11.30.2009

Um....question...

...Do you think it's better to eat all of the left-overs really quickly? You know...do all the damage at once and get it over with?

-OR-

Do you think it's best to spread it out, share the wealth of extra calories? Like, eat one piece of left-over pie for dessert each night til it's gone, as opposed to eating two pieces of pie at breakfast, lunch, and dinner until it's gone (usually by dinner).

I'm just wondering because last week, one of the girls in our high-school small group said, "I've NEVER tasted turkey before! And I really, really want to....Someday....*sigh*" And then, she stuck out her lower lip, tilted her head to one side, and looked up at El Chupacabra like, 'Isn't this the saddest face you've ever seen?'

So now we are making a SECOND Thanksgiving feast....*groan*

So, what's your thoery? Should I just bomb my arteries with another volly of trans-fats and cholesteral? Or, do take it slow, make the imminent obesity a long and sweet affair?

I need to know before tomorrow...

11.28.2009

And speaking of Thanksgiving....

...don't you think we eat a lot of really weird stuff on this one day each year?

Every time I savor a bite of pumpkin pie, I marvel over how it came to pass that a giant vegetable was transformed into a delightful dessert. And then I want to kiss whoever it was that decided that pumpkin pie was so good that they were gonna make their sweet potatoes taste just like it, but with pecans on top - glorious.

And you have to wonder who thought Jell-O salad should be a thing. When did they think "you know what would be good in this gelatinous orange goo? Mini-marshmallows...and walnuts...." Jell-O salad is ALWAYS funky. Always. But it's always on the Thanksgiving table, too. After my grandma died, my Mom gave me a square crystal bowl with the stipulation that I was now expected to show up for Thanksgiving dinner with the "Golden Glow" salad in that specific bowl. Golden Glow is a Jell-O salad comprised of Lemon Jell-O, crushed pineapple, and shredded carrots. Not even kidding. I think El Chupacabra is the only one that eats it, and he's not even related by blood. On a side note, a few years ago, somebody asked my Mom if they could please pass "the Golden Shower" (a cause for much snickering to all who understood) and my wonderful, sweet, and very innocent mother has been inadvertently calling it "Golden Shower Salad" ever since...

Also, who decided that it would be awesome to stuff bread cubes up the turkey's butt? I mean, it is awesome. But who thought of it first. And then somebody else, later I assume, was like "we should put some oysters in the butt stuffing. It's not just me...that's weird, right? So is dumping cream of mushroom soup on your green beans. And so is making gravy out of fried guts. It's just weird.

And wonderful.

I love that when God created us, He made us creative. I guess that's part of the whole "made in His image" thing. I mean, duh. And the Thanksgiving meal is a literal smorgasbord of generations of creativity that I think must make Him proud. Or maybe frightened. But as a Father to his children, I have to believe that He looks at Jell-O salad the way I look at some of my kids adventurous albeit alarming creations in the kitchen. Like top ramen with canned tuna and creamed corn. Disgusting? Yes. But did it make me smile just because it came from their own minds and hands? You bet.

What's the "most creative" thing you put on the table this year and why?

For me, it was a feeble recreation of "the Golden Shower". It was terrible. But we can't get yellow lemon Jell-O (say that 3 times fast), so I tried to make my own, which mostly turned out right, but kind of didn't, cause it never got quite firm enough. It had the consistensy of like a thick shampoo with chunks of pineapple and globs of carrots, so basically, I think what I am describing is....lemon flavored vomit. But, truly, it didn't matter. Nobody really eats it anyway. I put it on the table to honor my Mom, and my Grandma with the square bowl, to tip my hat to creativity, and to say thanks to the God that formed it into us.

Now the question is, can I find a creative solution for the giant glistening bowl of left over "Golden Shower"?

11.27.2009

Thankspigging.

I'm full. And I'm on some kinda tryptophan high that's making my eyes point in two different directions. What's that you say? Thanksgiving was what? The day before yesterday??? Well then why do I still feel like a small Asian man after a hot-dog eating contest?

Okay, maybe - and this is just a theory - but, maybe, it's because I haven't actually stopped gorging on turkey and potatoes and pie and biscuits and corn and pie and stuffing and gravy and sweet potatoes and pie and Jell-O (which I made sans prefab box and so turned out to be lacking the "oh" factor, so I call it Jell-meh, instead). Oh, and pie. I mean, I really have no idea, but that could have something to do with why I feel like a bloated walrus...ya know...just maybe...

Can anyone tell me when, exactly, this holiday turned into a raging feast of butter and cream and hydrogenated oil? I mean really, do you think that was the original intention? Like, I just can't see those cute little Pilgrims (wearing sailboat hats made from newspaper) and the Indians (in their grocery bag vests) sitting down and eating like four months worth of food in one meal. And that, my friends, is what I have done in the last 36 hours. Four months worth of food. 36 hours. I'm pretty sure if the they saw me throwing back 237,000 calories in one sitting, our forefathers would haul my jiggling butt out to Plymouth rock, pop me with a musket, scalp me, skin me, and tan my hide to make shoes and crap. And I would deserve it.

So anyway...This year, we had a little Thanksgiving soiree at our house. The first real dinner party we've had in more than 2 years. It was so fun for me, so cool to plan and prepare for. El Chupacabra and I realized that it's something that we really miss.

We had people over all the time in the states, eating, drinking, talking, hanging out until wee hours. Either that, or we were doing the same thing at somebody else place. We spent countless nights sitting around the table at our house, or on the neighbors front porch, or under the arbor and grape-vines at our friends house, or - ooh, one of our most beloved activities - in the hot tub, mingling cigar smoke with steam, talking and looking for the perfect combination of body parts submerged in the too-hot water and body parts exposed to the too-cold air. Eventually, we all found our individual sweet spot and then nobody would move for ages, until the men would suddenly jump from the hot-tub and cannon-ball into the freezing cold pool in a bizarre mix of male bonding and masochism. (By the way, if you have never seen El Chupacabra do a cannon-ball, you have not lived.) It was over wine glasses and coffee cups and through mouths stuffed with tri-tip and cheesecake that passed the intimate details of our lives. That's how we laughed together, teased each other, encouraged one another. Ultimately, that is how we fell in love with each other. It was the romance of deep and lasting friendship. Which is, maybe, why I feel today as though I've been through some kind of divorce.

Making new friends is a lot like dating. But with less awkwardness. And with more clothes. But you still go through all the same phases. First you look for visual appeal, then you hang out in the general vicinity, watching, listening...lurking...to establish if there are shared interests, sense of humor, chemistry, whatever. And then comes the hard part - the invitation. This comes after you've both at one time or another done the whole "We should totally hang out sometime." but before anyone has actually set said time. You've just been flirting with the idea of being *gulp* friends, but now it's time to see if it could actually work.

It goes something like this "Hey, a couple of people are gonna hang out at my house on Thanksgiving. You should totally come. I mean, it's not gonna be any big thing, just like a few people and some turkey and stuff...but you should come...you know...if you want..." If your potential friend says they can't make it you might feel relieved because you're actually kind of nervous that things might not "work out" between you. And if they can come, you go ape-crazy making everything perfectly perfect so you can blow it all off when they walk in the door, "Oh, that? Pshhh, that's really nothing...I've been building scale replicas of 12th century churches out of hors d'oeuvre foods since...like...yesterday... Can I get you a drink?"

And so that is how we ended up having a Thanksgiving dinner party. Kind of. And it was really fun. And there was WAY too much amazing food. Which resulted in WAY too many left-overs! Which is why I am currently, three days later, eating a turkey-mashed-potato-stuffing-cranberry-and-gravy sandwich that is approximately 9 inches tall. And why my entire house smells like a rendering plant (it's something to do with copious amounts of fats and proteins being broken down in the gullets of male species. The smell is....indescribable....).

But the cool part is that after the last "goodnight, let's do this again soon" was said, and all the tupperware was filled up, and after all the dishes were put back in the cupboards, and the dogs were allowed inside to lick up all of the crumbs from a feast well-eaten, after all of that, El Chupacabra and I schlumped onto the couch together, exhausted, and he said "That was really nice." And he was right, it was really nice. Nice to chat and laugh and eat. (And eat and eat.) Nice to learn a bit more about someone else, to see more of who they really are, to hear about where they come from. This is how it began with every single one of my very dearest friends. Like a first date. Except, minus all that fretting over to-kiss-or-not-to-kiss.

I wonder what kinds of friendships were forged around the first Thanksgiving table? If maybe a settler wife and an indian woman connected over corn cobs and game birds and junk. And if the guys compared notes about, like,..man..stuff. They probably never got to smoke cigars together in a hot-tub, which is pretty tragic, but I bet they had other kinds of fun getting to know each other as the years passed. And then they could be like, "Hey, brother Henry, remember that one Thanksgiving, when that one chick ate so much we took her out to Plymouth rock and shot her full of musket balls? She was bleeding mayonnaise or something, right?? Haha...good times, good times." You know, or whatever. The point is; Friendship = Good times.

Oh hey, speaking of mayo and stuff, does anyone know how to clean butter, grease, and gravy fingerprints off a Mac keyboard? I'm just wondering.

11.21.2009

Ask Jamie How Missionaries Do It: Defining the BEST missionary

Dear VWM,
What is your definition of the very BEST missionary? Because that's what I want to be "when I grow up". And please don't say it has anything to do with wearing long denim skirts every day and having kids that are seemingly well-behaved but grow up to be Jesus-hating atheists.
Pretty please let this be the first question you answer in your new blog.

Your faithful follower,
Jenna


Dear Jenna,

First, I want to thank you for being such a faithful follower of The Very Worst Missionary. Second, I want to apologize for adding "Your faithful follower," to your original question, but a girls gotta feel needed and appreciated once in awhile, so I went ahead and took the liberty...hope you don't mind. Third - Wish granted! Your question will be the very first in the brand new "Ask Jamie How Missionaries Do It" segment of this blog. You're welcome.

So you wanna know what kind of person makes a good Christian missionary, huh? Well, in a an awesome twist of irony, our answer comes from the great Eastern Philosopher, Confucius (ok, either him, or that one guy from Buckaroo Banzai), who said this *clears throat*: Wherever you go,...There you are.

That's deep, right? And true, too.....so unbelievably true....*sigh*

Let me explain it for the dumb ones: Whoever you are, whatever strengths and weaknesses you have, all your bad habits, all your amazing talents, all of the ways that you do and do not glorify God in your average everyday life, well, all that stuff is along for the ride, no matter where you live, and no matter what your calling is. So, for example, if you are working as a waitress in Hometown, USA and you're in the habit of finishing off cinnamon rolls with a chaser of vodka and diet pills, and then you feel passionately called into ministry so you pack up and go to work in, lets say, an orphanage for kids with like no eyebrows in Cambodia, you will still be that same person hearing that same little voice that says "Go ahead, eat it...eat a cinnamon roll...eat two...eat six. Oh...and by the way...your ass is enormous...aaand your Mom never loved you..." Now, it's true that, initially, like when you first step off the plane, you may be able to control these impulses because you'll be like "What am I so worried about....these kids don't even have eyebrows!" And that will make you feel all kinds of blessed and stuff. But then, kinda slowly, those old feelings will creep back up, because they've just been lingering there under the surface of excitement and novelty, until you find yourself alone one night in the village's thatch-roofed restaurant, gorging on sweet rice dumplings and throwing back laxatives with a glass of brown tap water. Are you feelin' me?

Dude, wherever you go, there you are. You cannot escape your self.

Are you lazy now? You will be a lazy missionary. You a workaholic? You'll be a workaholic missionary. Manic Depressive? Bipolar? Hypochondriac? Narcissistic? Germophobe? Homophobe? Materialistic? Foodaholic? Liar? Addicted to Facebook? Raging porn addict? Whatever it is...it's hitching a ride to wherever you end up. You don't get to leave it behind. Bummer, huh.

Um, for the record...here is what I'm NOT saying: I am NOT saying that good missionaries don't struggle with sin. We all have junk (I get that!...probably better than most)! And there are A LOT of good missionaries out there who also happen to frequent strip-clubs - or whatever - and hate themselves for doing so, but who are simply stuck in the fight. And then there are even more really good missionaries who are winning their personal battles more and more often. Most of them are probably, despite the things that would hold them back, honoring God and succeeding in the mission given to them. So even very messed up people can turn out to be super decent missionaries. And thank God for that, cause I would be so screwed if that were not the case...

But, the question was how do I define the very BEST missionary.

How I see it is, the very best missionaries are the people who were already doing a pretty good job at life in general before they started serving cross-culturally. In fact, the very best missionary I know isn't a missionary at all. She's just a really cool chick that grabs every opportunity to love the people around her. She is completely generous and so legitimately kind, and at the same time, she's real and transparent and she lets you see her flaws. But what you end up seeing is a person that doesn't hide behind, wallow in, or excuse her error. Instead, she functions through it, above it even, so that while, yes, it is there, it's not the dominant feature of her character. You know what I mean? Oh, and also, this girl moved to freaking Alaska about a year ago and was basically just like "Bring it on, frozen tundra!" and that is just plain bad-ass, plus she bakes an apple pie that makes me weep in pleasure. Not even kidding. But that's not really the point, I guess.

The point is, the very best missionary isn't defined by being a missionary, or working in full-time ministry, or living in a foreign country, or having a bunch of stamps in their passport, or any of the other dumb things that some missionaries love to talk about. The very best would-be-missionary is a high-functioning, socially perceptive, mentally stable, generally cool person who is already all of those things right now as they work as, say, an accountant, or a mechanic, or a stay-at-home-mom, or whatever.

Aaand, On a personal note, I'm kind of wrestling through some of this junk in my own life right now. No, for realsies. I know...I seem so "together" and everything...but I'm pretty much falling apart at the seems right about now due to some of the unmanaged/ignored-for-too-long-junk that I hauled down to Costa Rica in what I like to call the "knap-sack-of-doom". I do not know what the deal is. But I'm thinking maybe a cocktail of medication is in order..ooh, or maybe a cocktail AND medication...now that could fix things right up. No, but seriously, does anybody know what they call Zoloft in Spanish?...anybody?....what about Paxil?..Celexa...er, wait...is that one for depression or erectile dysfunction? I always get those two confused...

11.17.2009

Yet Another Reason to Carry Cash in Costa Rica

The actual title of this post is: Tap His Rear-End, Drop Fifty Bucks, and Get the H-E-Double Hockey Sticks Out of There. But, I thought that some people (like people that don't read this blog) might find it too...I dunno...vulgar, maybe? Well, whatever, I changed it to be a good girl. But, If you are offended, I want you to know that I had originally written "him in the" in place of "his" which even I thought sounded kinda graphic....So, yeah, you're welcome.

Anyhoo.
On Sunday I hopped in the car with my incredible middle child to run over to Office Depot (yes, we have that here). Office Depot is at the mall, and the mall has a grocery store and a bunch of banks and a pharmacy, too, and I needed to hit all of those places So, basically, we were going to the mall to buy bread and pills, and go to the bank, and swing into latino Office Depot (which, by the way, smells exactly like regular Office Depot and that makes me feel all nostalgic and homesick). We drove about six blocks, when I - for the first time in my entire life - had an accident. Not like a pee-your-pants accident (I've actually done that a few times.), like a car accident!

Ok. So here's what happened: Ok. I'm not sure.
Well...see?...Here's the thing - I was doing one of three things when I rolled very slowly into the trunk of some dudes car, and for the life of me, I cannot remember which one. So, I was either fiddling with the radio, and for the record it is in the stupidest spot of all time (at the bottom of the dash, right behind the long stick shifter thingy so that you literally have to lean over and jam your arm behind the gear shift to change the station), or digging in my purse for Burt's Bee's Super Shiny 100% Natural Lip gloss in Sweet Pink, or glancing lovingly toward my incredibly good looking middle son as we talked about important spiritual matters.
As you can plainly see, this accident was not my fault.
But, being the responsible, gentle, grace-filled woman that...ahem...I am, I was prepared to take on this mess, and..I dunno.."make it right". However, I like to think I am nobody's fool, and I was not about to be taken advantage of by a jerk trying to make a quick buck off the dumb gringa that bumped - merely BUMPED - into his car! So, we both get out and he puts on his triangle flashy lights, but I can't find mine so I don't. Now, please remember that this all takes place in Spanish:

VWM (very worst missionary): I am so much sorry! Is your car injured?

DB : I don't know, let's take a look. Do you want me to call the traffic police?

VWM: I don't know. Do we call them? I never meet this situation before. Is the police the thing we need do?

DB: Uuhhh....

VWM: Sorry, my spanish, she's really bad! Ok, um... you need call police at me?

DB, surveying his car (which is a GIANT PIECE OF CRAP!): Well, look, this was just a minor accident, I don't think we need to call the police. If you want, you can just pay me right now for the damage, and we'll call it even.

VWM, looking along his bumper - which has absolutely no sign of damage where my push bars are - but is otherwise scratched, dinged, dented, pitted, rusted, scraped, gouged, and worn from whatever it has experienced in it's life prior to 4 minutes ago when I tapped it, and I'm thinking "I'm not paying for this!", but what comes from my mouth is: I can pay you for injure your car right now? Um, how much?

DB: I think 25,000 colones is enough. (that's like $50) It will cost you a lot more if the police come.

VWM: I need to look in my thing that I carry money in to see if I have any money to give. Give me some seconds.

So, kicking myself for being SO lame, I walk to my car, and dig in my purse - where ironically the first thing I grab is Burt's Bee's, figures! - and I look in my wallet, which I already know is empty cause that's why I'm headed to the bank. I search in my head for all the Spanish I need to tell this guy that he's being unreasonable, that there is clearly no damage to his car, and that if he wants $50 out of me, he will have to go ahead and call the traffic cops. Once I feel confident enough to say all of this, I return to the scene of the crime and I say: I don't have any money with me, is there a bank nearby?

And my brain is like: WHAT?! That's not the PLAN!! We had a PLAN!! Tell him he's a douche! Tell him you didn't hurt his car! Tell him you're NOT GOING TO GIVE HIM $50!! Tell him, NOW!!!

DB: Yes, there is one close. Do you want to follow me?

My Brain: SAY NO! Say you would rather wait for the police than let him get away with suckering you into giving away $50!

VWM: Yeah, Ok. I'll follow.

My Brain: WHAT the?!?! Oh-Em-Gee!!! You SUCK at this!! C'Mon woman, GET IT TOGETHER!!
So I get back in my car, kicking myself, and as I'm following him, I can see he's on his cellphone and I'm pretty much positive that he's calling some of his scary friends to let them know that he's leading us back into some dark alley where they will be waiting to rob us as soon as we pull in. I'm ready to defend my sons life, ready to fight, ready to run somebody over, but, then we pulled up to a bank and I'm just like, Oh. As I walk up to the ATM, a very nice lady who is helping her preschooler take a leak on the wall of the bank, tells me that the ATMs are out of order.

My Brain: Good! Now stick with the plan!! Go tell him you WON'T PAY!!

VWM to the BD: The ATMs no work.

My Brain: Good Now you tell em'!

VWM: I have $40 in Dollars in my car, will you take that?

My Brain: GAH!!! You IIIDIOT!!

DB: Sure. Oh, and try to be more careful in the future, sweetheart. *winks*

VWM: Uh, ok. Thanks. Bye.

My Brain: BLEEEEEEEEEP!!! BLEEEPITY BLANKETY BLEEP BLEEP mother BLEEEEPER!!

So actually it only cost me $40 in the end...hehe, no pun intended. In a nutshell, that is "How to get in a minor/non-existent car accident in a foreign country". I would love to wrap this baby up tight with some biblical principal or moral high-ground....but...I got nothin'...Sorry.

On a side note, if you are the praying type; I'd be extremely grateful for your prayers. I am exhausted. Beyond exhausted! I think it's because I went without my stupid thyroid medication for like a week...oops. Anyway, so if you think of it...that would be cool. Thanks.

And on another side note, a couple of people actually solicited my advice after my last post (crazy/weird/sad/hilarious, I know) and I will be posting those questions and answers very very soon. So stay tuned for Ask Jamie How Missionaries Do It!

11.12.2009

Got a problem? The Very Worst Missionary can help!

I'm thinking about starting a new blog, an anonymous blog, a blog where I can say mean but true things about people that I hate.
Of course, I wouldn't actually do this... mostly because I'm afraid of being sued for libel, and fired, and unfriended on Facebook. And then it's maybe not the most productive use of my time, you know, as a Missionary and all. And also, I don't think God would like it much. So there's that.
It's just that sometimes people do things...super. retarded. things...and I reeeeally want to tell you. Ok, what I really want to do is tell THEM, the stupid people, how stupid they are. But I can't. Ok, I could. But I shouldn't. Oh man... sometimes I am so in tune with God's will, it's like, crazy! Did you see that? That was right out of 2 Cor 10:5b (ok, I made up the "b" part, but that's the part that applies here). I am good.
Oh my gosh, I know what I can do, I've totally got it - An advice column! Seriously, think about it. I could not be more qualified to give people advice or, if you prefer, "wise counsel". Check it out, here are the top 10 reasons I should have my own advice column:

1. I am a freaking missionary. You have no idea how smart that makes me.

2. Being just slightly, in the tiniest way, older than he was in his 'God as Man' years, I now have a bit more life experience than Jesus.

3. I have been married to El Chupacabra for HALF my years. That should count for something.

4. I was pretty much a child bride, BUT, before that I dated a lot of horrible guys, and I did a lot of horrible things with those guys, so that, more or less, makes me an authority on dating and all of the icky awkward things that go with it.

5. I have 3 kids and they are all...um...still alive...

6. My child rearing experience includes raising smart kids, dumb kids, and totally average kids, also good, bad, and average athlete kids, and gay, straight, and straight-but-loves-show tunes kids (although the jury is still out on this one, so I'm just speculating. And, I hate the word speculating, just sayin'.)

7. Umm....hold on..I'll think of something....

8. I just figured out how to arrange the pillows on my bed as a sort of throne of blogging comfort. It's amazing. I'd like to use it as often as possible.

9. Also, I am considered a bit of an expert in these areas: Teen Pregnancy, Booze, Bad house keeping, Doing stuff when you should be doing other stuff, Sarcasm, Fear that the children will write a memoir, Bad timing, Being Late, Looking at shoes when everyone else is praying, Travel, Food, Cross-cultural mortification, Wishing someone dead for no good reason, Wishing for gummy bears, Wishing I had more money for no good reason, Self-deprecation, Angst, Teen angst, Mom angst, Wife angst, Christian angst, Missionary angst, Wishing I was incredibly "hot", Living in a faraway land, Daydreaming, Giving the stink-eye, and Eating disorders of all sorts, including, but not limited to; I-wish-I-had-a-tape-wormexia, Someone-once-told-me-I-have-"Jew-camp-arms"-and-I-liked-itimia, and I-got-caught-pouring-Cookie-Crisp-directly-into-my-mouth-from-the-box-at-1-a.m.ania.

But, here is the very best part, this is so great:

10. We can call it, drum roll please....... Ask Jamie How Missionaries Do It !!!! That's great, right?! Like so incredibly perfect, isn't it? Jeez, it just makes me smile....

So this is gonna be epic. The best Christian advice column on the interwebs (if "best" means "hopefully not most offensive")! Send your questions, conundrums, and humiliating private life issues to Jamie the Very Worst Missionary, steve.jamie@gmail.com, post-haste my friend. We're gonna get your junk all cleaned up pronto!

11.10.2009

i love you kid, but not THAT much

Today I went to the Precario. I told a little girl that I still had the picture she made for me two weeks ago in my purse so that I could carry it with me and remember to pray for her. She liked this so much that she threw her skinny little arms around my neck and kissed me. Like full on the mouth. Which is really so so so sweet. Unfortunately...I wasn't really expecting it, wasn't ready for it, and so my mouth was kinda...open....so it's more like she kissed my teeth. Actually, it's more like she wiped her runny nose on my teeth. Which is really so so so gross.

So, instead of feeling all warm and feel-good-fuzzy inside, I'm just all creeped out. Like my mouth has become a ground zero festering with some new strain of I don't know what but I'm sure it's terrible...and incurable...*shudder*...

Perspective and the Hairy Grease Monster.

Do you ever clean the top of your refrigerator? Does the top of your fridge ever even cross your mind? If, right now, you're thinking 'What kind of idiot wastes time cleaning where nobody can see?', I am in 100% agreement.

However, if you are thinking 'Well, of course I clean above my fridge, what kind of pig wouldn't?', then, you and I?, um yeeeah, we're not friends. You should go be friends with my husband, El Chupacabra, in fact, maybe you should marry him. And then, the two of you can live happily ever after, just as soon as that gooey layer of dirty, fuzzy, greasy sludge (which has accumulated by some mysterious act of precipitation that actually causes it to rain olive oil and dog hair right on top of your Frigidaire) has been laboriously scraped off with a metal spatula.
I wish you both the best... really, I do...

Okay. You do know I'm not serious, right? I would never give my man up! Especially not to some Martha Stewart wannabe, neat-freak. I need him. Seriously, I need him. And, yes, I do mean that in the most pathetic, incapable, anti-feminist, I can't do it because I'm a girl and my identity is all wrapped up in a man (and it's not Jesus) kind of way. I NEED him. And, I love him. I love El Chupacabra even more than I loved Corey Haim in The Lost Boys. Yes - that much! And I'm pretty sure that he kinda likes me, too. Mostly.

This is why you may be shocked to know that sometimes we absolutely cannot stand each other.

Now, usually, we have the good sense to not like each other at completely different times. So, like, when he really wants to die of a stroke every time I enter the room, I think he is just the bee's knees -Or- When I would prefer a slow walk through an automatic car wash (the $12 Deluxe with Rocker Panel Blast and Hot Wax) to the thought of hanging out with him for those same seven minutes, he thinks that I am pretty much awesome. The beauty of this system, is that it allows one of us the opportunity to be annoyed, frustrated, bored, disappointed, or whatever, without resulting in a marital Cold War, because the other one is happy, satisfied, enjoying this marriage. Does that make sense? Some wise soul once said "The key to a long marriage is never be angry at the same time." I can really get behind that.

But, somewhere along the line, our cycle has shifted. Instead of skating through life on opposite ends of the ups and downs, we have found ourselves either up, or down together. It's a little bit like we've become adolescent twin-sisters. And once a month we are ready to claw each others eyes out.

I think this has something to do with us being missionaries.

If you've ever met a missionary, you probably already know that the word "missionary" is almost synonymous with "douchebag"...almost. BUT, we have met and gotten to know enough really genuine, cool people who are currently serving in missions to be able to say with integrity that this stereotype will soon be meeting it's end. But, my point is that I don't think our "problem" is a result of our occupation, in itself, but more a result of living under the pressures of full-time ministry, foreign culture, financial strain, and all sorts of other stresses that we didn't have before and are still a bit unaccustomed to. We have come to find out that, basically, every area of life that you suck at will be intensified on the mission-field. Nice, huh. And one of the things we suck at the most is understanding each others perspective.

I tell you what, perspective is one of those things that can mess. you. up!

See, from my perspective, it would be a waste of time to clean the top of the fridge. No one can see the top of the fridge!....except...for El Chupacabra, who is 6' 6". I know - what a freak, right? Totally not my fault that HE is abnormally large. But, he is. And because he is, his view of the world is drrraaaastically different than mine.

So much of our junk, lately, has been about us being two very different people, who love each other intensely, but are having a really hard time appreciating each others perspective. Ironically, we spend all day trying to do that with our Costa Rican friends, neighbors, and co-workers. I am constantly trying to see the world through the lens of Central America, always trying to figure out the hows and whys of the way things are done. And even when I'm not able to understand it because I would do such-and-such so very differently, even when I think something is downright stupid, I play along. I respect that this is what I need to do to be a part of this place, to fit right, and to meet the needs of the people I am trying so hard to love.

But sometimes I forget to do the same at home. I forget to take into account that our perspectives could not differ more, El Chupacabras and mine, and that because of not just height, but gender, childhood, education, experience, and even natural gifts and talents, we have differing points of view, and hugely different hopes and needs. And instead of respecting those differences and playing along in an effort to fit right in his life, I try really hard to make him see it my way. Either that, or, I don't do anything, I just sigh and roll my eyes a lot. (Here's a little something I've picked up over the years: If you want your spouse to love you, or even like you an eensy-weensy bit, do NOT roll yours eyes at them when either of you are, for real, mad! Oh, and don't flip them off behind their back either, because one day they'll see your reflection in the TV or something and it will be baaaad!)

I cannot see that weird gunk growing above the freezer. And because I can't see it, I don't really have any need or desire to take care of it. But. I have to consider that every time El Chupacabra goes to the fridge for a snack (usually while I am making dinner - but that's a 'my perspective' thing, so never mind) he comes face to face with that nasty layer of grossness. And, in the end, I really really really, more than anything else on this planet, want for El Chupacabra to be comfortable in his home, with me, and to feel loved and appreciated, to know that he is valued beyond words, and that an effort is being made to see things his way. And, also, to not feel like every time he walks into the kitchen he's about to be eaten by a hideous monster made of fried chicken grease and dead moths.

So, it looks like I'm gonna have to pull out a step ladder every once in while and take in the world from a different altitude. Ya know? See things another way. To do more to meet the needs of this truly amazing man. A man who's perspective, who's view of the world, and God, and our place in all of it, has changed me and blessed me in ways I could never have imagined, never dreamed, never wished for. Yeah, he is that awesome, so go ahead, be a little jealous. I don't mind a bit.

Oh yeah, and in case you are, like, a dumby, or a moron, or something - I'm not judging, just saying: There has never been any mention in our house of the top of the fridge - that is merely a metaphor for much bigger, more important, and personal things. Get it? Huh....huh?? Pretty clever, huh.

11.08.2009

Man, I feel like a tool.

A couple of days ago I got a surprising and kinda sad email from a friend of ours.

This guy and his wife are missionaries, too. No, no,..it's okay, they're cool. They went to language school, here in Costa Rica, at the same time we did. We let their kid ride a skateboard in the house, which ended with him cracking his chin open on the floor, and a trip to the ER for stitches....aahh...good times. Oh, and one time, El Chupacabra had some guys over for, like, a Poker game or something. Or, maybe it was to play Risk (yes, I married one of those guys). So Anyway... On nights such as this, we customarily provide "guys night basics"; beer, soda, chips, salsa, beer, layered bean dip, fresh guacamole, beer, random munchies, fresh baked cookies (my contribution), and maybe some beer. But everybody is welcome to bring their own goodies. So, a couple of guys brought their favorite chips, somebody's wife sent brownies. That kinda stuff - The kind of stuff you'd expect when a bunch of guys are sitting around a table, talking about whatever guys talk about, and just generally stinkin' up the place. But this guy, the one who sent me the email, he walked in - for real - with two, one liter cartons of CHOCOLATE MILK! It makes me laugh just typing it. Not even kidding. That's when we knew for sure that we liked him. Cause that takes huevos! We have a deep appreciation, in our house, for people who don't give a crap what anybody else thinks.

Alrighty, so they've been in Central America with their two adorable little boys and their baby girl for the past two years. If you want to go to their house, first, go to Guatemala. Then go as far out into the middle of nowhere as you think is physically possible, and then go a little bit farther, until you see five exceptionally tan, ridiculously good-looking blonds who could only be one of two things; Vikings..or..Canadians. In this case, they are Canadians. I highly recommend Canadians as friends and I don't care what SouthPark says. Canadians are the nicest people on Earth. (I know, right? Who knew??) So when you find them, my awesome Dutch Reform friends, tell them I said "hey". But not just, like, "hey". Tell them ghetto style, like, "Jamie says 'Heeeaaay'!!". Thanks.

Oh, but if you're gonna go, you better go real soon. Because they're quitting!

They are leaving Guatemala...forever. That's what his email said. It said "If you are the very worst missionary, we are the very, very worst because we are quitting...we are unmissionarizing ourselves and leaving Guatemala forever! No joke."

Here's a little confession: When I read that, I was simultaneously heartbroken, both for them and for the community that will lose them....and also, suuuper jealous, I mean waaaay too jealous that they get to go back to live where things are so easy. And so this is the part where I feel like a giant TOOL, because, basically, my life is not that hard. I mean, yes, I do seem to be a magnet for weird, bizarre, slightly unfortunate, and costly, but minor disasters. (Speaking of which - You should NEVER back your giant car out of your tiny garage while the rear passenger door is open! It will nearly rip your door off. And also take a ghastly chunk out of the stucco. And, you SHOULD train your kids to A) close the flippin' door, or, B) mention that said door is OPEN before it slams into the wall. BEFORE. Ok, deep breath. That's it, let it aaaallll out.... ) Gah...my whole point is that these very good missionaries, these cool people, went to live in the bfe mountains of Guatemala, where there are no stores, and no restaurants, and like, no electricity, even. They went full of hope, and faith, and love, ready to serve a very poor community by helping to better it's schools!

But, instead, they found themselves virtually alone, limited in any ability to make an impact (in large part, due to the damaging "ministry" of the missionaries that had come before them), and shielding their children from dangers - like for real dangers - that they hadn't anticipated. In the end, they made the decision to get out, leave before something truly terrible happens. They've decided to honor Gods call, to put their first ministry first. They've made the tough decision to leave the mission-field in order to save their family. That's a bold move. I told you, this guy's got cojones! (And I didn't even mention how his wife had a baby while we were in language school and, I swear, she was back in classes like three days later!! Talk about tough!)

And while all that was happening - while they were struggling, and worrying, and living a truly sacrificial life....I was blogging about lizards in my pants, and fart-pillows, and waiting in line at the bank. Jeez...what a tool... So, I'm sorry if I've come off as a little over the top in the drama department while there are really amazing people out there suffering.

I'm sad for my friends. And I'm happy for them. Sad that things didn't really pan out the way they had hoped and dreamed, but happy that they were able to follow God's call, both when He clearly called them in to Guatemala, and again, as He is clearly calling them out. I cannot even put to words how much respect I have for these two people - so I won't even try. But I hope that when they get on the plane that takes them back to Canada, they will know that they are admired for a job well done.

Ok, one more quick confession: On a personal note, I am very happy that they are going back to Canada, eh, cause now we can go visit them there, eh! I just want to go and see what it's like where everyone is nice all the time, eh.

Sorry...that was...ahhh. See what I mean? Tool!

11.06.2009

DIY Awesome: From tiny prison cell to preteen hipster lounge.

This all happened because this happened first. So you might wanna read that one, but whatever...

I must start by informing you that I am totally unqualified for DIY projects. In the states, I relied heavily on just two things for all of our home decor and design needs - IKEA and Money. In the glaring absence of both of those things, I decided to try pulling together a room all by myself. Painting, building furniture, and noodling with whatever I could get my hands on for cheap/free.

Here it is, boys and girls: DIY Awesome
Try not to be jealous...

Before:

The room is so small that this is the most I could fit in a pic. It's four walls, a window and a door, measuring aboout 8 feet by 7 feet. The goal is to make it into a bedroom for my nearly 12 year old. Soooo.....

All great projects start with a great outfit:
I chose this little number for it's comfort, durability, and "no fuss" appearance and because I slept in it.

Next, you need to gather your supplies. You'll need:

Two capable assistants.
A green ladder, a roll of tape, and a cup of coffee. (Technically, you only need the ladder to hold the tape and the coffee, so if you can't get your hands on one, no worries.)
And that's really all you need!

But, you may decide (as I did) that it will go faster if you also use these tools that I call "things for painting other things".
I cannot stress the importance of having all of these items be color coordinated (shown here in hues of green). This is imperative! If you don't do this, your room will be ugly... and I mean hideous!! And please note the magic wand to the right of that square- ish paint thingy, that is for stirring the paint. Only a magic wand that you find at the bottom of your umbrella stand will do. Steer clear of those ruler looking things they give you for free when you buy your paint at HomeDepot! They will make your room ugly.

Ok, so now you're ready to begin:

Have an assistant tape off important crap and wooden stuff:

Now just paint...like this:
Paint about this much:
Then have a big fat fit because you hate, I mean HATE the color and it's SO not the same as the little two inch paper that you asked for in really bad spanish at the store that's just like Walmart, but not.

Then, drop your roller thingy in the tray thingy and tell your assistants that you're going to go have a glass of wine and take a nap. If they try to remind you that it's only 9am just shrug your shoulders and walk away. If /when all of your wine bottles are empty, drink a beer (sheesh...I'm only kidding! *awkward laughter*):

When you wake up, feeling refreshed, you will find that your assistants finished the paint, brought in the bed, and handled the clean up. Good girls!:

Whew - That was pretty easy! Now we can build a little shelf thingy!!

First, sit on the couch for a couple of hours to create a nice indentation which will hold all the little pieces-parts:

Then, have your assistant review the instructions really well:

Yes, you see correctly that we will be putting together a "CLASSIC". A classic TV stand, made from classically laminated particle board, and metal tubing in classic black! Bet you can hardly wait to see this beauty that I picked up at the Costa Rican version of BigLots for just 7,ooo colones (which is like 13 bucks). Aw yeeeah!!

While in process, I noted that if you turned this baby upside down and slapped a couple of stroller wheels on the sides, it could double as a bag-lady cart. Um, Score!:
When it comes to the screws, you're probably thinking this:


WRONG! I'm pretty sure THIS is how the pros do it:

Yup...that looks about right....:

Finding good help can be a challenge. This one tried to get away with an important part of the project (the long black screw at the bottom of the pic). After I fired her, she pooped on my lawn. Not classy, lady! Not classy!!:

By some miracle, we ended up with an actual, functional bedroom, complete with:

Under-bed storage for clothes and junk.


A "Classic" shelf displaying the IKEA boxes I stole from the office, the fruit basket I stole from under the lemons, and a framed black and white of a lovely couple I have never met, but who are clearly, madly in love.


A nifty, artsy-fartsy thing, I made with $1.50 frames and cool pics of letters I stole off the internet.



And a pile of these little geometric pieces of shell that I bought because I loved the colors but I have no clue what I'm gonna do with them, so they will most likely end up in an IKEA box under the picture frames that say "Dylan" cause I'm pretty sure I've run out of mojo for all things DIY and therefore will never actually finish this room. Do I care? Am I dissappointed that I'll never see this mediocre masterpeice completed??

Well. I was gonna answer that question with a picture of Dylan, laying on the bed in his sweet new room, grinning from ear to ear. You know, like to say Look at how happy that kid is with things just the way they are! But then I asked Dylan to pose for the pic and he was basically like "No way! And when are you gonna hang those frames? Hey, what are these shells for? You know what this room needs....."

11.04.2009

Neurosis and their missionaries.

Once, my friends little girl and I were playing, having a tea party or I don't know what, and she noticed a ring that I was wearing which prompted her to give my hand a thorough examination. Of course she immediately keyed in on my thumb which looked a little bit like it had been grated with a cheese grater and then scalded in a pot of boiling water and then chewed by a baby panda. She gently pulled it very close to her face, utterly fascinated by the ragged red flesh. "Do you have a ow-y?", she asked in her little cartoon voice and genuine three-year-old concern. "Oh. No sweetie, I don't have an ow-y. I have a 'neurosis'."

"Oookay - Tea parties over!", called my friend, who had been listening to our interaction from the kitchen. She came in, shaking her head and looking at me like 'Who says that to a preschooler?'. After her daughter was out of ear-shot, I used the classic and irrefutable Christian defense of "What! Did you want me to lie to her?". "Um, Yes." was her response.

"Ok. Alright. Next time I'll lie to her. And then she'll ask me how I got a ow-y, and then I will be forced to, either, further lying to her by making up some wild story about how both of my thumbs got run over by regional transit light rail while I was trying to save a drunken bum's pokey little puppy from being squished by a train as it searched for scraps of food between the tracks, OR, tell her the truth. Which. Is that I compulsively pick at the flesh around both of my thumbnails until they appear to have been in a bar fight with a meat grinder."

She said I should stick with the first story. And that I should adopt that story, and use it whenever anyone looks at me crooked because of "those nasty thumbs". That's what she called them.

Whatever. She has junk, too. I happen to know that she absolutely refuses to drink out of a restaurant glass with her bare lips, like, without a straw, because it creeps her out to think that a stranger may have put their lips on that same spot, AND, that she has only worn one color of underwear for the past 6 years, one color - and its kind of an ugly color. So she can act like I'm a total freak, but I say we all have some little bit of jankyness that we carry around with us. Everybody has "issues". Ok, I have lots of them. But I prefer the term "Neurosis" because it sounds so serious and technical, and it makes people nervous. According to Wiki though, neurosis isn't really a word anybody uses anymore. So that's kind of a bummer. Oh, but get this, this is what it says under "Effects and Symptoms":

"...anxiety, sadness or depression, anger, irritability, mental confusion, low sense of self-worth, etc., behavioral symptoms such as phobic avoidance, vigilance, impulsive and compulsive acts, lethargy, etc., cognitive problems such as unpleasant or disturbing thoughts, repetition of thoughts and obsession, habitual fantasizing, negativity and cynicism, etc. Interpersonally, neurosis involves dependency, aggressiveness, perfectionism, schizoid isolation, socio-culturally inappropriate behaviors, etc."

So I'm thinking about pasting that definition into the "About Me" section on my profile.

No, but for real, I'm gross. I know this. But I cannot help that even the slightest feeling of dry skin or the tiniest little bump on or around my finger tips makes me go berserk. It's almost subconscious, the constant picking, and plucking and biting at nails. Trust me. If I could have lovely hands, not scary hands, hands that evoked femininity and grace, I would choose those hands! My husband, El Chupacabra, has actually said, in reference to my tender digits, "Get away from me with those bloody stumps!" That's not cool.

But my point here, is that we all do something that kinda sets us apart - whether any one notices, or not, we all have little mannerisms or thought processes that creep into our daily lives. I do love to watch people when they are listening intently to someone, or when they are concentrating really hard on something, or when they're bored but confined, like in a classroom or at a conference, or...ahem..at church. That's when you really get to see a persons natural bent toward life in general, their "neurosis", and it is fascinating.

In language school, there was a huge concentration of people (already semi-freaks just by the fact that they were missionaries) subjected to both the pressures of a classroom environment and the transition into a foreign culture. And it was like the perfect storm for compulsive behaviors. A colorful display of habits, and twitches, mixed in with a few major personality disorders. It was awesome, here are some of my favorites:

There was the "finger sniffer". A guy who cut his finger and got some kinda rotten infection, and then spent the rest of the semester holding it under his nose, until one day I was like, "Dude, are you smelling that thing?". Then he mostly stopped doing that. And I want to say, he was a seriously nice guy, an all around good guy. Except for the finger sniffing thing.

The "googly eyed chick" was some girl, or woman I guess - a mom with like 5 kids or something - who would put the top half of her hair up in - not kidding- two Princess Leia buns, right over her ears, and she left the bottom half just..down... It was, I don't know what it was... But after you got over her hair, you were pretty much like, "What's wrong with her eyes?" cause of the googly thing she did with them that I attribute to some kind of stress induced tick.

And then there was the "butterfly eater". (Now, I understand that this goes way beyond the realm of, like, "Haha, yeah, we all have little weird stuff that we do, hahaha. I get that.") So I was sitting outside at a table with this guy once, and a butterfly came and landed on it. And - I could not even make this up! - this guy leans in real close, opens his mouth wide, and slurps up that butterfly! THEN, he sits back in his chair, opens his mouth real big, and the butterfly flies off the tip of his tongue. Just flies away. So I'm like stunned. Right? Horrified into silence. And the guy says, "Yeah, I've been conducting an experiment to see whether things will go in your mouth easier than they'll go in your hand. You'd be amazed at what will run away if you try to catch it with your hand, but that same creature will go straight into your mouth if you get close enough." Like a week later, I saw him chasing a gecko around the trunk of a palm tree with his face, mouth gaping open, hands folded behind his back. For. Real.

Those are just a few examples of many. So many. At first I was all freaked out that all of these weirdos were gonna scatter to the ends of the Earth proclaiming the gospel for Jesus. El chupacabra and I had many a conversation regarding the sad state of missions in the world and the scary kinds of people that were being sent by the church. As if we were somehow different or... better....

Of course, all it took was a visual of my constantly irritated, always icky looking thumbs to see that we aren't all that different, the finger sniffer, the eye googler, and me (I maintain, however, that I was, and am, all sorts of different from the butterfly eater!). We were all there for the same reason, and that was to obey the same God. To put Glory in the right place. To use our varying gifts, strange personalities, and yes, even our wacky neurosis to connect with people that only we can connect with because of our uniqueness. And then to use those connections to build friendships that would be significant and enduring.

In the end, it takes all types. Not one of us, alone, could bridge the gap between the world and the church. But I take great satisfaction in knowing that God can, and will, still use me in this great effort. Bad habits, offensive personality, and general lameness aside, I still get to be a tiny part of it all. Which is scary. And cool...

11.02.2009

Jamie the Very Worst Spanish Speaker

My Spanish is freaking awesome. If "freaking awesome" means "completely horrible".

This is how I speak Spanish (I'm writing it in English so that you'll have a really good feel for what the people I talk to experience.) This conversation really took place at church yesterday names have been changed:

VWM (very worst missionary): "Hi, Hector."


Hector: "Hi Jamie, how are you? Hey, can you help with the kids in Sunday school today?"


VWM: "Sure. Yes, of course. Wait, what? Can I what?"


Hector: "Can you be the assistant for the Sunday school teacher?"


VWM: "Oh, SUNDAY school! Yes, I can....what? Can I do what for Sunday school?


Hector: "Can you help the teacher?"


VWM: "Yeah, sure. Wait...are you asking can I BE teacher? I can't teach....I don't speak Spanish."


Hector: "No, no, it's ok. There is already a teacher, do you know Enrique?"


VWM: "I don't know. Is that, like, a person?"

Hector: "Yes. That's his name. See that guy over there? That's him. He's gonna teach the class, all you would have to do is help him by taking the refreshment up at 11:15."

VWM: "You want me to take a refrigerator up?"


Hector: "No, the refreshment..the snack. Do you know what 'cookies' are? You will take the 'cookies' up to the kids...for them to eat (he holds his fingers up to his lips and fake chews in the universal sign for eating). At 11:15."


VWM: "Oooooh, food. Yes! I can take the food the the kids at... when?"


Hector: "11:15"

VWM: "Ok, eight, nine, ten, eleven... Eleven, right?


Hector: "Fifteen. Eleven Fifteen."

VWM: "Ok, got it! Refrigerators, upstairs to the kids in Sunday class at 11:15!"


Hector: "Uh, yeah.... Thanks. It's that the girl that was going to do it didn't come this morning. So thanks for helping."


VWM: "Yes, I happy I help with refrigerators any time need them."


Hector: "Ok.... thanks. Hey, this is the teacher, Enrique. Enrique, this is Jamie, she's going to bring the snack up to the kids."


Enrique: "Hi, nice to meet you."


VWM: "Hello. You're welcome. I am going to carry the re..ref...refigidators...ah..I don't know the word...but I am going to bring for those children in 11:15. Ok?"


Enrique (looking at Norman who's nodding his head up and down to show him what to say): "Yes, Ok. See you later."


So then, like five minutes later, I'm getting a cup of coffee:

Silvia: "Hi Jamie!"


VWM (like a robot): "Hello. How are you? I am well. Thank you."


Silvia: "Good...uh... Ok, I was supposed to take the snack up for the kids this morning. I was running a little late, but I'm here now, so I can still take care of the snack. Ok?"


VWM: "Yes. Of course. Wait, what?"


Silvia: "You don't need to take the snack to the kids. I will do it. (she does the eating signal while shaking her head 'no')"


VWM: "Ooooh, ok. Norman me asked to take..up...it... I don't know....but now you take up it?"

Silvia: "Uh-huh, I'm going to take the snack up so you don't have to."


VWM: "Ok, wait, so WHO is taking up it?"


Silvia: "I am."

VWM: "So I am not..... Right?"


Silvia (smiling and backing away): "Right. That is exactly right. Ok, Seeyalater!"



Can you imagine? Seriously, even I don't wanna be friends with me...