Sunday, December 24, 2006

Comfort and Joy

Just wanted to write a quick post about how much I am enjoying the holiday this year. For the first time my family exchanged only a few simple gifts and instead focused on getting together to make a donation to Heifer International. This is very exciting to me and something I have wanted us to do for a long time. I remember realizing that small acts can make a profound difference after seeing a segment on 60 Minutes *years* ago about the Grameen Bank, the organization founded by Mohammed Yunus in Bangladesh, which provides small loans to women for their businesses. Previously if women needed capital they would have to go to loan sharks and pay exorbitant interest rates that prevented them from ever making a profit. Now women all over the world, even in the United States, receive this assistance and get out of poverty. (Happily Yunus and the Grameen Bank were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize this year!) Heifer International does similar work, giving families farm animals that provide food and economic opportunities (they can ultimately sell the milk or eggs or the offspring). It is very satisfying to think that soon our little chicks, goats and cows will be making their way to some remote village and providing much needed sustenance.

Of course, one of the great joys of Christmas is getting to see it through a child's eyes. Today ds's cousin presented him with a gift and he just stood there holding it for the longest time babbling away happily. It seemed like he was saying, "This is so great. A gift from you. I just want to savour this moment." Finally the cousin offered to help him open it and inside were the toys his cousins have grown out of - a huge collection of Thomas the Tank Engine trains. Ds was so delighted and played happily for hours, lining them up, connecting them and pushing them around. As much as the material stuff pleased him, he was definitely the happiest when his uncle started horsing around with him. I was actually drawn to the room where they were playing after I heard ds laugh *uproariously* - seriously, I had never heard him laugh that hard and long before. It turns our my 12-years-younger brother was just tumbling around him, rolling on the floor, acting like a goof and ds thought he was the greatest entertainer on the planet.

A recent story really highlights ds's sense of humor I think. After a bath ds took a hat (a Girl Scout cap that once belonged to dh's mom) off of his giant monkey (where we think it looks very stylish) and put it on his head and then crawled into my lap to read me a book with great animation. As you can see, this kid is something else. I hope you are all having a holiday filled with comfort and joy.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Pozole Extravaganza

The pictures above are from the pozole extravaganza last Sunday. The celebration was exactly what I hoped for; of course, it also came after a little bit of drama and soul-searching. You see, I ordered the pozole in its dried form (the canned form is so inferior, it doesn't even deserve the name) over a month ago. Two weeks before the party date I pulled it out to consider if I had enough. I found I was looking at a bag full grubs and spidery webs. I called the supplier and they regretted to inform me that ALL of their pozole was infested and they were happy to offer me a refund. I got on the internet and googled pozole. I made another order which promised to be with me mid-last week. On Wednesday I still didn't have it and emailed the supplier. They said there was a glitch in the shipment and I would have it on the 18th. My party was planned for the 17th. I explained the situation and they said they would try to express mail me a shipment and I *should* receive it by Saturday.

At this point I had to wonder why this was so difficult. I realized that I was putting a lot of energy into making amazing pozole, something that would really impress my Mexican friends. I then realized that what I *really* wanted was to celebrate our friendship and express immense gratitude for them being in my life. When I focused on that feeling I realized, as my friend Katie said, I could serve beanie-weenies and we would all love it. The day after this realization I got the pozole. And after 10 hours of steady heat on the stove, it was delicious. But what was most wonderful was getting to spend a few hours on a beautiful, balmy December afternoon sharing stories and laughing with friends.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

A Very Happy Meeting

I am posting this later than I would like but I had a busy shift in the hospital on Sunday. Here's the story: dh, ds and I had a very happy meeting with G and her family early Saturday evening. We planned to meet at 4 that afternoon, but ds took a late nap and we got off at 5 pm. I was in one truck with ds and dh was in another following us. I had directions that seemed clear, but it got dark early and there were few street signs, fewer street lights, and street numbers were only occasionally evidenced on the side of old, dilapidated mailboxes. For almost an hour we were very lost on a seemingly endless number of back roads, climbing up icy dirt paths. My only recourse was to look for direction from one of the various isolated trailers showing some vestige of life. One family raised my hope when, upon seeing my headlights, they came out of their door, waving to me, only to dash it when they said, "Are you here about the birds?" Finally, one kind woman pointed us in the right direction and even guided me with a flashlight as I backed out of her narrow, ice-covered driveway. Dh, who had been a little underwhelmed by the idea of giving G mostly hand-me downs, said it was at this point that he felt like we were offering a real gift because of the crazy adventure we went through to get to her.

As we crept up G's driveway, still unsure of where we were, and she came out of her trailer waving to us, I felt like breaking into song. She quickly ushered me and ds into the house to get warm while her husband and mine brought everything in. She and her children sat wide-eyed and exclaimed happily over every little thing. In addition to all the furniture and baby articles, I was able to give her $200 in gift card money that friends and family contributed for groceries and anything else she needs for her home. G and I both couldn't stop smiling as we chatted easily about the recent births of her and her daughter's baby.

Ds delighted in playing with G's toddler son as we visited. I learned G's husband is from Guerrero, the Mexican state where I lived for 6 months. It is there that I sampled many a delicious bowl of pozole. If you didn't note in a previous post, pozole in a hearty Mexican corn and pork stew, that is found throughout Mexico. Because of its time intensive preparation I don't think you'll ever find it in a Mexican restaurant here in the States (that and the fact that the broth is made with some rather undesirable cuts of pork, but that's another story). It is so popular in Guerrero that Thursday is known as "el dia del pozole" in the cocinas (woman-run kitchens where I would eat lunch everyday) found on every street in town. I told the family about my plans to have a pozole party next week - and they asked who was going to prepare it! I laughed and said it may not be like their mama's, but I thought I could pull off a fairly tasty dish and hoped they would enjoy it - and they are planning to come! I'll let you know how it comes out.

Last thoughts: below are the photos of the trucks filled with all the goods that my friends and family helped make possible. It's hard to put into words just how happy, how full of love and gratitude this experience has made me. I want to do more, find more ways to give, and I would love any input from you as I figure out what that will look like.

Monday, December 4, 2006


I'm so excited. I just talked with G., the Latina mama I wanted so much to find. After my last post I put in a few calls to friends who work with Latinas here in town. One didn't return my call, one said she would have to think about it and get back to me, and the other (incidently the friend I thought of first, the interpretor at a clinic where I used to work) immediately responded that she knew exactly who I needed to contact. I was able to call her today. We had a wonderful chat and I got to learn a little about her: she just moved here from Virginia, she is about my age, and has four children. The eldest is a 14 year-old daughter who had her first baby 2 months ago. G. also has a son about my son's age (19 months) and a newborn. She says she needs everything because she moved here suddenly and couldn't bring much with her. So now I am going to put out the call to all of my friends to see what we can do. Of course I expect great things.