The Stay Awake Challenge: Week 14

Week 14 is about honoring your body. Read the challenge here.

I’m coming to realize something about myself. I’m really not that great at self-care. I’m especially not good at taking care of my body. Regular exercise, getting enough rest, drinking plenty of water, even flossing are all things I struggle to incorporate into my life. That probably sounds funny coming from a thin person — but just the fact that someone doesn’t have a weight problem doesn’t necessarily mean they are healthy. In fact, I would venture a guess that sometimes thin people are some of the most unhealthy people — because they don’t have to eat right and exercise regularly in order to maintain their thin physique.

Over the past month, I have been taking steps to change that. I purchased The Ultimate Homemaking E-Book Bundle when it went on sale at the end of April, and my purchase included a 2-month free membership to Fit 2 B Studio, a sort of online health club with tons of workout videos that you can do in the comfort of your own home. I decided I wanted to start small with maybe some ab workouts to try to flatten out my “belly pooch” that has been there since after Ben was born. So, I started poking around the website and trying out some of the videos, and I discovered that I have something called diastasis (a separation of the abdominal muscles, very common after pregnancy) that can’t be fixed with crunches, sit-ups, and other traditional ab exercises. I’ve been doing some of the exercises on the Fit 2 B website for almost a month now, and I am very pleased with the results I’m seeing — and I haven’t had to do a single sit-up! I also set up our Wii Fit so I could use that for exercise as well.

For this challenge, I am supposed to write a list of 5 things that I will do to help me honor my body. Obviously, exercise is one (my goal is 3-4 times per week for now). The others are — to drink more water, start taking my vitamins again, go to bed by 11:00 (need to revisit the sleep challenge), and limit myself to one soda per week.

The picture I chose to use for this challenge was taken during our anniversary get-away to the Black Sheep Inn. We went on an invigorating hike and ate our picnic lunch at the top of a ridge with amazing views of a peaceful valley. My legs were burning when we got back to our cabin, but it felt so good to be so physically tired. Later that afternoon, we soaked our sore muscles in the hot tub, and I even painted my toenails (something I rarely do). I need to be better at making time to pamper myself occasionally — even if it’s just a bubble bath or a pedicure or a haircut (desperately need one of those!).photo(1)I am more than my body, it’s true. But I also inhabit this body for now, and hopefully for many years to come, and I need to make sure that I honor it by taking care of it to the best of my ability.

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Recap of the Past 2 Weeks

It feels like a million years since I last wrote. But it’s really been only two weeks. Here are a few of the highlights:

  • We finally got to meet with the counselor at Alliance to go over the results of the ADHD and intelligence tests that Alex took. This is really worth a post in and of itself, but in summary, while he does have mild tendencies toward ADHD, it was not anything the counselor felt warranted further testing or medication.
  • We went to see “Star Trek Into Darkness,” and it totally rocked! Best movie I have seen in a long time — I absolutely love what they have done with the series reboot! We had to settle for the 3D version, which I usually try to avoid because it makes me sick to my stomach; however, this time, I barely noticed after awhile. The technology must be getting better.
  • Neill and Julie stayed with us for over a week, and we thoroughly enjoyed their company. We took them up to Papallacta one day to soak in the hot springs, and Neill helped Rusty do some work on our Land Rover. They headed off to Columbia, their next stop on their round-the world venture, last Monday.
  • We had our friends the Yorks over for one last meal and round of Dominion before they headed back to the U.S. and their new life there. We will sure miss them!
  • We celebrated our 14th anniversary with a two-night stay at the Black Sheep Inn, in a truly lovely part of Ecuador near the stunning Quilotoa Crater Lake. Also worth it’s own blog post. The kids stayed with Josh and Julie and had so much fun they didn’t want to leave! Stephen actually started crying when we pulled up to the house to pick them up, and it wasn’t because he missed us.

Okay, so that was all just the first week. Last week, we finished a 2-month stint of focused language classes. After all the craziness of the past several weeks, I am honestly looking forward to taking a break from Spanish studies for awhile. It was all I could do to get through that last week, and now that it’s over, I want nothing more than to just curl up in my bed and hibernate away from the world for at least a week with my Robert Jordan book (now on #3, with 11 to go). But, well, I’ve got these 3 kids that need to be fed and clothed and educated. And Rusty left on Sunday for the jungle and the first medical mission of the summer, so it’s all on me for the next few days.

I’m hopeful that as life slows down some over the next several weeks, I’ll have more time to devote to writing and some other projects. I’m actually going to be guest-posting on 2 other blogs in the next couple of months! I’ll be sure to link those up here once they go live.

The Stay Awake Challenge: Week 11

Week 11 is about savoring. Read the challenge here.

Savoring the moment is something I try to be fairly intentional about. I am well aware that my life is but a series of fleeting moments that will never come again. My children are growing up before my eyes. Just the other day, Ben decided to give up the bottle; in a few months, it will be time to pack away the cloth diapers and start potty training. The “baby years” may well be behind me soon, and so I have been trying to savor the moments that remain. If I were to be perfectly honest here, I would say that I sometimes feel that our transient life these past seven years robbed me of true enjoyment of my kids’ early years. I mean, it’s hard to “savor the moment” when you’re packing boxes, cleaning, and taking care of the myriad of logistical details that moving around the world requires.

Savoring helps me more fully enjoy and be present in the moment as I’m living it… but it also helps me cement the moment in my memory. It’s a lot like a mental picture of the moment, except it employs all the senses, not just sight.

Two weekends ago, we took some friends who were visiting to Mindo for the day. And what a lovely, enjoyable day it was. There were so many moments to savor throughout the day… the view of the gorgeous countryside out the car window… watching colorful hummingbirds at their feeders just inches away from where I stood and marveling at their delicate beauty and thrumming wings… the taste of a rich, chocolatey brownie and the feel of a warm cup of coffee in my hands… the rush of wind in my face as the cable car raced out over the cloud forest.

But probably my favorite moment was the one that found me perched on a boulder beside a stream, listening to the sound it made as it rushed over its rocky bed, and holding my baby, who was content for once just to nestle into my arms. He is always on the move these days it seems, but for that one moment, he was still. And so was I.

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Hummingbirds

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La Tarabita

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The cloud forest

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Contentment

The Stay Awake Challenge: Week 10

Week 10 is about getting outside. Read the post here.

Getting outside is not easy for me. I’ve always been more of an “indoor girl.” I’m not much of an athlete (not competitive or coordinated enough). I HATE running (probably has something to do with my terrible knees), although I do enjoy walking or a good hike. In general, though, I’m just more prone to being a homebody. My interests have always tended more towards things like books, music, and crafts.

And when I’m in a new place and all the adjustments just seem overwhelming, I really have to fight the urge to just hole up in my house, in the one place where I feel safe and like I have some semblance of control. I think I could easily become a recluse or a hermit, but I have an adventurous husband and 3 rambunctious little boys who force me out of my cocoon on a regular basis. Of course, it is easier, much easier, to stay at home with my brood, where they are contained, than it is to try to take the 3 of them somewhere by myself, but I know that boys need to run and jump and climb and play, and our tiny yard just isn’t big enough for them to do all those things. So I grit my teeth and get outside, and then later, I’m always glad that we did.

In the last couple of weeks, we have had several opportunities for adventures in the great outdoors. At the end of April, we had a field trip with our homeschool group. We drove out to the Cuicocha Lake, which is in a volcano crater, and had lunch in a restaurant on the crater rim.

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Cuicocha Lake

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The boys had such fun playing outside with this dog at the restaurant!

Afterwards, the plan was to go see the Cochasqui pyramids nearby, but we ran out of time, so we went to see some waterfalls (the cascadas de Peguche) instead. As it happened, just after we parked the cars and started walking up through the little market with local handicrafts for sale, we got caught in a huge downpour. We huddled under the eaves of one of the stalls for awhile, hoping the rain would let up, but when we eventually determined that it probably wouldn’t for awhile, we had to decide if we wanted to continue hiking to the falls and get thoroughly soaked on the way, or make a mad dash back to the car. Normally, I probably would have opted for the second choice, but I had this Stay Awake Challenge on the brain, so I thought, why not?

It ended up being one of the most exhilarating walks I’ve taken in awhile. The cobblestone path wound its way through the forest, fragrant with the smell of drenched earth and eucalyptus trees, alive with the drip-drop of the rain and the wind moving through the upper branches. The waterfall itself was beautiful in its misty power. When we got back to the car, we were wet completely through, but I felt alive and invigorated, kind of like I do after taking a cold shower.

At the Cascadas de Peguche

At the Cascadas de Peguche

I felt awake.

This is what getting outside can do for me. This is why I need to force myself to do it more often.

Driving (Legally) in Ecuador

If you read Wheel-Less (Part 3), then you know that I will soon have a car that I can drive. Which I am truthfully more nervous than excited about. Because having a car to drive and actually driving it regularly means that I need to be a legal driver in Ecuador. And that means an Ecuadorian driver’s license. An international license (which is what I have now) is really only acceptable for someone who is not planning to live somewhere long-term. By law, and in order to be covered by our insurance in case of an accident, I need an Ecuadorian license.

No biggie, right? I’ve done this before, right? Well, actually, I haven’t done this before. Despite the fact that I have lived abroad 25 years of my entire life, I have never had anything but a U.S. license (or an international license from AAA). I reached the legal driving age in Kenya (18) about 2 months before I left for college, so what was the point, really? Our first 3 years in Japan, we made the decision not to put me on our insurance because drivers under the age of 25 made the cost of insurance drastically more expensive. Since I wasn’t driving, there was no need for me to get a driver’s license. The second time we were in Japan, we were just getting ready to start the application process, having been there almost a year, when we received word that Rusty’s mom had a terminal brain tumor and decided to return to the States. In Portugal, we drove on international licenses since we weren’t planning to be there long-term.

So, my Ecuadorian license will be my first driver’s license from another country. And I find myself dreading the whole process — the gathering of paperwork, the multiple trips to this or that office to do this or that task, only to have to repeat it all the next day because the form wasn’t filled out in the correct color of ink (or some other absurdity). And I am dreading the tests, not the written test so much — even though it is in Spanish. But the driving test? I am absolutely petrified. I know this is carryover from when I took the driving test for my U.S. license (at the ripe old age of 20 — yes, this marks me as a TCK!). The only test in my life I have ever failed. It took me two months to work up the courage to go back in and try again.

I keep telling myself that it probably won’t be nearly as difficult or unpleasant as I’m making it out to be in my mind. But I am a worry-wart, and this is one of the things I fret over at night as I’m trying to fall asleep. Hopefully, soon, it will all be over, and I will stand on the other side and say, “That wasn’t so bad. Why was I so worried?” We are taking two weeks off language classes starting next week in order to take care of some paperwork, including applying for our Ecuadorian drivers’ licenses.

Wish me luck! And I’ll try to blog some about the process, once it’s done.

Wheel-Less (Part 3)

Part 1 here, Part 2 here.

Okay, I’m not really wheel-less right now. At least not all the time. But when Rusty goes out to the jungle, I am usually left without a vehicle, sometimes for days at a time. When Rusty does leave his truck here in Quito (because he’s traveling down by bus or plane with a short-term group), it just sits until he comes back. It’s a cool truck, but I am loathe to drive it for a couple of reasons:

Our Landrover Defender

Our Landrover Defender

  • It’s so big. I mean, really, this car is ridiculously big. It will hold up to 9 people comfortably, and with the roof-rack and the luggage rack that attaches to the back, all their stuff as well. So, it’s perfect for treks to the jungle and back, but it’s not exactly an ideal car for driving in the city.
  • It has a manual transmission. I can drive a stick, but in Quito with the stop-and-go traffic and all the crazy drivers, I would just prefer not to have to. It’s just one more thing to think about.

So, for the last year, my husband has been my chauffeur when he’s here, and when he’s not, we usually stick fairly close to home. I try to stock up on groceries before he leaves, but if I do run out of something, there is a well-stocked little store in our neighborhood. There is public transportation here in Quito (in the form of buses and trolley lines), and sometimes I think to myself, “I really should try to learn my way around on the buses and trolleys.” And then I see one, usually packed to the gills, and I remember all the stories I’ve been told about pickpockets and the like. As a gringa, I’m an obvious target in a situation like that. I can’t decide if having my kids with me would make me less of a target (because people might take pity on me) or more of one (because people would assume I was distracted).

So, if I need to go across town when Rusty’s away, the other option is to take a cab. Taxis are plentiful and fairly cheap in Latin America, but they are not without their own risks. Every time I take a cab, I’m literally trusting someone I don’t know from Adam to get me (and usually my 3 kids) safely from point A to point B. My kids ride in the taxis without their car seats or even safety belts, since most cabs don’t have them in the back seat. I don’t like that one bit, but it is what it is. In addition, there have been several stories in recent months of people being robbed in a taxi. This usually happens when the person is alone and the cab-driver (who is in league with a gang of thieves) pulls over to let them into the car. They steal your money and then push you out on the street. Rusty actually met a lady from South Africa several months ago who had just been the victim of a taxi-robbery.

For some time now, we have been looking to purchase a second car, something smaller and more conducive for city driving, something with an automatic transmission, something that I could drive when Rusty is away. We were having a hard time finding something that we both liked, that fit our budget, and that was also a good, solid car. Buying a used car in a third-world country can be a tricky business. Unless you can buy a vehicle from someone you know and trust and believe took good care of their car, you really just don’t know what you are getting. No Carfax in Ecuador!

Then, a couple days ago, we found one, thanks to my sister, who has been scoping out the For Sale boards at Alliance Academy, where she works! The owners are long-time missionaries to Ecuador who recently returned to the U.S. They accepted our offer; our mechanic confirmed that it is a good vehicle; now, all that remains is to arrange the bank transfer. So, perhaps by the end of next week, I will have a car that I can drive!

Honestly, up until recently, I was really okay with not driving. Driving is stressful to me under the best conditions — American roads, American drivers, American rules. Quito traffic and the aggressive drivers here really freak me out, and it’s not even as bad as it is in Africa! But lately, I have begun to feel slightly “handicapped” because I don’t drive and sometimes don’t even have a car. So now I (almost) have a car… I guess that means it’s time for me to conquer my fears of driving in a foreign country and get out there in the fray!

Walking with Giants

Having been in Ecuador almost a year now, one thing I am starting to notice is the longevity of so many missionary families. 10 years or less in the country and you are pretty much still a “newby” by comparison. 15 years, and you’ve been here “awhile,” but not in a jaw-dropping way. 20 plus years, and you’re considered a veteran — but you’re not exactly an anomaly since there are quite a few veteran missionaries around!

Yesterday, I went to the homeschool mothers’ monthly planning meeting. I am one of the youngest moms in the group, with younger kids, just starting out in Ecuador, just starting out on our homeschool journey. Most of the other moms have large families, and years of parenting and missionary experience. As we were sitting around the table drinking tea and chatting, I stopped to silently marvel at the collective wisdom gathered there. How thankful I am to be able to learn from those who have walked this path before me!

Then, tonight, we had Neil and Ruth Wiebe over for dinner. The Wiebes worked as Wycliffe Bible Translators in Ecuador many years ago, translating the Bible into Chapalachi, the language of the Chachi Indians who live on the Cayapas River. They are back in Ecuador for a brief visit, and graciously agreed to have dinner with us so we could pepper them with all manner of questions. They are even going out to Kumanii with Rusty next weekend.

The Wiebes were in Ecuador for 38 years — 12 of them spent living in the jungle on the Cayapas River, and the remainder of the time in Quito. It is hard for me to even conceive of doing the same thing for 38 years. Let’s see, 38 years — it’s longer than I’ve been alive. In 38 years, I’ll be almost 75 years old. Anyway you slice it, it’s a long time. And it’s most definitely a long time to spend on the mission field!

I have the utmost respect for those who do the hard and often thankless work of translating the Scriptures into other languages. They come and they live among a people, often in a remote area. They struggle to learn a language that may not have a textbook, or someone who knows how to teach it, or even a written form. Then, they painstakingly translate the Scriptures, verse for verse, idea for idea, word for word, trying to stay faithful to the original text, trying to make it readable, trying to make the story of God accessible to those who have never had it before in their heart language. Neil was telling the story tonight of struggling with how to translate the word “priest,” because the Chapalachi word has so much religious and cultural baggage due to the heavy Catholic influence. Eventually, they decided to use a phrase describing what a priest does: “one who approaches God on behalf of the people” because they felt like that was a better representation of the idea of a priest, and one that would not immediately connote a Catholic priest.

It is so easy for us to take for granted the fact that we have ready access to God’s Word in multiple forms, in multiple versions. But there are still many people groups around the world who can’t read the life-giving words of the Bible for themselves because it has not yet been translated into their language. I’m thankful for people like the Wiebes, who have spent their lives working to change that — the New Testament, as well as Genesis and Exodus are now available in the Chapalachi language!

But there is still much work to be done. I don’t typically observe Lent in the traditional sense, but this year, I have been working my way through this 40-day e-book devotional called “Jesus Brings Freedom,” with a prayer focus on the Bibleless peoples of the world. Download your free copy here and partner in prayer with those who are working to make “God’s Word accessible to all people in the language of their heart” (Wycliffe’s vision statement).

So Many Questions (written Jan. 17)

We went upriver in the canoe today, as far as we could go before heavy rapids prevented us from going farther. Some words that came to mind as I sat there watching the dense jungle flash by on either side — peaceful, untouched, remote. Kent says there are villages beyond the rapids, but you would have to hike into them. It is hard to imagine living in such a remote place. Kumanii and the nearby villages seem remote to me. No roads, no cars, no way in or out except by the river. But to live where not even boats can go? That gives whole new meaning to the word.

On the way back downriver, we stopped at a Chachi village to buy some baskets. Even after years growing up around poverty-stricken people, it slaps me in the face — the kids with their bellies swollen from parasites, dirty, ragged clothes, bare, muddy feet. So much need. And then the questions start gnawing at me — Why do I have so much while they have so little? Why do I have access to basic things like medicine, healthy food, clean water, while they don’t? Why are my children so privileged just by virtue of the fact that they were born Americans? What can I do for these people, these precious children, these struggling mamas? What can any one person do in the face of such obvious, desperate need? Where does one even begin to bring hope and comfort and a better life?

P.S. I don’t have any answers, by the way. The questions, they’re still gnawing.

Word Pictures (written Jan. 16)

Just a few thoughts and images from our trip to Kumanii today:

  • the cold and fog of the mountain city of Ibarra giving way to the sun and humidity of the lowlands
  • sweeping landscapes of mountains, hills, and ravines gradually turning into tangles of lush, tropical vegetation
  • the hustle and bustle of the dock at Borbon — women chatting as they wash their laundry, meat sellers, fish sellers, fruit sellers hawking their wares, canoes loading up
  • the drone of the boat motor as we leave the commotion behind and slice through the water upriver
  • trees bending low over the river, trailing their branches in the water like fingertips
  • the refreshing and slightly tangy taste of coconut water straight from the coconut
  • little villages, wooden homes on stilts, flapping laundry flashing past
  • my boys’ happy laughter as they play with new friends Joscar and Gustavo
  • baths in the river
  • one million crickets, and a frog or two to serenade me to sleep
  • the soothing sound of a jungle downpour
  • memories of my childhood as I fall asleep under a mosquito net