Saturday, December 31, 2011

Here we go, 2012

12 foods to eat MORE of...
sweet potatoes
green tea

12 books to read...
The Midwife's Tale by Gretchen Moren Laskas
Mighty Be Our Powers by Leymah Gbowee
The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver
All is Grace:  A Biography of Dorothy Day by Jim Forest
Present Tense by Gordon Houser
Ecomind:  Changing the way we think to create the world we want by Frances Moore Lappe
Marriage Rules, by Harriet Lerner
What color is the Sacred?  By Michael Taussig
Play by Stuart Brown
Everyone is Beautiful by Katherine Center
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
The Art of Coming Home by Craig Storti

12 things to do MORE OFTEN
express gratitude
try new recipes
craft with the kids
play guitar
call my siblings
pay attention
take my vitamins
say yes
ask questions

12 things to do LESS OFTEN
check for blog comments
facebook fidgeting
bite my nails
drink coffee
TV before bed
spiritual ADD
stain my clothes
spend money
wear glasses
ride the Transmillenio
skip lunch

12 new people to invite to your house for dinner
(to be determined)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Seventeen years ago

This is how it started.

1994 Swan Lake

Happy Anniversary, Aaron.
(thanks for the photo, Karin)

Christmas, 2011

We had a lovely and very sweet Christmas season, enjoying a fine mix of Colombian traditions and traditions from our own families.

Our family used an Advent calendar this year that was activity-based.  It was a good idea, but turned out to be WAY more work for me.  I am sure I will re-think this in the future.  And because Aaron had to work much longer than we anticipated, several of the activities just did not happen.  Here is the list of what we TRIED to do:

1.  Christmas concert and laser light show at Monserrate
2. Celebrate 40 years of Dad with French Onion soup and chocolate cake
4.  Family crafting:  golden snitches and gratitude wreaths
5.  Light a fire, toast almonds, and read Christmas books
6.  Play guitar and sing carols together by the tree.
7.  Noche de las Velitas
8.  City Ice Skating followed by homemade pizza and The Christmas Story
9. Watch Elf and eat popcorn and hot chocolate.
10.  Cascanueses (Nutcracker) with Elizabeth and Neil
11.  Make treats for teachers and Alex, the doorman
12.  Hand and foot rubs with peppermint lotion
13.  Paint your nose RED.  Eat RED pasta and RED smoothies and watch Rudolf
14.  Cut out snowflakes and write a family Christmas letter
15.  School Christmas Show
16.  Christmas shopping (Elizabeth, Neil, Rebecca, Family Gift)  Be creative, resourceful, and thoughtful.
17. Picnic and park play
18.  Unplug all day (except Christmas lights) and read The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
19.  Leave the city for a nature hike in Suesca
20.  Go look at lights at the Botanical Garden
21.  Movie Matinee Day
22.  Decorate cookies
23.  Bowling and ice cream
24.  Church.  Fondue and Vegetable Soup.  Neil and Elizabeth.  Luke.
25.  Gifts.  Singing.  Christmas Dinner.  Games and puzzles.  Read.

On December 7 we celebrated Noche de las Velitas.  It was a good decision to stay home this year.  We invited friends over and enjoyed chili, warm wine, and spiced panela.  We lit many, many candles and burnt little pieces of paper with wishes for the Virgin to catch on her way by.  Lovely.  Abby even convinced several of her little neighbor friends to go door to door caroling (a tradition in the US that she misses very much).

When Aaron was gone for the weekend, Elizabeth and Neil met me and we enjoyed one of the best performance of "The Nutcracker" that I have ever seen.  They even gave us free cupcakes, chocolate, and coffee during the breaks.

We enjoyed a lot of city family field trips, including a sand castle display that blew us all away.  This is the sand castle "pesebre." (probably 12 feet tall)

And then there were the Novenas.  This is a Colombian tradition that we have come to love very much, and plan to try to continue when we are in the states.  These nine nights before Christmas (Dec 16-24) include gatherings with friends or family, traditional prayers, carols, yummy snacks, and a bit of the Christmas story.  

One of these nights we spend with the parents and classmates of Andy.  It was a lovely, fun, evening which included playing in the rain, dancing the merengue, and lots of yummy food.  

Another quieter night was spent here at our house with our friends saying prayers and singing together.

Christmas Eve Novena involved the kids getting dressed up and going door to door looking for "room at the inn."  Abby was a sheep and loved the drama of it all.  They finally ended at the stable where there were songs and prayers read and sung by children and adults alike.  It was very moving.

(my friend Elizabeth wrote about Novenas here).

On Christmas day we enjoyed more home made gifts than ever before, treasures sent from our church, family, and friends at home, and a special serenade that made Aaron very, very happy.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Liceo Boston Christmas Show 2011

Last year Abby was very sad that she did not get to participate in her school Christmas show, due to our visit to the US.  That disappointment made this year all the better, as she enthusiastically prepared for her performance.

The theme this year was "Christmas Around the World" and her class was in Britain.  Students sang in Portuguese, Spanish, French, and English.  They danced too. (She is on the far right in the white cap).

The money and effort put into these show still astounds both Aaron and I.  I sat there thinking that Abby might feel a little bored by future Christmas programs when we return.

The students are in full make-up and costumes.  The stage had three giant-sized projection screens with laser light effects, and very active smoke machine, and coordinated videos.  The hired a professional sound and special effects company.  The music was all pre-recorded (by Abby's choir) and LOUD.  I mean, LOUD.  We easily felt the reverberation of the bass in our, our whole bodies.  My ears HURT.  It was so loud that the people around us and the ushers visited with each other by YELLING.

More than 400 performers took the stage that night.  It was thrilling, indeed.  And while disturbing in some ways (Mrs. Clause was an easy 40 years younger and much sexier than Mr. Clause) the finale brought smoke, lights, bubbles, and confetti as they all sang with joyful enthusiasm.   And of course, I cried.

Abby was so. very. happy.

Here she is with the three other girls in her class after the show.

Thank you, Liceo Boston.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Friend Visit

We feel very blessed that so many of my family members have come to Colombia to visit us.  When we left, so many people from our family, our community, and our church said they wanted to come visit, or they were planning to come visit.  Aaron and I had to concentrate hard to release those comments from becoming expectations.  We told ourselves over and over that the chances of a friend visit was very, very slim, and not to be planned.  

Aaron enjoyed a wonderful and very unexpected visit from a high school friend Beto.  We enjoyed visits from former professors and professionals working with CPT here.  We visited with church about a delegation visit, which did not work.  We continually let go of any expectations of friends coming to visit.

And then she wrote and asked, "When can I come?"

I still could not believe it, until I saw an airplane ticket confirmation number in my inbox.

My good friend Yolanda came to see a bit of our life here, and we had so much fun showing her around!

We went to the produce, flower, and artisan markets.  We saw giant avocados and street performers.

We showed her ciclovia and enjoyed Colombian food.


We met her mother for lunch (with very, very unfortunate food poisoning effects...but a LOVELY lunch at the time).

We visited the school and showed her how to get around on the Transmillenio.


We took the best hiking guides we know in Colombia, Elizabeth and Neil and went for a hike in a páramo.



We visited some really big, beautiful, old churches.

We walked together here.

We spent many afternoons in long, contemplative, genuine conversation, usually accompanied by coffee, tea, and maybe chocolate.  She asked us so many good, guiding questions.  We felt like we got a week's worth of free therapy.

Thank you, sweet friend.  I know it was hard to get here.  I know it took a lot of time and money and special arrangements.  Thank you for knowing this part of our lives.


 P.S.  I am pretty sure that most of these photos are Yolanda's.  They all got mixed into my iphoto account.  So, thank you, Yo, for these photos!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Retreat #8: Villeta

A broken camera and lack of motivation or focus to write has meant a few seriously slow months on this blog.  I finally got my camera back, and I am trying to make the commitment to catch up before 2012 and renew my energy to keep writing and reflecting as this term comes to an end.  So many of us have changed in so many ways.  It is amazing to look back and see it.  And despite some nagging feelings of depression, there is still so much to be grateful for.

November always holds my favorite retreat.  It is a retreat that usually comes after a longish wait (June-November).  It is also the retreat when we celebrate the winter holidays together with our beloved teammates.  This November we went a couple hours outside of Bogota to Villeta, where we stayed in a nice, small town in a hotel on a hill.  There was a lovely pool, a large meeting room, and plenty of young adults to play with our kids.

We enjoyed a good amount of reflection, one quiet evening in our cabin for reading, comfy hammocks, good food (including real vegetarian options for Lydia), and time to reflect together on so much.

When we returned to Bogota, we celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas with an abundance of good and familiar food, including turkey, mashed potatoes, apple pie, and cookies.  We shared the best singing yet of all our time in MCC, combining traditional carols with Spanish praise songs, harmony, instruments, enthusiasm shared by all.

All of these photos are from Elizabeth Miller.  Thank you for sharing them with me!