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 Plea for Your Vote

Did you see the first lady’s speech?  If not, you may want to watch it on YouTube…if you are of voting age, and you are registered you SHOULD watch it.

I did.  Laying in bed between my two perfect little girls, I watched the First Lady speak about the upcoming election and all that is at stake.  She didn’t have to utter the name of Hillary Clinton’s opposition for us to know who she was talking about. He-who-should-not-be-named lit up the press again with his lewdness.

There’s something about watching an election as an expat that allows for a certain level of clarity.  My election conversations are not with my friends I’ve grown up with, my family, or my countrymen (in many cases).  And so, I get to see what they see: humor that turned to disbelief that turned to disgust.

I get it.  

Because I am disgusted that there are people (potentially reading this now) who would consider voting for a present day Voldemort.

I am an educator–so Day of the Girl meant something to me too.  All over the world girls have to fight for their right to education, freedom to choose their future career or husband, and/or survival.  Here in Mexico there are areas that JUST registered the female native population.  In the United States women who work just as hard as men (or arguably harder) are in many cases still paid less.

And yet, here we are.

Did you know that when women received the right to vote that the final voice chiming in for ratification was a young man from Tennessee?  His mama had sent him a note imploring him to wisely stand up for what was right, and he did (much to the dismay of his constituents).

I beg of you, vote wisely.

This is not something that we can ignore. It’s not something we can just sweep under the rug as just another disturbing footnote in a sad election season. Because this was not just a “lewd conversation”. This wasn’t just locker-room banter. This was a powerful individual speaking freely and openly about sexually predatory behaviour…

The First Lady says the men in her life don’t talk like that, and I feel the same.  I’ve NEVER heard my father, uncles, brothers, or husband talk like that.  Of course, they never made fun of immigrants, people with special needs, or plus size women either.  They were raised to respect others, not lie, cheat, and abuse them.

And I know it’s a campaign, but this isn’t about politics. It’s about basic human decency. It’s about right and wrong. And we simply cannot endure this, or expose our children to this any longer – not for another minute, and let alone for four years. Now is the time for all of us to stand up and say enough is enough. This has got to stop right now.

You know, I’ve had people in my own family say they just wouldn’t be voting this election.  The options are not options they are happy with, so they just will leave this one up to God.

In her speech, Mrs. Obama says something I want to share: One of these two people WILL be voted on next term as president of our country.  Don’t sit this out.  Don’t vote for someone who hasn’t got a chance of winning to prove a point.  Think of all that is at stake if we elect a national disaster (and embarrassment) as our leader.

And finally, think of my family.  Sometime in the next four years we will probably try to move home.  If you elect someone into office who makes ignorant, hateful statements about immigrants, what does that do for my family?  

Be responsible.  Vote responsibly.  And think of us when you bubble in, punch, or press your option for the next president of The United States of America.

Wow… Happy Birthday to Me!

I’m a little embarrassed. 

I am a little embarrassed, as it has been nearly ONE month since I last posted.  I feel like this is the difference between being a student and a teacher.  I am always there to remind my students to write every day.  Who’s been around to remind me?

It is, however, a rather important day.  I turn 30 today!  It’s even nationally recognized, and we don’t have school today.  Just kidding.  It’s a Mexican holiday–but not one of the really important holidays (so we’re agreeing to pretend that we have no school due to the nation-wide recognition of my birth.

I can’t believe I am thirty.

I am really going to milk this one for all it’s worth:

1)  I started the day with a chocolate doughnut, chocolate milk, and then a Chocolate Covered Cherry Green Smoothie.  (The last item is actually pretty healthy–but all the health benefits were cancelled out today by the previous two items…)

2)  I woke up at my regular 4:30 to have my “Me Time.” “Me time” is usually spent working, but this morning I’ve used it wisely watching Harry Potter.

3)  I washed the dishes this morning because we got back too late last night (so they were actually yesterday’s dishes), but I won’ be washing any more today.  That means that I will probably have to wash them tomorrow, in case you were wondering…

4)  I will be eating at a restaurant today.  I will also be drinking coffee in leisure with my family.  (Can I just say something about family time?  Everyone always talks about taking dates without their kids.  Maybe it hasn’t been long enough, but we don’t really see the point.  I mean, I waited 30 years to become a mom.  Why would I let someone else watch her so that we can do something without her?)

5)  I will spend an itty-bitty teensy-weensy amount of time working.  This is actually pleasurable, as it is in preparation for my soon-to-be job as literacy coach.  My mentor and vice-principal and I will be conducting a training this Friday on Early Childhood language development.  

6)  I will look for an excuse to have people sing Las Mañanitas to me–and I won’t even feel bad about it.  I’ve waited a long time to have someone sing that to me.  I will be hoping for a mariachi for future birthdays.  

7)  I will celebrate what God has given and I am oh-so-grateful for:  life, love, and family.

Thirty will be great–I just know it!  I don’t feel the least bit sad to leave my twenties behind.  Here’s a little recap though, just for old-time’s sake:  

When I was 20 I moved to Minnesota.  When I was 21 I started college.  When I was 22 I made it a point to watch as many mid-day movies as possible. When I was 23 I graduated and moved to Florida.  When I was 24 I moved to Virginia.  When I was 25 I learned to accept myself.  When I was 26 I lived by myself for the first time.  When I was 27 I quit my job and moved to Mexico.  When I was 28 I met my husband.  When I was 29 I had my precious pichita (“baby” in Chiapas).  

Whew!

I can’t wait to see what the thirties have in store!

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!

alexandria

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.

Customer Service: It’s Important, People

I could have been convinced by United’s introductory video that customer service is important them. I could have been convinced, but then the stewardess on my first flight yelled at an elderly Spanish speaking woman to sit down and wait to board the plane. Of course she didn’t understand, but with childlike puzzlement, she knew that she had done something wrong. She glanced around helplessly, so the stewardess repeated herself…louder. Because, after all, it must be that she didn’t hear–despite the fact that the flight departed from Torreon, Coahuila MEXICO…

I could have been convinced that United cared about their customers, but upon arriving late into Houston on my return flight, I was greeted with, “EVERYONE missed their flight, you should travel with enough money to pay for a hotel in case you have weather problems.” No “I am sorry that you’re stuck in the Houston airport at night with your infant–let me help you find a hotel.” When I asked about other ways to get to Torreon, my “customer service” representative told me that she didn’t have time to wait on the phone to ask about flights. She couldn’t “hold the line” for that. See, doing things like helping seems to be beyond United Customer Service employees. That must be why a twelve year old child was crying while trying to find a hotel for her family. She was the only one who spoke a bit of English, but did the ONE Spanish speaker (the same agent who “helped” me) offer to help? Obviously in distress, other passengers offered food, water, and money to the woman and her two children.

I could have been convinced by the lady who did finally help me get a hotel. It was then apparent at nearly 10:30 that evening that my flight had only been delayed. But due to the misinformation I was given, my baby and I went on a wild goose chase to track down new flights and luggage. She could have convinced me if she didn’t keep looking at the clock while telling me she needed to go home…

I could have been convinced the next day at the Houston airport that employees received training on how to talk to customers. However, the “gentlemen” sitting next to me talking about “having sexual relations” (it wasn’t worded like that) with a girl who “wanted it,” made me think otherwise. When I asked them to save their conversation for their break room, I was questioned, “We’re we talking to you?” Ummm…no, sir, you were apparently not raised to bite your tongue around ladies and children… Actually, the fact that you keep staring at the children you are supposed to be caring for while they wait for their grandfather, intermittently saying, “Sit down!” explains a lot too. Forget the fact that a eight year old and her six year old sister are nervous and excited to be so far from home alone. Forget the fact that their parents paid a lot of money for United to “escort” them to their destination.

While waiting to get on the plane, I thought perhaps I would be able to ask the lady helping board the plane about my seat. After all, breastfeeding on a plane is difficult enough–proper seating with space if allowed makes it much easier to travel with a four month old baby. I could have been convinced that passengers could go to her for questions regarding flights, but after being turned away once because she was busy, waiting until it was time to load, hearing her help another young parent, instead she says to me, “They”ll probably have to move your seat anyway because you have a baby.” Appalled not by her words, but more by the way she said them with heavy agitation dripping in her voice, I asked her name. “Maria ____,” I said, reading her badge. “Really!?” she said loudly and indignantly, “Really? Because there aren’t any window seats?” I was shocked a bit beyond words at the tone of her voice and the challenge I heard there.

Despite the fact that priority seating is not given to parents with small children, another young mother asked, “Why?” politely. “United has their reasons,” she was told. “We give priority to our premium customers.” Perhaps United doesn’t want parents with children to fly with them?

I didn’t have any guitars for United to break. I am not musically inclined enough to write a YouTube hit. But I am equally distressed by United’s customer service. It’s apparent to me that no, customer service isn’t important to United. For every helpful employee there are three more equally hateful. The propaganda video that I watched three times wasn’t enough to convince me. After all, actions speak louder than words, people…

A Longfellow Moment

Ahh! How good it feels!  The hand of an old friend!

You know, the best friends on earth are the friends that you can see–and things just click back into place.  CLICK!

I feel so blessed to have you in my life, sweet friends.  You have been so patient–I know it isn’t easy to have a friend whose head is in the clouds.  Whose dreams of traveling have kept her away from home for so long.  Whose current lifestyle only allows for little snatches of time here and there.

And yet, no matter how long we go without phone calls, letters, or visits it seems like yesterday…

It seems like yesterday that we sang every Harry Chapin song we could remember.

It seems like yesterday that we pretended Mama was an evil old stepmother who only gave us saltines and water to eat.

It seems like yesterday that we tried to steal cookies from the dining shed find a cup to get some water in the middle of the night.

It seems like yesterday that we made fun of Mr. Sage for everything under the sun.

It seems like yesterday that Mama read us How to Eat Fried Worms while we laid on the floor.

It seems like yesterday that we made it to almost every Friday Night Midnight Movie.

It seems like yesterday that we stayed up until the wee hours of the morning talking.

It seems like yesterday that we followed our sisters around.

It seems like yesterday that we played ball, ran to the concession stand, and ordered suicides (ick).

It seems like yesterday when boy problems were our actual biggest problems that we delt with.

It seems like yesterday that we swam in the lake–letting the fish nibble at our fingers and toes.

It seems like yesterday that we went to Friday Night Football Games together singing “Oh, McGee, you’re so fine...”

It seems like yesterday…

Where did the time go, old friend?  And why haven’t we taken more time to write, call, and visit?  Has living in a Facebook world made us closer or are we more displaced?  Because like always, we part promising to get together, write, and Skype more.

Will I be writing a blog in ten years talking about the good memories of today?  I hope so–but let’s make a point to make some good memories, eh?   Because before we know it, we’ll be watching grandchildren play while we reminisce about the good times we had.

Ah! How wrinkly it feels! The hand of an old friend!

Home Visit

Maci and Ale

I watched my baby last night–she was laying on a blanket in the floor, and Mama was “gettin’ her.”  In the South, that means that she was tickling her tummy all the while saying, “I’m gonna getcha, getcha, getcha!”  Alexandria laughed and laughed.  The sound makes my heart so happy.

During the night, she snuggles up to me like never before.  I can’t decide if this is because she’s extra snuggly (being away from her daddy and home), or if it has something to do with the pillow-top mattress we sleep on.  Hard Mexican beds don’t allow for a lot of movement during the night.  She cuddles up beside me, and I look down to see her cubby little arms tucked between us.  This morning Mama took her and played with her–letting me get a few extra winks.

At gospel meeting yesterday, she sat up on my lap.  It makes me sad that her papi couldn’t see her.  She was (is) so big!  Her cousins (from the youngest to the oldest) wanted to play with her during meeting.  I remember that, you know.  I loved sitting with my nephews in Omaha.  It gave me something to do other than listen…  Hence the reason why I said, “No” when my very capable niece wanted to hold Ale.

Oh, sweet Ale!  She is so loved!  My suegra (mother-in-law) loves it when her son tells her everyone loves our baby.  It makes me so content and proud to see everyone loving on my baby.  She’s got an important role, I just know it.  There’s a place that she’ll fill someday–maybe just giving unconditional love to God’s children!  Only he knows, but I hope he empowers me us to raise a beautiful, strong, kind, and helpful young woman.

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Summer Jet Plans

Victor just left.  It’s 1:15 a.m., and this is the first time I have been without my husband since November.  I guess what makes this a bittersweet situation is the circumstances.

The baby and I are heading north for vacation on Thursday.  My husband is heading south tomorrow (this) morning.  His flight is leaving from Monterrey, and first he has to take a bus.   We won’t see each other for one month.

Have I mentioned how frustrated he gets rushing?  It’s funny, lately he’s been saying, “That makes me stressing!”  I kind of correct him, knowing that he has learned another new English phrase thanks to my overuse of the word stress.  So, because rushing makes him “stressing,” he is leaving on the 1:30 a.m. bus to Monterrey.  Poor guy.  He’s got to be tired.

I can’t believe the bebita will be without her daddy.  I am really hoping that tomorrow goes well for her–hopefully so, because it’s her first day of school tomorrow.   ha!  I have a feeling that her daddy is really going to be missing her too.  Sometimes, when we go to bed at night, he will look at her and say, “We have such a great daughter.”

She is so wonderful.  I am so excited for her to get to meet her aunts and uncles… all 12 of them.  Not to mention that in a period of one month, she will have met 25 of her 26 cousins.  Gasp!  We have big families!  How blessed we are!

Well, I suppose I should check to make sure that Husband-o-Mine made it safely to the bus station.  You know Torreon…it’s a war zone out there.  (Joking, Mama, just joking…)

 

Making Mistakes–Part of Learning the Language

I did it again.  Only now, I’ve learned to laugh at myself.  Which is good–considering everyone else was laughing too!

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Rosario and Antonio in Santiago

When we went to Monterrey, we stayed with a family there.  While the father and a son lived a little over a year in Texas–their English is developing.  So the majority of the time (99.9%) we spoke Spanish.  Or rather they spoke Spanish, and I tried…  Actually, upon leaving I felt like I had learned so much!  It’s amazing what five days with just a little English will do for you.

I have a friend from Monterrey who I contacted prior to visiting.  Her parents live there, and I thought that if we had time we could see them.  Fortunately, their photography shop was just a short distance from the family we stayed with.  We stopped by one afternoon, as they were leaving the next day for a trip.  Victor and I sat and chatted with the older gentleman–as he speaks English.  But we went back and forth with a bit of Spanish too.

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REALLY old church in Santiago, Nuevo Leon

Eager to show my skills when we were leaving, I gave a parting goodbye.  Here in Mexico, they often will say, “Que tenga un buen dia.”  Which means, “Have a good day.”  Or in the south they more often will say, “Que la vaya bien.”  Which is something close to,”Have a good one.”  I wanted to say, “Have a good trip.”  And I really thought I knew what I was saying.  So confidently, I said, “Que tenga un buen viaja.”  Which my husband told me later was like saying, “Have a good old woman (or can also be used as a term of enderment like ‘honey’.)”  older woman=vieja, trip= viaje

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAVictor at Cascada Cola de Caballo 

Later that weekend, we were looking at photos of the family on the computer.  Both parents have large families, and it was a lot of fun to find out who’s who.  Rosario has three brothers–and she is the only daughter.  Upon looking at her family, I ask, “Quien es mejor?”  She looked at me strangely, and said, “Well, they’re all good–but I guess him,” pointing at the man standing next to her in the photograph.  Victor knew what I was really asking, and let her know I wasn’t wondering about the best brother–just the oldest…  mejor=best, mayor=oldest

I may make a lot of mistakes, but I sure do it with gusto!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFamily picture at the overlook in Santiago

The Weekend Ahead

Our bags are packed. We’ve got everything except a tie. Turns out the men don’t wear those to convention here in Mexico.

I. Can’t. Wait.

The convention in Torreon was really more like a special meeting–only the size of a union meeting. This convention near Monterrey is rumored to be pretty big (about three hundred people).

I am mostly excited because this will be Victor’s first real experience with convention. I am pretty quiet about it–I don’t want to paint a picture for him. I want him to love it like me, but because HE wants to. So, I answer questions as they come, and explain what an amazing weekend it is in the States. I listen as he tells me the things he learns (he understands what’s going on much more than I do…). Seeing the life and wonder makes my heart happy.

It’s great spending time with my husband. Last night I realized we’ve only KNOWN each other just over six months. Wow. No wonder my friends freaked out a little.

Sigh. Whatta life! A year of change can do wonders for a body!! One year ago I was happily basking in my freedom! And now? I am slowly becoming Mexican from the inside out…