All My Systems Out of Whack
I realized a couple of months ago why our first year in Brazil was so taxing in so many ways when I re-read a couple of articles I had written a year or so before we left America about organizing your life. In my articles, I was advocating having a system for everything, so that it doesn't take so much time or mental energy to get stuff done. When you have a system for your daily duties, it becomes automatic and far less stressful. You become more productive, using less time, and have more brain energy left over for doing other things you enjoy, like spending time with your husband and children. My motto was “A system for everything, and everything in its system” - for cooking, doing laudry, cleaning, putting things away, homeschooling, shopping, etc.
Well, all of my systems got whacked out by moving here! That is somewhat true for every move, even within the same town, but was especially true for us.
Shopping system? I had no idea where to get stuff, or what it would look like when I found it, much less what it would cost! And without a car for most of that first year, it became hard to find out where the best place to buy groceries and things was, and even harder to get there.
Laundry system? Now that I had no dryer, that system no longer worked either! (Not to mention no laundry baskets, and a more limited quantity of clothes – and for the first almost four months, I had no washing machine either.) Not having a dryer didn't just mean it took more time to hang up clothes, but also meant having to plan laundry around the weather, having to be attentive when it started sprinkling, not doing laundry when we were leaving the house most of the time (because of the possibility of rain), and making sure the clothes were washed bright and early, because it rains almost every afternoon.
Cooking system? While I had always prided myself in cooking from scratch, coming here made me realize how much I still “cheated”! Now, if we wanted mexican food, I had to make the tortillas from scratch? Salsa with those tortillas? Make that yourself too! Want applesauce? Hope you can find apples on sale! You like BBQ sauce? Hope you have a good recipe! Grated cheese necessary for pizza or casseroles? Grate it yourself! Forget about frozen pie crusts or canned pumpkin or peanut butter too! Frozen vegetables are also not readily available, and rather expensive, so fresh is the name of the game. I'm sure this is really a very good thing, but it does require more time of chopping and peeling, and also requires far more frequent shopping. I also depended heavily on freezer cooking to simplify my cooking system, but until last month we didn't have a reliable freezer, so that was out. And even now, it is relatively small, unlike my huge deep freeze I used to have. And all of my gadgets – my Bosch bread maker, my crock pot, my rice cooker, my baking stones, my misc. Casserole dishes and bread pans and muffin pans I had collected over the years at garage sales, etc. Many of our family's favorite recipes contained ingredients that are not easy to find, so MANY adjustments have had to be made.
As for having a PLACE for everything, that was hard when we began with barely any furniture. In America when you move, you at least have the built-in advantage of moving into a house with kitchen cabinets, bathroom cabinets, and bedroom closets. Brazilian houses come with none of the above.
Homeschooling? We depended heavily on our local library, as well as our own home library for many resources. In lieu of that, I am SO thankful for the internet that we can use for many things instead. And besides books, we had more "other" educational resources available in our home and everywhere we turned. Not to mention support of fellow homeschoolers!
Beyond homeschooling, I had other systems for dealing with the children that needed to undergo major adjustments. Johann was 15 months when we first came, and part of my systems for him included the use of a pack-n-play, and a high chair. Those items sure are handy for toddler restraint! And I hadn't even realized that I actually had some "escape mechanisms" -- which I didn't use frequently, but were there if I needed them -- like putting a good-quality video on for the kids, or letting them play in the basement or outside for a while. Now, we got to be *together* all the time!
And perhaps the greatest change of all has been the lifestyle change of Fabio being in fulltime ministry, rather than working all day long every day. This has been a VERY welcome change, but nonetheless, a big change – not only for him, but for all of us! The fantastic thing is that we can all be more involved in what he is doing, and he can be more involved with the children and all of us can be together so much more on a day-to-day basis. The dual name of my game has had to become “available” and “flexible”.
Why am I writing all of this? Well, one thing is that I am now realizing, in hinds sight, that I think I have adjusted! I realized that life is just not quite so taxing anymore, and that I have been able, for the most part, to develop new systems. Gradually. And, I also realized how GOOD it has been for me to have my nice little comfort zone shaken up a bit. I mean, a bunch! I have learned new skills, and most importantly, these are the things in life that challenge our character and make us grow. I am so thankful for the opportunity for growth. As I reflected on this topic, I realized that these areas in my life have been the most challenged: diligence, ingenuity, creativity, being able to roll with the punches, not being quick to anger when things go wrong -- that is, patience, and thankfulness, to name a few. And beyond any personal growth, it has been SO good for our family. Through it all, we have grown closer together than ever before. It is a beautiful thing, that I wouldn't trade for anything in the world!
May we never be afraid of change, when it is God-orchestrated!