What I’m Into: December 2013

Ah December.  After spending the first week of the month in Mexico, my sister and I returned home to family, friends, food, pop culture, and more. Being home has been lovely, but it’s time to go back to my other home!  But before I can go back to my Mexican home, it’s time for December’s edition oWhat I’m Into inspired by Leigh Kramer

Books

In the beginning of December, I didn’t finish many books. My typical reading time was taken up by finishing up Spanish school and returning home, among other distractions. I made up for this lack of reading, though, at the end of December while on vacation in Florida. Here are my December favorites:

The important thing is that I accomplished my goal of reading 50 books in 2013 by reading 53!  If you’re interested, I created a shelf on Goodreads of my favorite books read in 2013. I’ve set a ridiculous goal of reading 100 books in 2014. I read so many great books in 2013 and I can’t wait to read more in 2014, whether I hit that goal of 100 or not.

Catching Fire

One of the main goals on my “In America To-Do List” was to watch Catching Fire.  The first week back, my sister Emily and I went to see Catching Fire in the iMax. Let’s just say, going to the iMax as one of the first pop culture experiences after being in Mexico for three months was a little overwhelming.  After I got over the initial shock of loud noise as the movie started, it was a great experience! I read Catching Fire in 2009, so I had forgotten most of the finer points. I loved this movie, and I can’t wait to see what they’ll do for Mockingjay (even if they are dividing the last book into two movies).

TV

Another In America goal was to catch up on some of my favorite TV shows. Thanks to the wonders of resubscribing to Netflix and a free trial of Hulu Plus, I was able to enjoy some episodes of favorite shows. I saw season 8 of How I Met Your Mother and mostly hated it.  I caught up with both Parks & Recreation and Bones and really enjoyed both shows.   I had other shows on my list, but seeing friends and family were higher on the priority list.

Disney World

My grandparents have become the kind of people who winter in Florida, so this year for Christmas my family went to visit them in Florida for Christmas.  My sister and I had never been to Disney World, so our family went for a day. And, as expected, it was Magical.

Alice in Wonderland

Castle by Day

Florida

After Disney World, my family and I went to the gulf coast where my grandparents stay.  It was beautiful and so nice to be away from the cold temperatures in mostly sunny Florida.

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El Fin

This December was full: tests, travel, family, friends, and more. As I finish up this post, I am preparing to leave tomorrow (Tuesday) to return to Mexico, a day later than planned thanks to bad weather leading to a cancelled flight.  We won’t even talk about the incompetence of United’s phone, website, and app, but once I went to the airport and talked to an actual person, I was able to get my flights fixed. I can’t wait to get back to Mexico!

When the Crows and the Locusts Came

I woke up this morning, this last day of 2013 with a cold or allergies, a scratchy throat and achy ears.  It’s a fitting end to this year that started with my laptop crashing and taking with it 2 years of my life (including all the pictures of my students from my two years of teaching) and middled with me leaving the ministry I’d planned to work at for the rest of my life.  The musician Brooke Fraser has a song called Crows + Locusts, with a chorus that partially reads:

It was the year
The crows and the locusts came
The fields drained dry the rain
The fields are bleeding

It was the age, the foxes came for the fields
We were bleeding as we bowed to kneel
And prayed for mercy, prayed for mercy

For me, 2013 was the year the crows and the locusts came. Nearly everything I had ever planned or hoped or wanted for my future is no longer. In the place of those lost plans, though, other dreams grow instead.  I spent September through November of 2013, running around southern Mexico, learning Spanish, making new friends, loving my new Mexican family, finding a metaphorical second home, reviving my broken spirit, and discovering new ways to live my life.  Everything isn’t magically perfect, but life is better.

This year has been heart-wrenching, soul-wearying, and life-changing.  In less than  a week, I go back to Mexico for three more months of Spanish school and practice and other new opportunities.  2014 has to be better.

Brooke Fraser’s Crows + Locusts ends with the following lines, lines that describe how I want to approach this new year.

She limps on up to the top of a mount
Looks at the faltered harvest
Feels her sweat in the ground
And the burn in her nose

And the knowing in her guts
Something’s still gonna grow
She ain’t leaving ’til it does

What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood

What I’m Into: November 2013

November has been a quiet month. Being the only student in class has been great for my Spanish learning! As I write this, though, it’s December and I’m going home tomorrow so it’s a little difficult to concentrate on Spanish learning right now. Also I’m taking 6 tests today so I can finish Level 3 early (when Emily and I bought tickets, staying an extra week cost $300 more per ticket, so we chose to save $600).   It’s been a quiet month, but a great month!  Like last month, I can’t believe it’s already time to review another month of What I’m Into (inspired by Leigh Kramer). 

Carnival

The little town I live in has a festival every year in the first week of November. There were many events, including free barbacoa (meat) night, licuado (smoothie) stands everywhere, terrifying carnival rides, a rodeo, and more. Many events, like the rodeo, were expensive so I did not take part. However, buying cheap chocolate milk drinks and going to free barbacoa night were definitely highlights of early November.

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Carnival

Books

I read a lot in the beginning of November and finished quite a few books. But by the end of November, I got distracted by Mexico and friends so my reading time diminished. Maybe over my Christmas break I’ll write some reviews of the books I’ve written? But maybe not, I have a lot of pop culture to consume in a month. I only have 4 books left to read to reach my goal of 50! It’s definitely within reach.

Some highlights from November include:

Columbine by Dave Cullen (one of the best nonfiction books I have ever read)

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

Salt, Sugar, Fat by Michael Moss

What’s Left of Me by Kat Zhang (I started this in September, but trailed off: the first half is better than the end. I’ll see how the sequels are when they’re published)

Banished: Surviving My Years in the Westboro Baptist Church by Lauren Drain

Cocinando Buen Pollo

In early November, my Mexican host mom told me she wanted to learn how to cook American dishes. so I started this month by making my other mom’s recipe, Good Chicken. But, since we cooked in Spanish of course, we called it Buen Pollo. Essentially, Buen Pollo is chicken cooked in a pan with chicken broth, thyme, bayleaf, and tons of garlic, then served over rice. It is delicious and tastes like America. It was a great dish to make with my Mexican mom, because it is similar in style to Mexican dishes but with American sabores (flavors). We had so much fun cooking together and it was great practice for my Spanish.

Buen Pollo

Skyline Night

One of my favorite foods in the world is Skyline/Cincinnati Chili. Other people would eat a bag of chocolate or a whole pizza: I would eat an entire pot of Skyline Chili. You can make Skyline Chili on your own with a packet of Cincinnati Chili seasoning (purchased at Kroger in Dayton), ground beef, tomato paste, and water. And of course spaghetti, onions, and cheese. So after an adventure at Super Che, Emily and I bought the necessary ingredients and made Skyline for our friends Dave and Laura. They had never enjoyed this delicious dish before we introduced them—and now they have been converted to Skyline! Nothing tastes like eating Skyline in the restaurant on the way to Lakeside, but it was amazing to eat a taste of home and vacation here in Mexico.

Skyline

Tiny Death Star

Have you heard of Tiny Death Star? It’s just like Tiny Tower, except STAR WARS. If you didn’t know, I love Star Wars (thought not as much as my sister does). So of course I downloaded this awesome game. If you have an iPhone or a PC, you need to download it. It’s fun and addicting and it makes your phone make R2-D2 noises.

Thanksgiving in Mexico

What do you do with nearly 50 Americans (and 5 Canadians) in Mexico who want to celebrate Thanksgiving? You plan a large fiesta, of course! My sister was the main planner for this event—it takes a lot of planning to make sure there’s enough delicious Thanksgiving food for that many people! We had a delicious meal together, complete with three turkeys (including a smoked turkey—I never want to eat not-smoked turkey ever again), mashed potatoes, rolls, vegetables, and more. My contribution was stuffing, which I made with my Mexican mom. It was so good—it smelled and tasted like America. After dinner, we had a small variety show that was hilarious and included impressions of all the Spanish School teachers. Then, to cap the evening, we watched Elf projected on a sheet on the side of a house. Nothing says the start of the Christmas season like this festive movie!

I had grand plans for live-facebooking this festive day, but the internet service here conspired against me. The day before Thanksgiving, the internet went through some reconfigurations, and we in the Spanish School didn’t get internet back until Thanksgiving evening. While my live-facebooking plans were dashed, Emily and I were able to talk to our parents on Thanksgiving night.

It was a little strange to eat turkey and stuffing underneath palm trees, but it was also awesome.

Thanksgiving

The Rock

The mission base where I live is called Roca Blanca, which simply means White Rock. There is an actual Roca Blanca/White Rock just off the coast in the PACIFIC OCEAN. Some Spanish School friends love to scuba dive and got a group together to go in boats to the rock. I went with friends who weren’t planning to scuba dive (I prefer to breathe air above the ocean, thank you) and we climbed all the way to the top of the rock. I also had the opportunity to snorkle—it was amazing to see so many fish! By the end of our little trip, I was a little tired of the sun and the ocean, but I was so glad I had the opportunity to go.

Mexican Wedding

I went to a Mexican Wedding! A woman who had worked at the base for many years got married on the last day of November, and everyone in the world was invited! In true Mexican style, the wedding was scheduled to begin at 4, but the service didn’t begin until nearly 6. I actually didn’t sit in the audience, because I and a handful of other Spanish students were roped into helping serve food at the wedding. Now, when I was told I would help serve, I thought food would be served buffet style. Nope, I was a waiter. Who can only sort of speak the same language as the guests. But, I was waiter-ing with an American Spanish School student and a Mexican Bible school student, and all I really needed to know how to say was, “¿Necesita más tortillas?” (Do you [formal] need more tortillas?) or “¿Quiere más agua? (Do you [formal] want more water?). I don’t know if I made for a great Mexican wedding waiter, but it’s the thought that counts, right?

Mexican Wedding

El Fin

If you had told me in January (or February, March, or April) that I would spend my November, my Thanksgiving (or really, any time at all) in Mexico, I wouldn’t have believed it. These last three months, September, October, and November have changed my life in so many good ways. In such a short time, I’ve gained a new language, new family, new friends. I have a ways to go in becoming fluent in Spanish, but at the end of November, I finally feel like it’s possible and that I will eventually actually be able to speak and understand. Now, I am going to finish taking the million tests I need to take to finish Level 3 before I skip out on the last week of school to go home.

Sunset at a Mexican Wedding

New Year

My senior year of college, I found a list of questions for end of year/beginning of year contemplation. This list includes questions like, What would you like to be different about your life in a year? What would you like to have accomplished in that time? Where would you like to travel? What purchases would you like to make? What do you want to stop doing? What are your favorite things?

In lieu of resolutions, I answer these questions as a way of plotting major goals and plans for the year. I like being able to see what I hoped for and if I accomplished it. I underestimate my past self sometimes–for some dreams and goals, I don’t always remember how long I really wanted it.

It’s easy for me to remember, though, some of the things that don’t happen. How long I’ve waited on plans that never seem to come around the way I want.  Some of the things I hope to be different seem to never change. I’ve had the same hope on my list every year since December 2009/January 2010, and it still isn’t real. It may not seem that long, but it feels like an eternity, because my life has changed so much since then and because it’s a wish held longer than that. It’s a stupid wish, because I can’t control it and I hate things I can’t control. But I refuse to take it off, because I’m not ready to believe it will never happen.

Not everything is bleak, of course. When I answered my questions last year, I focused on researching and creating a new position for myself at the Little Light House. At the time, I was really just being ridiculous. I wanted to create a job were I could improve the LLH’s social media presence, launch a LLH blog, and other internetly things. But it was a long-term dream. I had quiet hopes that it might happen in 2012, but I thought any possibility of a job would be 8 hours on a Friday, and probably 2-3 years before being in charge of social media, etc, would be a full-time job. Yet God worked a lot of pieces together to make a full-time happen THIS YEAR for me and for the LLH. I had forgotten that I had dreamed about the possibility of a new position a year ago, making me thankful to my past self for answering those questions. While there are still dreams that feel like they’re just getting buried deeper and deeper, this dream fulfilled is a promise that not all lofty dreams are buried forever.

Last year I wrote to myself:

“I would like to remember that my life changes so much in one year, even when it feels like nothing has changed.” High-five past self. You were right.  May my life look different again this time in 2013.

Alive!

I’ve made it! November is barely an hour away from completion. I attempted this month to post every day. When overcome by disease and then holiday, I failed. But, failure is a part of life that we must all accept. I still wrote more than I would have if I hadn’t tried.

Fear of failure is an insidious thing, which is why I try desperately to avoid that fear. So many people are held captive by “but what if I can’t?” that they don’t see what they might accomplish if they try. I used to be that way. I have my quirks still, but I am no longer paralyzed by fear of failure. It’s life. Just try to set yourself up for success and accept that there will be bumps.  Some of those bumps may feel like Everest, but hey, isn’t Everest supposed to be thrilling?

The show How I Met Your Mother is now on Netflix. I’ve always wanted to watch it, but I haven’t had access until now. It is hilarious and it is probably what will help get me through December. That and the DVD’s of Chuck I now own. Thanks Amazon Black Friday.

November, you were weird. Weird, emotional, stomach bug-inducing, and more. December, please to be more healthy for me.

uncertainty

I’ve had the year 2010 in the back of my mind for years. I’ve known since elementary school that I would be graduating from college in 2010.

I graduated seven months ago and now 2010 is nearly over. It’s time for 2011.

I don’t know what to do with 2011. Life has been planned only up until this point.  I don’t know what to do next or when things will happen.  This is not bad.  It’s actually fabulous, it’s just taking some getting used to.

In January of 2010, I wrote a list of things I wanted to have accomplished over the next year, prompted by questions I found on Boundless Line. Not quite resolutions, but really some thoughts and dreams and ideas for this last crazy year.

The first question was “What would you like to see different about your life one year from now?” My first item on the list? Not even anywhere near accomplished. However, it was “I would like to have gone on a date” so that’s not exactly something I can take care of on my own. I was much more successful with my other plans, such as “I would like to have a steady job, preferably at LLH” and “I would like to be saving money.” Hurrah for an amazing job that pays!

As to what I wanted to have accomplished by now? Playing ultimate well was one of my goals. I don’t know if I play it well, but I’m infinitely better than I was last January. I play a sport now. I have frisbees. It’s weird and awesome. I can’t even begin to describe how my decision to play Ultimate changed my life. I’m healthier, more athletic, less fearful, more confident, and more. The Lord did those things. It’s kind of amazing. Also, I’m pretty sure that all that happened with me and Ultimate and other choices I made in 2010 have given me the confidence to quit grad school and change directions a bit. I’m seriously considering getting an MBA or MNFP [master’s in not-for-profit management], something I wouldn’t have dreamed of a year or two ago. Honestly, probably because a year or two ago I didn’t think I could do that. Accounting? Math? Administrating a non-profit? Those are potentially terrifying prospects. Well, they used to be terrifying.  I’m not afraid.

“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” [2 Timothy 1:7]

I, of course, had other goals and dreams for the year, but this isn’t the space for them. Some were accomplished. Others are dreams still left unfulfilled.  As I look back on what I wrote about every month, I know the year has been good. There’s always another year for dreams to come to fruition.  To be made beautiful.

So what will the year of 2011 bring? Unknowns. Exciting unknowns. I don’t really know what to do with you, 2011. Fortunately, I’m not the one who has to know.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” [Ecclesiastes 3:11]

Merry Chri-Chri

I love Christmas. This year, I celebrated Christmas approximately five times.

  • LLH Family Christmas Party
  • Classroom Birthday party for Jesus
  • LLH Staff Christmas Party
  • Crazies Christmas [friend Christmas]
  • Today

This abundance of celebration has not been overwhelming or stressful–instead, it has been a blessing.  I see the work of the Lord in the lives of my friends, family, co-workers, students, and more. It’s been pretty amazing.

So, in the words of one of my beloved students: Merry Chri-Chri.