What I wish I could tell you…

Exactly four weeks ago tomorrow, Dan and I, along with Patrick and Oliver, boarded a plane out of Quito for the last time.  We had made the decision in June to return to the US permanently, for a variety of reasons.  Although we knew it was the right decision, it was not made lightly and it still hurt.

We made the decision to locate ourselves in Indianapolis, to be near our grown children.  We have a lovely house here, and thanks to the generosity of so many people, it is fully furnished with lovely furniture.  I have collected a lot of things that belonged to my grandmother, and having things around me that I grew up with is comforting, in the way that wrapping up in a warm blanket on a cold evening is comforting.

I wish I could tell you that we are settled.  That we feel right at home.  That we have adjusted and gotten ourselves into this new life without a hitch.  I wish I could.

The reality is that right now, I feel like I’ve been picked up and dropped into someone else’s life, and I have no idea how to live it.  I find myself in a muddle over the oddest things.  Things that I used to do without thinking twice now require me to actually talk myself through them.  Something as simple as getting in the car and going somewhere by myself is overwhelming.  In Quito, I didn’t drive very much.  The traffic was horrible and it made me so nervous that I just gave it up.  Dan was usually available to take me where I needed to go, and if he wasn’t someone else was.  Here, I can go anywhere I want to, theoretically.  Except that I can’t.  I’ve gone to Hobby Lobby once and to the grocery store once, but that’s it.  I just can’t navigate getting in the car and going anywhere by myself.  Dan has been incredibly patient with me, but I know he is ready for his wife to get some of her independence back.

Going to church has been hard.  Not because of the church–we actually really like the pastor and are enjoying the sermon series…but it’s not “our” church.  “Our” pastor isn’t there.  “Our” people aren’t there.  I am glad, however, that Our God is there!

Shopping is always an adventure.  I have to keep reminding myself that Target will have what I need (most likely in several different colors), they will have enough of it, and they will have it next week, or next month, so I don’t need to buy 12 of it.  I can’t be in a store for very long (other than Hobby Lobby–it’s my happy place and I could live there) without getting very nervous and overwhelmed.  And going in without a list is just not wise.  The other day I needed dog food, milk and cooking spray.  I came home with three different kinds of candy corn (which I don’t even like, but after 12 years of not being able to buy it, that was irrelevant.  And they had it in different flavors.), ice cream and tots.  No cooking spray and no dog food.  Fortunately the dogs like candy corn.  😛  I think I only remembered the milk because I walked past it to get to the candy corn.

I have had to deal with setting up utility accounts in our name, getting our drivers licenses changed, figuring out how to get someone to pick up our trash…and yes, I know I am saying “I” a lot.  The reality is that Dan and I are processing this very differently.

I wish I could tell you that we’ve been the poster children for how to do this and not have it affect our marriage and our home life.  The reality is that we are both a little snappy (OK, he’s a little–I’m a lot), and life here at our house still doesn’t feel “right”.  Every morning I wake up and for a moment, wonder where I am.  I still look at things in the store and think “I wonder if I can get that home”…then I remember that all I have to do is put it in the back of the car and take it there–no planes or luggage restrictions involved.

When we moved to Ecuador, we had a purpose.  It was exciting and new, and we were down there to do something for the Lord.  I know that somewhere in this move is a purpose, and that the Lord still has work for us to do…but right now I can’t find it.  I feel like a little kid lost in a crowd…looking around for my parents and just seeing people all around me that I don’t know.

What I wish I could tell you is that I’ve got this.

I wish I could.

What’s in YOUR suitcase?

This week, over on Velvet Ashes, the theme is “suitcase”.  As global nomads, suitcases are a necessity, and it’s amazing how something so simple can get so many feelings rolling around inside of us.

Oliver, my dachshund and favorite child (he doesn’t talk back or ask for money) hates our suitcases, because he knows that it means we’re leaving.  When we pull them out, he gets nervous and goes and sits in them, hoping that we’ll take him along.  When Patrick was a baby, pulling out the suitcases made him jumpy and whiny, as though he knew that we would be going somewhere and he would be tired and confined to a carseat (we had him fly in his carseat until he was four).

Suitcases also mean new things, adventure and excitement.  Packing to go to the US for a visit, packing to go on vacation, packing to go home to Ecuador…all of these things are exciting.  When we moved here, packing our suitcases was the subject of endless debate.  What to bring, what not to bring.  Velvet Ashes asked this week for a packing list, and it got me all nostalgic, thinking about our first few times back and forth.  So, in no particular order, here are the things that I would recommend that you pack in your suitcase if you are moving to Quito, Ecuador.  This list is based on moving here from the US, since that’s where I came from.  I can’t speak for moving there from another country.

-Clothing.  Finding good quality clothing here is next to impossible, especially if you are tall or wear a larger size.  And although we do have “US” brands such as Levis, the clothing is CRAZY expensive and very limited in selection.  For children try to anticipate their growth and bring a couple of sizes up.  Again, the options are basically either very cheaply made or crazy expensive.

-Shoes.  Goes along with the clothing.  My husband wears a size 11 shoe, not terribly large by US standards.  Finding shoes for him here is ridiculously time consuming.  The last time he had to have tennis shoes, it took us three months to finally find a pair in his size, and we paid about four times the amount that we would have in the US.  And shoes for children are readily available, but either very cheaply made or very expensive.

-Electronics (computer, laptop, cell phone, e-reader):  Electronics are available in Quito, but prices are two to three times higher than they are in the US.  An unlocked cell phone can be used as you go back and forth between Ecuador and the US, and plans are ridiculously cheap.  Also included in this would be accessories such as power cords.  When the cord on my husbands’ MAC went out, we went to every MAC store in the city, only to be told that they don’t sell the power cords–just the computers.  There is currently a 35% duty on electronics (you are allowed to bring in one personal computer, phone, etc. and the duty is charged on subsequent items) but often the cost of the item plus the cost of the duty is still less than the cost of buying it in Quito.  Example:  The Apple TV unit is $99 in the US.  Add in the 35% duty at customs and you’re paying $135 to bring it in.  A new Apple TV unit in Quito?  $400.

-Toys.  We have toy stores, but they fall into one of two categories–either very expensive or very cheap.  There is no middle ground.  If you have a child who loves Legos, Transformers, Barbies, etc. you should consider bringing some with you.  Legos run an average of three times what they do in the US–that’s a lot of money for something that you’re going to step on in the middle of the night!  Selection is also pretty limited, except around Christmas.

-Car seats.  If you have a baby, you need to bring car seats with you.  They are available in Quito, but are very expensive for a reputable brand.  Other baby items such as cribs, strollers, highchairs, etc. are available and the cost is relatively reasonable.

-Medications.  Bring at least six months of any medication that you take on a regular basis.  Most medications are available in Quito, and the cost is much lower than in the US, however the brand names and dosages are not always the same.  Having a six month supply on hand will allow you time to get settled and find a doctor who can help you figure out what meds you will need, what they are called and what the dosage is. If you have small children, consider bringing Benadryl and children’s cold medicine.  Neither of these are available in Quito.

-A Magic Jack unit, or something similar.  This device hooks into your wireless and allows friends and family to call you with a US phone number.  The cost is something like $35 a year for the service, and is well worth being able to stay in contact with your loved ones, make necessary phone calls to US companies, etc.

-Craft supplies.  If you are crafty, bring your supplies with you.  There is very, very little available in Quito.  If you like to sew, bring patterns with you, as they are not used or available in Quito.  You can purchase fabric, notions and sewing supplies.  If you have a machine that is anything other than a Singer or Brother (Bernina, Pfaff, Janome, etc.) bring accessories that you think you’ll need.  None of these machines are sold in Ecuador and there is no service or support for them.

-Homeschool curriculum.  If you are a homeschooler, bring all of your curriculum with you, as there is absolutely nothing available in Quito.  There are a couple of homeschool co-ops where materials are exchanged, however you’ll need to plan on bringing the bulk of what you need.

-Your Kitchen Aid mixer.  This is the one household appliance that you need to bring with you if you own one.  They are available in Quito, but are VERY expensive.

-Sheets and towels.  There are sheets and towels available in Quito, but they are quite expensive, and not very good quality.  At present, the highest thread count sheet that you can buy is 300, and a King size set will cost you about $250.  The same goes for towels–a medium quality bath towel will cost you between $25 and $30.

-A grill.  If you can swing it, and you like to grill out, bring one with you.  The majority of grills available in Quito are poorly made and very expensive.  There are some very high quality grills available at some of the high-end decorating stores, but you’ll need to be prepared to pay thousands of dollars for them.  And if you want specialty grilling tools or spices, bring those as well as you will not be able to find them.

-Seasonal decor, other than Christmas.  Quito does not have a seasonal shift, so there are no fall decorations, etc.  You’ll find that you want to change your house, even if the weather isn’t changing with you.  Bring Halloween (if you celebrate it), Thanksgiving and Easter decorations.

What you DON’T need to bring…

Sometimes it’s helpful to know what you don’t need to bring.  Here is a list of items that are readily available in Quito:

-Kitchen supplies.  This includes dishes, baking supplies (The one exception to this is a donut pan.), cookware, kitchen utensils…all of these things are available in Quito, and there is a pretty wide selection.

-Decorative items.  If you have a favorite item, by all means pack it, but there are home dec stores with a good selection of decorative and functional items.  We have a store that is very similar to a Pier One that has a delightful selection of household decorative items.

-Small appliances.  Again, a large selection is available (see note about Kitchen Aid mixer above).

-Bedding (other than sheets).  Comforter sets, pillows and blankets are available in Quito and for the most part are very reasonable.

-Cosmetics.  Most major makeup brands are available in Quito.  They are somewhat more expensive, but not enough to justify taking up precious luggage space with products from the US.

-Christmas trees.  These are available in Quito, and the prices are usually pretty reasonable.  We also have an abundance of ornaments and other decorative items available, so just plan to bring the things that are special to you.

The grocery store is always a challenge.  While we can get some US products, such as Aunt Jemima syrup and Hershey’s products, it’s not very reliable and things have been known to disappear and reappear with no rhyme or reason.  You will most likely be able to find just about anything you want in the store, but it may be an Ecuadorian brand.  Most of us have things that we bring back because we prefer the US brands.  Ours personally are Peanut Butter M&M’s, Hellmann’s mayonnaise, Hunts Ketchup, Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce, Jif peanut butter and random grilling seasonings.  For almost everything else, we have found that the Ecuadorian brands are not only acceptable, but in some cases better than what we get in the US.  So my advice would be to bring one or two of the things that you really, really like, and then take the time to get to know what’s available here.  We also have Asian grocery stores and a couple of high-end specialty stores that carry hard-to-find items.

This list is by no means complete, and I’ll call on my fellow Quitenians to add to it all of the things that they have found helpful in the comments.  And if you’re heading to Quito in the near future, let me know and I’ll try to answer your questions about our beautiful city!

Give the cat a bath…

*Warning.  If you’re easily offended, stop here.

So my son and (almost) daughter-in-law (six more days!) have a cat named Rothko.  He’s an aloof cat, even by cat standards, and most of the pictures that I see of him put me in mind of W.C. Fields.

Rothko has had some urinary troubles lately.  Daniel called the vet and asked if they could take a look at him.  They said yes, and told him that it would be $55.  He took Rothko in, and they decided to keep him for a few hours for observation.  Daniel asked if it would cost any more money and was assured that it wouldn’t.  Several hours later, they called and told him to come get his cat…and that it would be $200.

Daniel picked up the cat and took him home.  Since Rothko was still having trouble going to the bathroom due to a blockage, he was instructed to purchase special cat food, (to the tune of $25 for a four pound bag) and advised that sometimes immersing the cat in warm water helps dissolve the stones.  After buying the food, he decided to give the cat a bath.

Rachael was in Chicago and could not help him.  Usually, giving Rothko a bath involves a lot of high pitched screaming…and the cat hates it too.  Daniel said that generally the only way to fully immerse him is to hug him to his chest and roll over in the water with him.

Since Rachael wasn’t there, he decided to bathe him in the kitchen sink, for more control.  He ran the water, got it nice and warm, and picked up the cat.  Rothko immediately began screaming bloody murder, and as soon as Daniel dunked him, he shot straight up over his head.

The back half of the cat was now soaking wet, and to avoid having him get water everywhere, Daniel made a desperate grab for him.  He caught him by the back half, and accidentally poked both thumbs into his bladder region.  He heard a “POP” and Rothko began peeing…straight into Daniel’s mouth.

Rothko hasn’t had a problem since.

The art of being OK…

The hubby is out of town again.  Patrick and I are here at home, keeping busy with crafting and taking walks and annoying the dog…

And I’m OK.

Anyone who has been following me for more than about 20 minutes knows that when Dan leaves town, he usually takes my sanity with him.  I spend the entire time he’s gone negotiating panic attacks, afraid to be at home and afraid to not be at home.  Lying awake at night listening to every tiny sound (and I live in the city–lots of tiny sounds to listen to), convinced that every creak, groan, slam of a car door and dog barking holds the possibility of terror just around the corner.

Not this time.

In the words of an old friend…it’s good.  It’s all good.

I’ve spent the last several days (even before Dan left) wondering why I wasn’t panicking.  Usually the days leading up to his departure are torture for both of us, and at some point I usually end up in tears, begging him not to go.  This time?  I didn’t really give it a whole lot of thought, other than to make sure his laundry was done so that he wasn’t going on a business trip with only ratty t-shirts and holy jeans to wear.  I didn’t lose sleep (OK, not any more than usual–sleep and I are not good friends) and there were no tears.  It wasn’t that I didn’t care, because I still don’t really LIKE it when he’s gone.  It’s just that I was…OK.  And I have finally figured it out.

I’m not scared.

I’m.  Not.  Scared.

The house that we lived in for the first 10 years that we were here was not secure.  We were robbed in 2007, and I never again felt safe.  Not a single day.  We would leave the house for whatever reason, and I would spend the entire time worrying about who was in my house.  Coming home, as we came around the corner, my heart would start to pound.  We had dogs.  We had dogs when we got robbed–it was not a deterrent.  We had chains and locks.  Bolt cutters and five minutes would have you inside the house.  Every Sunday for 7 years, I spent my time in church praying that no one got into our house.  I’m sure God was thrilled that we were having that conversation again.

When Dan would leave, and I was there alone, responsible for my children and feeling like I was completely out of control, it was nothing short of abject terror.  Panic would wash over me in waves, sometimes to the point that I couldn’t breathe.  It was worse when my big kids were still home, because then it was coupled with the guilt over not being able to reassure them that Mom was in charge and things would be OK.  Because I didn’t know if they would.  I would lie awake at night, convinced that if I went to sleep even for an instant, all hell would break loose.  I was working full time, which helped only because it forced me to get up and get the kids to school and interact, even on a limited basis.  Fortunately the girls that I worked with in the library knew what was happening and would turn themselves inside out to make sure I was “OK” while he was gone.  Unfortunately it also placed a burden on my big kids that I wish I could take back–they felt the need to “protect” me, when I should have been protecting them.  Children should not have to parent their parents.

There is nothing quite as terrifying as not being OK in your own home.  The guys who broke in took two laptop computers, my wedding ring…and any sense of security I might have had.

In August of 2014, we moved out of that house and into an apartment.  A safe, secure apartment.  And everything changed.  We are in a new place now, and it is safe.  It’s secure.  We have a guard.  We live on a street where a lot of diplomatic and embassy people live, so there are guards everywhere.

I am not afraid.

As I have pondered this these past few days, I have come to some realizations.

It wasn’t Dan’s fault.  He was not deliberately scheduling trips just to get away from me.  Which, when you think about it, is sort of a miracle, considering that I wanted nothing more than to get away from me.  He was doing his job, and I was making it about 1000x harder with my insane tears and panicking.  A couple of times, he actually considered canceling his trip (he was already wherever he was going) and coming home, because I scared him so badly.  When I think about the mental anguish that I caused him, I want to cry.

We should have moved.  I don’t know why we didn’t, except that we thought we had a “deal”.  Our rent was very low, our house was large enough for a family of six, we were three blocks from the school…and all of that was not worth the insecurity.  Our children would have been much happier in an apartment where their mother felt safe and secure and their dad could do his job.  So why did we stay there?  I don’t know.  But I do know that we shouldn’t have.  When we were robbed, we should have packed up and gotten out of there, into someplace where peace of mind was included in the lease.

It wasn’t the thought of losing things that frightened me, lest you all think I am a materialistic dingbat who is overly concerned about her stuff.  It was the knowledge that if I wasn’t safe in my house, and able to protect my children, then I wasn’t safe anywhere, and neither were they.  Living overseas, in a world that only makes sense about 10% of the time, I need security wherever I can get it.  When I was working I walked to school every day.  I knew who I “should” see along my route.  My mind got to where it registered anyone different.  Not necessarily in a panicky way, just a sort of “Oh.  Haven’t seen him before” way, and I would be a little more alert after that.

The stress that I placed on my body and my mind has probably damaged both of them irreparably, at least to some degree.  The Fibro that I live with is probably a direct result of stress.  My anxiety level usually hovers somewhere between mildly alarmed and Defcon 5, and I can snap in an instant.  My anxiety medication keeps me on a relatively even keel most of the time, but I still have moments.

I can’t change the past.  I can’t take back the years that we spent in the house.  I wish I could.  I wish I had insisted that we move.  I wish I had been able to pull it together for my children.  I wish my husband had not had the extra stress of dealing with me when he was trying to do his job well.  The fact that he did do it well, in spite of me, is a miracle on par with walking on water, I do believe.

It feels good to be OK here.  Yesterday Patrick and I walked to Subway, got a sandwich and walked home.  We didn’t hurry.  I wasn’t panicking about what we would find when we got home.  We just…went.  And came home.  It was good.  Dan is on his trip, and although I miss him, for the first time in…ever…when he comes home I won’t have to say the words “I’m sorry.  I’m so sorry.”

That feels pretty good.

Hope is the thing…

Sometimes “walking by faith” is just hard.  Actually, most times it’s just hard.  My “Type A” personality wants all of my ducks in a row, preferably wearing matching rain jackets and quacking in unison.  Living on the mission field means that my ducks are usually scattered all over the place, wearing nothing at all and quacking randomly in several different languages!

The past several weeks we have been crazypants around here.  Arriving home after 8 very long weeks in the US, finding out we had to move just five days later, actually moving just 10 days after that, having our girls come for Spring Break (don’t get me wrong–I loved that part!), getting back into our routine in a new apartment…and that’s all just on the homefront.  Our ministry has had it’s share of crazy as well.

I will try to keep this short…wish me luck!  Our recyclers have been experiencing a very difficult season in life right now.  Due to a change in leadership, both in their “association” (like a union) and at the top–the government entity that oversees the transfer station and all of the activities that take place there–they have found themselves with little to no work (they were actually allowed on-site for about four days in February) and are facing the aftermath of this situation.  These are people who typically earn between $50 and $80 a month, and barely get by.  There is no money to put into savings (it’s not a “saving” culture anyway, but that’s a topic for another day) and so when they don’t work, there is nothing to fall back on.  Our organization has done three food distributions to try and help them, but our resources are limited, and as well there is always the danger of creating dependency, which is not a good thing, even with the best of intentions.  The current word on the street is that they will be allowed to return to work on Wednesday, but this is the fourth or fifth time in as many weeks that an agreement has been mediated, only to fall through within a day or two, so we are understandably pessimistic.

During all of this, I find myself asking a lot of “whys”.  These are people who are unemployable in every sense of the word.  Many, if not most, are functionally illiterate.  They have no job skills training.  They really don’t even have “life skills” training.  When you must begin with why it’s important to bathe on a regular basis, you’re starting at the most basic level.  That’s hard.  So my question is “OK, Lord.  You KNOW all of this about them.  You KNOW that even to get them to the point where they could get a job at McDonald’s or KFC would take years, and resources…and a willingness on their part to learn!  So WHY is all of this happening.”

I wish I could say that the answer showed up in an email, and I forwarded it to Dan and he implemented all of the suggestions and we’re all good now.  I wish.  But the reality is that the answer is somewhere in the muddle.  He calls on us to trust Him.  To believe, even when everything is falling down around our ears, that He has everything under control.  That while I feel like my ducks are deliberately staging a riot, they are actually HIS ducks, and they are doing just what they are supposed to be doing.

So we press on.  Looking for the good.  We were able to provide food for our recyclers, to help see them through this hard time.  Our family resource center is open and busy and Pastor Jose told Dan the other day that one of the unexpected joys that has come from all of this is that he has found open doors with people who wouldn’t even look at him before.  Our monthly “family night” saw 40 adults and more than 30 children packed into the center.  Even though the adults are not working, they are still sending their children to the center for after-school tutoring and a hot meal.

On the homefront, we are settled into our new apartment.  It’s warm and safe and dry, and when Dan travels to the US for 10 days next month, for the first time in over 11 years I will not fall apart because I am so terrified of being here alone.  I feel secure, and that changes everything.  We’ve established our routine and things are quiet and semi-normal.  (I gave up on normal a long time ago.  Semi-normal is as good as it gets!)

One of my joys over the past few weeks has been a new devotional that I found called “Writing to God:  40 Days of Praying with my Pen” (Paraclete Press).  I do my best thinking with my pen and to be able to use that in my devotional time has been a true blessing.  One of my favorite days so far was called “Ashes to Ashes Confession”.  It speaks so pointedly to this season.

I am worn down today, fatigued in every muscle.  I am not whole, not even halfway.  It is brilliant, thrilling to be human…oh but I strain against the ashes…the limits.  Heal me, Jesus, with the scars of your own brokenness.  Heal me…not to strength or perfection, but to togetherness.  To gentleness.  To taking care of these ashes.  Be the wholeness that I am not, and remind this body of ashes to rest my scars in yours, to live my broken life fully.

It’s Easter week.  And I think the sun is about to come out.

“Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.”
Emily Dickinson

Because we did it so well the last time…

I know, I know.  It’s been a while.  I would apologize and go on about how I plan to keep better tabs on this blog and post witty comments 12 times a week and think ALL THE THOUGHTS and then tell you about them…but we all know that’s not going to happen.  So lets just be happy that I thought some thoughts today and managed to share them with you right now.  Living in the moment and all that.

As many of you know, Sweet Hubby and Patrick and I were in the US for Christmas for the first time in 11 years.  It was glorious.  I had forgotten how much fun it was to be with our families and laugh ’til we cry and eat…Sweet fancy Moses did I eat.  I ate like it was my JOB.  And before you all try to help me out here by telling me that it was just because I hadn’t been in the US for so long and I missed Christmas cookies and such, let me just say that we don’t do without food here in Ecuador.  At Christmas we bake cookies and have cookie exchanges and Christmas parties and office parties…and we eat.  Unfortunately, my brain forgot this convenient little fact, and so I spent the last three weeks of December eating like there was never going to be another Christmas ever and so I needed to eat ALL THE THINGS like RIGHT NOW.  And just when we got to January, and I thought I was safe…Girl Scout cookies showed up.  It’s like the food universe had it in for me.

Rest assured people…I was up for the challenge.  Ice cream to be eaten?  I’ve got this.  Thin mints?  Those puppies come in single-serving boxes.  Check.  Cheese and crackers and dips and chips and hams and turkeys and on and on and on…

Had we just been in the US through December, I might have come off a little better, but we took the month of January for a mini-sabbatical, which is a fancy way of saying “We’re not working, but we’re thinking about work, which is driving us nuts…so we’ll eat”.  Or at least it was in my case.  Plus, we were in Fresno, California in January.  There’s nothing to do there BUT eat.  And we went to San Francisco one weekend and stayed on Fisherman’s Wharf…

We finally escaped this 7-week long food fest and came home on February 11th.  We arrived back home eagerly anticipating seeing all of our friends, being back in our own home and getting our lives back to normal.  This was a great plan, until Dan walked in after work on Wednesday (two days ago) and goes “Honey, I need for you to sit down”.  Now I am not the fainting type, so I thought he was being a little overly dramatic.  Then I noticed that he was steering me to the end of the kitchen that didn’t have any knives within reach, and I started to get a little worried.  He said (and God bless him, he was cool as a cucumber) “Our landlord called today.  He’s selling this apartment and we have to move”.

Did I mention that we’ve lived here for SEVEN MONTHS?  We haven’t even unpacked everything from the LAST move yet (which is going to come in handy, when you think about it).

All I could do was sit there and stare at him blankly.  I could not have been more shocked if he had told me he was uprooting us and moving us to the moon.

I hate looking for an apartment. There has been a construction boom over the past several years, and there are apartment buildings everywhere…with the tiniest apartments you’ve ever seen.  Some of the places we looked at last time were 3 bedroom apartments with 65 sq. meters.  That’s less than 700 sq. feet.  There is more room in the backseat of our car.  The bedrooms followed a strict pattern–one master bedroom that was fairly good sized…as long as Dan and I don’t mind sharing a crib mattress.  The children, on the other hand, don’t even get that.  The other two bedrooms were usually so small that sleeping in them would have involved curling yourself into a ball with your left foot wrapped around your ear and both arms tucked under you in a football carry…and sleeping on a kitchen sponge.  The kitchens were too small for a stove and full size refrigerator, so you make due with a Rubbermaid cooler and a hot plate.  All this for only $900 a month.

When we found the apartment that we’re currently living in, we were ecstatic.  It has three bedrooms that are fairly large by today’s standards, a separate living and dining area, and we don’t have to store the washing machine in the shower.  In short, it’s perfect.

And we have to leave.

We went and looked at an apartment in the building behind us yesterday morning.  It wasn’t too bad.  Large kitchen, big living room, good sized bedrooms…crazy landlady who lives on the second floor.  Back to the drawing board.  In the meantime, our current landlord comes to the office to see us and “discuss our options”.  Our “options” turned out to be another apartment that he owns, in the next neighborhood over.  We went and looked, and Hallelujah.  We’re moving.  As apartment hunting goes, this was by far the easiest we’ve ever had it.

But we still have to move.

I am pretty sure that in the “friendship/fellow missionary” manual that they don’t give you but should, there is a limit as to how many times you can ask someone to help you carry your king-sized mattress that won’t fit in the elevator up the stairs.  Or move your refrigerator.  These are the things that they don’t tell you in orientation.  “Oh, by the way, when you get to the field you become part of the missionary family, and with rare exceptions you’re all you’ve got.  Your annoying but useful brother-in-law isn’t there to move the refrigerator, so be nice to the people you work with.  You’ll need them.”

So, in about a week, we’re going to pack up and move AGAIN.  I swore when we moved here that I wouldn’t move again until we left the field, but you know how things go when you tell God your plans.  Stay tuned.  I’m sure it will be memorable.

Because we did it so well the last time.

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“Why I Have Grey Hair” and other bedtime stories…

All I wanted to do was put up some Christmas decorations in the ER building.  Not too much to ask, you say?  Well, my friends.  Let me tell you a story about the time I almost lost my mind in a Christmas store.

It started out to be a perfectly lovely afternoon.  Javi was lined up to schlepp Sonia and I to the Christmas store to get decorations for our tree-trimming party on Friday.  Sonia’s hubby, driving us to the Christmas store, in the pouring rain, on the 5th of November.  Double hubby points right there.

Sonia and I spent a lovely hour walking around picking out decorations, putting them back, picking out other decorations…it was glorious.  At the end, we had two carts full of crazy fun decorations and all we needed was two trees.

All.  We.  Needed.  Was.  Two.  Trees.

We found the tree that we wanted, asked the salesperson if they had two of them and when she said yes, we went to the register and purchased them.  And that’s when the fun really started.  The cashier sold us the two trees.  We paid for them.  She gave us a receipt that showed that we had purchased two trees.  Then she sent the stockboy to get the two trees.  He came back and said “We don’t have them.”

She asked when we needed them.  Theoretically, we NEEDED them when we PAID for them.  But we can be reasonable.  How about tomorrow.  Can you get two of them from other stores (the Christmas store is a chain–there are probably 25 or 30 of them here in the city) and have them here tomorrow?

Nope.

She disappeared for a while and came back and chirped “OK.  They will be here on Saturday.”  She then turned around to walk away, as if the matter was settled.  Sonia stopped her and said very nicely “No, we need them Friday.”  The cashier turned around, looked at us and said “Que pena”  In other words…

“That’s too bad.”

I had to walk away.  While I really had no qualms about telling the cashier what I thought of her answer, I didn’t want to get all gringa and embarrass Javi and Sonia with my gringa-ness (again) so I had to walk away.  Sonia is much nicer than I am about these things, and besides, if we had to call Mike, our HR guy, to come and get me out of jail…he was NOT going to be happy.  He wouldn’t be surprised–he’s been HRing me for almost 11 years–but he wouldn’t be happy.

It soon became apparent that there were no trees of that size to be had.  OK, fine.  Still being reasonable here, although it’s getting dicey.  Next to the register was another tree, about the same size as the one I wanted (and of course twice the price).  I asked the cashier if they had two of them in stock.  Glory Hallelujah, they sure did.  Fine.  Give me a store credit for the two that I purchased that you don’t have, apply it to the purchase of two of THOSE trees and tell me the difference.

Can’t do that.

Let me get this straight.  You sold me two trees that you don’t have.  You can’t get them here when I need them, even though you knew before I purchased them when I needed them.  And you won’t give me a store credit to purchase two more trees that you DO have, that are twice as expensive?

Here, Sonia.  Hold my earrings.

At some point, the manager and I had a conversation that went something like this…

“Why.  Are you selling.  Trees.  That.  You.  Don’t.  HAVE?”

“Well, señora, we might be getting them in…”

I had to walk away again, because inside my head I am screaming “You can’t sell things that you MIGHT get in stock!  Someday I MIGHT have a horse–I can’t sell you one NOW!”

Sonia did some of her fancy footwork (it really is amazing how she can sweet-talk the sales lady and pray that I don’t lose my mind all at the same time and not even break a sweat) and FINALLY, the manager came, worked her manager magic and I walked out of there with two trees, courtesy of a store credit.

THAT, my children, is why I have grey hair.