When the Snow Globe Settles

We have to be exceptional in the ordinary things, to be holy in mean streets, among mean people, and this is not learned in five minutes.

My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers

Listen 6:40

Well lucky for me the people here in Ecuador are anything but mean. The streets, though? They’re pretty mean. Steve and I have learned that even though we have a stroller, it’s actually easier to put the third born in the baby backpack (I swear by the Tula; Steve’s preference is the Ergo Sport). Why? The “sidewalks” here are TREACHEROUS! Huge cracks, broken grates, cliffs-for-curbs — yeah, it’s an adventure every time we go for a walk.

So I’m reading through my mom’s copy of My Utmost for His Highest this year, and I’ll tell ya: this edition is OLD. A couple of days ago it said — and I quote — “ejaculate to Him all the time.” I’m sorry, what? Thank goodness for newer editions.

But this particular quote about being exceptional? Gold. Take even the ordinary things and make them exceptional. I think of my bread baking as pretty ordinary, and yet I am constantly trying to perfect it. At the moment, I’m struggling with a 20-year-old gas stove that doesn’t retain heat well and at the highest gets up to only 450 degrees Fahrenheit. If ever there was an “ordinary” stove, it’s mine.

(I’ve named her Beulah.)

She gets the job done baking my bread, and she’s better than the teeny electric oven in my kitchen. I keep an iron skillet in the bottom to retain the heat a little better, and things are baking along. Even with ordinary Beulah, I try to make exceptional bread. And exceptional bread makes life a whole lot better.

This thing called life certainly forces the issue of the ordinary — have you noticed? We’re always trying to avoid the ordinary, to escape it, to deny it. We want the excitement! The adrenaline! The new shiny thing!

The new oven! The $224.95 Challenger Bread Pan! The fancy bread lame (only $37.50)!

But here’s the gold nugget: even without the new oven and the expensive bread pan and the fancy lame, my bread is exceptionally yummy — it just may not consistently look exceptionally good. From the ordinary, the exceptional(ly-tasting bread) comes. That’s life, isn’t it.

But I don’t let it, let it get me down
’cause this fine old world, it keeps spinnin’ around

That’s Life, Frank Sinatra

A fine world, indeed, when we get to eat delicious bread.

Before we moved to Quito, I often thought about how life would be in a new country around new people learning a new language. So much newness and adventure and excitement! And I think that was part of the allure of moving.

I got more views on my Instagram stories than ever when we started our journey — from pulling out of our driveway in Florida to dumping our stuff and collapsing in our new apartment in Quito. The first morning we were here, I documented our apartment, our view, and my taste-testing of all the weird fruits that had been bought for our arrival. I received lots of comments about how people were so excited to follow our adventures in Ecuador.

We felt like we were inside a snow globe that had just been shaken up. We left our comfortable, familiar life behind to start a new life in a different country — with three young kids.

We didn’t know what we were doing.

And that was exciting. And a rush. And a frenzy of whatever the little white pieces inside a snow globe are.

But as life has a habit of doing, it settled.

So here we are living life: baking bread, going on walks, buying groceries, playing Mario Uno, catching the Zoomy Gloomies, and doing otherwise inane activities.

And yet, there’s something very exceptional about this ordinary life of ours. What love we have inside this apartment compound that is surrounded by an electric fence (because let’s face it we live in a dangerous area). What laughs we have together when we breakdance on the floor to the soundtrack of Trolls (because I don’t deny it we bought a smart TV almost as soon as we got here). What embarrassment we have when Quito Pizza Company calls us on the phone to confirm our address (because we definitely don’t know Spanish well enough to understand someone speaking 5000 miles per hour over the phone).

It’s a good, ordinary life.

And you know what? As I live and love and get embarrassed, I realize that sometimes the ordinary remains ordinary and that’s OK.

It’s exceptional even.

I’d like to leave you now with a picture of something very ordinary. But I hope you can see that something we consider ordinary is anything but.

Fruit:

Enjoy your life, people. Make ordinary things exceptional when you can, yes. But remember to embrace the ordinary, too. And remember that sometimes, the ordinary becomes exceptional only with a shift in perspective. Like fruit.

(Mostly I just wanted to show you my fruit haul.)

Truth — What Is It Good For?

The baseboard may possibly have been loose because Roger had spent ten minutes kicking it, but for a man like Roger a truth is a truth, regardless of its cause.

Anxious People, Fredrik Backman

Listen 8:14

The truth is, there is a no-peeing sign posted in a public park we hiked to last weekend. More specifically, a FORBIDDEN TO URINATE! IN THIS PLACE sign with a pic of a dude takin’ a leak. But if that’s the only truth we have, it wouldn’t really show the whole picture. And the whole picture is that there must have been enough of a problem of people openly peeing in this particular area to justify the bureaucracy paying for, creating, and posting a sign.

It’s silly to think that people didn’t have at least a little (yellow) influence on the posting of that sign.

It’s silly to think that by kicking and kicking and kicking Roger didn’t cause the baseboard to become loose.

There is action. And then there is reaction. Kicking the baseboard –> loose baseboard. Peeing on the fence –> posted sign on the fence.

It’s silly to think that we can kick and pee without taking any responsibility. Truth is there, but that doesn’t mean that a human didn’t kick or pee it into existence.

So I want to focus on those truths that come about because of human action.

I start thinking about the upcoming US election and the debates and the pandemic and the protests and the fires and the conspiracies. All of those came about from human action.

  • The election: constitutional framers trying to create a democracy
  • The debates: people realizing that the public would be interested in hearing the candidates talk about controversial topics
  • The pandemic: person to person spreading
  • The protests: people taking a stand against systemic racism among other things
  • The fires: human-influenced climate change (oh, and a gender reveal party that used pyrotechnics — WHOOPS)
  • The conspiracies: um . . . people with too much time on their hands? I don’t know on this one.

When we pee all over the place and then refuse to believe that we had anything to with the sign going up, what happens to truth? The truth is the sign. With no context. And that’s confusing.

Before 1950, carbon dioxide had never reached over 300 parts per million. Now it’s at over 400. It’s silly to think that big-truck-driving humans have nothing to do with that number (and neither do the cattle farting it up in the human-designed, human-built factory farms). Right?

What a life of luxury we must have to sit on our leather armchairs waving away all responsibilities of our actions and entertaining all of the conspiracy theories.

But guess what? We don’t have to be like kick-the-baseboard Roger. And we certainly don’t have to pee in public parks.

Because even if we doubt truth or get confused about truth or get swayed to distrust the truth, we can still be good humans.

Good humans take responsibility for their actions.

Better humans take action because of their responsibility.

I get it. The truth seems to be sitting on shifting sands. So we try our best. We don’t waste the precious time we’ve been given on this beautiful earth by retweeting the Babylon Bee actually believing that Twitter has shut down “Entire Network To Slow Spread of Negative Biden News.” As a quick aside, let’s remember that Babylon Bee is a satirical news site.

What is one to do, though, when it seems that all the messages careening towards us are designed to twist and spin and distort and dismay?

Here’s what I do. Maybe you might resonate with these ideas, too:

  • Instead of doomsday scrolling, go outside and take a walk in nature. Breathe in fresh air. Look at the expansive sky. Realize how very small we are in the universe. Then look down at your fingerprints and appreciate yourself as a unique being.
Where I got to go outside today. Ecuador, I love you, even though I couldn’t really see the expansive sky through the fog.
  • Instead of YouTube rabbit-holing, grab a notebook and write. Grab a book and read. Grab some string and make art from a random wooden frame you have lying around in the apartment, left by the previous tenants. Exercise. Work with your hands.
  • Instead of fretting over politics, think about what you can vote for right now with your money. Yesterday at our little local grocery store, Santa Maria, I bought flour packaged in fabric scraps sewn together. For me, avoiding plastic packaging is a huge win. I voted with my money when I purchased my bags of flour. It’s just a small act, but it’s something — and something is certainly better than nothing. It’s also better than doomsday scrolling, YouTube rabbit-holing, and fretting over politics.

(Important qualification: Vote with your money, yes. But please, please also vote in the election.)

  • Lastly: LOOK UP. Look up from your screens. Look up from your bias. Look up from your carefully curated construct of life. Look up so that you can see others that may need your help.

I really do believe that when we are face to face with the truth of people who need help, we help. It’s just that it’s so easy to sink deeper into the leather armchair, looking down at our screens, losing sight of reality — bit by iPhone bit.

“Lifting your eyes from the things of this world is an activity that must begin WHERE YOU ARE.”

K.P. Yohannan

So look up, get up, and go do something good.

The truth? We can be good humans. Let’s start there.

Here are a few be-good resources:

  • International Justice Mission, “a global organization partnering with local justice systems to end violence against people living in poverty.”
  • Education Equals Hope, a mission dedicated to providing “for the education of those living in desperate and difficult situations” in Ecuador, Rwanda, Kenya, and Haiti.
  • Us! We are mindful to vote with our money, and we vote to support the local people here in Quito whenever and wherever possible.

Pizza, Parks, and the Best Laid Plans — in Quito, Ecuador

There’s a beauty that we never know what the future holds.

“The Wine We Drink,” Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors

Listen 6:43

A lot has happened since last we spoke:

We ordered pizza.

At first it seemed so easy. I was able to order completely online, having the luxury of looking up Spanish words and phrases as I bumped along. I put in extra information to help the delivery guy find our apartment (addresses here are at best a COMPLETE SHOT IN THE DARK). I had to put a phone number on the order, so I put Steve’s Ecuadorian number. I was feeling good.

Then Steve’s phone rings.

We knew it was Quito Pizza Company. Steve picks it up, and I — because I am an empathetic and loving wife — immediately start pit-sweating. I pit sweat; Steve laughs. He starts chuckling, and I know things are bad. He speaks in the bits and pieces of Spanish he knows to communicate to the driver that we live in a “casa blanca,” which induces more chuckles, with a “puerta negra.” I am just looking at Steve, with a terrified look on my face, hoping to goodness gracious communication is happening. We decide to open the gate to see if we could locate any confused pizza delivery guy lurking around our ‘hood. No luck.

Steve gets off the phone, and we decide that they must have called because they needed better directions than what I had given online.

Wait, what? I planned for this! I made sure to give our address in addition to fantastic, informative tid-bits! I did not want a phone call in Spanish.

And yet. There’s a beauty that we never know what the delivery guy will do even though you’ve given VERY good directions that even a child could understand.

Steve is still chuckling at this point and says that he could hear people in the background calling him the ever-endearing “gringo.”

Well good. Listen, I am under no illusion that I am going to knit myself into this community seamlessly. One of the reasons Steve and I decided to move to a Spanish-speaking country is to be humbled in life. We both admit that we thought we were getting pretty good at life in the states. It’s weird writing that, but Steve and I both admit that we can be prideful. If you know us, you know.

So we were expecting the gringo call-out. I’m surprised it took so long, actually (though perhaps it had already happened, and we were simply oblivious to it).

Then Steve’s phone rings again. He answers it, and mostly repeats what he had already said before realizing that the pizza guy is here. I run into the house to buzz open the gate, and there he is in all his glory holding a beautiful pizza box. We are very happy-nervous-excited-giggly. We tip the guy, get our pizza, and tell him “chao!”

There’s a beauty that we never know what the future holds. Like last weekend when we *planned* to walk to a local park only to end up walking completely around it looking for any open entrance. This included hiking up part of a mountain, walking next to a busy expressway for about half a mile, and then walking home in the pouring rain. We never made it to the park. Luckily, we did discover another little park en route. The kids got to play, and I got to embarrass myself trying to flip on some gymnastic rings — I did eventually manage to do it with the help of my foot, sloppily hooking onto the right ring to propel my body over. I definitely cheered for myself, and I think onlookers just laughed. BUT I DID IT.

But back to the pizza: I thought I had accounted for all the variables. And maybe it didn’t even matter what I wrote online. Perhaps they would have called either way. In the end, though, there was beauty:

  • A new, albeit terrifying, experience of talking to someone on the phone in Spanish: beauty.
  • Successfully directing the pizza guy to our house: beauty.
  • Eating delicious pizza that we didn’t have to make: BEAUTY.
  • Discovering a local park that we otherwise would have never gone to and flipping on some rings: beauty.

We may be gringos, but, man, what a beautiful gringo life we lead.

So thanks, Drew and Ellie Holcomb, for your wise words that transcend continents. There certainly is a beauty to not knowing what the future holds.

Because even in a different country, struggling against a language barrier, being newbies at everything, getting laughed at, and generally not knowing how to do most things, there’s no one I’d rather not-know-things-with than Steve. Because at the end of the day, he is the one thing that I know.

There’s a beauty that we never know what the future holds.
Beneath the surface we are the calm, we are the storm.
I’m not a sunset or a hurricane or a Vincent Van Gogh.
You are the one thing that I know.

Happy Birthday a little early, Steve. I love you.

Wish him a happy one on October 13. Maybe order a pizza from a local joint.

The Ants and Other Adventures — in Quito, Ecuador

Sometimes that’s all it takes to save a world, you see. A new vision. A new way of thinking, appearing at just the right time.

— N. K. Jemisin, Emergency Skin

Moving to Ecuador has definitely given me a new vision and a new way of thinking. It sure would be great if that meant I could now save the world! But alas.

This move has jolted me and my family. In the best sort of way. In my last post I talked about how great we had it before we moved. As we live and learn, now in Quito, I’m realizing that we’re building up to a great life once again. Last time we met here on WordPress, we were still on quarantine. Well, we’re out, and we’ve been exploring. And Steve got to physically go on campus for some pre-planning and get away from the Zoomy Gloomies.

Our first venture out was on a short walking tour with our neighbor. He took us to Parque Carolina, and, man, was it nice to get out of our little apartment compound. It was especially exciting to realize that we really did live in a big, bustling (albeit masked) city. The park was awesome, and we didn’t even see the entirety of it. Of course I had to pee five minutes into the walk, but when I found a public bathroom, I chickened out when I saw three women sitting at the entrance, looking like they wanted a fee for entering. Visions flooded me of the fates, goddesses weaving my destiny and probably adding a new line into my life for “chickening.” Ah well.

I managed to get home without peeing my pants.

Another kind friend took us on a driving tour of the city, and that was pretty cool, too. We got a sense of the scope of where we lived with better reference of where things were. And to the kids’ delight, we made a stop at Parque Metropolitano, where they almost immediately ditched the playground equipment for a pile of boulders. I love those kids.

As we drove around and then landed at the playground, I kept thinking this place reminds me of San Francisco. It was a cool, cloudy day, and the colorful houses were squished together on hilly streets. The park was surrounded by eucalyptus trees, and the smell brought me to San Francisco Zoo.

Even in another country, there are reminders of home. My heart goes out to my Bay Area home right now as it is burning and smoking and dry. My uncle lives in Boulder Creek, and he and his wife had to evacuate last week. Scary times.

Meanwhile, here, we’ve had some heavy rain the past couple of nights. I think maybe that’s why the ants have come. Perhaps they were looking for a new dry spot, and they thought that coming in through our bathroom window and trailing into our bedroom into a teeny tiny crack in the baseboard would be their new vision and new way of thinking. Think again, ants. I thought about grabbing a couple of my kids, setting up some rocking chairs, grabbing some wool, and weaving a great tale of the ants’ destiny of death if they dared try entering the house. But Lysol was quicker.

Adventures of ordering lunch at Almuerzos, our local (across the street) lunch joint, bartering at the market for fruits and veggies, traversing the streets where cars and taxis and motorcycles will run you over, and figuring out how to launder cloth diapers have all been part of our process of a new way of thinking.

It’s been a lot. But it’s been fun! And I’m sure I’ve given much entertainment to anyone who hears my broken, horrible Spanglish. Oh, and that banana passion fruit that I am “trying to like”? I discovered that if I make it into a smoothie with banana, coconut water, and ice, IT IS DELICIOUS.

Level up.

Until next time, we’ll be adventuring, exploring, and supporting our new community here.

If you’d like to donate to our cause, click here.

Our first venture out to the park — seeing the city, some more mountains, and what looks to be a super wonky building in construction.
A pretty nice view from Parque Carolina if you ask me.
The third-born got a taste of freedom…and wants MORE!
Parque Metropolitano. Like I said, the boulders were a big hit. Note: Asher’s peace sign is a no-no here. Only thumbs up from now on.
I really have no idea what kind of juice this is. Yay for language barriers being the impetus for new experiences!
THE ANTS!! Pray for us as we defend our home.

Getting Better at Life — in Quito, Ecuador

I knew when I met you adventure was going to happen.

A.A. Milne

But did I know that the adventure would lead me to Quito, Ecuador? No, no I did not.

My husband and I have had such a wonderful life together — from getting married right out of college, to moving to Michigan sans jobs and sans apartment, to going through grad school together, to relocating to Florida to get dogs and have kids and teach. Man, it’s been good.

Steve and I always say to each other that we’re getting better at life. We love to learn new things and apply them to life. And our life in Florida was so, so good. We had a great house and big yard. I had an awesome kitchen with all the tools and appliances I wanted. I had AN AWESOME VACUUM (not the first time I’ve mentioned my vacuum cleaner in a blog post — see this post about burning all of the things). Steve planted *all* the fruit trees in our yard. He built a pirate ship in the backyard for our boys. We had our dream screened-in porch built. Our life in Florida was so, so good.

So good that we needed to leave.

Steve and I decided early in our marriage that getting stagnant was something we would actively avoid. Even if stagnation was happiness.

We were extremely happy in Florida. But we had gotten to a point that we didn’t feel we were learning new “life things.” We had our routines. We picked our fruit. We made our bread. We biked around the neighborhood (sometimes picking up abandoned bikes for Steve to take home, fix, and sell). We got lots of free Panera coffee (and lots of other free stuff, too). Life was great! But it was time for a change. And not an easy one.

I think life in Florida had gotten easy. And when things got easy, we started floating. (Not that floating is bad — I think of tubing down the Ichetucknee River, not a care in the world.) But when we’re floating, it’s easy to float right on through life, not a care in the world.

So in January, before Steve had the job in Ecuador, we made our minds up. We were moving to another country. If not Ecuador, somewhere (preferably Spanish speaking — here we go with our high school level Spanish skillz).

Between January and now, a lot has happened:
– Steve getting the job at Alliance Academy International.
– THE PANDEMIC.
– “Quarantine” becoming a word on the most misspelled list.
– My St. Johns Country Day School teaching career coming to an end — through a screen from my guest bedroom.
– Getting fed up with police brutality.
– Supporting and celebrating and uplifting black lives.
– Processing lots of heavy stuff while still being somewhat trapped at home.
– Starting the moving process by selling a LOT of our stuff.
– Packing up 8 big ol’ suitcases.
– Renting a van, driving to JAX airport, flying to Miami for a 6+ hour layover, and eventually making it to the middle-of-the-night lights of Quito.

And here we are. Grateful and exhausted. (Actually, not so exhausted anymore. We’ve been here just over a week, and I am just now able to get some words typed — and not have to deal with altitude headaches.)

We are excited to reset in so many ways: learning a new culture, a new language, a new land, and, not to mention, a new kitchen. I am excited to make our new apartment a home — and my goal in doing that is to support the local Ecuadorians as much as possible. And once we’re out of our mandated 2- week quarantine (done this Friday!), we’re anticipating some awesome hikes up mountains and to markets.

It’s weird working to get to a place in life that is so good — like a well-oiled machine — and then completely ditching it. I’m learning patience in my new life already as I work my way around a kitchen with flimsy plastic tools and a glorified toaster oven for an oven. Part of the agreement in getting this apartment was the previous tenants leaving some stuff for us. In my mind, “some stuff” meant some basics — dishes, cutlery, tools. But they left SO MUCH STUFF — full kitchen and bathroom cabinets. I came into this experience excited to reset to a more minimalist lifestyle, but when we got here, we found ourselves having to go through someone else’s stuff before we could even relax.

That’s part of the process, though, and what better time to do it than in our 2-week quarantine. And it’s fun discovering weird food items in the cabinets. Like Coca Tea, made from the same plant that produces cocaine. (We’re donating that.)

We’ve connected with an awesome new friend, Cameron, who works for Education Equals Hope — a non-profit that provides “for the education of those living in desperate and difficult situations” — and we were able to donate a ton of stuff from this apartment to people who will use it. We encourage you to donate to the cause as well, from wherever you’re reading this.

Though the walls of our apartment are white and completely blank, we can see mountains through the window. Though the rice and pasta and bread and beans take (WAY) longer to cook, we are eating together as a family.

Life is different. We have a lot to learn. Like how to eat banana passion fruit (I’m trying to like it, I am) and guavas (the SEEDS!). But that’s the beauty. We are out of our comfort zone, still trying to get better at life.

And getting better at life means making life around us better as well. We are here. In Quito. Fully committed. And we’re going to live life in a way that supports the people and economy here. Like Cameron, we are firm believers in education and hope. While Steve will be back in the classroom educating, I’m going to try to be in community with people here. God is good. And, man, those mountains he created? They are something else.

If you’d like to donate to our cause, click here.

Crossing the threshold of our apartment for the very first time. WE WERE VERY, VERY TIRED (of having masks on all day).
Yes, there is an electric wire around our apartment complex. Toto, we are not in Kansas anymore.
Making time for normalcy — chess and Mario Uno.
You better BELIEVE I brought my starter to Ecuador. Bread has been made. Bread has been shared with neighbors. If you’d like to donate in a way to get food to people who need it here, check out Pan de Vida and give them some of your money.

Your Identity Is Not Your Own

Sometimes I wake up with the sadness
Other days it feels like madness
Oh, what would I do without you?

“What Would I Do Without You,” Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors

More and more in life I find my identity hopelessly intertwined with my husband. My identity is our life together, and our life together is a life worth living. And hopelessly is used in that hopeless romantic sort of way. The best kind of hopeless.

Now I know that I am my own human and in that sense different from every other human, but it seems that the idea of my identity being intertwined with anyone else’s is frowned upon by Everyone Else. Everyone Else has opinions about everything. Everyone Else oozes with selfishness (but conveniently under the guise of “being your best self” and “taking time to care for yourself before others”). Everyone Else thinks that things like “me time” and “me-o’-clock” and “my truth” are essential to being Everyone Else human. And if you’re not bathing in me-time at me o’ clock with your my-truth-flavored bath bomb from Lush, Everyone Else gets uppity. Good thing I don’t care about Everyone Else.

So I accept that my identity is not my own. And maybe the most important thing in my life is not me … but we.

I’ve been quite sentimental as of late, due, in large part I think, to my impending international move. Knowing that I’m going to have to get rid of a lot of my sentimental stuff (including a house that I’ve considered a home for the past 12 years, the house where I’ve gotten a dog and then another dog and then had a baby and then another baby and then another baby), I’ve had to reassess The Important Things in life. And — spoiler alert — The Important Things aren’t things. They’re people. What makes this great adventure to Ecuador great is that I’ll be adventuring with my husband. And together, we’ll be parenting our kids through all of it.

Oh, what would I do without you?

Well I wouldn’t be moving internationally, for one thing.

A decade goes by without a warning
And there’s still a kindness in your eyes
Amidst the questions and the worries
A peace of mind, always takes me by surprise

My husband and I always talk about how we are getting better and better at life. Life, to us, is a fun challenge, and we are both competitors. For example, the other day I was griping about the nozzle on the glass cleaner spray bottle and how every time I sprayed it, a thin stream would shoot out of the side of it, hitting whatever happened to be to my direct right (which, to clarify, was not the mirror in front of me that I was trying to clean). So Husband suggested switching the nozzle with another one from a different bottle. But though the neck of the bottle was the same, the size of the bottle was not. So we pulled the tube off the broken nozzle and put it onto the not-broken nozzle. Success for the glass-cleaner bottle! But, wait, it gets better.

We didn’t put a tube back onto the broken nozzle before screwing it onto the bottle because there was so little cleaner left in the smaller bottle that even with the tube, it wouldn’t have quite reached the liquid. So now when we use the small bottle with the broken nozzle, we tip it upside down to spray, and since we’re spraying directly onto the kitchen countertops, the shooting-from-the-side syndrome is not an issue. AND WE’LL USE UP EVERY DROP OF THE CALDREA COUNTERTOP SPRAY. Living life to the fullest, people.

And that’s how, all of a sudden, another decade has passed. It’s now time for us to get better at life somewhere else. After the height of the nozzle achievement, what’s left for us here? And even though we have (SO MANY) questions about leaving life here behind and (SO MANY) questions about starting a new life on a different continent, we surprise ourselves with a peace of mind. I think that’s what makes all of this feel right.

So you got the morning, I got midnight
You are patient, I’m always on time
Oh, what would I do without you?

And the fact that we’ve chosen to do life together even though in so many ways we’re different makes life just that much better. Differences can be scary. They can seem irreconcilable. They can make you doubt yourself. But at the end of the day (for us, all the days since July 31, 2004), those differences combine to make the beautiful identity of us. In Holcomb’s song, he alludes to patience being different than “on time,” and I really resonate with that. When it comes to schedules and start times and what-not, Husband is … patient. The euphemism here is not missed on me. But even though I like to be on time, he’s taught me that being five minutes late here and there is not cause for shortness of breath, raised heart rate, dizziness, stiff neck, bulging eyes, white knuckles, and road rage. (Deeeeep breath.) And maybe I’ve helped him be (closer to) on time here and there. Combination of differences is good. I am a little bit more patient. He is a little bit more on time. Win, win, one bit at a time.

You got your sunshine, I got rain clouds
You got hope, I got my doubts

My physics-teaching husband could tell you all about balance and how it works and why it’s necessary, but I can tell you this: balance in a marriage is gold. (“You’ve heard of the golden rule, haven’t you? Whoever has the gold, makes the rules.”) Sometimes balance means I’m sad and Husband isn’t. Or I doubt and he hopes. At the end of last school year (I teach English at a college-prep school), someone in authority over me doubted me. And after 15 years of enthusiastically teaching English, I started doubting myself. And while I took that doubt and turned it into positive action (innovating in my classes, reading (actually good) professional development books, trying new teaching methods), it still remained, like a steady, dull buzz. Husband took my doubt and turned it into hope by dreaming a new life into fruition.

What would I do without you?

My identity is not my own. It’s invigorating, it’s empowering, it’s intertwined.

It’s me.

Oh, what would I do without you?
Oh, what would I do without you?
Oh, what would I do without you?

Now go give the song a listen. And if you get a chance to see Drew and Ellie in concert, do it. What a perfectly imperfect, intertwined love they have for each other. It’s beautiful to behold — because it’s real.

Your Dreams Are Not Your Own

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” — Hebrews 11:1 —

My husband and I have done a thing. A big thing. It’s exciting and scary, and I (still) have lots of questions about it. But the thing has been decided, we’re doing it, and our entire world is about to change. This week, I’m sharing a post that my incredibly talented and intelligent and philosophical husband wrote. So with my intro as a teaser, please enjoy my husband’s words as he reveals what we’re up to.

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How many dreams have you had? How many can you remember? The answers are probably not zero, and are likely numerous. Whether they were dreams while you were asleep, day dreams, or the figurative dreams of future achievements or adventures, they exist.

My wife planned a wonderful night for us to go out to eat with friends and then to a Drew and Ellie Holcomb concert. It is rarely my idea to spend money on such luxuries, but it was like a dream. Was it my dream or her dream?

As my training in philosophical writing* would have me do, let me briefly acknowledge many definitions of dreams, my delineations of them, and narrow the focus of the topic.

A dream of completing some banal goal is finite and cannot be undone. This is basically anything done in your past that you had dreamt of doing at some point in your life. If it is to run a marathon, once you’ve done that thing, your dream has been accomplished and cannot be undone.

Conversely (or should I say contrapositively — look that up if you don’t know the difference), if a dream can be undone, then it would qualify as not finite (or infinite). You might dream of having a house or a family. Both of those things can be taken from you in varying degrees of tragedy or negligence. To keep that dream a reality is a never-ending effort.

There is also a difference between material dreams, personal dreams, and interpersonal dreams.

No surprise, a material dream deals with some inanimate object that you desire. I have a bicycle. I dream of a better bicycle. One that shifts so smoothly it barely makes a sound. One where the brakes never screech and always work well. One that is lightweight for my wife to move easily on her own but can also have all the desirable baskets, bottle cage, bell, lights, computer and other accoutrements. I can acquire the materials to make that happen, thus dream complete…for now.

A personal dream is something you can, essentially, do on your own. (I realize I needed a mom and dad and food and shelter and whatever else to bring me to adulthood. It takes a village, blah blah, don’t get uppity.) If I dream of running a 6 minute mile, that’s on me. No one else can train or run for me.

As expected, an interpersonal dream involves other people, which can make it much more complex. I dreamt of dating my now wife, but before she was my wife or girlfriend, she had no intention of agreeing to my dream. So this includes all sorts of celebrity encounters, potential friendships, or joint ventures with other beings. (For the sake of argument, if I had a dream to wrestle a bear, that bear would also need to be a relatively willing participant.)

Complex dreams involve lots of the aforementioned categories. We have a house. I dream of making it better. I also dream about who could move into the house for sale down the street (or who of my current friends I could persuade to move there which would make living in my house better). That’s some material, interpersonal, and possibly both finite and infinite dreaming.

Other dreams are fanciful (or were) like playing in the FIFA World Cup. So much time and effort on top of God-given talent would have had to go into that personal dream much earlier in my life for that to become a reality. Plus, given its dependence on coaches or teammates along the way, this is hugely interpersonal.

Or a dream could be downright ridiculous. I dream of being a knight in King Arthur’s court but with modern amenities and the ability to fly in a rocket ship to Mars while eating dark chocolate peanut butter cups. 

And yet dreams for some people — graduating from college — are expectations for others. (I do not plan on unpacking that issue in this post.)

The problem with dreams for me is not if I have them or if I can remember them or how to define them, but can I stop them? People may not dream of moving to a suburb of Jacksonville like Orange Park. I get that. Once you’re there, however, you might develop dreams for your future there. I did.

If I am stuck** somewhere for any length of time (more than five minutes will usually do), I will dream of how it could be better. Imagine a waiting room, for anything. Hopefully I brought a book, but is the seating optimal and efficiently arranged? Sitting and writing at a cluttered desk — can I build shelves? Will that just invite more room for more clutter? Living in my house — what if we knocked down a wall, built an indoor laundry room, added a half bath…?

Some of the dreaming is not location dependent. My kids dream of going to a playground, but not usually one in particular. My wife may dream about a relatively close and not crowded beach, sitting in the warm sun, and reading a good book. I might dream about real estate investments locally or somewhere else which could also be done in that waiting room if I don’t have a book to read.

People, whether they be friends, family, or co-workers, may have dreams for your life. Parents may have dreams (or expectations) of their children to go to and graduate from college. I have dreams for my kids to be happy and healthy but also to be intelligent and kind (and successful, however you define that).

Since this may be more like an unkempt lawn growing wild, let me give it a fresh cut. (Note: I may still get caught on a section here and there just like my real-life mower does for various reasons.) So let’s focus on infinite, interpersonal dreams that are not location dependent and stay in the relatively rational realm. Mine will specifically address my family.

Twenty years ago, the expectation was to go to college, but my dream was to have fun and find a wife. Not incongruous, so all was well. Then, it turned into graduating, actually getting married, having a home together, and maybe more. Hold up. We needed jobs (let’s avoid all topics of dream jobs, it’s ridiculous). 

Twelve years ago, we needed new jobs (again, not dream jobs, just paid employment to thrive). Once settled with better jobs, a big house, and stability, the dream became filling the house with children (and stuff, kind of). With children, the dream quickly turned into wanting more time. Time for everything, the kids, each other, our jobs — life. 

Side note: what did we do with all of our free time before kids?

Six years ago, I stumbled across Mr. Money Mustache and had a new dream — retire early. That’s when we would have time for everything. So I ran the numbers and figured it would take ten years to get to a point of walking away from obligatory work.

Three years ago, well before we could actually retire, I stopped working to partially fulfill the dream of more time with my kids. I was a stay-at-home, homeschooling dad. I loved it. I also still loved my wife. (It’s an infinite dream, one that needs never-ending effort.) If her job was making her unhappy, I needed to at least provide a potential solution. Note: I had already told her to resign or quit or just leave, but that was not good enough.

About one month ago, I applied to teach again. Part of the reason was to provide her a way out without her deliberate resignation. This would serve the purpose of love and protection, too, which I vowed to do. Part of the reason was to possibly live out a dream I had — to live internationally, and potentially raise bilingual children. Recently, my dreams were coming true all over again. I was my wife’s knight in shining armor (see ridiculous dream above, double bonus). I was offered a job teaching math in Ecuador.

Dreams change and yet remain remarkably consistent.

My dreams are not my own, not entirely. And think about the dreams while you’re asleep. They are nothing but weird images and storylines unless you share them. Dreams are not meant to exist in isolation.

Odd note: I have been reading through the Old Testament. So many revelations came through dreams. While I am a skeptic as to the veracity of those claims, dreams can have that power.

Second tangent: I had a dream (while awake) to buy the property across the street from me so I could rent it to a friend before my parents moved down to Florida (my dream for them) to be close to their grandkids (and another dream for them). That dream came true, but is being undone as we are likely liquidating everything for our international move to Ecuador in less than six months. Oh well, dreams can be superseded by other dreams, I guess. 

And we’re back. Back to the Drew and Ellie Holcomb concert, almost. Drew Holcomb has a TEDx Memphis talk of similar nature to this post so I resonated not just with the beautiful music but also the message of a fellow dreamer. (John Lennon was also probably on to something.)

Because my wife shared her dream of a great night out with friends and a concert, we both got to live the dream. What happens when you stop dreaming? I’m not sure. As I mentioned, I can not seem to stop that part of my brain. But what happens when you stop sharing those dreams?

I applied to the school in Ecuador because my wife had a rough week at school and had gone to bed really early on a Friday night with no morning obligations. Normally, we might have just stayed up doing nothing together and loving it. The kids were asleep, too. So I was left awake and alone. Dangerous? I searched for my dream of living and teaching internationally. While I could have remained quiet about my pursuit, I told my wife the next day. My dream was not my own. I couldn’t dream without my family.

I can also tell you my wife dreams of me writing. She turned on her faucet of words months ago. Being so moved at the concert — a dream which was not my own — I felt the need to share her dream of writing. Is it also a Valentine’s Day gift? Bah…who cares; it’s too late anyway.

The dreams that really matter are not just about me. They are the dreams that never end, and I hope they never will.

-Steve

*I have limited the repetitive nature of philosophical writing in this post in hopes for a more readable blog, but if challenged to further develop my thoughts in an unassailable way, I may be inclined to expound on these ideas. For example, some may wonder what the differences between a dream and a goal are. I do not address goals directly in this post.

**Rarely would I consider myself stuck somewhere. It is mostly a choice to remain in that place for some end result or sheer inertia.

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