Saturday, May 30, 2009

three weeks and packing

Three weeks from today we'll be on our way home for the summer.

Home. Home is Colombia and home is Wisconsin and soon home will be Kuwait.

Anyway. Today was difficult for me. I was sad about leaving. I started packing boxes to ship ahead and was sad that it didn't take long to undo our home. I piled all of our pictures and art and little home things into a suitcase so that Justin can see that it can all be done last minute. Tomorrow I will put it all up again. And two weeks from now, I guess I'll wrap it all in towels and bubble wrap and crunched paper and stare at naked walls.

Justin and I talked about whether it's more difficult to say goodbye to this country because it is where Claire was born. We want her to have memories of her birthplace. Those memories will likely come through return visits. It helps for me to say that we'll come back, if only to visit. When I tell my department chair that I am going to miss Colombia, she suggested we consider Manizales. "It's a great place for kids," she said. We're open to that, returning to live. This country - chaos and beauty - is more deeply rooted in me after two short years than I expected.

I admit to Justin that I'm not sure what I'll think of Kuwait. Hot. Sand. Water. Malls. People hang out in malls in Kuwait because they are air conditioned. I am too busy letting myself feel this goodbye to think of a hello, nevermind imagining another place grabbing hold of me in a similar way.

Two years ago, I started a different blog to share our experience moving abroad. I babbled about preparations and goodbyes to old friends and the elation of chasing a dream to live abroad, a dream I'd held for a decade before realizing it. And this blog is seeing me through the close of our first job abroad.

Please bear with me.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

weekend pictures: Kate & Rob's wedding

I didn't take too many pictures the day of the wedding because, well, I was busy enjoying the day and the people. I am hoping for a few of the photographer's candids and formal poses though. Good memories. Busy day but good. I'm learning how to be present and enjoy right where I am and that's what I did.
Whoo hoo updos! After visiting Kate's grandma in the morning, we went out for an early lunch and then on to the salon for beautiful wedding day hair!
Kate and her mom, Val, before the ceremony. Val's a great mom. I think she was looking forward to this day as much as Kate.
I'm not sure what you're supposed to do in those last few minutes. You've probably already said everything you want to say and if the church isn't on fire or the flowers aren't missing, then you just hang around waiting for the "I do"s. I kept trying to think of something - anything - profound to say and came up with nothing. Oh well. Kate knows I love her.
Here they are! Sweet newlyweds.
One of the ushers took this picture of me so that I could show Justin that I do clean up well from time to time. It was fun to dress up and wear heels (for one day, only one day).
Kate, her groom, and the groomsmen. Kate and Rob's friends were really wonderful. I didn't know what to expect since the rest of the wedding party and most of the Chicago guests knew each other. But they were all great, good conversation. We had a lot of fun.

weekend pictures: Claire and family

Mama likes to read books on the plane too. Oh, but rest assured: she didn't.
O'Hare welcome committee. My siblings Ruthie, Gracie, and David with my dad and Claire.
Claire meets Grandma Rollene. She wore a necklace that Claire loved to eat.
And here Claire meets Michael, her Marslender grandpa.
We took a little time to Skype with Justin so he could see his parents with Claire.
My Grandpa Cawkins and Claire Juliana. Last summer, he told me I was having a girl.
Four generations. Wow. What wonderful women and a sweet baby!

making check marks

Simplest summary of my time in Wisconsin is to revisit my list:

My Wisconsin List
1. Make Kate's wedding day a good one (yea, Kate!)
Oh, we had a great day. I spent the morning with Kate and her mom, Val, visiting her grandma in a nursing home who was, sadly, unable to attend the ceremony. Kate's grandma did get to wear her wedding corsage all day though. We got our hair done (first updo for me!) and hung out in the church basement waiting, waiting, waiting. The wedding ceremony itself was beautiful and short. Short short. Just vows. Watching them speak their vows to each other made me think about renewing mine someday. Oh, and I danced at the reception. Mostly by myself. A little stiffly. I just don't have too many moves to bust. But I had fun.

2. Manage a good toast (at least it's written)
First time I've talked to a big crowd and didn't get all shakey and warbly. I'm a teacher. I'm used to using a teacher voice and talking to a group but in my classroom, well, that's my space and those are my students and there's a comfort there that doesn't follow me into large groups of strangers. My hope was to deliver a thoughtful toast for Kate and Rob. I had things I wanted them to know and blessings to extend and I didn't want my own nerves to sabotage anything. Looking at it that way was good: this toast was for Kate and Rob - not the crowd, and not me. And I managed it.

3. Eat all the cheese I want
Gorgonzola on a salad. Sadly, not the cheese platter I'd envisioned. But I did ship a few blocks back with me.

4. Run outside, enjoy the cooler weather
I ran, ran, ran. Every run felt like a Rave Run. Gorgeous weather, hills that I could handle better than I expected, a new town to explore before Kate's wedding. Good runs.

5. Play Dutch Blitz or Sequence or Bananagrams with my siblings
I played one game of Bananagrams with Mary Grace and Ruthie and then took a nap. Maybe it balances out the forty-two kajillion hours we spent playing the game last summer.

6. Drink a cup of tea with Mom
Crammed this one in the night before Claire and I had to get up at four-thirty to catch a plane. I drank cocoa and Mom had peppermint tea and we still didn't manage to solve the world's big messy knots.

7. Introduce Claire to her Wisconsin family: grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, and uncles!
This was great fun. Claire was wonderful. She definately handles people better than me. Me? I didn't want to go to church on Sunday because the thought of seeing even more people made me feel nauseous. Claire danced from hug to hug though.

8. Do a grocery run for yummy Stateside stuff we can't get in Colombia: Blue Moon beer, chocolate chips, cheddar cheese, peanut butter (remember the salmonella peanut butter scare last year? That's when Colombia suddenly started stocking Peter Pan peanut butter and all the expats rushed to buy it)
Blue Moon beer made it back just fine. Two honey weiss bottle caps leaked in Justin's suitcase (yes, I made sure to pack the beer in his suitcase instead of my pretty red one). Oh well. Also stocked up on chocolate chips, packable brown sugar, walnuts, pecans, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, M&M minis, four bricks of cheese, yummy crackers, Sun Chips, a jar of natural peanut butter, and and and. I was impulsive. I'm sharing though. That has to count for something. It has to.

9. Take Claire on a walk, by myself
I'm counting the twelve hours of travel time together as bonding enough. Oh, that's twelve hours there and another twelve back. She didn't nap. Okay, she napped as the plane taxied to our last exit gate each day. She was too busy to nap. She learned a new sound so a good deal of our conversation was "Bah bah bah blahhhh." She giggled when I yawned. She ate like a fiend. Probably out of boredom or desperation or both. "If I keep Mama busy feeding me, she won't go crackers that this is our seventh hour SITTING ON A PLANE!"

10. Find a smidge of time to write, even if only a journal
I wrote a rapid page in the plane on the way from Miami to Cali while Claire was belted into the seat next to me trying to eat the tray table.

Pictures later. Not of Claire eating the tray table but of other things. You know, family stuff and wedding stuff.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

early to bed, early to rise

It's after nine. I need to go to bed. I am always high-strung-weirdly-mellow before a day of travel. Anxious about all the things that could go wrong. Happy to be headed to where I'm headed. A little sad to be leaving where I am.

Tomorrow morning when the city is quiet and the streets are still dark, Claire and I will take a long drive to the airport north of Cali. We'll check our bags and board a plane. We'll go through customs in Miami (nightmare of an airport and I'm always half-surprised any of our luggage makes it through), and connect to Chicago. I might even get to eat lunch and grab a Starbucks chai latte (yippee!). Dad will meet us with three of my younger siblings and we'll drive to hometown, Wisconsin. That's about as much as I know.

My Wisconsin List
1. Make Kate's wedding day a good one (yea, Kate!)
2. Manage a good toast (at least it's written)
3. Eat all the cheese I want
4. Run outside, enjoy the cooler weather
5. Play Dutch Blitz or Sequence or Bananagrams with my siblings
6. Drink a cup of tea with Mom
7. Introduce Claire to her Wisconsin family: grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, and uncles!
8. Do a grocery run for yummy Stateside stuff we can't get in Colombia: Blue Moon beer, chocolate chips, cheddar cheese, peanut butter (remember the salmonella peanut butter scare last year? That's when Colombia suddenly started stocking Peter Pan peanut butter and all the expats rushed to buy it)
9. Take Claire on a walk, by myself
10. Find a smidge of time to write, even if only a journal

Monday, May 18, 2009

long run (check)

I managed between twelve and thirteen miles on Saturday morning. I ran nine - early - on the treadmill and then Stetson met me to do a fast loop around my neighborhood. A lot of hills, which I welcomed. I didn't run with a watch and I think that freed me to just enjoy the run. I find that when I run with a watch, I am forever checking: am I there yet? fast enough? slogging? The weather was perfect, too, sunny but still cool. We guessed the run was at least three. Maybe three and a half. Maybe. I'm happy with that. My legs felt fine.

(And then I hear my high school track coach, P, yelling at me that if I have that much left at the end then I wasn't really running, was I? It'll be a little while before I test my body to the brink of exhaustion. Still nervous enough about recurring injuries.)

And the pancakes with uchuva marmalade were so delicious I made them again this morning after I ran and Justin got home from biking. I'll be packing a couple of jars of that yummy marmalade this week when I head home for Kate's wedding. Eeps. Now that travel day will be a test of endurance.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

friday five returns!

1. Writing time. Justin is so good to me. On Mother's Day, in the afternoon, we took a taxi to Unicentro, a mall here, so that I could sit in a Juan Valdez coffee shop and drink too sweet iced deliciousness and write while he and Claire walked around. We did the same thing this afternoon and it was great. I'm working on a short story and making myself actually finish it. I'm spectacular at starting stories, essays, poems and leaving them in that raw "it could be good, maybe" stage. Sometimes I think it's just easier than revising and finding out that you have a rather dumpy piece of writing.

2. Long run tomorrow. I'll let you know how it goes. It'll be followed by pancakes with uchuva marmalade so it can't be that bad.

3. Also, I think I found two races I'll run this summer. I might drive myself to one of them because Justin doesn't want to miss my hometown Fourth of July parade. Ahem. He also reads my hometown newspaper online and interrupts me asking if I know so-and-so from the police reports. (Usually we cut to the chase and make fun of one of the guest columnists who lived in the "south of France" a few years ago and still gives talks about her six months there. Anyone want to book for a slide show of Colombia?)

4. Jen and Marco had their baby! Isaac Anthony arrived a week ago and mom and babe are healthy. I actually saw Marco while I was writing at Juan Valdez last Sunday - coffee stop for the new, tired papa. He was so happy and chatted with Nira, Stetson, and me about the first couple of days with a baby in the house. Tomorrow a few of us are going to visit the new little family. So happy for them!

5. To Kindle or not to Kindle. That is the question. Justin and I are making wish lists for the summer. Stuff to buy before moving again. And I've been thinking about getting a Kindle since I love to read and books a. can be expensive and b. are heavy. We'll likely be abroad for awhile yet and shipping books is pricey. A Kindle could remedy that. We had our friends Rob and Lyndi over for lunch today (short work day) and she brought her Kindle along to show me how it worked, what the screen looks like. And then Rob tried to sell me a juicer and then it was steak knives that never needed sharpening. Ha ha. Really, though, the Kindle might be worth the expense. Unless I spilled a Juan Valdez on it.

Happy weekend!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

hyperbaking! (and pb cookies to the max)

I heard Jackie Newgent speak on Wisconsin Public Radio a week and a half ago. She talked about being a green cook. Much of what she said - for example: buy local, eat lots of fruits and veggies (less of a carbon footprint than meat processing) - I'd heard before, but then she mentioned "hypercooking." I listened in and learned.

Hypercooking & Hyperbaking
The idea is that you use as little energy as possible to cook or bake. (Watch TV and order out, ha ha). Hypercooking/baking works best with small things. So next time you cook pasta, bring the water to a boil, add the pasta, turn off the stove, and put a lid on it. I added a minute or two to cook time and drained. Perfect pasta! I used the same method when quick cooking my green beans. Even butterflying or pounding chicken breasts thin saves a bit of cooking energy.

I was doubtful about hyperbaking but tried it anyway. I baked three pans of cookies using this method and each turned out very well. In short: no preheating, turn the oven on when you place the cookies in the oven. I waited about five or seven minutes and then turned the oven off. I did not open the oven (resist the temptation - you'll lose heat) but left the pan in for another eight or ten minutes. You'll have to experiment with your own oven to find its balance. But it worked very well.

Check out Jackie's website, the Big Green Cookbook, and glean what you may.

Peanut Butter Cookies to the Max
This recipe is modified from my Mom's tried and true recipe and another peanut butter cookie recipe I found online.

1/2 c. butter, softened
1/2 c. peanut butter - creamy or crunchy
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/4 c. flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. chopped peanuts
1 c. dark chocolate pieces

1. Beat the butter for three or four minutes. (I do this but I don't think you really have to if you'd rather skip that step). Add sugars, egg, vanilla, and mix well.

2. Blend together flour, baking soda and powder, and salt. Add to the batter. (Or just dump it all in at once, like me).

3. Add chopped peanuts and chocolate. Chill dough for at least two hours.

4. Drop dough onto ungreased cookie sheet by teaspoon or tablespoon. (Oh the choices: eat more little cookies or just one or two big cookies). Don't bother smashing them flat. Bake at 375 for eight to ten minutes or, better yet, hyperbake as per above instructions.

Suggestions: The first few times I made these cookies I actually chopped a cup of peanuts using a paring knife. Near the end, I'd get more irritable by the nut. Justin suggested I throw all the peanuts in a ziplok and smash them with the flat side of my meat tenderizer. Which I did. Why didn't I think of that!? Also, because these cookies seem very sweet to me, I use dark dark dark chocolate. Like a mix of 70 and 85% dark. That might be too bitter for your tastes so do what you like best.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

first trip to the zoo!

For Claire at least. Justin and I had not been to the Cali zoo but had heard good things about it so we went with a couple of friends this past Saturday. The zoo is home to a number of rescued or retired animals. It's a beautiful area too, in the city's west, bordered by the river.
Claire adored the coi fish. And I adored Claire. She cracks me up.See what I mean?
This is Stetson. Go to the zoo and bring a biology teacher. His roommate, Nira, also came along for the day. Good company.Can you believe that lizards this big were once the scourge of Cali's sewer system? Kidding. I hope.
Fine. Be that way.

And my favorite exhibit was the butterfly atrium. What I loved most were the rows of chrysalises becoming butterflies. They were so beautiful to look at and I wanted more. I wanted a room full of chrysalises.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

happy mother's day

To me! And to other mommies, mamas, moms, and mothers! And to mamas-to-be!

I celebrated Mother's Day last year too. My belly was just showing. I thought I was starting to look pregnant but probably looked like I just ate too much lunch. My skin itched from stretching. I could feel my baby kick. I went for a run that Sunday morning and biked back to the apartment, stopping at Pomona for a few groceries. At the entrance, the store clerks were giving away chocolates to all the women and I smiled at my belly. I didn't yet feel impatient to meet my baby and I didn't yet know what being a mama would mean: that Mama would be long days and bleary nights, and that Mama would be baby sighs and lights of understanding and reaching arms.

Sometimes I look around the campus and see a pair of second graders weaving between trees at their recess, or middle school girls traveling in giggling packs, or a high school student staring at the ceiling fan. And I think: I'll get one of those some day. I'll get a second grader and a seventh grader and then I'll get a girl ready to go to college. And then I think: Yikes. Because I have no idea what my second grader or seventh grader or junior in high school will really need from me.

My mom figured it out. She's a wonderful mom. I'll figure it out too. And I hope that my baby, napping now with thumb in mouth and fingers hooked around her nose, will one day think I'm a wonderful mom too.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

uninspired unimaginative running

This gets better, I promise. I didn't know it would end well until I got to the end.

I run nine or ten miles a day, five or six times a week. This is my alone time, earned alone time since I am up at four in the morning to enjoy the solitude. I eat my cereal while reading a chapter or two from the Bible because I am trying to live a faith, not just think about it now. Sometimes I can hold those words in my mind for the day, remember small encouragements. Other times they fall like stones in a lake. I can't see them anymore. But I read, and then I run.

I plug my treadmill into a surge protector and flip it on, place the magnetic safety key. I turn on the fan and punch Start, accelerate to 3.5 for a short warm-up walk. My book is open; I might note the page number because I play games with page numbers. I run an 8:15 pace (or thereabouts), steady, for two or three miles before pressing the up arrow to settle at 7.4, about an 8:06 pace. Sometimes I'll end at an eight minute mile pace. Sometimes I'll dip below that. But I run, I read my book - currently Snow Falling on Cedars - whichever book has a big enough font or wide enough spacing between text lines, whichever book looks likely to stay open on the treadmill shelf. I mop my brow with a washcloth. Halfway through, a little more or a little less, I stop for a glass of orange juice.

It takes me about seventy-five minutes to run nine miles. About eighty or eighty-five minutes counting a juice break, or a bathroom stop. I used to have a rule that I had to run at least an hour a day. That was a long time ago and I never said that rule out loud but felt slacking if I didn't adhere to it, unless I was racing myself and my lungs burned as I checked my watch after a fifty-six minute eight miler. Then I spared myself another four minutes.

If I look at my running in isolation, I'm content. I am injury free, seeking better form, and stretching. My body feels good. I get to do two things I enjoy at once: plow my way through books, and plod my way through miles. And I do it all before Claire wakes up, before I have to go to work, before it's easy to say I'll do it later or tomorrow maybe. This is the way I enjoy starting my day. A run.

But now that I am injury free and running for its joy if not its glory; and now that I am not pregnant or completely exhausted with new motherhood - I want more. I particularly want more because I know others have more. I read new mom runner blogs and feel twinges of discontent that I'm not also the one charting out a training plan or signing up for races, that I'm not speedworking or tapering or icing, nevermind PRing. In my mind, I whine.

I've been hungry for a half or full marathon for over a year. I even contemplated running the Calima marathon, an out and back hilly course here, three weeks after Claire was born because, I figured, I could just run really, really slow. There aren't many marathons around here. The next one is a week after we return to the States. And I contemplated signing up for the Madison Marathon slated for the day after my best friend Kate's wedding in a couple of weeks. I'm flying home to Wisconsin anyway, why not sneak a race in that weekend too? Then I considered Grandma's Marathon, the first that I ran when I was twenty-one. Our flight out of Colombia is the day before Grandma's. We could fly into Duluth, I thought, and I could run the next morning. But our connections are tight as is and we'll be traveling with excessive excess luggage and no taxi can manage all of it at once and what if we miss our flight(s)? At best, I'd be running a marathon after a marathon day of travel and on four hours of sleep. Scratch that.

Since marathon seasons sandwich my time in the States, I looked at other options. I don't want to dump a lot of money traveling to the lone summer marathon I dig up online because we'll be dumping enough money just visiting family and friends. So I Googled "Middle East marathons." I actually found one in Abu Dhabi, hosted each January, and women are permitted to run it. I might still be in India visiting my brother and his family during the Abu Dhabi 2010 marathon. But it's always an option. Or I might look for a spring break 2010 marathon in Europe. Can I spend that much money just to run twenty-six point two miles? Or rather, can I justify it?

What do I want out of this anyway? A finisher's medal? To feel like a real runner? A race story to tell? What if it's a disappointing story? Training, airfare, hotel, and entry fee are a lot to sacrifice for a lousy race day.

Maybe what I need to do - yes, this might be it - maybe what I need to do is sign up for some summer 5 and 10K races. I am terrified of both. They sound painful, demanding. Like I can't putz around for a few miles before kicking it in to race. So maybe I should do that then: race those Chamber of Commerce sponsored fun runs and see what happens. Or don't race them but run them a little faster than my usual pace and revel in being part of a pack of runners enjoying a summer morning the way it's served best: with a run. The point is, I'm grateful for my time on the treadmill, glad to be chalking up miles. I feel better for it. But sometimes the miles feel empty, just dashed on the board to be counted. Marked off to allot for a big piece of chocolate cake. So I need to find new running challenge since a marathon won't likely play out soon. I need to shake it up a bit.

You heard it here first. I'm aiming for a bit of inspired running this summer.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

no shocks*


Two electricians have been by to check the stove, twiddle with wires and pronounce it good. I finished cooking Claire's baby food this afternoon, used both burners, took my shoes off, and touched the pan handles. Nothing. I did it again, flinching. Nothing.

I'll probably flinch still. Post Traumatic Stove Disorder. But, yeah, I thought you should know that the stove is fixed. I hope I am not posting the news too soon.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

stupid hysterical American learns to be thankful

I lost it in a big way on Friday. We had the day off so after my run, I planted myself in the kitchen to make baby food. I steamed prunes and cooked apples, carrots, and squash. I wanted to have a store of foods in the freezer so that this coming week would be just a little less hectic. I sliced and froze a ripe avocado. I was feeling productive. The carrots were just done when I grabbed the pan handle to set them on a hot mat. A shock vibrated up my arm and I yelped. It hurt.

This has been happening all year long. If I use both burners and the oven while preparing dinner, I can expect a mild shock from the pan handles. But on Friday, while I had only the two burners on medium, the shock was significant. So I figured I'd finish the baby food using only one burner. And then I got my second gigantic shock.

I had this vision of my dad playing with electrical wiring in our old house, when I was in high school. I sat on the couch reading and he was working in the downstairs spare room which was, at different times, a catch all room, my mom's sewing room, my bedroom, and my little sisters' nursery. Suddenly there was a terrific pop and a flash of blue light. I remember telling him he had babies to take care of and he'd better call a real electrician before Mom got home.

Justin talked with Carmen. He returned to report that Carmen thought I'd done something wrong. Because, you know, there are so many incorrect ways to turn on an electric oven. And I wasn't even using it in the bathtub either. Friday was Labor Day here so no one was working. Except the cement mixer on the property next door. Carmen promised to call someone tomorrow.

And I just lost it. I marched over to Carmen and Pablo's and rang the bell long. Pablo answered, smiling. I said I needed to know that the wiring was not garbage, that I wasn't going to be killed while making baby food, and that I'd appreciate them calling someone because, clearly - I pointed wildly to his daughter's condo project rattling and churning away - it isn't a holiday for everyone. He got out his cell phone and called Javier, the guard on the construction site. Javier dabbles in electrical work. He walked back to the apartment to get shocked by the stove which didn't shock him at all. He attributed this to the fact that he was wearing shoes. Maybe I should wear rubber soled shoes while I cooked too?

I started yelling. I yelled about the noise I've listened to all year. I yelled about the leaking roof ruining the plaster by our front door. I yelled about just not wanting to die while I simmered carrots for my baby. I yelled that I didn't have the Spanish to explain anything. I yelled my own halting Spanish to show that I was not happy, in case Javier - now standing in my kitchen looking a little resigned, as if he knew it would come to this someday, a stupid hysterical American yelling nonsense - had not gathered that I was unhappy. I was very dramatic. Very, embarrassingly dramatic because I didn't stop yelling when I returned to Carmen and Pablo's front door, by which time Carmita and her family had arrived for a holiday lunch.

Pablo put a hand on my arm and told me I was very nervous and that I should go lay down. I thought of nervous conditions, I thought of pioneer women who snapped during prairie winters when a horizon could not be distinguished in the day. If only it was just that: nervous.

"No," I said, "I am angry."

And off I went. Again. Repeating that I didn't care if the apartment was old. Because I don't. I just want the wiring and the appliances to be safe. But North American and South American ideas of safe can be different. I'm not dead, am I?

I paused, taking gasping breaths. Pablo, Carmita, Javier, and Justin stared at me, waiting.

"You are very nervous," Pablo said again, "Very nervous." Maybe he meant that I was making him very nervous.

"I am so sorry for all the noise," Carmita said, "We live in Pance and the rains - the rains cause power outages and I am so sorry for the noise. It is my work though. I have to build these homes."

I took a ragged breath. Javier turned to escape and I offered an apology. " Tranquila," he replied. In the middle of it, I could see how hysterical I was being - the noise of the year, and the new baby, and the job search, and and and all crushing until one thing, a shock from the stove zipping up my arm, undid me. And in the middle of it, I couldn't stop yelling. And now that my head was clearing, my breath returning to normal, I could see just how foolish I was. Carmita called one of her electricians who came to check the wiring and the stove. The wiring, surprisingly, is fine but the stove, albeit new as of last August, is a different voltage and not grounded and that is why I get shocked. They're sending a manufacturer's electrician on Tuesday to replace the burners accordingly. I have little faith that this will really do anything.

Until then, I'll be wearing rubber soled shoes while cooking in the kitchen.

We spent Friday afternoon buying wood for a project. When we returned I went to visit Carmen and Pablo again, apologizing for my frustration and hysteria. They are good to us, really. They are kind toward Claire and toward us and they weren't angry at me. Having lived in Philadelphia for twenty years when they were younger, they understand some of the differences, particularly in expectations, of North and South Americans. And, since a couple of weeks ago a storm knocked out their security system and electrica front gate, they also understand how things build up and build up until you just cry. "I cried all last week, honey," Carmen admitted, tallying a list of repairs and bills and call backs to companies.

"We love you, honey," Carmen told me. She gave me a big hug.

And Pablo reminded me, "The Lord says to be thankful. You have so much. You have a little baby to love. You be thankful. You do not worry about tomorrow."

I walked around the house to our little apartment, humbled and much more thankful.