Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Problem solved...

Well, I think I just figured out one of the most frustrating things about blogger.  I could never figure out why the pictures I took always looked great on my home computer but then fuzzy and grainy when I posted them to the blog.  It was so frustrating and made me want to shout all sorts of expletives.  After doing some research, I finally found the answer.  


The above picture was posted straight from blogger and the other went through Flickr. 

Hallelujah.  How did people ever problem solve before online forums?

Chile 2012 008 by ritamerrick

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Well, it's been a week since I've been back from Chile.  One of the reasons I like to travel is because of the wake up call and reality check it gives me.  Life can become so routine and monotonous that I find myself losing sight of what is right in front of me.  I come back with fresh eyes and once again appreciate the little things that are often overlooked.

Aaaah...the order and predictability of the American way of life.  My innate need for order and timeliness fit hand-in-hand with the American way of life.  I love the efficiency and precision of everything from traffic to grocery store lines that run like well-oiled machines.  I love the way traffic comes to a stand-still when an ambulance is coming through.  I love not always having to look over my shoulder in fear of robbery or being bamboozled. The directness of American communication, clean sidewalks, the wide and well-maintained streets, having a front yard in a quiet and safe neighborhood, the lack of potholes, excellent public schools, and the list goes on and on.   At heart, I am oh so very American.

And yet a part of me mourned a bit for the Latin way of life.  Having walked almost everywhere for the past two weeks, a sense of isolation swept over me as I hopped in my minivan to drive to the grocery store the day after I got back.  The level of isolation seemed unnatural. In Latin America, people are everywhere and interaction with others is almost constant with loud, festive music blaring in the background.

I eagerly bought a large bag of tomatoes in hopes of making one of my tía Marta's delicious tomato salads only to face the disappointment of biting into a starchy, bland tomato (the kind that you can't help but wrinkle your nose as you chew and try to swallow down).

The transition from from a way of life that is lackadaisical to one that is ruled by the clock was in some ways welcome and in others not so much.  Chileans often take time out of their days to stroll in the town plaza as they enjoy an ice cream cone.  At times they come to simply sit and people-watch while they sort this or that out in their minds.  And then there's the siesta, the time between 1 and 4pm when virtually the entire town shuts down for a lunch break and a nap... charming in it's own way but the bane of my Chilean visit.  Gaaaaah!  Just two hours after things come to life in the morning, they shut down again and unless you have planned carefully, you are left housebound until things once again resurrect.

But what I miss the very most is the warmth of the Latin people.  When we went to church on Sunday, there were few faces that I recognized.  Many of the people that lived there when we did have either passed away or moved on in life.  Yet soon after the first meeting was over, a large group of people, most of whom I didn't recognize, came over to greet us with hugs and kisses.  The friendliness of the musicians on the corner of the grocery store parking lot who had obviously smoked one too many (and thought I was Jimmy's mother...psssh), the quick jokes from the store clerks, the way people came from across the street to comment on and tickle my baby- all of those are things that I sorely miss.

And yet my life is what it is.  I have no doubt that there is divine reason in my family being where we are. I once told my dad that a part of me always yearned for Latin America, always drawing me back.  I  feel torn between my wonderful, predictable life here and the more exciting life I used to live.  I was surprised when he told me that that was alright.  A part of him had always yearned for his roots in Eastern Idaho but that just wasn't meant to be.

In the past few years I've learned that not all yearnings are meant to be.  Maybe it's part of the divine design of things for some of the things that your heart desires to always be just out of reach as we learn to love the life the Lord has given us.  And for me, the life He has given me is a beautiful one.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Viaje a Chile

I just returned from a 12 day expedition to Chile with my little Calista.   As I was talking to my tía Marta on Christmas day, she asked why we hadn't come to Chile in so long.  I gave her the same story I had given myself for the past six years- the kids, Dennis' job, the money, Camden's school, etc, etc.  She listened and then asked, "I realize it's hard for your whole family to come together, but why haven't you come to Chile?"  That caught me off-guard.  Why hadn't I?  Sure it would be hard to make happen, but with some careful planning it was possible, and had been possible all along.

I was surprised at how encouraging Dennis was for me to go.  And then come to find out, that sly fox had a hunting trip tucked up his sleeve that he was waiting to spring on me at just the right moment.  And I had just delivered that moment to him on a silver platter.

So two days later I was the proud owner of a round-trip ticket to Santiago, Chile and he was going wolf hunting.

It felt so good to be back.  Chile looked so beautiful that I wanted to just drink up everything I saw and heard.  One of the most enchanting things about Los Andes (my mom's home town) is how slowly things change.  It looks almost identical to what I remember from when we lived there from 1989-1993.  In today's world, it's nice when somethings just don't change much.

Some of the highlights from the trip were souvenir shopping in Santiago with my crazy little nephew, going through my first session in Spanish at the temple in Santiago, going sweater shopping in the quaint little town of La Ligua, spending the night in a wonderful bed and breakfast in the beach town of Papudo with a beautiful view of the beach, playing soccer again after a 12 year hiatus, hiking the cerro at night, enjoying the annual Chaya festival, and reconnecting with childhood friends.  Hands down, the best part was eating my tía Marta's food though.  Oh my... those clams...

One of the most rewarding things was being able to spend so much time with Calista, who has to compete for attention with 3 older siblings when she's at home and unfortunately gets very little individualized attention.  She was the star of the show for two solid weeks with everyone who passed by her stopping to oooooh and aaaaah over her.  She got to be quite the little ham, waving and giggling at everyone as she realized how the more she did it, the more squealing and tickling.  A number of people commented on her piesesitos de empanaditas (empanada feet).

Also a big thank you to the countless acts of kindness that I received from airline employees and passengers as they offered to help in anyway they could.  A big thank you especially to the very tall lady on the flight from Salt Lake to Atlanta, who for 3 1/2 hours kept both my bag and hers on the floor in front of her so Calista could lay down and take a nap on the floor, leaving her virtually no leg room but giving my baby a desperately needed nap.  Once again, I was blown away by the goodness and kindness of people who I've never met and likely will never cross paths with again.

But the very best part of going on vacation is the excitement at seeing Dennis, the kids, and Nampa again (I know... I really need that last one sometimes).   I've told Dennis that the best thing for suppressing the traveling bug in this wife of his, is for me to go on trips like this for how happy I am to come home.  It reminds me why I like (and need) the slowness of pace, the predictability of everyday, and the sense of security that comes with stability.

Chiquitín IV and Calista
Calista and cousin Jacob

Plaza de Los Andes

The best beer-battered fish EVER

Playing with the hybsicus flowers at the bed and breakfast in Papudo
Frias family stress therapy  :)

Luchito, Luisa, Marta

A snapshot taken of my tías bedroom
Two weeks of nothing but attention!
Salto del Soldado

Rio Colorado

Lora II


Can you believe she turned 62?!? 
At the cemmetery

Los Andes just after sunset
On the top of the cerro
Friends since 3rd grade

Monday, February 6, 2012

Back in the saddle

Bib #264 for me is a personally significant addition to out little wall out in the garage.

We started collecting race bibs after I finished my first marathon in 2008.  I had started training for it with my only ambition being to finish in an upright position instead of crawling through the finish line.  I was shocked as I passed a volunteer somewhere around mile 18 who called out, "Keep going!  There are only 5 women ahead of you!"  With a few hundred runners in the race I thought maybe he had been standing out in the sun a little too long and sneaking too many runner's goos from the table he was manning.  But as I passed a couple of ladies in the last few miles, I was shocked to find out that I finished 3rd overall among women and 2nd in my age division.  That little boost lit the fire for me to enjoy racing on a more competitive level from there on out.  (Before anyone gets too impressed, I have to admit that my finishing time was a far cry from phenomenal but apparently the oober competitive runners to sign-up that year were slim pickins.)

As I prepared for my first race out of the stirrups after Calista was born, I was quite confident.  Even though I hadn't been able to shed the last of my pregnancy weight, I felt strong.  I had exercised through my entire pregnancy, even running until I was 7 1/2 months pregnant and in the weight room until the week before I delivered.  Even though I knew I wouldn't finish first, I was sure I'd at least finish strong.  But as luck, age, and my postpartum body would have it, I finished the race far behind where I wanted to, feeling like my heart was going to explode out of my chest.  It was a devastating blow to my racing ego.  It was the first race where I left with my tail between my legs, wanting to cry.

As a few friends started discussing the upcoming triathlon at the Rec Center, I had decided I needed to put my racing days on hold for a while and declined their invitation to train with them.  My self-esteem couldn't handle another failure and humiliation like the last race.  This wall- with all of our bib numbers, along with some pep talk from good friends were some of the things that reminded me of my love of racing.  I registered for the triathlon and was determined to give it all I had.  By golly, I was going to add another podium placement to my imaginary racing resumeé if it killed me.  I needed to prove to myself that I still had it in me.

The night before my race, I felt pretty confident with relatively few pre-race jitters.  I knew I had trained well over the past 10 weeks and that I had given it my all considering my current situation.  On a whim and out of curiosity I looked up the past racing results from years prior.  I had avoided doing it until then to avoid getting worked up over it- and apparently for good reason.  As I scanned through the times, my heart sank.  There was no way I was going to finish in the top 3 if the same caliber of competitors registered as they had last year.  Every bit of wind was taken out of my sails and the pre-race jitters set in with a vengeance, making it one long night of tossing and turning.

Race day came and as I watched the first heat, I realized there was no way I was going to finish in the top 3.  These ladies I was competing against were machines- nothing like two years before when I had competed in the same race and finished second.  We had been a crop of pansies then compared to these ladies.  I knew that for me to finish even in the top 6 the planets would probably have to align.

I finished the race a minute and a half slower than my previous time hardening the blow even more.  How disappointing!  Making it even more anticlimactic was the fact that Dennis was out of town and the kids were home with a babysitter.  I crossed the finish line to greet one or two people I knew who had come to watch someone else and then turned and walked out alone.  My first impulse was to throw in the towel and chalk it up as another failure.

Later that afternoon as the tears threatened to come I forced myself to look for the silver lining. I realized that even though my run time had been a bit slower than before, it was faster than I had originally thought it would be.  I had shed a minute off my swim time.  I kind of tanked on the bike, but bikes are kind of stupid anyway I decided.  And as I looked around at the competitors at the award ceremony, I remembered how much I enjoy the camaraderie among runners.  I love the "good jobs" and occasional high-fives shared among unknown racers even as they pass each other on the course.  Yes, this is something worth doing even if the finishing results are less than stellar.

As with most things in my life at this stage, I realize I need to take victories as they come, no matter the shape or size.  Perhaps it was the breakdown of the small victories that I had to force myself to see that made the experience sweeter and worthy of further pursuit.  Even though my horse is a little run down, I felt like I was back in the saddle again.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Another crazy night

Here's a typical night of insomnia, which was last night for me.  

11:30pm- Head to bed far too late knowing that waking up at 5:45am to workout with the ladies in the garage is going to come waaaaay to early.  Blast those good books that suck you in.

12:30am- Still awake, flopping around anxiously, thinking how tired I'm going to be all day if I can't fall asleep.

1:30am- Okay, bootcamp just isn't going to happen.  I head downstairs and write a note for Dennis to leave for the ladies when he heads off to work with instructions on what the workout is for the day.

2:30am- Still awake, but now with guilt that I've bailed on these awesome ladies.  Dang it, now I need to piddle.

3:30am- Realized I dozed off, but sit up in bed hoping that Dennis set his alarm and that he won't sleep in and forget to leave the note and unlock the garage door.  Double check his alarm to make sure it's set.

4:00am- Beep, beep, beep, beep.  From a foggy sleep I realize that it's not my dream but the alarm on my stop watch going off somewhere in the dark.  I stumble around groping towards the sound and realize that it's coming from deep inside my closet.  "What the...?!?  Who in the blazes set the alarm for 4am?"  Turn it off, stumble back to bed.

4:30am- Dozed off again, but I swear I heard someone at the front door so I bolt downstairs to see if someone is there.  "That's a negative, you goon.  Go back to sleep," I tell myself as I realize that anyone at my door at 4:30 in the morning would have to be either drunk or dangerous.

5:30am- Dennis' alarm goes off and he quietly tries to get ready for work without disturbing me, but I'm in that annoying place between sleep and wakefulness, flopping around like a fish and agonizing over how long today is going to be.

6:00am- I hear a few squeaks coming from Calista's room and pray that she'll fall back asleep.  I know they're downstairs exercising without me and now I'm worrying that they will think the workout I made up is lame.

6:15am- Like a scene from a creepy movie, I sense someone's presence and open my eyes to see Lauren standing in the doorway with hair looking like Mad Madame Mim and eyes bulging (have I ever mentioned how the more tired my kids are, the wider their eyes are?)  "Tita's awake," she says in a monotone voice.

"She fell back to sleep.  Here, come get in bed with mommy."

Stepping on my ribs and stomach with the grace of a drunken elephant, she crawls over me and nestles in just close enough so her hair tickles my nose.  After 15 minutes of squirming to find the right position, she dozes off into a fitful sleep as I listen to the rhythm of the squishy sound she makes when she sucks her thumb.

7:15am- Without warning, Lauren suddenly shoots up to a sitting position.  With a voice as bright and bubbly as if it were Christmas morning says, "Neenee's (her name for herself) awake!  Wake up mom!" as she practically leaps out of my bed and bounces out the room.

Are you kidding?!  How does she do it?

And so sleep-deprived day #2,738 {the number of days since crappy sleep became the norm, 7 1/2 years ago} begins.