Peaceful

Today at school we were talking about a young teacher who moved to the Marshall Islands to work. She’s been posting the most amazing photos of the sunsets and sunrises from her constant life vacation. Today they were captioned with a comment about the peaceful time before work.

We were discussing what peaceful times for us entail, and it took me too long to think of peace in my life.

Now, keep in mind that I have a sick baby who kept me up all night. I am also taking steroids for my uveitis, so I am a pretty jittery person these days. And then add to the fact that I am never alone. Like never ever alone.

I sleep with people. I bathe with people. I go to work with people. I am with people all day long.

Friday I had about 20 minutes alone: I stayed at school after my office mate left and didn’t call for my ride until the last minute that I could. I knew that Victor was home with fussy Jojo, but I selfishly took 20 minutes. (I mean, I was working…but still…)

I think I need to work on defining peaceful times in my life–or preplanning? In any case, this mama needs some peace, and morning sunrises on the beach aren’t an option for me…this year.

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When Life in Mexico Just Becomes Life

When I quit my job (six years ago) and moved home to Tennessee, it was with the plan that I would spend a few months with friends in Mexico.  That plan went quickly from spending a few months to actually getting a job in Chiapas–but still with the plan to return to the United States in July of 2012.

You know that trite saying that if you want God to laugh you should tell him your plans?

My six months in Mexico has turned into (nearly) six years in Mexico.  My sabbatical-of-sorts has given me an amazing husband who serves the Lord and two little girls who keep the laughter and love bubbling in our home.  My trip-turned-life has allowed me to grow in my professional life as well, although that is perhaps the less important of these three gifts.

Somewhere along the way, Mexico stopped being funny writing material, and just became normal.  Now it’s the United States and their customs, way of thinking, and lifestyle that seem so foreign to me!!!  The people in the United States live to work and the people in Mexico work to live.  The people in the United States fill up their time with screens and activities that keep them away from their families–and even when they are with their families, the screen is a buffer of distraction.  The people in Mexico have family at the core, and everything else is secondary.

Our life in Mexico is peaceful, which is ironic considering my state is on a restricted travel list for government employees.  Our days are spent with my girls playing with their babies, the rooster crowing at all times of day, and the smell of something yummy wafting through the house.  During the week we buzz to school and daycare, but the evenings are our time–and we aren’t too tired to enjoy them!

When I write, the core is usually a place of great emotion.  When I have emotion that I can’t quite process, it’s hard to put that down into words.  This summer was full of surprise for us, as I found out that I will have to return to Tennessee to teach in order to keep my license.  As I prepare for my final year in Mexico, I no longer am experiencing Mexico firsts, but rather my lasts.  My last conventions. My last first day of school.  My last Independence Day. My last…

And so I find myself coming to this place again to write with a different lens: Yes, life in Mexico is just life, but it is coming to an end as our future unfolds before us.  I am trying to stay positive, as I know that God has good things planned for us.  (And how fitting that the same message that comforted me when I came here is comforting me as I prepare to leave here…)  I know that there are opportunities in the United States that will be good for our family, and that God is taking us back in his time.  I know that there will be ups and downs as we face the challenges of this year.  I know that someday, we will look back on this time as if it were a minor series of events.

Ah, well, what is life if it isn’t “a fine mingling of holding on and letting go?”

At the End of a Life (a Reflection)

I remember as a little girl that going to Grandpa’s house was always proceeded with a lecture about behaving.  This was out of the ordinary for us, as we were always so well behaved.

Just kidding.

I am sure that people talked about us the way I’ve heard people talk about other big families.  Six children.  Loud.  Unruly.  Traviesos. 

We didn’t have a television, so Grandpa’s house was a real treat!  We would wait until one got up the confidence to ask if we could watch tv.  We would play by running around the circle that was created by a bar in the kitchen.  We would stare up at the huge grandfather clock and the swords hanging above the fireplace in wonder.  After all, who has swords in their house?

Jacinda, the littlest, would crawl in the space of the coffee table.  And the rest of us would with glee get glasses of ice water, kool-aid, or lemonade.  Any excuse to fill our cups with the ice from the freezer door ice maker.

Grandma Carol would make delicious treats: casseroles, peanut butter balls covered in chocolate, cookies with M&M candies pressed in the top…

I can compared us then to my nieces and nephews now, and I see such similarities.  We must have been such brats, and yet we always had some kind of treat waiting for us.  I know that was largely Grandma Carol.  She was more tender when Grandpa was still perched on his throne as the king of our family.  That’s what it felt like! Not because he was unkind to us.  I never remember Grandpa being unkind.  But he always had “a chair” that was his!  And as the patriarch, there was a level of aloofness that even children could recognize.

You know what I think?  Grandpas and Grandmas shouldn’t have to be “bad guys.”  They should get to enjoy their grandkids then send them back home.  Grandparents should get to fuss at their own children for their unruly children, with their grandkids blissfully unaware.  And parents should be conscious of the difference in tolerance of older people.

I haven’t been there for each family reunion.  I don’t get to see the ups and downs of waging wars on health like my family does.  I get to see differently–as if observing my parents and grandparents age through a series of photos rather than in real time.  I get the yearly visits (if I am lucky), and reminders to email.  I get to see the tenderness of an old man, without much of a memory of who he was before.

I hate the photo that was chosen of my Grandpa for his obituary.  That’s a man I don’t remember–one I have only heard stories of in whispers of virility and pride.  I love the picture I have in my mind: my Grandpa sitting in his arm chair, waving us over for hugs, or cradling his great-grandchildren with unspoken tenderness.  I see him in my father’s face, the best parts of him there, kindness and gentleness that multiplied with age.  At the end of a life, it’s the kind memories that matter most of all.

My, oh My!

Where to start, dear readers…

Life is daily: Ale and Jojo are loving school/daycare.  They love being with other children…and each other!  They greet one another almost every day with a smile and a hug.  It’s just a question of who will wake up the other sis!

Victor is growing his clientele, and has a job or two each day.  He’s also learning who the good customers are–and who he should stay away from!  There’s been a couple times he has needed some help, and eventually I see him growing this into a crew.  We are saving for a little work truck to increase his work area, and hopefully we will register him soon with the government in order to give receipts for tax purposes.

And I am still learning and struggling as a literacy coach!  There’s so much to learn and sometimes it is a bit disconcerting.  I feel so dumb and at the same time, it is incredibly empowering!  Learning what you don’t know and teaching it to others is a pretty cool thing!  I miss being in the classroom, and I would love to be back with kids someday.  I also really want to try out the things I learn!

We are planning a trip home this summer for the first time in two years, and I look forward to seeing my friends and family!  It’s strange and a little scary: the longer you are away from home, the easier it gets to be away from home…

Eek

We are excited for the weekend and family time/adventures.  (Although to be honest a trip to Starbucks is an “adventure” for us!)  We were FINALLY able to visit Parras, the magical pueblo with the oldest wineries in the Americas!  We also took off for a day trip to a local dam/river.  The water in the river was deep enough to allow us to wade and swim.  Jojo, ever the tremenda, walked straight into the river and plopped down on her bottom to play!  Ale is getting confident in her puddle-jumper, but is still rather cautious.
My little family looks forward to the years to come with great anticipation.  The current political climate in the United States isn’t something we wish to return to anytime soon.  We are exploring our options and thinking about what will be best for us–and where we might be able to go while the girls are still young and rootless.  I am not being coy, by hinting of adventures without telling exactly what they are–we truly don’t know what they are!   More than anything, we want to be in a place where we can be helpful for God’s work, be secure financially (Mama still has school loans…), and hopefully learn a new language!  On the other hand, if it doesn’t work out and we stay here for another few years, we are okay with that too!
We will see what God has in store for us–and we know we have to approach each day new and open to opportunities!

A Letter to a Big Girl

I wrote the following a few nights ago.  Excuse the late post!
Dear Sweet Daughter-of-Mine,

I know most of my letters to you mention you sleeping next to me.  Someday you may understand that the night’s quiet is a mama’s recess.  And again, you and your little tootie sis are here: bottoms up in the air, nearly touching, with blankets draped carefully…

Downstairs there are balloons, streamers, and somewhere buried in a drawer is your “birthday” banner.  I suppose I could hang it for the sister workers arriving tomorrow: it boldly says, “Bienvined@s!”  

I think back four years to the night I labored to bring you into the world…

I didn’t know at that moment how fast time would fly!  I didn’t realize that the pain, anxiety, and fear of the unknown would be such a contrast to the sunshine you brought into my world.  And I had no idea that your birth would later be an achievement for me–that in that moment I could take in the world.  And win.

You are my sweetest companion!  You’re constantly by my side, and with me on every errand!  You ride in my buggy, marking off items on my grocery list, begging me for sugary cereal, princess crowns, and another Playdoh.  You skip along beside me whining when I rush into the school, and playfully run off to hide every chance you get!  You sneak into my bathtub, pull up a stool when I cook, and demand to be at my side during meals, meeting, and bedtime.  You, my sweet, are a pain…and a joy…

Yesterday, as I combed your hair, I found a thin silver hair–and I pointed it out to Victor.  A little streak of wisdom shooting through the top of your crown–reminding your momma to listen when you speak.  “Everything dies, right, Mama?”you said a couple weeks ago as I mourned our lost chicks.  

Slow down, my love! 

You’re growing up too fast, and your mama isn’t prepared for the big version of you…

Happy Birthday, Little Ale!
Love, 
Mama

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Mama Said (There’d be Days Like This)

You ever have a Thursday that felt like a Monday?

You know, the kind that starts with babies who fuss and suckle all night–then wake up the moment you roll away from them, scream at the top of their lungs, and won’t stop until you crawl back into bed?

Have you ever had a day where you learn so much you just feel dumb at the vastness of what you don’t know in the subject area that you coach others?

Have you ever had a day SO productive it feels more like a week?

Have you ever had one of those days that is so busy you forget to pump your child’s milk until the last 30 minutes of the day–but you know you can’t go ahead and go home, because then she would nurse and you wouldn’t be able to squirrel away her stash?

Have you ever had to leave work, run through the drive through for supper, just to get to meeting on time–only to find out your child fell asleep two minutes before you make it to the meeting?

You know what meeting is like with a toddler who just learned to walk and wants down at every moment and an almost four-year-old who is so sleepy that you spend the first part of meeting waking her up and the next part telling her how you expect her to behave?

Have you ever give Motrin to one kid just to show the other it tastes good?  Have you had to take advantage of a toddler tripping, falling, and crying to shoot medicine into her mouth while she’s down for the count?

Have you ever ended your day by going to the bathroom only to find out that your husband used the last of the paper so you have to holler and ask for some?

And then…you wait…

Until your daughter brings you this: At least it’s time for bed.  Am I right?

A Letter to My Youngest (on the Brink of her First Birthday)

img_4658Dear Little Jo-Jo,

My sweet, rambunctious, bien traviesa daughter… it is hard to believe you will be one in two weeks.  And at the same time, it’s hard to believe that you haven’t been part of our family forever.  You sure did take your time getting here–and we waited anxiously for your arrival.  I should have known then that you would be stubborn and ready to take us by storm!

I love seeing you light up, my love.  Your face is like a thousand suns when Sissy and I come home from school.  You twinkle and scream Dada! across the meeting when you see him glance your way.  Even other people you see in the street, in meeting, at the store… they can’t resist your charm!  I hope you stay this friendly forever.

img_4581Sissy sure does love you too, but sometimes it may not feel like it.  And you know what, sometimes you agitate her to the point her patience!  I just watched as Sissy arranged her toys, then walked outside.  As soon as she turned her back, you ran over to the little table, grabbed the Barbie, and proudly took off with her.  Poor Sis didn’t even know what was going on when she walked back into the room–but you did!  Oh! you little tootie!  I hope you and your sister will always be this inseparable!

 

Papi says you won’t let him rest during the day, and I tend to believe him.  He said you stand at the door and scream at him until he brings you outside to his work area.  And then when it is time to rest, he swears that you won’t sleep without him cuddling you.  What a cuddle bug you are!  I love seeing how you look at your Papi, and I hope that adoration last forever too!

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You’ve filled parts of my heart I didn’t know were empty, little girl, with your rat-a-tat-tat feet and your toothy smile.  And I sure do look forward to another year with you in our lives.

Love always,
Your Mama

 

Hear Me Roar

Saturday millions of women all over the world took to the streets in protest.  Friday, a great (tremendous, terrific) defiler of women was sworn in as the president of my country.

I sat in the school office Friday, and watched the speech that he gave.  And I cried.  I cried as he spoke about being a president for the people.  The secretary next to me turned around in surprise at my tearful expletive, “Are you crying, Jania!?”  I explained, yes… I am crying.  I am crying for my country.  For my family.  For my daughters.

See, Mexicans don’t understand how Americans are JUST feeling this way.  Politicians have been less-than-wonderful and undeserving of respect for years here in Mexico.    They have risen to power because of the money in their pockets, and the exchange of that money from hand to hand.  Politicians  have rallied in poor communities, bribing the people with promises of good roads and clean water, while literally PAYING for their votes.  Mexicans have snickered at the poor english spoken by their leader, and joked about the connections that he has to the cartel.

My Mexican colleagues don’t understand that I have never felt like this.  But at the same time, they understand how dangerous the world just became.  They understand what people all over the world can see: America just crept into the rat’s trap.  They understand what the rat doesn’t: that no matter how tasty the cheese might be, the chance of never tasting cheese again is just as sure.

Has America been embarrassed by our leaders before?  Sure.  Have they ever been this fearful?  This disgusted?  This disillusioned?  Not in my lifetime.

(No doubt some readers of this very blog post are disagreeing with me right now–and no doubt those readers are white middle-class citizens who have probably had access to fair pay and healthcare most of their lives.)

I didn’t vote for the former (and far superior) president in his first campaign.  But I attended his inauguration with thousands of others.  The air was electric with promise of change.  The metro was so full of people, that moving was like something from a cartoon.  Everyone was pressed together as one unit, shuffling their feet, and moving as possible onto the train and through the platforms.  Every inch of the lawns were full of people, and not just white people.

Say what you want about Obama, but he was the people’s president.  He made hard decisions that were made for the good of MANY, not just a few.  And that was evident that day eight years ago.

Which brings us to the protest of women all over the world: Has there ever been such a huge protest in reaction to a president taking office?  Has there?  Not in our country.

I wrote a post the day after the election in November, and since then I have seen many posts pleading to give Trump a chance.  But he hasn’t earned a chance yet.  And if anything, he has time after time shown how unworthy he is to be our commander-in-chief.  Unable to take responsibility, full of accusations and immature finger-pointing.  Even after his speech on Friday he shook hands with many standing behind him,  but skirted around the one who secured more votes from the people and her husband.

I watched with pride as a far more worthy politician held her head high,  pasted on a smile,  and continued to stand with pride.  Isn’t that what women have done for years?  She didn’t need to speak out in the protests, because the voices of many others rang out for her.  

And so here I am: a mother of two little girls, a sister of three strong women, a daughter of two respecters of human kind, and a teacher of the future.  I may not have marched in protest, but I am ready to defend our future.

A Lesson on Mourning and Empathy Following a Trump Win  

I deleted Facebook on purpose: your posts about the election always upset me.  Rather than engage in social media arguments with you, I chose silence and distance.  But I opened Facebook the day after the election.

Big mistake.

I, not only saw the Fox News rhetoric, but saw a complete and utter lack of empathy for those of us who are hurting due to the election results.  This explanation is for you: my white friends.

I call you my white friends because that is what you are.  None of my Latino friends say the things you do.  None of my black friends are posting begging us to “give Trump a chance.”  None of my gay and lesbian friends (albeit white) have asked us to move on.  

Only you: my white friends.

I am going to tell you what the Black Lives Matter movement told you, but you didn’t hear.  Your white privilege (yes, this is a real thing) protects you in ways that you don’t understand.  I understand why you don’t understand.  I didn’t “get it” either.  And then I began to think of my Mexican children.  I began to think of my African students.  I began to think of my non-Christian friends.

See, that’s what empathy is: empathy is stepping out of your own shoes and trying on another pair.  Then empathy requires you to say, “Wow! Yeah, the world looks at me differently here. What a bummer!”  Empathy allows you to return to your zapatitos and still remember, feel for, and understand the way someone else feels.

I haven’t seen that from you.  Instead there are posts about giving Trump a chance.  Posts about respecting our commander in chief no matter who he is.  Posts about how Trump’s voting population wasn’t created from hateful people.  Posts about how we all need to move on and get over it.  Posts about how Trump wants to bring us together.

And that tells me you don’t get it.

I don’t understand: we could see with each speech how Trump belittled those who didn’t look like him.  We heard story after story about him encouraging violence against anyone who believed differently and dared to say so.  In fact, they weren’t merely stories:  we saw video evidence!   We heard his “plan” for deportation of Latinos, elimination of equal rights to marry, and registration of Muslims.

So why don’t you understand the fear those people have?

It isn’t unjust fear!  They were told, as were you and I, that life would be different for them if Trump was elected.  Of course they are afraid! and sad! and worried!

Giving Trump “a chance” is a little hard when he’s told you your time is up.  Respecting a man who has so little respect for others in near impossible if you are the others.  Believing that you, his voters, aren’t hateful or ignorant is difficult when his entire campaign was built on a solid foundation of hate: beginning with hate and ending with hate.  Moving on and getting over it isn’t an option–as the next four years we are bound to this joke of a “leader.”  And trusting him to bring us together is equally laughable (except none of this is laughable) because he has done his best to drive a wedge between us: painting a picture of what American should be from the eyes of a privileged white man.

This isn’t about Hillary Clinton and her loss.  This isn’t about Bernie Sanders and his revolution. This is about one man who has caused hurt and fear in millions of people–not just Americans, but all over the world.  This is real.  This is scary.  Try to understand that, would you?

Shock and Sadness on the Day After Elections

I feel sick.  I am literally crying as I write this a country away.

When I visited home during the summer of 2015, Trump had recently began his race.  He had gone on camera talking about Mexicans, and we all were still wondering if it was a joke.  

And that was a question even during the spring of this year:  Is this a joke?   We have all been waiting for the punchline to be delivered.

You know what?  Hate is no joke.  I cannot believe that my countrymen just voted for a man who says the things he says.  Someone who has repeatedly spoken out against Muslims, Mexicans, homosexuals, and women.  Someone who makes fun of people with disabilities.  Someone who jokes about using weapons of mass destruction on other countries.  Someone who every living president has warned us about.  Someone who opens his mouth and spews anger, ignorance, and hatred with every word.

I am reeling, thinking of my little family here in Mexico.  I am wondering  if I need to apply for Victor’s visa earlier than planned.  We were planning on applying for a visitor visa in January.  But now?  What does this mean for us?  Do you, dear readers, realize that with the exception of one brother and my mother, my own family hasn’t met my husband?  Not one family member or friend from home has met my child?  Did you think of us when you voted?  Did you think of the thousands of families like us–or families who have to live seperate in order to survive?

And what does this mean for our country?  Do we really belong to a nation that wants this man as the leader?  I am appalled.  This is the first time in my life that I can say I am embarrassed to be American.  

And I am scared for our future.