Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Don't Worry...

Lately, many of my 'friends' on pinterest have been pinning this one sign- Don't worry because whatever you're worrying about is going to happen or it's not going to happen and worrying about it won't change anything.  Or something like that.

This happens to be very true, and it's great advice... but really difficult to follow.  Now is the time of the year where international teachers start the difficult and exciting process known as RECRUITING (cue ominous music).  If you are not RECRUITING, all the exciting places that people start talking about makes you want to RECRUIT, just a little, no matter how happy you are in your current position.  If you are RECRUITING, you start obsessively working and reworking your resume and cover letters, begging people for references, signing up to any and all recruitment agencies and websites and email prospective employers, whether they have positions for you or not.  Then, you sit back and wait for someone, anyone to email or call you and request an interview.  It's really a lot like a sorority recruitment (Rush, to us old-schoolers).  You dress up really pretty (via your resume and references), research the schools and jobs, interview and then keep your fingers crossed that someone wants you. 

Sometimes, it is a good fit.  Sometimes not.  Sometimes one place wants you but you really want another place and you're not sure if you should take the job at the first place, just so you have a job, or try and hold out.  Recruitment fairs, which are basically cattle calls, are good and bad.  The bad thing is you see your competition.  Sitting at home, applying for schools online, you can pretend you are the only person who could possibly want or be qualified for the job.  At the fair, it seems every other person does what you do, and has been doing it longer or better or has had more training.  But the good thing about the fair is you almost always have a job at the end.  If you don't, then you're in a little bit of trouble.  Most of the time, however, it's a stressful, anxiety-filled three or four days, but you walk away with a job.

Applying beforehand, you risk being offered something early.  And then that whole do-I-don't-I battle begins to rage.  I like five of the seven things about this school... but I like seven of the seven things of another school... except that they haven't contacted me, much less asked for an interview or offered me a job.  Can I live somewhere that I never thought of living before, just to do a job I know I will love?  Would I be willing to take a job I didn't love to live somewhere I would love?

What. If. Noone. Hires. Me?

Let the good times roll...

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

We're Those People

Well, it's official- we've gone mobile.  It's technically been official for a while- the Lady Bug has been crawling around the house for a month now.  It's adorable and sweet and... exhausting!

I used to babysit for some rather adorable twin girls some years ago (enough years that they are both in middle school now and I feel like a granny).  I remember when they went mobile- it was my least favorite time in life, especially since there were two of them.  I swear they planned it all out- I could almost catch the knowing looks and little baby high-fives as they plotted and then made their move.  One would head towards the stairs that led up and the other would head for the stairs that led down, simultaneously.  The only good thing was the the stairs were beside each other, so I could scoop up the one who was going to tumble head-first into the basement, then the one who was clearly going to topple over backwards as she climbed up, in one fell swoop. 

This lasted one day exactly- because they seemed to go from stationary to mobile in one day.  The next day I arrived, there was a baby gate installed.  I can't remember if there was one on the stairs going up- it was a split-level home and there were only three or four stairs- but there was definitely a gate on the stairs going down and that made my life a little easier.

I said A LITTLE.  It's still thoroughly exhausting chasing babies around all day.  Two is definitely harder than one, but one is nothing to shake a stick at.  This summer, some friends came to visit and brought their then 9 month old.  He was at that stage- crawling everywhere, pulling up on everything, walking if he was pushing something.  I don't recall seeing the two of them sit down together at the same time until after his bedtime each night!  It looked tiring.  I secretly laughed because the Lady Bug still just stayed where you put her.

Not anymore.  We are "those parents" now.  One of us is constantly chasing that little bug around the house.  We've set up perimeters in the living room which allow for only one exit and even then, she gets by us sometimes!  And now, she's started pulling up.  It literally started this weekend.  I put her on the floor to play while I picked our her clothes for the day and turned around she had pushed herself up on a stool.  I did a double-take thinking, Does she do this?  Did I put her like that?  Since then, she's pulled up on the coffee table, climbed on said stool and started standing in her bed.

It's adorable.  It's absolutely amazing to watch this little bug grow and develop and I love every momentous occasion. 

But dang, I'm tired already!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Another Adventure with the Horners...

First let me just mention that it is gloriously quiet in my office right now.  The whole world could've just been eaten by the Langoliers and I'm not sure I would care  because it's quiet.

I've probably just jinxed myself.

Let's start by reminding you that traveling is something that does not go well for Dave and me.  We have learned to arrive at airports AT LEAST three hours early because, inevitably, something is going to go wrong.  You could make tons of money betting that somewhere in our attempt to get through an airport, we will be thwarted.  Once, it was that Dave didn't have a form he needed to have filled out online (that no one told us about) and the airport, mysteriously, didn't have wi-fi.  Another time, I had (plastic, airplane-safe) knitting needles and yarn in my carry-on.  Apparently, I wasn't going to use the needles to kill anyone, but the yarn.  Then, of course, there was the great wine-smuggling adventure of 2006.  Like I said, it never goes easily for us in an airport.

And now, apparently, when we travel by car.

Saturday morning we got up bright and early... well, truthfully it was too early to be bright, so it was just early.  We loaded our car, woke up the baby and set out on our way to El Salvador.  Originally, the 10 travelers, one of which being the Lady Bug, wanted to pile into two cars- our SUV and another sedan.  We nixed that when we realized just how much stuff the Lady Bug (and her mother) need to go out on a three-day vacation.  The now three cars left the city around 8am-ish, heading merrily down the road.  We got to the border and encountered our first inconvenience- apparently now you must stop and let someone go through your passport as you cross the border into El Salvador.  This has never happened before.  Since it was a long weekend, there was a 45-minute line.  With no air-conditioning.  And tiny Guatemalans trying to sneak past you in line.  Fun stuff.  We picked up three hitchhikers as we crossed over... that's not true!  The travel gods were not smiling on some of our friends either, and their ride had had to turn around and go back to the city (a two-hour trip) to retrieve some forgotten paperwork.  They were going to sit around and wait but we offered our extra seats and off we went again. 

For another 10 miles.  Then the a/c started blowing hot and the car had no pick-up.  There was a strange rattling sound.  Dave decided to pull over while I desperately tried to call the two cars in front of us.  Funny thing about TIGO (our local phone service)- it doesn't work well once you cross into El Sal (that's what we in the know call El Salvador).  So no one was picking up and I was panicking slightly, wondering how far they would get before anyone noticed we really weren't behind them.  Luckily, we finally got a hold of one of the cars and they turned back around.

The boys crowded around the hood and hmmm and hawed about what the problem was.  All we knew was that water wasn't helping and you couldn't turn the car back on.  The rest of us piled out onto the side of the road, scurrying to the only shade available.  The baby was stripped down to her onesie, because it's hot in El Sal. 

Five hours later (I'm just kidding, it was only two hours, but five hours later is one of my principals favorite sayings), after two trips up and down the road by two different carloads, a mechanic was found.  He looked under the hood and basically said, "Yep, you're screwed."  He agreed to two the car to his shop where we would leave it until Monday when our mechanic from the city would drive down and tow it back to his shop.  On the way to the El Sal's mechanic shop, the rope towing our car broke.  I watched in horror as it started rolling back down the gigantic hill towards us.  Then I remembered that someone was in the passenger seat and they maneuvered the car to the side of the road.  And Lindsey, God bless her, Queen of the Ever Prepared for Anything, had rope in her car.  We were off again. 

At the mechanic's, we managed to stuff everything into two cars but had to leave our hitchhiker's there to wait for their ride to return.  And we set off again...

The weekend itself was amazing and relaxing with just the right amount of bacon cheeseburgers, alcohol, and pool time.  The baby loved seeing the ocean for the first time and I loved watching her play with (or scream at) her new friends.  It was really wonderful and just what the doctor ordered after a long and cold rainy season in Guatemala.

Monday came and we headed home.  We got lost (not WE, but the lead car).  Instead of it taking us an hour to get to the border, it took 2 1/2 hours.  Then we got pulled over right across the Guatemalan border and they clearly wanted money from us or the mechanic towing our car.  We didn't give in.  They were stupid dumb-dumb heads. 

It should take 3 1/2 hours to get to El Sal and back.  It took almost six.  The Lady Bug was a real trooper- only giving in to her inner sleepy demons in the last hour or so of the car ride.  The car made it back safe and sound and is apparently not as bad as we thought it was going to be.  But we're struggling to find rides home and the nanny is kind of pissed that I can't get there right after 3pm as usual and it's just a stressful situation all around.

However, it was so great to have so many friends, especially the uber-prepared ones and the ones who were fluent in Spanish, and the baby-loving ones, to help us out.  And like Lee said, "It could've been worse.  We could've been alone.  And in the dark."

But next time, will you drive?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Two Week Countdown...

Nano starts in two weeks.  Two years ago, I completed 50,000 words in 30 days.  I went into it blind, as I do a lot of things that take pre-planning, and though I succeeded, it was tough because I didn't have a plan and I was never really sure where the story was going.  But luckily, it was about me so it was kind of easy to make up as I went along.  This year, I have an idea for an actual novel.  I'm not going to tell you what it is and I'm not even going to share my planning stage with you because if I do that and you don't like it, I will probably decide to stop writing.  And I think this is a good idea.  So I'm going to plan and I'm going to write it and you can just wait until I'm done to read it :)

I am going to lay out a schedule for the next two weeks, though, so I'm ready to start writing come November 1st.  Here is what I'm going to do:

Today: Brief plot outline- at least figure out what is going to happen/climax/resolution.  As of now, I've got none of that.
Day 2: Character description- main character
Day 3: Character description
Day 4: Character description
Day 5: Character description
Day 6: More detailed plot outline
Day 7: Character description
Day 8: Character description (if necessary)
Day 9: Setting description (research if necessary)
Day 10: Chapter 1-2 outline
Day 11: Chapter 3-4 outline
Day 12: Chapter 5-6 outline
Day 13:  Chapter 7-8 outline
Day 14: Chapter 9-10 outline
Day 15: Last minute touches on planning

This will take me to November 1st.  Then I start writing.  My goal is to stay on top of it this year- 2,000 words a day.  I know I can do this.  I know I can.

In other news, Guatemala is currently in the throws of a tropical depression.  We are the only school in session in the city today.  There are land- and mudslides all over the place.  This picture was from a couple of days ago (as a side note, the the guy on the billboard in the background- his grandsons go to our school).  Our nanny told us this morning that several houses around her washed away.  We passed several mudslides on our way to school and we were almost blocked into our neighborhood by them.  Pray for the people of Guatemala.  It always seems to effect those that can't afford to be affected.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Looks Like We Made It...

I've almost made it to the end of my 30 day challenge.  It's actually gone really fast and it has served its' purpose.  While I cannot lie and say that I have written every day, I have stayed caught up with the days I'm meant to be writing (I also haven't taken all my pictures, but I will- that is important but I was really trying to get myself in the habit of writing).  It has become, if not a completely daily habit, at least one that I think about each day.  I try and schedule time to write and if, for some reason, it doesn't happen, I schedule more time the next day to make it up.  It is becoming a habit.  Which is a good thing because Nanowrimo is just around the corner and it will not be any easier to find the time to write as football season gets into full swing, the holidays begin to rear their gorgeous heads, and the Lady Bug gets more and more mobile and more and more demanding of my time and attention. 

But I am looking forward to the challenge.  I will succeed this year and get another coffee mug or perhaps a t-shirt.  This is going to be the one, I can feel it.  Oops, now I've put pressure on myself.  So it doesn't have to be the one.  But it'd be super awesome if it was!!

Onward- only five more days to go!  I think I shall set up another challenge for myself.  A planning/researching challenge to get me ready to write.  Watch out novel world.  Here I come!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Sound of Silence

I originally started knitting because I thought it would make me feel more productive at the end of a long night of watching TV.  If you know me, you know I'm a homebody.  I like being home.  I used to prefer being home to being almost anywhere else- I would rather throw a party than go to one.  Of course, this has changed a bit since having a little lady bug since I want her to experience more of the world than just our living room.  But I digress.  I found myself spending lots of time alone, especially in Shanghai for some reason, watching a lot of TV.  And I felt like a big lump at the end of the night- I hadn't done anything, hadn't learned anything.  So I learned to knit.  That way, once I got good at it, I could watch TV and still have PRODUCED something by bedtime.  Alone time was even more awesome because I felt like I was accomplishing something.

Lately though, knitting has become a quiet-time activity for me.  I find myself constantly assaulted by noise from everywhere.  Right now, as a matter of fact, I have the radio playing to cover the teacher on one side of me who is blasting her music and to cover the teacher on the other side of me who lets his kids run wild and then just yells at them for thirty minutes.  When I get home, the TV will probably be on and now, during football season, it's the TV and the computer, running some game or another. 

And what I really want is to sit somewhere and to not hear anything.  To be able to think and process what I'm thinking.  Or not think at all.  To just sit in silence.  For a little bit.  Is that so much to ask?

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Juices are Flowing

My self-imposed Creativity Bootcamp is actually working.  I find myself looking forward to seeing what photograph I need to take and what I need to write for the day.  It is already part of my routine, which is what I want to help me get ready for Nanowrimo.  I also feel more inspired to be crafty every day, even if it's just cooking or working on Dave's Christmas sweater.  Yay for me and yay for creativity.

Now if only I could motivate myself to do a 30 day exercise program.  That would be helpful.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

10 Years Ago

I was asleep through both of the towers collapsing.  I had worked late at Logan's, and probably gone out drinking which would explain why I was sleeping my sister's waterbed at home that night.  Dad was at work and I assume Andrea was at college.  Mom and I were asleep.  When I finally got up to get ready for work, or whatever it was I was going to do between waking up and getting to work, I turned on the radio.  There was no music.  Cadillac Jack kept saying, "I can't believe this is happening, this is unbelievable, our world has changed."  I had turned on the water to get in the shower and just stood there, letting it run, while I waited for him to tell me what was so unbelievable.  It took several minutes because most of America was awake already and knew.  When he finally said, "If you're just tuning in, two planes have crashed into the Twin Towers in New York..." I ran downstairs and woke Mom up.  We sat in her room, and then the living room, watching the coverage.  It wasn't terrorists yet.  No one knew about the plane headed for the Pentagon yet.  It was just a horrible accident, a strange accident since there were two planes.

I don't have it with me here in Guatemala, but I had just started journaling again the day before September 11th, so I have all my thoughts saved.  I can remember that mostly I felt disbelief and a huge disconnect from the whole situation.  I didn't know anyone in New York and it honestly took a while to feel the true impact of what had happened.  It took being able to put families to the names of those missing, firemen hats to the lost heroes.  It was so surreal and it still is, ten years later.

Today I say a prayer for those lost and those who lost.  May God grant you peace and strength every day.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Creativity Bootcamp

I am embarking on a self-imposed Creativity Bootcamp.  For the next 30 days, I will follow two separate prompts- one for photography and one for writing.  I am also committing myself to trying two things that I find on Pinterest each weekend (and yes, it counts if I pinned them).

Why?  Because I feel stagnant and I want to do Nanowrimo again this year (I failed MISERABLY last year) and I don't know where the creative juices are going to come from.  So I'm making them flow.  Two of my favorite things in the world are photography- which I'm admittedly NOT good at- and writing- which I am better at.  But I'm lazy- I haven't in all the years that I've been buying and losing expensive cameras ever taken a photography class or spent more than twenty or thirty minutes playing with any of those cameras.  I've read about f-stop and aperture a million times and still don't understand it, not even a bit.  And I'm super-lazy when it comes to writing.  There's nothing stopping me from writing for a few minutes every day... but I don't.

So I am challenging myself now- I will complete both 30 day challenges in a hope to inspire myself to be creative again.  Fingers crossed, it works.  Follow my adventures on the two pages I've set up for this.  Or don't.  Whatever makes you happy :)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Between Here and There

If you know me, you know I'm not now, nor have I ever been THE OUTDOOR TYPE.  I can't honestly think of anything I'd like to do less than go camping or hiking- basically any activity that involves physical labor, sweat, and bugs.  I'm a child of the United States- I will drive where I can, even if it is from the Target parking lot to the Petsmart parking lot in my hometown (which are in the same big parking lot).  I whined- a lot- this summer when my adorable husband suggested we walk from our house to the Publix, less than 1/2 a mile away (to be fair, and I know you Southerns will understand- it was JULY, the sun had already risen and it was about seven million degrees with four billion percent humidity).

But living in a country where walking is not an option changes everything.  I long to take a stroll somewhere, anywhere really.  As I have not tried to hide, I despised my time in Shanghai.  Living here in Guatemala, where it is beautiful and green, sunny and breezy, and you can actually see the blue sky every day... it pains me to say that I do actually miss China.  At least you could walk.  At least I could take my dogs somewhere to get out of the house.  If my little one had already been here, I could've taken her for a walk every day, even if it was only around the block.  Here in Guatemala, it's not safe.  Adorable husband will not even let me walk to the pharmacy which is less than a quarter of a mile away.  Like a good American, I drive.  Now, don't go getting all upset.  Truthfully, I think it would be safe.  But you don't really know and why risk it?

Not to scare you, but last year, a friend of ours was taking his two little girls to breakfast.  They walked down the very busy street at 10am on a Sunday, less than 1/2 a mile from his house.  And he was held up at gunpoint.  Really, it's a brilliant plan.  Who isn't going to do everything a person with a gun says when their kids are right there?!

So when we go outside, it's in our neighborhood or at the school.  Or the mall, which isn't technically outside.  It makes me miss walking.  More than anything, it makes me want to live in England.  Beautiful, beautiful safe England, with your beautiful manor houses and parks all over the place.  Sigh.

Wait.  I'm American.  I don't like to walk.  (I've been to that castle and it is that pretty!)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Curiouser and curiouser...

There is not much that surprises me anymore when it comes to living overseas.  When I first moved to the Dominican Republic, every day was an adventure, every new experience was hysterical/terrifying/just plain strange.  Now, it's all sort of meh.  I've driven down the second most dangerous road in the world (the Fahaheel Expressway in Kuwait, as documented in the Guinness Book of World Records) and lived to tell the story.  I've seen men climb scaffolding made of bamboo and rope and THEY lived to tell the story.  I've endured two weeks of fireworks at Chinese New Year, people staring at me walking my dogs as though I have two hippopotami at the end of the leash, typhoons on the first day of school, sand storms, and so many other things that I can't count them.  And, like I said, it's all gotten a little mundane.

Except in my current neighborhood.  I live in a nice, heavily gated/guarded neighborhood where I can walk my dogs and children run freely through the streets.  It is a tiny place, made up of 60ish townhouses and you can complete a lap, walking, in about five minutes.  It's pretty, it's safe, it's friendly.  Right outside is a slightly different world.  It looks dirty and rundown.  You can't see any of the houses because they are all behind a gate and a cement wall.  There are stray dogs everywhere.

And yet, that neighborhood is friendly too.  And funny.  The story goes that it was a military zone for a long time.  After the military pulled out, the 'badies' started to move in.  Well, the people would have nothing of it.  They rounded up the drug dealers and criminals, hung them or shot them in the street, and the neighborhood has been a relatively safe place ever since.  It's one of the only places in the city where you see families and children running around after dark.  I've never felt nervous out there...

I've felt more amused than anything.  That neighborhood continuously surprises me.  Once, I came around the corner to find a 10-foot tall Jesus standing by a tienda (little store).  Obviously, it was a man on stilts... but the funny thing was that I didn't see anyone else in a costume anywhere.  Another time, while trying to leave, I had to wait for a parade, made up of people in various Halloween costumes, to make their way SLOWLY down the street.  It was a random Tuesday. 

Sunday, as I left to do a little shopping and get the kiddo out of the house, I drove by one of the small churches in the area.  And to my surprise, there were at least 10 people dressed in full cartoon costumes- Pluto and Speedy Gonzalez to name two- doing the Macarena outside the church.  I drove by slowly, amused, but not surprised, and had a smile on my face the rest of the day.

Like I said, not much surprises me anymore.  But sometimes it's nice to step back and every now and again think OIG (only in Guatemala) in a good way...

(That picture isn't of the Speedy from my neighborhood, just a random one from the internet...)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Baby Face

Someone asked how my baby was today and, after I told her that she was great, she said, "I love the way your face lights up when you talk about her." 

And it's true.  I love it when people ask me how she's doing.  I don't have much to say, really.  She's happy, she's healthy, she's growing.  Every day it's something new- yesterday, she pulled up on all fours, just for a second, but she did it.  The day before that, she did a full back-to-front-to-back roll... almost off the bed (the time has definitely come where she will not be left on high surfaces without direct contact/supervision)!  She giggles sometimes and has given us a few surprising belly laughs that have startled all of us.  She squeals like a pig when she's happy and could shatter your ear-drum with her screams when she's not.  She lights up when Dave and I get home from school but then passively-agressively ignores me for a bit until I do something especially funny.  I love having her every minute of every day and can't remember what life was like before her. 

Did you see it, the way my face lit up when I just wrote all this?  Because it did.

This is her, being adorable:

Friday, August 12, 2011

Facebook Celebrity (aka Welcome to the Neighborhood)

A couple of weeks ago, I was at the Applebee's in my hometown.  My dad and husband were there to play in a weekly high stakes (read: $25 in Applebee's coupons to the winner) poker game.  My sister, the baby and I were there to eat.  Sitting at the table, waiting on our appetizer, I thought to myself, It'd be weird if I saw someone I knew.  D'ville is big but small.  It's definitely grown a lot since I was a kid but it still retains a little of that small-town feel, at least to me.  It's not uncommon to run into someone you went to daycare with at one of the local Walmarts.  At the same time, you can go years without seeing anyone you've ever known in your whole life.  It's strange like that.

Anyway, not two minutes after my thought (wondering if I'd see anyone), two guys walked by the window and I immediately said to my sister, "There's R and J."  She was sort of astounded that I recognized them so quickly (so was I, to be honest- it was so quick, I actually wondered if I was right).  They came in and went to sit at the bar.  I had actually gone to daycare with R and middle school and high school with J.  Sissy asked if I was going to say hello.

Here's the thing: I hadn't seen J, not that can I remember, since high school.  We were barely more than acquaintances- we'd been in school together forever but didn't really run in the same circles.  Despite this, we are facebook friends.  I know that he just broke up with girlfriend, that he teaches painting classes a few times a month, that he is kind of funny and his status updates don't particularly irritate me.  I haven't had to hide him, which is saying a lot.  I might have commented on a picture or a status update at some point, though I can't be sure.  It might've just been a 'hey, how's it going' when whoever added whoever as a friend.

And it made me feel weird, knowing all this stuff about him and then seeing him in person.  Like, what would we talk about?  There's no real catching up to do because we both know almost everything about each other.  I'd say, I had a baby.  He'd say, Yeah, I know.  I teach painting.  I'd say, Yeah, I know.  

It just felt awkward.  So, no, I didn't say hello.  I felt like I was seeing a celebrity of sorts- someone I knew everything about from reading my teeny-bopper magazines (ahh, Kirk Cameron...).  It was a strange feeling.  I had to ponder on the wonder that is facebook for a minute.  On the one hand, it seems almost essential for the lifestyle that I lead.  I have friends all over the world and if we were in the olden days when people had to write actual letters, make actual phone calls... or even the more recent olden days where you had to send an actual email, I would lose touch with the majority of the people I've met. As it stands, I know where everyone is and what everyone is doing, almost daily.  Which can be fun and exciting... on the other hand, I don't feel the need to write/call/email anymore because, well, I know what you're doing and where you are and how your vacation was and what your new school/principal is like and where you want to go next and what thing or person from America/Canada you miss the most.  There's nothing to talk about anymore because we say it all in our status updates (or Tweets if you swing that way; I don't).

So facebook.  Thanks for real and a sarcastic thanks.  You've made my world a little smaller...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

School's Out for... ever?

Ahh, the bittersweet ending to the International Teacher's year.  I've written about it before and I'm sure I'll write about it again because it always surprises me just how bittersweet it is.  You can't help but be elated at the thought of the long summer days stretching out before you in bursts of family, friends, and travel.  Oh, and no students.  And sleeping in.  And no students.  Wait, I already said that... but it does bear repeating (bear or bare...?).  I imagine in a local school setting, the teachers hug and say their goodbyes on that last day, just as we do.  But they are only saying goodbye for the summer.  Sure, maybe one or two teachers are moving on to greener pastures- or other careers.  But for the most part, if my high school days are any indication, most teachers get in and stay.

Not so in the International World.  We sign two-year contracts.  After that, it's usually just one year at a time.  I would say, on average, we stay in a place for three years.  Sometimes it's two, sometimes is more... and yes, sometimes you meet that teacher or family who has been there for more years that you've been alive.  But the International Teacher is typically a nomad and always on the lookout for that next amazing school, the next fantastic adventure.  And so, we are constantly saying real goodbyes to friends who we are not sure if we will ever see again.  There are always more than a few tears.

But the upside is this: We usually do see each other again, especially those amazing friends you make along the way.  This year, friends of ours are moving to Bangladesh, Budapest, and Jordan.  There are two new places to travel and visit (I've been to Jordan).  We have close friends going to Cairo and one in Mumbai.  Others are moving to Malaysia (it's truly Asia) and we still have friends in China.  We have friends all over the world... what an amazing feeling!

So yes, it is bitter to say goodbye.  But it is sweet to know that we will probably cross paths again.  Good luck friends, in your next great adventure!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Picture it... Sicily... 1942...

No really- picture your three favorite teachers.  They can be from elementary, middle or high school.  Maybe even pre-school.  Do you have a clear picture?  Good.  Now, picture a Friday afternoon, probably near Christmas break or the end of the year.  You, as the student, are super pumped.  Two weeks to two months off of school.  No more pencils, no more books, etc.  Now, picture your teachers.  They're just as happy to be rid of you as you were of them... and they're old enough to drink.  Visualize bottles of wine, cans of beer, and bowls of chips and pretzels littering a countertop at someone's home.  Try and see the pleasant beginnings- hellos, how-are-yous, woo-aren't-you-glad--to-be-dones.  Envision someone who keeps pouring everyone a little refill or handing out another can.  It gets louder and happier.  Someone turns the music up.  Someone, probably your reserved science teacher, starts dancing in the corner.  Soon, your uptight English Lit teacher starts grinding on your cute PE teacher.  People start laughing, telling stories... and, truth be told, probably making fun of you and your boyfriend.  They start talking about your abysmal US History final and how they expected so much more from you.  Your guidance counselor laughs because she doesn't know how you got into (insert college here).  As the evening rages on, your teachers get more drunk, talk louder, fall all over themselves.  Someone walks into a door, someone else passes out in the bathroom.  The evening ends with cabs being called and someone losing a shoe.

Can you picture it?

No.  That's because that would never happen.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

What the...?

It's really cute when little kids say, "What the...?"  It's not as cute when adults say it, because we usually finish it with an expletive of some sort.

There are things you do not do.  You do not trip old people.  You do not lick other people's food.   You do not put hamsters in the microwave.  And you sure as heck don't grab someone's child without asking permission first.  Especially when you are not friends.

Now, having lived in several countries with different social rules than ours, I know that it is likely that somewhere along the way, maybe even in Guatemala, a stranger will grab for, touch, or try to kiss my baby.   It's one of the reasons that I like to 'wear' her in a sling- it makes it harder for that to happen.  I also know, along those same lines, that people will always give me friendly advice regarding my child.  For example, the other day we took her out walking in our neighborhood.  It was evening and cooler than it had been during the day and I had her in the Moby in just a onesie.  The next day, a kindly neighbor told us she saw us walking around and all she could think was, She needs more clothes on!  She said this sweetly, but it was a direct hit.  The thing is, my kid is a hot box.  Even in the cooler evening air, we were both sweating by the time we got home.  I kept feeling her head and her hands during the walk and would've taken her home immediately if she had been too cold.  I do have some idea of how not to kill my child.

I have come to accept that things like this will happen.  When they do, I will smile and thank the person for the advice.  Or I will kindly ask them not to touch her or say, "No, you can't hold her right now," and everything will be fine.  What I can't accept is someone who is not my friend grabbing for my baby.  Not just 'not my friend' in the sense of not being close or not having spent much time together- those people I can tolerate.  But someone who is not my friend because they chose not to be.  Why would you think it was okay to hold my child?  To hold my child after not even acknowledging my presence for an entire evening (which is fine with me)?  Why would someone assume that was okay?

Because it's not.  Nor will it ever be.  If you touch my baby again, I will not only embarrass you publicly- something along the lines of yelling, screaming, just throwing a fit in general- but I could hurt you.  I won't be able to help it.  Blame the Momma Bear.

Now go play the victim.  Tell everyone how awful I am and how you just wish we could be friends and, aside from nearly bouncing my baby to death, you didn't do anything to me...  whatever.

You're an asshat.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Where's the Beef?

Growing up, especially during my high school years, the question, "Mom, what's for dinner?" was usually answered with "chicken, broccoli, and insert-starch-here."  If we didn't hear that answer, it was, "Whatever you're making, I guess."

My mother was the queen of the out-of-a-box dinner.  We had frozen chicken breasts, grilled to perfection, frozen broccoli, steamed to perfection, and something dehydrated and then rehydrated, to perfection, of course.  I can remember meals from my childhood- chili and chicken-n-dumplings and lots of Hamburger Helper (oops, that's from a box).   By the time I reached middle school, however, we were surviving on the chicken/broccoli/boxed starch diet.  And pizza, usually on Friday or Saturday nights.  My sister was a picky eater so that may have stopped my mom from being more creative in the kitchen.  She was also doing the 9-5 thing, with an hour commute each way so I can understand why she didn't rush home and prepare gourmet meals each night.

My least favorite dinner nights were the ones where Mom declared that corn was a starch and not a vegetable.  I'm not sure of the actual classification of corn, and I do like corn, but when you pit against mashed potatoes or say macaroni and cheese (Kraft dinner to any Canadians reading this), it pales in comparison.  Dish it out with grilled chicken and broccoli and it didn't stand at chance at being loved or revered.  That bright yellow food was met with sigh's and glares of hatred for not being orange or white.

There are so many reasons that my job is awesome.  Yes, of course, long summer and Christmas breaks top the list.  But another really great perk of being a teacher is getting done each day at 3pm (or so).  Right now, living in Guate, I am home by 3:15pm and if I am tired, I can sit down and veg for a little while in front of the TV.  Or I can do my workout with my honey if we didn't get a chance at school.  Or I can just spend some time with my baby girl.  And by 5pm, I'm bored of sitting and I'm ready for dinner.  I don't have to rush home after a long day and jump right into the kitchen and try to whip up something that no one will complain about.  I'm lucky to be married to someone who also likes cooking (as long as there is meat involved) so some nights, he cooks.  Some nights I cook.  And some nights we cook together.  I have tried so many things since being with him- for example, he eats his chili over rice.  That is so weird!  But yummy!  And he can make a killer curry, which I never knew I liked.  I've also learned how to cook too- I know what spices and herbs I like.  I'm not afraid to try new things and I find myself watching cooking shows and wishing I could get all those ingredients here.

My daughter will grow up eating interesting dishes.  Maybe not every night, and we will definitely have a few things that we eat regularly (make-your-own-pizza and bbq pasta are two big favorites right now). I hope that I am able to teach my daughter how to cook and to not be afraid to eat something new or different.  I hope that she doesn't grow up harboring a secret hatred of corn.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

R-O-C-K in the USA

I just realized that I promised, but did not deliver, the story of Rory's Guatemalan birth certificate.  I have some free time now, so here goes.  You might want to get some popcorn and a drink- as with most things in Guate, this could take a while.

Rory was born.  My sister came to visit.  I cried a lot when she left.  My dad said he probably wasn't going to be able to make it to see us and meet his granddaughter before the summer.  Dave's parents said they couldn't come for Spring Break.  I was sad.  Dave and Sissy and Daddy said, "Go/Come to GA for Spring Break!"  I checked our United miles, realized we had enough for two tickets and the plan was set in motion.  We were going home.

Step One: Rory needed to be declared born.  And an American.  It made sense to go ahead and get her passport at the same time.  I actually had to make the appointment at the US Embassy for all of this to happen about six weeks before she was born, just to guarantee (HOLY CRAP!  I JUST SPELLED GUARANTEE RIGHT ON THE FIRST TRY!  That is one of my words that I can never spell...) we'd get seen.  For several days before the appointment, I worked on filling out the paperwork and figuring out what I needed to take with us.  I had a folder.  I had a checklist.  I was SO prepared.

Step Two: Attend appointment at the US Embassy.  Dave had to go with me.  We packed the baby and her bag, my folder and checklist, our passports and off we went, hoping to find the Embassy... because we didn't actually know where it was.  You can breathe a sigh of relief, we found it easily after some slow driving down Reforma.  We alerted the guy in the window to our presence and waited.

Step Three: Realize you left the formula for the three-week old baby on the counter at home.  But it's going to be fine because this whole process should not take longer than two hours and she just ate before we left.  No worries.

Step Four: Get called to the counter.  I handed over our passports and my folder, quite pleased with my organizational skills and eagerly expecting some praise from the man at the counter, something along the lines of, "Great job, Mrs. Horner.  You are so prepared.  Here's your gold star."  What I heard instead was, "Where's your RENAP?"  Now, on the information sheet sent out by the Embassy, it clearly says you have to have a RENAP, not the birth certificate from the hospital.  We had gotten a certificate of birth from the hospital.  It was green, they put her little feet prints on it and someone signed it.  Then, my doctor had given me a more official-looking form.  This one had been typed and had a seal of some sort and had also been signed.  That's what I took to be the RENAP.  After all, I'd asked me doctor what I needed to get her passport and that's what he'd given me.

That wasn't it.  The RENAP is the official Guatemalan birth certificate and, not surprisingly, there is a whole other building and process for getting it.  This is Guatemala- they couldn't possibly make it simple.

So we're told we have to go get this.  First, the guy at the counter says it will take at least a week to issue.  Hmm.  That's not going to work.  Almost in tears, I explain that I had just booked a flight home for us because I was assured that we would have her passport in time if I came to our scheduled appointment.  The guy decides that, rather than risk a crying fit from a hysterical new mother, he will call the RENAP offices.  And he finds out that it only takes two days to issue.  Better.  He says I can bring it back on Monday and everything will be fine.  He writes down the address of the office, points in its general direction and shoo's us away.

Step Five: Try to find the RENAP office and figure out what to do.  After driving up and down Reforma several times, we finally find it.  We are at T-minus 90 minutes until the baby will need to eat.  It's going to be fine.

No it isn't.  The next 30 minutes go something like this:

Us: Ooh!  A giant sign that says RENAP!  Let's go there.  Speaking to the lady under this sign: Necesitamo un renap.
Lady under the sign (in Spanish): No, that's not here.  You have to go around the corner.
Us: Going around the corner.  Ooh, another RENAP sign.  Speaking to the guy in the little office under the 2nd RENAP sign: Necesitamos un renap.
Guy in the little office (speaking in Spanish): No, that's not here.  You have to go to information around the corner.
Us: Going to information around the corner.

This office was the size of a small kitchen and filled with 72,000 people.  We get in line behind the other two people with babies.  When we finally get to the counter, the woman tells us we must go pay for something at the bank right inside the doors to our right.  So we go.  But the banker says he doesn't have whatever it is we're supposed to be paying for and sends us to the bigger bank (you guessed it) around the corner.  We go there, are pushed to the front of the line because we have a small child.  I ask if anyone speaks English and NO ONE does.  The woman tells me she doesn't have what I need to pay for and I have to go to Zone 1.  That, my friends, is like telling someone they have to go to Atlanta for something... and that's all the information you're given.  I am becoming slightly ruffled.  Firstly, I have failed as a mother on my first big outing with my child- she has no food.  Secondly, it is hot and I don't speak Spanish.

Step Six: Decide to go home and have a disagreement about it in the street.  Who cares?  No one speaks English anyway.

Step Seven: Change our minds and stomp back to information because we can't think of anything else to do.  Out of nowhere, a man shows up and speaks English.  Then he brings a young woman who also speaks English.  Both of these people decide to help us.  We are pushed to the front of the 100+ people line (imagine a big room, filled with chairs with desks around the perimeter.  Each time the person in the first chair gets up, everyone else hops to the next chair up.  Nope... not kidding...).  We fill out some forms, the baby starts screaming, I give her water which is all I have, we fill out more forms, we go to the desk, everything is going fine...

Step Eight: Argue about the fact that your child does not have two last names.  Which she must, in Guatemala.

Step Nine: Decide on the two last names (just double her last name) and sit with a grin as the lady behind the counter gets ready to hit print.

Step Ten: Lose the network connection.

One hour later, the connection comes back.  The child has been screaming for that whole time.  I stood outside the office because it was so hot and was smothered in hateful looks the whole time.  Not because she was screaming, but because I couldn't make her stop.  I got told to breastfeed her and when I said I couldn't, I got judged.  Harshly.

But it was finally over.  We left there with the RENAP and drove home.  I went back to the Embassy the next day and dropped it off.  And the passport was ready two weeks later.  And we got to go home.

I wish it surprised me how complicated the whole situation was... but it didn't.  It is Guatemala, after all...
(That's an actual picture of the office)

ETA (edited to add): Today on the way out of school, I watched a cafeteria worker climb a tree so he could get on top of the school roof, for what, I'm not sure.  All I thought was, "Nowhere in the US would that happen..."  OIG.

Monday, June 6, 2011

That's Me in the Corner...

I can admit, without embarrassed, that I love "Ghost Whisperer."  Even though I hate Jennifer Love Hewitt.  Even though Jennifer cries just a little too much and her wardrobe is just a little too slutty.  Even though there have been some ridiculous situations- i.e. her husband dies but gets into another body and her very creepy son was five years old mere minutes after his birth- I can look past these things and admit that I like the show. 

One thing that the writers, and Melinda Gordon, advocate for in the show is that babies and young children can all see ghosts.  They all have 'the gift,' which enables them to be open to the spirits that watch over us.  Since losing my mother and having a baby, I have to wonder if this is true.  Rory stares- a lot- at the corner in our room.  I know babies like contrast, but there's no contrast in that corner.  It's a blue wall- a light blue wall, at that.  There is a curtain that stops near the corner, but I've followed her gaze as best I can and she doesn't seem to be looking at the curtain/wall combo... just the wall.  

A girl on a message board I'm a member of said she was home alone with her daughter one evening and he was staring at the wall over her shoulder as she changed him, wide-eyed.  Suddenly, the picture on the wall behind her fell to the ground.  The nail was still in the wall and nothing was broken on the frame.  It happened again later that night.  She was, admittedly, freaked out.

Does Rory see my mom hanging out in the corner?  Or even my grandmother or one of my grandfather's?  On one level, it creeps me out that my mom might just be chilling in a corner of my bedroom.  On the other, it'd be nice to know that someone was watching over all of us. 

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Parents Just Don't Understand...

When I think back on my middle school to college years, nothing jumps out at me to make me think that anyone should be surprised 'how I turned out.'  Oh sure, I did some things that I wish I hadn't.  I did some stupid, stupid things that would (hypocritically) make me want to beat my child and lock her in her room forever.  I can even admit that, in most cases regarding friends or certain situations (brace yourselves)- MY PARENTS WERE RIGHT.  AHHH!  The shock and horror!  But it's true.  And I see that now.

However, those stupid, stupid things were far outweighed by the stupid things I didn't do.  First off, I was a good student.  I never made below a C- and there were only two in high school.  One was in Gifted Physical Science, a class I hadn't wanted to take and who featured a teacher who thought he was a professor of college freshmen instead of high school freshmen.  Oh, and he didn't like girls.  At all.  All the boys got nicknames and slaps on the back.  If one of the girls did something right, we mostly got ignored.   Needless to say, I was not only uninspired to do my best work in his class, I'm not sure it would have mattered if I did.  The other C was from AP Calculus.  That probably doesn't surprise anyone who knows me as I'm definitely more right brained than left.  Plus, I don't really count it because, since it was an AP course, it counted as a B towards my GPA.  In college, I only made A's and B's and graduated one of the Cum Laude's, having held offices in my sorority and having served as SGA Treasurer and Vice President for three years.

And now for the list of stupid things I didn't do, just to drive home my point.

-I didn't smoke pot.  Not because it wasn't offered, but because I was more afraid of looking stupid than I was about being cool.  There was no moral high ground, just an ingrained mantra on repeat, "Don't do anything that makes you look like an idiot."  Not the best mantra, mind you, but it kept me from smoking pot.

- Excepting the misguided raid on S's parent's liquor cabinet in 8th grade (which resulted in me shaving the back of me head and passing out for a millisecond... oh and my Mom finding out and grounding me from seeing S for a while), I didn't drink until my senior year of high school.  And then it was Boones Farm in the basement apartment of one of my friends after the closing night of our last spring musical.  I remember as much of the night as is possible to remember 15 years later, so I'm pretty sure I didn't get drunk.

- The night of senior prom, after my date and I left, we didn't go get drunk or rowdy somewhere.  We drove to the next county to see if a boy my date liked was home.  Now, many could call it stalking, but it was harmless stalking as we only drove by and drove away.  Then we went to my house and he fell asleep in the bonus room and I went to bed.  I know, I'm a party animal.

- When I had a curfew, I was always home by it.  I was terrified of my Mom and that terror is really the driving force behind most of the stupid things I didn't do.  I didn't lie too often about where I was going or who I was with.  I never stole money or hurt anyone.  I was kind to my elders and loved my Mimi.  I have had a job since I was 15, and even before that if you counted babysitting.  I tried not to ask for money because I always thought we were broke.  I just don't think there was anything in my history that suggests I would turn out any way but the way I have.

And yet, I suppose I have surprised some people.  That makes me curious- not only curious as to HOW they thought I might turn out, but curious as to what parts of my life made them think that I would turn out differently.  Well, if we're being honest, I guess even I am surprised that I left D'ville and even more surprised that I left the country.  But I wanted to be a teacher since 7th grade and never hid that from anyone.  That shouldn't be shocking.  I also wanted to get married since I was about five and didn't know you couldn't marry your cousin (technically, I think you can in GA... but really).  And I've wanted a baby since, well, forever.

I was feisty and yell-y and argumentative.  I talked back and was sassy (hehe- I said WAS) and liked to stomp and slam doors.  I didn't work 18 jobs like my sister and didn't get all A's for my whole life and couldn't buy my own car- cash in hand- at seventeen.  But I'm just still baffled that anyone is baffled at how I turned out.

It makes me wonder about my daughter.  Right now, I expect that she will grow up to be a successful... something.  I can't wait to see how she'll surprise me.

Things That Make You Go Hmmm....

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Thoughts to think...

"Your book is going to be successful."

Seven years ago, in the summer between the Dominican Republic and Kuwait, Kendra came to visit me.  We drove down to Savannah to visit my friend Rachel and decided, while wandering River Street one hot July day, to visit a psychic.  We were, after all, both moving to new places- me to Kuwait and Kendra to Turkey.  And it was Savannah, after all- I can't think of a better place to visit a psychic than the ghost-filled, magnolia-lined streets of Savannah, GA.  And, after seeing a small sign hanging in an alley way, pointing up some dark, narrow stone stairs, we had to go.

I wrote down all the things she told me, just to see if they would come true.  Here are a few that did:

- You will marry someone who is the complete opposite of who you see yourself with (um, yes.  Me and a PE teacher?  Really?)
- He will be kind, honest, and faithful (also, yes).
- You will travel more (well, that's a given and kind of generic, but true).

Then there were these- we'll see if they come true:

- You will have 3 kids, one single and twins (I've got the single...)
-  You will be financially successful later in life

Then she said this, causing my head to snap up and putting me on high alert:

- Your book is going to be successful.

Okay, I thought.  You could probably say that to every other person... maybe.  Many people fancy themselves writers so maybe it was just a lucky guess.  But then, less than a year later, I met a woman who read palms.  She was an art teacher at one of the schools in the Middle East and, once everyone found out what she did, we all wanted a reading.  She said someone named Peter was or would be very important to me.  That hasn't happened.

But then she said:

- Write your book.

She went even farther and said that I needed to write it before I was 40 because I was going to get arthritis.  She also said that it would be successful and I would benefit financially from it.

No pressure, huh?  I don't even know what this book is about.  Kendra never told me what the psychic told her.  I wonder if her stuff came true...?

When I remember these two events, it always makes me want to write.  I guess writing here is as good of a start as any...

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

It's Not Like Getting a Puppy

And by 'it' I mean having a baby.

Five years ago, I met the man of my dreams.  After only a few months, we had pretty much, though unofficially, moved in together.  Not long after that, we decided to get a dog.  This dog was named Bay.  We went to the local Kuwaiti shelter and Dave picked her out.  I wanted a tiny but energetic retriever mix named Daisy.  Dave wanted Bay.  She was a puppy- about 6 months old, they thought- and she was the prettiest dog in the shelter.  So we adopted her and took her home.

One week later, in tears, I told Dave we had to take her back.  I couldn't handle it.  It was too much work and I was tired of her constant whining, peeing on my floor, and having to take her outside to go to the bathroom.   I grew up with dogs, but they were either outside dogs or could just be let out the back door, so this whole walking-them business was new and a lot more time-consuming that I expected.  It was just too HARD, I whined.

Dave refused to let me take her back.  Five years later, she's still a PITA (pain in the a$$) but I love her and I'm glad she's here.  

A few months ago,aAs the end of my pregnancy grew closer, I began to wonder if having a baby was going to be like getting a puppy.  I knew she was going to be a lot more work and I would be getting a lot less sleep and, if there is one thing I do not like to give up, it's sleep.  I wondered if there would come a day when I wanted to 'take her back' or if I would, God forbid, regret having a baby.  It made me nervous and anxious to think about.  What if I couldn't handle it?  What if it was too much work?  What if I just didn't like being a mom.

A day shy of two months later, I am happy to report that not once have I felt any of those feelings.  It seems like she's always been here- I've always changed diapers and rocked someone to sleep.  I've always cleaned bottles and washed little tiny clothes.  I've always woken up in the middle of the night to feed someone.  And I've always had this little person who needs me, who trusts me, and who gets smothered in hugs and kisses every day.  Having a baby is not like getting a puppy.  It's definitely a lot harder and a lot more work.  But the rewards are way better (until she turns 13 and hates me, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it).

Puppies are great.  Babies are greater.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Who Wants A Clean House?

I do, I do!

After 9 months of the renter from hell, we are finally free and clear to pay our mortgage on our own again. Uh, woo hoo...?  Yes, yes, woo hoo!  That woman was a demon and in the end, we lost $5000+ while she 'rented' from us.  So, while it's true that I'd rather have someone else paying my mortgage, I don't want to go through the hell that has been the last nine months ever again.  It is done.  We will not rent again *unless we HAVE to*.

And what does it mean for us to not have a renter?  It means moving all the stuff from my dad's basement back into the house!  It also means that my husband is making me go through each and every box, some of which were boxed from the house on Fern Creek, to decide what to keep and what to throw.  This, if you know me, is a difficult task.  I'm a 'keeper'.  I won't go so far as to say I'm a hoarder, exactly.  But, just as my husband refuses to throw (or give) away DVD's, I'm a paper-hoarder.  In going through the mountains of boxes that now fill my garage, I have discovered journals from 3rd grade, when I loves the H twins and sat in Mrs. T's room.  I have cards, postcards, and letters from people I'd forgotten about... and ones I don't even remember at all (who is Robert and why was he writing me letters?).  One discovery included a Kleenex box that I covered in wrapping paper and used to store all my letters from M, who moved away when I was in the 9th grade (the wrapping paper made it a high-quality letter box).

There are full-year notebooks from high school and college, with every test, paper and assignment that I did (I was exceptionally good in AP Psychology).   There are more journals than I ever imagined.  I have been writing for a long time.  And I apparently saved every card ever given to me, which drives my husband mad... because I still do it!  But there is a reason- someone took the time to pick out a card FOR ME, with ME in mind.  Something they thought I would find funny or meaningful or uplifting.  They (mostly) wrote a little note so I would know they were thinking of me... Cards are a big deal for me.

But I have been tossing them, left and right (not literally- I've been tossing them into the garbage bag).  I have kept a few from Mom and Dad and my grandparents, several from my sister and some from friends who are still important in my life.  I chucked notebooks and letters, though I saved all the journals.  I want to at least read through them... it's funny to look back on how dramatic I was, even at ten.  Maybe, if I'm allowed, I will compile all the journals into one.  Or I'll read through them and toss most of them.  I have always felt that, like many of the great writers, I write better when I'm sad, so a lot of the entries are depressing.  Who needs to remember that?

I have enjoyed digging through my life this past week.  It would've been better if Dave hadn't been standing over me, holding open a garbage bag the whole time... but I also know that very little would have been let go if he wasn't.  I'm not a hoarder.  But I love the memories.  One day, I might not remember which NKOTB member I was in love (that is not true, Joe- I will always remember) or who I was mad at in the 4th grade and why.  I guess that's okay, though.  I'll make new memories.  And that's fun, too.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

OIG-tastic (aka The Birth Story)

OIG= Only in Guatemala)

Almost a month later, since I've finally found the time (she's totally going to wake up while I'm writing this, I know), here is R's birth story... don't worry, it's not going to be gross!

So... the Thursday before she was born, I had a doctor's appointment. Many of you have heard stories of my OB/GYN- he's a hoot! He is in no way conventional and I'm fairly certain he would be in jail if he tried to practice in the States but he kept me laughing through my whole pregnancy. He also kept me from stressing out so for that, I applaud him profusely. Anyway, at my appointment that Thursday he says,

Dr.: Do you want to have a baby this weekend? I don't want you to wait any later than Sunday. Want to go to the hospital now?

Me (with a shocked face): Um. No.

Dr.: Okay, how about tomorrow? Tomorrow would be good.

Me (looking at D with, what I'm sure, was a look of pure terror): Uh. Okay.

So it was settled. Induction, Friday. Check in at 3pm.

Friday at 3:30pm (traffic) saw us checked in and settled in our hospital room. We had chosen a hospital near my doctor's office because we could find it and it was really, really quiet. When we went for our hospital tour, there was only one lady in the maternity ward. During our whole stay, I think there were maybe three of us and I can't be sure of that. It was peaceful. Anyway, by 4:30 I was hooked up to an IV- it only took three different places (and two bruises) to find a vein, so that's nice. The doctor checked and I was 1cm dilated. They started pumping me full of drugs and we waited...

Two hours later, I should've been at least 3cm dilated... but I was still 1cm. The upped the medicine and we waited... and the contractions started. They never got very bad- I was always able to breathe and talk through them- but I can see why women injure (or want to injure) their husbands during labor. Even through mild contractions, I kind of wanted to punch D in the throat when he kept asking if it hurt or 'is that another one?' No, dear, it's fun to breathe like this so I'm just doing it to amuse myself and you.

Four hours later, the doctor checked on me again- still only 1cm. And then, in what can only be described as a ringmaster giving orders to start the show, the doctor yelled (it seemed), "C-SECTION!" It was like a clown car suddenly pulled up and nurses poured into my room, changing my gown, setting up the bed, messing with the IV and I heard that clown-car music in the background (you know what I'm talking about). Or they could be compared to an ant hill when you kick it...

Twenty short minutes later, I was down in the OR. I was moved onto a tiny table and apparently my arms were strapped down, though you'll have to ask D about that one because I don't remember. In fact, I can't actually remember seeing D at all, though I know he was there. Unfortunately for him, he got stuck on the wrong side of the curtain and got to witness people sticking their hands in my body and moving my guts around. He'd rather forget that part... Anyway, as I'm being strapped in, I'm also being poked in the back and then, quite quickly, I lost all feeling in my lower half, which is a VERY strange sensation. The doctor said, "This might be cold," but there was no cold... there was no nothing.

I laid there and there was commotion and movement but I couldn't see or feel any of it. Suddenly, for no reason I knew of, I couldn't breathe at all. I was gulping for air and trying to tell the anesthesiologist that I couldn't breathe, but I couldn't even say the words. Then, as suddenly as it started, it stopped and there was this ear-piercing scream!! R was here, and making her presence known to the whole hospital. Before the birth, I had told my doctor that I wanted to be able to touch the baby as soon as possible and, true to his promise, he brought her around the curtain immediately. They put her on my cheek and she stopped crying!! It was amazing and I would've liked to feel more emotional about it, but all I felt was nausea... I started dry heaving and told the anesthesiologist that I was going to throw up. He put something in my IV...

... and I woke up an hour later in recovery. The nurse kept coming to wiggle my legs every few minutes- that was bizarre too. To actually watch someone touch your legs and not be able to feel it. To think "wiggle your toes" and not be able to... no me gusta. I eventually got wheeled back upstairs to find D nervously pacing in the waiting room. Apparently, they had shooed him upstairs when I started feeling bad and he had no idea where I was or what was happening (I forgot to mention that none of the nurses spoke English and I'm pretty sure my doctor said something along the lines of, "everything's good! Bye!" before skipping out the door). He was relieved to see me alive and breathing, needless to say.

We got back into our room and waited for about thirty minutes, until the feeling started to come back into my legs AND ABDOMIN- ouch!!- and then we asked for pain medicine and the baby... they brought both and left my little girl in her bassinet beside my bed. I was in so much pain I couldn't even hold her but they let her sleep beside me until she woke up crying a few hours later.

The OIG-tasticness of the experience were many-fold. I now understand what my daughter goes through everytime I change her diaper as I had the distinct pleasure of wearing a giant diaper and being changed regularly through my hospital stay. On top of that, none of the nurses spoke English so we used a lot of hand signals and "um, okays" to communicate and we didn't always understand what was happening. For example, it took a while to realize that we had to ask EVERY TIME we wanted to see the baby. They just came and whisked her away at random intervals and we were never sure if they were bringing her back or not (they didn't, unless we asked).

On the whole, the experience was amazing. Despite the language barrier, the nurses were wonderful. I would definitely go back if we were still here for baby #2... should there be one.

And that my friends, is R's birth story. Stayed tuned for the "getting her Guatemalan birth certificate" story. Even more OIG-tastic... I promise!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

"THEY" are right...

They say it takes a village to raise a child and I have to say, THEY are right.  This might come off a little spoiled and bratty sounding, but truthfully, I am so lucky and blessed at this time in my life and I just want to share that with the world! 

Rory made her appearance into this world at 11:10pm on March 4th via surprise c-section.  I will post her birth story another day- it's long and involved, and slightly humorous in that 'Only in Guatemala' kind of way.  This is more about the days since then.  My beautiful and amazing sister, who I admittedly didn't treat very nicely growing up but have loved for years and years now, arrived on Saturday afternoon and I do not know what I'm going to do when she leaves on Monday.  She has been more of  a God-send then she was before, and that's saying a lot.  Despite being the 'little' sister, Sissy has always been far more responsible than me.  She's level-headed and calm, amazing with money and has a great head for business.  She's dedicated and loyal and if she's your friend, she's your Friend.  There is nothing she won't do for you.  When Mom died, she took care of everything.  She's still taking care of things, even now.  So when she flew in on Saturday, I knew that she was going to take care of me and her new little niece and she has not proven me wrong. 

Last night, she sent Dave and I to bed and said she would stay up with Rory until 1am or 2am, just so we could get some sleep.  The night before, Rory had seemed like she got her days and nights confused and was up quite a bit.  We were both tired (Dave is still working this week since Sissy is here- he's staying home with us next week).  Well, 2am rolls around and my child is not upstairs and my neck was hurting so I went to check on everyone.  Sissy was sitting up, exhaustedly patting Rory on the back.  There were bottles and bibs everywhere and Sissy looked like she could pass out at a moment's notice.  Rory was having another long night...

I can stop right here and admit that it might not have even occured to me to do this for my sister.  I'm not saying I'm a terrible person, but I just don't think like she does.  For starters, I love my sleep.  Giving it up has always been a HUGE sacrifice for me to make (though I know that's all changing now), so offering to possibly be awake all night with someone else's child is probably not something that would cross my mind.  Second, if I did offer to stay up and I said I was going to take the kid up at 1 or 2am, I would definitely take the kid up, especially one that had apparently been screaming her head off for hours.

But not my sister.  She shoo'ed me back to bed, said she had it under control, and proceeded to stay up the rest of the night, soothing, feeding, and changing my child.  All while Dave and I slept.

I am blessed.  I have known that since I started liking my sister, somewhere around the time I went to college.  I hope that I am able to do as much for her as she does for me... and even if I can't (because she really does A LOT for me), I hope she knows how very much I love her.

I cannot imagine how the women of yester-year did it.  Or anyone without constant support these first few days and weeks.  Single mothers blow my mind.  Women whose husbands have to go right back to work astound me.  I'm spoiled enough to have my sister here, a maid/nanny who comes three times a week and a husband who is as in love with this kiddo as I am and is eager and happy to get to know her and to take care of me at the same time.  I'm sore and tired and don't have to lift a finger if I don't want to.  Of course, I want to- it's hard to accept that I am recovering from major surgery, especially because women have c-sections every day.  It's hard to ask for help or let people help me when I think I should be able to do it by myself.  But I can't do everything by myself and I am lucky enough not to have to. 

All of this doesn't even take into account the friends and family from around the world who have wished us well, told me how beautiful my baby is (she is), and offered or already brought food.  It's just amazing to feel so loved and, well, I'll say it again- blessed.

This post has taken over 3 hours to write.  I understand why my mom-friends don't get on facebook so much anymore...

Thank you, God.  Thank you.

Friday, March 4, 2011

No one says Oopsie Daisies...

Wow.  Somehow it's March.  I haven't written anything since January and that is unacceptable.  I can't promise that this is the beginning of something beautiful but I am writing today and that is as good of a start as any.

Since January... well February happened.  I got bigger and bigger, more and more uncomfortable and am practically bursting out of my skin, waiting to have this baby.  I am excited, nervous, terrified, enamored, and, above all, READY.  Well, as ready as I can be, having never done this before.  My due date was two days ago and she did not make an appearance.  The kids at school give me a wide berth because I think they think my water is just going to break at any moment and a baby is going to come spilling out with it.  Either that or I'm such an incredible grump that they're just trying to stay out of my way.  I choose to believe it's the former.

Okay, so I started that yesterday and now it's today and everything has changed.  We had a doctor's appointment and  it was decided that it's time for the baby to come out.  So today, in about an hour and a half, we're going to go check in and get the whole process under way.  I don't know if I totally understand what's happening- my doctor is great but his English is, as he says, basic.  I also don't know if they do things the same here as they would in the States.  I have a feeling it's a little more 'old school' than 'new school' and I might feel a little like I'm having a baby back in the '50's.  We'll see.  But I do know that the hospital is quiet and clean, my doctor is ready and Dave and I are excited and nervous.  I suppose all of that will have to do.

The more I think about what it means- having a baby TODAY (or tomorrow or the next day, depending on how fast this goes)- the more I know that it is the fear of the unknown that is more terrifying than anything.  I told Dave I was anxious this morning.  He asked why... my reply?  Because it's going to hurt.  But I don't know what level of hurt.  I've seen TV and movies and talked to friends and read stories but we're all different and what might've hurt you might not hurt me.  The first time I got, uh, waxed, I was so prepared for the most intense pain of my life that it was surprisingly not as painful as I expected.  That's not to say it didn't hurt like a mutha... but it wasn't as bad as I expected.  The same thing happened when I saw "Black Swan."  I was anticipating so much creepiness/uncomfortableness/even fear, that, by the time I saw it, it wasn't that much of any of those things.  Is that what labor will be like?  Somehow I doubt it.  I would guess that, if it really wasn't 'that bad' because you were so pumped for it to be 'that bad', someone would've mentioned that along the way.  So I anticipate a lot of pain.  And I'm not big on pain. 

So the pain factor has me really, really nervous.  Also, I keep saying things to Dave like, "These are our last moments alone," and that's not helping anyone to be calm.  I do not yet understand that mother/child love that I know is just around the corner.  Even right now, as I prepare (however I can) to welcome this baby into the world, I have a hard time imaging rushing home to see her at the end of the day or choosing to hang out with her over my own friends.  That sounds terrible, I know.  But, if you are a mother or father, I know you remember those feelings ('cause some of you told me about them).  But I've seen it happen to all my friends who have kids, women and men.  Big, beer-drinking men who suddenly would rather crawl around on the floor after their daughters than get hammered at the bar or play video games.  Women who valued their alone and quiet time more than anything, rushing through activities or chores just to pick up and snuggle their little ones... I know it's going to happen.  It just hasn't yet so it's another 'unknown'.  And it makes all those 'last ______ alone' or 'just the two of us' moments scary.

I cannot wait to meet my daughter.  I cannot wait to hold her and kiss her and smell her little baby head.  I can't wait to see what she looks like and who she becomes.  I hope I do the right things by her.  I hope we will have a better relationship than I did with my Mom.  I wish and hope and pray for a lot.  I know all mothers do.

I have not written much about being pregnant or the excitement of having this baby.  I can shamefacedly admit that I have made fun of women who only talk about being pregnant and I did not want to be one of those women.  So I think I went too far in the other direction.  But I am thrilled, though terrified, about this new thing that is about to happen in our lives.  I'm going to be somebody's mother.  And that somebody has all the potential in the world right now...

Monday, January 10, 2011

One Year Later...

Last year, January 10th was on a Sunday.  Dave and I woke up kind of early, for a Sunday anyway, and drove out towards Antigua.  The day before, I had volunteered at an animal shelter out that way and had not-so-secretly been scouting for a new dog-friend for us and Bay.  I found her.  I would've brought her home from the shelter, but I wanted to show Dave- getting a dog is a big decision and I needed to make sure we agreed on how cute she was.  So, we got up and drove out to the shelter.  I think we were there somewhere around 9am.  I showed him Pip (who was called Zuly then), he agreed that she needed to a part of our family, we chatted with the shelter owners and drove back to the city.  We spent the rest of the day trying to keep Bay from growling at Pip and playing with both our dogs. 

I remember that I was supposed to be starting a new unit with my 6th graders.  I hadn't planned for it and I was feeling sort of anxious about that.  Around 3pm-ish, I started to feel really down and lathargic.  I attributed it to not feeling prepared for school the next day and not really wanting to go.  About 4pm, I went upstairs for something and just sat on the bed, feeling utterly sad.  Dave came looking for me and asked what was wrong.  I had no answer. 

For the next two hours, I felt 'off' and really down.  I was trying to make a new dish that I had been excited about but I lost all interest in it.  We were watching TV and I found myself completely uninterested.  Dave, to his credit, was wonderful.  He let me be melancholy and mopey and did what he could to understand what was happening.  But even I didn't understand.

Until about 6pm.  That's when my family was finally able to get ahold of me.  Dave had been playing a computer game for most of the day so the internet had been off.  We finally turned it back on and Jen was calling on skype almost immediately.  When I answered, she handed the phone to my sister, which was the first indication that something was wrong.

Looking back, I guess I knew.  I mean, I didn't know WHAT had happened until I was told, but I felt something was wrong.  I used to think that people who said they knew when a loved one had passed were either crazy or just wanted to think they felt something.  Like after the fact they thought, "Oh, I think I was sad at that exact moment..."  But I don't scoff anymore.  It was the weirdest feeling to just be suddenly overcome with a sadness that I really couldn't explain.  I'm not sure what it was or how I knew.  It wasn't the exact time of her passing- maybe it took her spirit a while to find me, since she'd never been to Guatemala.  Or maybe it was that mother-daughter connection... one that I didn't know existed.  I really can't explain it.  And I don't need to.  It happened and, in a way, I'm glad it did.  It's almost like she was telling me good-bye. 

So, one year later.  I started writing this blog in hopes of having completed a novel by now.  It didn't happen.  Maybe it will, maybe it won't.  My mom always liked my writing so, even though I didn't complete my goal, she did get me writing again.  So thanks for that, Mom.

I can't believe it's been a year. 

Friday, January 7, 2011

An exercise in futility...

I shall now begin what is most likely a futile attempt to write without crying.  Since coming back to Guatemala from Christmas break, I've been a bit of a basket case... though I think I've done alright keeping that to myself.  For starters- today I turn thirty-three.  That feels old.  I am not insulting people who are older than 33, but I've never been 33 before; in fact, it's the oldest I've ever been.  And it feels old.  No, let me take that back.  It doesn't feel old... I don't feel any different from yesterday.  But it sounds old.  It's halfway between 30 and thirty-five.  I'm heading towards my mid-30's. 

Then, the reality of this whole 'having a baby' thing is setting in.  Outside of the excitement and joy, there are the normal stresses- financial worries and 'oh crap, what have we done' worries and when am I going to get a good night's sleep again worries.  But I'm also missing home.  No one else around me is pregnant and as much as I don't want to talk about it all the time, I would like to talk about it sometimes and that's hard to do with people who aren't in the same place as you.  And when I talk to the mother-friends I do have, I feel like that annoying friend who only wants to talk about my pregnancy or baby.  They're probably thinking just like I was, "I can have other conversations, you know?"  So I try not to bother them too much. 

And finally, there is the impending anniversary of my mother's death.  This has been hitting me a lot harder than I expected.  I think I've handled it well this year but between having my first birthday without my mom and having my own kid in a few months, it's sort of getting to me.  I also realized that I never really went through the Stages.  I think I jumped straight into 'acceptance' and completely skipped over the other four stages of grief.  I knew she was happy and healthy again, smiling down on us and finally free from her pain and sadness.  That made it easy to accept.  But lately I feel angry- why isn't she here to walk me through this next stage of my life?  Why isn't she here to meet her granddaughter?  What am I even going to tell my daughter about her grandmother?  And what do I call her (my mom, not my daughter)?  I know she would've wanted some cutsey-non-grandmotherly type nickname.  But she never told me what it was. 

And so that's the start to my 2011.  I have made it through this writing with only a welling-up of tears, but I did stop to check facebook a few times, just to ward off a full-on cry.  Dave made me breakfast this morning and bought me these adorable little doggy statues for my birthday.  We're also going to dinner and a movie tonight, and sliding in some baby shopping.  I am keeping myself busy this weekend because Monday is going to be hard.  But I will focus on the happiness that is growing (and kicking like a soccer player) inside of me and I'll be fine.

Oops, gotta go check facebook now.