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.


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.

“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?


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.

Do the next thing…

It’s been a long, frustrating week.  It’s too much.  There isn’t any of me left, and there is so much that needs to be done.  So many things come up and all I can think is “Lord, I can’t do One.  More.  Thing.”  I can’t think or focus or give…my mind and my heart are full of THINGS and they are big THINGS…I can’t be a good missionary today.  Or a good mom or a good wife…

From an old English parsonage down by the sea

There came in the twilight a message to me;

Its quaint Saxon legend, deeply engraven,

Hath, it seems to me, teaching from Heaven.

And on through the doors the quiet words ring

Like a low inspiration: “Do the next thing.”

Many a questioning, many a fear,

Many a doubt, hath its quieting here.

Moment by moment, let down from Heaven,

Time, opportunity, and guidance are given.

Fear not tomorrows, child of the King,

Trust them with Jesus, do the next thing.

Do it immediately, do it with prayer;

Do it reliantly, casting all care;

Do it with reverence, tracing His hand

Who placed it before thee with earnest command.

Stayed on Omnipotence, safe ‘neath His wing,

Leave all results, do the next thing.

Looking for Jesus, ever serener,

Working or suffering, be thy demeanor;

In His dear presence, the rest of His calm,

The light of His countenance be thy psalm,

Strong in His faithfulness, praise and sing.

Then, as He beckons thee, do the next thing.


Maybe…I can do the next thing.


The summer I got it all together (and other fairy tales)

I had such plans.  Such dreams.  This was going to be the summer that I got it right.

Stop laughing.

We had to move–I knew that.  In my perfect little la-la-la world, we would find the perfect place (it would be miraculously inexpensive and glorious–think penthouse), I would casually pack up our stuff, tossing what we didn’t need with joyful abandon, and one day Dan and I would just throw our remaining belongings in the back of our Trailblazer and ride off into the sunset.

Stop.  Laughing.

We found the perfect place.  It is not a penthouse, nor is it cheap.  It is nice though.  I’ll take nice.  The packing of our stuff somewhat resembled a beagle digging frantically for the mole that just disappeared into it’s home.  Stuff flying everywhere, no rhyme or reason to what went and what stayed…and the moving.  Oh sweet mercy.  Dan and our friend Brian moved about 90% of our stuff in one day while Fibro and I hung out and Fibro made me progressively crazier and sicker.  On Sunday, our friend Pete joined in the moving fun while I sat in a chair and wondered why I wasn’t dead yet, because clearly Fibro had decided my time had come.  By Sunday night, most of our stuff was in the new apartment.  Turns out that I hadn’t gotten rid of quite enough stuff, which would be fine if we didn’t mind having our bed double as the dining room table and letting Patrick sleep on the couch.  Forever.

Clearly I should not be in charge of my life.

Things are somewhat settled now (please don’t open the guest bedroom door) and we are not eating on the bed, which is kind of nice.  Patrick is sleeping in his own room, and being the complacent child that he is, doesn’t seem to mind my “cardboard box” decorating style.  Bless it.  Dan goes cheerfully off to work each morning (which is literally right next door) and I attempt to discover just exactly what is in the boxes that are in the guest room and unpack stuff and put it away.  Yesterday I actually managed to get two boxes unpacked before I looked around at the sheer insanity of it all and went to find a snack.


This is the second part of my “summer that I get it all together” plan.  I was going to start running (STOP.  LAUGHING.  I’m warning you.) and lose weight and get myself into shape.  Instead, in what can only be described as the kind of freak accident that can only happen to me, I managed to tear both my ACL and meniscus.  Boarding.  An.  Airplane.  I don’t know how, so don’t ask.  I immediately realized that I would not be able to run this summer and decided to go with Plan B, otherwise known as “Eat like food is going to be banned tomorrow”.

I got this, people.  Like.  A.  Boss.

If there is a category in the Olympics for sitting and eating, you can all just go home, because I’ve won gold, silver and bronze.  Throw in Facebook and Pinterest surfing and I am Queen of the World or something.  Don’t even try to best me.  I am the bomb diggity on this one.

The final part of my “summer that I got it all together” was going to involve homeschooling Patrick all through summer.  I was going to be “that mom”.  No TV or electronics for that boy.  No way.  We were going to do field trips and every day was going to be a magical learning experience.

OK, Now I’m laughing.

Patrick has spent the summer with teams, with his dad.  He has helped build a house, and spent an entire week with a team of nursing students who thought he was the cutest thing they had ever seen and kept asking if they could just take him back with them.  It’s a 10-year-old boy’s dream, right?  17 girls all clamoring to be your favorite and get their picture taken with you?  I am going to choose to believe that even though we did no field trips (the Middle of the World doesn’t count when you’ve been there so many times that even the cleaning guys know who you are), he still carried his iPad around like it was an extension of his body and my battle cry during the move from Hell was “Oh, just go put a movie on”…he still had a good summer.  Please don’t burst my bubble on this one.  I’m fragile.  And by “fragile”, I mean “woman on the edge”.

School starts in less than a month–September 1st, to be exact.  By then, the apartment will be completely in order, those boxes will be unpacked and I will have lesson plans laid out through Christmas.  Or at least the second week in September.

This is going to be the Fall that I get it right.

Stop laughing.



I swear, we have not dropped off the face of the earth.  Allow me to catch you up. 

We are moving.

Those three words have pretty much consumed my every waking thought since we arrived home at the end of May.  We knew that we were going to have to find another place to live, and we had pretty much decided that it would have to happen this summer.  When we got home, we had a talk with our landlord, who told us that we had until at least December to find a place, and not to worry, because he would give us at least two months notice if something happened.  Hold that thought.

After looking at about 20 of the smallest apartments we had ever seen, and one apartment that we really liked…but it included a crazy landlady (within five minutes of meeting her she informed me that I was a terrible person for “abandoning” my three older children in the US, I don’t need any more children and I need to get rid of my dog).  Ahem.

AHEM.  As my mother will attest to, I don’t like being told what to do.  Especially not by complete strangers.  And I certainly don’t need anyone else in my life to heap on the guilt.

ANYWAY.  We ditched the crazy landlady and eventually found a wonderful, delightful apartment that is literally right next door to Extreme Response, has a lovely view and is within our price range.  After praying about it and measuring our giant king sized bed to make sure it would fit in the master bedroom, we signed the lease.  We had been holding off on telling our landlord that we had a new place until the lease was signed, just to make sure everything was copacetic.  The day that he came to get the rent, I was opening my mouth to tell him that we were moving when he said “Sra. Cynthia, I have bad news.  The house has been sold and you need to move by September 1st.”  I had two issues with that (Yes, I know we had a new place already, but allow me my issues).  The first was that instead of two months, we now had about five weeks.  The second (and I didn’t find this out until later) was that the house has not ACTUALLY been sold.  We think that he wants to rent it for more money.  I hate being lied to. 

ONWARD.  We have spent the last two weeks frantically getting rid of excess furniture and STUFF that we have accumulated over the past 10 years.  I know that once we are moved and settled I will be very glad that it happened, but right now I am spending an awful lot of time looking around anxiously and trying to figure out where to put stuff in the apartment when we don’t even have the keys yet. 

I PROMISE that once we are moved and settled (we are officially starting the moving process around August 7th) that I will do a real update, and tell you all about the teams that we’ve run this summer (it’s been a GREAT summer), the ministry that is happening, the sewing ladies and our family in general.  Until then, here’s a smiling giraffe.


The Comfort Zone…

“You are about to enter another dimension. A dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land of imagination. Next stop, the Comfort Zone!”  (cue creepy music)

Yesterday the first team that Dan and I were involved with this summer left to head back home.  They were a smallish team–just 11 people–and a shortish team–just 8 days.  They worked hard and connected hard, and I honestly think that when they got back on that plane, they knew that it had been good.

It’s been awhile since I interacted with a team at this level.  True, I wasn’t at the project with them each day–my knee has become a bit of a professional liability–but I had dinner with them every night and got to really chat with them.  It was neat to see their hearts expand as the week went on, and to be excited about the ministry that is happening here and around the world.  Some had been other places, and for some this was their first time off of North American soil.

A couple of nights I was able to listen in as they did their daily debrief, and then Tuesday as they did a final debrief with Dan and Paul before they left for home.  One recurring theme that caught my attention was “comfort zone”.  Being outside of it, what it looks like for different people, how to be a part of ministry and not get so caught up in details that you miss the big picture…I started thinking about “comfort zones”.  And as you all know, when I think about serious stuff I think someone should read it, so here we go.

Our comfort zone may be the most intensely personal thing that we own.  And we do own it.  It’s ours.  Yes, our personality, background, surroundings, genetic makeup and other environmental factors can play a huge role in shaping it, but in the end, it is ours, intensely personal and not necessarily open or willing to change.

I picture it like a bubble.  Some people appear to have a bubble that encompasses the whole planet.  It’s a big bubble.  They will go anywhere, talk to anyone, try anything…for these people, especially in the context of a team, they appear to have never met a stranger.  Little kids hang off of them like they are a jungle gym.  When they sit down, children fight to sit on their lap.  Those who don’t get the coveted lap spot sit as close as possible, touching a sleeve or an arm, jostling for position…and the “Big Bubble” person loves it.  The more the merrier, right?  People with “global bubbles” don’t ever appear to be bothered (or even realize) when things are out of control, but rather see it as an adventure.

The next “level” in the “bubble hierarchy” is the people who have a pretty good sized bubble, but it isn’t a global bubble.  It’s more of a “world as I know it” bubble.  Their community, the world that they know…things that are “controllable”.  They are willing to step out of their comfort zone and go, but the details and experiences need to be pretty manageable.  These people are the ones on teams that make sure that everyone gets on the bus on time.  They are more detail focused.  When it comes to interacting with people, they prefer a more controlled environment.  Rather than having 37 children crawling all over them, they prefer a few children, and preferably the ones who are a little quieter, who want a lap to snuggle on or a hand to hold.  They are the rational ones on the team that make sure things get done and done well.

Then…there are the “bubble-wrapped” people.  This is where I fit in.  My bubble fits me like a second skin.  For the bubble-wrapped person, a missions trip is something akin to a trip to the moon.  The details (and this is just to actually GET there) are overwhelming.  Many won’t even consider it.  Those that do need every detail, every list, every assurance.  Once they get there, assuming that they manage to do so, they are so consumed with the details and the worries about what could go wrong that they often miss the big picture.  They are not going to have mountains of children crawling all over them, or even a few.  You might find them with one child, one very quiet child, sitting next to them.  This whole experience is so far outside their comfort zone that it’s hard to tell if they have even had an experience.  They did, though.  These are the people watchers.  They can read a room, and a situation, like an open book.  The insight that they bring to the table during things like debrief never fails to astound me.

I guess my point is that our “comfort zone” is not an excuse to avoid missions.  Just because we don’t all see, or experience things the same way, doesn’t mean that we didn’t step outside.  For the “Big Bubble” person, stepping outside their comfort zone might mean that instead of being the human jungle gym for 50 children, they spend some time one-on-one with that elderly gentleman that no one noticed over there in the corner.  The “Community Bubble” person might need to let go of the details for a bit and go play soccer with those children.  You’re going to lose–badly–but it will be so good for both of you!  And the “Bubble Wrapped” person needs to stop watching people and actually talk to them.  I know–because I am this person.  And for most of us–I don’t care what kind of bubble you are wrapped in–stepping out of our Comfort Zone begins with stepping out of our front door.  The difference is in how far we step.

How big is your bubble?

“By stepping outside your comfort zone to do something peculiar, you confirm that you can do more than you’ve done. Move out!”
Israelmore Ayivor