December 2, 2015

San Antonio

It only seems fair that I should post about San Antonio at least once this year since I've been there three times...twice business (I spoke at a Texas driving summit in February and attended the national driving school convention in November) and once for pleasure (for the Twisted Sisters reunion in June).

My first trip involved just a stop over for brunch on the drive between Kerrville and Houston. We ate at Lulu's in San Antonio, home of giant cinnamon rolls they nickname Baby. Because that's how big they are. I also got to experience my first Texan steak and ate quail. All of them delicious.

For the driving summit I was invited to speak at, I stayed in a rented house with several other driving instructors. We had an awesome dinner party the night before the summit, which is a tough juggle when working in a kitchen with limited supplies. The highlight of the food ended up being some asparagus fried in bacon drippings. It's amazing it came together and I met so many people in the Texas driving industry. I loved that arrangement. It made speaking a little bit easier since I knew some of the audience. And I was nervous.

Second trip my fellow twisted sisters and I reunited after 5 years. What's amazing about reuniting with childhood friends is how much we have changed and how strong our bond remains. Little quirks in our teen years have amplified. And quite frankly they've become funny. Because if we can't laugh at where we've been or what we've become, we're sad shells of our former selves. As much as life used to be black and white, it's now such a beautiful pattern of black, white and gray. We've become the complex creatures we used to not understand.

So, in October I decided to look up what airfare would be if I went to the Driving School Association of the Americas convention I've attended every fall since 2008. Wouldn't you know it? Round trip airfare for $500. What?! Yes, that's so much better than a $1200 ticket I was anticipating last summer when I decided that I may just need to sit this one out.

For all of you who would like to come visit Brazil, October and November have cheap airfares.

I didn't speak this year, as I have done the previous two years, but I did receive a leadership award at the opening breakfast. The thing with the breakfast is that the keynote speaker seemed to be a little confused on who his audience was. He was a Texas-department-of-something-or-another guy and focused 95% of his material on Texas stuff and had very little to do with those who didn't live there. I think maybe 10-15% of the people there were from Texas and at least 10% from Canada and the rest from all over the US and one from England and then me.

The speech was a real snoozer and here I was trying to stay focused and look interested because I'm at the head table with the rest of the board. After maybe half an hour I knew I needed to get moving, otherwise I was going to nod off in front of the audience, so I got up and went to the bathroom. I came back a few minutes later and stood in the back of the room. The speaker sat down and I stayed in the back because the breakfast was almost over. A couple of friends came and stood next to me....making sure I was okay. They told me the sponser of the breakfast tried to be discreet and fight the urge, but he actually did nod off. In front of everyone. Ha ha. Why is there a head table anyway?

My friends weren't really getting up because they needed the stretch, they were sent to come find me. The Executive VP was nervous I wasn't going to come back and then who would he present the award, to? Ha ha. It was a surprise and honor to be presented with a leadership award. Makes me want to do some leadering stuff to celebrate.

I enjoy participating with the DSAA and also interacting with so many great people. Over the years, they've become our driving school's mentors as well as friends. This conference we had a dance instructor come and teach us some line dances, afterward we tore up the dance floor...and let me tell you, some of our more mature colleagues can really shake it. I haven't been dancing in a long time and I loved it. 

With dancing there's a transition that comes in my head with my body where I forget to think about the next step and it just comes because my body remembers what to do. Then when I realize what's happened my brain wants to go back to the counting out steps phase...which probably means I need to go back to Texas to do some more line dancing and make sure my brain turns off and the moves get more creative. 

I was happy to see my brother JC at the conference. Not only because I hadn't seen him since July, but also because he brought me a suitcase full of stuff to take home to Brazil. Mostly Amazon purchases but also some Halloween candy and a care package for Jocelyn from a friend. My cousin also came and stayed a night with me and we went shopping.

When our exchange student Rilary told me last year that Brazilians came to the US to go shopping, I was skeptical. I mean, really, who does that??? Here's me eating my words. A friend of mine took me to Costco the first day I arrived (so I could pick up the Christmas cards I ordered) and I got such staples as Himalyan sea salt and taco seasoning as well as a bunch of other "essentials".  We also were able to visit my bank and get a few things worked out with credit/debit cards since the incident, which happened when I was getting off the plane in San Antonio.

The problem with shopping in Brazil is that they don't have a good one-stop-shop. There's one store I know of with peanut butter here and another one that has gorgonzola cheese (took me 4 stores to find this one week). But I don't want to go all over to town to find everything I want. And if they are imports then we pay a pretty penny for them here. The governments taxes imports like 100%, so you've got to really want it to buy it. So yeah, I turned into one of those Brazilians who go to the US to shop.

November 3, 2015

Climb Every Mountain

Saturday morning bright and early we set out to hike Pico do Jaragua with the kids' Portuguese tutor. I'm not sure if it was hard for me because of the elevation or heat or my exercise routine consists of walking with Tymon about 5 times a week or what....but there was a lot of UP going on. Here I am a few days later and the top of my gluts are finally feeling back to normal.

I think the top attractions on this hike are the monkeys and of course the Tarzan vines, which all of the kids loved. Except Kira. She didn't try it. But she was definitely interested in having a little monkey eat out of her hand. They are so cute when they take their little hands on either side of the hand feeding them and hold it ever so delicately. Not all were so friendly. The ones that weren't interested in interaction let us know by being stand-offish.

This little caterpillar pictured will someday no doubt be one of the great moths that frequent our home. Here are two more that have come since our first encounter with the butterfly of death aka Black Witch Moth.

Sphinx and Black Witch Moths

November 2, 2015

Brazilian Barbeque

If you've never been to a Brazilian barbeque restaurant (churrascaria), you should go. For those of you in the Seattle area, there's one on Lake Union and in Factoria. Tymon and I went to the one in Factoria next to the mall last February. It's fantastic and the atmosphere is so fun.

So just imagine every kind of meat you've thought of and more...well, of the beef, pork, chicken. lamb sausage varieties and seasoned to perfection. The waiter brings it to your table and you choose whether you want a rare or more medium cut. As he carves, you take some little tongs and pinch the top of the cut while he finishes the cut. Then you put it on your plate.

Did I tell you the best part? It's all you can eat. Each table has a little sign on it that says, "yes, please" or "no thanks" and that's how they know to keep coming back or when to hold off. I should say, though, sometimes they don't care what your sign says. They just keep coming.

For Children's Day a few weeks ago (and here I thought every day was children's day), we went to a park and then out for dinner. It was the first time our children have ever eaten in a churrascaria. They loved it. Just when I thought we were all done, Jocelyn and Jett would get more meat. At this particular restaurant the girls were so excited about the tiny toilet and sink in the restroom. They seriously went in, did their business and came out and got me to come back in with them so they could show it off.

Something totally wild to me is how many people were in this park just hanging out. Check out this crowd. They're picnic goers. We didn't see any events taking place...unless you count pick up games of soccer or a bunch of hippies playing their guitars.  

We actually meant to go to a park just up the street from this one that has a hike up to an overlook so you can see the entire city of Sao Paulo. At first we didn't realize we were in the wrong place and were looking around for the trail head. We went down one path only to see a group of 15 or so young people practicing a dance. We almost walked right through them but then realized the trail curved a little and was blocked off by a fence.

The trip wasn't an entire waste. We did find the Tropic of Capricorn line. And capiburas. A bird protecting her eggs that she laid in the grass. Oh, and some old bamboo thickets. And we had dinner. Go visit a churrascaria and post your photos. It'll be like a little tribute to our friendship. Ha ha ha. But seriously. Do it.

November 1, 2015

Modern Day Pioneers: Halloween in Brazil

Halloween. I've long thought this fabulous holiday should spread across the world. It doesn't seem right to keep this one to ourselves. I was pleasantly surprised this week to find that some Brazilians celebrate Halloween. 

According to the clerk at the party/costume shop, Halloween started in Brazil in 2010. He said it had something to do with Chinese imports coming to Brazil. And, every year since it has been gaining in popularity. 

I checked it out online and found that mostly English classes are the ones to teach Brazilians how Halloween works. At our kids' school, our girls (aged 4 and 7) wore costumes to school, had a party and did some trick or treating. Our 9 year old colored some Halloween pictures in English class, our 10 year old was supposed to watch a Halloween movie but there were some technical difficulties and it didn't happen. For our 12 year old, it basically wasn't a big deal and no activities were planned.

So there is a congregation of our church in Sao Paulo with a high percentage of Americans living in it. We find out that they were planning a Trunk or Treat party complete with a chili and cornbread cook off. And because we're pretty much Parents of the Year, we crashed the party.

We brought some rolls (with some corn added to them) and decorated our trunk with a couple of gory heads without bodies as well as passed out little treat bags to the kids. The kids loved it and we felt very welcome in what by nature can be an awkward situation...since we knew no one. 

Several people talked to us and thought we must have come from the American school which was nearby. We'd never heard of it. The kids spoke English and made many friends. Graeden, who for the first time in his life is struggling with school (or rather Portuguese) was amazed that a kid had lived in Sao Paulo for 4 years and didn't speak Portuguese beyond simple greetings. I'm grateful for Graeden's discovery. He's a bright boy and is making progress in communication. Just not as fast as he likes. And he just saw one end of the spectrum. The end he thought he was on. But now knows he isn't.

 So when a few of our new friends found out we were actively looking for places to move in their area of Sao Paulo, they invited us to move into their ward. Like 7 different people. I haven't felt so welcome in church, well, ever. And it wasn't even Sunday.

And now we need to decide if we'd rather live near some of our fellow expats or if we choose a more Brazilian neighborhood. There seem to be advantages to both options.

Back to Halloween...we hadn't planned on trick or treaters, but a few came by at 3:30pm. I didn't realize that would happen and found out after they were sent away empty handed. I quickly got our leftover stash from the Trunk or Treat party out and started setting up shop for Graeden to manage while we took the other kids out around our neighborhood.

So what's funny about Brazilian Halloween? The kids don't dress up. A few had face paint on, but otherwise they were costume-less. To see a group of 8 or 10 kids going from house to house with just grocery sacks to hold their loot was hilarious. Like they didn't quite understand what Halloween was all about. We rang the bells to several homes but only a handful were prepared with treats. Even a few who weren't prepared found something to give. That's what's being a Halloween Pioneer in Brazil is all about, right? Building awareness. Maybe these families will participate more fully next year?

Another awesome thing is that the kids don't go trick or treating at night. I like that. Not only are there more hours in the afternoon to get candy, you don't worry about running over kids in the street on a dark and rainy night...which is exactly what I understand Seattle got for weather last night.

The Brazilians loved seeing our kids in costumes. One lady and her husband stopped their car next to us on the street and told us to come to their house. She was going to make a cake. We went looking for their house about an hour later, but unfortunately, couldn't find it. Another couple must have seen us from a side street while we were talking and came running up to us just to give the kids candy. They were adorable.

When we got back to the house, Jett stayed outside (with our body-less heads hanging from the trees) and scared kids who came by. Then he'd give them a treat. Ha ha ha, that's exactly the kind of education these kids need in order to understand the spirit of the holiday. 

Next year, we'll have to plan our Halloween a little more thoroughly. It'll be easier now that we have a general idea of what is expected. And by expected, I mean we don't have to do anything. Most don't celebrate. But we did have maybe 35 or 40 Brazilian kids trick or treat at our house. That's an impressive number to me...especially considering Halloween is a foreign holiday.

October 13, 2015

Butterfly of Death

This past week our family was called to the garage to witness a real live Christmas moth. It was HUGE! The wingspan was longer than the tip of Tymon's middle finger to the base of his palm. It's got some history with the family we're living with...

Later in the evening, I went to the garage where the moth was staying and found this gecko right next to him. Like he was going to eat him. And while I can't find out what the predators for this moth are, I was able to find it's name through a "giant moth Brazil" search. Introducing, the Black Witch Moth. In Mexico and other regions, it's also called the Butterfly of Death and if one comes in your house when you're sick then you're going to die. Although, I understand in Texas, when one comes in your house when you're sick, it has to visit all four corners of the room to actually kill you.

Now, understand that it doesn't actually kill you. They eat overripe fruit at night. But imagine my surprise when I'm laying on the bed reading some stuff and look up to see Jocelyn watching a movie on my computer and see this...I thought a bat was in the house. Was it a sigh of relief or gasp of terror when I realized I knew what this creature was?

Freaked me out! I called to my faithful husband to get the moth removal kit. In other words, the broom. We opened our window while I took a video of Tymon shooing the moth out. I believe this one is female. Females have a white stripe and I think the lighter v-shaped stripe just above where the wing's been eaten is the indicator. 

Pushing her out the window went rather well. It was quick...but unfortunately I screamed and dropped the camera once he started moving toward the window. So it's been deleted. And this Christmas moth is free to visit death upon another household.

October 3, 2015

Help I Ate A Raw Cashew

There's a farmer's market on a street near our house every Saturday. I like to go there for produce. And pure sugar cane juice from our favorite vendor. This guy puts the cane in a machine that flattens it and the juice runs into a pitcher, which has a filter on the top. Then he pours the juice into another pitcher which the cashier pours into cups or different sized bottles as the customer wants. I like to watch the whole process. 

Today, I was waiting behind a guy at the cane juice kiosk and the cashier lifted up a liter bottle to ask if that's what I wanted. I nodded yes. There was a third worker there today, one I haven't seen before. She started asking me questions...perhaps if I wanted the bottle sealed or not. I just looked at her for a moment before my regular lady jumped in and told her that I didn't speak Portuguese. And that I'm an American. Then I think then she started telling her about how big our family was and I take the juice home. It was just me today with Jocelyn and Kira. It's funny that I don't really understand a lot, until you start talking about me and then I understand plenty. Ha ha.

So, this photo below is from a few weeks ago at the market. All of that produce was $12.50 USD. That's about what I spent today, too. I bought a dozen bananas today for 2 reais, which is about 50 cents. It was too expensive, though. They only lasted 10 minutes after we got home. Banana peels were found all over the back yard. And we don't have even one left.

So check out the juice in the photo above. For $2 USD, you can get a little pitcher of fresh juice in a restaurant. It's seriously awesome. So much fruit. So inexpensive. So good. So little time.

So whenever we go to the market, I let the kids pick out whatever fruit or vegetable they want. Jocelyn really wanted a watermelon, so we paid about a dollar for one. Kira's awesome choice was what she thought were cherries. Nope. It's called jabuticaba and I love them. They actually grow on a tree trunk. Click the link and you can see photos on wikipedia...and read about how many awesome antioxidants are in this bad boy.

So, you win some and then you lose some. When Rilary was living with us last year we ate some cashew nuts. She was asking about what they were called and didn't believe me when I told her what they were...because in Brazil you don't eat the nut or legume. Only the fruit. The nut that we eat is actually the cashew fruit's seed.

So my first clue that there's going to be a problem should have been that the Brazilian we live with has never actually eaten a fresh cashew...only drank cashew fruit juice. That doesn't stop me. I've got an adventurous spirit and there's not a question in my mind that this is going to be good. The shell on the nut was firm but not hard like a regular nut. We tried to crack it but the shell was tough skinned and not hard or soft enough to open. So I used my teeth. Brilliant idea! ...said no one ever. Though it did work.

My second clue that I may have a problem should have been how hard it was to get to the nut. Nope. Turns out the clue I recognize is the tingling sensation on my lips and tongue. And I don't mean tingle in a good way. Graeden asked me if it was poisonous. What?! No Graeden. It's not poisonous. We love cashews. 
"Because didn't you tell me Mom that if I wanted to know if a berry was poisonous or not I could put it inside my lip for up to 5 minutes and if it tingles then it's poisonous?
Oh yeah. I did say that. And I believe that's true even though I've never tried it on an unknown berry...or fruit. Or anything, really. 

So then I get a few photos and think the reaction will slow down...maybe disappear...nope. The area around my mouth starts turning red. I cut up the cashew fruit and give it a try. Weird. Weird consistency. Weird taste (not bad). But that nut is the weirdest part of all. Weird color. I know it's completely raw but does it have to be pasty white? The ones I buy in the store are most likely been roasted to turn golden. But still.

So I do a google search entitled "help I ate a raw cashew" and find out that the seed cover has the same toxic chemical on it that is found in poison oak and ivy and that you really shouldn't ever ingest it. Ever.

One lady posted a video about it and talked about nearly dying. Yeah. Whoops. She was told to go to the hospital and get pumped full of anti-biotics. She had some redness on her face and then after 3 hours her face swelled up and was rock hard. She was really sick for a week. Yikes!

I'm not sure what I'd do without the internet.

I did a google search for poison oak and essential oils. If I can help it, I don't want to have a hopsital experience tonight. I found an article recommending frankincense, peppermint and thieves (Young Living brand) or on-guard (doTerra brand). Dabbing on frankincense on my lips and tongue felt soothing immediately. Oh, it was nice. The peppermint and on-guard didn't feel as great but already my lips were on fire so I can take a little heat. I put more frankincense on after about an hour. Now I am almost 2 hours post incident and my face feels almost back to normal, though I'll put on more frankincense just for good measure.

So let me be a lesson to you. If you don't see the natives doing something, you shouldn't do it either. And if you're interested in how cashews are harvested, please watch this video. It's really interesting and only a few minutes long.

This is me a couple of days after the cashew incident. That thing that looks like a cold sore, is actually the chemical burn I got from trying to bite open the cashew nut shell. It's totally better now, a week later. Well maybe still a little pink but the scab fell off so that took most of the color with it.

October 2, 2015

Brazillian Cold Weather

Kira often walks around the house collecting treasures in her purse. Or grocery sack. Or whatever collection bowl happens to be around. I found this beauty in her bag and it gave me a good laugh. And then I cried. Because really, is this thermometer accurate?

Your metric lesson for the day: 
Celsius to Fahrenheit Conversion Chart
40° C =  104° F
37° C =  98.6° F
30° C =  86° F
20° C =  68° F

Your Portuguese language lesson for the day:
Frio = Coooold L
Morno = Warm K
Quente = Hot J
Ideal = Ideal.

The Brazilian ideal heat is 40° C. What?!?!?!?! I'm going to die. We had a week or so since I've arrived that was 33-35° C weather. It was hot. Really hot. We bought fans for all of our bedrooms hot. I don't want to know how 40° feels.

And after I first arrived, we had a week of 16-19°ish days intermixed with 20-21° days and I was cold. Really? I'm from Seattle. And those temps should feel warm to me...but maybe not after the summer we had. I think we moved at the right time. Because had we come from Seattle winter weather to Brazilian summer, we would have had a hard time. But coming from pretty much the hottest Seattle summer in forever to Brazilian winter has been alright.

I believe my ideal is about 25° C, which is what we've had this past week with nighttime temps between 16-18° C. I love cooler nights. That said, it's not cold. Tymon and I go on walks around the neighborhood at night and it's the best weather. Not too hot and not too cool.

September 24, 2015

City Kids

I grew up wanting to get out of the small town I grew up in. There was nothing to do there. For example, there were only two fast food restaurants and a small movie theatre. And yet, I kept coming back after every young adult adventure I had ... teaching English abroad, schooling, mission or whatever else I did after graduating high school. 

Tymon and I bought a house a couple of weeks before our wedding. Our family and friends helped us fix it up so we could move in after we got married. I love our town, our family and friends and the community. They've rallied around us whenever life was thrown in our face, as we've been able to do with others, too. There aren't many communities this supportive.

Twenty years after high school, there are several fast food places in town, which I now avoid eating in if I can help it. The movie theatre is literally an antique store and summer nights there are movies in the park. A city can grow and develop but that doesn't matter as much as the growth of the individual. There's no such thing as being bored. Bored people are boring. Creative people have fun any and everywhere they go. In a big city or on a farm. You make your own excitement. 

Even though we chose a tight-knit community for the first part of our family's life, I think that our life was a little too comfortable. And familiar. Sometimes, it takes losing something to appreciate it. Other times we know exactly what we have when it's in front of us. And either we choose a difficult situation or we're put in one by an outside force. Becoming an immigrant family was a choice for us. So I wake up smiling that we're having a little different kind of adventure.

Moving from a suburban/rural community to the largest city in South America: Jocelyn is an awesome city kid. We live on the outskirts of Sao Paulo, Brazil. Usually, we take the metro to get to and from her medical appointments. When we go places as a family, the kids like to ride in the front of the look out into the dark expanse. Actually, there are ads that light up the tunnels of some lines which are pretty cool.

So the other day, it's just me and Jocelyn on the train and she decides she wants to go to the front. Only thing is there is a guy standing to one side, one in the middle and two on the other side. Unaffected by the usual awkwardness that comes from squeezing in between random strangers twice your size with muscles bigger than your head, Jocelyn proceeds to sneak in so she can look out. And the young man next to her just kind of laughs. Because who does that?

Jocelyn does. And not just once. A couple of weeks ago we were downtown and she was walking next to a wall. Four young men, probably the local hoodlums, were in her path just standing around smoking and talking. Instead of going around them, especially because there was a ton of space to do just that, Jocelyn continues her path and walks right through the middle of their group. And they look down and see this blonde kid totally not inhibited by their monopoly of the sidewalk. It leaves me wondering if I've failed to teach her appropriate social interactions, or if she just doesn't care what the norms are. She's going to do what she's going to do.

Jocelyn's wound is healing well and has been completely closed for a few days. It looks better this morning than last night. We still have silver gauze left so I plan to use it until it's gone. That and I've started using doTerra's Immortelle blend for the scar reduction oils in it (frankincense, sandalwood, lavender, myrrh, helichrysum, and rose). In a few months we'll see how the scar looks and decide on whether or not we'll do a scar reduction surgery. I'm hoping it's skin colored and not angry red or bubbly like the 9/22/15 photo.

The kids go to a school with a pool where swimming lessons are part of the curriculum, which is pretty awesome and convenient. Super convenient. Yesterday, we went downtown to visit a doctor to get the kids' physicals. I'm still forming an opinion on what it's like to live in a place with  "free" medical care since we have only used private hospitals and clinics. So I'll leave that topic for another day but what I can say is that so far all of the doctors I've seen here speak English, though nurses and receptionists don't. And by don't, I may mean that they don't speak well enough to want to use it with me.

The collage below was taken from the 16th floor of the medical building we visited. It happens to be right next to a cemetery. The view was incredible. I've been wanting to go to a cemetery ever since I saw one about a week after we arrived. And so after our appointment we went. It was Evan's Angel Day, after all. I offered the kids cookies if they could find a grave with the name Evan on it. No pay out needed. Evan's not a common name here.

It looks like each family has a plot about 3 or 4 caskets wide. Many families build structures and statues or chapels on them. Some of the plots were open so we could peer inside. Then underneath they go deep and the cement boxes are on shelves of sorts. Some are full body sized and others have smaller boxes, maybe for cremated remains. I counted 12 names on one of the family plots and there were spaces for more. I suppose in a city of 20 million, you share space in death as well as in life.

Evan's Angel Day hit me harder this year than last year. I didn't leave my room until noon as I couldn't hold in the tears and I didn't want to make the family we're living with feel awkward. Oh we see our share of crying with 8 children in the house, but parents usually don't walk around the house with tear streaked faces. So I strummed my guitar and tried to learn the chorus and bridge of See You Again by Charlie Puth.

Incredibly moving to me were the actions of those who went to Evan's grave. Those who ate messy donuts. Those who left flowers. I'm thankful to see these photos. Thankful for silk flowers so that Evan's grave won't look bleak while we aren't there to care for it. But most of all, I'm thankful for those of you who reached out to us and remembered. Sent us virtual hugs I even got a real one. Thank you for remembering our boy for a moment and sharing in our sadness. I know you were also reflecting on your own loved ones.

In case you were wondering, I bawled when they played this at the end of Furious 7 and have loved it ever since.

September 13, 2015

This Miracle's Name is SILVER

We've had a ton of rain and wind this week. We lost power for over 30 hours. That was tough. Especially the lack of electronics. Cooking in the dark was quite a feat (reminded me of camping) but we have a gas stove...just needed to find the matches. I'm incredibly grateful we still had water. Not having water could've made the challenge intense.

Wednesday, the power was still out but Tymon's business partner Caleb took all of our phones, chargers, laptops, etc over to his in-laws house to charge them up since they had electricity.

After he returned, Jocelyn and I set off on our grand adventure to the city center in Sao Paulo to go to the complex wound center at Hospital Sirio-Libanes. We took a train in from the suburbs (Osasco) where we live and then transferred to the metro. I had my fully charged phone and back up battery charger with me. 

Unfortunately, I used most of my phone's battery trying to figure out where I was when getting out of the metro since side streets weren't labeled well. We ended up circling around the block, on the opposite side of the main road as we should have been on. Then when we had 12 minutes left to get to our appointment, we got into a taxi to take us a kilometer away. I'm pretty sure if we'd known where we were going, we could've walked faster than navigating the one-way streets and lights and heavy traffic, but whatever. We made it.

Grilled panini sandwich at the hospital.
Jocelyn's wound is healing marvelously under the care of Dr. Marcus Ferreira. He's a complex wound care specialist and he speaks English. Last week, after we first saw him, and he cracked a joke about why we left the United states as soon as we got Jocelyn out of the hospital (who were we running from), he advised me to stop doing the alginate dressings which we'd got in the U.S. and to instead do dressings with silver in them.

Silver is the miracle wound healer. After one week of alginate, Jocelyn's egg-sized wound improved some around the edges, but the crater remained. After two days of silver, the crater had lost most of it's depth. We continued with silver as it has shown the fastest progress in healing.

After the hospital visit, we ate our way back to the metro station. Stopped for corn from a street vendor and ice cream from McDonalds. Except we couldn't find our metro stop. So we walked a bit and then took a chance at some stairs leading down under the street. Turns out the train we found is connected to the metro and we were on our way...along with tens of thousands of other travelers. The escalators were shut down. I can only imagine that with so many people it was too dangerous to have them running. The crowd wouldn't have been able to part for all the new people coming down at regular intervals on the escalator.

So, my phone died and though my texts to Tymon about when we'd be back in Osasco appeared to me to have gone through, they didn't. So we waited 35 minutes on the curb of the train station for him to pick us up. It was dark and getting cold. Then I figured if we were going to find our own way home, we should get to that task. It was almost 8:30pm. And I can barely speak any Portuguese. But I think I know the name of our neighborhood. The name of my street is a little harder.

We tried to get a taxi but to no avail. I considered getting on any of the busses I saw...but instead decided to go to a grocery store before continuing our journey. Maybe they would have an outlet I could charge my phone in...or at least some candy to tide us over.

As we were walking toward an entrance to the store, Tymon and Caleb drove by. They stopped in the middle of the street (it was a red light) and picked us up. They hadn't received my messages and I hadn't responded to theirs. They thought that perhaps I'd been mugged and was lying on the street somewhere. So they came looking for us. Without a clue of where we would be after having taken a run around the station and not finding us. Nope, we weren't mugged. I was just annoyed Tymon hadn't seen my texts. And glad to see him. Especially glad for that.

Just to put to rest some of the fears about personal safety I know my family and friends have mentioned to me: I have never felt threatened here. Even in the city. At night. I'm not saying for one moment that crap doesn't happen. It does. But thus far, everyone I've met here has been kind to me.

August 31, 2015

Brazil: First Impressions

Our family is officially living in Brazil. We are sharing a home with Tymon's business partner and his family. They have 3 kids so we are a family of 12 now. I think we've got the chores set up so everything will run smoothly. Tymon and his partner are still trying to solidify details on a location for the trampoline park. There are ups and downs on that path. Mostly frustrations. They've been in negotiations with several landlords since last November. We didn't expect this part of the process to take so long.

Here is a photo of our home. We live in a gated community with guards at the entrances/exits as well as in stations within. I feel safe, but also a little trapped. I like to get out and go somewhere every day. And I don't mean the back yard. Ha ha. But what I love best are the many trees with flowers on them. They look and smell beautiful.

Notice the garbage bins in front of the house...the garbage people come three times per week. Why three times you ask?

Have a look at our toilet. Not only is the shape you'll fall in if your not careful, but the pipes are small. So you can't put toilet paper in the toilet because it clogs easily. 

You've got to put it in the trash next to the toilet. Yes. Used toilet paper in the garbage. Number one, two and three. So you see having the garbage picked up thrice a week is imperative to sweet smelling commode. On day one, I was 50/50 for remembering not to flush my paper. Since then, I've been golden.

I was a bit confused when asking Tymon about what types of outlets they used in Brazil and what kind of adapter I would need to have for my Vitamix...the only appliance I brought. He said I'd be fine. What he meant was that there is little standardization in outlets/appliances. I bought a Brazilian lamp for my Brazilian desk the other day and found I couldn't plug it in the Brazilian outlet. Today I went to Walmart thinking that finding the right adapter would be simple. NO. Not simple. I spent 20 minutes in front of a bin of adapters texting Tymon to send me photos of the lamp cord, the outlet next to the lamp, the Vitamix cord, the outlet next to it, etc. What the heck?!?! In other news, I've never seen so many adapters so cheap in all my life.

Our boys have been in a Brazilian school for the past month. Jocelyn and Kira will start tomorrow. One thing I like is that the kids wear uniforms. No thinking about what to wear. It's already decided. They also ride a private school bus. I've seen some others around town today. Some were original VW busses that seat 8-10. Others were of varying degrees of quality. This bus is the fanciest I've seen and comes complete with a lady to carry Jett's bag for him. That may change with Kira riding the bus tomorrow, though. I think her back pack is bigger than she is.

Traffic-wise, it's a bit crazy here. At some point, (maybe this week?) we'll buy a car. Driving around a new car makes me nervous about putting a mark on it. And I think it's highly likely one or both of us will put a dent in it. And it's only because I don't fully understand the traffic when is it appropriate to stop at a stop sign and when should I run it? Or when to stop at a red light? Doing the wrong thing (even if you think you're right), can get your rear-ended. This morning, I thought we were going to witness a 6 car crash...but it all worked out and no one hit each other. Truly amazing.

I'd like to take a driving class...just to know how the rules are officially taught. Then maybe I'll open up an Offensive Driving School...just got to get the hang of the driving culture here. The traffic lights here have counter lights to the side of them that count down to when the red light will turn green or the green light will turn yellow. Seems ingenious...until you realize that Brazilians shy away from any standardization. That means some lights move between the counter lights quickly and others very slowly. Part of me likes the quirky-ness.

August 29, 2015

Jocelyn's Bite Update, Warning: Graphic Images!

So, I thought the worst of Jocelyn's dog bites was healing nicely...until it wasn't. The stitches were supposed to remain in for a week, so I was planning on taking Jocelyn in on Tuesday...the day before we leave for Brazil to take care of that.

Only it didn't look very good starting Monday evening. Then Tuesday morning it was horrific. The stitches busted open. I took her to a clinic. They told me to go to the hospital as there is a wound care unit there.

This is my first experience with an actual wound. We throw that word around like we know what we're talking about. But we don't. We truly don't. And a regular doctor's office doesn't really know how to handle wounds. Crazy, but true.

Dr. Sisk works in at Evergreen Monroe in the Emergency Department. I've seen him twice with Jocelyn and once with Elliott...I'm beginning to wonder if I saw him with Jovana, too. He's the nicest guy and I trust his opinion. He brought in the wound care specialist for us and we ended up staying all day Tuesday in the hospital so Jocelyn could have her thigh cleaned out. The poor girl was starving and couldn't eat anything because of the anesthesia she needed to have to do the surgery.

I contemplated not going to Brazil for a few weeks. There is pulling power for staying and ultimately more for going. I want to do what's best for Jocelyn as well as what's best for our family. I prayed for guidance and felt conflicted no matter what decision I thought about.

Honestly, I still feel conflicted. Did I do the right thing? I don't know. Likely I won't know for a while.

I went to bed on Tuesday at midnight. I hadn't finished packing one bag. But my 18 hour day needed to come to a close. Being a single parent is difficult enough in and of itself. But throwing in the stress of an international move, complex medical decisions, cleaning up the house, painting and getting ready for renters has a high physical, emotional and mental toll. We also finally closed on selling our old house (sold in 3 days but took all summer to close) and got some humidity control going on in our basement (which had several delays itself).

Did I mention I threw my back out last Monday? Luckily I found some stretches to do that help and saw my chiropractor and got a massage. While I'm still sore a week and a half later, at least I can move. But to say I've felt out of control and powerless, would be the understatement of the year.

Wednesday morning, I got up at 4:30am and started cleaning out my closet and sorting what I wanted and didn't want to bring. My spotless bedroom became a staging area. By 7am, I got most of my closet situated and had mostly empty suitcases all over the floor. I called my parents and brother crying. I need help. Now. The goal is to get out of my house by 9am (I built in time to stop at my office for half an hour on the way to the airport). I went to the office on Tuesday night so didn't have to do that Wednesday, so we got everything I needed to do done and we were on the road by about 9:45am.

When I think about the last week of my life, I get emotional. A few good friends stepped up and helped me pull my house together...even took charge when I was in the hospital with Jocelyn. I love them so much and am indebted to their kindness and generosity.

Wednesday we flew to Brazil. Thursday we arrived. Friday (yesterday) we took Jocelyn in to the best hospital in our area of Sao Paulo (Osasco). In short, I got the distinct impression after watching the nurse pack/bandage Jocelyn's wound, that they haven't seen wounds like hers before. The doctor recommended we go see the plastic surgeon in the suite upstairs and was mentioning skin grafts and surgery. I'll be honest. I got nervous.

We decided to take Jocelyn to a different hospital in the center of Sao Paulo. One of the best in Brazil reputation-wise. Unfortunately, it's not quite as convenient as the first one. That's okay, though. We'll manage. Crossing our fingers this will be a good fit. They have a specialized wound care facility and the doctor is also a plastic surgeon. Jocelyn's appointment is for next Wednesday. While a J shaped scar on Jocelyn's leg would've been cool, a crater doesn't seem as appealing.

August 19, 2015

That Bites - Warning: Graphic Content!

Jocelyn is really into skating these days. I took away all access to electronic devices for a week and she put on my roller blades and went to town. Well, not really, just around the neighborhood. I took apart a broom and gave her the stick to use as a cane, of sorts and she persevered in learning. She can stand up straight and move and not fall down. It's impressive, really.

I didn't think anything of it yesterday when she skated over to the neighbor's house to play in the afternoon sun. It was hot out. They went to the house to get a drink. Didn't realize the dog wasn't in her kennel. Chaos ensued. I heard crying from across the cul-de-sac. "I want my mommy!" I started walking over. I thought she'd fallen down on her skates. The neighbor used a strong voice to stop Jocelyn from moving. Uh oh, that's not a good sign. I started to run. Another neighbor was running toward them, too.

My neighbor was sitting on the ground with Jocelyn in his lap and hand pressed firmly on her thigh. The dog had attacked Jocelyn. Ripped a chunk in her leg. Blood everywhere. She calmed down to a whimper when she saw me. And saw I wasn't going to move her. Or change the pressure that was being applied. I called 911.

So Jocelyn got her first ride in an ambulance. And she didn't even have a good time. The firemen were really nice, though. Even though they cut her shorts to see the bites on her bum.

I have some majorly mixed emotions. This is the same dog that bit the girls a year and a half ago. Her name is Lightning...because that's how fast she strikes. I don't know what makes some kids safe and then others (mine) turn into play toys but Lightning's days are numbered. I wonder if her doggie sense can feel that.

I explained to Jocelyn what it meant to put a down to sleep. That's a nice euphemism. But I thought in explaining what would happen that Jocelyn would be upset. She wasn't. She looked at me and said, "good." Now when we talk she thinks it's a little sad Lightning will sleep forever.

For me, I'm sad that Jocelyn is hurting. I'm sad for my neighbors who are losing a pet. I'm happy that Lightning won't be able to attack anyone else. Her breed isn't known for violence. Quite the opposite, really. Many are service animals. Lightening's in quarantine for ten days in case Jocelyn gets an infection and they need a tissue sample from the dog.

The little neighbor boy came over this afternoon to check on Jocelyn. I hope he understands what it meant to open that door yesterday. And that Jocelyn will grasp that adults have rules and give warnings for valid reasons. I know she now believes that doctors are here to help people. Although her favorite saying last night (whenever anyone touched her) was "you're killin' me here!" Just like the "you're killin' me Smalls" line in Sandlot.

Jocelyn had the emergency room staff in good humor, even when they were killin' her. She did well after they got some local anesthetic in her. But sticking a needle into an open wound several times at different angles didn't produce the most ideal sound. I'm sure people heard her in the parking lot. And all I could do was help hold her legs so she didn't thrash around.

I'm not sure how many stitches she got. Maybe 11 or 12 in her thigh. Makes a nice Y shape. She kept her focus on her glove balloon peeps and the Temple Run game on my phone and didn't holler at all when getting them. I sent a plastic surgeon in Seattle photos of the bite and sutures, we can see what can be done to minimize scarring in 9-12 months.

Not exactly the complication our lives need when we're moving next Wednesday. But alas, it's here. Anyone wanting to come help me attack my To Do list is welcome to come over. I'm slowly figuring out the difference between what needs to be done, what needs to be done by me, and what doesn't matter. Sometimes, it's a fine line. Jocelyn's been watching Netflix all day and hasn't once complained of soreness or hurt. Amazing.

July 29, 2015

First Day of Brazilian School

So, it's been about a month and a half since the boys left for Brazil. Today was the first day of school after winter break. The school year goes February to November. So they'll have summer vacation December and January...makes up for only getting 6 weeks off now.

This letter is brought to you by the Letter G ... I mean the following is a letter from Graeden.

 First there wasn't much we went to my classroom and dad dropped me off. 
   Then after a couple minutes the teacher came in and the class came in I immediately made a friend when some boy offered to translate most of the stuff I didn't understand. 
   Then after three periods of me not understanding anything we got to have a 20 minute break. I ate my snack and then started playing foosball.
   At the break it seemed like I was the most popular person at school. Everybody was asking me questions playing foosball with me or just standing around me. 
   (Kinda hard to eat a sandwich in peace) 
   Then we went back to our other three periods and I sat around not knowing anything. 
   Then we went home in my pajama like school uniform.

May 26, 2015

Jett's Thoughts On Family - Age 5

July 2012
Jett, at almost 6 years old, met his birthmother Michelle for the first time since his birth. She had a son named Isaiah about 5 years before Jett was born. He lives with his paternal grandparents. Michelle also gave birth to her daughter about 15 months after Jett was born. She cared for her for a while but she is now living with Isaiah's grandparents.

Today, while cleaning my office, I found a notebook with an interview I did with Jett after meeting Michelle in 2012. Since I want to recycle the notebook, which is now full of scribbles and drawings, it's time I preserve the interview by making it digital.

Bridget: What was your first thought when meeting Michelle?
Jett: nervous and scared because I didn't know what she looked like, if she had kids or not (until we told him). I like Isaiah because he's fun to play with and he's going to give me a whole bunch of video games. It's good that Jocey likes the other girl. It's just that those two can be friends and play with each other a lot when we come to Disneyland.

B: What was your favorite part?
J: Got to watch Stitch and Lilo and we got to borrow it.
B: 2nd favorite part?
J: Isaiah's going to give me a big pack of games.
B: 3rd fave?
J: Isaiah let me play Pac-man at the park.

B: Worst part?
J: I don't know. I hope to come back again because it's fun at Disneyland and playing with Isaiah. It's mostly all I can think about.

Not nervous or scared to see Michelle again. Just waiting to go back to play with Isaiah again. It felt like Isaiah was like a brother and sort of like a friend.

B: If you could tell Isaiah anything, what would it be?
J: I like you.

B: Would you ever want to live with Isaiah?
J: I don't know. I wouldn't be able to have all my stuff there?

B: What if he came here?
J: I guess. I want him to live with us. He's nice. He is fun to play with. I want him to meet Dylan (our neighbor) and my other friends.

B: What does it mean to be adopted?
J: I don't know. Like somebody is not ready for a baby and give it away.

B: What do you think about you being adopted?
J: Weird about not being in my family that I'm supposed to be in.

B: Good or bad or whatever weird?
J: Whatever weird.

B: What family were you supposed to live with?
J: The family that I got born in.

B: Who does Michelle live with?
J: I don't know.

B: Where does Isaiah live?
J: In California with Michelle.

B: What would you say if I told you Isaiah doesn't live with Michelle?
J: That's weird.

B: Isaiah doesn't live with Michelle.
J: Why? Then who does he live with?
B: Grandparents
J: Oh. Then why was he at Michelle's house?
B: He wasn't. She picked him up.

B: How do you think Isaiah feels to live with his grandparents and not Michelle?
J: Good
B: All good?
J: Yeah
B: Do you think he feels like you do?
J: Uh, yeah

B: Do you feel like you belong to the Johns family?
J: I don't know.
B: What makes you unsure?
J: I don't know.

B: Who's your mother?
J: You
B: Who are your brothers?
J: Graeden and Elliott
B: Sisters?
J: Jocey and Kiki
B: Father?
J: Dad
B: Family?
J: Us and cousins and grandparents
B: Do you belong with the Johns family?
J: Uh, yeah.

B: Who's your birthfather?
J: I don't know.
B: Would you like to meet him?
J: Yes
B: What if I told you that I don't know him and don't know if you'll meet him?
J: Okay

B: Are you happy with the Johns family?
J: Yeah
B: Do they love you?
J: Yeah
B: How do you know?
J: They do nice things for me.
B: Like what?
J: I don't know, they let me play Wii.

So clearly there are things that both Michelle and I are doing right with Jett. I let him play Wii and Michelle/Isaiah let him play video games. Bwahahahaha. I'm curious now how Jett would answer some of these questions three years later.

April 30, 2015

Road Trip: Adventure Calls!

I'm not sure what happened to March. I blinked and it disappeared. I'm trying to hang on to April and find it slipping just as fast. Today, the story I want to tell starts in the year 1992. Well, it actually probably started in 1985 when my aunt who lived in Paris hooked me up as a pen pal with the daughter of one of her friends. I appointed myself as the official mail retriever in my home, checking the mailbox on my way home from school every day. Letters were my life.

The summer of 1992, my pen pal came to my house to visit. That fall, I went to France to see her. While in France, I attended a French high school, got terrible grades (even in English) and was able to do a little bit of sight seeing. I found my local church congregation and met a few American families there that I could talk with. My American friends at church went to an International School and spoke English all day...French was just a class to take. One American family with 6 children impressed me quite a bit. They put their kids into French schools and their kids became fluent in French. I wanted that for me. And I wanted that for my future family.

Harry and David Factory tour Spring Break 2015
Over the years and through my many travels, I remembered this family. One day my husband and I would find a job overseas and our family would integrate into another culture. The kids would speak another language with native proficiency and without accent.

A few years after Tymon and I got married, he got a job with Panasonic Avionics. As a worldwide company, they have job openings across the globe. Sometimes, I would log in to his employee account and search the job postings. I searched for jobs he was qualified to do and then I'd search those countries and cities for available housing and schools. It was a time suck but seemed more productive than watching TV in the evenings. Though none of the job postings resulted in overseas employment, over the years Tymon and I seriously discussed making it happen one day. 

Oregon Vortex
A couple of weeks ago, during Spring Break, we visited the Oregon Vortex. It's an odd place where the world collides within itself and molecules change size. What seems real in one place alters when you move a few feet over. In the upper photo above you will see Tymon and Hilary with a stick on their heads. Notice the angle and that Tymon is taller than Hilary, which in real life he is about 4 inches taller. In the lower photo they've switched places. The only change is that they are in different parts of the vortex. It now appears as though Tymon is maybe only an inch taller. Hilary grew a few inches in a matter of seconds.

It wasn't comfortable for me in the vortex. I found it fascinating while at the same time nausea was setting in. Apparently, when the vortex was discovered by miners over a hundred years ago their horses and other animals wouldn't go in the area with them. I believe it. I also wanted out. 

Santa Cruz Boardwalk, California
There's a part of me that loves living in the same city I grew up in. We are a part of a tight knit community where our roots run deep. Our lives intertwine with so many others. Snohomish will always be home to me.

Winchester Mystery House, Jelly Belly Factory, Oakland Temple
And yet within me, my dreams of yesteryear swirl around in a vortex, side by side with the life we have now. It's a little awkward. A little uncomfortable. And a lot exciting.

Golden Gate Park and Bridge
Tymon and a friend have been working for the last year plus on opening a business together.  There have been plans, set backs, more plans, some forward movement, a little disappointment, more forward movement and the time has come to take the leap of faith. I've been planning for an altered role in my driving school for just over a year now. We're really going to do this.

Stinky Sea Lions, San Francisco Cable Car, Lombard Street
We're moving to Sao Paulo. We visited the Brazilian consulate in San Francisco during spring break to finish our applications for visas. It took many months to get permission to even make that appointment. And there was always the possibility that it wouldn't happen. However, we got our visas in the mail this past Saturday. We're legal. Tymon and the boys have tickets to fly out in about 6 weeks. I will follow with the girls sometime near the end of summer after our driving school's busy season. 

Alcatraz - former US Federal prison.

I've been to Alcatraz a handful of times in my life. My father grew up in the Bay Area and when we visited my grandparents, we'd go sometimes. This visit was different. Ai Weiwei, a political prisoner of China worked with those on Alcatraz to display his art. Parts of the island were open that I've never seen before. The hospital, above the cafeteria, was new to me as well as the New Industries building. They are usually off limits to the public.

Part of the exhibit included the names and images of political prisoners around the globe as well as a brief description of their "wrongs". There were post cards and a big mail bin to collect them in. An interesting combination of art and activism. I felt conflicted as to whether or not I should send one of the prisoners a post card. What do I know about any of them? Nothing...except what the blurb said. There were many men listed. I wondered if any were women. I found a few near the back of the book. One, a Vietnamese blogger named Ta Phong Tan, spoke out against her government and its corruption. I sent her a note.

We met one of the original "Rosies" in Richmond, CA.

We visited my aunt in Berkeley and went with her to the Rosie the Riveter museum in Richmond, CA. During WWII, Richmond was building ships faster than anywhere else. Many women joined the workforce during those years. We met a woman named Mary Torres there. She worked at the same shipyard in Oakland that my grandfather did during the war. We listened to her story for about half an hour. Mary's courage and faith to travel across the country not knowing a soul and having nothing but a few dollars and sandwiches in her purse inspire me to take a similar leap. Only I'll have my family with me.

I imagine this fall my life will somewhat resemble the American mother I met in France. Similar yet different. In many ways, all my own. Truth be told, I'm excited that I get to choose these challenges.

Often our lives are packed full of complexities that don't seem compatible. Sort of like the vortex swirling around us. We stretch and grow in the face of adversity. Though I'm not fighting a corrupt government or inequalities in the workforce, different challenges will be be smacking me up side the head soon enough.
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