What I’m Into: February 2014

As I publish this post, it’s mid-March. The internet hasn’t been great here, so most days the thought of fighting the internet to upload pictures in order to blog is just too much. Hence, this post about February is nearly three weeks late.

February was a great month in Mexico. After months of classes and hard work, I have graduated from Spanish School. As I’ve said every month, I still have far to go in my ability to speak and understand, but after completing Level 4 I have all the tools I need become fluent. I just have to keep practicing! While I’m not fluent yet, I’m on my way and I can understand and communicate so much more than I could when I started school in September. I’m staying until the first week of April to keep practicing my Spanish (I knew back in September that I wouldn’t want to leave as soon as Spanish school was over) and to just enjoy living in Mexico for a little while longer.

In other good news, my sister returned! In the middle of February she was able to finalize all her paperwork and come back to Mexico as a temporary resident. Part of the reason I came here to Mexico was to spend time with sister, so it’s great to have her back!

This month, I successfully found someone in Cacalote who cuts hair, made an appointment for a hair cut, and asked for a specific hair cut, all in Spanish. To top it off, I also got the hair cut I asked for, which means I can speak Spanish after all! For a day or two, my hair cut was all people wanted to talk about at Spanish School—not a lot happens here, so any change is news.

Look, Emily came back! And my hair is short.
Look, Emily came back! And my hair is short.

Books

I finished five books in February. This pace is still not quite where I need to be to read 100 books this year, but not being in Spanish School anymore might help me with that goal.

Books I finished:

Oaxaca

To celebrate my graduation from Spanish School, Emily and I went on a weekend trip to Oaxaca City, the capital of our state. It’s a beautiful city that is unfortunately only reachable by a terrible mountainous bus ride. I’m almost done with a post describing our trip—until then, enjoy these pictures from beautiful Oaxaca City.

IMG_1988 DSC06730DSC06727

Olympics

Those who know me well know how much I love the Olympics. I have watched every Olympics (Winter and Summer) religiously since the Atlanta Games in 1996. Alas, I don’t have access to satellite or cable television, the internet is slow, and even if the internet wasn’t slow NBC doesn’t allow people outside of the US watch its broadcasts online. Our weekend trip to Oaxaca, though, coincided with the last weekend of the Olympics, and our hotel had fast internet AND cable TV. We caught snippets of different events, but it was just a treat to watch some of the competitions.

It’s quite different watching on not-NBC, where they show every contestant in an event, sans effusive’ commentary and replays. One of the main events being shown was downhill skiing, where we watched many skiers slide off the track while others finished the course many seconds from the medals. As soon as one skier finished (or didn’t), the camera went straight back to the top for the next competitor. Even if there was a spectacular wipeout, we didn’t see it in an instant replay. It’s surprisingly fascinating to watch the same course being skied dozens of times.

This is a sight never seen on NBC, where the tapes of the winners and Americans are packaged for a prime-time American audience. I missed that familiar packaging and story-telling but it was entertaining to see a different side to the Olympics. I look forward to watching the Rio Olympics in 2016—but I had no idea I’d be in Mexico for Sochi, so who knows where I will be for Rio. I just hope not actually in Rio de Janiero: I learned Spanish, not Portuguese.

Looking Forward

March will be my last month living in Mexico. I had no idea last year that this would be my life, but I’m thankful for it. I hope that after spending this extra month practicing Spanish after Spanish School, I will feel more confident in my Spanish speaking and understanding abilities. I’ve enjoyed my time here in Mexico, but as I get closer to April I’m more excited to return and see what’s next for me in Tulsa.

Discipline

When I started 2013, I had ideas of what I thought the year would like like. Then things happened and a lot is not what I thought it would be. My laptop crashed and I still haven’t done anything about it because I don’t want to deal with it. I got a nasty stomach bug on my Mexican vacation and spent two days sleeping off the sickness. Other unexpected things are happening and I don’t really know what to do with them except wait and see what happens next.

As I started this year, I really liked the idea of One Word 365, and even picked a word, “whimsy,” inspired by my reading Bob Goff’s Love Does. Then life happened and whimsy was not even close to how 2013 was going to be defined.  Whimsy as my one word went out the door and it has been replaced by “discipline.”  With the loss of things that were important to me, I decided to take that unpleasant opportunity and change parts of my life, one discipline at a time. They’re simple disciplines, but, a la The Happiness Project, it really is sometimes the simplest of changes that can bring about happiness.

First, I pick my outfit for the next day every night. I kind of hate doing this, but I’m much happier in the morning with everything already decided when my early-morning brain is not interested in thinking or deciding. After two years of only having to decide which color uniform polo to wear, this whole choosing “professional attire” is still difficult, even though I’ve been doing it for seven months. The simple discipline of choosing ahead of time means I can think less at 6:30 AM.

Second, I pack my lunch for the next day every night. I eat better and more healthily when I choose at night instead of in a rush in the morning. Again, the simple discipline of choosing ahead of time means I can think less at 6:30 AM.

Third, I joined a gym and I work out with a coworker and I go to Yoga/BodyFlow classes. Part of my motivation for this discipline is the “Healthier You Challenge” that’s happening at my work. I don’t care about losing weight, I just want to be fit, strong, and healthy. In theory, this regular exercise should help me be healthier. I felt good for the first few weeks of this new discipline for me, but the fact that I’m lying in bed with a cold writing this post would seem to lend less credence to the theory of exercise improving health. Thanks preschoolers!

Fourth, I want to read 50 books this year. Right now, according to my Goodreads Challenge widget, I’m right on track, having read 6 books so far this year. I’ve been trying to read one book a week alongside my other activities in my work health challenge. I have been slightly successful.  Lately, being with other people (going to work events or Bible study or hanging out with friends) has taken over reading time. Also, I like to sleep.

This all brings me to today, Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. My hope for this Lenten season is to keep going with the disciplines I’ve started, as well as being open to adding new disciplines along the way. I’m also not going to Starbucks. I generally only go once a week or so, but it’s a luxury I’ve come to expect and I really need to not expect it anymore. I want it to be more holy than that, but that’s just what it is.  I’m also going to attempt to write more during this season for this blog, but that’s going to depend on what happens in my life these next 40 days.

Let’s see what happens.

Sometimes

Sometimes everything changes when you least expect it. And when you have no control over it. On at least 3 occasions over the last two weeks, something startling, surprising, shocking, or all of the above has happened.  This has been overwhelming.  To say the least.  These moments of surprise have been BIG DEALS.  Changing the way I view my life.  Putting the rest of the 2012 on a completely different playing field. Throwing some parts of my life off balance. Bringing chaos in places I thought were calm. And this is me not being dramatic.  

Yeah, it’s been that kind of few weeks. Even my dreams are starting to reflect the crazy that keeps appearing around me. 

So many things that happen in my life are inextricably tied to the lives of others, so any sharing beyond my typical vagueness is not an option.  That’s for the best. The details of how life is changing don’t really matter, because my life is always in flux (it feels like). Right now, the changes are just coming at me faster than usual.  They’re hard because I have no control over them. Also, most of these adjustments may not ever be known by others.  Life will change, has changed, whether I like it or not, and no one will notice

No one will notice. 

I really need to improve my titles. They’re not my strong suit. 

If anyone needs me, I will be watching Chuck and pretending I’m a spy. The chaos of other fake worlds makes mine seem less threatening. 

Skipping

I skipped a comprehensive review of February and a preview of March for a number of reasons. One, at first I just forgot.

Two, February was really nothing to write home about. Snowpocalypse. I literally didn’t leave the house for most of the first two weeks of February. Seriously. It started snowing on Monday night January 31…and I didn’t go anywhere until Saturday February 5. Even after that the roads were so bad that I still didn’t go many places.  I watched a lot of Netflix. And rearranged my room a thousand times. And pretended to study for the GRE.  Among other things. Really, the first two weeks of February 2011 will not go down as the most productive period of my life.

I didn’t really go back to work until Valentine’s Day. Whereupon we had VALENTINE’S WEEK at work. Yayyy, the single life. But really, it was Valentine’s week, it was like we celebrated every day, parties, candy, etc. This is what happens at preschool.  We celebrate everything. EVERYTHING.  Even Singles Awareness Day.

The latter part of February got more exciting, with Christmas in February, also known as the Book Fair at a local private school.  I can’t even really count how many people were in my house, because my sister’s friends just kept coming and coming.  15 maybe?  And we woke up super early on a Saturday to buy books. And I must say, it was an excellent book shopping year. Highlight? Our Mississippi, a Mississippi state history textbook from the sixties.  Also, lots of pretty travel books.

[background noise for writing this post is one of my favorite episodes of Bones, Two Bodies in the Lab. and my favorite song from the show is about to play. Hurrah for my love of appropriately used electronica. Who knew I liked Depeche Mode? I didn’t.]

The rest of February was tough.  Children can be difficult after long periods of being cooped up.  Hey, I’m difficult after long periods of being copped up thanks to Snowpocalypse.  I just have slightly more self-control.  My job is great, but it’s draining, it’s exhausting, it’s demanding.  Let’s just say my three week spring break/rest was desperately needed, despite the bonus two weeks of Snowpocalypse.

Also, I was just beginning to build a social life before Snowpocalypse snowed all over it, so I felt like I was starting all over socially in late February. Finding friends without having them right next to me is difficult.

Three (I’ve rambled for so long anyone reading may have forgotten I was listing reasons I hadn’t written what I’m writing yet), I was afraid that somehow March of 2011 would turn out like March of 2010. With bitter disappointment.  With expectation turned to nothing. With growth that was really good but really really hard. I just didn’t want to think about that possibility, no matter how remote. Nor did I really want to think about last March. Or this past February for that matter.

Sometimes I need to write in the heat of the moment, so I will remember how I really felt. And sometimes I need to step away and wait so the heat of the moment doesn’t carry me away to extremes that are just exaggerations of my actual feelings. Last year, I needed to remember how I really felt. Now? A little distance is good for me.

This time last year I was in Jackson. Oh how I miss that time. THAT part of March 2010 was fabulous, but I pretended that was April anyway. And that the hateful part of April was just nowhere. Nevertheless, Jackson and the work the Lord did left an impression on my heart, my soul, my mind that will remain forever.  Like a tattoo, but I detest the word tattoo.  Every word I think of to describe it just isn’t right. It’s not a stamp, not a weight, not a burden, not a tattoo, not a calling, but more than just a simple impression.  Inscription. [I really have a thing for precise language]  The Lord left an inscription on my heart for/with/by Jackson. This inscription has so much to say, but that’s for another time.

March 2011, you’re almost over. Sorry I tried to ignore you, you’ve actually been rather super. Keep going strong.

So much changes

This time last year I was getting ready to do something completely crazy. It did not turn out as hoped.

Do I love my life anyway? Absolutely. Am I glad I did that crazy thing? Yes. Would I like my life if it had turned out as I had I hoped? I’m not sure. Most likely, probably not.

My current tomorrow will be filled with crazy, just of a different sort.  Children, hugs, discipline, grace, cleaning, running, remembering, being.

The best part? The Lord was with me then and the Lord is with me now.  And He’ll be there tomorrow and the day after that. Even when I think He’s nuts. Even when I’m nuts. Even when He prompts me to do crazy things. I like this adventure.

More on February thoughts and March expectations later.

Let’s just say that February 2011 will not go down as the most productive month of my life. Also, March 2011 holds much more promise and much less inner turmoil than March 2010.

Bye January

January went out some snow and February entered with full-on Blizzard Snowpocalypse. I’m at the end of Day 2 of Snowpocalypse Days and, as much as I love my job, I also love snow days. But more about those later.

So January, How were you? I mean, you were really a blur. At first I was still on break,then regular life started back up again. OH WAIT I DON’T GO TO SCHOOL ANYMORE. I don’t really forget that very often, because it’s really just so delightful. I don’t have homework, I don’t have class, I don’t have to wait around for class to start, I don’t have to get out of class at 10 PM and not get home until 10:30 only to wake up at 6:00 the next morning.

I can have a life now. I can throw myself even more into work. I can schedule dinner dates with friends. I can pursue other dreams. I’m letting God run the show, which is delightful. I guess that’s my theme of January: God’s running my show. I’m super excited about where he’s taking the show.  Most of the performances will be at home, but I’ll be going on the road a number of times this year. I’ve been to my dear Arkansas already and may be making journeys to other parts of the country over the next few months.

I had two snow days in January, a nice harbinger of things to come in February, I suppose. I was not super productive those days. I pretty much just sorted things in my room and watched Bones. And tried to organize my life.

Even in those times of unproductivity, God was still teaching, still beating things into my head. Things may be happening. I’m not sure what. I have hopes. We’ll see if it’s time yet. He’s speaking and I’m just going, doing what I think I’m supposed to do until He turns me down another path.

This season of my life may seem easy, comfortable to others looking in on my life. I don’t really care. Because I am happy, fulfilled. But even in that happiness and fulfillment, God is stretching me, having me do crazy things that are difficult and often stress me out.  My job is fulfilling and awesome but hard. The ministries outside my job that he’s calling me to are time-consuming and sometimes a stretch for my skills. The people he puts in my life are beloved to me, but sometimes drive me nuts. Never a dull moment, but my life is often completely overwhleming. I love it and what God’s doing.

In other news, I have a new favorite band, The Civil Wars. I’d had some of their music but it hadn’t really grabbed me yet. They had a new album out yesterday, and since EVERYONE in the world was on Facebook thanks to Snowpocalypse, a lot of friends were recommending it. And I love it. Especially “I’ve Got This Friend.”  Try it, you might love it, too.

February, you’ve already been a little crazy. Don’t disappoint. Bring the crazy. God does his best work when life is crazy.

First Tournament

This was also supposed to be published a while back. On February 21, actually. Fail WordPress. Fail. Here it is now on March 1 but with the appropriate date.

This weekend I played in my first Ultimate Frisbee tournament.

I was terrified. Which was why I did it. My theme for myself this year is: “Don’t live in fear.” So if I’m afraid of something…I push myself to do it. [This does not include skydiving, lugeing/skeletoning at Whistler in Vancouver, playing with matches, driving unsafely, or any other such nonsense.  The fears involved with those things are healthy.]  Following this theme has manifested itself mostly in starting to play Ultimate Frisbee.

I swear, I lost my mind when I decided to start playing Ultimate this, my last semester of my senior year of college.  In addition to losing my mind, though,  I also let go of some fear, slowly and without realizing it at first.  It was only at the tournament this weekend that I realized how much fear had left me.

My fear of playing Ultimate was failing. I fear failure like nobody’s business. At least, I did. Somehow, I don’t really fear failure as much anymore.  Before I started to play, I feared failing in these ways (and this is by no means an exhaustive list): throwing a frisbee, running, letting down the team by my failures, and being so clumsy/unathletic that I just wouldn’t be able to play at all.

Here’s the thing. I fail at Ultimate. A lot. I throw the frisbee the wrong way. I hit people when I’m aiming for other people. I run the wrong direction on the field. I can’t run an end zone drill properly to save my life. I can’t run fast enough to the end zone to catch a hucked frisbee. I can’t run fast AT ALL. This list could go on forever.

Here’s the thing [again].  I don’t fear that failure anymore.  I know it’s going to happen. And somehow, my acceptance of that failure takes away the fear of it.

And that? That ridding of fear?  Makes all the crazy in my life, especially the Ultimate-related crazy, worth it.

So many times this semester (and oy vey, it’s only February. also, oy vey, it’s already February), I’ve cried out to God saying, “What are you doing? What in the world are you doing to/with my life? This is crazy.”  I still don’t know what he’s doing, because I’m pretty sure He isn’t done yet.  But this whole ridding of fear business? I like that. I like that a lot.

I just wonder….

What’s next?

And until I get that information…I just keep going.