"Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to let you in."

-- Robert Frost

Friday, May 29, 2015

mother's day here at the end of may

As a kid while my father was in school finishing a secondary degree, we lived on a street next door to a single mother and her five-year-old son named William Thomas. It was plain that this mother worked very hard, day and night, to make ends meet and if ever she had a moment to stand and chat on the driveway, she wasn't super discrete about discussing her night job at a local gentleman's club.

Every evening at about the same time, she would back her car from the driveway and inch down the street past the other playing children. We would watch as William Thomas ran behind her fading taillights yelling, "Mama, come back!" Feeling motherly to all of those neighborhood children, I'd go sit where he had crumbled on the curb and try to ease his heartbreaking sobs with enticements of playing with the other kids while we waited for some errant babysitter to arrive.

Once, I expressed my sorrow over William Thomas to my own mother. I'm sure I had plenty of questions and probably voiced some opinion. I can't remember. 

I do remember my mom withholding all judgments and saying quite simply and directly, "Half a mom beats no mom at all."

Since beginning my journey into my own motherhood, I've spent a fair share of time laying awake at night feeling inadequate, beating myself up over opportunities missed, upended conversations, frustrations, and personal failings. At the end of each such self-evaluation, I can hear and understand the universal truth of my mother's words, "Half a mom beats no mom at all." And crazy as it sounds, I wonder if I can possibly feel just a little less judgmental of self, just as my mother felt for a struggling neighbor long ago.

These last few weeks have been hard even if social media presents events and experiences in a kind of glowing light. We've proudly wrapped up school with all it's programs, sing alongs, award ceremonies, graduations, continuations, convocations, meets, matches and more, even if I've fairly limped across the finish line. I've been grateful for teenage kids who've shown up to opposing activities to represent me until I could make it from one to the other. I've been even more in awe of kids who have been okay with my tardiness and absentminded behaviors. I've sunken when teenagers have needed me as littles clung to bedtime routines. I've wiped private tears in the bathroom at missed final moments with an oldest child leaving as others have pulled me in so many differing directions. I've regretted the loss of being every thing, every time.

One night last week, the house stood still as other children with remaining school had finalized the day. Final exams done, the last days of school behind, graduations complete, wrap up parties finished, friends off on senior adventures and all the hoopla quiet, Celia stood in the kitchen silence all alone as I made the rounds turning off the remaining house lights. We chatted for a bit in the late hour and finally facing an early morning for those still left to go, I had to say my goodnight. As I reached for our usual hug, she clung.

"Mom," she said turning tearful. "Thank you so much for everything. It just couldn't have been better."

To that, I held on tight. To that girl. To that moment. Just ... to that. How could I have ever been enough? Done enough? Been present enough? Yet, here she was. Such an amazingly better version than myself. And somehow, the half-a-mom in me could let go of those internal self judgements at least for a minute. Maybe when I had been there, I'd been able to give and be everything simply needed.

And maybe, just maybe, half a mom really does beat no mom at all.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

friends of belize

I'm endlessly amazed at the beauty of people. I find I just want to absorb my favorite parts of their culture. When I leave, I feel like I always carry a small part of them with me. 

Weeks later I find myself wishing I knew how their stories have continued from that moment in time where I stood with them.

Such will forever be the case with Ishmael.

And Charlie.

And Big D.

Big D was so exciting to learn about and talk to. He knew everyone in Dangriga and everyone knew him. Most of them were related and I hung on very story. He was super thrilled to take us around his stomping grounds.

First and foremost, his father and brothers served here:

Don't let these faces fool you .. as we approached every single person lit up animatedly to see him. He knew their name and their relation.

I'm not kidding. Here is his friend who nearly fell off that bike waving ;)

I was not even fast enough. These kids went crazy chasing his car after he passed. Then he told us that this road is known for crocodile crossings and boa constrictors and that the kids had to be careful.

See what I mean? A total lack of safety awareness in this country.

But I loved that simplicity of life.

We ran into his children coming back from a corner candy store vendor, along with a whole bunch of other neighborhood children.

His sweet daughter was so thrilled about her purchases.

I love kids just being kids.

It made me laugh a little about that time years ago when a neighbor stormed across the cup-de-sac to inform me that my seven-year-old son was riding his bike without a helmet and shouldn't be outside alone.

Bless her concern.

Not much in the way of media so this is how the time gets spent.

Half have shoes. Half don't. Simple as that but not a deal breaker for play. (And I'm not sure I want to hear my kids ever say they need brand new shoes for sports ever again ;)

This park was being prepped for a mother's day luncheon of mango, papaya and fish for just the local mothers to hear the prime minister speak. Dad's got a day with the kids ;)

I couldn't get over the mangoes growing everywhere.

I mean, look at that!

All of the trees are just amazingly beautiful.

Architecture always speaks to me. Look at that banister and I couldn't get enough of the color on the homes combined with the color of the ever present wash line.

It's just beautiful to me.

Big D took us down his street and past his house waving at his neighbors all the way.

I can see why this cute family has come all the way down to Belize to live a simple life and build right here on the ocean. Me too.

The light across this local cemetery was gorgeous and had their been time, I could have walked around in there for hours.

So neat to share in their lives for just a bit and I'll forever hold a piece close to my heart.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day 2015

Veteran's Day we celebrate all of those who have served. Memorial day, we remembered those who gave their lives.

To me, it would seem that any who serve to defend our freedom willingly give so much of themselves that the two holidays have morphed to one.

Today between the recreational fun of being together as a family, enjoying a day of very little worry about our safety, believing as we wished to believe, spending our time as we wanted to spend it ...

... each child took time to research and share about some of the members of our family who have given all that they had to give for us and stories of many remembered.

Our hearts mourn for those who lost their lives and burst for those who gave honorably for ours. A gratitude that cannot be expressed.

Happy Memorial Day to you and yours!

celebrating 20 years in belize

Our twentieth anniversary was fast approaching and on advice from the kids, I wanted to do something that said we were still youthful.

Something adventurous.

Something exciting.

Something surprising.

So for months I gleaned off the grocery budget, thanks to Newel's travel schedule and kids willing to eat pancakes once in awhile ;)

It took some doing to hide all the prep from him .. and I was dying to tell ... but the surprise was so worth it.

The kids were great at keeping a secret and I couldn't have been more grateful for an oldest eighteen-year-old daughter willing and able to hold down the fort to make it all happen (along with some great friends to fill in the gaps).

That girl is amazing.

So tickets and passport in hand, I told him the night before to pack a swim suit, sunglasses, an adventure novel about pirates, and leave those electronics behind because we were headed just a little bit off the grid.

He didn't know just how far off the grid we were going.

Denver to Houston, Houston to Belize City, and when we landed in this little airport with tiny aircraft of uncertain flying ability, I think his joy in the journey kicked in.

From Belize City, we took a fifteen minute flight that landed us up the coast on a dirt airstrip where we were met by a local fishing boat captain.

These local guys loaded us up on their fishing boat and tore off at high speed toward the middle of the ocean.

To a nine acre island about twenty miles off the coast.

And there, I had him all to myself.

This was our house for duration.

We were in love with the simplicity. There was a tiny bathroom as well and meals were served in a main hall on the center of the island.

See? A pirate novel is a must. With no television, it was great aloud reading at night ... especially if you give the pirates crazy voices ;)

I was dying to swim with a whale shark.

Had to make do with a barracuda.

We tried our hand at fishing.

And now, Newel can cross catching a barracuda off his bucket list.

It may have been one of the highlights of his life.

Our local friends taught us their drop line technique and we hauled in one after the other. 

Just look at those! Each was so very different and beautiful.

We threw the little ones to the circling birds.

That water coloring is straight out of my camera. I cannot believe how stunning this earth is. 

Our entire catch. Way more than we could eat so our friends took it into the mainland market.

Newel and I learned to sail. We continually laughed over the lack of safety and rules.

"Just tell us which direction you are headed so we know where to send our family and friends with their boats to look for you if you don't return before dark." was the general rule.

I wondered if anyone would really come look for us.

We paid a visit to this little sandbar of an island out there somewhere. It is owned by the Smithsonian and serves as a marine biology outpost for continual study. It was so colonial and simple and the older couple who were tending it as volunteers had no experience in the field of science. They simply applied for the position and were given the opportunity.

Now, that's a job I want. What's not to love ... except maybe hurricane season ;)

These guys were everywhere and when one has been media free for awhile, one must capture and force them to play photo shoot until they desperately kamikaze off a beach chair.

Happy anniversary, babe! It's been an adventurous twenty years and I've loved sharing every bit of it with you.