🇨🇴 A Colombian Christmas 🇨🇴

My family and I went to Colombia for the holidays. Not Columbia, but Colombia. Yes, the country where drug cartels ruled and kidnappings once regularly occurred. When I told people what we were doing for the holidays the common response I got was, “Why?” I then would explain that our daughter was teaching there and we wanted to see her. So, we made the family pilgrimage. Little did I know, I’d also come away with some powerful insights.

The trip there was about as smooth as a cracked cell phone screen. We grumbled and complained due to missing our flight because of mechanical failure. Our irritation grew as we were rerouted in the opposite direction. We actually lost an entire day scurrying from airport to airport piecing our arrival together. Then, the requisite cherry on top was the loss of luggage which ensued days of misery for one of us.

Our general misery subsided however, as we arrived to this land overflowing with abundant fruits and generous foliage. The lush, green canopies of aged, coffee plants, towering, wax palms and unidentifiable flora were breathtaking. Of course, seeing our daughter was the real prize. All six of us together on a family trip and we would have unknown memories yet to make.

Arriving during the Christmas season was extra special. My daughter had indicated that Colombia was its most festive around Christmas. The towns were lit up like gigantic, twinkling, tree ornaments. I noticed dancing lights every square inch from our aerial view during our flight from Bogota to Cali. I also noticed something odd- dressed up, lap dogs on our plane. Then street dogs, shop dogs, and personal dogs in just about every place of our first city, Salento. That was where we toured the coffee plantation and horseback rode up a mountain. For the record, most of us did not know how to horseback ride, much less on a narrow path on the side of a mountain.

Colombia is known for their flavorful coffee. I will never drink coffee irreverently again knowing all that goes into it. The back-breaking labor of handpicking ripe red, “cherry” beans (on a steep hill) and sorting through all the beans is impressive, intentional work- especially for the smaller, old fashioned farms that prefer to keep their coffee “pure.” We learned the process and that the country itself drinks the rejected beans and exports their best to the likes of us. “We are spoiled,” I thought more than once on this trip.

Coffee plant
Coffee cherry with beans

Another day, we took off on a Jeep ride to the base of the greenest mountain I have ever seen. There we mounted horses (without any education on riding- instructors couldn’t speak English anyway) and made our way up to the aged, wax palm trees. The trees looked straight out of a Dr. Seuss book. They were approximately 60 meters tall and 200 years old. Standing in their natural arbor, the panoramic view was pure art. Speechless, we took it all in.

At this point of our journey we learned a few curious things about Colombia. First, it is NOT a poor country. Second, you can’t flush toilet paper ANYWHERE in the country and third, people are extremely nice but you can’t expect anyone to speak English. Our most pleasant surprise was how incredibly affordable everything was. Our family of six could eat out for less than half of what we paid at home.

After Christmas, we headed to Cali and attended “La Féria.” It’s a traditional celebration parade of the peoples of Colombia dating from the indigenous through modern times. Each was represented with floats, music, and elaborate costumes. It was quite a site. Next, my daughter and I had a girls day and the boys tried kite surfing. I was thankful to eat a fabulous meal in a spa-like restaurant and shop Colombian designers instead. Custom clothes abound there. Many have the seamstress connected to their showrooms. I’d never seen boutique couture like that before.

New Years is a family event in Colombia, unlike the US. So, most everything was shut for the holiday. We ended up at the Marriott (notably the nicest and most expensive hotel in Cali) for a sushi dinner and people watching. It did not disappoint as people cascaded in wearing ball gowns and international flight crews arrived in their stylish, European uniforms. It was a feast for the eyes.

For our last stop, we headed to Bogota as our daughter headed to Medellin. We had one last day to see sights. A few of us headed up to Montserrat- named for the same in Barcelona- for good luck, per tradition, while others retreated from the rain.

Sadly departing, we immediately said we were coming back. Colombia we found, is NOT the TV show “Narcos,” nor is it a dangerous, third world country. As the small hotelier stated in broken English, “We Colombians don’t have access to everything but we appreciate more because of it. We have peace in our hearts and that comes from inside.”

Love You, Like You

The saying “Love you, like you” has made its way into my stash of favorites. I have no idea where it originated, but am so glad it did. I think one of our children spontaneously said it as a small child and it stuck. In our home, we tend to not always like each other but we always love each other. That brings me a lot of peace because sometimes family life is anything but peace-filled!

I have a dear friend with an autistic son who attends a special school. At the school the students and parents were asked to vote on t-shirt slogans to promote positivity and be a fundraiser. My friend voted the one with the slogan “I Love You & I Like You” and even ordered me one! I love it immeasurably. She doesn’t know the example she serves in my life. I wear that shirt with pride.

My mother in law once said that being liked is even more complimentary than being loved (paraphrased). I get what she means. We love our families and we like our friends. In this, we are basically saying “love” is commitment- not emotion led- but “like” is fun and endearing. Like anyone else I’d like to be liked too. Feelings aside, if you love someone, you might only like them sometimes. If considering just liking someone, then you either do or you don’t.

It’s the oddest thing to be disliked (and know it) but not know why. It used to bug me wondering why someone was frequently cold to me, but now, not so much. I realize I also like some people more and others not as much. Why? Who knows? It is just chemistry, or lack there of, or any thousand other reasons, I suppose.

God calls me to be like Jesus to love others as myself. I am relieved it’s okay to dislike. It is also relief to know I can still love others through my actions while disregarding my gut feelings. I guess what I’m trying to say is that liking or being liked is just pleasant- like icing on a cake. But when you’re loved AND liked, it’s the whole dessert.

The Circus of Life

 

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Someone once said “parenting is only hard if you care.” I must have cared too much. If my angst wasn’t obvious on the outside, it was FULL THROTTLE on the inside.  I fretted over every.  single.  detail.  Circumstancially, we had four children under the age of two. Four were in diapers at ONE TIME. Sometimes things were insane (more like frequently to be completely honest). Ofcourse I got some help (with child care and the counseling sort). But despite the “circus of life” our family has lived, I am finally seeing a positive outcome- the fruits of our labor are sprouting!

We are still actively parenting, don’t be fooled I think our job is complete.  But a recent family gathering shed light on how far we have come.  Mind you, structured chaos was where we started but fine young men and a young lady were what I saw this weekend. Our daughter brought home her first “suitor” (male friend with serious potential) and the entire family was present.  She actually WANTED us all there to meet this person.  I was so shocked that I even questioned her decision.  I was a little afraid we would embarass her with our Type A, boisterous behavior.  Worse, I feared her father’s inquisition of this criminal, I mean boyfriend.

Turns out, by the time he left, I had the epiphany that all went pretty well overall and that if he got scared off, it wasn’t because we weren’t kind, open and accepting.  Our family is super loud (check).  Our family is upfront and open (what you see is what you get).  Our family is accepting and warm (we don’t care your race or religion- in fact, the more different, the more interesting). Our family is there for each other (we might rip each other to shreds occasionally but we show up for one another).  There are no secrets (no skeletons in our closets, we parade them).

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At first I chided my husband to watch his mouth, excessive questioning, and tendency to put a plate on the ground for the dog to lick.  I just knew that would send this guy packing.  I couldn’t get rid of the 5 rescue animals either so just went with all of it.  The first night was rough and my husband accused me of trying to create a diamond out of coal in my backside.  (Go ahead and laugh, it’s probably partly true.)  However, tensions and pretensions eased throughout the weekend and finally her friend was able to joke he was moving his flight up.  I knew things were cool then.

Our three sons were amazing.  One even spoke so highly of his sister that I teared up. They all attended everything we wanted (doesn’t happen enough) and behaved very well.  They were actually being respectful of their sister.  None did what they joked about prior like wrestling him (they are triplet males, wrestling is their love language) or challenging him in weight lifting. Talking about making a mama proud!

My sister said we need to be on a reality show. I find our unscripted reality frequently hilarious. As someone once said, “You can’t make this stuff up.” But we have stayed together and we love each other, even when it has not been easy to do.  The “Circus of Life” the Turners lived, live and will live is worth the ticket price.  I’m in.

two white and red admission tickets
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COOL!

It began in 1997. It was a beautiful, spring day and I was headed less than a half mile away to the local hospital for a scheduled ultrasound. Now, mind you, this was when some OB/GYN offices did not have their own machinery. Thus, we little folk herded into the waiting room to be seen by the local ultrasound tech. Being that I had a napping 1 year old, my husband came home from work (100 yards away) and ate lunch while I meandered to that appointment. Once there, another couple I knew had an entire waiting room full with them for their ultrasound appointment. I was alone. I had no idea how prophetic that would become.

After pleasantries with the other large family, I sat and waited. Luckily one of my former students from the exercise class I taught was my tech. She and I happily yapped about everything as she proceeded with my routine ultrasound.  Once started she paused and said, “Oh my!  Katie, you’re having twins!  You can cry now.”  I was mute and completely blindsided. (I wasn’t one to fantasize about children, number of children or desire for ANY sized family.) I was in shock and my mind went blank. Then, she said those words, “Wait, uhm, I think there’s one more, uhm, wait, uhm, let me get the radiologist to look at this.”  As I lie there asking, “What!?!” (And this was before the meme portraying WTF!?!) my mind raced.  I was completely freaked out with the possibility of multiples. I wasn’t the ideal candidate for motherhood. I didn’t really enjoy babysitting, had few child care skills and honestly, felt disliked by most kids I came in contact. My mother wasn’t available to equip me as she developed Alzheimer’s disease in her late 40’s. Let’s face it, I was NOT who you’d want to be your mom.  But, as fate would have it, God calls the least equipped to show His strength. So, as I lie, my friendly tech comes back into the exam room where I finally ask, “Are there any more??”  That was my first spoken thought…four children, what?  How do I do that?  I have an 1100 sq.ft. house, a two door car and no income myself. (My husband and I had tried to go it on one salary. Little did we know what was to come!)

So I drive my two door car back to our tiny house where my husband simply asked, “What?” when I mutely looked at him in desperation. I truly couldn’t speak. How do you tell someone they are about to go from one to four children nonchalantly?  I just started handing him stuffed animals. One, two, three, four I handed. He only said one word, “Cool!”