miércoles, 11 de enero de 2017

Photo Challenge Fail

I had the best of intentions.

And I loved doing the photo-scavenger-hunt-through-December-thing.

But the third week of Advent got the better of me.

However, I DID get one photo that week!  Never mind that it wasn´t on the list for the photo challenge.

My week got sidelined by the Nutcracker.  This year marked the 30th anniversary of the first time I saw the Nutcracker.  I´ve seen it just about every year since.  

But this was the first time I got to be in it.  

OK, maybe "be in it" is a bit of an overstatement.  This Nutcracker had live accompaniment from the state orchestra, and I sing with their choir, whenever they need a choir.  

In the Snowflake Scene, they needed a choir!  Yee-haw!

So this was my view: 

Photo courtesy of the Orquesta Filarmónica del Desierto

In a way, this was a bit of a dream come true for me, so these photos appropriately embody JOY, for the third week of Advent.

For the fourth week of Advent, I was so behind in making cookies, buying presents, and packing to go see my family, PLUS the last week of school and all those Christmas parties, that the photo challenge was officially dropped.  

So, until next year, Advent Photo Challenge!  (At least, until Nutcracker Week.)

Until then, bring it on, 2017!

sábado, 10 de diciembre de 2016

Advent Photo Challenge--Faith

Last week, I started CatholicSistas´ Advent Photo Challenge.

Here´s this week´s installment!

December 4--Candle

We light two candles on the advent wreath this week. Last week´s candle represented hope, this week´s candle represents faith.  I found it funny that I had the hardest time lighting the candles this week.  Then, once I finally got them lit, they both extinguished themselves all of a sudden.

Is that like real faith?  Jesus mentions all the time about how little faith people had.  The only times he ever seemed to get frustrated or angry were when the disciples showed their lack of faith.  However, when I read those stories, the disciples always show me an exemplary amount of faith.  Yet Jesus got frustrated with them?  Yikes.  I hate to think how frustrated he gets with me.

Which is why I liked this pictures that I shot of the candles this week.  One has a strong, bright flame--like some people in my life who have a faith that inspires me.  Then there was the other candle.  Once it was finally lit, it didn´t burn as bright as the other one.

But that´s the thing--even though that flame was small in comparison to the other one, it was still a lit candle!  So, if we´re using the candles as an analogy for faith, even though my faith may seem meager compared to others´, it´s still faith.  That counts for something.  (And let´s face it--the comparison game isn´t a healthy game to play in most instances.)

But, a few minutes after I took this photo, the wax melted away and this candle burned just as bright as the other.  So basically, I´ve just got to work through all that wax that holds me back!

December 5--Truth

No, Harry Potter is not the truth.  It´s a work of fiction.  But, like any good story, it points to the truth.  (Spoiler alert for the 5 people out there who haven´t read Harry Potter:  the climax of the entire series is an allegory of the passion of Christ.)

Furthermore, one of the larger themes in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is truth--what is truth?  This is a very timely topic this season, as we´ve been bombarded through this past election season by part-truths, outright lies, and the usual campaign promises.  Where on earth can we find out what is truth and what´s a lie?

In a nutshell, this book shows that only knowing part of the truth can be very misleading.  Then again, sometimes part of the truth is all we have to go on.  Part of the truth is still true.  But if one is making decisions based only on part truths, one might decide very differently what to do in a given situation if all the truth had been available.

These days, it seems that we have to search hard for the truth.  Dig deep.

It´s effort worthwhile.

December 6--Shoes

I´m sure this day was meant to commemorate St. Nicholas Day.

We don´t do that in our house.

Between Christmas, Santa Claus, and Three Kings´ Day, I´m a bit overwhelmed.  Gift giving is not one of my love languages.

But I have had quite a relationship with Joey´s shoes this last month.

At the beginning of the school year, the school district decided that all the preschools were going to enter a dance contest.  This was a big, fat, hairy deal.  The kids had costumes, makeup, and hours of rehearsals during school.  The school even hired a dance teacher.  Our class did a traditional dance from Veracruz, and the kids had to dress in white--including shoes.

Now, being public school, the teachers do try to keep extra costs to a reasonable amount.  The girls had to buy new shoes to dance in, but it was decided that the boys would just paint their shoes white.  I was a bit skeptical of the whole shoe-painting business, but if everyone else was going to do it, I´d go along with it.

The week before the contest, the teacher handed me a bottle of acrylic paint, especially made for painting leather.  I covered the shoes in a number of coats over the course of a few days, and they turned out to be fairly convincing.   After the performance, some of the white had flaked off.  That was fine--I was about to paint them back to the original black, anyway.

I was afraid I´d have a hard time finding this special shoe paint, but on one trip to the grocery store (one that´s not known for having a huge selection) I found shoe paint.  I bought it and some polish, and went off to turn those shoes back to black.  (I had been hiding these shoes from Mario, because I was afraid he´d go nuts about seeing Joey´s nice shoes all painted with acrylic paint.)

This paint was much thinner and easier to work with than the acrylic.  It dried super-fast, so I did a number of coats all in one evening.  The shoes were back to looking almost as good as new.  Then, just before Joey was to wear them to school the other day, I decided to use the shoe polish on them.  Some of the color rubbed off.  Now there are spots with a decidedly blue tinge.

And that´s where I stand with the shoe saga at the moment.  Tomorrow I´m off to paint them yet again, so maybe they´ll be black again in time for school on Monday.

December 7--Love

Self Explanatory.  I do love other people and things, but it´s hard to wrap that up in just one photo.

December 8--Mother

This is my mother.  She´s just marvelous.

Two of the more solid things she´s taught me as an adult that I´m trying to make stick:

     1)  Not swearing.

          I´m failing miserably.  I know there´s a number of good reasons not to swear. But she´s got the most convincing argument.  For those of us who swear, it makes us sound uneducated.  It´s like we don´t have a bit enough vocabulary to express ourselves, so we have to resort to swearing.
          Man, I really like sounding educated.  So I´ve got to stop!  (I just wish I knew how!)

     2)  Doing the right thing.

          Ten or fifteen years ago, I remember talking with her about a hypothetical situation that I could have used with questionable ethics to my advantage.  (Unfortunately, I can´t remember the exact situation.)  Nothing shocking, of course.  A lot of people probably would have done it without batting an eye.  After all, I was about to do whatever it was.  But my mom responded to this potential situation with, "Yeah--but is that the right thing to do?"

          Just because something is considered OK, doesn´t make it the right thing to do.

          Thanks, Mom.  I´ll do the right thing.

December 9--San Juan Diego

          Today must be Juan Diego´s Day.  I first moved to Mexico in January 2003, about a month after Juan Diego was canonized.  On Teacher´s Day, one of my students (and his mother) game me a necklace with Juan Diego on it.  I wasn´t Catholic at the time, I had no overwhelming affection for Juan Diego (other than just liking him for the role he played in Mexican history).  But that necklace was one of my favorite Teacher´s Day presents.


December 10--book

 This is what is on my bedside table now.  Lately, whenever I´m at a loss of what I should read next, or I just want to get lost in a book and be uncivil to everyone until I finish it, Philippa Gregory always delivers!

sábado, 3 de diciembre de 2016

Advent Photo Challenge--Hope

I´ve been wanting to do something different with this blog, to shake things up a bit.  Or just blog more.  That would be shaking things up a bit.

Reading others´ blogs through the years, I´ve liked the idea of month-long photo challenges.  So when I came across the Catholic Sistas´ 2016 Advent Photo Challenge, it seemed like a great idea.

Maybe just because I caught it early in the first week of Advent.

But, then again, I love me some Advent, so this just seemed right up my alley.

Instead of posting one photo every day (because we all know that isn´t going to happen), I´ll post my 7 photos from the week once a week.

So--here´s this week!

November 27th:  wreath

For the first few Christmases we spent in Mexico, I was a little lost by not spending Christmas in a snowy wonderland.  That, and I was becoming aware that the Christmas we celebrate (even in Mexico) is morphing into a celebration of the idyllic winter wonderland, and not the birth of Jesus.  Let´s face it, Bethlehem in December probably faces the same chilly weather as much of Mexico--and probably the same severe lack of snow.

Our first year in Mexico, we lived in Metepec, in the state of Mexico, that is famous for clay pottery (arboles de vida, in particular).  After searching high and low, this Advent wreath seemed like the perfect souvenir of our year there.

I love that there are no flocked pine needles anywhere to be found on this wreath.

November 28:  violet

         Right before Advent begins, a lot of the daily Bible readings came from the book of Revelations.  Yikes.  That book always reminds me of advice that my neighbor, Gloria, gave me.  "When things seem like they are getting scary, when you need to run away, head into the mountains."

Here´s hoping that I never have to use her advice.  However, when the light hits them right, the mountains that surround Saltillo do turn a bit purple.

November 29:  pray

On Tuesday, a friend of mine shared that someone who had been influential in her life had a comforting habit of praying verses straight out of the Bible.  That idea has been simmering in my mind a bit all week.

On Thursday, I came across this verse, which I just love.

So, for anybody out there in anguish--it´s worth a try!

November 30:  martyr      

          OK, no pictures for this one.  But in thinking about what to show for "martyr day", it reminded me of a story I heard from Nigeria.  Boko Haram has been running loose, making lots of martyrs of both Christians and Muslims.  I´ve heard that in some cities, on Fridays, when the Muslims attend mosque, the Christians stand guard outside.  Then on Sundays, when the Christians go to church, their Muslim neighbors stand guard--both groups doing their best to make sure that there are fewer martyrs overall.

          If that isn´t an excellent example of trying to make peace on earth as we await Christmas a reality, I don´t know what is.  May we follow their example.

December 1:  prepare

Photo my daily planner.  It got hijacked a few weeks ago, and most of November got covered in angry dinosaurs.

But it still keeps me on top of things.

Mostly because those angry dinosaurs are breathing down my neck.

December 2:  Sacred Heart of Jesus

The Gospel reading for Friday was of Jesus healing a blind person.  I don´t know as much as I´d like to about Jesus, but I know that he wants us all to be healed--physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally.  Whatever ails us, I´m confident that Jesus wants it to be fixed.

Also on Friday, my choir went on our Christmas tour to a hospital and rehabilitation center.  Clearly, we didn´t heal anybody.  But lots of people do get healed in those places.  However, we just sang.  But we had a nice time, and I hope that those who heard us enjoyed it, too.  

December 3:  Immaculate Heart of Mary

Confession:  I am not a cradle Catholic.  I was raised Methodist, and while I certainly respect Mary, I´m not much of a Marianist.  I´m pretty sure she´s OK with that.

That being said, thinking about a photo to represent the Immaculate Heart of Mary threw me for a loop.  Fortunately for me, I began writing this post while sitting in a rehearsal of the opera Suor Angelica, where Mary is invoked more or less constantly.  The opera also deals with themes of children born out of wedlock, penance, forgiveness, and suicide.

As a background note, Suor Angelica (set in the 1600s) had a baby out of wedlock, and was sent to the convent immediately after the baby was born.  Seven years later, the aunt who sent her away still has not forgiven her.  Suor Angelica´s life is consumed with penance for having a baby out of wedlock and prays to Mary pretty constantly.  Who else had a baby out of wedlock?  Yes--Mary!  Oh, the irony! Had Joseph not believed her, Mary and Jesus could have lived with the shame and discrimination that other unwed mothers and illegitimate children of that era faced.  (Way to go, Joe!)  

Thanks goodness we live in an age and society where [almost] no one bats an eye at unwed mothers and their children.  May we remember Mary and Jesus´s example and stand in solidarity with those families, families who may have very young parents, families who may have only one parent.  

Boy, there´s a reflection that I didn´t expect today!

What other strange connections will this photo challenge unearth?  We´ll find out next week!

miércoles, 30 de noviembre de 2016

Thanksgiving/First Sunday in Advent

Living in Mexico means working on Thanksgiving.  Therefore, we celebrate Thanksgiving on Saturday.

The more often we´ve done this, the more often I like it.  Furthermore, the date seems even more significant on the last Saturday in November.  Why?

The first Sunday in November is usually the first Sunday in Advent.  According to the liturgical calendar, Advent begins a whole new year (in the church calendar, at least).  So sitting down and reflecting and giving thanks the night before seems like the perfect way to cap off a year.

What am I grateful for this year?
Eight adults sitting down, having dinner.
Meanwhile, there were eighteen kids running amok in
the rest of the house!  Yikes!
So thankful for the space to pull this off.  
  • All three kids and how they´re growing, gaining independence, and emotional equilibrium.  
  • New friendships that we´ve formed this past year and old friendships that we´ve strengthened. 
  • Having enough space this year to get a number of those friends together to celebrate Thanksgiving together!
  • Having a creative outlet in the Choir of the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Desert of Coahuila.
  • Seeing all kinds of positive possibilities on the horizon.  (Just reconciling myself with the reality that there are only 24 hours in a day!)
  • Setting down roots in this city, and feeling at home here.  
  • Hubs and I settling into a good groove (and improved working hours on his part), so we´re not driving each other crazy all the time.  Or, maybe better said, this year we´re enjoying driving each other crazy all the time.  
So many other things I could mention, but those are the important ones!

Here´s to Advent!  Enjoy the season--there´s time to enjoy Christmas during Christmas.

domingo, 20 de noviembre de 2016

Initial Reaction--Election 2016

Disclaimer:  for those of you who are sick to death of political posts, this one might not be for you.  In fact, skip my next few posts.  But for my own mental health, I need to write this out.  
And if you´re not sure if you should keep reading (depending on which side of the aisle we stand on), I am with the half of the country that voted for Clinton.  

But, like the vast majority of my facebook peeps, I´m on the side of unity.  (Y´all are a great bunch!)


Flashback to nearly two weeks ago.  Once my kids were safely tucked away for the night, I knew that polls were closing in much of the country, and CNN could begin reporting concrete results, and not just the same hot air they´ve been spewing for the past few months.

OK, I did check before dinner, when they called Indiana, Kentucky, and Vermont.  No surprises there.
Being from Indiana, the results of the rest of the night didn´t shock me either.  It was always clear that this was going to be a close election.  It´s been clear that both sides of the aisle want change.  After all, that was Obama´s platform eight years ago.  That was why Bernie Sanders did so well in the primaries.

Really, this election was about voting for change versus the establishment.

Normally, I´d be excited about the "change" candidate.  And the optimistic side of me is clinging to a thread that Trump´s version of change will be exactly what we need.

Except that he scares the crap out of me.

But I really, really want him to succeed.  Because if he doesn´t, we´re all going down with that ship.

So, back to that Tuesday night.  As the results were rolling in, I began to get nervous that Trump might just win the popular vote but lose the Electoral College.  He had been claiming for weeks that the system was rigged against him.  Can you imagine the stink he´d have made if that was the case?  (Now, I know plenty of people will cite all the protests that are happening all over the country, but Clinton is not instigating them.  She conceded the election the following day.)

At about 12:30, it was clear that Trump has scored both the Electoral College and the popular vote. While I wasn´t thrilled with the outcome, it was a clear result, and I went to bed at peace.

On Wednesday, I turned on CNN again, to hear Clinton´s concession speech.  It was then, after a peaceful night´s sleep, that I found out that Clinton--not Trump--won the popular vote.  Immediately, I sobbed like a baby.

What the heck?  I was OK with the result the night before!  Where did all this emotion come from?  I mean, it´s politics, for pity´s sake!  Ugh.  

It just took me back to 2000, and the disastrous results of that election.  It took me back to the night before, when my husband wandered in and out to listen to the results, shaking his head, muttering, "that´s not a democracy."  My cries echoed all the pent-up frustration I carry around about how my Democrat vote in Indiana usually counts for nothing.  (And then we wonder why half of the population doesn´t vote.)

But I´ll save my examination of the Electoral College for another post.

Still, I was surprised at my reaction.  I kept exhibiting symptoms of shock or depression for the next few days.  I was shaky, jittery, teary, and felt like I was always holding my breath, like I could never fully exhale.  I mean, for pity´s sake--it was clear the election could go either way, and the last thing I want to be is a sore loser!

On Thursday, I finally sat down with my Bible and looked up the reading for the day.  Out of curiosity, I looked up the reading for Wednesday (which I missed for being too consumed by the election).

      "Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.  
       At one time, we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures.  We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.  But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.  He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.  This is a trustworthy saying.  And I want to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good."
                                                                                 -Titus 3:1-8


OK--to be fully honest, I´m not ready to read that first verse.  It pretty much just served as an attention-grabber.  Maybe someday I´ll be ready to read it.  But not yet.

But the rest of it?  Yes.

By stepping back and looking at the bigger picture, my symptoms of depression and shock evaporated.  I could finally exhale.

Regardless of who won, we still live in a world that is controlled by malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.

As Christians, we know we that we are free of that cycle--but not by anything we´ve done.  We simply accept the gift of freedom that Jesus gave us, and spend the rest of our lives living out our gratitude, "devoting [ourselves] to doing what is good."

At least, that´s the way it should be.  It´s easy to get distracted.  It´s easy to get caught up in all that malice, envy, and hate that dominate the world.  But this isn´t the end of the story.

Or, as my friend David Bauser posted on facebook the day after the election, "We have work to do.  We all have neighbors who are hungry, homeless, uneducated, fearing for their lives or their loved ones, feeling isolated, betrayed, abandoned, and attacked.  We have a new president-elect but the Gospel has never changed.  Let´s get to work."

viernes, 4 de noviembre de 2016

Frustration to Reflection

This is the fourth year that I´ve had a child enrolled in our preschool.  Preschools tend to go all-out for holidays.  For Day of the Dead, we dress up the kids as catrinas (skeletons dressed in fancy clothes), make mini-altars, one class makes a full-size altar, dress up paper skeletons.  It´s very nicely done, but it´s a lot of work for the parents.  Because, let´s face it, while my preschooler can help decorate his mini-altar, making the tiers, and making sure it has the "necessary" ingredients falls squarely on my shoulders.

And let me tell you, nothing makes this former preschool teacher crazier than preschool homework that the parent is required to do.  (Within reason.  Cutting things out so the teacher doesn´t have to spend 6 hours cutting after school is prefectly reasonable, of course.)

So I was pleasantly surprised last Thursday when the teachers posted a sign saying, "if you´d like to bring in an altar on Monday, that would be great."

I loosely translated that to mean, "if you don´t want to bring in an altar next week, that´s OK, too."

So the weekend came and went.  We went back to school on Monday, and it turned out that the homework for the following day was to bring in an altar.  None of this "if you feel like it" wishful thinking that I had been planning on.

Of course.

So I sat down to work, making an altar.  Joey had ideas for decorating it, so after I finally got my 5 tiers somewhat solidly set in the diorama (and covered in colored paper).  I let him do his thing.

We got ready to go trick-or-treating, and it turned out that "his thing" was two odd rectangles and a picutre of his aunt who died this summer.

Knowing that he did want this altar dedicated to Tía Lili (and having a feeling that it might be a bit theraputic for him to take it in to his class, and explain about how he misses his Tía Lili), I sat down and added a bit.  And then I added a bit more.  Then I ransacked the kids´ toys, looking for little things that could symbolize interests that Lili had, things that were important to her, etc.

The more I worked on this, the more I realized that it was good for me, too.

The finished altar for Lili.  I added her computer (because she was always working!);
suitcases, because she traveled a lot; her name in Braille.  Water is
traditional to have on an altar, but I put it there because Lili loved to swim.  

After going through the toys, I found my brailler.  (Lili went blind when she was a teenager.)  It had been missing for years, and I found it again, shortly after she died.  When I found it this summer, it released some pent-up anger I had (because anger is a stage in the greiving process).  I threw it to the back of the closet, thinking "well, shoot--I don´t need THIS anymore!"  I bought it years ago, meaning to write notes to Lili, braille out some children´s books so she could read to the kids, etc.  I learned the most rudimentary braille, and then promptly lost the tools to use it.

Until a few weeks ago.

Our family altar, which Joey was
instrumental in decorating, too.  
So, putting the finishing touches on the mini-altar for Joey to take to school, I thought it could be a great teaching moment for the kindergarteners to see Lili´s name, written in Braille.  So I did it.  And, likely, the kids didn´t notice.

But it was helpful for me.  And, as Joey largely initated the project (or gave it direction), it was probably good for him, too.  After all, in essence, that´s what celebrating Day of the Dead is be about--sitting back and taking some time to remember people we love.  If we never stop to do that, we might never work through the grieving process, and that could just fester and manifest itself in all kinds of weird ways, if left to itself.

So I love that this country sets aside a day to pray, reflect, and remember.  It´s good for all of us.  And it seems that these traditions give even the youngest among us room to express their own grief and emotions, too.

I made pan de muerto this year, and was just so stinkin´ proud that I had to document it here!

martes, 1 de noviembre de 2016

As Expected

I´ve often wondered when my kids´ mastery of Spanish would surpass my own.

It´s becoming clear that we are crossing that threshold.  As I´ve been joking for years, it seems to be that I really DO speak Spanish like a second-grader.  Except now it´s not a joke.

Up until the other day, when Clara brought home this bit of homework, I had no idea that solo (Spanish for only) could--or sometimes should--be written with an accent mark. 

Thank goodness the teacher sent home a worksheet that had this grammar quirk well defined!

It turns out that when solo is used as an adjective (solo is describing the noun) it does not need an accent mark.  

Sólo requires an accent mark when it´s used as an adverb (sólo describes the verb).  After wading through 10 examples, I got pretty confident, and I´m pretty sure that both Clara and I now know the difference.  

But I´ve got my work cut out for me from here on out!