Category: Marriage and Family

Life Lessons 1-10

I was at a doctor’s appointment the other day, and I filled out all the forms, writing my age as “31.” Then a few hours later, I said, “Wait a minute,” remembered the year of my birth, did some counting on my fingers, and realized I’m 32. I’ve reached the age where I can no longer remember how old I am.

Since I plan on living till I’m 96, I’m really only a third of the way through life, but I have learned a few lessons along the way, so I’ve decided to write one of those “I’m old, so I can give advice about life” lists. Here it is, in no particular order:

1.) Stop trying to gain self-worth from other people’s opinions of you. Promiscuity, perfectionism, and people-pleasing are just different paths that begin at a very desperate place of insecurity and unworthiness, and lead to a place of a whole lot more insecurity and unworthiness. It becomes easier to get off of those paths when you realize that you are already more loved than you can imagine.

2.) Commit yourself to God. You’re never going to solve all the mysteries of the universe, or maintain a constant feeling of joy and peace. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t explore and accept the tenants of your faith. There is nothing irrational or inauthentic about committing to something bigger than yourself simply because you can’t always feel it, or understand all aspects of it. If you could, it wouldn’t be bigger than you.

3.) Cut back on the drinking. We all struggle with moderation at times. Unfortunately, if you drink heavily enough, often enough, your regular self will start looking more and more like your drunk self, until eventually you become a stranger. When we are drunk, we numb our real feelings. We trade authentic connection and our powers of reasoning for sloppy, artificial sentiments and unnecessary confusion. We trade our treasures for trash.

4.) Don’t do drugs. See above.

5.) Feel your feelings. We don’t like to feel things like disappointment, guilt or anger, but feelings tell us important things. Guilt tells us when we need to change certain behaviors. Anger or fear tells us when we need to protect ourselves from further hurt or turn down our stress levels. Sadness tells us we have lost something we loved, and we need some time to grieve. I’ve done crazy things to ignore reality, and not feel my feelings. It has never led anywhere good, so I’m learning to walk through those valleys, knowing that eventually those things that feel unbearable now, will become bearable, and then become merely uncomfortable, and eventually they will become wisdom.

6.) Understand that love is not a feeling. Falling in love is easy. All it takes is some romantic music, a sexy outfit, and plenty of alcohol – just watch The Bachelor sometime. But actually loving someone is hard. It’s hard when there are little ones running around, and jobs, and so much to do, and it’s hard when someone acts unlovaScreenshot_2016-04-07-13-29-13ble, as we all do from time to time. And it doesn’t always feel worth it, either, despite all our platitudes. But then again, actual love isn’t a feeling, is it? It is actions and service and sacrifices and forgiveness and choices. And sometimes it is in those painstaking, daily decisions to act in love (even when you don’t feel like it) that feelings of love are rekindled.

7.) Practice forgiveness. It’s easier to forgive than to hold on to bitterness, which is incredibly painful. Not forgiving is a way of holding on, of keeping the hurt close, and forgiving is letting go, so that it no longer occupies your mind and your heart. It doesn’t mean that you have to forget, or that your relationship with the person who hurt you has to stay the same. It does mean you have to understand that you are also forgiven.

8.) Savor the moment. Even though we hear it all the time, it’s hard to accept that we can’t change the past, and that the future holds no guarantees. But once we accept that, it’s easier to enjoy the moment. And that sunset won’t last forever. You won’t always be able to enjoy a cup of tea with your grandparents. And some day that child will not want to sleep with his arms in a vice grip around your neck and his face smashed against your ear, so you might as well enjoy it now.

9.) Understand that everything is not going to be OK. People get sick, and they don’t get better. People do their very best and still don’t obtain the desires of their heart. People hurt each other in profound ways. People give up. Sometimes life is far more painful than we expected, and at some point, we will all face deep disappointment.

10.) But then again, everything is going to be OK. We see such a tiny fraction of space, and hear just a millisecond of the story. Human beings are tremendously resilient, especially when they harbor a belief that there is always a reason for hope, and I don’t think that is a coincidence. While I will never fully understand the complex interaction between free-will and divine providence, I believe that God can take our biggest hurt, our greatest failures and even our most asinine decisions and still make something beautiful. And if we look for it, sometimes we are fortunate enough to see it.


Cancun from a Hotel Bed

Hi friends, I haven’t seen you in a while.

I spent most of February being super stressed out about our first family vacation to Mexico, and most of March recovering from said vacation.

playa delfines

We went to Cancun since there are government warnings not to go to my husband’s home town and yada yada. The flight went smoothly (which is pretty much a miracle with two babies), and we rented a van and found our hotel without incident (also impressive considering the way people drive in Cancun, and the fact that there are seriously no lanes – everyone just blindly pushes their way forward and hopes not to get smashed by a larger vehicle).

We didn’t stay in the fancy-pants, all-inclusive resort area, but in the sort-of still nice but a lot more Mexican area, because I’m not a person who wants to go to Mexico and stay in some American all-inclusive resort chain. Ok, maybe a little, but ya know, money.

Anyway, it was a charming little hotel with Mayan décor, colorful tiled floors, a little aviary, a great pool with a bar, and what more do you want? I’ll tell you – you want a fridge in your room because you have a one year old who drinks a lot of bottles, but otherwise, we had everything we needed. Plus a convenience store a block away where we picked up a cooler and our daily supply of ice and milk.

The evening we arrived, Rafael’s mother and brother finished their journey from Veracruz, and the reunion of our family was emotional and quite beautiful. My husband had not seen them for 13 years, and I had never met them.  Despite language issues, it was surprisingly easy to connect and converse. I guess when you love the samCarlos and kidse person and have limited time together, you naturally want to get to know each other and you make it happen.

Also, as soon as my baby girl laid eyes on Rafael’s brother, she ran over and raised her arms to be picked up. It was love at first sight, and all week she didn’t want anyone else holding her when he was around. Perhaps she thought he was the guy who used to be her daddy before the beard took over.

The next day we went to the glittering, gorgeous Playa Delfines. The ocean was like a big turquoise jewel, but the surf was powerful, so the kids played in the soft white sand with my in-laws (well, Rafi played… Lili mostly just tried to eat sand), while my husband and I swam.  There were no crowds (except for the iguanas), it smelled like honey, and it was absolutely idyllic.


Then I got the flu.


So I don’t think it was actually the flu – I believe it was a nasty stomach virus combined with a severe sinus infection. After I got home it was followed by strep throat. All in all, I was sick for almost 3 weeks and two rounds of antibiotics, and lost nearly 10 pounds. And ladies, don’t be jealous, this is not a weight loss plan I would recommend. Seriously, be thankful and kind to your precious, healthy bodies.

Anyway. What do you do when you’re in Cancun and its 85 degrees and you feel like you’re freezing cold under a pile of blankets? Well, besides break out in a horrifying heat rash and pray fervently that your in-laws will stop trying to make you eat?  Nothing. There is nothing you can do.

I try to look on the bright side though. Although we spent thousands of dollars for me to lay in a hotel bed while my family wandered around the hotel pool and nearby plaza and worried that they would come back to find me dead, there is no better way to bond with new family members than to have to be taken care of.

There is simply nothing like that special moment when you are vomiting all over the front steps of the hotel on your way to the doctor while your brother-in-law (who you met 3 days ago) gently pats your shoulder and murmurs “tranquila.” Or those interesting cross cultural conversations when your suegra tells you that what you need is to turn all your clothes and sheets inside out because that will make you feel better. And you kind of want to do it just to be respectful, but you kind of don’t think you can stand up for that long. And then there’s the extended family over in Puerta Moreles who tell you that if you just go to the beach and breathe the fresh air you’ll feel better, but all you really want to do is keep sleeping across the back seat of the rental van. Maria and Lili

But in all seriousness, not being able to take care of my kids gave my family a lot more time to bond with them, nurture them, and get to know them, which in light of our limited time together is kind of special. The purpose of our trip was to spend time with family, and we were able to do that. They got to see a very vulnerable, authentic side of me and I got to see their kindness and compassion.

I am hoping that we’ll be able to return in a few years and I will be able to function like, the entire time, and not be the delicate American relative who can’t handle the climate change. But my husband says that I’m never allowed to go back to Mexico, so I won’t get my hopes too high. Still, I’m grateful for the time that we got to spend together and the unique family that now feels like mine.



Why I Like Being a Working Mom (Sometimes)

Lately, I’ve noticed a lot of articles and such on whether it’s better to be a working mom or a stay-at-home mom. So I figured I’d put in my two sense.

I have a great job. I find my work meaningful and my coworkers are like a second family. I get plenty of vacation. I don’t have to pay for daycare, because my husband and I have alternating schedules. Sure, by the end of the work week we’ve forgotten to tell each other 5 to 10 semi-important things, and the one night I tried to wait up for him, he found me asleep on the couch with a mouthful of potato chips, but we catch up on Sundays (after our weekly why are we late to church again fight). Ok, so things are not always ideal. And of course, I wish I could have more hours at home with my kids. But here are a few reasons why I love to go to work:

  • Nobody chews up their lunch then spits it all over the break room table and expects me to clean it up.

    I’ll just use this baby to propel myself towards your lunch.
  • When I’m eating lunch, no one reaches their hand into my plate of pasta or intercepts my sandwich on its way to my mouth and helps themselves.
  • When I’m speaking at a meeting or presentation, there is no one sitting in the corner yelling, “EXCUSE ME!! EXCUSE ME!! EXCUSE ME!!” until it’s physically impossible to make my voice heard.
  • My co-workers don’t have all-out brawls over office supplies, nor do they scream at the top of their lungs purely for the sake of entertaining one another.
  • When meeting with a potential funder, service provider or legislator, none of my colleagues open with, “I pooped in the potty and stayed dry all night!”
  • In fact, everyone in my office has been successfully potty trained for quite some time.
  • Finally, my husband and I both working allows us to pay our bills. And that’s kind of important.

There are some drawbacks however, as follows:

  • If I get tsmelling headhe urge to kiss or sniff someone’s head, it is in no way appropriate or acceptable.
  • I can’t turn on The Wiggles and take a 15 minute nap, at least not if anyone else is in the office.
  • People would notice if I wore pajamas all day, and not in a good way.
  • Nobody sits in my lap when they get hurt or feel nervous, and if they did it would probably be uncomfortable.
  • We don’t have sing-alongs or dance parties very often.
  • If someone does something I don’t like, I can’t put them in time out and make them apologize. And if I could I’m not sure it would be effective.
  • I enjoy drawing butterflies, giraffes, and monster trucks, but am instead expected to draft grant requests, power points and policy recommendations.  Lame.

JK, I love my job, but I’m not gonna lie – it’s kind of hard being a working mom. I constantly feel guilty because I’m not giving 100%, I’m always running late, and I frequently arrive at the office with food or body fluids on my clothes. And then I feel guiltier because I don’t get to spend as much time with my kids as I would like, and I miss them. My house is never clean enough. Heck, I am never clean enough. When I come home, I’m often tired and I’m not much fun. I try to jam a week’s worth of activities and errands into every weekend.

But I’m making the best choice for my family. And I have no doubt that it’s hard being a stay at home mom too. I mean, sometimes I just sit in my office and marvel at the quiet, ordered environment where I can have a conversation that doesn’t involve the words “stinky” or “not nice.”  Plus I’m pretty sure anyone who is responsible for the well being of another, smaller human being experiences guilt and uncertainty at times over whether they’re doing it right.

But we all want the best for our kids, and we do what we can to provide that. It looks different for different families. So if you’re working  because you want to or need to, or if you’re staying at home because you want to or need to – good for you. If you’re a mom, you’re almost always trying to do what’s best for your family. We’re just wired that way. So keep on keeping on.

So my two cents? While I think it’s great that women have options, I think it would be even better if women and men had more options. This would require some culture change.

I work at a non-profit which is a family-friendly place to be. I am lucky. For the most part, moms and dads want to put their families first. But if you want your family to survive and thrive that usually means that at least one parent’s career needs to be prioritized above family a lot of the time.

If women want equality in the workforce, we need a shift in workplace culture that allows for a better career environment for both men and women. We need part time work and job sharing not to be a career-killer for parents, we need it to be good business to unplug from our work email when we get home, we need paid maternity (and paternity) leave that parents feel comfortable taking, and we need it to be considered healthy and positive to take your vacation, flex time and sick days. We need to encourage more work-life balance. Then both parents can be more involved with their kids and having that increased involvement wouldn’t be a basis for discrimination, it would just be normal.

If I ruled the world, work-life balance would also include employer-provided yoga.


Anyway, I would totally like to get some research together on why these culture changes would be helpful, how they could be achieved, and companies where family-friendly policies have proven beneficial. But I can’t because I’m a working mom, and I need to stuff my mouth with potato chips and fall asleep on the couch before my husband gets home. So I’ll leave you with another, related first world problem to consider:


potato chips


An Apology to my Husband’s Beard

This is my husband’s beard:

beard rafa

I had a hard time learning to appreciate this beard, and there are a number of reasons for that.

First of all, my husband is a handsome guy. He has perfect little white teeth and dimples and he’s really quite stunning with a five o’clock shadow, or a chin strap. But yowombat-wallpaper_w520u can’t see any of that when he has what appears to be a wombat on his face.

Secondly, he gets little pieces of food, sauce, lint, etc. stuck in it and then if we’re kissing later I sometimes get a flashback of that.

It sort of reminds me of a caveman, or a Biblical character such as Noah, or perhaps a Viking that pillages the occasional village. This isn’t really so bad since those guys are all dead and that look could be considered vintage.



But then sometimes, he looks a lot more like a Amish man from Lancaster than a Presbyterian from Mexico, and that is just confusing. Like what is that Amish man doing wearing a tee-shirt instead of suspenders? And using an iPod?? And those boots look awfully fancy! Oh wait, that’s a sombrero, not a straw hat. Silly me.

straw hat sombrero

Also, sometimes when it’s really cold, he wears thermal underwear to bed, and you can imagine my consternation when I wake up next to Pa Ingalls.  Or when he wears his red plaid flannel jacket to work, and I come out of the bathroom and WHOA there’s a lumber jack in my house.

So, you see, this beard has caused me some issues. But recently, I’ve been making a serious effort to love the beard.

It all started one night when we were lying in bed and one of us found a little teddy bear that one of the kids had left under the covers. He patted it gently, then laid it sweetly against his neck and wrapped the beard hair around it like he was swaddling a baby, all while humming a lullaby. And that’s when I knew that while this beard may look dirty, itchy, and a little bit like it should belong to a terrorist, it is, at its core, a bringer of comfort and love.

My man is happy under that beard.

Sure, he might be compensating for his hair, which is getting just a little bit thinner.  So while his head gets shinier and colder, his face is getting furrier and cozier.  But who doesn’t want a nice, cozy face in the winter time?

I’m not saying I wouldn’t love to see his handsome features every now and then, or that I’m never jolted by nightmare images of bugs crawling out of the fur, but if he’s happy, I should be happy too, right? I mean, there are plenty of issues for us to work through without worrying about each other’s facial hair. Well, I mean, hopefully he doesn’t worry about mine.  But he does put up with me only showering a few times a week, so how can I complain?

Sometimes people ask me if I like the beard and if I say no, they give me the “you need to get that guy under control” look. But I’ve come to realize that really, I don’t.  Maybe if I were his mommy or his supervisor I would have to approve of his choices of wardrobe and grooming, but dang it, he’s a beard boobsgrown man (as clearly demonstrated by his ability to grow a GIANT beard.)

The media image of the bumbling husband who can’t be trusted to tie his own shoes without the help of his superhero wife is played out. Wives, we should expect more from our men, and going along with that, we should let go of all of that responsibility and control.

Yup, another nugget of classic marital advice from yours truly.

I may not understand the allure of carrying around several extra pounds of hair on your face, but I can appreciate the manliness. Similarly, I may not like the way my husband picks up our kids by the backs of their shirts and carries them around like puppies, but when I get home from work, the kids are happy and healthy and the house is not in shambles, and then, he goes to work for 8 hours. So really, I should be thanking my lucky stars that this man (and his beard) is mine.

Hands off, ladies. This lumberjack is taken.

So I’ve started to feel like I should say a few words to the beard.

Beard, you may not be well groomed, but you always smell like soap, and I thank you for that. I thank you for keeping my husband’s face warm in the winter time, especially as his head gets colder. I’m sorry that I wanted to destroy you for so long. May you grow and prosper. May you always be full. May you continue to teach me life lessons about letting go of the things that don’t matter and trusting my husband’s judgement. And may you never be chopped to pieces in the dark of the night by a maniacal wife.

But if you are, may you rest in peace.