The Eagle has landed!

You know how studies have shown that remodeling your home is significantly more stressful than just having a swarm of soccer hooligans come over and completely trash it? (Yes, the scientific term for when there is more than five hooligans is swarm). After unspeakable mess and not having a functioning sink for four days, what do we have to show for it? A finished kitchen. Voila!

Before:

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Now, I can relate to new parents who bring their babies home from the hospital and just can’t stop staring. If you know me even a little, you know that I don’t do well in a cluttered environment. Adan and I used to love watching the show Monk and I think he mainly found it endearing that he thought the main character to be a slightly exaggerated version of his wife. Needless to say, I’m thrilled that each week, there is a little more order to our home. We couldn’t be happier with our kitchen. Really, we tried but it is just not possible.

In other breaking news, we saw the movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them and were pleasantly surprised. I do have one caveat, though. I know the movie came out a million years ago but if you haven’t yet and are considering letting your kids watch it, I should warn you that it’s pretty scary and probably not appropriate for children under the age of 25.

There is this one bit of dialogue that I especially liked:

Newt Scamander: Now, there’s absolutely nothing for you to worry about.

Jacob Kowalski: Tell me, has anyone ever believed you when you told them not to worry?

Newt Scamander: Well, my philosophy is that worrying means you suffer twice.

I can relate because I tend to be in the camp that loves to suffer twice. Case in point, when I think about having kids, the very first thing that comes to mind is worry over what will happen if they can’t find a job in their field when they graduate from University. It takes a lot of calisthenics to work up to this level of finely tuned worry so don’t feel bad if you haven’t taken the time to worry about your as-of-yet-unborn children’s post-graduate careers.

Where was I? The movie was written by the ever so talented J.K. Rowling and though it takes place in the same world as Harry Potter, you don’t necessarily have to have read or watched the series to understand. (It does, I think, give you a deeper appreciation for the details if you have, though, and certain parts will seem funnier for it). Adan hated the movies and never read the books but was still entertained by Fantastic Beasts.

J.K. Rowling is, of course, full of these little gems in her dialogue. You know what I mean… wisdom wrapped in humor, ensconced in truth, with an outer shell of something so obvious that you marvel that you hadn’t thought of it yourself. I leave you with this example, my favorite Dumbledore-ism from the HP series: It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.

It’s pronounced A-Hee-HEEC

From a recent date night in Ajijic.

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This town is just oozing with charm (does that make it sound too much like a festering sore?). I mean, just look at that mural of the dancing and serenading chickens. Isn’t that the funniest thing you’ve seen since Trump was elected? Also, it’s pretty much a full-time job trying out all the fun, local, independently-ownded restaurants. Our current favorite is Gossip’s Kitchen (presumably because the kitchen is right in the middle of the restaurant) where I had possibly the best jambalaya I’ve had outside of Louisiana (full disclosure: I’ve never actually been to Louisiana but you know, eating there is a life long dream…right up there with eating in Singapore. Full, full disclosure: I have only ever had jambalaya on maybe two other occasions in my life so maybe my range of comparison is somewhat limited.)

As I may have mentioned, we have moved to a pretty rural area. I mean, people don’t churn their own butter or anything but there are free-range cows walking about. To be perfectly honest, we have had a few panic-stricken moments of buyer’s remorse since we moved out there but for the most part, we’ve been loving the slower pace of life and Adan’s significantly reduced commute time. And we are making steady progress on the house. We don’t have light fixtures yet but our kitchen cabinets are getting installed this week, which is the most exciting thing to happen to me since the fifth Harry Potter book came out (that one, I remember, was a particularly hard wait because a) such a cliffhanger and b) it seemed to take longer than the other ones.)

Some of you have expressed concern over our internet situation. Yes, thank you for your prayers. We are currently living without Netflix and, I won’t lie, it is as hard as you would imagine it to be. And then some. Netflix withdrawal is a very real and painful condition.

This was a long weekend for us here in Mexico so Adan made chilaquiles this morning and simultaneously won himself Best Husband and Best Chilaquiles Ever Award. So I guess that is a testament that life can and does go on in the post-Apocalyptic, post-Netflix world that we are residing in.

the gamut of feels lately, or you know, my usual blah blah blah

Makes me cringe: Adan and I get asked some version of this question fairly often, “Are you thinking of starting a family soon?” and what makes me cringe about it is not the surprisingly invasive nature of this question, usually thrown out during small talk with someone we don’t know very well. Actually, we pause and look in confusion at each other because we are tempted to respond to their question with one of our own, namely: What are Adan and I? Room mates? Friends with a joint banking account and benefits? Beef jerky?? (this should be taken as no disrespect for beef jerky as I am its number one fan. In fact, whoever invented the beef jerkifying process should be cannonized STAT.) The answer would be that Adan and I are a family. We started said family two years ago, which I guess might just be an issue of semantics for some, but for us is a hugely important point. When and if children come along, they shall be a welcome addition to an already existing family unit. Much like when you build an addition to your house, you are not making a whole new structure so much as enlarging the one you have. So I would suggest the next time anyone is curious about Adan’s and my plans to reproduce, you should ask, “are you thinking about having kids soon?” Or, you know… people could just wait until we announce it.

Makes me click my heels together in joy like in those old black and white musicals, promptly followed by my falling over because I have no coordination: After much intensive research and fieldwork, Adan and I have definitively figured out where to get the best blueberry muffins in the city, the Walmart ten minutes from our house. Hands down, makes the whatever-it-is-they-pass-off-as-blueberry-muffins at Starbucks seem almost criminal.

Makes me cry: This letter by Chester Wenger, a 98-year-old former Mennonite pastor and father of a gay son. He performed the wedding ceremony for his son and partner and was subsequently retired of his credentials in the Mennonite church. In it he says, “When my wife and I read the Bible with today’s fractured, anxious church in mind, we ask, what is Jesus calling us to do with those sons and daughters who are among the most despised people in the world—in all races and communities? What would Jesus do with our sons and daughters who are bullied, homeless, sexually abused, and driven to suicide at far higher rates than our heterosexual children?”

At a time when I feel like little moves me, I was deeply moved by his letter and testimony. And, as with all moral, ethical, intellectual, biblical quandaries, I asked myself, WWCSLS? And then, I actually turn to one of C.S. Lewis’s books for guidance as to what he might say about it. Whenever the issue of legalizing gay marriage or adoption comes up in Mexico or elsewhere, I am reminded of these two thoughts from Mere Christianity:

Before leaving the question of divorce, I should like to distinguish two things which are very often confused. The Christian conception of marriage is one: the other is the quite different question—how far Christians, if they are voters or Members of Parliament, ought to try to force their views of marriage on the rest of the community by embodying them in the divorce laws. A great many people seem to think that if you are a Christian yourself you should try to make divorce difficult for everyone. I do not think that. At least I know I should be very angry if the Mohammedans tried to prevent the rest of us from drinking wine. My own view is that the Churches should frankly recognise that the majority of the British people are not Christians and, therefore, cannot be expected to live Christian lives. There ought to be two distinct kinds of marriage: one governed by the State with rules enforced on all citizens, the other governed by the Church with rules enforced by her on her own members. The distinction ought to be quite sharp, so that a man knows which couples are married in a Christian sense and which are not.

And:

Ever since I served as an infantryman in the first world war I have had a great dislike of people who, themselves in ease and safety, issue exhortations to men in the front line. As a result I have a reluctance to say much about temptations to which I myself am not exposed. No man, I suppose, is tempted to every sin. It so happens that the impulse which makes men gamble has been left out of my make-up; and, no doubt, I pay for this by lacking some good impulse of which it is the excess or perversion. I therefore did not feel myself qualified to give advice about permissable and impermissable gambling: if there is any permissable, for I do not claim to know even that. I have also said nothing about birth-control. I am not a woman nor even a married man, nor am I a priest. I did not think it my place to take a firm line about pains, dangers and expenses from which I am protected; having no pastoral office which obliged me to do so.

Now, clearly, I understand that he is not actually talking about the topic at hand, but it does sort of make me wonder whether he would apply the same logic to it.

I have always loved this second point of his. I take it as Lewis’s reminder to me that when confronted with another’s sin or temptation, I should feel compassion, not superiority. And in relation to Chester Wenger, I cannot say how I feel about every single point of his letter, but I will say this: 1) he is full of grace and compassion, not anger and judgement (regarding the leaders’ decision to take away his credentials he says, “I am at peace with their decision and understand their need to take this action.”), which is what a lot of the people seem to convey who are against gay unions in the church. 2) he has struggled with these issues, really struggled, and his faith remains intact, Jesus remains the center.

It also makes me suspect that when I hear people that are emphatically, diametrically, disgustedly and hatefully opposed to gay marriage, that they maybe have never been in the position (like Lewis cautions against) of having to battle said temptations or that they (unlike Wenger) don’t have a beloved father, best friend, cousin or son who is gay. Either way, it strikes me as a somewhat cavalier attitude to take.

As to his question: “What would Jesus do with our sons and daughters who are bullied, homeless, sexually abused, and driven to suicide at far higher rates than our heterosexual children?” From what I know of Jesus, I surmise that He would welcome them. I am reminded of another favorite author of mine, Charles Dickens, who described the church as a nook where the weak and erring can find rest. It makes me wonder how much rest is found in our churches these days by these most marginalized that Wenger speaks of.

The church where I’ve best seen this lived out is the church in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. There I have seen them lovingly, intentionally, sincerely welcome the marginalized and poor.

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Church on a Sunday morning. (Dislosure: All pictures are from my last visit there, which was four long years ago so everyone looks much older now.)
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Except for my friend Roz on the far left, who seems to be under some variation of the Benjamin Button effect because she doesn’t age. Really.

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The kids however are all much taller.

In conclusion, whatever your dilemma may be, C.S. Lewis can probably help you think things through. Also, you should visit the church in Santa Cruz if ever in the area. Challenges abound, as I’m sure the leadership team would tell you. But, also, grace abounds. And if what you are looking for is a muffin, not a home church, drop by our house and I’ll introduce you to one that might change your life.

It’s fun to pretend to be a tourist in one’s city

Adan and I don’t make it downtown very often. I’m really not sure why, considering that every time I go, I feel like I’m a tourist again in this city (in the best possible sense. as in, it always feels new to me, no matter how many times I’ve seen it before), and reminded of just how much I love living here.

Love the architecture and all of the families just hanging out in the square:

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Love the creepy, incomprehensible murals:

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Love the creative expressions using tile:

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Love the creative expressions of dessert churro:

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A churro ice cream sandwich! Cajeta ice cream in between two piping hot, fresh churros. Pure magic.

Love playing gin with this guy. But that is true anywhere, anytime.

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Thinking about potential baby names

My beautiful friend Kassi is expecting a baby in about a month’s time. She and hubby are choosing to not find out the sex of the baby, which I love. I mean, I know nobody is asking me, but I love it when couples wait to find out. They have also hit a bit of an impasse with baby names. She asked if I had any suggestions and I have to say, when it comes to baby names, I have always been a fan of the timeless biblical classics, many of which are gender neutral. You know, like Nebuchadnezzar, Abner, Dodo, Abednego, Hephzibah, Orpah, Joiada. You really can’t go wrong with any of those, not to mention that most likely no one else in their class at school will share that name. What do you say, Kass? Do any of those names float your boat? You’re welcome for ending the current marital stalemate on this subject.

The Seventh Circle of Hell

Yes, you guessed it. I had to go to the immigration offices this morning. As an official permanent resident of Mexico, I no longer have to go every year and pay to extend my work permit. I do however, still have to show up and fill in mountains of paperwork every time I move, change job situations or marital status, if I go to the bathroom, wear white after Labor Day or think an impure thought.

So I spent the entire morning being a bureaucratic donkey, running from one side of the city to the other, making endless copies of Adan’s and my marriage certificate and getting it stamped by the right people. But mainly I waited, and waited and waited. I think by about the third hour in that place, I started to get delusional because I became convinced that the immigration office must be the best place in the world to work. There was only one person working in the section I was waiting in, and, in the entire time I was there, she was able to “help” three people/groups between chatting with her co-workers and her coffee break.

Usually I am averse to people complaining about bureaucracy, because it’s like complaining about the weather. Not effective and won’t change a thing. It is really just best to take a long novel and to go expecting things to go wrong and take it in stride when they do. Get kicked in the face by the bored office people? you merely pick yourself up, brush yourself off, and kindly say, thank you so much, I really needed that while smiling your most genuine smile. Somehow, though, this morning, my zen attitude towards bureaucracy would just not kick in. I sat there, huffing with impatience.

Really, the only good part about having to do these things is the feeling of satisfaction that comes from being able to check them off.