Six Months of Awesome

I’m having a hard time writing about motherhood.  It’s too much.  I feel all of the things (mostly intense joy).  Also, the “mom brain” phenomenon that I heard about has hit me hard, and I’m not my most articulate self lately.  I’m not so much with the words.  It’s sad, but I’m hopeful that it won’t be a permanent condition.

Our sweet boy turned six months old last Friday in the midst of two weeks of travel and hosting and babysitting, so now I sit down to write about this milestone…and I just…there are no words big enough to describe my thoughts on this subject.  Benjamin is feisty and social and hilarious.  He loves to snuggle but he also loves to move. He is as wild as his hair would suggest and as sweet as his smile would indicate.  He sleeps like a champ and eats as though he’s certain each feeding will be his last.  He’s very verbal and laughs a lot.  He is DETERMINED.  He has a wide range of dramatic facial expressions.  He loves to grab everything in sight (his favorite is having two fistfuls of someone’s hair).  He fights naps because he doesn’t want to miss anything.  He loves music and the great outdoors.  His eyes light up when he’s in a new place or has a new experience (most recently starting solid foods).

He has the ability to completely wear us out, but he has brought us more joy than we ever could have imagined.  Benjamin has taught us so much about our Creator.  Bryan and I are so thankful for this beautiful, vivacious boy and humbled that God chose us to be his parents.  And since a picture is worth a thousand words, here are a few that express the past six months a bit better than I can…

*Note:  The pictures on the striped rug are his monthly pictures, starting with 1 month old.

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Firenze, My Favorite City in Italy

Today I continue on with my recap of our trip to Italy.  I want to remember this trip for forever, and this is how I’m documenting.  🙂  I’ve leave the scrapbooking to the craftier ladies among us.

From Venice, we took the train to Florence.  Train travel is the way to go!  We loved it.  It’s so much more laid back than flying, and you get to see the beautiful scenery along the way.  I wish I could travel around the U.S. this way, too.  Car trips are not my favorite, but we end up taking a LOT of them.  (Texas, why you so big?)IMG_0155

Anyway, first let me tell you about our accommodations in Florence.  We did quite a bit of research for the trip and really liked each place that we stayed.  For Florence, we choose a B&B at a convent.  Yes, with actual nuns living there and running it.  None of them spoke a word of English, but they had such pleasant smiles.  IMG_0434I emailed before we left for our trip and asked if married couples were allowed.  They replied that all are welcome, and we booked a double room.  The B&B was just a couple of blocks from the Duomo and walking distance to all the major areas we wanted to visit.  IMG_5167Perfect!

The inside was also very beautiful and even had a nice garden in the courtyard.  When we got to our room upstairs, we were greeted by two twin beds on opposite walls.  We just burst into laughter.  Quite a second honeymoon.  🙂  I guess we should have known.

The beautiful garden at the convent where we stayed

The beautiful garden at the convent where we stayed

Florence was the city where we focused on art the most.  The city itself is a work of art–sprawling red rooftops with a backdrop of luscious green mountains.  Florence feels cleaner and slower-paced to me than other urban areas in Italy.  It has a nice vibe and every angle is a great photo op.  We reserved advanced tickets for the Uffizi and the Accademia (no lines = happy Kara).  We spent the middle of our day in each gallery for two of the days we were there.  The Uffizi is magnificent architecturally, not to mention the artwork inside.  IMG_0229 IMG_0242I was proud of Husband for recognizing The Birth of Venus from his Art History class in college.  I ate a chocolate muffin on the second floor deck while we enjoyed a cool breeze.  The museum is not air conditioned, so it gets a bit toasty.  We spent a lovely evening exploring the area around the Ponte Vecchio, a famous bridge with shops built into it.  We arrived just in time for these sunset views.  Wowzer.  10487297_10100213266145277_1942890574031790349_n IMG_0246 IMG_0286It was as dreamy and romantic as it looks.

The Accademia the next day was awe-inspiring.  It amazes me how sculptors took the time to craft the details of the clothes and capture facial expressions.  It’s hard for me to imagine having the patience to meticulously create something that elaborate.  Of course, the highlight was The David.  IMG_0322The way he is placed in the gallery is perfect, because he’s on a tall platform right under a skylight.  The sun streams through and highlights every beautiful angle of Michelangelo’s masterpiece.  I loved what the description said about the statue.

“David is represented in a meditative pose following his victory over Goliath according to an unusual iconographic interpretation in which the young hero is not portrayed in his traditional pose of triumph with one foot on the severed head of the defeated giant.  His sling is also barely visible as though to emphasize how David owed his victory not to brutal force but to his intellect and to his innocence.”

In Florence, we enjoyed some of the best food of the entire trip.  IMG_5240This was my favorite pizza.  IMG_5282 IMG_5283The simplicity and freshness of the flavors…pure magic.  I love the Italians’ cooking philosophy.  They don’t get too fussy with a lot of ingredients.  (More on this later when I recap our food tour in Rome.)  I sadly didn’t get a picture of my favorite gelato.  It was consumed whilst speed walking across Ponte Vecchio and back to the B&B to catch a taxi to the train station.  It was strawberry (Fragola–a favorite Italian word of mine) and coconut—a dynamite combo, as it turns out.

Our last full day in Florence, we climbed the massive, narrow staircase to the top of the Duomo and looked out over the city.  Having already done this once, I was a bit torn on whether or not I wanted to go for it again.  The line was long, it was a hot day, and we could climb the neighboring tower with no waiting and be almost as high.  But Bryan was determined, and who was I to stand in his way?  So, we waited, and up we went.  It was worth it.  🙂  IMG_0363 IMG_0373 IMG_0395I love this city, and exploring it with my Love meant the world to me.  Ciao, Firenze.  I hope we’ll be back someday.

Grateful for the Growing

I took a little blogging break this fall, and posts may continue to be more sporadic for awhile.  I will post the rest of our Italy trip, but I need to interrupt that series for a minute to share some exciting news.  Bryan and I are going to have a baby! Announcement When I chose my one word for the year, I have to admit that I didn’t just choose the word “GROW” because we were moving to a new place and starting new jobs.  I hoped that our family would grow this year, too.  Now I’m well into my 2nd trimester.  Aaahhh!  Oh, and we’re buying a house for the baby to live in.  If all goes smoothly, we will be moving in January.  I’ve been wanting to write about all of these life happenings in this space for more than a month, but it all felt like too much to express.  How do you begin to describe such an experience?  I’m still not sure.  But I’m writing nonetheless, because I’m tired of not writing.  🙂

I don’t think we really, fully believed that I was pregnant until the first sonogram in August.  Then I spent the next several weeks feeling horribly ill while trying to simultaneously keep myself from worrying that something could go wrong and also mentally and emotionally prepare myself for the possibility that something could go wrong.  This sounds completely crazy, and it has been, but maybe some of my mom friends can relate?  The first trimester was rough.  It wasn’t until mid-October that I started to get my energy back and feel like myself again.  This is a humbling experience in so many ways, and I’m thankful for all that God is teaching me.

These days, we’re feeling really thankful and full of joy.  Bryan and I have basically been grinning ear to ear since the anatomy scan at Week 18.  That’s only a slight exaggeration.  It’s a BOY!admin-ajax.php

I didn’t think it was possible for my sweet husband and I to be any more sappily in love with each other, but, my goodness, this has done it.  We are both the oldest in our family, and this is the first grandchild on both sides.  So, all of our relatives are going gaga over our unborn child, too.  It’s so much fun.  Do you ever have moments or even seasons of life when you realize that you’re making memories that you will always treasure?  It’s a rare gift (for me, anyway) to be aware of that while it’s happening.  I think it’s sometimes referred to as being nostalgic for the present.  I felt that way the semester I studied abroad and got to travel around Europe with some amazing friends.  I felt it when I met Bryan and periodically during our subsequent dating, engagement and newlywed seasons.  And I feel it now.  This time is so special, and I want to soak it up and remember everything.  I hope to capture some of the experience here with updates over the next few months.  Thank you for reading, dear ones.  We would appreciate your prayers during this incredible time in our lives.  We know that everything is about to change, and we are so glad to be on this adventure together.

Last year at this time, we were saying goodbye to my beloved Pawpaw.  I still sometimes can’t believe he’s not here with us anymore.  I’m so grateful for his life and for the blessing of this new life that brings some much-needed joy to this season for our family.  Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!

The City of Water

Without further ado…Venice!  The canals of Venice make it unique among the beautiful, ancient cities of Italy.  At night, the water reflects the city lights, and it’s pure magic.  IMG_0035 IMG_0039 IMG_0032We arrived around sunset and had just enough time to find our hotel, settle in and freshen up before heading out into the night to explore.  As Bryan and I wandered the streets hand in hand, taking it all in, my thoughts drifted to March 2004–a little over TEN years ago, when I was here exploring this city with a group of college friends.  We were on our spring break during a semester in England, and I was 19.  I remember climbing the stairs up to the center of the big bridge over the Grand Canal and looking out over the glistening water.  I thought dreamily of what it would be like to be there with my husband.  I couldn’t imagine a more romantic setting.  So here I was at 29, and Venice hadn’t changed at all.  But I had.  🙂  I’m so grateful for that surreal moment I had holding hands with HIM our first night in Venice and looking out at the Grand Canal from the same spot.

We did a lot of walking during our two days there.  We found the church from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and sought refuge inside when a heavy rain came on suddenly.  IMG_0146They had a DaVinci exhibit going on.  What a brilliant visionary!  Talk about feeling like an underachiever.  They had recreations of many of his inventions with his original sketches.

Of course, we took in beautiful San Marco Square and watched the pigeons (and the people) for awhile.  IMG_5139 IMG_0119 IMG_5132IMG_5142I got my first gelato of the trip while Bryan and I watched Costa Rica play England in the World Cup.  IMG_5144
We bought an umbrella and cuddled up together underneath it as we matched the pace of our steps.  It brought back memories of when we were dating in Costa Rica during rainy season.  We heard a gondolier quote a price of 40 euros for a ride to a European-looking couple just ahead of us on a bridge.  “Cheap!”  As we approached, he assessed our appearances (or, more accurately, my appearance) and shouted out to us, “80 euros!  Cheap!  Cheap!”  We opted to skip the gondala ride based on the “which will you regret more?” philosophy and instead rode the steamboat through the city.  It was great fun, albeit with slightly less ambiance.  The people watching in Italy during high tourist season is fantastic!  We heard bijillions of different languages, and I loved observing people.

Venice was a great start to part 2 of our Italian adventure.  From here, we hop a train to Florence!  See you there.  🙂

Fireflies

One of the best, most magical parts of summer is when the fireflies come out.  As a little girl visiting my grandparents in the piney woods of East Texas, I would stand beneath the weeping willow tree in the backyard with my sister and cousins forever holding my breath and waiting to see them glow.  My mom helped us poke holes in a baby food jar lid so that we could capture some to keep as pets.  The next morning, as soon as I opened my eyes, I would cradle the jar on the nightstand.  They usually hadn’t survived the night, so I waited for dusk to catch a new batch.  I loved them so.

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They still hold some magic for me.  When I was in college, a friend introduced me to the lovely, mellow music of Mason Jennings.  He has a song with these lyrics…

And honey I’m sure
That you’ve been in love before
Plenty of men have held high places in your eyes
And jealousy has got no use for me
The past is beautiful
Like the darkness between the fireflies

I saw my first fireflies of the season last week, and I’ve had this song in my head ever since.  What an image, isn’t it?  A dear friend of mine is getting married to someone she met while working as a missionary overseas.  In some ways, thinking about their situation and impending intercultural marriage has really taken me back to the past…the early months of my relationship with Bryan.  I emailed her recently about something entirely different and found myself writing about our joys and struggles during that beginning phase.IMG_1539

The fact that we need plane tickets and a passport to travel from one of our families to the other is something that will always be a challenge for us, and we’re constantly trying to balance and reevaluate (especially me).  I want to make sure that he never resents the choice he made.  People often say to my  husband, “Wow, I don’t know how you handle being so far from your family and friends…” or “You moved from Costa Rica to Texas?!  Why?  It’s so beautiful there!”  (only causing me to further despise small talk).  I try to keep my cool on the surface, but those comments really sting.  He moved here to be with me.  We Skype with his family at least once a week and see them as often as possible, but we still miss them so much.  And, yes, he misses the natural beauty of his homeland, too, but there are plenty of things he loves about Texas.

I told my friend that if her fiance ever wants to talk someone who fell in love with an American and moved to Texas, I know Bryan would be happy to listen, empathize and be a source of encouragement.  I wrote that I think intercultural marriages can end up being  strong in a unique way.  There are things that we are hypersensitive to that couples from the same country might take for granted.  We work on our communication constantly because of our cultural and language differences.  [For example, when he looks at me like I’m crazy when I ask about our plans for the following month, we talk through our different cultural perspectives on making plans.  :)]  It’s affirming, too, that we have made sacrifices in order to be together.  Knowing that we chose each other even though it wasn’t the easiest road really gives us confidence in our relationship.  We believe that God brought us together and it’s SO worth the sacrifices and inconveniences.

When I look back on what we’ve come through in order to be together—our first Valentine’s Day via Skype; countless hours of studying for Bryan in his second language; financial hardship; being separated from family; waiting and trusting that God would provide a student visa and, later, a green card; my frustration with not being able to communicate well enough in Spanish to really get to know my husband’s family and friends; so many misunderstandings and moments of confusion or frustration due to cultural differences…God has brought us through all of it.  We all can relate to the idea in the song, I think.  The darkness brings us to a place of light.  We have been through darkness that makes us stronger and more grateful.  So, wherever you are this morning, friends, (literally and figuratively), please be encouraged.  Here’s hoping we see more fireflies before the summer’s end.

The In Between, Part II

Here is the first part of this story, in case you missed it.  Sunday (Father’s Day) we went to see the freshly “bush-hogged” (a new word I learned that day) land that my parents bought to roam around and imagine the house that they are planning to build there. IMG_4154 The last time we went, I was in sandals.  I got a fire ant bite on each foot.  So, this time I came prepared and wore my rain boots.  If only I had thought about my arms.  My dad and I tried to measure the circumference of a large tree in a still-overgrown grove on the far side of the property.  We eventually gave up because we couldn’t get close enough to it.  The next afternoon at work, I noticed that my arm felt a bit warm.  I was hustling around a room full of clients helping with enrollment paperwork for English classes when I looked down to see a red patch in the crook of my elbow.  Poison ivy.  I am one of those sad humans with sensitive skin, so I’m allergic to poison ivy.  Highly allergic.  (ahem)

By Tuesday, I had to leave work and find a clinic that could give me a cortisone shot ASAP.  Of course, we don’t have our insurance cards yet having just started new jobs.  I called on a potential rental house while I waited two hours at the clinic—multi-tasking is key in these uncertain times.  By Wednesday night, it was clear that the shot had not done it’s job.  I didn’t sleep at all, and the poison ivy was spreading rapidly.  I had to email my new supervisor and explain the situation.  Thankfully, he was very understanding–having had his own severe poison ivy experience.  I went to the doctor and got an oral steroid.  Later that afternoon I stood in front of the mirror with swollen, bleeding ears and itchy, inflamed skin on my arms and face.  Bryan was half and hour away at work, and I briefly considered driving myself to the ER or finishing the job and just setting myself on fire.  Low point number two.  At the risk of sounding melodramatic, it has been some of the worst pain I’ve experienced in my 28 years.  Today, I can proudly say that I finally feel hopeful that I will someday have normal skin again.  And I probably won’t take it for granted nearly as much as I did before.

Saturday, I was able to leave the house, and it renewed my spirits.  I think I’d just been sitting and staring at my blistered skin for two solid days, washing my hands every five minutes to no avail while the rash continued to spread.  You know you need to get out when you close your eyes to sleep at night and see visions of blotchy red arms.  Bryan took me to the movies.  He can’t get over how I keep asking him to turn the air conditioner higher.  That’s not like me at all.  Enjoy it while you can, honey.  🙂  Then we went to a restaurant and sat together in a booth facing a window and ate nachos at 3pm.  We looked out at the traffic and buildings and reflected on life in the city thus far.  We talked about our dreams for the future and expressed our gratitude for God’s provision.

Admittedly, this new chapter and I have gotten off to a rough start, but sitting there with Bryan, I felt my confidence begin to rise again.  The thing is, I was so comfortable with our life before.  And although it’s been tempting throughout this “in between” time to long for what we left behind, I know deep in my heart that it was time for a new adventure.  These setbacks I’ve experienced have beaten me up a bit, but looking out that window Saturday afternoon–completely relaxed for the first time in a long while–I remembered that we are right where we’re supposed to be.  I relish this opportunity to be challenged.  I want to learn new things and meet new people and explore a new city.  I feel like we will grow here in ways I can’t imagine now.

One of the aspects of transition that I’ve come to appreciate the most is how it reminds me that God is our only constant.  Isn’t it dangerous to get too comfortable?  With any luck, I’ll be writing to you next from our new home in the big city, but until then, I’ll be okay.  I heard this quote from Augustine in a sermon recently, and it’s become my mantra.  “O Lord, our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” Amen.

 

Still Celebrating

My one word for this year is celebrate, and I’ve had some great opportunities recently to do just that.

What a memorable couple of weeks it has been!  We have shared lots of celebrating, family, food, siteseeing and Spanish speaking.  Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words, so here are a few thousand…

The graduates being hooded--this is actually the morning ceremony.  My cousin is the redhead somewhere in the front section.  :)  Proud of you, Zack!

The graduates being hooded–this is actually the morning ceremony. My cousin is the redhead somewhere in the front section. 🙂 Proud of you, Zack!

We loved hosting everyone at our house for lunch between ceremonies.  One last family gathering at Casa Rodriguez before we move (sigh)

We loved hosting everyone at our house for lunch between ceremonies. One last family gathering at Casa Rodriguez before we move (sigh)

A much anticipated moment

A much anticipated moment

My husband is a rockstar.

My husband is a rockstar.

We toured Fort Worth with Bryan's mom and grandma.

We toured Fort Worth with Bryan’s mom and grandma.

Ladies and gentlemen, my awesome Mother-in-Law.  :)

Ladies and gentlemen, my awesome Mother-in-Law. 🙂

Abuela wanted to arrive at the airport in Costa Rica wearing a Texas shirt.  She's a fan.

Abuela wanted to arrive at the airport in Costa Rica wearing a Texas shirt. She’s a fan.

In other news, I got a job this week!  It’s been quite a whirlwind.  Driving back yesterday after saying goodbye to Bryan’s mom and grandma at the airport and house hunting in the afternoon, it started to hit me how soon we are leaving (and how much we have to pack).  Also, we saw a tornado.  The wide open West Texas sky was a spectacular backdrop for the stormy sunset as we drove along the familiar interstate highway.  My whirling thoughts stopped for a little while, and I was just present; experiencing the storm with Bryan and marveling at the power of God.  I embraced my conflicting emotions and made peace with the silence as we watched the lightning flash in the orange glow of the sinking sun.

"That almost looks like a tornado." I said.  A few minutes later, we saw car after car pulled over and people snapping pictures with fancy cameras.  "It IS a tornado!"

“That almost looks like a tornado.” I said. A few minutes later, we saw car after car pulled over and people snapping pictures with fancy cameras. “It IS a tornado!”

Stormy sunset

I've never seen anything quite like it.

I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

More thoughts on the upcoming move soon…  I hope you all are feeling as blessed as I am this afternoon.  🙂

Remembering

Two years ago today, Bryan and I headed to the big city for what I thought was a weekend with my family and Bryan’s first Rangers game.  Before the sun went down that day, I had a ring on my finger and had come to understand that a great conspiracy had been going on for some time unbeknownst to me.  Today, with Bryan’s mom and grandma visiting from Costa Rica, we returned to the spot where Bryan asked me to be his wife.  Here is the story, taken from our wedding website.  I wrote this when it was still fresh on my mind.

How we got engaged

This is the detailed account.  You have be warned…

We were planning to spend the weekend with my family in the Fort Worth area to celebrate Mother’s Day a week late and go to a Rangers game (Bryan’s first!).  Little did I know what he was plotting.  Bryan came to my office after putting gas in the car on Friday afternoon, and my boss came out to talk to us around 4:30.  He asked what our plans were, and then said that we should go ahead and leave.  I was surprised, because I was working on a project with two coworkers.  I thought, “Wow, that’s really nice!”.  I asked several times if he was sure he didn’t want me to stay, and he insisted.  My parents said they had a youth function at church on Friday night, so my sister had suggested earlier in the week that Bryan and I meet her for dinner at an Italian place because she “had a gift certificate”.

When we were about ten minutes away, I called and she sounded really stressed.  She said they were slammed with work at her office, and we would have to wait on her for awhile.  We said that was no problem, and when we got close I realized that the restaurant was near the Botanic Gardens.  Bryan suggested we go walk around since we had some time.  That seemed totally normal to me.  We had been there once before when he came to visit me at Christmas in 2009.  We turned the wrong way the first time and ended up passing the restaurant twice before getting to the gardens.  Both times I mentioned that we should go ahead and put our names on the list since it would probably be crowded.  He protested, saying that we didn’t know when Katie would be coming.  When we got out of the car, we were talking about the contrast between how everything looked now and last time we were there.  Everything was grey and baron before, and it was really cold.  This time it was lush green and a beautiful 73 degrees outside.  There were flowers everywhere.  I was enjoying the romantic atmosphere and the fresh air when Bryan said, “I’m nervous…”  I whipped my head around to look at him, and he finished, “about talking to your Dad.”  I relaxed, and started advising him about it.  He had led me to believe that he was planning to ask for my parents’ blessing on Saturday, AND that he had not yet bought the ring.  When we reached a fork in the trail, I suggested we go up the steps.  He pointed to a path leading into a more secluded, wooded area.  There was a girl getting her bridal portraits done on the steps that I wanted to walk up.  I was like, “Bryan, we can just go behind the photographer.  See?  Those people are doing it.”  He didn’t really say anything, and I decided his way was fine.  I did, however, tease him about being afraid of brides as I walked over to the path he chose.  haha.

We walked a little ways down the path, and he pointed out a pond with a small clearing in front of it.  He said that it reminded him of Costa Rica, and we started walking toward that area.  He put his arm around me and started telling me about a conversation he had recently with his mom.  He said that he was telling her how I have the qualities that he’s always wanted.  He said, “How do you call them?  Virtues?”  I replied, “Yes.  Aw, honey, that’s so sweet.”  It’s important to understand that Bryan says sweet things to me all the time, so this didn’t seem unusual.  He was still talking about this when we reached the clearing.  I heard him say, “And that’s why I need to ask you…”  At this point, he started to kneel down, and I stopped listening.  My mind was racing… “What?!…He’s joking.  Surely he’s joking.  He doesn’t have the ring yet.  Here?!  Now?!”  Then I heard a clicking sound to my right.  I looked over to see my sister in the distance–dressed in green with her hair tucked into a green hat.  She was emerging from the bushes holding her camera.  This was HAPPENING.   I looked back and Bryan was down on his knee pulling a ring box out of his sock.  I just remember yelling, “Ohmygoodness, ohmygoodness, ohmygoodness!!!  YES!!  Ohmygoodness.  Ohmygoodness!!”  After a lot of hugs and a few tears, we stayed there for a few more minutes while Katie took pictures.  At one point, a couple walked past and said, “Congratulations!”  I was confused because there was no one near by when Bryan asked me.  Katie explained that they had seen her hiding in the bushes while she was waiting for us, so she told them what was going on.  🙂  I kept saying that I wanted to see my mom and dad and asking if different people had known, and Bryan wouldn’t answer any of my questions.  He said that we just needed to go to my parents’ house.  Katie got in her car and said she would meet us there.

From Fort Worth to my parents’ house, we were driving into a brilliant orange sunset.  I really felt like God was smiling down on us.  I was still processing the shock of getting engaged when we turned into the driveway.  I began to see familiar faces.  Family and friends from all over were standing in the driveway waving brightly colored tissue paper flowers.  I found out later that my mom’s class had made them for Cinco de Mayo.  So, everyone stormed the car, and we got out.  I started hugging people one by one.  I was laughing and tearing up, just feeling so overwhelmed and loved.  Friends from Abilene and Fort Worth, my roommates, a friend from Oklahoma, my cousins and grandparents…after several minutes of hugging my way through the crowd, I found myself standing in front of Lisa and Baby Kara.  I couldn’t believe that they had come from Utah to share this night with us.  It was amazing having them there.  We all went in the house, and my mom had made heart and wedding bell-shaped cookies.  I told the story, and we were able to see the beautiful pictures that Katie had taken.  I found a Fed EX package from Jordan, and I knew what it was before I opened it.  I couldn’t believe it, but she had saved a wedding magazine that she bought for herself when we were in Costa Rica back in 2009.  I remember her getting this mischievous look when she showed it to me back then.  It was the first wedding magazine that she bought.  Her note said that she had saved it back then with the hope that Bryan and I would get engaged someday and this could be her engagement present to me.  🙂  That was pretty cool.

It was an amazing, unbelievably happy night.  I will never forget it.  Bryan knows me so well.  He did a wonderful job making me feel honored and special and loved and even MORE excited to spend my life with him.  On Sunday, we did, indeed, attend Bryan’s first Ranger’s game.  They won.

This is when I spotted Katie and realized that the the proposal was really happening.

Our reenactment today in the same spot

 

Aliens and Strangers

Buenas tardes, amigos!  So, here we are at the beginning of March.  February 22nd was a much anticipated day for the residents of Casa Rodriguez (which include me, Husband, and most recently–my hydrangea plant whom I affectionately call Cici because the word for hydrangea in Spanish is hortensia).  Can plants anticipate something?  No?  Well then, moving on…

Bryan and I got married at the tail end of 2011. Once we were married, we were eligible to start the process of obtaining permanent residency for my husband–a document commonly referred to as the Green Card.  We know several couples who have been through this process, and we heard that it could take several months.  While you are “in process” with the government you cannot leave the country.  Therefore, we decided to wait until last fall to start the paperwork.   I get a month off in the summers, and we wanted to spend last July in Costa Rica with Bryan’s family.  We saved our pennies and filed the (very expensive) applications jointly in October.  Several appointments and several months later, we made it to final step at last–our interview with the immigration office–this past Friday.  It was an interesting experience and not entirely like I expected.

Immigrants face many challenges today when trying to achieve legal permanent residency.  I don’t know what the process for getting a green card was like before 9/11, but I’m guessing that it’s gotten more complicated.  Getting a green card through marriage is one of the least complicated ways to stay in the U.S., so the government screens couples very carefully.  Having worked in refugee resettlement, I am not a novice in dealing with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services office.  I think I was able to be more patient than normal because I knew what to expect.  Bryan, bless his heart, is always patient.  We knew about our final interview for more than a month.  I had time to think about what it might be like, and I was actually a bit excited about it.  I was curious to see what kinds of quesions they might ask to prove whether or not our marriage is legit.  Any process that brings together government offices and love stories has to be fascinating, right?  It wasn’t like this…The_Proposal Green Cardor this.

But it was interesting.  As we sat there in the lobby area, I looked around at the clusters of people waiting with us.  Some had attorneys.  Most had large files of documentation with them.  We had a book bag full of photo albums, wedding announcements, shower invitations, the guestbook from our reception, our lease, bills, evidence of the massive undertaking it was for me to take his name (I wanted to take only his primary last name so our future children won’t be the weird kids in class whose full names have 75 syllables.  Latin Americans have two last names.  My local social security office and DPS seemed baffled by that.), etc.  A general feeling of nervous excitement silently filled the room as people filtered in, and I thought dreamily about how we were not alone.  This day was much anticipated by all of these hopeful immigrants.  The promise of the future hung in the air.  We were the first appointments of the day.  No one dwelled on the possibility of devastating disappointment.  We might all be separated from the crushing of our dreams by mere minutes, but there we sat with our carefully gathered documents, waiting to prove our worth.  Waiting to show the powers that be that we deserved to make a life here.

It’s overwhelming to consider the thousands of people who wait and hope and work so hard to make it to this point.  How often to we as citizens of this great country take our blessings for granted?  Safety and prosperity are our norm.  It’s too easy to focus on our issues with government policies and the material things we don’t have.  That room was a jarring reminder that it is an honor and a gift to have been born here.  And I’m thankful for that.  We have a responsibility to use our status to serve those around the world who don’t have what we have.  No matter our spiritual beliefs, we should be motivated to make the world better simply because we were born here where we have more, and it’s not fair.  What can each of us do to promote justice?  Please, please find a cause that speaks to your heart and get involved.  As Uncle Ben says to Peter Parker, “With great power comes great responsibility.”  There are a million ways to give to populations around the world that are suffering from hunger, disease, poverty, civil war, human trafficking and other terrible issues.  Here are a few of my favorites:

http://www.compassion.com/

http://www.ijm.org/

http://www.catholiccharitiesusa.org/

http://www.rescue.org/

http://www.redcross.org/

So, back to last Friday.  When our Olive Garden-like buzzer went off, we were finally called into an office for our interview.  We told the very polite government official (an immigrant herself) the story of us.  We told her how we met and fell in love and got Bryan a student visa against all odds.  We told her how he moved here and how our relationship grew stronger.  We told her about the proposal and the wedding and our first year of marriage.  She examined all of our evidence and even requested to keep a few pictures for our file.  We could tell that it went well, but it was such a relief to find out officially on Monday.  Knowing that Bryan can live and work here legally is like clearing the final hurdle in a long-distance race.  Thank you for your thoughts and prayers.  It’s been quite a journey.  God has opened doors for us every step of the way, and we couldn’t be more grateful.  A verse from Ephesians has been bouncing around in my head the past few weeks as I considered that Bryan’s status will be changing from “Non-resident Alien” to “Legal Permanent Resident”.  The first version of this verse that I became familiar with had the word “aliens” in it, but I like this version from The Message.  Living in the U.S. is great, but ultimately, this world is not our home.

You’re no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He’s using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home.  Ephesians 2:19

A Love Poem and a Video for Valentine’s Day

I thought this day would be the perfect occasion to share this video of my darling grandparents.  I asked them for marriage advice a few months ago since they’ve had more than 65 years of experience…(Please ignore my weird voice.)

And now for a love poem.

I carry your heart with me

by E. E. Cummings
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go, my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in my heart)

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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