Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day - A Post To Make 90% of Moms Feel Better

I know friends, it's been a while. Sorry. In my defense, I plead laziness and an internal struggle with paranoia, privacy, attachment issues and the like.

But I'm popping on here to say Happy Valentine's Day. All of you overachievers on Pinterest and Facebook inspired me with your amazing Valentine's creations. Truly, you did!

And here's my Valentine's Day gift to the rest of you normal people... I present our Valentine's Day boxes:

(and every mom feels much better about themselves now, right? #slacktivism)

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Teacher Gift Ideas

Need help thinking outside the Christmas box for this year's neighbor, friends, family, teacher gifts?

Help give Hope for Christmas, and make this year's gift a gift of meaning. For every $20 you donate in a loved one's honor to our school project in Ethiopia, you will be sent this beautiful hand-crafted card that you can give them to let them know that a child in Ethiopia received the gift of education in their name.

I've got a bunch of kids, and that means a bunch of teachers.  What an easy yet lovely way to show my appreciation for their investment in my children, than by investing in someone else's in their honor.

What a great way to honor your child's teacher by giving the gift of education.  What a great way to honor your friends and family by giving the gift of hope.

And remember…100% of your donation goes to the field. Not a penny is held back for US administrators.

Click here to get your gift cards on the way today!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

We'll Always Have London

Did I mention we spent a couple of days in London on the way to Ethiopia?  I honestly wasn't sure I'd love London.  Oy, I was wrong.  It was so amazing and I was terribly sad we had such a short time there.

We did and saw just about everything possible in two days, but meeting up with my friend Claudia was top of the list.  She showed us the ropes of London and taught us how to use the tube (subway).  After our tube lesson, Kari and I were seriously like 16-year-olds with a new driver's license, excited to be able to go anywhere in London we wanted.

Because hanging at a rooftop bar with an internet friend/author overlooking St. Paul's Cathedral and eating fish & chips at a 400-year-old pub is just how I hang on any average Wednesday night.  

Olde Cheshire Cheese for Fish & Chips.  Great recommendation Claudia's husband

Marble arch

Picadilly Circus, I think?

Did you see the size of that chicken?

The National Gallery

Big Ben

London Aquarium

London Eye as we cruised down the Thames River

Hmmm, what time is it?  If only there was a big clock around somewhere in this town
Westminster Abbey

Inside the Natural History Museum

London Tower (which is not really a tower at all, but a thousand-year-old castle)

Tower Bridge not to be confused with the London Bridge, which is actually quite ordinary

Tips for a short stay in London:  Definitely stay near a tube stop, and don't be afraid to buy a day pass and just figure it out.  We stayed near Paddington Station and so were very close to the tube as well as Heathrow Express (express train straight to the airport).  My top favorite places were probably: The National Gallery (loved all the ancient church art), Natural History Museum (mostly because the building was so giant, old and incredible) and the London Tower (though we only saw the outside because of time constraints).

I'm a huge fan of spending a few days in my layover city on the way to Ethiopia.  Because of Ethiopian layovers, we've been able to vacation in Amsterdam, Dubai and now London with no extra airfare expense.  I think London might be my fav!  If you are debating doing something like this, feel free to contact me and I'd love to share some of my favorite spots, tips and ideas with you.  I'm also a huge fan of making the most of two, three or four days, so my ideas probably won't be "relaxing."

You might remember here ... my friend Kari was not 100% stoked about going to Ethiopia (though turns out she loved every minute of it).  And so I was thinking, well if Kari does hate Ethiopia, at least we'll always have London.

p.s.  Today is Kari's birthday.  HAPPY BIRTHDAY to one of the best friends on the planet!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Meet Ayinale

One of best/hardest parts about this trip was really getting to know some of these students, emotionally investing in their lives and their situation.  Monday I went home from school with Ayinale.

Ayinale's home is about a 20 minute walk from school.  This shy, brave, confident little girl held my hand and, head held high, guided me through paved and dirt roads and down some alley's until we finally came to a tiny mud shack her family calls home.

Ayinale beamed as she introduced us to her mother and her baby brother.

Her mother met us at the fence and warmly invited us into her home.  Their entire house was about 6 feet wide by 8 feet long.  It had an uneven dirt floor, mud walls and a thatched roof with lots of holes.  One side of the house was a small straw bed which the family shared.  The other side was the kitchen, consisting of a small fire on the dirt floor and some pots, pans and blankets hanging on the wall.

As we visited with Ayinale's mother, she shared that her husband had died two years ago and she, sick as well, is left with four children.  She recently remarried, and her new husband is a guard at a local business.  Her two teenage boys are not in school but fish at the local lake to help provide for the family.  She explained a little bit about her illness, but praises God for the health of her children.  She repeatedly gave thanks to God for the Lifesong school and implored Peggy, the full-time missionary at the schools, to take her children if she dies.  Peggy wisely replied "only God knows."

Though her situation certainly looks bleak from the outside looking in, that isn't how she sees it.  Because Ayinale goes to the Lifesong school in Ziway, her mother knows she will be fed two nutritious meals per day.  She knows the education she is receiving will give her a fighting chance to escape the poverty she was born into.  And she knows that she is learning about the love and plan of our great creator.  We see destitution, but she sees Hope.

As I spent the afternoon in this family's home, one mom visiting with another, I kept going back to the question of why.  Why Lord do I have so much and this mom has so little?  Why do I take so much for granted, and she sits here thankful for the Lord's provision?  God, I will do better!

So this is Ayinale and she still needs a sponsor.  Could it be you??

$19/month is all it takes to give education, food, security and HOPE to this precious little girl.

Click here to sponsor Ayinale or here to see the 300+ other students still needing sponsors.  I promise you, your $19/month is being wisely spent and it IS making a difference in the lives of children and families

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Good Friends, Tukuls and Cactus Butt

Meet my friend Kari...  

She went with me on this trip.  Not necessarily because she had a huge desire to go, but simply because I asked her to come with me.  She'd never been overseas and was petrified a little nervous about traveling to Africa.  She really is a good friend.

The plan Sunday was for us to break away from the Lifesong group and drive to my sons' family's village and spend the day with them.  There had been some concerns raised by some of the leaders living in Ziway about the safety of the region we were traveling to.  So, late Saturday night I went to discuss this with our main driver and then our guide.  They reassured us it would be fine and we would be perfectly safe (so long as we made no attempts at street evangelism ... done).  When I came back and told Kari what we discussed and what we decided, this is what she heard:  Apparently the plan is for us to get up early and then spend the night.  Meaning, she thought we were going to spend the night with my sons' family in their home.  She said I looked kind of upset/teary and so she didn't want to add to my stress by bombarding me with questions.  And so, she never said a word about her extreme fear concerns.  She watched me pack my bag Sunday morning and, seeing I packed no change of clothes, followed my lead and thought well, I guess we will just sleep in what we are wearing. She really is a good friend.

Fast forward to Sunday afternoon.  We've spent several hours by now with my boys' amazing family.  At some point in the day when Kari was taking photos, she managed to scoot her skirt into a cactus bush.  As we are sitting inside the tukul watching home videos on my iPad for the 25th time (they really cannot get enough of watching our boys play), Kari looks at me with panic in her eyes and says "my skirt is filled with thorns."  She's looking around the dirt floor tukul, the chickens coming and going, the calf in the corner and seeing no bed, alarm started to settle in as she thought, WHERE are we going to sleep? HOW am I going to sleep with these prickles in my skirt?  She really is a good friend.

After a couple of hours we drive to the closest town to meet more family members.  An uncle is walking us through town because he really, really wants to take us out for kitfo (traditional raw meat).  Kari looks at me with slight panic in her eyes and says, "Captain, I will eat raw meat for you" (mind you, this is from someone who wants her steak cooked well-done).  She really is a good friend.

It was somewhere during this walk that we eventually communicate like human beings and I realize what she's been thinking all day and she learns what the real plan is:  to head back to Ziway at the end of the day and sleep in our hotel.  We have a good laugh and a good debate about who said what and who heard what.  She really is a good friend.

Fast forward to Monday afternoon.  After spending the day with the students at the Lifesong School in Ziway, we break into teams of two and each team goes to a different student's home and meets with their family.  Kari is paired with Terry, one of the most hilarious and caring men I've had the pleasure of knowing.  He protectively puts his arm around her and says "No worries - I will protect your buttocks from any penetration."  Eyes as huge as saucers, Kari says "That has always been my biggest fear."  We all just about pee our pants laughing as Terry repeats "the cactus.  I was talking about the cactus."  He really is a good friend.

And the theme for the rest of the week definitely is "Terry's got your back"...

And Captain and Kari apparently communicate like men (that is to say, not very well)....

And Kari really is a good friend...

Here's a picture of Terry cracking up the kitchen ladies. I think his theme for the week was "pretend to do work, and make people laugh."

p.s.  I will eventually (maybe) blog about more meaningful details of this wonderful day, but my brain is still processing what, how and how much to share.  Just in case I never get to that post, let me just say that it was one of the most blessed, sacred and joy-filled experiences I've ever been a part of.  I am so glad I didn't let fear rob me, but most importantly rob our Ethiopian family, of this gift.

p.s.s.  For the record, we did not eat kitfo and Kari LOVED Ethiopia.