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16 October 2017

284/365

"Grace, Meimei." Charles looked at his daughter. "You are very smart, too. You know that love too much is okay. That is the best thing in life. Love too much."
- The Wangs Vs. The World by Jade Chang



15 October 2017

283/365

O sing to the LORD a new song; *
sing to the LORD, all the earth.
Sing to the LORD, bless his name; *
proclaim his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations, *
his marvelous works among all peoples.
For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; *
he is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the nations are worthless idols, *
but the LORD made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before him; *
strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.
Ascribe to the LORD, O you families of the nations, *
ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; *
bring an offering and come into his courts.
Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness; *
tremble before him, all the earth.
Say among the nations, “The LORD reigns.” *
The world is firmly established, it shall not be moved;
he will judge the peoples with equity.

282/365

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the trip came when we walked downstairs to the hotel lobby at 6am that first morning only to discover complete darkness. We tiptoed to the front doors, and found them locked. The overnight guy let us out, and told us to knock when we came back. How is it possible that not one coffee shop around the plaza was open? We stopped at OXXO and the guy gave us two cups of black coffee to go through a little slide window in the door. And then we returned and stepped lightly back up the stairs to our room to wait until it was time for breakfast.

My husband and I have entered a new season, traveling by ourselves, without kids. It seems so simple. We only have to agree with each other. We choose where we eat. And it seems so cheap to just feed two. We can wander without having to explain ourselves to anyone else. We only have the other to blame for being late.

We haven't had this privilege often in our life together. When we met, a blond blue-eyed and very chatty three year old came on our second date and sat in the middle between us on the way home, holding my hand. By 11 years later, five more people had joined the ranks. Over these nearly thirty years of knowing each other, we've been privileged to travel often and wide, but rarely by ourselves. We've looked at the world through "what would everyone enjoy" lenses. Now, mostly, it's just the two of us.

Still, I wait while he reads every word on the signs, and still, he stops when I pause to shoot photos. We are each other's best test of patience. And yet, we can sit at a table at a coffee shop and watch the world go by for a good long while. We hold hands walking down the sidewalk and learn to shift single file when a passer-by crowds the space. I will sit next to him on a bus, or nearly anywhere else, for hours on end.

The rest of the week, we waited to get up until 7 and then he brought me back coffee, just as if we were home. I think I can get used to this.

13 October 2017

281/365

"Girls, this is an Absolutely True Story that happened to me and Kim and Kate at the market. The guy selling me my shirt asked us, "Are you Christians?"
"Yes," we answered.
"My mom was a  Christian, but my dad was a Jehovah's Witness," he told us, and I start to continue the rest of the story.

"Mom," interrupted my girls, "That is from Nacho Libre."

Like the time that the homeless lady I befriended just happened to have the same name and hometown as a Marvel Comics character.

Life. You can't make it up.


280/365

6am departure, and I'm awake at 4:10. WIDE awake. I pretend to sleep, as if I could fool myself, and finally realize that my husband isn't asleep either. With time to spare, we start the day. He makes coffee. The still of early hours make quiet.

The minutes that ticked so slowly when I wished sleep suddenly pass in fast forward once awake. My guy, he's never ready when I am. It took, hmm, about 23 years to figure out that we don't have to leave together, that maybe it's better for both of us if we don't. Finally time to depart, I roll my bag out the door. Be sure, I was only walking to our ride. I promise, I wouldn't really leave that man behind.

We meet our teammates, our friends, finish last minute packing and loading, open and close the gates, and head out. The streets are dark, but starting to come alive, more cars, more people the farther we go. I turn around to talk and spill his coffee on the seat. I once again silently vow to never carry coffee without a lid into the car. My pants soak up the overflow

I confess, I am perhaps disproportionately (say that three times fast in Spanish... desproporcionadamente desproporcionadamente desproporcionadamente...) excited about the trip ahead. We are boarding a bus and driving south for 10 hours. 10 hours of looking out the window, of reading, of sitting next to my guy. I'm a road trip nerd.

The journey does not disappoint. We pass through countryside, Northern Mexico desert turns to mountains. The road climbs. The bus rolls on past roadside villages, past farm and field, past taco stands and fruit stands and honey stands. Brown eventually greens, and even flowers. The violet tint of the window colors all the views, purple mountains majesty indeed.

It's good to get out of town.

11 October 2017

279/365

"No, gratitude born from humility is not a gratitude rooted in having more than someone else. It is a gratitude rooted in having anything at all."
Hannah Andersen, Humble Roots

Days that don't go the way you expect, they are humbling, aren't they? My day began with an incredibly ordinary expectation that things would go as they always do.
Except they didn't.

Oh, it wasn't anything life changing, nothing insurmountable that didn't work itself out by the end of the morning. And yet, it became easy to be distracted. Still, as I reflected later, my encouragement, my solace, remains that none of the events surprised my God, the Good Shepherd. I count myself as a people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.

And so I give thanks for the quiet of morning, for the beauty of golden daybreak hues, for the sparkly dew and for the cool breeze of fall. For friends that perhaps grow more dear in human frailty. For the wrongs that are corrected with a few papers and signatures and a little bit of time. For lunch with my man and for the excitement of travel ahead. For "gratitude rooted in having anything at all."

06 October 2017

277/365

Some days are rain outside the window,
moving really slow,
another (large) cup of coffee,
messaging with a far-away friend,
dreaming about new places,
(checking airline rates),
wade through street ponds in sandals and try not to think about the water,
admire Amazon boxes turned video games,
finish the chicken salad,
unknowingly miss National Taco Day,
listening to readers on the front porch,
singing to the Mexican radio "Who Let the Dogs Out" with teenage boys,
pizza for dinner,
learn a new game,
kiss my husband,
thankful for this crazy life,
days.

05 October 2017

276/365

"Los niños están," Miguel tells me before I even have a chance to look across the street. 3:30 in the afternoon, and the students that come for tutoring arrive. But we do not open our gates for the rest of the kids until 5. No matter. On most afternoons, they gather outside the gate anyway. They pester us to open the doors, to let them in early. They push the buttons on the electronic lock, as maybe one of these times some random pattern of beeps will actually work. Some of the little boys consistently start to climb up the outside of the fence, as though we'll congratulate them once they scale the top and land on the other side. We don't. We open the gate and shoo them out.

Some days are louder than others. This afternoon starts lustily. The little boys entertain themselves by chasing a street dog around. "Stop bothering the dog," I shout at them from across the yard. (ugh! why am I shouting?!) I get up and go to the gate and step outside. "Please. Stop bothering the dog and settle down." No one really listens. Finally the dog grows tired of the mob and shows itself annoyed, scaring a boy but hurting no one, and leaves. Without the dog, the boys continue to bother each other. Eventually that leads to a fight, and we separate a couple of luchadores. Each tells us that the other started it. "No matter. No more fighting," we tell them all, "or you won't be able to come in today." The crowd grows, and the pestering at the gate continues.
"Kristy! Kristy! How many more minutes?"
"20."
"Aw."
"Kristy! Kristy! How many more minutes?"
"14."
"Aw."
And on it goes.

At 4:58 we give in, and open the gates to the mob of minis. The din continues. The little boys stack blocks into towers until they tumble and then they do it all over again. The big boys form teams and play soccer until they are covered in muddy dust. The girls chase each other in circles, playing tag, until its finally time to start. They all form pushy compact lines at the door. The little boys race up the stairs, clamor into seats, grab pencils, furiously ready to start.

We stand and wait for them to be quiet.
We pass out the pages.
And then, almost like a miracle.
Near silence.
For more than 20 minutes, these boys, sweaty, loud, generally irreverent boys, crayons gripped tightly, color cats in peace.
The two boys that were fighting in the street less than a couple hours ago stand next to each other, all smiles, eager to show off their work.
And we shake our heads, amazed at ordinary grace once again.

04 October 2017

275/365

Last week I read an article about moms who feel "touched out." Nursing babies. Infants who pinch and touch and pet. Toddlers who need to be carried, who need to be assured with a kiss, who get swept up in a hug. Preschoolers who should be kept close, "keep your hand on the cart." Kids who probably will not learn how to read unless they are physically connected to you.
Let me simply state-
five babies in five years.
I know.

There was a period of time when perhaps I was thought of as unaffectionate. That very well might have been absolutely true. But it wasn't out of mean-spiritedness. Certainly, at no point in life has this introvert been mistaken as overly affectionate. But, for a long period of time, I recognize now, I was "touched out." It only has been within the last five years or so that I have neared recovery.  Still, I probably will never be accused of being super demonstrative. At this stage, I have grown to adore the hugs that come in the Latino culture I live in. It is normal for me to greet friends with a pat on the shoulder or even a hug. I love when my kids give me an embrace.

Even so, every once in a while, I am tested. Like when the neighborhood girls want to do my hair. Really. I've had short hair, more or less, since I was 5 years old. I never had ponytails or braids or barrettes. I remember watching my nieces "style" my father in law's hair and cringing, so glad they chose him, not me. These days, especially, I'm pretty low maintenance. Morning shampoo, a few minutes to blow-dry and I'm done. On this particular afternoon, my up-do lasted about 5 minutes. Thankfully, that's around how long the styling took as well. I took a deep breath and survived.

Baby steps.
Maybe one day I'll get a massage...

03 October 2017

274/365

The song from morning worship still played through my head as we headed west into the sunset, Let us love and sing and wonder, let us praise the Savior's name... We spent just over 24 hours at home, and I left thankful for it.

The afternoon before, we arrive back at home just after a car has crashed through three of our neighbors' fences, two wooden and one wrought iron. The car stops mangled in the middle of the corner yard. All of us neighbors gawk, incredulous, but it seems everyone survives the wreck. We arrive in time to comfort our girl, because the reverberations of such an impact can shake the best of us.

We grocery shop and stop for egg rolls and prepare a meal together. Everyone with a task, the computer screen shifts from recipe to recipe (isn't that the most convenient way to find a recipe and make a list these days?). We feast on peach crisp for dessert, probably the last of the season, while watching another episode of our on-going drama together. We skype our far-away family and smile and nod and wish we were 1000 miles closer. When our other girl arrives home from work, we heat up another plate of food and laugh over nonsense skits on late night TV.

Sunday morning brings the routines of habit, quiet and coffee and reading and memory work and ironing and jumping into the shower and leaving just at the moment to not be late. I take my place on the sofa for prayer, and the familiar voices around me offer petition and balm, both. I greet friends and try to catch up weeks in a moment. I miss faces, and I wish that I could talk to more. We soak in truth and "love and sing and wonder" at the mercies of the God we come to worship.

I leave with a friend to meet another, and soon, the gray skies pour down rain once again. We stop for for a cup of coffee, two for here, one to go, and share a piece of banana-supposed-to-be-pumpkin bread. We visit a friend, her stay in the rehab facility longer than her liking, and I hope we leave her encouraged. We ponder aging and families and laugh at our own growing frailties and weaknesses.

I dodge the rain and dash to my front door and settle on the couch for my Sunday afternoon shows. I stress out with bakers and laugh out loud at the running commentary my friend, watching simultaneously at her house, offers. We finish with a chat and a prayer, always grateful for easy in the midst of life hard.

An early dinner and a scramble for belongings, hugs and kisses all around, and we are back on the road. The sky changes as if playing a Technicolor film reel before our eyes, a fine finish to the extraordinary ordinary of a day.

02 October 2017

273/365

Tim invited a few boys that he has been doing a robotics project with on weekday afternoons to come over to our house this weekend. They'd work on the robot car and have lunch with us. One of our girls overheard that invitation and she wanted to come, too. Sure! So we made a date with these kids and waited for Saturday morning.

The boys had the robotics project, but I didn't have anything special to do with my young friend. I figured that we could make cookies. Maybe play some Uno. Now before any of you go getting upset and thinking that I'm being sexist while the boys do science and I make cookies in the kitchen with the girls... fine. All I can tell you is that I'm doing what I know how to do. Tim knows robotics. I know cookies. And I can play Uno.

Here's my problem. I've never baked in my new oven. I'm a just a little bit afraid of it, the oven part, that is. It is gas. And the automatic ignition, well, it clicks a lot.

When we lived in Costa Rica, our rental house had a gas oven. To light it, I had to turn the knob and start the gas and then reach in with a lit match to ignite the torch. I'd hear the hiss of the gas, and then I knew, the clock was ticking before the time bomb would explode. Indeed, every once in a while, it did. One time, the gas lit with a small boom and I found myself sitting on the floor beyond the kitchen door. Now, in the interest of full disclosure, the kitchen was about 4 feet square, so I wasn't moved far. And thankfully, I still had eyelashes. But friends, the fear is real.

Considering all that, on Saturday I opted for no-bake cookies. The kind I can stir on the stove top and cool on the tabletop. I gathered the ingredients and waited.

The boys arrived, and did their robot thing for a while. But my friend never showed. Who knows why not. I'll find her today and ask. I made the cookies anyway. Then I heated up taco fixings, and warmed tortillas. (Neat feature of Mexican stoves- the cast iron tortilla warmer in the center!) We all ate lunch together and played a couple rounds of Uno. I offered them some cookies. Um. Well. They weren't a hit. Too chocolatey, too rich, I think.

Maybe next time I need to lite the oven...

01 October 2017

272/365

This afternoon we set out on another visit, seeking to go to a lady who visited the summer medical clinic. We tried earlier, several weeks back, but she has been in the hospital. She’s home now.

Her home. 
Really, I think that it might be one of the economically impoverished places I have ever visited.  It took us a little wandering, a couple of u-turns and guidance by phone, to find the place. We left our neighborhood and we left even the relative "smooth" of the pitted paved roads of familiarity. We found ourselves on dirt roads, perhaps made more rough by recent rains. Surprisingly, we passed some pretty nice brick houses on the way there- but lots of not nice places, too. We passed all manner of animals on the way, horses and goats and pigs and dogs and cats, wandering on the road, wandering in yards. 

This family lives in a little peninsula of Mexico carved out by the river. They live in what not very long ago was dump land- as in, the ground under where we were standing was not solid, really. Maybe being surrounded by trash particularly emphasized how sad the situation is. Their house was not more than a shack. The shed for the toilet was directly behind where we were standing, a blanket nailed to the doorway covering the entrance. Certainly, it was a pit toilet at best; certainly, no sewage in that place. Garbage was everywhere, because, well, basically their yard is an extension of the dump. A little guy, not quite a year old, in a diaper and nothing more was toddling around the yard, holding on to a broken push toy. Another little girl, his sister I think, elementary school-aged, watched him. She was bright-eyed and part of me I wanted to take them both away from the garbage. Some adult family members were around. Chickens roamed in and out. A couple of dogs, both with goopy eyes and mangy fur (really mangy- not just disheveled) walked around. Horses walked around behind the house, fenced in by barbed wire marking other boundaries. There was an open fire with a grate where they were cooking- probably a pot of beans, and the smoke drifted by us. Mercifully for everyone, it wasn’t hot and there was a lot of cloud cover, so it didn’t smell at all, but even so, flies were everywhere. I can imagine the stench, the flies, on a hot, sunny day. 


The lady we were there to visit probably isn’t all that old. I’m guessing late 50’s or early 60’s (but I really am a terrible guesser). She is diabetic. Her sugar numbers remain constantly, dangerously, high. She was in a wheelchair but I’m not sure how they could really push her on that uneven ground. Her left leg has been completely amputated. Her right leg is still intact but has several concerning sores. She has limited sight. She says they struggle for food. Her husband was once a trash cart garbage collector but hasn’t worked in several years. From what I understood, something happened with “los malos” and he is afraid to work. Even though that sounds lame, it is very likely very legit. The needs for this lady, for her family, are so tremendous. We prayed with her, for her health, for provision for her family, for peace and for assurance. But I confess, it can be hard for me to believe, to hope, in these situations. I know our God is sufficient and I trust that He is sovereign. But when such basic human needs are hardly being met, I wonder, do they wonder, where is God? She said that she wants to know more about the Bible, about Jesus, but obviously getting to us is nearly impossible. We need to come to her.

We left her a couple of bags from the church, the most basic of groceries- beans and rice and boxed milk and toilet paper and such. We apologized that it was so little. We left humbled. Our Aquiles neighborhood certainly would not be considered among the finest of neighborhoods by most standards. This afternoon, however, crossing back into the neighborhood and onto paved roads, it suddenly looked like luxury. Sitting in my little house later in the evening, I feel like the top 1% of the world’s richest people. 

Songwriter Sara Groves sings "I saw what I saw and I can’t forget it…" 
I feel the same.

30 September 2017

271/365

Thursdays have settled into an easy rhythm. Today crossing the bridge came without delay. I traveled down the expressway, dark clouds to the north, bright sun to the south. Mid-morning, picking up a few supplies at the grocery goes quickly. Soon the clouds open wide and the rains fall hard. I wait in my car to see if I can avoid getting wet. I make a two pans of chicken enchiladas, one for now, one for later, from a recipe known by heart. We meet a friend for lunch and linger over enchiladas suizas and tall glasses of tea. I continue the rounds of laundry and fall asleep in the chair, my old man dog at my feet, snoring in harmony, I am sure. Late afternoon brings preparations and prayer and by 6, students file through the doors at church. Friends old and new generously share greetings and hugs and kisses. The classrooms fill, and soon the buzz of repetition, of conversations in broken and improving English, of kids playing, fill the halls. Two hours later and the din fades, and I head home. I compare stories with my girls, and we watch Late Night and we laugh out loud together. A good day, indeed.

270/365

Bright colorful paintings fill the room, transforming it into the cartoon jungle. Postponed from its traditional summertime date,  to coincide with events for the International Week of the Deaf, this week we hosted Vacation Bible School at Instituto Isaías 55, our elementary school for the deaf. Just as back in the June and July, we pulled out the parables of Jesus, asking the kids to look for the tesoros escondidos, the hidden treasures found in His teachings.

A couple of things that you learn very quickly after spending time with deaf kids- abstract ideas  are difficult, and you know the moment that they understand. The children gathered and watched attentively in near silence as the teacher told the day's lesson. Several nodded their heads. Several signed answers in response. (Several paid a lot of attention to the little guy sitting next to him... )

Then we moved to smaller groups. It was my turn. First, I know very little sign language. And let's be honest, my Spanish skills leave much to be desired. How on earth can I teach deaf Mexican kids? Thankfully, I had good examples and an excellent interpreters. The kids gathered around our tubs of bricks and stones and weeds and soil. My lesson was the Parable of the Sower. Maybe you remember. The sower spread the seeds along the road, but nothing grows. He spread the seeds in rocky soil but the roots were shallow and the plants withered. He spread his seed in a field of weeds, but the rogue plants choked the good seed and prevented it from growing. But when the seed found the good soil, the plants thrived and produced much good fruit.

The kids got to hold onto pumpkin seeds and think about a plant growing in the road, their faces showing how ridiculous and impossible that would be. They dropped their seeds in the rocks and signed furiously how the sun would burn them up or the water would wash them away or the birds would eat them up. They hid their seeds under leaves and weeds and recognized that there was not much room for good growth there.  Finally, they poked holes in the good dark rich soil, and covered it up and pretended to water it. I'm sure that in their minds, a big fat pumpkin was growing, ready to harvest.

But how to communicate the hidden treasure of this story? As much as this parable tells about soil, and about the things that distract us from the word of God, it's not really just about that. It's not about us. It's about the sower; it's about Jesus. The seed of the His word is always good. The sower throws those seeds generously, even liberally. Even the smallest piece of good soil can produce fruit for His kingdom, 30, 60, hundredfold. That is our prayer for these kids and the others we are privileged to walk alongside; that is our prayer for ourselves.

268/365

For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work;
    at the works of your hands I sing for joy.

-Psalm 92:4

I think, I hope, that He is glad, too.

28 September 2017

266/365

Saturday was
an Egg McMuffin and coffee, two creams, please;
the smiles of friends;
brown paper and dishes and boxes and tape and Sharpies;
take out pizza from the Dough Show;
pushing couches across a tile floor;
rejoicing with those who rejoice;
prayer in the garage with family;
tears on the couch;
football on the radio;
text messages that make me laugh out loud;
early dinner with two of my favorites and all the silver hairs in town;
$5 margarita;
travel negotiations to be continued;
backup at the toll booth;
backup on the bridge;
winding by the river at sunset;
home again, home again.

27 September 2017

265/365

Back in the day, oh, 40-so years ago, my grandparents lived just a couple blocks south from a neighborhood 7-11 store. By the time my sister and I were double digits old, and I'm not joking- my grandma held our hands while crossing the street until about that time, she trusted us enough to go to the store alone. So we would gather our coins, and go candy shopping. The only candy we could really afford, or at least, the most candy that we could get for our money, came from the bottom two shelves of the candy aisle. No decision held greater weight than how to spend that change.

In the 1970's, our choices included Pixie Sticks and Laffy Taffy, candy necklaces and Ring Pops, candy cigarettes and bubble gum cigars, Whistle Pops and BlowPops and Tootsie Roll Pops (how many licks does it take...?), LemonHeads and Atomic Fireballs. I really liked the Willy Wonka Gobstoppers because I read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at least half a dozen times. In the book, Wonka explained that the Everlasting Gobstopper was for "children with very little pocket change."  Not even close to everlasting, I probably took a Gobstopper out of my mouth to check which color was next and wonder if the flavor had changed at least a dozen times per piece. Finally we would make our selection and carry it up to the countertop. Once our hands were empty, we followed up by spilling our pockets of coins in front of the register. We didn't at all know how to calculate sales tax, but we had learned that we needed to have little bit extra because the final total always cost more than the numbers added up to be back in the aisle.

This day it seemed like about 100 degrees in the shade and humidity besides and we all were beyond thirsty for something cold. A few friends and I walked down to the corner store to buy water. Sure, there are lots of 7-11's in Reynosa, but even better is the corner store, and this one does not disappoint. This place just may have everything a person might need to live. A refrigerated case full of fresh cuts of meat stands in the corner. We passed a shelf with dog food and cat food and rabbit food and birdseed. You can buy a dozen eggs and all varieties of bread. It goes without saying that a cooler full of tortillas stands by the door. The hungry in search of a quick fix will find Takis and chicharrones and Sabritas. You can smell Fabuloso and Foca on the shelves where the cleaning supplies sit next to mop heads and plastic buckets. All manner of toys hang from high shelves. A cubby full of school supplies stands close to the register. And right next to the register is the candy.

I was thinking that they probably keep the candy selection right there in front to keep an eye on kids. I can honestly say that I never stole candy, but man, it could be pretty tempting when the coins just didn't add up. I didn't ask how much the cacahuates cost. Anyone who has spent time in Latin America knows that, yes, Halls count as candy. But the Kool Aid package? That makes me wonder... The guy at the counter counted up our water bottles, no apparent logic to the price but we trust he knows, and like in days of old, I stared at the money in my hand and hoped that I had enough.
SaveSave

264/365

We really shouldn't be, maybe we really aren't, surprised anymore when one of our tires loses its umphf and sits deflated. Flat tires have become commonplace here. I am sure that I have experienced more flat tires since moving to the border than in all of my life up to that point. There was that one time I was driving down the road and thought that the nice people were pulling up to tell me that my gas door was open. No. That was a flat tire. There have been dramatic and sudden blowouts at full speed on the highway. I have heard the hum and then the slow whompwhompwhomp of the tire gradually becoming flat until question ourselves, is it?, and then we can deny it no longer. And then there have been the days when we walk out to the car and the tire is flat. Today was one of those days.

I should confess, I still haven't changed my own tire. I count that as all grace. Always so far, some hero guy appears, usually but not always my husband, willing to get his hands black and his pants dusty dirty. I know where the jack is, but I've never had to slide it under the car or crank it up. My job is to hold the bolts and to line up the tire to see if the jack has lifted the car high enough. I try to touch the tire only with my fingertips and I try not to touch my clothes or my face. Somehow the black smudge of rubber finds its way to mark me anyway. Sometimes I have waved at oncoming traffic, so that the cars and trucks headed our way don't get too close to the car, or to the guy underneath the car. That is a worrisome job.

Now I have tire guys. I know of the tire shop in Hidalgo and of the tire guy down the street and around the corner in Reynosa. I first met the tire guy on Harrison in Harlingen, but sadly, his shop burned in a black smoky fire. Now I visit the tire guy off the Loop in Harlingen. He's friendly and trustworthy and reliable. He charges $6 to take off a tire, repair it, and put it back, and does it in less than 10 minutes. I sit and listen to the air pump and the whine of taking off the bolts like some NASCAR pit crew might do. He wrestles the tire into the old bathtub and discovers the hole, usually the fault of a nail. He rolls the tire over to the equipment to repair it, and then he exchanges the tires and he replaces the spare back to its rightful position on the back of the car.

When flat tires become part of normal.
We'll talk about windshields another day...

24 September 2017

263/365

“For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed."
Malachi 3:6 (ESV)

23 September 2017

262/365

Late afternoon doldrums and I'm all over the chance for a snack from the little store across the street. "Just a coke," I say, thinking that he'll come back with my usual 12 ounce bottle.

1 liter of coke and the sugary, chocolate-filled, chocolate-frosted, hot dog bun-like, cavity in a sealed bag (and look at the label- is that 'fro impressive or what?!), Nito later, I am thinking that I might later regret that momentary lapse in judgment...

261/365

Today I wore a brand new hat. It was picture day at Instituto Isaías 55 and this year, I am the photographer. I made sure my camera battery was charged. I double checked the SD card, because my family will tell you that they have lost track of how many times I have pulled out my camera, only try to take a photo and then say, "OH! I forgot to put the card back in!"  My friend, the organizer of this event (really, I feel like it should be Organizer of this Event with a capital O and a capital E...), brought a very proper blue cloth for a backdrop. We hung it on table folded and standing upright. I took a test shot to check the light. But truthfully, that was a bit of a show, because my display screen is broken so I can't see the pictures I take until I'm home on the computer anyway. I ran upstairs to check the first picture and then trusted the rest would be fine. I am clearly amateur.

It was break time for the kids, and they watched our preparations with interest. A couple sign "hello" to me and I return the greeting. A really neat thing about deaf kids- their expressions give them away nearly every time. They are curious about why I'm there and they are curious about the camera. I want to ask them questions and show them pictures of themselves, but that won't happen today. We get to business. One by one, the students come over and sign their name and point it out on a list for Heather. We place each student against the blue background, and inevitably move them a little more, a little to the left, a little to the right. Little kids, they have not yet learned to make that serious Official Photo face. They still smile for the camera. I want to hug them. Every single one. I am clearly amateur.

With a few minutes of break remaining and most of the teachers distracted by our activities and questions, a few start to chase each other, playing tag, running through streams of mid-morning sun. I leave smiling and thankful for this place of peace, for this place for the deaf kids of Reynosa.

260/365

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” 
-- C.S. Lewis "Mere Christianity"

I listened to boys run laps around my house, hiding in corners and surpising one another when they would make a sudden turn, enjoying a Sunday afternoon in the sun. My guy, he was trying really hard to find the one thing that would cheer me. And even so, on some days, the activities and even the comforts of this world do not come close to filling the empty spaces. I missed my peeps and I missed familiar. It didn't take long to recognize again, this world is not my home. 

22 September 2017

259/365

I lined up my cards.
I piled up my beans.
The kids next to me prompted me when I missed a square.
The kid next to me won a package of toilet paper.
The lady across from me won a bag of rice.
I traded my cards.
I tried bottle caps.
I'm really not superstitious.
The kid across the way, the one who kept launching beans that bounced off my head, won the jackpot.

The quest for a win continues.

258/365

¡Viva Mexico!
¡Viva handshakes and kisses on the cheek for and from everyone in the room!
¡Viva beautiful girls and lovely women in bright dresses!
¡Viva boys in all manner of sombreros and even seemingly armed for battle and men in guayaberas!
¡Viva the silly photo booth and Mexican mohawks and Mexican berets and Freida Kahlo masks and bigotes big and bigger!
¡Viva the green and white and red!
¡Viva bright table coverings and spicy hot salsas!
¡Viva tamales and posole and tostados!
¡Viva limonada and jamaica!
¡Viva el valero, the traditional Mexican toy that seems so simple, catching a wooden orb on a stick, and is so darned difficult!
¡Viva El Grito!
¡Viva Mexico!




257/365

Some of my very earliest childhood memories include trips to Octopus Car Wash. I remember pulling up to the gas station when full service was still the norm. The guy at the pumps would fill the tank, regular please, and check the oil and ask what car wash package we wanted. We always chose the option with the fragrance, and that was back when they really sprayed some sort of scent towards the floor mats of your car. I wondered how much our squirt lowered the level in the colorful bottles of potion displayed above the hoses.

After the fill-up, my folks would pull the car around to the wash, and we'd hop out quick so the guys could climb in and start vacuuming the interior. Next stop was to the cashier to pay, and for my sister and I, a chance to check out the gumball machines and pull the knobs and make sure some stray candy wasn't waiting behind the little shiny metal door. Some times the cashier, always a nice looking girl it seems in my memory, would give us a sucker, too. Sometimes we would really hit the jackpot and my parent would buy us a root beer from the vending machine. Then we would race to the steps in front of the windows and wait for our car to cruise by. OK, well, let's be honest, probably most of the time, we would race to the steps and then elbow and jockey our way to the top. And as long as we're being honest, I should probably confess that most time I would probably elbow and push my sister off the steps entirely. I was a bully. So sorry for that, Kimberly.

On good days, we'd take our turn down the row of steps and follow our car through the rinse and wash and rinse and wax cycles, until we walked out to the dryers. It was loud out there, and nobody could hear anybody, and I would always wonder if the car behind would hit the car ahead on the conveyor belt. We'd watch a teen jump into the back seat of our car and spray the windows and wipe them clean. The guys on the outside would dry the bumpers and the lights. Finally, in what seemed like a really long time to wait, someone would wave and we'd hand the guy the stick that showed we paid and climb in again, the damp clean car smell permeating the air.

I still love the car wash. Now I get to pay at a machine by swiping my card. Now I line up my wheels to the belt and follow the sign and put the car in neutral and take my hands off the wheels and wait for the spray. I always think they could give a better effort in cleaning the bugs off my window, and yet, I keep coming back. I always second guess if I have rolled the window all the way up. One day I'll probably really mess up and roll the windows down instead. I wait for the long blue carpet rags to slap the car with suds. I always second guess if I should have paid the couple of dollars extra for the wax that shoots out in colors, and then I always wonder what happens when the wax gets on the windshield... I always get to the end of the tunnel and wait for the blowers to shoot the water droplets off the window, all the while checking the rear view mirror to see if the next car coming from behind is getting too close. I drive around to the free vacuums and get all manner of sand and dirt and organic growth off the floors. I hope not to suck up something that shouldn't be- like the tiny black baby sock that I pulled out of the attachment this week, surely inadvertently lost by a mom trying to regain order in her chariot mini-van.

I almost always hum the chorus to Car Wash, "working at the car wash, yeah."

The car wash- making this customer happy since 1973.

20 September 2017

256/365

I suppose that I shouldn't be surprised but honestly, I didn't expect it. The reading log has turned into a competition. Who knew that reading Bible stories and making check marks could be a thing? "How many has he read?" "How many am I missing?" "Can I read one more? Just one more?! Please?!"

Boys and girls from our neighborhood come into the community center in the afternoon. These kids do not attend the local schools. Some have them have gone at one point or another, but mostly, they have picked things up along the way. But now, through a government education program that we are able to administer, our neighborhood kids have opportunity to earn a certificate of completion for their elementary and middle school learning. Think of it as a GED for the lower years.

The kids gather at the gate in mid-afternoon, usually before we arrive, and come in and work for a couple of hours, rotating through tutoring in math and writing and reading. I have the privilege of sitting across and next to these kids and listening to them read. I have listened to kids learn to read for a lot of years. It is balm to my soul.

Some of our kids read fluidly, with inflection that makes me want to laugh out loud. I'm pretty sure that one has a potential in radio. Others still falter and stumble, but push on. A couple of our boys also attend a weekly Bible study, a small group from the church meeting in the home of our teammates. On this day, we took turns reading out loud, moving from person to person towards these brothers. And then, they each took their turn, reading out loud too (and old language words from an old school translation Bible- words that might cause many to slow down). When each finished, we let out a cheer and they each smiled big.

I imagine a time when we will have a library of books for our kids to borrow, a means to transport them to far-away lands and meet yet unknown people and take adventures that ordinary life might never allow. But meanwhile, we progress, one story at a time.


19 September 2017

255/365

Mid-week, and the visits for prayer and to drop off bags of simple groceries from the church continue. Our first stop comes just yards down from the entrance to Boys' Town, La Zona Tolerancia. And tolerance sounds like a nice thing except that this is the place where prostitution is knowingly permitted. We stand next door to the curandero, next to the tire shop in the wall, and push the button and wait, not knowing what to expect behind the gate.

Our dear little friend opens the gate and ushers us in with smiles and handshakes and kisses. She leads us into the courtyard, and then to her little apartment. Actually, "apartment" would be generous; really, it's just a little room divided by a curtain. Later she will tell us how much she pays weekly for rent and we shake our heads. Surely it should be considered much too much except that "fair housing" has not yet come to this neighborhood. We start to sit inside her home, on the bed, on a chair, and then she decides we should go outside. More room. More breeze.

We gather around in plastic chairs and sitting on the wall and find out how our friend has been. She tells us stories of her health and of her family. All the while, activity goes on around us. The toddler in pigtails, not yet even talking but already running to and fro in the patio, always trying to escape from adult grip. The faces that peek from the doorways of rooms above and beside us, surely checking out the visitors as much as we sneak glances at them. We hear the sounds from just beyond the wall, of water vendors and of the horse hooves of the trash carts and of car tires screeching on the busy entrance road. Our friend grows plants in old paint buckets, certainly for use in healing, certainly to bring a little green to this dusty place.

We pray and the farewells bookend the greetings, handshakes and kisses and hasta luego, Dios le bendiga. We leave with smiles and venture back into the center of the neighborhood, another visit to make. But this address, we just aren't sure exactly where to find this place. We know we are close, so close, but not quite there. Mario calls, and the lady tells us she'll meet us in the street. We make a U-turn and backtrack, and sure enough, there she stands, near the corner but in the street, her back to us, hand waving as she talks to us. We tell her we are just behind her. We watch her look in all the wrong directions. Finally she turns and sees us so close and we all laugh. All the while she continues to talk to us on the phone, leading us to her home a few houses down the street.

Again, her enthusiasm is contagious and we greet each other like lost family. She, too, invites us into her small home. Our eyes adjust to the dark and we smile. Al Pacino hangs across the room from Freida Kahlo; small knick-knack statues fill a short set of shelves. We perch on the low couches and she pulls up a plastic chair. One story blends into another, smiles morph to tears and then back to laughter. She tells us about her health and dramatically pulls up her shirt to show us exactly where her abdominal pain hits. She tells us about her neighbors and her life in this neighborhood for many many years. She tells us about witch doctors and black cats and half-cooked eggs. She tells us she wants to know more about Jesus; she wants to know more about the Bible. She wants us to place our hands on her as we pray over her before we leave. We do.

And always, people are people, no matter the language, no matter the income, no matter the career. People who hurt from relationships and from life. People who need more than anyone can possibly provide. People who long for more. We leave smiling, but overwhelmed if not for our hope in He who is enough.

18 September 2017

254/365

"Colour is the keyboard, the eyes are the hammers, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand which plays, touching one key or another, to cause vibrations in the soul."
Wassily Kandinsky, "Concerning the Spiritual in Art" (1911)

Our apologies, Wassily Kandinsky. I'm pretty sure that when we introduced your artwork, Squares with Concentric Circles, we didn't pronounce your name correctly. I ignorantly guessed you might have hailed from Poland. Yet lo, I later discover that you were Russian, though you lived in Germany for a time and eventually became a French citizen. I wonder what you, considered among the first of the great abstract artists, would think of our table of youth, trying to imitate your works. I think, maybe, you would be amused as they consider the colors and cut out shapes and match layer on layer. I think, maybe, you would turn on the music and turn up the volume and encourage our kids to look even more deeply, at their work and at themselves. I think, maybe, you would remind them that their work is not just mere passing time, but is really creating. I think, maybe, at the end of the time, you would laugh and shake your head and praise and encourage them, just like we do.



17 September 2017

253/365

When the power goes out anywhere in Latin America (is this true in other parts of the world, too? I only have experience in Latin America...), I'm pretty sure that the first thing everyone considers is, did we pay our bill? But on the weekend, you can't do much about that. We continued about our lazy sabbath afternoon, expecting the lights to return at any moment. They didn't. After a little while, we wandered around the neighborhood a little bit to investigate, and sure enough, at least the our couple of blocks were without electricity. After a couple of hours, we messaged our cross-town friends to learn that they also were without lights. That message led to discovering the entire state was without power, and not only ours, but three other states besides. Somehow you don't feel quite as bad when you know that four states full of people do not have a fan running or lights on either.

Eventually, the residual cool inside the house faded and we moved to the front where a breeze crosses the porch. We read and watched traffic go by in the street. Mostly people would come in pairs. A couple of carts trotted by. More that a couple of dogs and more than a couple of boys kicking soccer balls wandered past our iron gate. We ate our salad in the dimming light of day and fired up the Kindles. The best thing about a power outage is that you feel like it won't last too very long. We didn't feel too much pressure to conserve battery power. The sun set and darkness fell heavy before the hum of the air conditioner started up, before the fans started spinning again. We turned off the lights just in time to go to bed.

252/365

John Steinbeck borrowed the line from poet Robert Burns, "The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry." And such becomes the case when a hurricane heads your way. We had her move-in date on the calendar since June. We had the date for our mission agency country retreat on the calendar for just as long. The two dates were separated by a full week, and surely all would be well. Surely nothing could cause a conflict?!

Nothing except a hurricane.
When Hurricane Harvey set its sight on landfall in south Texas, the plans suddenly became precarious. Within a day of the move-in date, we knew that event would be postponed. We didn't know how long. As we watched the storm grow to Category 4 and slowlyslowly churn towards the shore, we didn't even know if there would be much of a school left to move into this semester!

Amazingly, the university weathered the storm incredibly well, A week and two days late, students were moving on campus. But a week and two days later, these parents were on the Pacific coast of Mexico, not the Gulf coast of Texas. We made new plans. A car full of sisters and a loyal brother-in-law and an auxiliary vehicle with the best second family we could ever hope for made the trip. And this mom sat far away and second guessed and lamented missing the day and begged for photos.

As such, the road trip a week later can't be counted as a do-over, though we did bring a load of forgotten items. But it certainly did serve to redeem the missed day. We brought tech-y dad to hook up the router and make the Wi-Fi work. We drank coffee and bought a few necessities and ate a really good Thai lunch. We walked around campus and trekked across a bit of shore. We ate ice cream. And we hugged and kissed our girl goodbye, leaving confident that all is well. (and we returned to fix the Internet one more time. And we forgot keys. And still, all is well.)

Not a lot of scenery fills the landscape between here and there. It is wide-open spaces north to south, wide-open spaces east to west. And yet, "the emptiness sings." I drove home thankful and content (and even more, with a Husker game on the radio for company). The best laid plans go awry, but plan B often works out better than you might expect.

16 September 2017

251/365

Our gate guard, Miguel, keeps one clean street. He works constantly to make sure that our little section of pavement, the perpetually dusty road in front of our properties, stays swept. Every morning he can be found sweeping, making piles of dust and dirt and whisking it away (usually to some invisible boundary just past our property and probably into our neighbor's section of street, but I guess that guy doesn't care much...).

But for Miguel, the real challenge comes when it rains. Our neighborhood lies close to the river, less than half a mile as the crow flies, and the drainage goes slow at best. It doesn't take much of a shower to make a pond in the street. Then Miguel really gets to work. He pushes away water until, something akin to Moses, he parts the seas. Sometimes we think he lives for the work after rain.

On this particular day, I came in from Texas, and I drove through a Texas-sized cloudburst on the way in, remnants of Hurricane Katia on the Mexican coast circling over our region. Rain came down in sheets requiring my windshield wipers to wave at full speed and even soliciting that crazy-to-me-south-Texas reaction of driving with your hazard lights on. The rainstorm had not yet reached our location, a bit farther west, but once through the storm, I watched it in the rear view mirror the rest of the way down the road. I saw the dark clouds on the horizon. I knew the rain was coming. I came ready to warn Miguel.

Most days, the conversation with Miguel goes like this:
¿Como estas, hoy? (How are you today?)
Estamos aqui. Va a llover. (We are here. It's going to rain.)
Most days, true, we are here. But most days, alas, it is not going to rain.
Today, I walked to the gate and as he opened it, granted, under very sunny skies, I reported,
¡Hola! Va a llover pronto. (Hello! It's going to rain soon.)
Today Miguel surprised me.
No, no va a llover hoy.
What? He's telling me that no, today it's not going to rain. I laugh!
Vamos a ver! (We'll see!)
He smiles and shakes his head at me and opens the gate.

I go about my business indoors and after a while, I realize- I am hearing more than the fans. I can smell the must of rain in the air. I peek outdoors. It's raining! And at a pretty good rate, besides. I was right. The storm has arrived. The rain doesn't last too very long, and by the time I leave the property again, the skies have cleared. Miguel has the broom out.
Sabía que llover, he tells me. (I knew it would rain.)
Claro que sí! I reply with a grin. (Of course!)

14 September 2017

249/365

You might tell me, I like tacos. Sure. I know. I grew up eating tacos, too. But, my gringo friends, even you Hispanic friends who grew up in the United States of America, I'm here to tell you, you don't REALLY know tacos until you've eaten street tacos, that is, tacos sold on the street in Mexico.

Yeah, I know the gringo taco. The crispy shell heated toasty in the oven. Hamburger browned on the stove top with a package of spices and a cup of water added. Lettuce, tomato, onion, yellow cheese. Maybe some salsa on top. Hey! This taco has its place. I make them myself; honest, I do.

But friends. Mexican street tacos.
Bistek and carnitas and picadillo. Barbacoa on the weekend. Corn tortillas hot off the griddle, even better, fried in front of you. Onion and cilantro chopped fine. Shredded cabbage. And salsa. (I take the green. Almost every time.) Don't ask the guy if the salsa is hot. I promise you he'll tell you, No, no pica mucha. He's probably lying. Oh, he's not deceiving you on purpose. He'll swear that really, it's not hot. To him, nothing short of a hellish spice inferno would be hot. Pace Picante Sauce is water to him.

Start with a handful of napkins stuffed under your plate so they don't blow away. You'll need them, because the juices from the meat and from the salsa will drip and somehow, defying the rules of science, these thin sheets of paper shrink when they absorb. Don't forget your soda in a bottle, thin rivulets of water from the cooler dripping down the outside wall. Probably the tacos will come to you in a plastic basket- give back the plastic basket when you finish. After you finish scooping up everything that fell out with your fingers. After you finish licking your fingers because you want to taste every last bit.

Tacos. More tacos.

13 September 2017

248/365

We heard talking, laughing, things definitely happening as we came through the gate. We followed the sounds. They led us around the corner of the house, past the cactus and past the aloe, past the lime tree to the open area. Little did we know, it was our landlord's birthday. And little did we know, such a celebration calls for a pig. Poor pig- he gave it all for that party. His head lay on the ground just outside the bottom corner of the photo. His guts and his hooves piled up in a bucket just to the top left of corner of the photo. The men assured us that nothing would be wasted. I believed them.  They rinsed and trimmed and skinned the carcass, readying it for the oven.

The oven, you ask?
That would be the oven behind my house, an old brick kiln of sorts in a dark dusty out room. He took us over to show us the preparations. They filled the roaster box up with wood, now lit, and fire  began to warm the space, the most ancient preheat setting, I suppose. In the end, they would push the pig in on a big metal tray. The opening would be covered with a metal sheet and they would seal it with mud and walk away for hours, coming back in time to pull out the well-cooked pork. We were there when that happened, men and a neighbor boy besides, gathered for the opening. We all cheered and our landlord generously gave us a rack of ribs and a piece of chest. It was the truest of home-cooked meals.


247/365

Hey friend-
I know that I told you this story would be better told in person, and really, it would! But there are so many stories to tell in person and never enough time. This one I'm going to try to share in writing. I had an Amazing Race practice adventure today. I think I may have learned a few things for when we make it on the show. (grin!)

It starts as an ordinary travel day. We arrive in the lobby on time, even early. We check out of our room, surrender our door keys (yes! Real old-fashioned-cut-from-metal-hanging-on-a-keyring-keys!) and give our towel cards back. The cashier notices that we still have a safe key, oops!, and we give that one up too. One of us arranges for a minibus to transport the 12 of us traveling to the airport at the same time. Somehow the minibus for 12 turns into two vans for 6, but that's fine. We hit a major pothole on the highway and Tim hits his head on the ceiling and yelps loud enough for the driver to laugh out loud. We're all good.

We arrive at the airport with time to spare. LOTS of time to spare. We say goodbyes to two friends and we are again a party of 10. We wonder if we might be the first through security that day. We drink coffee and wander through shops and refrain from buying the same souvenirs we might find in Progreso. We read books and send silly faces to family on Snapchat and watch people. We move to the gate. We wait. FINALLY we load the plane and take off up through the clouds and all is well. Free drink and chips! Bonus camera on the nose of the plane for live landing video!

We disembark and notice that there is a luggage conveyor. We notice there are bags coming out. Surely we don't pick up our luggage here? Or do we? No, you don't. Yes, you do. Yes, we do. We pick up our bags and try to discern where to go next. We make our way back through security. Take our phones and change out of pockets. Lose the water bottle. Lots of time to spare, time enough to sit down for lunch. We move to the gate. We watch people. We are bored. We board.

(I know. This is not Amazing Race adventure worthy. I know. This is Ordinary Americans Travel Home stuff. I know. Wait for it.)

We arrive in Monterrey. This is where it gets interesting. We know that we need to get a ride from the airport to a bus station, and a bus to Reynosa, and we're not sure how that happens. We collect our luggage and the guys get in line and we see a few nodding heads and a few pointing arms and a few nodding heads. We see wallets come out, which is always a sign for something. The guys come over. YES! SUCCESS!! We have a van for 10 arranged to the bus station; we have tickets on the 6:55 bus. We have an hour to get there. We head to the taxi stand.

We line up. We wait. Turns out the van for 10 is really two taxis for 4. So we will put five people in each. I go in one taxi, Tim goes in the other. Our taxi leaves the other group behind. (Freeze frame! Amazing Race Tactical Error happening RIGHT NOW! Tim has both bus tickets. We are no longer together in the same place. Loyal watchers groan!) How many races have been lost in the taxi?! We tell our driver we have 6:55 bus tickets. He tells us that we'll never make it. (Cue anxious music!) He tells us if we pay the extra 35 pesos for the toll road, it will go faster. YES! The driver takes this challenge seriously. The four of us in the back seat try to arrange ourselves strategically, as in strategically find a spot where neither butt cheek nor leg loses circulation. We move into traffic.

We are stopping! (cue brake noises) Rush hour- Monterrey. Traffic waiting to go through the toll booth comes to a COMPLETE stop. Not one other option exists. We inch forward. Slowly. VERY slowly. The taxi driver tactically changes lanes. The green digital numbers on the dashboard clock turn. We exchange text with the other taxi. They are somewhere behind us. They also choose the toll road. Tim's cell phone dies. If you are at home watching the Amazing Race right now, you are screaming at the TV. NOOOOOOO!!!!! If you are in a packed taxi in the middle of Monterrey rush hour traffic, you have to just look at each other and laugh. How will this end?

Finally, precious minutes lost, we pass through the toll and the driver really steps on the gas. REALLY. As in we pass through the digital speed zone that says SPEED LIMIT 78 KPH. YOUR SPEED 98 KPH. (Metric measurements make it look much more dramatic than it is- that's really just 60 mph when we should be at 50mph... but still! It seems like 98 mph with all the traffic around us, with all the lane changes...) I stop looking at the cars we are about to hit the traffic ahead. I look at the clock numbers change. 6:50. 6:53. 6:55 There is just no way we are going to make it to the bus in time.

But suddenly ahead! The bus station. Except we are on the wrong side of the road and need to make a U-Turn to the parking lot. SO close yet SO far. Along with several other drivers, our driver noses into stopped traffic. He sees a gap and accelerates ahead into an empty space at the bus station drive. There is a bus at the curb- "REYNOSA" on the front. Our driver opens the trunk and we grab out bags and run. This would be the point where viewers at home might scream at the TV- DON'T FORGET THE TIP!!! And then groan. Confession: I forgot the tip. SIGH! Major travel fail! So sorry, Admirable Taxi Driver, so sorry!

(NOTE: Still no Taxi Number Two with Tim, and so, I still have no bus ticket. If a million dollars is on the line, I'm standing on the curb and can't board the bus... Let's be honest- we are traveling with two families with cute kids. We are probably not the Fan Favorites. Maybe the folks at home are cheering... )

But wait! The bus on the curb is not our bus. In this instance, we give thanks that Mexico is known for flexible, not linear, schedules. Another bus approaches the station, another REYNOSA bus. YES! We haven't yet missed the bus! We look up and the Taxi Number Two is pulling up to the curb. YES! They haven't yet missed the bus!

And then just as quickly as the last two hours ramped up, time slips back into Mexico tranquilo. We show our tickets to the lady at the stand and get our bag of drink and cookies and earphones. We climb the steps and make our way to the back of the bus and slide into the very last 10 seats on the coach. My leg rest is broken and I'm next to the bathroom, but I'm on the bus, gracias a Dios. The bus slides into rush hour traffic. Twilight turns to dusk turns to dark and we settle into the rocking rhythm of road. The home stretch.

Chalk it up to one more training run, sister. I think we could compete!
Life is indeed an amazing race.

HeartFistBumpDancingLady,
xo,
k

12 September 2017

245/365

The sun glows golden and starts to cast early evening shadows as we walk along the shore. We balance the slope between the water and the shore and dash back and forth from the waves, guessing just how far down we can venture before the tide grabs our feet. Raindrops begin to fall, first enough apart to dash between and then, gradually, faster and closer. We turn back towards sidewalk, towards shelter. It always seems to be a narrow margin, that distance between rainbow and storm.

11 September 2017

244/365

"There is always gratulatory music in a contented soul; the Spirit of grace works in the heart like new wine, which under the heaviest pressures of sorrow will have a vent open for thankfulness: this is to be content.
Thomas Watson, The Art of Divine Contentment

243/365

Confession- I whined and complained, sometimes in my head, sometimes out loud (please forgive me- I really am sorry about that...), about this trip way more than anyone who is taking a trip to a coastal beach resort should ever do. I can be ungrateful. It was a matter of timing, really, not at all the destination, not at all the company. Who knew that I would be leaving behind one displaced daughter and missing the moved move-in date of another? (Let's be clear. I know this is not suffering. In the perspective of everything happening in the world, I know this is whining.)

Nonetheless, the predawn alarm sounds and we start out on the first leg, a drive down the road and across the border. We wait. We pack our bags in the van and caravan down the road. We arrive at the bus station. We wait. They hand us a plastic bag with 7Up and cookies and earphones. We board the bus and head south. We ride. We arrive at the bus station and unload our bags and buy tickets and transfer to another bus. We ride. We cross the city and watch traffic and look for signs. We ride. We arrive at the airport and find the shortest line and check in. We wait. We eat and we sip coffee and we read and finally, we load. We arrive at the destination and collect our bags and negotiate a taxi. We stuff 12 people in seats for 10. We ride. We arrive at the resort to check in. We wait. And when all is said and done, 15 hours after wake-up, we are eating at a Mexican buffet and catching up with most dear friends and stopping for a fresh churro besides.

Note to self- stop complaining.