A Year In Review

Tonight marks my two year anniversary south of the border!  Wow!  It’s hard to believe that I was once that excited young gringa–jaded by the educational system and failed relationships in the north on her way to adventure in Chiapas!  Two years ago, I packed my bags for six months.  My friend made the comment that I could do anything for six months.  “Even if you hate it,” she said, “You only have to be there six months.”  Shortly before this, her husband had remarked that we would soon know where I belonged.  I remind myself of how broken I was–and how willing I was to be placed where God needed me the most.   That was December 31, 2011

20120108-172130.jpgMy first meeting in Chiapas.  These kids were the nephews and grand daughter of the lady who had the meeting.  A lady that we grew to love so much!

20120110-154202.jpgMy second graders at The American School Foundation of Chiapas spoke little to no english.  In order to teach them procedures, I had to make these signs.  I practiced not speaking at all (super hard for me, but effective).  I came to Mexico with a couple of phrases, but I had to learn fast!

My first year in Mexico proved to be exceptional!  Shortly after arriving, I fell in love… with the country!  It wasn’t long before I met my husband and we decided to tough it out.  (It helps when it isn’t that tough, eh?)  I returned to the United States without him–pregnant and hoping to land a job.  And I did!  It just wasn’t in the United States!  Victor and I moved to the northern state of Coahuila, and I began teaching here.  We struggled some those early months–mostly with money and the lack of support that I initially felt from my employer.  That took us to December 31, 2012.  One year in Mexico!

20120121-162216.jpgI always felt like it was rude to take pictures of the indigenous people in San Cristobal.  I didn’t want to be THAT gringa.  This doesn’t even really show a fraction of how wonderful and lively it is there!

20120324-204953.jpgVictor and I met in San Cristobal.  The rest is history…

(Sidenote:  My one year in Mexico is also my husband’s one year in Mexico.  He arrived just a week before me, and we are patiently waiting out his ten-year ban.  It sounds so harsh, huh?)

It’s been strange to read on Facebook status updates how horrible 2013 was for people.  I feel almost displaced from their happiness–but I do understand what it feels like to have several wrong turns on your road to bliss.  How blessed I feel to be in this country with my family!  What a full year this has been!

January 2013

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAVictor and I started 2013 with our civil ceremony.

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February 2012

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Victor and I went to a hotel for my birthday.  Really, it was just so that I could get a good bath.  How nice it was to get in the pool!  I felt weightless (obviously, I wasn’t…)

March 2013

birth.jpgOur little Alexandria swam into the world a couple months later.  Having a water birth was ahhhh-mazing!  Being able to have Ale at home was great too!  I was able to sleep in my own bed!

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAle’s first visit with the workers who were in town for Special Meeting.  She was one week old here!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASpecial Meeting (Ale’s first meeting) with a special visitor who swooped in to save the day!

April 2013

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe took Ale’s first trip to Monterrey to get her American birth certificate and passport.  We met some of the sweet friends, and Victor had his first gospel meeting!  He was astonished by all the young people.

May 2013

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAVictor made his choice to serve God known to our little church.  

June 2013

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAle traveled to the United States where her best friend tried to eat her upon meeting her.

July 2013

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IMG_0642We’ve been to visit both families–and ALMOST all of Ale’s cousins, aunts, and uncles (short one cousin and one uncle).  This is Ale with her abuelos in Chiapas.

August 2013

IMG_0860We settled into our “new” house, and started a new school year.

September 2013

20130918-172659.jpgWe went to Alexandria’s first convention. 

IMG_0834And she cut her first teeth…

October 2013

IMG_1615Mommy’s first work trip away.  Guess who wasn’t upset at all?

IMG_1653Ale’s first Halloween–dressed as the Very Hungry Caterpillar.

November 2013

20131128-222758.jpgMy first Thanksgiving away from home.  Ale’s first Thanksgiving.  And Victor’s first Thanksgiving in Mexico!

December 2013

Ale_Dec3113.jpgAle has made us squeal with joy, and she just gets better everyday.

The Pains of Non-Celebrators

Many years ago, (no, seriously…) my sister Jenny and I left my brother’s house in Indiana to drive to Iowa. We left on the 23rd of December, and promptly drove into a horrific freak snowstorm in Illinois. What started as beautiful snowflakes soon became treacherous driving conditions, and my sister’s car slid off the road.

We were able to make it back onto the road, but had to pull off again due to a flat tire. A nice cop came along and gave us a ride to a hotel in Champaign, Illinois. There isn’t much in Champaign. Except Chinese food. How do I know this? Well, everything closes on Christmas Eve. And Christmas. So we were stuck in Champaign eating at a Chinese Restaurant while watching a Law and Order SVU Marathon for two days.

My first thought this morning was, “Oh, it’s Christmas.” My second thought was, “We should go get some Chinese food today.” (We didn’t go get Chinese food–mostly because I think I can cook better than all the restaurants that we eat at. So every time we go, I end up saying, “Next time, I’ll just make this at home.”) The baby and I hung out while Victor went walking all over town. I even had him pick up the goods for stir-fry. Score! Better-than-Chinese-food soon coming to a plate near you!

Our biggest problem today came this evening when we tried to get a taxi. Turns out, all the taxi drivers want Christmas off–go figure! Then the evening culminated with me swearing I would walk home from church in the dark carrying my fat baby rather than pay 80 pesos for a 30 peso fare.

Bah-Humbug! Hope all you celebrators had a good one! Feliz Navidad!

How To Beat The Homesick Blues

“I’ll be home for Christmas…” has been running through my head on a repeat-cycle.  Of course, I won’t be “home” for Christmas.  Actually, to be honest, I don’t even really know where I consider home to be anymore.

  • Option One:  It could be my Tennessee house.  That’s where I go now when I get vacation time.  It’s the same home that I spent the majority of my childhood in–so it has good memories.  It’s where the family meets, where my things are stored, etc.
  • Option Two:  It could be Northern Virginia.  I was there for three years–the longest I’ve ever lived and worked in one place after graduation.  That’s where many of my friends are–as well as part of my family.  I equally feel the need to go there on vacation.
  • Option Three:  Or maybe it’s true that “home is where the heart is.”  If that’s the case, then Mexico is my home.  I miss it when I leave.  I can’t imagine living back in the States running the rat race.  I tell people that I must have a Mexican heart–because I sure do love the life and the people here.

In any case, today home is with my family.  I love my sweet family here–but between Skyping with my sisters and seeing pictures of my Mama with my nephews, I’ve come down with a bad case of the Homesick Blues.  The homesick blues are what happens when you start yearning for things that you can’t have.  I’m not one to stay blue too long, and between Ale and Victor that’s hard to do anyway.

This is today’s cure-all recipe for all that ails you (if what ails you is the Homesick Blues):

  • 1 pot of Chicken and Dumplings
  • 1 pitcher of Sweet Tea
  • something Chocolate

It works, I tell ya!

I remember watching Mamaw make Chicken and Dumplings.  She would use the whole chicken–complete with bones for better flavor.  Sometimes all the bones didn’t get removed, and that made eating a chore.  This is how I made Chicken and Dumplings today:

  1. Boil chicken in a big pot of water with a generous amount of ground pepper and a pinch of salt.
  2. After the chicken is cooked, pull it apart with a fork to shredded pieces.  Allow this to keep cooking in the water.
  3. While Chicken is boiling, make biscuits:  2 cups of flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/2 cup butter or shortening, 3/4 cup of buttermilk.  Mix dry ingredients.  Add butter and cut it with a fork until it is in pea-size pieces.  Add milk and mix–but not too much!  Turn out onto floured surface.  Pat down until your husband walks by and asks if you’re making pizza.
  4.  Give him a lesson on how to properly say dumplin’.  “Dump-lynn.  No, Dump… now lynn.”  Give up on that–but don’t give up on those biscuits!  (The secret is to not mess with them too much…)
  5. Slice the dumplings into strips and drop them into the boiling water.  They will sink–then start floating!
  6. Allow this to cook on medium heat until the dumplings are cooked.  You will end up with a nice gravy broth from the flour in the biscuits.
  7. Add mixed veggies like peas, carrots, corn, etc.  (Mamaw didn’t do this–but it makes me feel better about eating biscuit soup…)
  8. Feed your family hearty bowls of chicken and dumplings–but puree some until it looks disgusting for your baby.  (It just looks that way–it’s actually still delicious!)
  9. Serve with a tall glass of ice tea…sweet, of course!

That’s it!  That’s all you have to do to feel better–and less blue!  Well, it doesn’t cure it completely, but at least you won’t be hungry and blue!

Stay-cation

Last Christmas break we stayed put for two weeks. It was a little depressing… All the foreign hires had left for the States, and I was rather large with child. We also were having a lot of security problems, so Victor and I would lay in bed at night listening to gun fights. Occasionally the dynamite in the hills would go off–and he would let me know which was what.

This Christmas we are staying home again–but it isn’t with great dread like last year. We know a couple others who will also be in town, and we’ve been invited to Christmas dinner at a colleague’s house. We have few plans, and are enjoying our time together.

Actually, day number two started off swell! Ale has been sick for a couple days. This morning, we slept in, and woke up to a little girl who felt a lot better!

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It was a balmy 75 degrees outside, with promise of a hot day. We enjoyed breakfast chilaquiles at our favorite little restaurant, the. We walked down the road to take advantage of a two for one coupon at Buzz Cafe (a coffee shop). We sat in the corner talking about the ladies who were ignoring their children. We talked to the children and entertained each other. The baby crawled around for a while–then promptly, this happened:

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Ahhh, yes… This stay-cation is just what I my family needed.

An Ode To Moving On

Recently, it’s been brought to my attention that the principal of my old school resigned. I’ve read the new articles in The Washington Post, and I can’t help but feel pity for the lady. After all, I know how hard it is to move on…

I could rehash the horrible things that she did when I was there, but is there really a point now? I remember that saying about kicking a man when he is down–and that’s not where I want to find myself (Incidentally, that is what she did to me as I turned in my notice.)

When I left Fort Hunt, I also left the city I had learned to love, my friends, my family, my soon-to-be ex-boyfriend, my adopted family, and my naivety. While I mourned those things I felt I had lost, I also learned to love the things I gained.

This is what I have learned about moving on:
1). It helps you discover your worth.
2). It opens your eyes to things that should have been, but you chose to ignore.
3). You learn to accept what you may have never wished for.
4). The future can be better than what your wishes actually were.
5). It causes you to self-reflect.
6). Some things aren’t worth holding on to–but you don’t realize it until they are out of your grasp.
7). The things you think matter often become less important with time.
8). You learn to stand up for the things that actually do matter to you–forming your own “non-negotiables.”
9). You can’t walk forward while looking backward every step of the way, but…
10). When you get where you’re going–it’s good to look where you’ve been. Then pat yourself on the back for braving the waters.

The compassion that the community is currently crying for is rather curious in itself. That is what I notice the most. The same moms who were in uproar over the decisions made at the school for the last four years, are the people who are now standing eloquently beside the funeral procession taking Leibrandt’s tyranny away from those hallways. The readers commenting now are talking about how great she was–causing the negative teachers to quit while flushing the building with new life.

I find myself short on words to describe what I feel for this school. Despite my decision to leave, I learned a lot in my time there. I also loved the children who filled my tables and chairs. Change of leadership is hard–but oh-so-necessary. Yes, they will have to learn the new expectations of the next administrator. Yes, their children will feel the repercussions of a train without a conductor. But thankfully, the attention that has been given to this school, even in a negative manner, hasn’t been overlooked by the county. Here’s to hoping they will take extra care in finding a principal who can put the community back together again–a principal who can fill the halls with the wonders of education, the joys of learning, and the laughter of children.

A Elf Rant

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Can I just say that this whole Elf on the Shelf business is crazy? In case you’re living in a bubble, the latest craze is for parents to purchase these dolls that hang out and watch the house. They “manage Santa’s naughty and nice list.”

Of course these are magical dolls that fly to the North Pole every night. And upon returning they are found in a separate place (because when you are asleep they come to life…) My Facebook feed is overflowing with parents who make messes with chocolate, marshmallows, toys, etc. I don’t get it… If he is supposed to keep track of your behavior, why is he so bad?

Enough, people.

Santa pushes it, but at least his story has been around for a long time. This is clever marketing that now is extending to birthday elves too…

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But, hey! At least they included a book with this one! Here’s to sneaking a little literacy into Christmas “traditions.”