Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Ways to Look at a Day

There are days, and then there are crazy days, and this one certainly fit into the latter category. If one could epitomize reality, or life as I live it, this day would be the prime example.

I've been in hyper-awareness mode most of today for a rather large reason: It is the sixth anniversary of the death of our daughter Keren. Usually I hate January because most of the month is a time of dreaded anticipation. The Day is approaching and there is nothing I can do about it. In Michigan this is compounded with short, dark days and cold, cold weather, or worse, murky, cold-ish weather. 

This year I could see the date approaching on the calendar, but it always took me a little by surprise. I guess there are advantages to sunshine and short-sleeve weather. On top of that, Jon had a stomach bug and was out of school Monday and Tuesday, so my mind was preoccupied with him. And there have been more shifts this January in our already crazy shifting season of life. So, yeah, all that to say, I wasn't depressed about the imminence of January 28.

And today was not depressing. Insane, but not depressing. It was one of those days where half the time I was looking at God and saying, "So, can we just stop and go on to something else?" At the same time, because I was paying close attention to everything today I saw God there in the midst, working in amazing ways.

Here are some of the details:

Con: We got out the door late to drop Jon and Ev off at school. This is not unusual, but it was worse than the norm. Breakfast took longer than expected to make, etc., etc.... I was frazzled as a result, mostly because this was Wednesday and I go straight to Bible Study after drop-off, so there was even more pressure to get out the door in good time. 

And yet, even though we got to school late, we still managed to miss a tardy.

Con: Jon was in tears because he didn't want to go to school after two days off. Yesterday he had an awesome day because he was past the sick point, so of course the idea of school today was anathema. 

And yet, he had a good day and even ate extra at lunch.

Con: Traffic was extra-awful today, and on one of the roads I grated the car over a huge pothole I couldn't see due to the sun being directly in my eyes.

And yet, the car was fine, we got everywhere we needed to go, and one of the main roads that's been under construction is fixed now and actually had much less traffic than usual.

Con: I had to make a Costco run after Bible Study and when I went to check out I discovered I had left my membership card in my other purse.

And yet I was able to get a new card made at the store within fifteen minutes for no cost.

Con: When everything was rung up, my bank card wouldn't go through even though I knew we had more than enough money in the account and I just used it yesterday. Not only that, my credit card was also in my other purse, so I couldn't use that. The lady told me that I needed to call the bank and I could only stare at all the stuff I'd just bought, try to decipher her stream of Spanish, and look around helplessly wishing someone would materialize who could speak English.

And yet God took my panicked wishing as prayer and in my daze I turned to see one of my acquaintances from church saying hi to me. She saw the panic in my face and not only stepped in to speak Spanish but offered to use her card for the order so I didn't have to try to make phone calls right there. This was the huge neon-light point in the day where I suddenly saw that God was right in the midst of it with our family. This perspective changer helped immensely considering the day was only half over....

Con: Back home, when I lifted one of my bags off the counter the strap caught our butter crock and sent it with a smash to the floor.

And yet I just looked at it and laughed instead of blowing up because I couldn't help but see that the craziness, by this point, was inevitable. It was also fun to watch Clare pick up the broken pieces and spend time trying to fit the "puzzle" together. 

Con: I tried to call the bank to figure out what had happened with our card and couldn't get through on any of the numbers. Everything looked okay online, but I needed to make sure the card was okay, so I had to go over to the bank on campus to solve the issue.

And yet this meant some extra exercise, and it turned out that nothing was wrong with the card. I also now know the correct phone number to call and should be able to get a person who speaks English.

Con: I managed to send Evie into tears when I reprimanded her for doing part of Jon's homework (tracing patterns). According to her I yelled at her, and she had no idea that what she did was wrong. She thought they were just trading off with him.

And yet she forgave me and we were able to talk through strategies for how she an let me know I misunderstood something, rather than her running off in tears. We also had time to sit down together and read a book which she's been wanting for a few days now.

What else? Oh, the list goes on. Ev announced when I picked her up today that her class is having a party tomorrow and she needed to bring food to share. Thankfully I had a new bag of chips in the cupboard. Jon has to take lunch for his class and we almost didn't get the tote bag that the school provides, but thankfully we realized it before we left the school. I am writing this now at 10:30 because I spent the past couple hours putting the pieces together for the class lunch. And yet, I am sitting here with a working computer, with Kraig across the room busy on lesson prep, and three kids sound asleep. Tomorrow, as Anne Shirley would say, is a new day with no mistakes in it yet. I'm not so silly to assume there won't be mistakes, but I pray that I am wise enough to know that no matter what tomorrow brings, God is in it with me, and He's got it covered. 

Tomorrow is in His hands just as much as was that Wednesday six years ago.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Digesting Christmas

I thought of calling this post "Pondering Christmas" but that was slightly blasé, and this title, "Digesting Christmas," was stuck in my head. The literal feasts of Christmas are long-digested, and that's a good thing. I'm back to daily treks up and down the flights of stairs to our third floor apartment, and that is also a good thing. But I am still digesting our Christmas experience--treasuring the beauty and craziness of it even as I yawn and look for a bed or frown when a bit of emotional reflux hits. I am full, still very full.

We were able to experience a bit of a Guadalajaran Christmas for the first part of December (or even part of November if you count the fact that they were selling live Christmas trees in stores by mid-month). The kids spent a bit of almost every day in November and December practicing for a class dance, and all the classes put on a show on the final day of classes before Christmas. This shindig involved costumes, and I happily plunked down some cash when the class parent of both Ev and Jon's
classes announced they were getting a seamstress to make the "disfraces" (costumes) so all would be the same. The results were much better than anything I could have cobbled together. Clare's costume was adequate, and despite her voiced hatred of the song her class was performing, and her disgust in having to wear a tutu, she put it on with a will on performance day and almost enjoyed herself.

Obviously we had no snow, but the coto (gated community) beside us put up Christmas lights (which are still up--it makes me happy) and poinsettia blossoms adorned every bare inch of landscaping. We didn't get a tree, live or plastic, since we were headed to Michigan for Christmas, but Clare suggested we create a paper one. We did, and the results were terrific. We even strung lights on it as well as festooning lights on our quilt wall-hanging. It was amazing the difference that ambient light made in the apartment. Up till getting the twinkle lights all we've had are the fluorescent ceiling lights. Between the decorations, the school program, the songs at church and the excitement of going "home" for Christmas, we were pretty festive.

 We headed to Michigan on the 19th and were able to stay there through the 3rd of January. It's impossible to know what all to expect from a trip like this, particularly when it is one's family's first return trip. It was incredible and lovely, and so, so hard. At times it seemed like we had never left. But emotions ran wild and off the track like my dad's electric toy train when the kids turn the power knob too high. We saw so many friends and family and the two weeks overflowed with good conversations...and at the same time there were so many friends and family we couldn't or didn't see, and we were bereft with the loss.

Talk and fun with the Grands over Mexican Train.
My friends Laura and Jen tried to create a magazine-perfect pose
while we made cookies with our kids. This was as close as we got.
To tell the truth, Laura couldn't keep a straight face long enough
and my camera kept jiggling because I was laughing so hard.
Jon and Aunt Carrie relax after Christmas dinner.
Cousins!!! (At least some of them....)
One reason it was hard was because it was a homecoming, and yet Michigan is not our home right now. This was particularly tough for the kids. They can't see the big picture like Kraig and I can and they don't have a way to put our time in Michigan within a framework of a year or two or more. To them, Michigan is home and they asked frequently why we had to return to Guadalajara. Michigan is the place where grandparents are and good friends. For Clare this was most tough because she hasn't found good friends in Mexico and she has long-time ones in Michigan--friends who take her as she is and have fun with her rather than expecting her to meet some unspoken criteria. 

The future is as mysterious as unopened Christmas presents.
We spent the two weeks talking through the future and evaluating. Kraig and I have both felt that if he was offered a second year here in Guadalajara with the same package he should take it. We knew that the package could be offered for a second year. A second year here would help us get our feet under us and know what the best path is for our family after that. What we didn't expect was the proposal he was given just before we left by his department head and another department head he's worked under for the past semester. There has been a staff opening in the department and they wanted Kraig to take it. It would be a local hire position, though, which means a significant pay drop and some other big changes for our family. In all, it didn't seem like a great idea; we haven't been here long enough to really know which end is up for a long-term decision. But we were concerned about relationships with the staff at the university; would Kraig seem ungrateful and greedy if he took the one-year contract extension instead? Would the door to the position have closed if we came to the end of a second year and felt we would want to stay? We've had some clarification since we've returned, but during our time in the States it was a huge discussion point.

School for the kids has been a major factor, too, in our ambivalence about a future here. While we've been very happy with the care and diligence of the staff at the kids' school, the actual education provided hasn't fit how our family has experienced education up to this point. We're used to interactive classrooms and challenges for the kids, and so far that's not what we've experienced here. We decided after talking long and hard over the two weeks that we'd go ahead and pull Clare this semester and homeschool her--a huge change for us. We'll continue to evaluate Ev and Jon's classes this semester and make more decisions later.

On January 3rd we said goodbye to Michigan and flew back "home" to Guadalajara. Goodbye to one home, hello to another. We are a split family, not divided physically, but divided emotionally and culturally. Life is not as straightforward as it was before we moved to Mexico.

It is a truth that will take time to digest.