Day 6: Keep traditions

I’m rather forgetful. I wish I was different, that certain things sparked my memory or haunted my thoughts, but nothing sticks for too long. One of the things I’m particularly bad at is dates. I would forget my own birthday was coming if Facebook didn’t remind me of it. So of course, as life often happens, I married someone who took the effort to commit things to memory. He’s the anniversary keeper in our marriage. And he knows it all, the anniversary of the first day we met, the day he asked me out, the day he proposed, the day I left Peru, the day he came to the USA, the day we got married, the first time we changed a flat tire… he knows it all. Although I highly suspect he has an App hidden somewhere helping him out with some of those.
But we’re a family that likes to celebrate, so it works great that he has in mind so many dates to commemorate. Tonight the occasion was the 1 year anniversary of when he arrived in the USA. We had been apart for 11 and a half months, and only got to see each other once in that time for about 3 days. A year ago I picked him up at the airport and for the first time ever, drove him around. Although it was late, we grabbed a quick bite at IHOP before I dropped him off at the house where he would be staying until the wedding. I tend to bring people to IHOP when they first arrive from overseas, though I’m not sure why. I guess it’s the most American food I know. A year ago it seemed strange to sit down across the table from this man that used to live in my iPhone. 

When we went out tonight I thought to myself, “What a silly anniversary to keep.” Though that never gets in the way of having an excuse to order stuffed french toast. When taken from The word “tradition” holds a strange connotation for me I guess. Most of our family traditions growing up were for us kids. At least I had always assumed that they were. We celebrated Easter the same way every year, because us kids liked it so we wanted to do it again. We opened presents in the same way every Christmas because kids need some sort of structure to know what to expect in these sort of events. When I grew up I didn’t think I’d worry about keeping any special traditions of my own, though I always heard “you’ll start your own traditions when you have your own family.” I just always assumed that I would set up those traditions for my kids when they come around. Then I had a few sad holidays with no traditional aspects, and they were horrible. For several years I celebrated Christmas out of the country, and nothing about it felt like Christmas. In Brazil I ate tacos, in Peru I watch Titanic on TV then fireworks with my sister-in-law over Skype, and ate lemon pie. None of which says “Christmas” to me. 

And now I have my own family. It’s just me and Dani right now, and that’s pretty awesome. We’re still in our first year of marriage, but we’ve spent 2 Christmases together (3 if you count that one of our first dates was eating lemon pie together on Christmas afternoon). We still haven’t established traditions as they’re often understood. But tonight as we sat at IHOP chatting into the evening, I realized the true importance of traditions. Day 6: Creating and keeping traditions helps us blend the past, the present and the future. It’s not a matter of pulling out the same ornaments every year just because that’s what we do. It’s pausing normal day-to-day activities to appreciate what you’ve been through together, remember the great moments, evaluate the time that has passed, express what you’ve both learned and share the experience together. There’s no need to live in the past, but I’d be a fool to pretend like it didn’t happen. And one of the best ways to hold onto the good and keep getting better is to take the time to mark moments in history as they’re happening and remember the value moments that have gone.

Day 3: Enjoy!

Welcome to day 3! It’s been a lazy Saturday with relatively little drama. We learned a bit more about the inner workings of generosity this morning at church and celebrated our 11 month anniversary. It may not sound like a long time, but being locked up in a tiny apartment with me for 11 months is probably enough to drive most normal people crazy. I feel like there were a lot of interesting life lessons today, especially from this morning’s sermon. Remember, people aren’t grateful for what they feel entitled to, so live as if everything is a gift. Deep right? Pastor Mike said it much more convincingly.
But I’m going to cheat and use the wise saying from my Yogi Tea for today’s lesson. Day 3: The purpose of life is to enjoy every moment. Ok, so I’m not sure if I agree with this 100%. I think that looking out for others is important, and true love is selfless. And life certainly isn’t a marathon of happiness. We, unfortunately, live in a fallen world and deal with a lot of bad stuff. 
But, I do see a whole lot of value in enjoying every moment, especially with sense of appreciation. Especially the little moments. Enjoy doing the laundry, not because it’s fun (unless it is for you) but because you have clothes, you don’t have to do them by hand (so glad that chapter of my life is over for now). Not that every moment will be fun, but can possibly be enjoyed. Today some of my greatest moments were strange misunderstandings with my husband, which under the wrong attitude (read: if I was feeling moody) could have led to arguments and hurt feelings, but were instead turned into an opportunity to laugh together at ourselves. There’s a big difference in my mind between enjoying the task, and enjoying moments. I may not always love going to work, but I love the little moments of interaction with my coworkers. I certainly don’t enjoy doing the dishes, but seeing the process of something going from used and dirty to clean and orderly is addicting. Cooking isn’t always my thing but put on a little salsa music and it becomes a whole production in my kitchen. 
So tonight, maybe you don’t have anything “enjoyable” planned, but stop a few times and ask yourself “Am I enjoying myself right now?” And if you aren’t (which is very possible) figure out one small thing you could do to fix that. Because a life well lived is a live well enjoyed.

Day 2: Enjoy the drive home

Some days are not terrible, but not the greatest either. Ok, maybe most days are like that. It’s actually pretty rare to get one of those “amazing” days. That’s not to say that the other normal days aren’t worth it, in fact those are the days that make up the grand majority of life. So be prepared for extremely normal posts 87% of the time.
Today I went into work for a few hours to make up for some lost time this week. It’s normally my day off, but I’d rather spend my built up vacation hours on a vacation. Crazy talk, I know. On my drive home, I had two scary experiences. First, a car tried passing me on the shoulder, which didn’t go well for them. I, being the patient and caring person I am, sped up so there wasn’t room to cut in front of me. Kids, don’t try this at home. The driver slowed down and pulled in close behind me, and just as we were going under an overpass, his tire blew. Not just a flat tire type of deal, but a loud, reverberating blow. And while I was watching the driver in my rearview mirror pull over to the shoulder, the car next to me decided he wanted to be in my lane, exactly where I was. Whether I was in his blind spot, or he was a jerk, I’ll never know. But he certainly “didn’t hear” my horn as I warned him of my existence. Thankfully I have fabulous braking skills. Now, no my daily lesson has nothing to do with driving. Although I’m sure I still have plenty to learn in that area as well.
Day 2: Appreciate the safe drive home. Very rarely as I leave my home does it occur to me that I might not make it back. It’s easy to celebrate when you survive an accident, but why not celebrate when nothing happens! What’s wrong with thousands of days of celebrating “I made it home safely!” Sure, staying safe is the norm, and accidents are the exception, but what a great norm! So tomorrow when I make it home again, it’s time to jump for joy that it’s a normal day. 

Ingredients

Today my husband went through something I remember far too well myself. He cooked a few (delicious!) Peruvian dishes since we had a friend coming over for a Road to Morocco movie night. After the careful shopping, chopping and assembling, both the causa and mushroom ceviche were ready. When I arrived home from work I saw nothing but disappointment and frustration on his face. Then he uttered those oh too familiar words, “it just doesn’t taste the same.” He explained that the potato wasn’t good and the avocado was weird. So with a heart full of fear I tasted a small corner of the dish. Delicious. But to someone who grew up tasting what it “should” be like, it was wrong, completely wrong.

I remember many muffins that came out too hard, cookies too grainy, sauces too salty and so much worse because the ingredients acted differently than I expected them to based on my past experience in the US. And choosing substitutes was even more frustrating all together. Did I ever mention the time I broke down crying in the cheese section of the grocery store because I didn’t know which one would taste like back home?

For those expats far from home, cooking can be comforting and infuriating at the same time. It took me days to assemble a semblance of a Thanksgiving meal. But after all those hours of cooking (from scratch) it finally felt familiar. And with just a nibble of a peanut butter blossom I felt like I could sit down for hours chatting with my mother. But if it’s off, and that hope of perfection lingers in only a memory, there is nothing more heartbreaking.

A Cup of Tea

Here at work, our department is full of tea drinkers. It seems as if the pot is always boiling or at very least, always hot. Our “chocolate drawer” is actually filled with tea bags. July and August were perhaps our highest months of tea consumption, despite the heat. Even our office plants drink (cooled down, left over) tea; they grow like weeds now. In short, we are a tea office.

I must say there is something so fabulous about a cup of tea. The hot water melts away stress built up slowly throughout the day. The soft flavor awakens sensitivity to the hints of subtle beauty in the world. The warmth of the cup soaks into your hands reigniting the consciousness of the connection between the mind, heart and body. And a conversation on the other side of a hot cup of tea resinates longer in your ears, reaching further into the depths of your soul. Nothing quite compares to the morning’s first cup of tea.

I once had a grief counselor talk to me about the value of “sitting down to have a cup of tea with your grief.” The basic concept is to become friends with your grief, face it straight on, experience it and understand it instead of avoiding it. Once this daily or weekly meeting is over, stand up and live the rest of your day away from your grief. I can think of no better setting to address such a difficult reality on a regular basis, with a hot cup of tea soothing the one wound which takes the longest to scar.

I am sure you have heard the theory of people being like tea. It is when we are put in hot water (difficult circumstances) that our true flavor (character) can bloom and be fully appreciated. Or maybe that is not a common thought, and I just created a brilliant new metaphor. Someday I will revisit that thought.

Excuse me, I have to get back to work; it’s tea time.

5 de mayo

Let me just start out by saying, I know that 5 de mayo is not a huge celebration in Mexico. I realize that for the most part it’s an excuse used by most Americans to eat Mexican food and drink margaritas at discounted rates. I enjoyed it most when living in California, because there were always some of the most enjoyable fairs celebrating hispanic heritage. I have studied enough about El Día de la Batalla de Puebla to fully appreciate the day’s complex history. So no, I don’t think it’s Mexico’s Independence Day.

However, as a “typical American” I do use it as an excuse to celebrate our southern neighbors by indulging in a bit of Mexican food. Last night was no exception. Unfortunately Daniel and I are on both a budget and a healthy eating streak. So my only way around it was to use my acquired skills to produce an edible meal for us at home. This resulted in homemade “refried beans,” salsa (although a bit too spicy) and tortillas. My tortilla press has been sitting unused for too many months, and it was a joy to get it out again. I’ll admit, my homemade tortillas as not as good as the expert’s, but they are passable. So this year the Taipe house celebrated, ate, laughed and appreciated the diversity which our world can bring us. Isn’t it just wonderful creating a family painted with the colorful world around us?