Tuesday, January 10

Low Expectations

I have one New Year's resolution, and it may sound a wee bit odd.

I want to keep my expectations low.

Yep. That's it. 

Now, in the past, I would have seen that as a negative, as another chance to look at life through a cynical lens, but now...now....I see it as a gift. I learned this, as I learn most things, from my children.

On New Year's Eve, we decided to do something as a family, since we'd had a lot of time apart travelling the past few weeks. We packed everybody up in the car, swimsuits on and goggles in hand. Now, you have to understand that we are former Floridians and we loooove a good swim in the pool or the ocean. There, we used to live in a neighborhood with a community pool which, upon our arrival, quickly became a just-our-family-pool as the retiree neighbors ran away. I'll never understand why the arrival of 3 kids with noodles, squirt guns, homemade parachutes, boats and rafts would bother them. But I digress.

We also had one of the country's most beautiful beaches 10 minutes from our house, conveniently located across the street from the world's best donut shop. Needless to say, we frequented the beach....ah...frequently.

In Guatemala, we have missed the water. The beach is an hour and a half away, and while it is undeniably beautiful, the waves are rough and the sand is black, volcanic stuff that I find myself digging out of my kids' ears for days after. We enjoy it, but it takes a village to get there.

So. Back to New Year's Eve and the Great Pool Expedition. We were willing to cough up some extra quetzales and do what it took to enjoy a little sun and water. We oh-so-non-stealthily dragged ourselves, our beach bag, and our three slightly excited children into the local well-appointed, posh hotel and presented our desire to pay for the use of the pool.

Ummmm....No. Not that day. Turns out there were so many guests in town that the pool was closed to outsiders such as ourselves.

Ok...I was quite disappointed, but, having been a mom for just a few years, didn't let it show and turned to console my children...only to find that they were completely nonplussed by the whole thing. Their dad informed them that we would try another hotel, so we loaded all the children plus aforementioned gear and towels back into the car and drove to our next destination.

Ummmm.....No. Not that day. Turns out you had to purchase a lunch buffet...pay $20...blah, blah, blah.

Having been a mom for a few years, I turned to console....what?? My children were still nonplussed. Getting a little sad, but still....maintaining a ridiculously positive attitude. It's tricky when they act more mature than I do.

Finally...we ended up at a glorified cement pond near our house....and my children splashed and played like it was the most upscale, four-star pool they'd ever seen. Nobody complained, nobody whined about the fact that the water was a frigid 70 degrees (did I mention we're Floridians?? We're used to 90 degree heated pools!). We ate our PB&J's and made fantastic memories together.

Watching my kids splash around in what, for most middle-class kids, would be a boring place (no slides, no kiddie pool, no diving board), I felt prouder of them than I can describe, and more convicted to be childlike. Keeping my expectations low. I thought I'd learned that here, but I often use cynicism disguised as low expectations, and that's just plain being negative. If I am truly approaching my life as a gift, I will keep my hands open and my eyes up and look for the gifts along the way...not expecting them, but celebrating them when they happen, even when they don't look exactly the way I'd planned they would.

And they happen every day.

Tuesday, January 3

More Than Enough

I really, really wanted to complain tonight. I'd spent two hours in the kitchen baking bread for tomorrow and cooking dinner for tonight (this after the exhausting trip to the Bode for the ingredients, and the task of disinfecting every piece of produce and refilling the water purifier that I use for cooking and cleaning the veggies).

I really, really wanted to take advantage of the fact that my kids were outside and say some of my favorite four letter words as my non-self-lighting gas oven decided to have a mind of its own and shoot up to 400 degrees, thereby burning aforementioned bread. And just yesterday, it would barely get up to 300.

I was going to have a little pity party about how, even after spending such a long time in the kitchen, one or more of my sweet, beloved children would certainly find something in the dinner that he didn't "care for." Someone would ask, ever-so-politely-as-he-has-been-warned-to-do (sub-text: threatened with immediate bedtime or other drastic punishment), "Mom...um...how much do I have to eat??"

Before I could oh so justifiably hit the red button on my full-scale pity party, I had an inconvenient memory.

I remembered a day last summer when my family and I went to the village of Santa Maria de Jesus, just 20 minutes away from us.

I remembered watching as the women in the local church there served a hot lunch to over 100 small children, many of whom were enjoying their only hot meal in days, many of whom had brought two or more siblings along with them and were feeding them before they ate their own lunch...many of whom had orange streaks in what should have been jet-black hair, indicating severe malnutrition.

I remembered feeling like I should help cook or clean up, and going to the back of the church, to the pastor's home, only to find that these women had cooked for over 100 children with no stove. No sink. No counter. No food processor. No visible appliance of any kind. Just an open fire, backbreaking work for hours, and an intense desire to physically feed and spiritually nourish the children in their community.

There is a great accountability in knowing. Once you have seen and known, you cannot pretend that you don't know. You have a choice to forget, to shove aside what you have seen, or to remember and choose to be incredibly grateful for what you used to take for granted. After nearly four years here, there are too many things to begin to count for which I can never complain about again. And while yes, sometimes that is annoyingly inconvenient, in reality it is a gift. I don't want to be the same as before.

So, tonight, as my family sits down to (what I think is) a delicious dinner of pasta and salad and then wakes up to warm pumpkin bread, I will remember that there is a woman out there, just up the mountain, who is cooking over an open fire a very simple meal for her family. And I will choose to be grateful for my beautiful kitchen, the laughter (and yes, arguments) of my children, and the reminder that I have no need to worry about tomorrow. I have more than enough for today.