Monday, November 23, 2009

Amazing Grace

There are a few songs in the English language that for some reason bring tears to my eyes. Specially the one named "amazing grace", and i never stopped to think why. But today, as i sang it in church, i started to really pay attention to the parts that upset me, and realized that it is not the beautiful lyrics that get me, is the fact that i still struggle with the notion of an unconditional love from a father. As an adult, i understand that God loves me, but there's a part of me that thinks that i have to do "things" to earn that love...That somehow, if i don't, God will revise his list and cross me out. That somehow he made a mistake choosing me, and that as such, i need to keep proving my worth. I think this way of irrational thinking comes from the kind of relationship i have, or lack of having i might say, with my father on Earth. In this world, love is conditional. In His, is eternal. So simple, yet it's taking my whole life to understand it. As a geek that loves science, i won't be able to rest until i dissect this song and explain what i feel about its parts...Why it makes me feel better to expose my heart like this, i don't know, but it does. Someone told me once that writing was therapeutic, that there's healing in just taking it out. I just have this need to write my thoughts tonight, and i can't sleep thinking about it...So might as well do it.
Amazing grace How sweet the sound That saved a wretch like me
Even as i was not what people would typically consider a wild child, i have struggled with lies and being a manipulative bitch (as someone called me once- after i broke his heart), and i lived for myself only, easily disregarding other people's feelings. I was my own idol, and as all idols, my feet were made of clay. I'd appear as a happy confident woman to those that didn't know me, even cold. But the truth is that i was looking for that unconditional love from a father that i never had, in relationships where i was adored, but in which i didn't have to get too involved myself. For once, i wanted to be the one rejecting, ignoring- it made me happy to see grown men crying for me, i remember deliberately hiding from one guy because i knew he'd be hurt, that gave me joy...I am amazed at how God has changed my life, my way of thinking, my heart, from the inside out. And i didn't deserve it then, and i certainly don't deserve it now, but God loves ME, for who i am, He chose me- with all my flaws.

I once was lost, but now I'm found Was blind, but now I see
You know what the worst part is? I didn't even know i was lost. I was unhappy, yet convinced that i was as happy as anyone else around me, so why change anything...

'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear And grace my fears relieved
So far, I've done many of the things i most fear... I moved away from my family, had a child, trusted a man with my heart, went over a hanging bridge, traveled by myself, went to a big city and found my way there by myself, and every time i did i was thinking that my old self would had been so wrapped up in her fears, that she would have probably passed on this experiences, regretting it, but still unable to move forward. I am a better me, and it's all thanks to Him. I'm fearless because he gives me strength, even when i feel i don't have any...

How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed
It still does.

My chains are gone I've been set free My God, my Savior has ransomed me And like a flood His mercy rains Unending love, Amazing grace
There was a big flood here last year, the first one I've seen up close. The only one i had the chance to, for normally floods were things i saw on TV happening to other people. I was humbled by how strong water can be, how it is almost impossible to contain. The thought of God's love being that powerful, that it is so strong, is more clear to me now after that. I can see how this love has washed away the chains i made for myself, the ones i was so comfortable in. He paid my price, and there was nothing i could have done to change his mind. Nothing.

The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures He will my shield and portion be As long as life endures
This is one of the parts where i struggle the most. I know He wants the best for me, but i have little faith, it doesn't take much for me to start worrying. I struggle to trust Him, as i struggled to trust my earthly father, who was never there for me, i tend to think this God will also have better things to do (missionaries dying for him in remote corners of the world, for example) than to spend any time listening to my prayers, that are as flawed as I am. My brain tells me they're not the same, my heart takes me down that road time and again... I understand in a rational way that He is my shield, i just sometimes don't feel it, and therefore falsely get to the conclusion that He is not there (feelings are so deceiving in themselves)...And the thought that i don't need anything but Him gets challenged every time i get a new catalog, or i start looking around me...And despite all these, He still loves me.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow The sun forbear to shine But God, Who called me here below Will be forever mine Will be forever mine You are forever mine
Forever mine :) this is the best promise I've ever heard...

The song was written hundreds of years ago, but no matter what version of it i hear, it brings me to tears. Tears of sadness for the truth in it, and joy because I've finally found that never ending love i so longed for, all my life. He even gave me a taste of this love on Earth, by giving me a wonderful man to care and love, for me and my daughter. As he sleeps here by my side, i give thanks for all that he is, even the parts i don't like. For i wouldn't change him for all the gold in the world. My unconditional love call, answered in so many wonderful ways.
Now, all out of words, i can rest. Until tomorrow.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The art of doing nothing

Today i spent my day doing one of my favorite things in the world, nothing :) Yesterday we had Stephanie and her husband and kids over for supper, and i cooked "Dominican" or pretty close, considering the limitations i encounter in this foreign land...I went all out and made rice, red stewed beans and a pastelon de platano maduro that would have been a lot better if the plantains had been a bit more yellow, but that tasted as good as i remember my mom making it. They seemed to enjoy it, and i enjoyed the fellowship a whole lot more. And the cake- Stephanie makes really good cake, so she decided to bring one to, as she said, contribute to the meal. It was very good. I also made tostones, because Peter found some green plantains in a Market near our place, and we got a bunch, big as barahoneros- No idea how they made it here, because the ones i see in the supermarket normally are already starting to get pintos and are pretty small...But one should not question her blessings, for once, i have something i thought impossible to find here, and I'm happy- Now on to finding chicharron so i can make mofongo... Maybe i should import an anafe and a big paila and make it myself :)
Stephanie and I went scrap booking today, from 10 to 4, and that was nice too- i believe it is important for women to get together and just talk and be women, without guys around, specially if said guys are keeping the children (and have gone to a football game, something that doesn't really counts as one of my favorite things to do). Is not that we say or do anything that should be kept hidden, but there's an easiness of conversation when men are not around that i can't explain. I'm sure the same happens to them.
I worked in my "virtual scrap booking" and had a lot of fun talking and listening to other people talk about their lives, their families and what they do. I find incredibly interesting hearing about the same thing as seen by different people in so many ways. Like someone once said, each head holds a world. And i really like exploring.
My life these last few weeks has been rather normal, doing chores and all. I taught Lara we have a big mountain we got to climb (the stairs), jungles to cross (involves crawling under the living room table and over the couch, then jumping up and down) and balls to attend (we dance to Barbie's music), for we are dancing princesses in our spare time. Princesses that play the drums (oven handle, a chair and the cabinet) with our magic sticks (wooden spoons)... We also make funny animal sounds, and watch cartoons. I have such a hard job.
Lara's speech has improved so much in the last few months, she can weave stories and talk about her favorite things. And she's letting me do her hair, if i let her do mine- but I'm still not sure if i got a good deal there, she seems to enjoy pulling my hair more than combing it. I wish she was as good in Spanish as she is in English, though. She can say words, and repeats everything i say, and obviously understands what i tell her- but still her answers are in English. I keep trying, i know someday something will click and she'll speak back to me in my language.
I can't believe I've been here almost two years... It seems like yesterday that we boarded that plane with our kid and dog, to come to a place i knew only from what Peter had told me. And now i call it my own. I like this little city, with its friendly people (except that girl that works in Subway- you need to chill or get a real job, soon) and dog loving mail carriers. The only thing i wish is for my family to visit me, i want to show them how beautiful this country can be, that there's more to this place than crowded streets. Have them watch how wheat waves like water in the breeze. Or fields full of sunflowers as far as i can see. Or how a tree's leaves seem to catch fire this time of the year, and how still everything looks under the cover of the snow. I wish i could show them what i see, and how it makes me feel. My mom says I've always being into scenery, that one time i made a friend of hers stop in the middle of nowhere to see the mountains, and the best times i remember when i was little were spent watching the ocean and collecting maqueys with my aunt Tania... If being a grown up means losing that, then I'm in trouble, because no matter how old i get, i still have to pause, sit and enjoy. I hope Lara joins me in doing nothing someday. I could give her some lessons...Maybe we should start classes tomorrow :)

Friday, September 18, 2009

Planning a garden

The past few months have been so crazy... I turned 32 in August, went to New York for the first time and absolutely loved it, and decided to plan and build a garden. If you've ever been to my house, you know how big a yard we have. A sea of green, with nothing special- not what you'd expect of someone like me, that loves color and variety...It's just green and boring. Very green. Too green...So I started dreaming, and when I dream, it usually means I'll be making plans, and lists, and drawings and lots and lots of research. For I am a nerd, and I can't find the way to dream like a regular person, just looking up and relaxing, I need charts and lists. Other people need chocolate or coffee to start their brainstorming, I need research and plans, and lots and lots of drawings.
August came and went in a flash this year. My birthday was uneventful, spent with friends, with nothing special, just that I'm older. I'm still waiting for that knowledge I'm supposed to get as I grow older... So far all I've learned since I am in my thirties is that I need a better haircut and exercise.
I could have learned that without the age gain, if you ask me- but years go by, relentless.
This year Peter decided to give me two presents, a piece of jewelry- bless his soul-, and a trip to NYC to visit my friends. I went there the last week of August, and had a blast. I discovered that I actually like big cities, specially the ones you can see so many museums and parks. There's even tame squirrels! It was fun to do something more adventurous for a change, other than checking for the contents of Lara's training pants (that's pretty adventurous, believe me- you never know if you'll find anything, you go hoping you won't, and then...HELLO!) and I got to hang out with some people I knew, but haven't had the chance to really spend time with. It is so nice to discover you really like people. Not just that you enjoy spending time with them, but that you really like how they are, and that you have more in common than you thought you had.
It seems to me that this trip was more about finding and discovering myself than about discovering a new city. I had to go, to prove to myself that I can do things like that, that I can be brave enough. I tend to doubt and be my worst critic, most of the time. I also discovered how much I'd love to be a photographer...Well, i guess i just re-discovered it. I remember reading National Geographic when I was little, and thinking how cool it would be to travel the world, taking pictures. I used to day dream about it all the time- could even see my name under the picture in the magazine. But all the real photographers I knew, only took pictures of people, so I thought it was impossible for me to do something like that, that it was reserved for American men. I no longer want my pictures in a magazine, but I still like taking pictures as much as I did when i was little. And I'd like to go to school and learn the way to become one. Who knows, maybe I could publish my own book someday.
September has gone fine so far, Breathe groups started, I caught a bad cold. And started planning my garden. It's going to be so pretty when we're done! or so I hope. It's being surprising how my training in color and design can be applied to living things, how those lectures about the importance of having a balanced design have helped me to draw plans for this project. I may never work on graphic design, but I'm sure using its concepts.
Lara's room is on its way out of the ugliness, thanks to our friend Kelly, who has been working so hard there for the last three days. I went in yesterday and i couldn't believe it was the same place. Now on to the mural. I want something special, something that my daughter can see and think, my mother loves me so much she wants me to have this, and be happy. Or maybe that I can see and think I love her so much, i really want her to like it and be happy. I think it's going to have princesses and castles, things Lara seems to like a lot. We'll see, got to work with my little client, and plan and draw a lot. I want it to be her own special place, so I'll be asking her every step of the way.
I can't wait for all my projects to be done, so i can sit and relax... Or maybe not, I'll probably find another thing to dream about when I'm done. One thing is certain, I'll have lots of pictures to share. That's for sure.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Being "normal"

It's being hunting me for weeks how I've been forgetting to be my own kind of normal, in my fear that I'll never be American enough, or Dominican enough to live in American soil, for that matter... It's hard for me to live so far away from everything i knew, starting over in a place where i stand out like a sore thumb, no matter where i go. Not that it isn't the story of my life- I've never felt that i fit in, not even when i lived in my hometown. It's been a struggle all my life, to try this "normal" costume- for i don't even know what normal looks like... It seems like every time i start getting good at it, it changes to something else.
I remember when i first realized i was far from "normal"- I was in school, probably first grade, and i noticed how kids had a dad that came to look for them to take them home. My dad never did that. He would have caused such a big problem coming in, even if he had wanted to do so, for you see, in my country he is a famous person, and wherever he goes, he's recognized and followed around... I remember hoping for a normal dad, one that i would see more than a few times a month, one that would take me out to have ice cream, without people staring at him.
My mom was, in her own way, famous too- I've never met anyone in my country that didn't at least know her a little bit. And from these two very outgoing people i came, my shy self a stark contrast to their ways. To top it off, people always assumed that if they were my parents, then i must be pretty outgoing, right? so i started trying to fit their idea of how a normal me should be. I did such a good job doing it, that some of my friends will probably be very surprised to know how shy i really am, and how i would push myself to stop it. I did inherit my parents easiness to make friends, and some of their traits are in me, but i still enjoy being by myself, with a book in some quiet place. And it is still hard to talk to strangers. No matter how old i am, the same thought crosses my mind, every time: they won't like me. Not if they'd like me, or how much they'd like me, but a nagging certainty that somehow they won't. And i don't even know why, for 9 out of ten times, people does- but it is still there.
When i lived in the Dominican Republic, this feeling wasn't as bad, because i could find common points of interest with the people i met, common backgrounds, something... But here, it seems like the differences that i was aware of (or my craziness) show even more than usual. I remember one time sitting in a room full of other women, feeling so lonely because not one of them could understand why i don't care if they come to my house without calling. Or if they keep their shoes on when they come over. Or the fact that i endlessly look for ways to make my food taste more "Dominican", whatever that means... I'm always afraid of speaking up, of breaking an unspoken rule, of being me. And i miss me. I miss the woman i became growing up in a tight family circle made up of women, with my half brother and half sisters added sometimes, a me that wasn't afraid to embrace the fact that as hard as i tried, i enjoyed being by myself the most, lost in a book, imagining the life i didn't have through it.
I miss dancing with other people, i miss not being the only dark person in the room, i miss painting and drawing for my own enjoyment, i miss speaking my language with people that answer back. And i miss my friends. That's what i miss the most. Friends. The ones that take time to make, the ones that now live so far away, i never hear from them unless i look at facebook. I miss my mom, and our Saturdays at the mall. I miss Iliana, and all the crazy conversations we've had along these years we've known each other. I miss just watching my grandma smile when her favorite character on TV is doing well, and hearing her talking about the national lottery as if she had some sort of connection there, and she always knows when she's about to win. I miss my aunts and my cousins, and the lazy afternoons just drinking coffee and talking about nothing and all at the same time.
Peter tries to help me feel welcome here, and God knows there's plenty of people that work hard on that as well, and that love me as much as my family in the DR does, but it is still hard. Very hard. I go back to grade school, when i used to wish i was blond and pretty like my mom. Now i want to be more like the people here, so i can blend in and be finally "normal", but at the same time i like my dark features, my jet black hair, my crazy eyebrows, my shape (i seem to be more curvaceous than other people here too, and being this fat just makes it worse).
I wish i could bring other Dominicans here. Maybe i could then be normal among them. Whatever that is.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Friday, March 13, 2009

My Raspberry Road page :)

There's a wonderful Scrapbooking site and store named Raspberry Road Designs. The stuff they have is the prettiest i've seen on the internet, I just love it :) They have a challenge for this month, that involves making your own version of a page made with a template they provide, and things you've gotten either from the store or from the big amount of freebies Susan gives away. When i saw it, i thought it would be nice to post something, just for the fun of it - normally i just keep them in my computer for my own enjoyment. Hope you like my page :)
Papers, Bubby Collection Freebie
Elements: Template 5, Bubby collection freebie, Bubblelicious collection freebie
Alpha: Grungy Alpha freebie, #2: Birthday Brights Collection freebie.
Everything from Raspberry Roads :)

Lara's Two Years old!!!!

My daughter is two years old now. Definitively not a baby anymore. She is her own self, and a very strong self if you ask me, her favorite phrase is "I got it"- which means, stop trying to help me mom, i'm fine doing it by myself. Today she insisted on making her bed :) but she's still resisting potty training. It's funny how someone so small already shows all the crazy contradictions that we all share, how even on her own small way, she tries like us to do the best she can, and conquer her fears in the process. She still needs me a lot, i know, but i miss the little baby that i used to hold just to watch her sleep, and at the same time, i don't miss that time anymore. I like this little girl a lot, with her spunky personality, and her spanglish :) i love how she says "i love you too mammie" when i put her on time out (happens at least once a day) and her determination to do things by herself, including going up and down the stairs and putting her shoes on (and she can, even the ones with zippers)...I love how she tells Peter "Daddy that's funny" when he makes a silly face, and how she tells him that he is "cute"...Things that a baby can't do. I haven't counted how many words she can say, because i don't think that would be as important as just listening to what she has to say. And my little free thinker has a lot to say, it seems, lol. Specially when she doesn't get what she wants :)
Who is this new Lara? well, she loves playing with her ball, and going out to touch the snow. She likes "helping" in the kitchen (she stands on a chair and watches me cook) and cleaning up (she's actually really good at it, i spray some cleaner on the surfaces, and she wipes it out with a cloth- sometimes asking for more if she can't get rid of everything) and she picks up garbage and throws it in the can. She's a girly girl that doesn't like when her shoes are dirty, or her hands. She loves books, and this week's favorite is Red Fish Blue Fish, but it changes every week- it's cute to see her sit down and "read" (she surprised me by recognicing the letters P, A and C- i guess watching Sesame Street every day at 9, and WordWorld at 2 (her favorites) really teaches them stuff). She loves to wear her pretty dresses, and playing with puzzles, coloring books and play-doh. She's also learned to pedal forward in the trycicle, and counts from 1 to 10 (skipping some numbers sometimes, both in English and Spanish- and her favorite number is 3 for some reason)... As i said, not a baby anymore. She likes taking baths and brushing her teeth too. And Slides :) I could go for hours! she's so active...
I really love my little girl :) Happy Birthday Lara!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

February 2009 :)

Life has changed so much for us in just one year, that it's almost impossible for me to believe that just over a year ago, we had another life, in another town, in another country. It seems like ages since we came here, and everything was so weird to me, from the streets to the food, everything seemed to me different and overwhelming at times... It's funny how in just a year, streets that looked all the same to me, now have names in my mind. How the stores that seemed so big, now are the "normal" I'm used to. How a church that was so intimidating at first, where everyone seemed a stranger, is now a room full of friendly faces, faces that have a name, faces that i have started to recognize as friends. So many things have changed, that it's easy to forget that there was a time when i went out in the middle of December wearing nothing but a tank top and jeans, and still got warm anyway, or that i could get okras any time i wanted, or buy papayas and avocados that weighted almost a pound...That time seems too remote to me, so far away that it's sometimes idealized. Yesterday i realized that it's being about a year since the last time i saw a roach scatter away when i turn the kitchen light on...And that the only ants you see here, live in the garden, not on my walls... And the only rodents I've seen are squirrels and a few rabbits... It's funny how both places have good and bad things, but somehow, when you are away, the good things seem to grow in size, while the bad ones get behind them and disappear in the shadows. I like Fargo a lot, when i think of home, it's this city that comes to mind. I love the "little town" feeling you get when walking down Broadway, and all the pretty sights. I love that there are parks everywhere, and how friendly people is. I love the train, I've come to expect its horn during the day, i love the sounds and love waving at the engine driver as it goes by... I love sunsets here, how they linger as if they were going to last forever...I love so many things and people in this place, Linsey, Bart, Stephanie and her family, Micah and Kim, Andy, just to name a few, that i can't imagine ever leaving- I'd miss it too much.
This month has been very interesting for me, in the sense that I've taken steps to get to know more people, instead of complaining that i miss my former life, I've decided to face forward and start really living here. I've realized that even if God doesn't tell me what my purpose here is, i still can be fruitful, as long as i keep Him by my side... I've decided to embrace the talents He's given me, and enjoy them, instead of wishing i had been given something else in their place. I've decided to enjoy me, and my family, no matter the circumstances were are to deal with. I want my daughter to remember me as someone that obeyed God, and that loved Him more than anything in this world... A woman that can show through the fruit of her spirit, that she He is all she'll ever need. And don't take me wrong, I'll still be my old sinful self, but I'll strive to be better each day- One step at a time.
I'm so thankful for friends and family, they've been so supportive of us and our journey here. I love you all so much! and i love my husband, more than he'll ever know, just for being him, and for standing by my side, even when i don't want him to... Thanks for loving me when i believed that i didn't deserve to be loved, or when i wasn't acting towards you with the love that you deserve...I promise to do a better job tomorrow.
I've grown so much since i came here...And there's still a lot more to go. Pray for me :)

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The house on 14th Street South

Yes, you guessed it right, we took the plunge and went up and bought ourselves a house :) this is how it happened:
In November, we talked about finding a place next spring, and since we had no idea what we were looking for, decided to start looking around...And found "it" :) the house we wanted, in our price range, in a neighborhood with mature trees and close to everything. We got pretty excited, and decided to make an offer right away... And we bought it. It's pretty big, 4 bedrooms, 1 and a half bathrooms, finished basement, garage. We don't have enough furniture for it yet, though. I'm working on it, with my "project living room" (we agreed on taking a room at a time, it's easier and less costly), and i have a pretty good idea of how it's going to look once I'm finished...I'll post pictures when i finish, right now it's just a whole mess of boxes and a lonely couch. It's starting to feel like home in it :) for the first few weeks, it was kind of hard to believe that this is our house and that i can, in theory, do whatever i want in it... I love old houses, and this one, built in 1916, it's full of details that makes it unique, like the oak trim and floors, the beautiful windows and staircase, etc. I can't wait to plant a garden outside :) now we have a back yard, a front yard and side yards (it's a corner lot, so poor Peter has been shoveling snow like crazy this winter, thought i make his life easier by planting flowers instead of having all that expanse of grass to cut next season... We'll fence it too sometime, just a small white picket fence :) Isn't it fun to get your own corner in the American dream? I'm so excited i don't know how I'm going to contain myself until spring, LOL