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30 December 2017

358/365

We had two days of almost too much, too much good food, too much good company, too much sweet fellowship if such a thing were possible.

We meet my aunt and are surprised by my cousin and my kids hear exactly all the same biases from him that I have uttered for years. We laugh out loud! I might have even said, "Go Aggies!" (but for one day only, says this Lobo fan!)

We surprise the couple who loved me as their own when I was a college student and ever since. Surprises are the best! George gathers us to pray before leaving. We circle up and hold hands and I listen to that so familiar voice and my heart swells with gratitude.

We sit with friends 30 years long and catch up on today while our kids play games together. Sometimes when you are growing up you think about how great it will be when your kids are friends with your best friend's kids. Amazingly, I've known that wonder a couple of times. When it really happens, that's like whip cream and a cherry on top.

We worship in the church where we married 27 plus years ago. Yes, new faces and a beautiful new (to us) pipe organ. But a few familiar faces show themselves too, and we sing Christmas hymns on Christmas eve and see the same distracting view of blue skies and the mountains to the east, besides.

We stuff, STUFF, ourselves when welcomed like kin to the family-owned favorite burger join on the east side of the mountains. The food keeps coming and we just keep eating. We couldn't have been shown more generous hospitality. I can't eat one bite more.

Except then it was Christmas eve dinner, and I do. All the traditional New Mexican fare, and who wouldn't try one of everything? We go for a walk around the neighborhood looking at lights, searching for the traditional luminarias. Electricity is no substitute for folded paper bags with sand and a candle. But still, it is good.

Finally, we end Christmas eve with the one constant. No matter where we are, no matter who we are with, Christmas eve ends with new pajamas. We finish the day with exactly enough.

357/365

(DPP23- "How did you become the woman with 86 Christmas bears?!")

It started as an innocent purchase in 1993 to celebrate the birth of a granddaughter coming to town for Christmas. You've seen them, probably, those of you who shop at K-Mart. They sit there on the shelves waiting for you every year. Most of us see them and say something like, "Oh how CUTE!" But then we keep walking.

No, not this GrandT. She saw the Mama Bear and Papa Bear and Baby Bear in coordinating Christmas hats and scarves, each with the date embroidered on the foot. She said something like "Oh how CUTE!" And then she put them, all three, in her cart.

And the next year, it happened again. And the following year. And it was if K-Mart started noticing that she would buy- and some years they might have two baby bears. Or an aunt and uncle bear. Not one to miss an opportunity, she would bring those bears home, too.

Fast forward to 2017. 24 years later. No one is really sure how many make up the Christmas bear population. The guesses number somewhere between 72 to 86. At any rate, it's more than can be displayed in the house. A few bears stayed in hibernation in their red and green plastic storage box caves this year.

The good news is that although the Christmas bear population has grown, so has the number of grandchildren. It is well known that at some point, probably not anytime soon, the bears will be relocated among 8 grandchildren. No bear family will be separated.

But as a warning to those of you who might be tempted by such a thing- perhaps you should keep walking!

28 December 2017

356/365

(DPP22- what?! TWO light shows in ONE season?!)

"You are NEVER going to guess what I did this morning," I announced to my family at lunch.

"Got a tattoo."
No. I have nothing against tattoos on other people, but have no desire to ink myself.

"Got a massage."
No. I have never had a massage. Well, I did have a touch massage last year, given by a kind lady visiting the mission, but it didn't really seem like much to me. I came close getting a massage at the beach last summer, but I'm not ready yet...

"Got another piercing."
No. Although that is not a bad guess because the last and only "another piercing" I received was a second hole on my left ear about 25 years ago, and I was with the same friend...

They got close when they guessed "paintball," but not quite.

"I went to the shooting range."

"YOU shot a gun?!"
"Mom is packing heat?!"
"Whoa." (followed by some laughing as they considered it all...)

It sounds a bit ridiculous to me, too.
Sort of like tattoos, I have nothing against reasonable people going to the range to shoot guns, but I have not had any desire to do it myself.
But, one of my most dear friends in the world is shooting these days. And the range was right up the street from the hotel where I was staying.
So, on a Friday morning just before Christmas, I visited the shooting range.

I'd like to throw around the names of the firearms I shot, all 9mm, but I don't really remember. I got registered and the really professional young lady behind the counter gave me some safety instruction and got my ear protection (I was already wearing my glasses) and then, I'm stepping into the range.
It was loud.
I realized instantly, I know what gunfire sounds like. And when you know the sound of shots, not from hunting, not from hypothetical-at-the-range-firing, but from real life, maybe it changes your perspective about guns.

I did ok at the range. Not great, but ok. I got better as we went along. We shot at a paper outline of a guy, and if had been real life, I probably would have scared him, maybe wounded him.
But here's what I realized- I am not confident that I could ever shoot to kill.
I'm not saying that other people shouldn't. I, too, hear stories about mass shooters and am grateful when someone takes them down and saves other lives in doing so.
But I don't think that I'm the girl cut out for concealed carry. Or any carry. I have always figured that the problem with having a firearm is that I might try to use it. My morning at the range reminded me, for plenty of reasons, I'm not the girl to use it.

(And for the record- none of this should be considered a comment on gun rights or gun control or any of that. It's just a few thoughts about myself after I spent a morning at the range.)

27 December 2017

355/365

(DPP21- maybe a non-traditional Christmas?)

Sometimes Christmas gets complicated.
This year I put up a teeny tiny little tree, really- it can't be more than 12 inches tall, with a thin string of lights and little bulb ornaments, at my Mexico house. I hung some lights from my front curtain rods, but you know, I might just leave them there even once the season is over.

My ever diligent daughters put up our regular fake tree at our Texas house. They argued for a real pine. Maybe next year. This year white bulbs won the right to light up the branches. The girls hang up an assortment of ornaments, but the truth is, we have more ornaments than tree, and a good many remain in the red and green storage box. For several years, when we pull out the crate, I think, "I should sort through those...," and every year, when we go to put them away, I think, "Maybe next year..."

This year we are making the pilgrimage back to my hometown, to Albuquerque, for Christmas. But life isn't simple there, either. We'll spend time in several houses, and spend time here and there, among beautiful decorations, honoring old traditions and sharing time with family and old friends, but with new faces, in new places, too.

The consistent?
We celebrate not what the decorations look like, not where we are, not even who we happen to be with this season.
We celebrate the arrival of the coming King.

In the devotional I am reading this season, I am reminded and encouraged that
Regardless of whether or not this season leaves you feeling grieved or joyful, barren or expectant, Christ’s birth intersects our circumstances with a steady, unwavering hope. May the belief in His spoken promises light our path. May our souls praise the greatness of the Lord, and may our spirits rejoice in God our Savior (Luke 1:39). Amen.
That is all I need at Christmas.

25 December 2017

354/365

(DPP20- O fair New Mexico, we love, we love you so...)

So, just to be clear, I basically am eating my way through New Mexico.
First stop, Clovis, New Mexico, at the Java Junction for a latte. We figured that the money was better spent on coffee than the Rock and Roll Museum. I only second-guessed myself for a moment.

We had our first green chile cheeseburger in Moriarity, not even waiting to get to Albuquerque. And green chile enchiladas followed that same evening. With sopapillas, of course. Only a New Mexico can appreciate the delicacy of a fresh sopapilla dripping with honey alongside your chicken enchiladas drenched in green chile sauce.

The days since have included green chile stew, pizza with green chile, posole, green chile chicken noodle soup, tamales, tres leches cake, another green chile cheeseburger, more green chile stew, more posole, biscochitos, and fresh tortillas. It started slow but eventually I fell completely off the Healthy Living wagon.

Dare I say, totally worth it. I've lived a lot of places, and I'll wager New Mexican food against any cuisine in the world.
O fair New Mexico, I'll miss, I'll miss you so...





353/365

(DPP19- West Texas! You put on a great sunset show.)

When I was growing up, I could look across Albuquerque, over the city from the Sandia foothills to the West Mesa and beyond, sometimes all the way to the Mt. Taylor stratovolcano nearly 100 miles west. I'd watch the sky change from blue to bright and brilliant orange and red and yellow to dark purple and black and dream about driving into a sunset that would never end.

On this day, we drove west, west, west across Texas back to New Mexico. And indeed the setting of the sun seemed to last about an hour, changing from spectacular to glorious to fading splendor. The glow fell from the sky to the horizon and below, lighting the skies and creating a glimmering mirage across the roadway. Every turn brought a new view, almost as if we were racing to keep up. Maybe in my imagination, I was. Finally the skyline turned dark, and between low lying fog curtains, I could look up to the sky and the lights of the stars were shining bright, sparkling brilliant without the competition of city glare to interfere.

That drive was as close to the dream as I think I'll ever get.

352/365

(DPP18- 20something years of the annual ornament exchange and a sweet Mexican angel from an even more sweet friend!)

Only two items remain on the list as I drive up to the drug store. I'm hoping that they will have what I need- a quick in and out visit. I pull into the parking lot and slide into the space. And as I open my door, I notice the man sitting on the curb two spaces down.

"Do you have any money?," he asks me as I walk by to the store doors.
"I'm sorry, I have no cash," I tell him honestly.
"Oh that's ok, Mama. God bless you."
"Thank you," I tell him. "And you too."

(just for reference, "Mama" is something of a term of endearment where I live. Even little girls are frequently called "mama" or "mamita." It's really a sweet thing most of the time. And so, I wasn't offended at all.)

I enter the store and sure enough, the one thing I need is in stock, right where it should be. But, the man out front remains on my mind and on my heart. I approach the check out counter, but then turn into the food aisle.

What do you buy a homeless guy to eat from the drug store selection?
Who knows what soda he would prefer? Caffeine or no caffeine? Coke or Sprite or...? No, water.
Something with protein. But maybe jerky is too hard to chew. What kind of nuts? There are none of those little tuna & cracker packages. I'll go with trail mix. With chocolate. Because who doesn't want chocolate?
And something sweet. Cookies? But what kind? Oreos? Chocolate chip? Lorna Doones? A candy bar? I finally settle on powdered sugar donuts, because everyone likes a little tube of powdered sugar donuts, right?

I pay for my purchases, and put them in two different sacks. I walk out the doors. There's a fair amount of traffic and people are coming both in and out. Everyone is ignoring the guy on the curb. In fact, as I walk out, I see a car leaving from the very spot in front of the man, as if he is invisible, as if he doesn't even exist.

He gives me a wave, but I stop in front of him and hold out the bag.
"Here are just a few things for you," I tell him.
"Oh Mama! Thank you!," he says as he receives the sack.
"What's your name?," I ask, as I hold out my hand.
He tells me his name and I introduce myself too.
"How long have you been here? What brought you to the Valley?"
He explains that he is from our area, and has family here even now. He was recently released from 21 years in prison, and is still looking for work, for a place to live. I figure that he has probably burned some bridges along the way.
"Will you spend tonight at the shelter?," I ask him as I point up the street.
"Aw no, Mama," he answers. "That guy, he gets in my face. But hey! It's a great night to be outside."
I laugh, because I imagine that he's not much of a rule follower and because really, it is a pretty nice night.
"Ok then, God bless you."

I get into my car, and I drive away. I spend a few miles remembering other people I've known who have spent time on the street. I think about the life that led to this guy passing another night on the curb, thinking about all those who will ignore that he even exists tonight, thinking about circumstance and choices and mercy and grace.
I arrive home, and walk inside, continuing on with the busyness of the day, and quickly, I, too, forget.

I hope you find family and joy and hope today, Abel.

24 December 2017

351/365

(DPP17- even better than the Best Christmas Pageant Ever.)

They had been practicing for a good while, our boys, strumming their chords and keeping the time in steady rhythm. A couple of weeks before, we started singing alongside of their music, and then that week, we brought in the keyboard and the cello that would accompany them on Sunday morning. They were ready.

But still, we never know exactly who will show up or what will happen on any given day with these guys. We set the meeting time for Sunday morning and hoped for the best. And when we pulled our big van out of the gate, we could see the boys, sitting on top of a neighbors car, ready to go.

Well, most of the boys. Two brothers and another boy were missing, but another friend had joined us. They looked good this morning, dressed in performance attire, black pants and a black shirt, black shoes. One decided on his bright red sneakers rather than black, because it is Christmas, after all. We gathered the guitars from inside the community center and loaded up.

Before we rounded the corner to look for one of the absent, he came, walking with his mom and older brother and little sister. They were all coming. We greeted one another with smiles. And the van got a little bit more full. We were 10 now. The boys strummed their guitars along the way and sang a few of the lyrics they knew. Most of these boys participate in the tutoring program. They read the signs along the way out loud, practicing their new skills.

We arrive at the church, early for practice, and they willingly help with extra chairs and carrying in food for ladies with hands too full to open the door. They are decked with fleece scarves to spruce up their black. Everyone is ready. But there is time to spare. Time to wait. They wander down the street for tacos. We hope that they come back in time...

The service begins, and the boys fill the row in front of us. I feel a tap on my shoulder and one of the missing has appeared. He greets us with a grin and slides in next to the boys, sharing chairs. They participate in the up and down, the liturgy of worship, the reading of the Word, the singing of the songs. We separate them to individual seats before the sermon begins.

And then, finally, it is time for the program.

One of my favorite Christmas stories, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, tells the story of year when the six delinquent Herdman siblings participate in the small town Sunday school Christmas play. In the story, the kids rock the traditional production with their unexpected behavior and reaction to the miracle of the Christmas story.
"And lo, an angel came upon them...," reads the narrator.
"SHAZAAAMMMM!," exclaims Gladys Herdman.
I wondered what might proceed when our boys joined the shepherds and kings...

The program was amazing. The set looked great. The littlest kids sang their hearts out. The older youth performed their lines with enthusiasm and sincerity. And when the play came to its climax, our musicians entered the stage and took their seats and readied to play. The angel and Mary and Joseph took center stage. The shepherds entered, and their was our guy, covered with a robe and headdress. The kings took stage left, and there was another one of our boys, with a royal turban and holding out a shiny package with a grin.

At the end of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, Barbara Robinson wrote,
"It suddenly occurred to me that this was just the way it must have been for the real Holy Family, stuck away in a barn by people who didn’t much care what happened to them. They couldn’t have been very neat and tidy either, but more like this Mary and Joseph.”
Probably not too many of those in the congregation knows much about those extra boys playing guitar and donning costumes. But we do. We know that they come from a place where few care much about what happens to them. They aren't often considered neat and tidy.

Among all the miracles of Christmas, isn't one the unexplainable wonder that this baby Jesus came, in ordinary flesh, to a very ordinary place, for incredibly ordinary people like us? He makes no requirements that we act well, because he offers enormous grace in the forgiveness of sin. He makes  
no demands that we bring anything before him, except faith in him. His love reaches to the heavens and he offers the promise of eternity for those who believe. 
"SHAZAAAMMMM!," we should all exclaim!

350/365

(DPP16- Annual Cookie Exchange: I think Mary Berry would give us a star.)

I thought I might miss it this year. I had put the date on the calendar a month ahead of time. But then the day changed, and I wasn't sure if I could make it.

Miss the Annual Cookie Exchange?

Call me a Church Lady; I don't care a bit. I am all in for the Annual Cookie Exchange hosted by the ladies at my church. I will happily fit every stereotype in the book. I sort through my recipes to decide this year's offering. Inevitably, I have to visit the baking aisle again to restock the supplies. Yes, I even wear an apron while cooking.

This year's contribution came in a plate of Cherry Chocolate Shortbread cookies. I made a log of buttery dough, marbled with maraschino cherries and dark chocolate chips. They looked good. They tasted good! Yep, I'll say it- I even impressed myself.

Everyone brings a plate of cookies and we line up to get a taste of the assortment. I refrained from trying every single type. Barely. I mean, some treats waited for the taking! The Holliday girls brought Citrus Butter Cookies and Marshmallow Wreaths and Cocoa Mocha Crinkles dusted with powdered sugar. There were layered bars and pecan bars and chocolate chips and sugar cookies and Mexican wedding cookies and, well, simply LOTS of cookies. Let's say, hypothetically, you were limiting your sweets intake to one day a week... THIS is the day to partake.

But as good as those cookies are, just as sweet is sitting around the table with my friends and catching up on life and letting the busyness of the world pass by for a short time on a December Saturday afternoon. I remember my grandma spending days baking cookies before Christmas time. She would stack the containers in her shower stall, and then make plates for friends and family. I don't know how the Christmas cookie tradition started, but I am glad that it continues even now.

23 December 2017

349/365

(DPP15- Lots of smiles at the Instituto Isaias 55 Christmas Program today!)

The kids file in and begin filling the front row seats, littlest to big. One look shows the varying degrees of anticipation and excitement and anxiety on their faces. The older students might display a hint of "another year of the Christmas program?" boredom. The youngest of the bunch cries and sits in his mama's lap. She tries to take him up to the front to join the other kids, but he's having nothing of it. The rest of the crowd laughs, probably because we all have one kid who put us in exactly the same situation.

We start with the youngest who dance and could never ever have a bad performance simply because they are that cute. The middle grades own the floor with the mime performance and dancing. The older kids fill the most space and know the steps the best of all. This year the adult sign language class joins the fun and "sings" a Christmas carol too. Every performance ends with the hands raised and waving, a rowdy deaf applause.

The room is packed to the gills, full of students and staff and parents and friends and even the city mayor. Maybe we don't think about deaf kids dancing and performing. Yes, they do! After all the certificates and awards and recognitions have been made, we feast on a Mexican banquete-  traditional tamales and every kind of contributions from families. Little kids run around with lips stained green and red from cupcake frosting. Isn't the last day before vacation a great day?

16 December 2017

348/365

DPP14-

(with prior planning, you might just get your guy to take you to the Festival of Lights.)

I love a parade. I love a drive to nowhere. I love stopping to take a picture. I love Christmas lights. My guy- not so much any of these things.

Every year, the little town right next to the border puts on a big light display- the Hidalgo Festival of Lights. It cannot be compared to any other display that I've ever seen. "5 million lights, 500 displays!," they boast. Every year, they announce a new theme, but in addition to the new display, they bring back all the old ones, so it turns into an eclectic mix of anything and everything, all lit up Christmas.

This year, it is an "Intergalactic Christmas" in homage to the new Star Wars film. And as such, there was a display with nearly life-sized Hans and Chewie and Luke and Leia and R2D2 and C3PO and Darth Vader and Darth Maul all singing Christmas carols in a show of intergalactic peace, next to lit up x-wing fighters and ti-fighters and rovers. Across the street are the Toy Story characters. Down the road you'll see minions and Angry Birds and the Justice League superheroes with a Hidalgo police office figure. There are the 12 Days of Christmas. There is the Butterfly Garden. There are dinosaurs and skateboarding elves. There are the symbols of Texas, a huge armadillo and a boot and a yellow rose, all lit up. There's town mascot, the World's Largest Killer Bee, lit up right there in front of the town hall. There are Christmas trees and candy canes and presents. There are even a couple of nativity scenes along the way.

But of course, as my guy reminds me with a groan, there is also traffic. And people. People who cut off the flow and cut into the line. There is the inevitable figuring out where exactly to get in the queue. There is the slowing down and the people who shine their brights into your rear view mirror the entire way. (um... that was me one year. I am sorry. It really was a mistake...) The first time I mentioned visiting the lights this year, I'm pretty sure he ignored me. The second time, on our way back to Mexico one evening, when I asked, "How 'bout driving through the lights tonight?," I received a flat-out, end of conversation, "No." But the third time, the third time, that was the charm.

We didn't actually drive the entire 9 mile route in and around the town this year. We visited on a weekday at 6:30, before the crowds, before the traffic, swelled. We parked and walked just a few blocks and around the square. We sat on bleachers in a crowd of Winter Texans and listened to a boys' choir from San Luis Potosí sing Mexican villancicos. And it was all good. We made it home without one single conflict! I love Christmas lights. And I love my guy.

14 December 2017

347/365

DPP13-

(A player in the making.)

These boys.
We were in the garage, practicing Christmas carols for Sunday worship, when we found out about the mini-soccer tournament. That is, the mini-soccer tournament that would be start at 3 this same afternoon.

One of the boys brings in formidable, but definitely used, trophy and gives us the task of shining it up. A few minutes later, Mario shows it to Tim.
"Do you think we can make it look nicer," he asks?
"No problem," Tim answers, "When do you need it?" (clearly thinking that it would be by the weekend...)
"An hour and a half," Mario replies.
We all laugh out loud.
The guys go to the kitchen and start washing the trophy.

At three, we walk over to the field, ready for a tournament. We see our neighborhood boys, from ages 8 to 18, gathered to play. We wait on the other team to arrive. About 20 minutes later, they pull up and pour out of a van. About 10 minutes later, the ref arrives, and shakes the hand of everyone gathered to watch. I think that might be good policy, for a ref to start off friendly with the crowd. About 10 minutes later, the boys line up and finally, about 40 minutes after we expected, the game begins.

Clearly, the other team has older players. Most of them have uniforms and even shin guards. And they probably have practiced on the big field more often than our team has- which would be rarely, if ever. Our guys play together frequently, but in the side-yard mini-field of our community center, always against each other. Half a dozen of our little spaces could fit on each side of today's field. Our youngest boys, yet too young to join the team, have no respect for the game going on the field. They use the same field for their own amusement, hustling off when the action gets too close or when the crowd chastises enough them to move away.

At half time, our guys are only down 0-1. The younger boys start running up and down the bleachers, having lost interest in the game.  During the brief break, two more of our older boys show, and things start to look up. But a few defensive lapses and just a plain good shot falling at just the right angle into the top of the goal leave the final score at 0-3. Our guys come off the field.

Supposedly that was when the next team would take the field. But the next team never shows. So after a few minutes, the same two teams take the field and do it all over again. This time, our team scores and we gringo fans holler loudly in support, much to the amusement of the other team's fans. Even with the goal, our team loses again.

But then, out come the trophies! (though not our polished up contribution...; what happened to that one, we're not really sure...) Our boys gather around and mug for the camera phones and everyone takes a turn holding on to the shiny Cup, on the field and all that way back down the street home. The rest of us laugh and shake our heads and smile at them smiling.

These boys! Oh how we love these boys.

346/365

DPP12-

(I heard today that bougainvilleas bloom brightest when under stress. I want to remember that...)

I have been known to say to my children, "life is not a crisis." Well, at least it shouldn't be.

As we go through the days, even from hour to hour, sometimes it does seem as the challenges outnumber the victories. I agree that it can be easy, if not just terribly tempting, to be overwhelmed by the "what if's." Certainly, there is not a one of us, least of all me, that has a perfect record in staying calm, in finding logic, in simply doing the next thing well, moment after moment, day after day.

When I heard that the bougainvillea blooms brightest when under stress, I started to think. Is this true? I looked it up. And sure enough, in several places I found, verbatim, "Bougainvilleas do best under stress." They prefer heat. They tolerate drought and do fine without water for extended periods of time. They grow best in a container, where the plant can become root bound. Really, all those qualities defy good growing rules. And yet, look at the bright blooms!

If forced to live in the plant world, I'd choose to be the bougainvillea. I want to flower in the most surprising conditions.


12 December 2017

"Time and place forever"

“I don't believe that grief passes away. It has its time and place forever. More time is added to it; it becomes a story within a story. But grief and griever alike endure.”

― Wendell BerryJayber Crow

A year ago almost right now, a piece of Harper's heart stopped working, and a piece of our hearts stopped working too. Even 365 days later, thinking about that morning and the days that followed feels much like a kick in the gut. The initial impact knocks you over for certain, but even after you dust off and stand up, the ache remains, surprising you down the road, even when you start to think that maybe you are healed.

In my mind, Harper will always be a blond blue-eyed sprite with a cowlick on top. His hand will always fit into mine. His teeth will always be baby-teeth with a gap in front. He will always kindly side up for one more selfie. He will always be suspended in a moment in time. He will never know that I probably couldn't catch him in a footrace any longer. 

12 months later, I still don't really know how to answer when asked how many grandkids I have. My answer is three. But not every one asking polite questions wants to hear the explanation that could follow the seemingly simple reply. I want to tell folks about my first grandson, but that takes extra words and sometimes a bit of time. Death is so much a part of our lives, and yet, death is awkward sometimes, isn't it?

I took my grandkids to the playground this summer, and out of the blue, my three year old beauty unexpectedly blurted out to the kid in front of her, "My brother died." The kid looked at me, eyes a little bit wide and questioning, and shrugged. I kind of had to laugh. Because, waiting in line at the swing, what is a kid to do or say in reply? I can't tell you how many times I've said Harper's name when meaning to say one of the others. My mind just can't really re-program that piece. Harper will always be at the top of the order. 

By early summer, we learned why Harper died, at least, the physical reason. That was good news in a sense, because we all want resolution to unanswered questions. That was good news, because at least we could be sure that the other kids didn't share the same problem. But, the bigger questions, why the defect, why was the defect never detected, why did Harper have to die now, those queries will never know a good response. 

I have been asked by well-meaning people, "are they over his death?" No. We will never be "over" Harper. As Berry wrote, "grief and griever alike endure." The sudden loss of this precious one from our world has caused us to experience this life differently. The piece that Harper leaves empty will never be replaced. Our family now knows first-hand how unpredictable and even short this life may be. We can not take for granted our time together. And yes, we are more inclined to anxiety over things we never considered worrying about before that day last year. Yet, even knowing the pain of loss, I would never trade the joy of the time that we have together.

This anniversary of Harper leaving us will always come during the Advent season. And yet, surprisingly perhaps, the message of Advent, the waiting, comes as a great comfort to me. I turn those familiar words from O Come O Come Emmanuel over in my head, "Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel, shall come to thee, O Israel." I can rejoice because I believe the words of Isaiah that were later repeated at the beginning of Matthew: 
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
    and they shall call his name Immanuel”
(which means, God with us).  
(Matthew 1:22-23)
"God with us."
God with us in rejoicing; God with us in mourning.
God with us in darkness; God with us in light.

And in time and place and memories sweet, Harper remains with us too.


11 December 2017

345/365

DPP11-

(All was calm, all was bright.)

... by the end of the day.

If you stopped by a bit earlier, "all is calm" probably would not have come to mind.

There was the scrambling for teams for soccer. And the actually scrambling during soccer. (Thankfully, the boys were kind to the middle-aged lady playing in street shoes.)

There was the inevitable scuffle in the street before we opened the gate. There was the dividing up groups and there were the few who were kicked out for Unnecessary Roughness.

There were the multiple boys who traded in their lotería cards mid-game because they weren't winning. (I feel you, boys. I know. I know.) They still didn't win.

There was the sweet girl who really looked like she was going to toss her cookies, before she ever ate a cookie. She almost, but never, did, get sick (I know. I took her to the bathroom.). And still, she refused to leave, still trying to participate.

There was the jockeying for tamales, the trading of juice jugs, the grab for cupcakes.

There was the absence of some we hope will come, and the surprise of others we don't expect.

There were the hard realities of life in a hard place today. Hard stories. The things that make us shake our heads and say, "Come Lord Jesus."

And still, at the end of the day, the tree glowed beautiful, and still, there was the hope of not only of the baby born long ago, but also the Risen King.

All is calm. All is bright.


344/365

DPP10-

(a spot for afternoon tea)

After worship and a Treat of a Lunch, today was
perched on the couch,
reading,
pre-Olympics,
bright sunlight,
hot tea,
finally tackling the procrastination of weeks,
smoking up the house to roast squash,
and very good butternut curry soup.

and it was good.


343/365

DPP9-

(Today the sun came out and the ornaments were shining in its glow.)

I spent the morning playing with little friends. These three almost mirror the distance between my own first three, and they make me smile for just that reason, even besides the fact that they are also just that cute. I remember almost palpably what deployment is like, especially in this season, how long the days are, how days are giving and giving and giving of yourself. The chance for a couple of hours away seemed priceless at times.

Sometimes I hear about a mom who has multiple kids close together and I think,
Wow! That's a lot.
And then I laugh at myself. Yes, it is a lot!

That's a lot of messes.
That's a lot of personality.
That's a lot of conversation.
That's a lot of listening.
That's a lot of laundry.
That's a lot of dishes.
That's a lot of preferences to remember.
That's a lot of activity.

That's a lot of laughing.
That's a lot of joy.
That's a lot of patience.
That's a lot of grace.
That's a lot of mercy.
That's a lot of beauty.
That's a lot of gifts.
That's a lot of sweet.

In our house we, only half-jokingly, call a certain period of time, say 1999-2004 or so, as the Forgotten Years. Oh the fullness of it all, caring for the 5 born in 5 years, a dad away more than home, extended family far away. But oh the fullness of His grace to us, always providing, always with us, always near.
That's a lot of blessing.
That's a lot of peace.





10 December 2017

342/365

DPP8-

(We woke up to snow!)

Yeah, we know. For most points north of south Texas (and that would be pretty much all of the United States of America barring south Florida...), the amount of snowfall we received might be considered a mere dusting. But here, we treat the arrival of that icy white precipitation as A Weather Event.

Snow rarely comes to south Texas- "rarely" as in the last snow was seen here was in 2004- the legendary Christmas Morning Snow.  Before that, it was 1895. An entire generation of people Never Saw Snow in south Texas!

For those sort of reasons, we were expectant. One of my girls sent me video at 1:15 am of snow falling. Another set her alarm for 2am and for 3am just to be sure that she didn't miss it. Snow didn't come to Harlingen until daybreak. But it must have liked its trip to the Rio Grande Valley. It decided to stick around most of the morning.

We welcomed the visit! If you ask me, a snow once every ten years or so is just right. It didn't stick to the streets. The temperatures were not cold enough to really freeze. The snow fell wet and heavy on the ground, just wet enough and heavy enough to make a snowball from the roof of the car. A few resourceful folks created tiny little snowmen. Sadly, their carrot noses lay in a puddle by afternoon. It was good while it lasted.

But really, my northern friends, let's make a deal. We'll stop making fun of you complaining about summer heat when it gets to 90 for a few days in a row if you'll tolerate our occasional whining about cold. I mean, come on! We don't have heaters! I'm bundled up in layers in my little cinder block house. The cold damp hangs around- the next day we opened up the windows because it was warmer inside than out. We're good at being hot here- not cold!

Even so, Snowfall 2017 made for a great end of week surprise! See you again around 2030, ok?

341/365

DPP7-

(Who knew that when we finally got this guy groomed, it would be the coldest day of the year? Sorry Dillon, but hey- at least ya got your pants on!)

The day starts with salt instead of sugar in the oatmeal- really, no joking. As far as disappointments go, that ranks pretty high. There's not much recovering from that sort of accident. I keep trying to make arrangements for my day back at the other home, but nothing seems to come together. And the day continues to become wetter and darker and colder as each hour passes.

Some days might best be described as Roller Coaster Days, highs and lows from one turn to the next. The frustrating turns happy at the next errand on the list. For who doesn't smile when busting a newly coiffed dog out of the groomers? He captures the attention of the girls working the registers and the little kids waiting on their moms. He's a people-person, that dog, much more so than his two chaperones.

Then comes the slow couple of hours holding and feeding a baby, holding and sipping a warm cup of coffee, holding and exchanging words with those whom time always passes too quickly. We ponder this and that and laugh out loud, at ourselves and each other, which is the very best kind of time spent, I think. Wouldn't be wonderful to leave every stop with your heart full?

But then, there comes the hurry to stop on the last errand before grabbing dinner to support a local fundraiser, all in time to make the 6pm cheap movie. Everything looks to be falling into place- until the car battery dies, one hopeful turnover that doesn't quite catch, and then, nothing. Our first rescuer doesn't quite succeed, though not for lack of trying. Thankfully, the best place to be stranded with a dead battery in need of replacement is the Sam's Club parking lot. The automotive guys play hero for us, one guy even pulling up his own car to jump start us on this cold, windy, and wet evening. We move the car to the garage bays and they provide a new battery in a matter of minutes. We finish the transaction and sit in the car for a few minutes, heater blasting, just to warm up.

We miss the start of the movie by then. After stopping by the fundraiser to buy dinner, we head home. We are content to be on the couch with a movie there, thankful to be out of the weather, grateful to pull back into shelter after this up and down roller coaster kind of day.

09 December 2017

340/365

DPP 6-

(my little Christmas tree)

"Now Christmas is built on the beautiful and intentional paradox; that the birth of the homeless should be celebrated in every home."
GK Chesterton

06 December 2017

339/365

DPP5-

(today's art probably should be called crafts)

Our last art class of the year. I don't believe in magic, not in the mysterious supernatural sense of the word. But no doubt, art class has been a special place this year. For a few minutes, for a couple of times a week, our kids become creators.

On this night, we ushered in three groups. I knew that the project might go quickly. But our first table-full, girls only, worked deliberately and made every minute last. The second group, the older boys, wrestled their way in the door. I rarely think that they are going to enjoy the project ahead of them. And yet, evening after evening, they surprise us. They settle in and do the project, usually with their own unique style and twist. Yeah, sure, some of them humor us, but we see others really striving to do good work. None of those guys want to take their work home, but they sure scramble to see it hung up in the room.

The last group, the little boys, they are a work themselves. They have a lot to say. (understatement!) We wait for them to stop talking. No one wants to sit next to one kid, with good reason- he's known to lash out, very unpredictably. Tonight he doesn't get his own pair of scissors. We shuffle seats around and create spaces. The little boys, they don't listen to instructions much. They are do-ers. They do. Their trees might be called... abstract.

Over the last year, we've made collages and self-portraits. We've drawn all kinds of animals and buildings and scenes in nature. We've drawn with crayons and pencils and markers and painted with acrylics and tempera and watercolors. We have used white paper and colored paper and newspaper and magazines. We've done a LOT of projects. Without hesitation, I know that we would all say that we are still learning how to do this time well. We are still learning, period. And although we have had ups and downs with these kids this year, days when we are excited to come back and days when we almost crawl home, all of us want to keep on.
(maybe without hot glue...)
(maybe without glue sticks...)
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05 December 2017

338/365

DPP4-

(the thrill of throwing tinsel on the tree!)

Although our event pales in comparison, Tree Decorating Day feels as big as the happenings at Rockefeller Plaza or the White House. Three trees to decorate at three sites; three Colorado Douglas fir pines, which immediately lost a pound of needles when we cut the twine away from the branches. At each site, we set the trees in their stands and tried to fluff out the branches and wound lights around, top to bottom. (at two sites, we started the lights with the wrong end and had to start over. I'm pretty sure that was my fault, both times...)

The festivities began in the morning in the room next door, with the high school deaf kids. They are awesome. High school kids still love the thrill of Christmas and of getting out of their ordinary work for a special project. But, they know what to do. They put the ornaments on in an orderly manner. They divide and conquer, one group putting on hooks, another group hanging. They pose and look at the camera all at once when directed. They thank you for cookies. It is all lovely.

It goes a little bit differently with the lower school. In preparation, we string the ornaments on an line at eye-level. We hand the kids the ornaments and they put them on the tree. Is it a universal truth that all kids believe that if one ornament on a branch is good, 5 ornaments on a branch is better? (grin!) They laugh when they drop a shiny silver ball and it bounces back up to catch. (unbreakable Christmas ornament balls should be counted as a Great Idea!) And then- the tinsel! They throw it, really!- throw it!, on the tree with unmatched enthusiasm. They gather around the tree for a photo, but the little boys keep moving and no one is looking in the same direction. You can't help but laugh out loud in the thrill of it all.

And then, onto the neighborhood and evening activities. Word on the street was that we were having a Christmas party, and so lots of faces we haven't seen in a while showed up. We bust out the lotería boards for the girls and the littles while the older boys play soccer. We rotate through the Bible story- The Star and the Wise Men and Seeking the Newborn King Jesus, and the coloring project, and the computer lab, all with the kids in anticipation of decorating. Just how do you decorate a single tree with a mob of 25 kids between 4 and 15 years old? We try to line them up to take turns, two ornaments at a time. Some creative kids climb the stairs and lean through the rail perilously, trying to get their ornament to the Very Top. Perhaps no tree has ever been decorated more quickly; it couldn't be more than 5 minutes and every ornament has been hung.

I read this morning about the beginnings of the Christmas tree tradition, that in the 1500's the first trees were called "Paradise Trees." I read that the evergreen trees were said to "represent mankind's fall in the garden of Eden." Those first trees were decorated with apples, representing the fruit of that first tree, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Over time, the apples were replaced with the round bulbs we recognize today, and lights replaced candles, and we have added many more decorations besides.

This day, even as we celebrated the coming of Christ with this old tradition of decorating the pines, we still acknowledge the consequences of the Fall. We mourned the death of the dad of some of our neighborhood kids. We prayed for wisdom and courage over hard situations with people we have grown to love. Yet even in the hard and dark, we have hope in the life to come. At the end of the day, I think we all smile at the thrill of it all.

04 December 2017

337/365

DPP3-

(Star of Wonder, Star of Night- the star on the roof of the community center)

I'm learning new Sunday rhythms these days. It's different, not being with my family or my Texas church family on Sundays. I have moved past tearful, but still, I am yet discovering what normal looks and feels like. Worship is at a different time in a different language. I don't always recognize the voices of the people sitting behind me (though I smile broadly when I do!). I often stumble over the responsive reading. I reallyreally have to pay attention to the sermon or I find myself utterly lost. I'm still learning who is who and I sometimes feel as if I should rehearse in my mind ahead of time if I'm going to say anything past "How are you?" or "God bless you."

Then we go home and my afternoon habits are different, too. Recently, my Sunday afternoon routine would be to spend a couple hours with PBS cooking shows while my guy naps. That channel doesn't come in where I live now. The website won't even allow me to play past episodes. No Martha. No Mary Berry. No Chef Vivian. What does PBS have against Mexico, anyway? (grin)

I pass the afternoon lazy by myself while Tim was running an errand. I hear that there is a hot air balloon event in the downtown, but that's really not my guy's thing. I'm not sure how I haven't yet convinced him to love parades and hot air balloons with the same passion that I do... I resign myself to home, and halfheartedly watch the evening news with him. The notice comes in the middle, you know, the part of the broadcast that isn't exactly fluffy human interest stories (which he would turn off but I look forward to...), but not the Make Your Face Grimace and Your Stomach Hurt stories at the top of the show either.

"And you might want to check outdoors to view the Super Moon tonight. For the first and only time in 2017, a visible super moon will illuminate the sky starting Sunday night...," the anchor was telling us. I check my computer. Moonrise Reynosa happens at 6:09 pm. 
"Want to go see?," asks my guy? 
"You're only humoring me because you didn't want to see the balloons," I accuse him. (That wasn't very nice. I am sorry about that.) 
"Yes. Let's go," I say.

Part of the privilege of living where I do is certainly access to the roof at Larry's, to the Helicopter Pad. Let's be clear- sure, it LOOKS like it could be such a thing, but there is NO WAY that a helicopter could land on this structure and survive! But, the deck sits on top of the roof, and it does allow for a pretty decent view of the skyline. It certainly qualifies as the Best Super Moon Viewing Point in the 'hood. We meet a young friend in the street on the way. 
"Where are you going?" he asks us.
"Super moon tonight," we tell him.
"Super luna!," he repeats with enthusiasm, like he knows. 

Up on the roof, we can hear Norteño music coming from no less than three different places, three different voices, three different beats. We can hear the constant drumming of a kid practicing for the next festival. We can hear cars stepping on the gas and peeling out where they probably shouldn't be. We can hear the train in the distance. 6:09. We scan the horizon for the moon, not sure exactly where it will appear. Nothing. We continue to look, to guess. Nothing. Is it possible to miss the Super moon? I refuse to give up yet. A few more minutes pass and I keep surveying the sky and then! Look! It's there! 14% bigger! 30% brighter! 

Of course, the pictures don't show the glory. Even a super moon looks pretty much like a bright eraser dot from the lens of my phone camera. That's ok. At the end of this day, I sit on the roof next to my guy and in the very ordinary rising of even Super moon, again I am reminded that our God is faithful, as faithful as the sun setting and the moon rising, no matter where I am, no matter familiar rhythms or not.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,    for his steadfast love endures forever.to him who made the great lights,    for his steadfast love endures forever;the sun to rule over the day,    for his steadfast love endures forever;the moon and stars to rule over the night,    for his steadfast love endures forever;Psalm 136:1, 7-9 (ESV)
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03 December 2017

336/365

DPP 2-

(Norweigan reindeer, meet Mexican tile- which has nothing to do with the rest of the story...)

Saturday afternoon and two of our neighborhood buddies meet me at the corner as I make the turn towards home. "We're coming to see Tim," they tell me, "Can we ride with you?" "OK," I agree, "Go tell your parents." They run quick and tell the adults who aren't their parents but who have similar status, and then jump in the car for the one block ride. They wave at the kids we pass and I have to laugh out loud because how did riding in a CRV with 200,000 plus miles become a desirable thing?

They help us unload the groceries and check out our Christmas card family photo while Tim gets the robot out. They drink some coke and poke around with the robot for a bit. And then it's game time.

They play YAMSLAM, a Yahtzee-like dice game and I hear Tim trying to interpret "full house" and "small straight" in Spanish. Inside, I doze off in a corner chair in the afternoon sun. The game nears it's end when two more boys show up at the gate and want in. Clearly, the two already inside at the time aren't excited about that possibility. With a bit of bravado afforded from their protected status behind the gate, our two young friends, not generally known for self-control, lip off a bit to the bigger boys.

From what I am told, in a quick moment later, one of the boys on the outside scales the fence and comes towards the table. And before Tim knew what happened, the kid hits our mouthy young friend on the side of the head. I hear the mini-raucous on the patio and head out to see. The offender is escorted outside our gate immediately with a stern reprimand for his behavior and disrespect. The victim gets ice for his head and lots of consolation and a reminder about his words, too. And we are angry and sad and disappointed and frustrated and...

Clearly, in hindsight there are many ways it all could have gone different. We second-guess ourselves with lots of "they shouldn't've's" and plenty of "we should've's." We talk about modifications we can make to the fence to keep boys from climbing over. We contemplate meeting in different places. Sure, that all might make a difference.

But really, what we all need most is more grace, more peace, more love, more Gospel. Early this morning, I prayed from the Daily Office,
Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your Name. Amen.
I think we'll be back playing games next Saturday, too. Maybe we can all try again.

335/365

DPP 1-

We received the first announcement about the coming concert in September. We bought the tickets in October. We waited through November. Finally the first day of December arrived!

Let me suggest that possibly the Very Best Way to open the Advent season would be to attend a Christmas concert on December 1. Even better, take a car full of youth. Even better, take your faves! (and maybe, even better, take an adult companion... well, maybe next year...)

Have your daughter sit in the navigator's position, or maybe I should say dj's seat, on the front passenger side and have her choose the tunes for the trip. Stop to pick up the girl who just successfully presented her Freshman project (and bring her a Christmas tree and two Advent calendars because that's what she likes). Go have some lunch at Chick-Fil-A. Make a stop to buy a shirt to replace the one that was the unfortunate victim of coffee spillage (note: for the record- this time it was not me! But we'll allow that girl reveal herself...). Convince the tribe to spend a little bit of time at Half Price Books. Wander through Target for gift exchange treats and a box of cereal and a carton of milk (note: that was for the college student, not for me!). Stop to try on Ugly Christmas Sweaters.
Return to campus. Help to fluff the boxed tree. Charge the phone. Decide that 6 people in one half of a dorm room for two hours might be too much. Waste time at Starbucks. Play Hangman by the rules of the dictatorial uber-competitive sister. Laugh out loud!

Eat at Chuy's! Partake of free nachos and chips and salsa and share the Taco-Enchilada plate and feel stuffed. Navigate your way to the concert parking lot. Enjoy that extra trip back and forth over the pretty lit up bridge when you miss the exit ("keep going" can be interpreted several ways, don't you think?). Don't worry about those multiple u-turns on unlit streets or the GPS recalculating or the exasperated navigator next to you. Worry a little bit about the backseat passengers who need the bathroom now. Park the car. Return your daughter's purse to the car. Return your daughter's camera to the car. Enter the arena at your section, center stage! Turn right and climb 26 rows to the Very Very Top of the arena. Be careful not to trip. Settle in for the concert.

And what a concert! The percussion section from For King and Country left us reverberating toe to head. Why do my eyes water when we start? Was it the fog machine? Was it the thrill of that first familiar line, "Come, they told me, pa rum pum pum pum..." Was it the excited faces of my peeps five seats down? We clapped in time and sang along, even when we could not hear ourselves.

In the devotional I am reading this season, the authors remind us of "What is Advent?"
During Advent, we remember when our Savior stepped out of eternity into time to take on flesh. He came to live among us and offer His life for us, dying for our sins and rising from the grave. At Christmas, we don't just celebrate that He came; we celebrate why He came.We also anticipate Christ's promised return. After Jesus finished the work He had come to do, He promised He would return to establish His kingdom for all eternity. Celebrating Christmas is an act of worshiping the living Savior who will come again to make all things new. Jesus Christ has come, and He is coming again. This is the heart of Advent.(from Joy to the World, Advent 2017 by She Reads Truth)
Celebrating the beginning of the Advent season with A Glorious Christmas tour was indeed glorious.

01 December 2017

Thanksgiving 2017

They came by car and by plane, from points around Texas, from work and from school. We were missing four from North Carolina, but the rest of the kids arrived at home in south Texas even before their parents came back from Mexico.

Empty nest, ha!

We planned out the food and bought the bulk of the supplies a week ahead of time, but even so, I needed my sous chefs to complete the shopping.
And to begin the cooking.

They did not disappoint.
Four, FOUR, pies- pumpkin and apple and chocolate pecan and cherry cranberry with homemade crust, even with little cut-out leaves on top.
Homemade cranberry jelly, with the secret change-up of orange juice and ginger.
Sweet potato casserole with streusel on top. (sorry- no marshmallows around here...)
All waiting when I arrived home on Wednesday evening.

Thursday morning, the turkey took its place in the oven early.
We sauteed veggies for dressing.
We boiled and mashed potatoes.
The guys created the Holliday Onion Roll-Ups.
We toasted the rolls.

And we feasted.

So much for which to give thanks as we gather around the table this year.
We counted family and friends who are family, opportunities in school and work,
new babies,
creativity,
beauty around us.
But I also number challenges and sorrows of the year among that to be thankful for, as they have allowed us to know and trust our God more.
No matter the list, we have been richly blessed.


29 November 2017

DPP 2017

December Photo Project 2017 It's that time of year! I checked the archives and reminded myself that I first participated in the December Photo Project in 2009. The DPP has become a holiday activity that I really look forward to- and this year is no exception. Already I see familiar names on the list. (Hi Emma!!) Thanks Rebecca Tredway for getting it going again this year!

Hey you Photogs! Join me!! Find all the details at the December Photo Project Sign Up page.

324/365

I'm fairly certain that my morning commute beats yours.

First of all, I walk to the office. I don't have to get into a car. No need to check the gas tank on the way or wonder if that warning light was on the last time I drove. I don't have to negotiate traffic or crazy drivers or anticipate what's ahead. Well, sure, I look out for crazy drivers when I cross the street, and sometimes a garbage cart passes me by, but that's nearly always with a wave and a "Buenos dias!"

As I leave my house and lock my door, I stop to listen to the sounds coming from the deaf school next door. "Sounds from the deaf school?" Those who haven't spent time around deaf kids may not realize that many are quite verbal. They laugh, sometimes loudly because they have no sense of just how loud they are. They let out exclamatory noises of approval and disdain. They clap their hands. The deaf are very sensitive to movement around them, so nearly always I catch the eye of someone and exchange a good morning wave and smile.

I walk down the passageway to the Bodega, the workshops for the Isaiah 55 vocational ministries. I often smell the fresh cut wood before I am at the shop, by far the best scent going in this neighborhood! In this season, walking through the Bodega is something akin to passing by Santa's workshop. Our students and neighborhood workers form the crew of elves that creates Forever Gingerbread houses. These little wooden houses are reusable gingerbread houses, created to be decorated and then cleaned and then decorated again. The houses are sold at home parties and craft sales and holiday markets in the United States with sales benefiting the Isaiah 55 vocational programs. I wave at the workers and stop to exchange a good morning hug with Norma, our lead worker.

My longest traffic stop comes in pausing to pet our dogs. There's Neighbor Dog, Vecina, the gentle Pit Bull mix with dark soulful eyes who usually drops to the ground so I can rub her belly. Puppy pushes his way into the mix. Puppy is a tall Beagle-something who makes up for clumsy with enthusiasm. Puppy is yet a puppy and still needs instructional reminders not to gnaw your arm or jump up to lick your face. The black lab female mix, Black Dog (oh, I know, we are so creative in names...) is a whiner. It's been 9 months and she hasn't won me over yet, but I suppose there is still time.

Once out the gate, I turn left. Usually, I share crossing the always dusty and sometimes muddy street with the neighbor's chickens. There's always another few dogs in the street along the way. Sometimes other folks also walk down the street, also making their way to work, and we swap good morning pleasantries. Less than a minute down the road, there's nearly always Miguel at the gate. And there's nearly always the same exchange-
"Buenos dias. Como estas?" (Good morning. How are you?)
"Estoy aquí. Va a llover hoy." (I'm here. It's going to rain today.)
And that is whether there is a cloud in the sky or not.

Makes me smile every single time.


28 November 2017

323/365

O Gladsome Light
Phos Hilaron
O gladsome light of the holy glory
of the everliving Father in heaven,
O Jesus Christ, holy and blessed!
Now as we come to the setting of the sun,
and our eyes behold the vesper light,
we sing your praises, O God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
You are worthy at all times to be praised by joyful voices,
O Son of God, Giver of Life,
and to be glorified through all the worlds.
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322/365

The Plan for the Day changes multiple times (but who is keeping count?).
Meeting midday for robotics and lunch.
No meeting.
Soccer game at noon.
No, soccer game at one.
No, no soccer game.
Boys coming at 2 for robotics and snacks.
Boys show up at 2:30.
And hey! Guess what! Soccer game at 3!

Since we live within a 1 minute walk of the soccer field, off we go- up the hill and over the berm and to the fields that are very familiar. With the help of the sweat labor of short-term teams, we have spent the last few summers working to improve this complex of fields. And now we get to sit in the stands we helped build and watch the balls go through the goals we set up and painted, our guys playing a team from the other side of the neighborhood. That's a sweet thing.

We climb the stands and take our seats. And wait. Because 3 really means 3:30. Well, 3:30-ish. We watch the boys chalk the field, powder puffing from the coffee can on a stick. The half-line goes a bit wobbly at the very far end, but hey- this isn't quite the Copa Mundial. We watch the warm-ups, and size up the competition, all while we realize that the rest of the crowd may be assessing the two gringos towards the top of the bleachers. It is fun to know Spanish when people are discussing you. (grin!)

Finally our boys take the field. They are a rag-tag team, at best. Forget your images of organized American youth soccer. The field is dirt, with a patch of grass that probably survives because it is fertilized by local animals when they are staked to the goal to graze. One player's dog is on the field until the game actually starts and has to be shooed away. Our boys don't have uniforms today; they just wear their street clothes. A few have soccer jerseys from their favorite teams or teams they played with in the past. One of our boys plays in his jean shorts and plaid shirt. Our guys earn most of the penalties on the field today; they are street-wise and field tough. Our team didn't even bring water for halftime. We know that our boys can run and run, and they did. We know our boys have some good moves, because we see it in our side yard every week when they play the short game, off the walls, never more than 5 on 5. But this is a BIG field, and they are playing a team that has practiced together. Our team is down 0-1 at halftime, and then kind of lose it all at the very end of the game and lost 0-4.

But, I don't think that they are too affected by the score. We go home and get out the garrafón of water and a few plastic cups. The entire team stops to rehydrate in our courtyard before moving in mob on down the street. No doubt, we spill as much water as they drink, and create a mud puddle under the table. Most of the boys leave with a "Gracias!" and the handshake-handslap-fistbump greeting of the neighborhood and we are left with grins on our faces.

Here's to always changing plans for the day, and being in the 'hood, and soccer on a sunny Saturday afternoon.


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