Why Every Girl Should Live With Her Sister

Jen and Me at convention

When you live with your sister, you are guaranteed a friend.  I don’t mean a stay-up-late-chatting-about-boys-girlfriend, I mean a friend friend.  That means she will be honest and straight forward (even when it isn’t something you want to hear).

When I moved in with my sister, my self-confidence isn’t what we would call sky-rocketing.  I remember the first time I went out to eat with her friends–I was appalled   Here I had wasted my potential by becoming a teacher, while these girls had great government jobs.  They would make comments about how hard my job was, but of course they were just saying those things.  It wasn’t until I grew to realize what an honor it is to teach that I realized they were right.  I was doing something that I chose to do–and I was good at it.  Nothing wrong with being proud of that.

I remember a trip to New York City for my birthday, my sister took me shopping for leggings and big shirts.  She informed me that, contrary to what I had felt, I could wear leggings.  And that my big clothes just made me look bigger.  I needed to wear clothes that were more fitted.Jen and I in NYC

Ahhh…New York City with your sister.  Forget the long boring bus ride, but don’t forget all the fun things you can do with your sister.  The Empire State Building, Broadway Shows, Eating, Shopping, Sight Seeing…  (Not long ago I had a Can-I-Return-This-Baby moment when I realized that I won’t be able to just pack up and take trips to NYC with my sister on a whim).

We had  a lot of fun at home too:  one winter we pulled on our snow clothes, and trampled out to play in the snow.  We rode bikes (not so easily) and had some embarrassing gymnastic moments which included me falling on my head while attempting a handstand.  We walked out into a normally busy street and stared open-jawed at the barren lanes.  Sister KissesWe had Blakley sister photo shoots, and were the talk of the block (in our heads, anyway).  We may have even crawled into bed together that winter…Jen in snow

In the mornings, you know to stay out of your sister’s way.  Why your parents could have two children so different? Heaven only knows.  So, knowing that while you wake up chipper and ready to carry on a conversation, it’s better to steer clear of the grumpy one.  You’re better off preparing breakfast for the two of you.  Or supper if it’s in the evening.  My sister and I had the perfect arrangement:  She buys the food.  I cook the food.  I also clean out the fridge.  Because skinny little (older) sisters don’t really eat.  When I arrived, all that graced the refrigerator was a giant jar of sweet relish.  Not a regular size jar–but one of those Sam’s sized jars bigger than one person could possibly manage.

Our unspoken arrangement was this:  I worked on fattening her up, and she worked on skinnying me down.  Neither of us were too successful…

It’s All in a Name

I love my name.

I’ve always felt really special to have such a unique and well-pondered name. Mama used to tell me about how she lay in bed at night wondering what she would name me. After having previously named three children with “J”, she wanted it to be a “J” name too. I think I won the lottery.

  • Jami Michelle was named after my grandfather, James, and my dad, Micheal.
  • Joseph was named after my great-grandfather, Edward Joseph.
  • Jennifer Lynn was the 1980’s baby who ended up with the most popular name of the year–but she was also named after my uncle, Terry Lynn.
  • My little sister, Jacinda Adele, also has a pretty great name: My oldest brother picked her first name out, and her middle name is the name of one of our preachers.

And then there was me… Jania Irene. My mom took my grandmother’s name, Jean, and my great-grandmother’s name, Maria, to make Jania. Irene is my maternal grandmother’s name.

So when I think of putting a name on my precious little baby, I really have been thinking hard. Because it’s one of my favorite things to do (and I want to make sure another “Jennifer” situation doesn’t happen), I’ve been checking out the birth announcements again in my hometown. These are names that WON’T be found on a child of mine:

  1. Xinamae
  2. Afeni
  3. Adiaree
  4. Averie (Anyone else wondering about all these weird “A” names? Oh, wait! I think they mean, Avery…)
  5. Jessexander
  6. Canaan (I actually LOVE this name, but I had a student who was really b-a-d named Canaan. Entonces, name is ruined…)
  7. Parinique
  8. Guage (I feel like I should give parents Word Study lessons on the “rules” for word patterns in English. How do you pronounce this? Gooj?)
  9. Kloe Nikole
  10. Zoiey (Same reason as #8.)

Bless their hearts. (And their teachers…) This has given me a lot to think about!

Sidenote: Every name on this list popped up on spell-check except for Canaan. Even mine…


So everyday when I check on my blog, I get to see what word or phrase has been popped into the search engine before they make way to The Art of Living. I’ve had quite a range over the last year, but usually they make sense. For example, “Bathrooms in Mexico”. I wrote quite a bit about how different the bathrooms are in Mexico. This makes sense to me.

“The Art of Living” makes sense too. As does the use of any part of that quote. I never question song lyrics, or my name. In fact, someone (ahem!) finds my blog all the time with just a few words: “Jania Blakley, Chiapas, Art of Living.”

You know what doesn’t make sense:

Girls cooking in panties

No joke. I have tried my best to figure out at what point I talked about cooking and panties. It’s wasted time.

I mean, I know I’ve talked about panties, after-all, I wear panties. In fact, for the last couple months–they get changed multiple times a day due to this baby’s big head resting on my bladder. Throw-up, cough, sneeze, laugh, gag, and I need to change again. Nice, eh? (Part of me wondered if my pride was too grand to admit that–and then I came to the conclusion that if it happens to me, it must happen to a lot of women. Maybe if we start talking about it, it won’t be something to hide. Maybe…)

I cook too. In fact, I joke that I am such a better wife now that I am pregnant. I can’t go without breakfast, so Victor gets breakfast every morning! I even wear panties while I cook, but I assure you–I wear more than that! This girl is too messy to run around a stove without proper covering…

I can’t ever remember writing about girls wearing panties while cooking. Until now. So now, when I see something absurd that someone searched to find my site, it will be justified. But can you imagine how disappointed he must be? To go looking for that, and instead end up here? Hee hee…

Why Every Girl Should Live With Her Sister Part One

Me and JenFor about two years my sister and I lived together in Old Towne Alexandria, Virgina.  I was 24 and she was 28 when we began that experience.  We divorced when our life changes made it clear that maybe it would be better to have a little space, but I still had visitation rights.  By “visitation rights” I mean that I kept a key and would show up whenever I wanted.

See, that’s what’s nice about living with your sister…

When we moved into this townhouse, I was skeptical.  Afterall, besides the piano from the previous owner, there were boxes on the floor and a couple of camping chairs.  No table.  No couch.  Nada.  We shared her bed for a little while–not that I minded.  Growing up we always slept together.  Before long, we (she) bought a bed from a friend, and I soon had my own little space in the room next door.

We (she) bought a couch from a friend–and before long we (she) bought a new white couch.  I know what you’re thinking…a white couch? Who in their right mind would buy a white couch?  Weeeellll…  We (she) added a leather recliner chair (not the super comfortable kind), and a giant table.  Smart moves.

The added couch meant that we could have friends over, and they would have a place to sit.  The table meant that we could have friends over and they would have somewhere to eat.  The awesome backyard patio meant that we could have friends over and play games out back.  The yard meant we had to mow.

We (she) bought a lawn mower right away.  That was the first thing I broke.  The yard was tiny–and this was an electric lawnmower.  Whoever decided electric lawn mowers were a good idea has never almost ran over extension cords.  They’ve never had to stop mowing to move the cord to a different place.  And they’ve never sent the blade through the roof of the plastic electric lawn mower.  I have.  Did you know that Home Depot accepts those things back when you break them like that?  Our’s did anyway…

My sister prepared me for my current experience in ways I didn’t anticipate:  in our first winter, she refused to use the heat.   “Put on more clothes!” she’d say.  “Wear socks!” she’d say  (as if that was the answer to Northern Virginia winters…).  In the summer, she didn’t want to use the air.  Did I mention that our townhouse was three stories (including the basement).  So imagine the heat upstairs.  “Open your window!” she’d say.   “Take off clothes!” she’d say (as if we all had a skinny body that people liked to see naked).  Now, I count myself lucky that I had that experience–as our Northern Mexico winter gets pretty chilly at night (not to mention our sweltering summers!).

Who knew that older sister could sometimes be right?

To be continued…

What Are You Having?

You always hear about women getting tired of answering this question.  It doesn’t bother me too much–maybe because we have decided to be surprised.  I get to hear a different version of the question, or at least it means something different.  People who know we’re waiting to be surprised ask me if I know–as if they’re waiting for me to change my mind (This doesn’t really bother me either…)

Today, I began making a list of what it would be like to have one or the other.

If I have a boy:

  1. He will probably have “cactus hair” like my husband.  These are his words–not mine.
  2. I will be resigned to say, “No soccer in the house!” for the rest of my life.  This revelation came not long after we purchased a soccer ball to play together…
  3. Potty training is already puzzling: do I teach him how to go sitting down or standing up?
  4. Buying clothes will rock!  Blue jeans.  Tennis shoes.  T-shirts.  What more does a little boy need?
  5. He must learn to dance like his Daddy.
  6. I guess I’ll get peed on.  My niece pees the moment air hits her bottom.
  7. Daddy will have to teach him how to aim.  I am not about to have a smelly gross boy bathroom.
  8. Girls watch out.

If I have a girl:

  1. Let’s hope she takes after Papi’s family in the hips/butt department.  Victor’s sisters are so slim through the hips.  And my family…well…slim isn’t a word to describe our posterior regions.
  2. Do they have return policies at around age 10?
  3. Maci (my oldest niece) might have to come spend summers with me.  Knowing my luck, I’ll get a little girl who only wants to wear “a hurt and a curt” (and shirt and a skirt) everyday.
  4. Sigh.  Clothes are cute–but they have SOOOO many!
  5. She WILL wear big bows in true Mexican girl fashion–but not when she’s a baby and they take over her head.  On the other hand, the doctor told me today that the baby has a big head.  So, perhaps that won’t be a problem…
  6. I hope she isn’t mean like me.  Yet again, please take after Daddy, baby!!
  7. Yes!  I get leftover baby clothes from my little sister’s baby!  Score!
  8. Boys stay away.
  9. Maybe she can live with Mom when she hits puberty…

My favorite answer to the question, “What are you having?” is this:  A Mexican.  People really never know what to say to that.  I get a lot of awkward laughs…

Date Night

One of our favorite things to do here is go to the movies.  I know that isn’t a surprise to most of you, but last night we really roughed it.  We didn’t go VIP.

What’s a VIP movie?  Sigh.  Perfection.

Okay, you know how in the United States the movie price is now an arm and a leg?  If you want to see a movie with a date–you better make it a matinee, or you’ll be paying two arms and two legs.  Forget snacks–you’ll want to smuggle some candy and a bag of cold microwavable popcorn from home in your over-sized bag.   Your soda might blow up when you open it from all the shaking in the bottom of your bag–and be quite when you do that… No one needs to know you were too cheap to buy snacks at the cost of a fine dining experience.

Well, welcome to Mexico and movie heaven:

First of all, you have two options: the cheap route and VIP.  The cheap movies are theatres like we have in the States.  Stadium seating, get your food before you enter, etc.  The cost is about three dollars.

VIP movies are what you want though…

You pay about $6.50-7.00  for the VIP experience.  You are in a separate area of the theater.  The decor changes immediately, and you may feel lost.  While you’re thinking of where you should go, have a seat in the lounge area.  Have a cocktail or something to eat to clear your head.  And when you buy your tickets–you get to reserve your seats.  Oh! your seats!  Erase ideas of those uncomfortable regular movie chairs… You have a leather recliner!  They are grouped in twos–and on each side is a little table.  Should you get chilly in the theatre, feel free to request a blanket.  It will be delivered to you shortly.

On top of the table is a menu–because soon, a server shows up at your seat to take your order.  You might choose to go the regular route with some popcorn or soda, but don’t be hasty!  You can have hot cocoa, cafe style drinks, crepes, freshly made sushi  etc.

Just a word of warning, should you choose to get a hotdog–all the condiments will be delivered to you.  And if you happen to accidentally spill the jalapeno peppers/juice in your lap, it won’t soak into your seat.  So if your inner thighs start burning halfway through the movie, extra napkins should be requested.  I mean, surely that would never happen, but just in case…

Homes of Zion

We had our first visitor from the U.S. in our meeting! Hooray! This was super exciting because, for once, I wasn’t the only one who didn’t understand… And actually, he didn’t speak Spanish at all, so I felt really happy to be able to help him with the numbers for the hymns.

I’ve been thinking of this year and everything that has brought us to this place in life. Victor and I didn’t even know each other a year ago–but Sunday did mark my one year mark for going to meeting in Mexico! I remember sitting in those first meetings feeling so desperate to be fed. I would glory in the hymns that we sang translated from English–knowing at least a few of the words.

Sunday I gave my testimony with just a little help from my friends. I didn’t have to prepare word-for-word. Last week, I started praying in Spanish so that I can receive a little help from my husband prior to making that transition in our meeting. It’s been really great. I remember a friend telling me that praying and reading together could strengthen a relationship–and I always thought we would just pray at the same time. But we read the chapter(s) together–he in English and me in Spanish. It helps him to understand a bit before the meeting itself. And it helps me to understand the Spanish–because sometimes the translations don’t transfer the same message in my head.

These little moments are so sweet to me! And as I think of adding our next family member, it doesn’t seem like a stretch to have little family studies and prayers. How precious will that be! I hope I can just have what I need to be a wife and mother in Zion.

Speaking of the newest addition–I can’t stop thinking of the baby and what we will need to do to get desired meeting behavior. Oh, man! This is where my head just spins and spins! I so often have seen mamas AFTER they’ve done the hard work with their little ones. Not the actual process! Where do I even start!?

Make my home a home of Zion, where the Lord would have first place; where the rule is live for others who are weary in the race. Homes of Zion, Homes of Zion, Matchless treasure is their worth. Homes of Zion, Homes of Zion, sweet influence in the earth.

Quack! Quack!

I’ve sworn to myself this whole pregnancy that I would NOT be a waddle-er. How very unattractive! Women who sway back and forth as they walk–I would never walk like that!

Sigh. I guess you know where I am going with this.

You know, people ask me all the time how I feel–and I’m always so happy to reply, “Great!” Rest assured, I do complain to my husband, but it’s more of a curious complaining. This is all so new to us, I want him to know what’s going on all the time.

Today, this was not the case. I am not kidding, my hip hurt from the time I woke up until the end of the day. I had tutoring this afternoon, and the little girl I work with always sits on the carpet with me. Yet another thing I take pride in: Getting down in the floor and playing with the kiddos. Well, we spent the first forty minutes there–then we had to move to a table. This body of mine isn’t cooperating with what my mind wants to do!

I’ve decided that waddling isn’t a choice. Today I realized that I wasn’t waddling because my upper body is so big–it’s because my hips are different! They won’t allow my legs to walk the way they should. Hence, the waddle…

Ahh, well… eight more weeks isn’t that far away… Until then, my waddling is accompanied by my hand in the small of my back, breaks to do some belly dancing circles, and nights massages upon demand and yoga stretches. It’s a good thing I don’t have a bathtub, or this baby and I would spend hours soaking away…

A Civil Ceremony

Finally!  It’s done!  We’ve only been trying to do this since May…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Back in Chiapas Victor went to three different cities  to figure out what we needed to do to be legal.  In true Mexican fashion, in each city we were told something different.  But this was clear: a lot of paperwork (in both the U.S. and Mexico) was in the mix.  When we asked friends and other couples made up of Americans and Mexicans, the advice was the same:  Go to the States.  Well, that’s great advice–and we’d love to do that.  But we can’t…

So, instead, we began the long, drawn-out, and expensive process of making our marriage legal in Mexico.  In Mexico, the civil ceremony is the only recognized legal ceremony for marriage.  And it’s a hard ceremony to have… so many couples are married, but not by the law.  Which is okay, unless you need official paperwork for any reason.  Actual weddings will take place, but perhaps it’s easier to explain by comparing it to old days in the Appalachian area (Jumping the broom, hand-fasting, waiting around for the circuit judge to legalize your marriage).

Part One:  Birth certificate for each person.  While home this summer, I completed part one:  Getting a birth certificate with an apostille on it.  This is necessary for your birth certificate to be recognized in other countries.  The request must be made via mail and check (no online ordering with your credit card).  You must also write a letter explaining what you will use this apostillized birth certificate for).  Victor also had to hunt his down while he was still in Chiapas.  Ironically, he was ten when his birth was finally registered.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Part Two:  The above mentioned pain-to-obtain birth certificate must be translated.  By a licensed translator.  Cha-ching!  Afterwards, we visited a judge to discuss what else would be necessary for our civil ceremony.  No matter who you talk to, the information changes from person to person.

Part Three:  Ìmmigration approval.  Well, this would have been faster if Immigration didn’t close for the holidays.  We were told to return on the second.  When we returned, we were told that the office would be closed until the next day.  Oh, Mexico…  (Actually, the guard’s exact words were, “It might be opened tomorrow, but it might not be opened until Monday.” Niiice…  Upon talking to the nice Immigration lady the next day, we were informed that the law had changed!  No longer is it necessary to get permission from Immigration!  Woo hoo!  Why didn’t the JUDGE know this?

We left Immigration looking for a new judge.  Our taxi driver took us to a civil office on the way home.

Part Four:  Blood tests.  It’s my understanding that some states in the U.S. still require blood-work before marriage.  This is a bit ridiculous for me.  I would really like to hear why this is necessary.  So, in the civil office we visited, they informed us that we would be required to have our blood-work done (The first judge was going to skip this step).  Luckily, a laboratory that I really like was just around the corner (The Lab Tech remembered me–this is why foreigners should always be nice:  your face is not just another face in the crowd…)  A side benefit to having blood-work done is that we finally figured out Victor’s blood type.  Hooray!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Part Five:  Marriage class.  This is actually required in our state.  Our first judge was willing to overlook marriage class (Victor said he just wanted the money…)  At this office, they forgave us this requirement due to the fact that we wanted a speedy hitching.  Should we choose to wait until the next week, we would have to pay for classes.  I am a bit curious about what you learn in marriage class…  The divorce rate here is probably lower, but I seriously doubt it has very little to do with marriage class–most likely it is because it is a PAIN to get married in the first place!!

Part Six:  Paperwork.  All paperwork must be submitted eight days in advance.  Well, ummm… our ceremony is scheduled for two days from now,  AND our witnesses are in the U.S.  This was the part that almost broke my husband down.  Each of the Americans (including myself), had to submit a photocopy of their I.D and their immigration paper giving permission to be in the country.  Seeing as how three of our four witnesses were American, this meant a lot of copying and collecting.  Yesterday, when I was dropping off part of the paperwork, I was granted an extension on our deadline.  I made Victor wait outside while I broke the bad news–it’s a lot harder telling someone they can’t get married if they’re pregnant and don’t fully understand the words coming out of your mouth…

Unfortunately, our deadline meant hoping our witness’s flight wouldn’t be delayed AND rushing with copies an hour before they were due today…  Birth certificates–originals and copies, passport copies, government ID copies, blood test result copies, and the list goes on and on.  Then there’s the explaining in broken Spanish what a county is, and why the name of my city is different then the county.  And why my mother’s madien name is on my birth certificate, but not her married name.  And why the translation doesn’t include my father’s middle name.  And… gasp!  Oh, well…it’s good practice for me.

Part Seven:  The easy part… the actual ceremony.   OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Hooray!  It’s done!  Can I present (for the second time) my husband?



Are You My Mother?


We have a pet bird.

No, no.  She doesn’t live in a cage or sing.  She doesn’t say, “Pretty bird!” or “Step up!” like my brother’s old birds.  In fact, this is what her day looks like:

  1. Walk to the left.
  2. Walk to the right.
  3.  Hop up on some bricks.
  4.  Run away from the humans.
  5.  Repeat 1-4

Poor birdie.

We don’t really know what happened.  Two days ago Victor told me there was a bird stuck in the back patio area and she was trying to figure out how to leave.  Upon examining her (from a distance), we could see that something appeared to be wrong with her wing.  One sits high on her back, and the other hangs a little.

We brainstormed ideas to help our bird friend.  But, this isn’t the States.  I can’t call up the University and ask what to do.  There aren’t organizations of strange bird lovers sitting around waiting to heal a wounded bird.  We couldn’t put her outside the gate–she’d die for sure!  And we might hurt her worse if we tried to capture her!  I had a moment of remembering my dog, Banjo.

Poor Banjo was crazy.  Literally.  After endangering my nephew and another young boy–we made the decision to put him down.  So, I thought of that:  if the bird is hurting, maybe we should just kill it.  (I grew up in the country.)

I’ve opted to keep it instead.  So, Victor and I feed our bird old bread and we make sure that water is available.  My hope is that she will miraculously heal and take off one day.  Until then, we celebrate the small things (that ACTUAL bird lovers would never celebrate…):  Our bird doesn’t hide from us anymore!  She scurry behind her block or sink down in the hole that Victor dug for some plant.

It may be love.