Never-Ending Transition

Transitions come in all kinds of timelines. Some are pretty defined like when you move up a grade level at school. Some others are so personal that it’s hard to pin point how long they will take to complete (or if they’d ever be completed at all).

As you know by now, I moved from Michigan to Pennsylvania. This change and all what it has entailed has definitely been one of my top topics of conversation these days. Frankly, it is pretty hard to avoid talking about it, considering all the energy that it takes from my every day.

I guess as far as the kids go, things are moving along. They have found direction by being in school. We have found some extra-curricular activities of their liking. We have their doctors, dentists, a Spanish tutor for the summer months, and even a few reliable baby sitters. Even if they aren’t completely adapted yet, they have definitely made a good transition and continuously make progress in their assimilation. My son has even embraced the local love for the NFL team, the Eagles (and what better year than this one to do so?).

Although I would love to say that I am also assimilating quickly, I still find myself in the state of waiting that I was when I posted some time ago that I just needed to chill out while my metamorphosis was going on. I guess the time to come out of my chrysalis is not here quite yet.

In this period of waiting, however, I have challenged myself to practice patience. I have put “myself out there” by attending a few mom blind-dates. In the process, I have met great people and have found that my calendar keeps getting things added to it all the time. I am close to feeling as active and involved as I was at home. Home in Michigan, that is.

The transition also showed me how much of a Michigander I really am. I guess Michigan is where I assimilated into the U.S. culture, where I get quite a bit of my English-speaker accent and where I lived many winters buried deep in snow. My tribe is there and how I miss them! I was in-the-know back there, an active member of the community, the kind of person you could ask about any local happenings.

Here I know nothing, relying completely on my neighbor and a few other friends. They are the ones reminding me to sign the kids up for their activities, the ones who keep me informed of the places to go and the activities to do. I’m lucky if I don’t get lost at least once every day while driving places. This transitioning is both a humbling and exasperating process.

Overall, though, I think I’m doing pretty well. Have I turned the corner? No, I don’t even know if the corner is close by. However, my whole family is growing closer. We are having fun exploring our new surroundings. And we have learned to be ever so mindful when we drive around and when we visit every new place as we take everything in.

So I guess I will end this by saying that I have no idea when my transition will end (if at all), but I’m here giving it my best shot.

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A Splash of Color

We have been at our new house 9 weeks now and the adaptation process has taken a quick turn for the better. As the parent staying home with the kids and in charge of helping them find activities that they enjoy, it isn’t easy to turn the attention inwards and figure out what is that I need during this period.

As you may have read, at the beginning, it felt like I was living in someone else’s house. I had the feeling of being in a vacation rental where nothing was just right for my family. My husband was not in love with the new space either (even though he was the one who picked it). So at least I wasn’t alone in this sentiment.

I don’t know if knowing that I wasn’t the only one mourning our previous home helped me or worsen things. What I did know is that being the obsessive, Type A personality, overachievers that we both are, we were not just going to sit by waiting for the love for this new house to grow in us.

So we teared up magazine pages, went to furniture stores, dove into decorating blogs and finally decided to call in some painters to switch things around… dramatically, I have to add. My husband was absolutely convinced that paint was all we needed to improve things but I was skeptical. I didn’t think that some color here and there would have the magic we needed to turn this house from “theirs” into “our new home”.

Nonetheless, I was pretty happy to pick out the colors because having Mexico in my heart, I knew that bright and bold would at least make the house a feel little bit better, a little bit more like us.

The crew came in hauling all their drops, ladders, brushes and paint cans. Nothing overly exciting to see, I thought, but with every room they have covered in a splash of color, I have grown to care for this house more and more.

First the light green and the blue, then the silver grey and the peachy. The cozy spot by the foyer in teal; the formal dining gold. I have seen the magic happening in front of me in the last three weeks making the house more ours. Going from colonial and classic to mid-century modern and trendy. This explosion of color has turned out to be the inspiration we needed to find the right furniture for the right spaces and to start calling this house our home.

I’m excited to see the transformation continue to evolve.

Friendships Are Made in Unexpected Ways

By now you probably know that friendship is an intrinsic part of my life. That is why one of the most challenging things of this move out-of-state was leaving my friends, my different networks, my community, my tribe.

It takes a lot to cultivate those relationships and even more so when we are apart so I’ve been moping about on-and-off these first weeks in Pennsylvania. Then of course, as soon as you stop thinking about it, the universe seems to sense what you were in need of and surprises you with it.

Last week something pretty cool and rather unusual happened to me as I finished a yoga class in high spirits. I was headed for the showers at the gym, distracted and thinking of the day’s to-do list in my head. I forgot my shampoo and when I returned to fetch it, I saw a shopping bag from a Mexican department store on the bench!

I looked up in search for the owner and ventured the question: ¿Eres mexicana? (are you Mexican?) and yes! Of course she was, and she belongs to a big community of Mexicans living in this state, and she has children the ages of mine, and she stays at home. So yes! I had found the holy grail of friendship as the newby in town. How lucky and how unexpected but how welcomed this encounter has been for me.

Naturally, I’m very excited to getting to know her. I also, once again, was reminded that it takes time to get adjusted and is just matter of exercising patience and to be attuned to what the universe throws at you.

Every Chaos Finds Its Order

As the boxes have been unpacked in our new home, I find myself constantly arranging and rearranging things. I still don’t find my way around the new house, much less around the new city.

I long for so many things of my hectic routine of the past. I miss the vast network I had around me. I also miss having adequate furniture and a place for everything in the house.

Still mourning many things, I am reminded that this is a clean slate. A revival of sorts. The opportunity of truly find the things that I want to do without the social obligations acquired through time.

I’m living a process of metamorphosis that hopefully will conclude with me growing a beautiful pair of wings that would take me places.

The problem is that I want so many things to be in place at the same time, that I’m not sure I’m ready to make my chrysalis and just patiently wait in there for things to take their natural course.

It’s so hard to live in constant chaos. Perhaps that is my main lesson here. To learn to let go, to practice patience, to slow down and wait for things to settle on their own.

Two different friends told me the exact message yesterday: be patient, it takes about a year before one settles in a new place. Then before bed, I read a quote on a friend’s Facebook wall: “Every chaos finds its order”.

I felt like the universe was conspiring to help me let go.

Maybe is time for me to find something to start weaving my chrysalis with and let my metamorphosis begin.

Broken Spanish

In many occasions, I have used this blog to express my ups and downs in raising multilingual children. It is something that I’m passionate about not only because speaking more than one language in a globalized society makes sense, but because I want my children to have a deeper connection with their extended family and our roots.

Time and again, I have compared how my oldest daughter’s grasp on the Spanish language is far superior than my son’s -the middle child- or my youngest daughter who is only in preschool. My son is just not as interested in the Spanish language as his older sister, or so I thought.

As you have probably read, we recently relocated from Michigan to Pennsylvania. The move has obviously come with plenty of opportunities for the kids to adjust and adapt to a new environment. Nowhere has it been more evident than at school. Our former environment was quite homogeneous making us stand out as the mixed family we are. Here however, not only is the student body rich in diversity, but also the staff.

My children were welcomed in a warm way making them feel safe and empowered. My daughter has five classmates of Mexican heritage in her classroom. She was happy to discover that like her, they are all bilingual but English is their stronger language.

Among my son’s classmates, there is a boy from Puerto Rico who does not speak English (yet). To my surprise, my son has happily taken the role of an interpreter between his Spanish-speaking friend and the English-speaking ones.

You cannot believe the amount of joy this makes me feel! My son, using his broken Spanish, is experiencing first hand how bilingualism bridges the gap between two people. Furthermore, he’s the one building that bridge and helping his new friend become a part of the dynamic of the classroom!

I am thrilled at the opportunity that my son has to see the value of bilingualism but more importantly, to have a friend to learn Spanish from and to teach English to. I could not have imagined that such a relationship could spark my son’s interest in the language that so passionately I have tried to teach him since he was a baby.

We shall see how this friendship brings both boys closer to the relative unknown worlds that they now both share: this English-speaking one where we reside, and that of Hispanic heritage that is far away.

Vacation Rental

Have you ever stayed in a vacation rental property? We have come to really like them. It’s kind of nice to be able to eat a simple, inexpensive breakfast from the comfort of “your” space in a different city or to have drinks and munchies after the kids go to bed without having to hire a sitter. I also like how you have the ability to do laundry in the middle of a longer trip. I have come to appreciate the whole sense of having a “home away from home”.

For all the great amenities that these vacation rentals offer, I have to say that it feels a little silly not knowing which switch turns what light on, or how to work the coffee pot or how to run the laundry machine. You can’t shake the idea of being in someone else’s house as some kind of intruder.

I want you to picture that feeling of being an intruder in your mind as that is exactly how I am feeling right now in our new house. The kitchen is designed so differently than in my older home that I have no idea where to organize the tools and utensils. I feel a little bit clumsy trying to cook a meal, figuring out if the oil should go in a cabinet or the pantry.

The kids can’t reach the closet space to hang or get their clothes, the youngest can’t even reach the switches to turn the lights on and off. We haven’t found a place for all of our furniture and even our organizers don’t seem to be the right fit. Every room we enter has either an assortment of boxes or many items that need to find a permanent spot. Some days it has been easier just to close the door and go and explore the new city.

Talking with a friend this week, she helped me realize that things will take time (I kind of knew that already), but also that I am going through my mourning process and that I should allow myself to feel sad for what was lost (brilliant! I needed someone’s permission to validate my feelings). Isn’t that so true? When I moved, there was so much anticipation and excitement for all the new things, that I  forgot to think of how leaving all the familiar would affect me.

In trying to be a rock for my children, I swallowed my emotions, but now that we are all here (and just around Christmas of all times), every little feeling of loss and sadness is pouring out of me as quickly as the cereal came out of the box my kid broke this morning. My instinct was to contain the emotions, my friend reminded me that I am allowed to have bad days and let them spill all over too.

It will be a different kind of Christmas for our family this year. Perhaps all the newness and exploration will take over the feeling of being an intruder living temporarily in a vacation rental. Perhaps the feeling will stay for a while. In all cases, I know that at least I am happy of being in this adventure all together.

I Guess This Is It…

The time for the move is here and though I knew about this day for months now, nothing prepared me for the feeling of having just taken a cold shower that struck me when I saw the “SOLD” sign outside my house, my home.

There is something to be said about the first home in which you felt you had built a family. We brought our babies here; we have celebrated birthdays and holidays; we have created traditions and collected memories within its colorful walls.

I have spent the last month saying goodbye to everyone and everything. Little by little, not knowing in many cases, when would it be the last time that I would see the acquaintances and knowing for sure when I would be giving the last hug to a close friend.

Emotions have been so intense that I feel as though I am hangover. Tingling hands and pounding heart, I had been able to “manage” things. That was until that gigantic moving truck in the photo below showed up in front of the house that, on paper, is no longer mine. The same house I’m finding impossible to say goodbye to.

As hard as saying goodbye to the building itself is, it doesn’t compare to the gaps in the heart that I have acquired as I have said goodbye to my friends, my tribe, my people.

All those friends who have been my companions through these early years of motherhood. The ones that have consoled me, who have nursed their babies as I nursed mine, who have my back always.

I’m going to miss all you dearly and terribly. How do I even begin to explain how my heart stings? How the tears choked in the back of my throat prevent me from talking clearly, from expressing love and gratitude?

I feel like I’m leaving behind a part of me with each of you. I will miss you and your smiles, your teachings, our discussions, the feeling of being surrounded by friends who are like family.

I guess this is it.

As I see many friends these last days, I know that it is the last time I will see them in a while and I can’t help it but to feel this pit in my stomach

How I️ Came to Love Art -and the recent movie that took me back in time

It has been a while since a movie enchanted me as much as Loving Vincent did. As I️ was seating there perplexed by the beautiful imagery, I️ was taken back to my first encounter with Van Gogh’s paintings.

My grandparents lived in a different city when I️ was little; however, my parents took us every Friday to spend the weekend there.

I️ remember entering the garage door to be greeted by our grandma who was always baking something special for us. As we got into the house, we were reminded by her motioning with her finger on her lips, to be quiet until we were away from my grandpa’s study.

He took classical guitar every Friday afternoon so he was always in his class whenever we arrived. One sees this weekly occurrences like nothing more than routine when one is young.

However, when I️ think back now, I️ feel the warmth and love of the maternal grandparents’ house. I️ can hear the guitar notes clearly in my head and almost taste the galletas de nata that my granny used to bake us.

From all the many things that brought me joy through the years from that home, the one that I️ remember to be the most exciting, was my grandpa’s study, his library.

That library is where the Loving Vincent film took me to. It was the quirkiest of places with a giant map of the State of Michoacan in Mexico right at the entrance. Two horse saddles flanked an old wooden desk that I’m sure was an exquisite piece of furniture in its prime because my grandpa was very particular of who could seat by it.

A wild boar head rested a top the area where the TV was, and in a corner, a pensive wooden statue of Don Quijote safeguarded my grandpa’s precious Tequila barrica.

There was a painting of my great grandma across the desk, right next to a glued-back-together statue of Buddha that my eldest cousin had broken once -almost having him banish forever from that place of sanctuary. Everything else was a collection of marvelous books.

It was an eclectic place for everything, all the contents of this space were so randomly chosen that I’m sure makes no sense to the reader. For me is a slice of my childhood. The place where I️ played and where I️ learned about Da Vinci, Van Gogh and World War II.

The bright colors of the paintings highlighted in Loving Vincent placed me back on my grandpa’s lap, as he carefully showed me his book about a crazy painter who had cut off his ear to give to someone as a present.

I️ was too little to really care about his life, but boy, was I️ entranced with his Sunflowers, Starry Night and Café de Nuit. That book opened my eyes to the art world. My very own love for Vincent began then.

The Loving Vincent film gifted me with a glimpse into my childhood. It reminded me of my grandpa and his study, the place where I️ understood him most. It gifted me with some precious space back in time and with the presence of my grandpa who no longer is with us.

The Season of Goodbyes

If you know me in person, you know that the reason why I ended up in Michigan was a series of opportunities and open doors that presented along the way. You also know that while we love West Michigan and have created a community and a presence where we reside, my other half has an adventurous heart that keeps him constantly exploring possibilities.

It probably came to no surprise to those who know us when we announced our move to Pennsylvania. A job opportunity, a new place to explore, an adventure to embark on. It came to us as a gift box that once, opened, it engulfed us in excitement and anxiety.

There are so many things to figure out, from where to live, to putting our own house for sale. I guess at some level, we expected this aspect to be difficult and stressful. What we did not anticipate was the sadness and the heartache that would come with every goodbye said to the people who have been a pretty big part of our lives.

All those friends who have been like family members in a country that was not our own. But even the relationships built with our pediatrician, the staff at the school, the ever-weaving support system that we have knitted around our family. It has been everything but easy to begin to say goodbye and to imagine how things will be “on the other side”.

I have been keeping everything bottled up inside this far, shedding tears only here and there. Is almost as if I fear that once the floodgates open, I will not be able to control the current. I simply don’t want to allow myself to crumble just yet. There’s so much to keep tabs on still: the showings of the house, the daily activities of the children, the passing moments of fear-of-the-unknown that the children experience in relation the to move… I have to be strong and help them maneuver this.

However, there are some days when a sappy show would just bring some of those emotions to the surface and I would allow myself to feel. During one of those emotional TV-watching times, I heard the phrase: Bloom where you are planted. It really hit me hard. Wasn’t that what I did by coming here in the first place? I was planted in this community and found fertile soil to bloom. Could I not be transplanted and continue to grow? And just like that, both nostalgia and incertitude found a cozy spot in my heart.

Reminiscing on my college years and how my husband and I came to be together; our children being born; the achievements and the obstacles; the process of building a home and a community. Am I ready to leave all of that? Or will all the memories come with us packed away between photo albums and heirlooms?

Wondering where would we live? How are the schools? Will the children adjust well? Will I find friends easily?

So here I am, in the middle of this season of goodbyes that while sad, helps me understand how wonderfully lucky we have been to have been planted here and how much we have bloomed as individuals and as a family.

When Tragedy Strikes

In my last post I talked about the holes dug in my heart from not partaking in the joyful moments of my friends and family who live away from me. Today I want to talk about the heart-wrenching feeling of uselessness after the terrible crisis following this Tuesday’s earthquake in Mexico City.

My husband called me after he received the notification of a 7.1 earthquake affecting Mexico City. He had already connected with my brother, who lives there, and he was fine. However, he was unable to locate his wife and his son’s school was not responding either.

I called my brother who at that point was filled with anguish as he was trapped in the gridlock of traffic with all the other people trying to get to their loved ones, knowing that he was on the opposite side of town from his son and wife and having just learned that some of the collapsed buildings were right in the areas where they were. His desperate voice: help me reach them!

For about an hour I tried without success calling the school, looking for any updates on the social media, getting a hold of my sister-in-law. I even reached out to a friend who I know works closer to the area where my nephew was, to learn any information she would have to offer. Nothing, just more news updates of the devastation, of collapsed buildings and of gas leaks.

My heart sunk to the ground, but even more, thinking about the eternal wait for my brother. He reached out, he’s son’s school had been evacuated but all the children were safe. His wife was able to connect soon after. As he grew desperate to reach them, he parked his car and proceeded to walk 12 kilometers in the chaos and massive hysteria of a city too immense to let help reach their destinations.

It took them five hours but finally they were together and reached out to us. They were safe but not their apartment building, which suffered the kind of structural damage that warns you not to stay there. They headed to my sister-in-law’s aunt. Her place was safe.

My brother who is a doctor recruited during emergency situations, such as this horrid day, had to head to the hospital where he learned of tragedy after tragedy. He worked through the night and well into  Wednesday afternoon when he called me to tell me was safe, his family safe, him and his wife ready to help.

I haven’t been able to sleep well and cannot stop thinking about the terrible images, the fear and the unanswered questions of when things would calm down. However, I’m forever thankful for their safety and for having a brother willing to give it all to others.

As I read of the news, I find this weight on my chest that doesn’t let me breath, I wish I could help more but not being physically there prevents me from being actively involved. So I come to this blog to share of some ways in which people like me (away but willing to help in any way) can make a difference.

Consider donating to the following organizations:

MEXICAN RED CROSS (monetary gifts): https://www.cruzrojamexicana.org.mx/sismo-19-de-septiembre-2017

MEXICAN RED CROSS (wish list): https://www.amazon.com.mx/registry/wishlist/H4XK3LNWVOPB/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_ep_ws_mMXTzbP50RRF6/ref=s9_acss_bw_cg_CR_6b1_w?pf_rd_m=A3TO6F13CSVUA4&pf_rd_s=merchandised-search-1&pf_rd_r=53V28WVM26EX859A3147&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1a8a2582-90fc-40f6-8a49-5d772a879f13&pf_rd_i=17290014011

BRIGADA DE RESCATE TOPOS (Moles Rescue Brigade): PayPal donations at donativos@brigada-rescate-topos.org