questions, check them out here!

Extended Rear Facing

Extended Rear Facing

I’ve mentioned on here before that there are no carseat laws here in Lebanon.  Which means there aren’t really strong rules on what kinds of carseats you can buy here.  So, I’ve been doing lots of research to try and figure out how to use our carseat (from Italy) in the safest way possible.

In the States, the law (is it a law or a recommendation?  Not sure.) is for carseats to stay facing back until the baby is 1 year old and 20 pounds.  But as I was researching carseat safety, I discovered that it is actually much much safer to keep babies facing backwards as long as possible.  There are several carseats out there that have a very high rear facing weight limit… 35-40 pounds… which is waaaaay longer than one year.

This isn’t something I had ever read about or heard of before, but it seems like such a simple thing we can do to protect our children, so I thought I’d share.

A true story video about the importance of extended rear facing….