The Stay Awake Challenge: Week 9

Week 9 is about trying something new. You can read the original post here.

I’m still trying to catch up on the Stay Awake Challenge. I kept putting off writing this post, mostly because I just didn’t know which direction to take it. Because, honestly? I got this one down, baby. My life is all about trying new things. It’s about all I’ve done for the past few years. Okay, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration. But seriously, with each move comes a host of changes and new things to try. It gets to be a bit wearying after awhile. There are some days when “routine” and “sameness” and “normal” and — yes, even “boring” — sound so appealing. I long for the ability to put my life on auto-pilot for awhile rather than having to continually, actively think about the smallest things. Maintaining a constant state of mental alertness can drive you to utter exhaustion. I think this is one of the things that makes those first few years on the mission field so difficult.

Here are just a few of the new things I’ve done just since moving to Ecuador:

  • studied a new language
  • moved into a new house
  • learned my way around a new city
  • learned to shop and cook in a new country
  • met lots of new people
  • started attending a new church
  • found a new doctor
  • driven a car in a new country
  • tried new foods
  • started homeschooling my kids
  • had “helpers” in the house for the first time
  • gone zip-lining
  • spent a week in Brazil by myself

If you don’t know me well, you may find this difficult to believe, but I don’t have a very adventurous spirit. I only live the life I do because I happened to marry an adventurer. Rusty loves to explore, and I am thankful for this, because sometimes we discover new favorite spots. Just in the last couple of weeks, we have been to a total of 4 new restaurants. The first, a grilled chicken restaurant that advertised “original recipe Portuguese chicken” had the yummiest piri-piri chicken I’ve tasted since leaving Portugal. The second was the Middle Eastern restaurant where we ate for my birthday. The third was a cafĂ© and pastry shop called the Swiss Corner with yummy apple strudel. And the fourth, a Mongolian grill where we ate for our date last night, turned out to be a dud, and I don’t think we’ll go back, but hey — 3 out of 4 ain’t bad! When I was thinking of a picture to put in this post, the first thing that came to mind was a picture at one of these new restaurants. Would you believe that I forgot to take a picture at any of them? I even forgot to have someone take a picture of Julie and me the night of our birthday! And I have a camera phone, so I am really without excuse.

So, as an alternative, I am posting a screen-shot of a comment I made on another blog. See, I’m not normally much of a commenter. I read a lot of blogs, but I don’t typically join in the discussions or voice my opinions in the comment section. However, recently, I have started to comment on other blogs every now and then when I feel like I have something to add to the conversation. The screen shot is of a comment I made on a blog called Communicating Across Boundaries, and the post was about Third Culture Kids and reentry, which you can read here. If you care to read the comment, you can click on the picture for a larger view, or just click the link to read the post and all the comments in their entirety. Leaving the comment was one thing — but then I also had to learn how to take a screen-shot and save it as a picture file, which I have never done before. So, there you go… I taught myself to do something new on the computer today! Sometimes, life is best represented by a microcosm.week9

The Stay Awake Challenge: Week 7

Week 7 is about noticing the details. Read the entire post here.

When I’m busy, feeling rushed or stressed, or just in a task-oriented mode, I often fail to notice the details. It’s amazing how slowing down just long enough to really see all the little things wakes you up to life and to wonder. And I think an awareness of the details is one of the primary characteristics of a creative person — artist, writer, photographer, musician, etc. So not only does noticing the details help me be more awake, it also helps me be more creative.

So here are a few observations (and photos) from the last couple of days, as I have tried to be more intentional about noticing the details.

IMG_55511) I’m finally starting to feel as if my house is finally starting to come together. It’s not like we have made any big improvements, and there is still a lot to do, but little by little, we are getting things done. And all the little details add up. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that I am beginning to reestablish some of the systems that keep my home organized and running smoothly, which isn’t really a visible thing. But hanging pictures on the walls is — and we’ve been doing a little of that here and there. Before he left for the jungle last Friday, my sweet husband helped me hang some pictures in our bedroom, and it’s amazing the difference that made!

IMG_55562) One of the things I like best about living in Ecuador is wide variety of fresh fruits and veggies, available year-round, and so affordable. Most of what you can buy in the States, you can find here, as well as many other fruits I had never heard of before I came here! These are the fruit bowls on my kitchen counter, piled high with fruit. Believe it or not, most of this will be gone by the end of the week. My kids love fresh fruit and eat it all the time.

3) Most days as a stay-at-home mom, I get to the end of the day and think, “What exactly did I DO all day?” Of course, I can list all of the things I do, but when there aren’t any visible, tangible results of your work, it’s easy to begin to feel like you’re wasting your time. This is especially true when you are simply playing with, interacting with, teaching, training, disciplining your kids. I mean, even housework and meal prep have visible, tangible results! On Monday, the boys asked me to build them a Brio train-track. So I did, and I tried to make it a cool one. (I am not nearly as good at this as Rusty, but I gave it my best shot.) It occurred to me later that this is actually a very visible and tangible example of how I spend my time with my kids, so I took a picture of the track after I was done as a way to remind myself — I am Mom, and this is what I do!

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It’s the Little Things

Tonight was Pizza and a Movie Night. This has been a weekly tradition since we lived in Portugal. I make homemade pizza (sometimes, the boys “help”), and we pick a family- friendly movie to watch together. As in, Rusty and I sit and watch, too, even when the chosen movie is “Ernest Goes to Camp,” and we try our best to stay off our computers and iPhones.

The boys love this night and look forward to it all week. It’s the one and only time we eat while sitting in front of the TV. A simple tradition, but one that can go with us anywhere. And it has gone with us, across three continents now. Sometimes, it’s the little things that provide that sense of constancy when most of your life is in the upheaval of transition.

This afternoon, as the dough was rising in the breadmaker and the sauce was bubbling on the stove, two bottles of Dr. Pepper were getting nice and cold in my refrigerator. They came to me all the way from the U.S., double-bagged in Zip-locs and tucked into the suitcase of one of the folks from York. I am not a big soda drinker. But I do crave soda with certain foods — like pizza, and hamburgers, and Mexican. And I love Dr. Pepper, which can’t be found in stores here. Don’t ask me why. In a country with such a large expat population, and where other American goodies like Betty Crocker cake mixes and Kraft Mac ‘n Cheese are readily available, you would think someone somewhere would be importing Dr. Pepper. It’s one of the great mysteries of Ecuador to me.

I make a pretty good homemade pizza, which goes without saying after almost three years of making it once a week. Really, the only thing for me that makes it any better — is an ice-cold Dr. Pepper, especially when I haven’t had one in almost nine months. Sometimes, it’s the little things that satisfy that taste of home you didn’t even know you’d been missing.

Sometimes, it’s the little things that end up being the most important.