My Suegra


When I found out that my mother-in-law was coming to visit us, I was so excited! She’s never been this far from Chiapas, and I had given up hope of having her here.

I was excited, but then I got nervous. Not because of normal mother-in-law worries, but because life here is so different than what she’s used to. She wakes up in the morning and crawls out from under the mosquito net that has shredded her bed during the night. It isn’t actually a net, but something thicker–impermeable to good air flow.

To begin to cook breakfast and coffee, my suegra builds a small fire under her comal. A comal is a flat piece of metal that is commonly used to cook tortillas. She feeds the fire with wood, often adjusting where the heat is focused. Coffee (that she grew and ground) is stirred into a pot of water on the comal.

Then she begins the masa–at one time, my suegra would begin to soften dried corn with cal. I just found out yesterday that cal is lye. Yes, the same lye that makes soap… Now she doesn’t make her own masa, but instead buys in cheap from a lady who walks a round selling it. She deftly pats out the tortillas by hand, using a piece of plastic underneath as an aide to turn the tortilla while keeping it from sticking to other things.

If my mother-in-law wants eggs for breakfast, she needs to go find them–but often she keeps an eye out on where the chickens are laying around the yards. A handful of rice thrown on the ground is met by a chorus of pio pio, and the little pollitos scramble to eat before their brothers.

When breakfast is over, my suegra begins her daily chores. She washes one of her several dresses that she switches out throat the week. Other clothes are also washed by hand and hung up to dry. She sweeps–not just inside the concrete floor of the bedroom but the hard packed dirt that covers the area where she cooks and the common area where the family gathers in the yard. Until I visited Chiapas, I would have never guess that you would sweep a dirt floor.

If it happens to be a day when the water gets delivered, my suegra starts to clean out the concrete holding tank that keeps a week’s worth of water. She scrubs the tank to loosen any algae that has grown. As the water arrives, bleach is added as an extra protectant from whatever arrives with it. Victor says the water comes from the hills, and if it is the rainy season it is full of mud.

This water is used for washing dishes, bathing, and flushing the commode. While they have a toilet (sans seat), they don’t have running water–so she carries water from their water tank to the “bathroom.” It is also used for washing laundry, mopping, and brushing your teeth. When it is time to shower, a large five gallon bucket is filled with cold water, and a smaller scoop is used to dump the water on your body.

Luckily, it was evident that my worries were for nothing. The baby has quickly taken to her abuelita, and they are the best of friends. Abuelita does make her were her shoes all the time, as she worries the “cold” tile will make Ale sick. She cooks for Ale rice with veggies, tortillas, and beans–and changes her cloth diapers throughout the day.

She’s learned to operate the shower and the hot water. She carries her sweater to warm her up, because our swamp cooler makes her cold. And she keeps busy straightening up, watching Ale, and cooking.

The hardest thing for my suegra to see here was the money we spend when we eat out at a restaurant–something we do too often. Well, something we used to do too often… Now, who wants to eat out when you have a little chiapanecan cooking yummy salsas and fresh tortillas everyday?


A Letter to My Sunshine


You are my sunshine–my only sunshine.  You make me happy when skies are gray!  You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you.  Please don’t take my sunshine away…

Dear Sweet Little Girl,

I don’t think I will be able to find the words that describe just how special you are to me.  I remind you of what my mama told me: you will never know a mama’s love until you become one yourself.  Oh!  You fill up my heart until it is close to bursting!  I don’t see how I could ever love you more!

Everyday with you is special, but I find myself thinking of today.  Today is Mother’s Day in Mexico–and tomorrow is Mother’s Day in the United States.  Sometimes I can’t believe that I am YOUR mom.  You’ve set my world spinning, sweetheart, and I don’t think it will ever stop.  I couldn’t help but beam with pride when strangers greeted me today, “Felicidades, Mama!” they said.  I felt like they weren’t just wishing me well–but somehow each salutation was someone seeing you!

My little Ale-cat, your giggles and grins are so special to me!  Today as I changed your diaper you looked up at me knowingly.  Succumbing to your twinkling eyes, I tickled your tummy.  Your shrieks of laughter were music to my ears!  Again and again I let my fingers dance across your tummy as you wiggled away.  With an expression of pure glee, you snuck back over to crawl into my lap.  I melt all over again…

Your grandmama said that she loved the days when we were hanging onto her skirt-tails as she maneuvered around us in the kitchen.  I don’t remember those days, but I am building memories of you, sweet pea!  I spotted you again today as you snuck your milk into your favorite cabinet.  Then tonight, you came toddling in with leftover sauce in each hand to store away!  What am I going to do with you?!  I’ll have to remember to check that cabinet now.  I have my own personal chipmunk with an easy-to-reach stash of bottles and snacks!

I think you said agua today–and banana!  I can’t believe how you’re growing up, my love!  Even the sounds that aren’t words sound just like us.  I feel like we will soon be able to tell your English and Spanish apart based on the pitch in which you talk!  With that ever-present twinkle you wave, “Die, die!”  (bye-bye)  Boldly you move around the room talking to yourself counting, “uh, duh, uh, duh” (uno, dos, uno, dos) the way Daddy did as he taught you to walk.  I hear you singing while you’re playing or bathing, and no camera would ever do you justice!  I hope you always keep that song in your heart, little girl.

I know that someday, you’ll be sad and brokenhearted.  The bottom will drop out of your world just like it did mine.  I hope you will come let me kiss you and nurse your hurt away. Mamas have a way, you know, of brushing you off and putting you back on your feet.  I hope you’ll have a faith so strong that you’ll let God blow you where he wants.  Until then, God will keep you under his wing.  Until then, you don’t have to cry for my love.  Until then, you don’t have to fall to get my attention.  Until then, let’s keep that smile on your face, that twinkle in your eyes, and that sweet laughter ringing loud and clear.

With a love so grand it hurts,

Your mama

Home Is Where God Puts Us


I’ve been thinking about coming home. Or more specifically returning to the United States. Maybe it is just because it has been almost a year since our last visit. Maybe it’s because I miss my family. Quien sabes?

With this thought comes me entertaining the idea of beginning the lawyer talk. The immigration talk. I’ve had friends and family offer contact information for immigration lawyers, but much like Algebra at age 14, I wasn’t ready for it. Now it’s on my list of things to do this summer–sandwiched in between buying new underware and eating Vietnamese Pho. Hey! A girl has priorities!

This is scary for a couple of reasons:
1) I don’t know if I actually want to live in the U.S.
2) It is a pretty lengthy/ expensive process.
3) I don’t know that I should make that move it God wants us here.

In reference to number three, I remember life one year prior to my Mexico move. All I wanted was to be in my “place.” To be used by God. To have a family that loves him. And some pretty rotten things had to happen to get me to the point of surrender for his work in my life.

Last week at church, one of the ladies spoke along this line–about a time when she was thinking of leaving Torreón. Ultimately, she decided to stay because she felt like it was her will verses God’s will for her life. It couldn’t have come at a better time.

But still, I will begin talking to a lawyer. Because even if we decide to stay in Mexico–or head somewhere else for an international position, it would be nice if my whole family could come home together.