Posts Tagged With: self-awareness

¡Que Linda!

“I see her!!”

“There she is!”

“In a blue coat, see her?!”

“I do! I see her! I see her!”

And in the mass of arms and tears and glee and grandsons, just like that, YaYa came to Ecuador.

Not only was this visit the best heart-salve for all the homesickness lingering in our spirits, but it was also the first encounter we’ve had with someone from our “normal” life peeking in on us in our “sabbatical” life. That got interesting.

First, let me say that we had a blast and did and saw and toured and explored every hectare of our new home that we could squeeze into her 9 days. In addition to the daily adoration from the boys, morning coffee complete with volcano views and Bo and I showing her our favorite countryside walks, we also toured the surrounding villages with our friend Luis and saw the indigenous culture at work in heart-stoppingly amazing ways. We met an 85 year old man still making the straw mats he’s made since childhood with guinea pigs and kittens scampering around his dirt floor hut and feet that have spent the last eight decades bending to match said floor’s surface. Introduced next to a simply beautiful couple, also in their late 80’s, that still weave textiles together the way they have been since they were married. They stood on opposite sides of their wedding present, an 160 year old loom, smiled at us and each other, then with dexterity and sprite that defies their age, wove sheep’s wool into countless works of art.  We went as well to the topiary garden/cemetery of Tulcán, across the border to the stunning Colombian church at Las Lajas, and ended with the grand sights of Quito’s colonial old town. More adventures and stories than can be adequately summed up in a single post, and many that will hopefully have a post of their own later on, so for now I’ll put a slideshow of photos at the bottom for you all to see our highlight reel.

The work of this post, the sitting down to compose “My Mother’s Visit”, quickly became less about the adventures and more about the actual experience of having my mother here. In Ecuador. How she came farther away from home than she’s ever been and how her fresh eyes gave us new sight.

Previous visits to our home from my mother, or anyone, usually included coffee, wine, cards and conversations about how the boys are progressing in school, what’s new with Bo’s job, and any theatre projects I have in the works. There is a pattern that is known, a cultural road map, that guides our interactions via shared and understood mile-markers; clearly identified life signs telling you where you are in the “Grand Scheme of Things”.  Vaughn started kindergarten, Bo got a promotion, Jamie’s directing a play, Luke’s tying his shoes…all fairly standard and measurable steps of progression clearly letting us know that along the American cultural life map, YOU ARE HERE :

However, since jumping life tracks, and cultures, and professions, and schools, we’ve lost our mile markers. Shoot, they don’t even HAVE “miles” here. If we’d thought to make one, our route marker would probably look more like this:


It would say, “You Are Here-ish”.

To be sure, our family sabbatical thus far has included joy and adventure and raucous shared laughter, but it has also included confusion, heartache, and a rather large portion of floundering.  Floundering around looking for progression points that we didn’t even realize we were looking for, until Mom came. Similar to how we know the boys have grown while we’ve been here, but mom, having not seen them for months REALLY saw the change – Bo and I knew we’d grown as a family and people as well, but couldn’t see or understand the full scope until placed in front of her qualifying gaze.

Vaughn did start kindergarten back in the states, but now he’s in a Spanish speaking school and has lost a lot of confidence in pronouncing his letters and will no longer even pretend to spell words he used to write for fun. Bo’s not working, I’m not directing, our accountants will have a no-brainer doing our income tax for this year, and no – Luke cannot tie his shoes.

The mile-markers of our native culture…don’t exist. Not only do they not exist in our life now, their opposite stance does! So, the usual catch-up conversations with my mother brought about more than a little bit of anxiety, for both of us.


As my mother braved our new culture with us, her unusually green eyes and loving spirit picked up on what we’ve previously had and not really seen. Her being here showed us our new mile markers. We can now spot ourselves on this foreign map.

Mom found beautiful things at the Otavalo market at a great price, that I bargained down for her, in Spanish. Bo translated much of our guides’ information to her as well, enhancing what all of us learned through those jaunts. Her patience and attention and play time with Luke and Vaughn bolstered them from nervous about their original English skills to being proud of their new bilingual ones. She spent one-on-one time with both Bo and me, loving on us and talking with us, and telling us how proud she is of all we’ve done. And then listing off all we’ve done.

Mom ate fruit she’s never seen, trekked her blonde head through countryside that never sees blonde heads, hiked an active volcano crater, dodged feces on the sidewalks, was cheerfully mobbed by Ecuadorian children at the hot springs, yelled to be heard over the rain hitting our plastic roof, rode chicken buses over ridiculous terrain, clenched her seat and her teeth through each insane driving maneuver–and laughed with us at the errant livestock that sometimes pepper our street. Her joy in these discoveries was infectious. Her discomfort at times, relatable. Our ability to navigate her through Ecuador, illuminating.

At 3:30 am on April 21, mom quietly slipped into our Quito hotel room, kissed the boys while they slept, told Bo she couldn’t be prouder of him, hugged me with that fierce mother’s love, and left for the plane that would take her home. She left believing we had made a good choice in coming here and with such pride in us for doing something new and brave and bold. She left giving us the gift of believing the same thing.

Linda, in Spanish, means “lovely” and “elegant”.  We hear the male version, “¡Que Lindo!” at least 4 times a day as the local population walks by our startlingly beautiful boys. A descriptor of which I completely agree.

Linda also happens to be my mother’s name. Another descriptor of which, I completely agree.

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Categories: From Jamie | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

Good Grief

People travel to wonder at the height of the mountains, at the huge waves of the seas, at the long course of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars, and yet they pass by themselves without wondering. ~ St. Augustine

Part of the plan for this trip has always been to include a “wondering” of ourselves. Yes we are going to see a lot of cool stuff and learn amazing new things from interesting people and hopefully return speaking a second language. But, primarily, this undertaking is about knowing ourselves better and loving each other more. A worthy goal we are excited and prepared to embrace, challenges and all, from the moment the plane’s wheels touch down in South America. Interesting then, to find ourselves so engaged in that task already – weeks before we even head to the airport. Just the preparation of this trip has been part adventure, part daydream, part family bonding, and  [large] part personal science-experiment in which our collective and individual hopes and fears and emotions continually run amok at any given time and in any given way. And so here I am, writing as both petri dish and microscope trying to make sense of it all.

This process manifests in each of us differently, and I’ll let Bo post more in-depth if he wishes about the utter Odd-Ness of being, by choice, without a job for the first time since he was 16 years old.  On they boys end, they are having a hard time grasping all that is going on and wondering just how long IS this trip we are taking?? They are acting out more often and getting very tired of the “Mom/Dad can’t play right now there’s a lot of work to do for our big trip. Aren’t you excited? Yes you are!! We are all very excited!!” Vaughn loves kindergarten and doesn’t want to leave his friends or his routines, he’s my schedule boy. Luke loves his place here too and his play dates with his best friend and planning his summer birthday… and both boys find the idea that giving away their toys and learning to live with less will ultimately be a good thing HIGHLY SUSPECT.

For myself, there is a ….pressure… I don’t know how else to explain it, that I feel pressing down on my sternum and seems to swell in direct proportion to my level of emotional discomfort throughout the day. The swells come from major moments of sadness like buying baby gifts for my precious girlfriend’s shower that I’ll be missing over the next year; to the more mundane variety of shock like tucking the boys into their own beds, pouring myself a glass of red wine, and watching Grey’s Anatomy in peace — realizing that in a little over a week I will not have a separate room to tuck the boys into, readily available red wine, OR Grey’s Anatomy.

Other things I’ll no longer have include: a home, a car, a post-office box, an address, a morning alone while the boys are at school, an option to buy anything I want at anytime (not that I do that now, but I could, I have access to things now that I won’t have then), movie night with my friends to watch The Hunger Games, my wonderful monthly book club gatherings, my parent’s visits to share in Crested Butte, my parent’s home to escape to from mud season in Crested Butte, my parent’s nearby period, my little brother’s new college experience (just down the road from the home I’ll no longer have),  singing in my church, watching the 1/2 day kindergarteners become full day 1st graders, and countless other milestones of loved ones that I can’t even imagine yet and will miss sharing in.

Please, hear me when I say we are genuinely thrilled and, yes, excited about our Family Sabbatical! We really are going to see a lot of cool stuff and learn amazing new things from interesting people and hopefully return speaking a second language. And in it we will begin knowing ourselves better and loving each other more. How wonderful is that??!! And I believe that the happiness and true joy of all that we are about to do will be that much stronger, purer, if I allow a moment of honest recognition here of just what that weight is that is pressing in on my chest.

It is grief.

But, it is good grief.

It’s good grief because its existence stems from the massive amounts of love I’ve received and shared with the people and places I’ve been surrounded by here. It’s the best kind of grief there is. And it’s already taught me something. My priorities have really changed now that I’m living in a reality where time is short and love is long. In the midst of all that is yet to be done (YIKES!), this week I had lunch with a couple girlfriends and had friends up for a morning of coffee while our kids skied the hill. In the same week! Normally that time would be spent focused on the laundry piling up, the toilets to clean, the errands to run, and the groceries to buy. But when good-byes are hanging in the air and time is running out- you do what’s most important. And I know that when I’m needing a heart-boost either when I’m south of the equator or in my rocking chair at 80, it will not be pride in the Massive Amounts of Laundry Loads Completed that gets me through- it will be the love shared at times like this week’s lunch and coffee break and fellowship.

Everybody knows this. Not everybody lives it. I didn’t until forced and -good grief, what a way to learn!

Categories: From Jamie | Tags: , , , , | 8 Comments

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