Category Archives: Random thoughts

Hurry! Black Friday has started!

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The idea of Black Friday just hasn’t quiet caught on here in Costa Rica.  I would guess it’s partially because we don’t have a holiday like Thanksgiving to anchor the shopping day to.  So the idea of a big sale day just kind of hangs like a vague nebulous on the calendar sometime around this end of the year.

Even the concept of a “sale” doesn’t ring true here.  The the English words “sale” and “outlet” are used here, but they really just mean “come here and look”.  It doesn’t necessarily mean that prices are any different that before.  So between these two missing links in the culture- lack of a holiday and false cognates in the language- Black Friday just hasn’t clicked here.

Yesterday I saw a true example of this awkward adoption of American culture.  We passed a sign advertising a Black Friday sale from October 18 – November 3.  I wish I could have gotten my iPod out fast enough to snap a picture of the sign.  But in reality, I was laughing too hard to actually hold the camera still enough for a shot.

It’s these kinds of misunderstandings that just tickle my funny bone.  That’s probably why I get such a kick out of the website engrish.com where people post photos of misused, misspelled, or mispronounced English words found on signs and packages and t-shirts around the world.  But be forewarned, I am in no way responsible if you pee your pants while laughing at this website.  Laugh at your own risk… and You’re Welcome.

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The Anti Nesting Instinct

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We still have 8 month left of this term.  Itineration is still too far away to begin disengaging from responsibilities and friendships.  But I can tell that I’ve already begun to lean into the change.  How can I tell, you may ask?  I have noticed a purging impulse has been activated in me.  I call it “The Anti Nesting Instinct”.

When a mother is waiting for a baby to be born, she starts frantically putting the house in order in preparation for her new arrival.  The Honey-Do list starts to fill up with all those little household repairs that have been ignored for so many months or years.  Mom-to-be starts filling up the house with new purchases and organizing drawers full of teeny tiny clothing.  That’s The Nesting Instinct.

Photo credit: jamelah / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Photo credit: jamelah / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

So, logically, The Anti Nesting Instinct involves purging, cleaning out, throwing out, and giving away things.  It is recognized in the peacefulness of gazing contently into a nearly empty closet.  Its joy is magnified with each new pile of possessions successfully delivered to its new owners.  My recycling bin runneth over.

Last Saturday I tackled my daughters’ bed room.  It was a hoarder’s paradise.  The amount of cardboard and paper that I hauled out of their room was horrifying.  The scraps of old craft projects, plastic bottles rescued from the recycling bin, and half colored pieces of paper were pretty much the only things holding up my middle child’s bed.  I removed 4 full garbage bags of pure trash from their room, a mountain of toys and books that they had grown out of, and another bag full of clothes to give away.  This morning my daughter told me that she’s been opening and closing her closet door just for fun.  I understand this since more than once this week I’ve stood gazing with satisfaction into their super clean and nearly empty closet.  I love an organized closet.

Yes, the urge to purge has even manifested itself in my work at school.  I am tackling disorganization, clutter, and an absurd amount of pure junk that has been stored here since Jesus was a small child.  I am busting through cobwebs and pawing through moldy boxes in search of anything useful for my teachers before I dump the contents of a whole cabinet in the recycling bin.  Clean is a beautiful moment.

So even though it’s really too early to start thinking about leaving on itineration, my emotions are releasing their connection to the things I live with.  I have a mental To-Do list with dates attached to each task.  I will tackle these projects one by one and whittle away the last few months before we must face the overwhelming task of packing up the house for storage.  The Anti Nesting Instinct has kicked in.

Rain

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October is the rainiest month of the Rainy Season here in Costa Rica.  I actually love it.  We don’t get fall.  We don’t get first snows.  We don’t get more than a 20 degree change in temperature between “seasons”.  We get rain… and lots of it.  A few weeks ago the news was reporting that in one 6 hour period we got as much as 15 days worth of rain!  I don’t know how to tell you exactly how that compares to 15 days worth of rain in YOUR part of the world, but for us, it was like standing under a water fall for 6 hours straight!

Photo credit: Cia de Foto / Foter / CC BY

Photo credit: Cia de Foto / Foter / CC BY

I have no problem believing in the story of Noah and a world wide flood after having lived in Costa Rica.  In our first year here, back in 2010, it actually DID rain for 40 days straight.  (I bought a light box after that to fight the seasonal depression of sunless days.)  You should have seen the mud slides and washed away roads around here.  A whole community was wiped out when the side of the mountain slipped out from under a community of shanty houses built on stilts.  It was sad.   Sometimes it rains so hard here that the man hole covers float away!  Water will be gushing UP out of the storm sewers and will pop off the heavy metal covers and sweep them away.  You never want to drive into a deep puddle or you run the risk of landing your front tire in a man hole.

We also have sink holes here.  The soil is very silty and volcanic.  Plus the road construction technique here is basically to just roll out a slab of black top right on the top soil.  There is no substructure under most roads.  So when the heavy rains come, it often washes the dirt away from UNDER the road.  I remember once when we were in language school someone snapped a photo of a car tipped nose down into a newly opened sink hole.  They said when they walked to school the car was fine, but when they came home, the car was totally sunk into the hole!  People were putting a ladder down into the hole to get the driver out since apparently he was just starting up his car when it dropped 8 feet or so.  Right now our main highway is under major construction since a sink hole opened up under a newly erected Bailey Bridge which immediately fell just two days after it’s “grand opening”.  We are familiar with sink holes.

Photo credit: Jonathan Kos-Read / Foter / CC BY-ND

Photo credit: Jonathan Kos-Read / Foter / CC BY-ND

But inspite of all the havoc that the rain wreaks on the country, I find it cozy and comforting.  I don’t mind carrying umbrellas.  I have cute rain boots.  And I always say, “I won’t melt in the rain.  I’m not made of sugar.”  So getting a little damp isn’t a big deal.  I just put on dry socks at home and crank up the dehumidifier in my closet to keep my clothes from getting overly damp and clammy.  (Nothing worse than putting on clammy pajamas and climbing into a bed with damp sheets.)  That dehumidifier was a worthy purchase.

On rainy days I would love to be able to curl up in bed with my Kindle and a cup of Earl Grey tea and just listen to the white noise of the rainy world outside.  I don’t mind the rainy season.  I guess I’m in the right place.

Take Two

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Hello Blog World,

This is just a note to inform you that I will be taking two weeks off from blogging in order to get my feet under me in my new job.  Teacher orientation starts this week and the kids come back to school next week.  I’m really excited about school this year, and I’m ready for the new challenge.  Pray for me as I step out onto the waters of leadership.  I know the Lord will equip me for all that He has called me to do.  I’ll see you all once I get my head above the water again.

Blessings!

When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.  (Isaiah 43:2)

 

I’m supposed to be on Vacation!

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I’m supposed to be on vacation for one week before the week of Teacher Orientation.  One week.  We are done with teams for the year.  We have no more traveling planned for this week.  I only wanted to brush up on my Spanish subjunctive tense, devour a few books on my Kindle, and knock off a few Sudokus a day.  I’m supposed to be on vacation.

Photo credit: BrittneyBush / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Photo credit: BrittneyBush / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

So if you read my blog yesterday, you will know that I started my day with bad news.  Now that it’s official, I can tell you that our 2nd grade teacher quit… two weeks before the first day of school.  I’m the Vice Principal, so of course she sent the email to me.  I saw a month’s worth of work unravel before my eyes.  I’m supposed to be on vacation.  I’m not supposed to be madly searching for a new teacher just days before the school year starts.

Yesterday I spent a lot of time in prayer and a lot of time hovering around my cell phone, email, and Facebook just communicating with those who needed to know and those who could help get the word out.  I could do nothing else.  It’s not like there are a bunch of American teachers just waiting around in Costa Rica, longing to be hired.  And anyone that we hire needs to move to a foreign country basically by the end of the week, two weeks at the latest.  How many of YOU could do that?  I certainly could not.  So you can see how limited my pool of teacher choices is.  So much for being on vacation.

Eight Facebook friends reposted my desperate plea for a new teacher.  And I posted the need on a prayer group board for our home church.  A friend of a friend of a friend connected me to a name.  My parents both wrote with a recommendation of their own.  Another teacher offered to ask a friend of hers if she was interested.  One of our sweet newly graduated students wrote offering to substitute until we found another teacher.  We were all beating the bushes simultaneously.

At dinner time I did a quick phone interview with one potential candidate and received a resume from another.  In the morning (today) I will have a meeting with our Head Director the Principal and myself.  We will discuss the situation and read the resume together.  They will probably want to do a Skype interview right on the spot.  None of us are supposed to be in the office this week.  We are all on vacation.

How will this drama end?  I’ll be sure to let you know when I come to the end of the story.  I am sure that God has a plan.  I am confident that God has the right person in place for this job.  I am totally convinced that we are seeing a miracle unfold even as I write these words.  It’s just excrutiatingly stressful to see the birth of something new even though it didn’t take God by surprise and neither is He stressed out by this contraction of my best laid plans.  I just have to remember to keep breathing.  Breathe, breathe, breathe and think about vacation.

“Finding Nemo” and Faith

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I looked high and low for a youtube clip of this scene from the Pixar movie, Finding Nemo, but I couldn’t find it.  Do you remember the scene where Marlin (Nemo’s over protective father) and Dori (the little blue fish with no short term memory) are trapped inside the whale because Dori thought she could speak whale and tried to ask for directions?  In this scene, Marlin is throwing himself against the baleen of the whale trying to escape to continue his search for his lost son.  In discouragement he sinks to the bottom of the whale’s mouth and gives up.

He says,  “I promised I’d never let anything happen to him.”

Dori pauses and comments, “Well, that’s a funny thing to promise someone.”

“What?” Marlin looks up in a bit of surprise.

Dori continues, “Well, you can’t never let anything happen to him, then nothing would ever happen to him.  Not much fun for little Harpo.”

I’ve thought about that often.  A good parent doesn’t over protect.  For the good of the child, parents need to let their children have experiences in life.  Age appropriate experiences can provide wonderful teaching moments.  Difficult experience can provide opportunities for growth and for trying new things.  Risky experiences can build courage and faith when handled properly.  You can’t prevent things from happening just for the sake of protecting a child from what MIGHT happen.

My Lucy with Nemo in Disney World.

My Lucy with Nemo in Disney World.

God does the same with us.  If he wanted to, he could place us in a perfect little environment with a protective dome over us.  We could live in a celestial terrarium where nothing would ever happen to us that was outside of our control.  But what fun would that be?  We would never need to learn to trust if there was never any risk.  We would never explore our limitations if we never faced challenges that pushed us to our edges.  We would be bored silly with how safe and ordinary and self centered our lives would be if God never allowed ANYTHING to happen to us.

Maybe that’s why we encourage people to “get out of their bubble” and have an adventure or go on a missions trip or try something scary for God.  You can’t stay at home forever.  Get out there and see what can happen when you let something happen.  Don’t be scared of the possibility of something bad happening.  You should be more afraid of nothing ever happening to you.  Take a chance!  Don’t fear the what-ifs.  Turn them into why-nots?

Kennedy Space Center with our family.

Kennedy Space Center with our family.

Looking Fear Square in the Eye

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I don’t think I have ever been a particularly cowardly person.  As a matter of fact, I’ve done a whole lot of things that have required more courage than I thought I could muster.  Each time I’ve had to reach down deep and search for the courage to do something major, it has become one of the highlights of my life.  When I’m not sure I can actually do something and then I find the will within me to conquer, I feel elated.

For example, I was barely 16 years old when I started college.  I had been away on a missions trip to Guatemala until the day before classes started, so I missed Welcome Week and the campus tour and Freshman Orientation.  I walked onto the campus with my schedule in my hand and didn’t even know where my first hour classroom was located.  I just started asking people for directions.  I opened the door and saw 300 chairs arranged in theater style.  I chose a row at eye level with the speaker on the stage and took the center seat.  Courage.

At home with my collection of college class syllabi spread out in front of me, I spent the next two hours meticulously writing each assignment into my Day Timer Calendar, then backing up a few days or weeks to write a reminder about starting each project.  When I had the due dates for all 6 classes written neatly in my calendar, I cried.  I felt totally overwhelmed at what I was about to do.  I didn’t know if I had what it would take to do college at age 16.  I would need every ounce of courage I could find.

Fast forward many, many years.  The day finally came where we said all our tearful good-byes and walked through the security check point with carry on baggage and two children.  We were leaving for the mission field.  In the next few weeks we would need courage almost hourly.  We landed in a foreign country without knowing a word of Spanish.  The next day we put our kids on a school bus with 5 other missionary kids and off they went to a school that we had never seen in a city where I couldn’t even locate my own apartment in a country where I didn’t speak the language.  “Dear Jesus give me courage!” I prayed.  As we walked the mile from our apartment to our language school, I felt like I would never be able to learn this route.   I was sure I would get lost here.  I needed courage.

And here I am again, staring into the deep, dark well of fear and wondering if I could dredge up some courage again.  I have been hired as the vice principal at our school here in Costa Rica.  My emotions are swinging wildly between the excitement of all my ideas and the deer-in-the-headlights shock of what I’ve just stepped into.  I prayed for this, and now I’m terrified.  Once again, I am digging deep for courage.  I go to Jesus and ask for courage.

A friend and fellow teacher sent me a very encouraging note the other day.  See that word “encouraging”?  What do you see in the middle of it?  COURAGE.  Encouragement gives courage.  How many times did the Lord tell Joshua and the untrained soldiers of Israel, “Be strong and courageous.  Take heart and do not fear.”  The battle is the Lord’s.  I have nothing to fear.  I take courage in the fact that Jesus is my source, a well that will never run dry.  I can ask him for courage and he is glad that I have come to him with empty hands for he is ready to fill them up.  I am more than a conquerer in Christ Jesus.

Why do I even bother?

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I wrote this blog last September and I just stuck it in my “drafts” folder.  I don’t even remember why I wrote it, but the emotion of the moment has passed.  Obviously I am much less heated now which is why I feel it’s safe to post this now.  Just consider this a “rant” against immaturity in the public arena.  I have learned my lesson.  

Why do I even bother to get involved?

This is a question that I ask myself so often, specifically concerning Facebook.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to console someone who has posted something sad or depressing, or tried to give advice to someone who complained about a problem, or tried to help someone who really just wants to play the martyr only to have all my best intentions flung back in my face with a pious huff.  “Why do I even bother?”  I ask myself after the conversation turns sour.  I should know better by now.

I should just make a policy to never comment on someone else’s status unless I’m making a joke.

dirty laundryIt just seems logical to me that if you air your dirty laundry on Facebook you are opening your life up to comments and observations and criticisms and advice that might be wholly unwanted or completely contrary to your feelings at the moment.  But, hey, you invited the whole world to your personal pity-party, so why should you be surprised when others feel free to comment about your life?

It used to be called “minding your own business,” but what are the new social rules concerning personal broadcasts into the public arena?  No one really knows.  Do we have social networking etiquette now?

I think there’s a proverb in the Bible about this.  It goes something like this If you correct a fool, he’ll just turn on you and beat you up.  I want to shout, “Hey!  I’m not the enemy here.  I’m trying to help you… you fool!”

Sigh, I should just keep to myself more and let the vocal ones all clamor around each other, howling their individual complaints.  It does make me think long and hard about just closing my Facebook account completely.

But then I think about all the fun things that social media has to offer.  I can “talk” to my family every single day either in messages or with video chat.  I can share pictures of exciting things that happen in my little world.  I can quickly contact people that I do business with and pass along information with amazing speed.  And I can keep in touch with missionary friends all over the world.

friendly frogsThen I also think about how positively social media affected our past Itineration (or Deputation or Home Leave, depending on your organizational vocabulary).  We spent a year back home to reconnect with our supporting churches and raise funds for the next 4 year cycle on the field.  I was shocked at how people had followed us on Facebook for the last few years.  People that I hadn’t remembered ever meeting in person would approach me in a church lobby and talk to me like we were old friends!  I was shocked at their warm feelings for our family.  I was pleased at the way so many churches treated us like we were part of their family because they all knew so many details of our lives from Facebook.  It was a dramatically different experience from Itineration pre-social media.

So when I get my feathers ruffled about someone else’s emotional disfunction, I go back to all the reasons why I’m still on Facebook and I’m still blogging and I’m still doing what my mother always told me never to do.  I’m talking to strangers.  But we really aren’t strangers when I know all your problems, are we.  🙂

Photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/thorinside/159665961/”>thorinside</a&gt; / <a href=”http://foter.com”>Foter.com</a&gt; / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>CC BY-NC</a>

Photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/thomashawk/170691672/”>Thomas Hawk</a> / <a href=”http://foter.com”>Foter.com</a&gt; / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>CC BY-NC</a>

“I have sweaty!”

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By now you have probably discovered my new love of the “Kid Snippets” videos on Youtube.  My kids and I watch them all the time and still laugh at every one.  One of my favorites is “The Basketball Class” where one kid protests exercising by saying, “I’m serious guys!  I have sweaty!”  Now I use that line all the time.

Here in Costa Rica I have sweaty all day and all night.  We are 9 degrees above the equator, but above 3,000 feet in altitude.  So though the temps stay between 70 and 90 degrees year round, the humidity wraps around your head like a wet blanket.  Most buildings are made of cinder blocks which are earthquake, termite and (sort of) mold resistant AND have the added benefit of keeping the buildings cool like a basement.

But the classroom building where I teach is not made of cinder blocks.  It’s some kind of particle board covered with drywall.  It’s about a million degrees in there.  I start sweating at 8 a.m. and by noon it’s hard to breathe in there.  My students sometimes complain of headaches, and it’s hard for them to concentrate.  Often we take our books and search out a cool, back hallway where my kids can lay on the tile floor and read their lessons.

I have asked for an air conditioner for my classroom, but electricity is terribly expensive here.  Recently the office informed me that I would need to completely pack up my classroom at the end of the year because they are planning on raising the roof on the building over the summer break.  The idea is that with a higher roof, the heat can rise and ventilate out the top instead of pressing down on us.  Apparently raising the roof is cheaper than running an air conditioner all year long.  In the meantime, I have sweaty.

Done.

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Today (Thursday) was the last day of school for my kids and my 5th graders too.  Teachers still have to go for another day to close up things and enter grades into the computers.  But we are done!  I just didn’t expect to feel sad.  I expected to feel giddy and happy, but instead I have said good-bye to some students who are going onto another country and some teacher-friends that I have come to love this year.  As I drove home alone in the rain, I actually cried a little.  No joke, I cry about 3 times a year, so this really surprised me.

Last day of school

Last day of school

Aside from knowing that I’m going to miss these smiling faces, I think it was the emotion of completion that got me chocked up.  This was a really hard year for me… but I succeeded.  I did it!  With God’s strength and constant help, I made it through something really tough.  The pressure of being “strong” has held me together for so long that once the need to be strong was no longer there, I collapsed under the weight of it.  I didn’t even realize that I had been carrying that burden.

Me and a flower from sweet Hannah

Me and a flower from sweet Hannah

Now it’s going to sound shallow when I tell you that I am coming home with some really nice and thoughtful teacher-gifts.  (I have some parents with good taste represented in my class!)  I had a special needs girl in my Bible class, and she gave me a flower and several hugs.  I love it!  And I have a collection of precious cards from my kids.  Here’s a few of my favorite lines from those cards:

~ I will miss you as long as I remember 5th grade memories.

~You have been my very favorite teacher this year so far.  (several kids have come mid-year)

~I enjoyed doing all the art projects and Bible class because you made me understand things from the Bible that I did not understand.  P.S.  Do not tell anybody that you are my favorite teacher.  (Just in case some other teachers are reading this… you didn’t see anything here.)

~I am thankful for all the hard work you’ve done this year.  I know it can be hard to not get angry at us. (haha!  I think I only lost my temper twice the whole year.)

~Thanks for keeping an eye on me this year.

And here’s the best one from one of my 9th graders.  Earlier in the year I surprised her by anonymously putting a couple of big bags of chocolate chips in her locker after she teared up in class telling me how she missed baking treats for her family back home.  Then she returned the surprise a few days later when I found a batch of cookies on my desk.  She said this poem wasn’t original, but I still really like this.  I’m going to keep this card, for sure!

“Once in a while you meet someone, and your thoughts are rearranged, ’cause their wise words affected you, and you realize you’ve been changed.  They give the special gift of truth, and teach you it’s okay to wonder; so you search ’till you find what you’re looking for, and your doubts are torn asunder.  God placed them in your life for sure, and He used them as a key, so I’ll take just a minute to thank you, because you were that person for me!”

That’s a keeper.  Pretty words nicely said, I like to have them in my head.