Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Oh, the irony

My facebook status today was something like "I feel like I'm the victim of a Murphy's Law consipiracy."

I do.

But I have also been struck dumb with the irony of things in my life lately.

So I'll give you this ditty.

It isn't G rated.

Which isn't stopping me from humming it over my dishes.

I keep putting KLOVE on to change my attitude, but it's just not working very well. A song or two, sure, but then they start talking and next thing I know my mind is not focused on things above, but on things beneath.

Like my life being over-filled with irony.

40 days: day 8

Solidarity with: Guatemala
We ate: papaya (and pasta. My brain is mush today and my creativity ran out.)
We prayed for: the nasty adoption situation that so many people are stuck in in this country. For there to be a workable solution and for no further corruption.

hint: papaya in Kansas in February....not so good. Tastes like a tasteless cantaloupe.
I suspect that papaya in Guatemala from someone's backyard tastes much better. If they don't have to sell it to survive.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

40 days: day 7

Solidarity with: Ethiopia!
We ate: chicken wot (doro wot)
We prayed for: the people of Ethiopia to to grow in prosperity, for our sponsored child Amenesh and, of course, for Iris.
It was pretty good. A little too tumeric-y for my taste. We ate it with tortillas because I didn't feel like attempting injera. And garlic mashed potatoes so that my children wouldn't starve. Three of four ate it, sorta. But were glad there were also potatoes on the table.

I at until I was satisfied.
I am now hungry.

Out! Out, spirit of rebellion!

To paraphrase Anne of Green Gables, If you only knew all the things I wanted to say and didn't!

I find myself typing, deleting, retyping, deleting, closing, opening, typing, deleting, shrinking and opening to type and closing without saving a LOT lately.

I've discovered the ability to delete Facebook posts. Thank you LORD.

I find the spirit of rebellion is strong in this one.

As is a theme in You've Got Mail, I've got the zingers, albeit too late most of the time and I know that it will do no good to use them, and yet...

Sometimes the need to spew is almost so strong that it causes my chest to clench. Right now is one of those times. And it has happened a LOT lately.

My filter is in tatters and stuff comes out that has no business coming out.

As a good friend recently told me, "I've discovered that I offend people without even trying. I've learned to smile and nod a lot." If only I could take a lesson. Just when I think I've got the smile/nod combo down, whoops! There it goes. I open my mouth.

And today, man, today I want to.

Ooooooo, but it would feel SO GOOD to just do it, ya know? Right up until the guilt set in approximately 0.000000001 seconds later.

Sometimes I want to say, "How DARE you! I am thirty-six years old and I will do what I want and you will have to deal!"

I have found I don't respond well to controlling people. Big surprise, right? Ha. But the tighter you pull your noose, the more I'm going to fight. Consider yourselves warned.

Not that anyone who should read this will be reading it.

Which is the only reason I would dare even write it.

Because I also have a strong sense of self-preservation. And it is currently in direct opposition to my rebellious streak.

Monday, February 27, 2012

40 days: day 6 updated

Solidarity with: China
We ate: Chicken and vegetable fried rice
I prefer it: made by a restaurant, slathered in Chang's Spicy Chicken.
Homemade costs approximately $2. Feeding a family of 6 at PF Changs is I don't even know how much because we've never done it. But Brent and I can sneak out of there at $30 if we drink water and share an entree. We could do it for less, but the banana spring rolls are really the reason we go.
We prayed for: the women in China who feel like they must abandon their children due to the one child policy and for their children that they will know the love of a family.

Charming declared it "delicious" because I left everything but the rice out of his.
Frodo kept "forgetting" to eat his because as soon as he saw what I was making, and could see the writing on the wall, he quickly filled up on a yogurt.
Princess ate seconds, as usual. She's my experimental eater.
Eldest picked out the peas and topped his supper off with a left over half a pig in the blanket.
I ate until I couldn't eat another bite without gagging.
Brent will be scrounging in the pantry for something to eat as soon as the kids are in bed. But he ate politely.

It's not that it was bad. It was just...subsistence eating. Which makes it really easy to stop once the hunger monster has been quieted.

Today I'm thankful for cream, butter and bacon.
It may clog my arteries, but it sure tastes good going down.

Just after I hit publish, Brent came into the room and said, "I'm already hungry." I laughed and told him about my blog post. "How did you know?" He asked. I told him that maybe it was his lack of enthusiasm about dinner. And he protested, "I loved it! I ate three helpings."

So there you go.
But he's still standing in the kitchen eating yogurt and crackers.
Rice. Not a main dish in the center of the US.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

40 days: day 5

Solidarity with: Latin America
We ate: rice, beans, shredded chicken, cheese, lettuce, salsa, lime water and some rice milk, chai tasting drink. Oh, and some kind of soaked cake.
We prayed for: our church sponsored missionaries in their various locations
I let myself get: too hungry.
I: snarfed
It was: excellent
Particularly: the salsa

Thank you Missions Dinner for making today's solidarity far too easy for me. Especially in light of the fact that I tend to not cook on Sundays.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

40 days: day 4

Country we were going to have solidarity with: Ethiopia
What we were going to eat for supper: popcorn
reason: tired mom

Country we had solidarity with: Russia
What we ate: bierocks
Why we ate it: Mother in Law Awesomeness
Who we prayed for: Suzanne. As well as the other children in Russia being institutionalized because of a chromosomal abnormality and also for the children aging out of the system far too young to provide for themselves and ending up as a sex slave. (How mom worded it: ending up in precarious circumstances)
Comments: Grandma is awesome! Mom underestimates how much we eat. Can I have another? We're going to clean out both pans!

I guess we can have solidarity with an Ethiopian coffee ceremony another day....

Butterfly Effect

This gives me chills. I spent far too much of my life in the cocoon.

40 days: day 3

Solidarity with: America's poor i.e. meal we could buy on food stamps
We had: grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup; all store brand
It was like: any other lazy day around the house
Princess prayed: Lord, be with America's poor and help them get back on their feet.
I realized: that I like Sure Fine tomato soup. A few years ago, I decided that if I bought Campbells on sale, it was only $0.15 more expensive and it was so much better as to be worth it. I don't know which store brand I was comparing it against back then, but Sure Fine is darn good.

The third child.

My eldest sister was the homecoming queen. She got the lead in many musicals because she could sing like a canary and act as well. She was a cheerleader. She did well in school and teachers liked her. I idolized her.

My middle sister was valedictorian. She could act believably. When she was lead in Our Town she cried and made the entire audience join her. She was a cheerleader. She OBVIOUSLY did well in school and teachers liked her. (She would probably add in, at this point, "except for Mrs. X who hated me." We all have one.) I idolized her.

I went through the eighth grade simply on my sisters' reputations. Oh, here's another H girl. She'll be OK. Teachers liked me because they liked my sisters. I got privileges, not on my own account, but because of the family name my sisters perpetuated. This one will cause no trouble. I did everything in my power to make sure that was true. I flew under the radar. I was an above average student, but not top tier. I was a cheerleader, but not a great one. I can't act to save my life, but could sing passably well. Enough to be on stage, but not lead. I could find my way into StuCo, but not hold a big office. I excelled in triple jump....until I taught another friend how to do it. She beat me at the next track meet and eventually won state. I consistently took 3rd or 4th. I lived my school days in the top 20%.  I know life in the shadows of a shining star.I remember crying to my parents my senior year of high school, "Second!Or third! NEVER first! I will NEVER be first, or most important, or great and ANYTHING!"

So, you can imagine my HORROR when I find myself surprised at parent-teacher conferences that my Frodo is doing very well. He's a "solid student." He is "interested in lots of things." He's "a great reader." He's "no problem." He's "a great kid."

When I opened his grade card last month, and saw all A's it surprised me.

And why? Well, partly I can blame his first two years of school when we started him and shouldn't have. I wanted him to go to school with his buddies who were mostly 6 months older than him and far more ready for school. Reading didn't click until Christmas and by then he'd already labelled himself as "dumb" because many of his friends were reading pretty fluidly by then. Partly it's because he just doesn't give a rip about things academic and what he doesn't care about, he doesn't put much effort into.

And partly, it's because he is the third in a line of overachievers.

You would think I would know better. I, who had migraines beginning in the fifth grade trying to be as good as or better than those who had gone before me. (Not only my sisters, but anyone who I perceived as better than me in any way.) I tried to fit the H girl mold. I didn't break out of it until we moved and when I got here, my reputation was based on the new kids that came before me: trouble makers. Yay. So then I had to work my way out of THAT.

College was a welcome diversion. I found out that I can be my own self with my own interests and it was OK.

I do think that I have gone above and beyond to encourage the things that I know Frodo is good at. He is an amazing artist. He is an amazing politician. He can make friends with a door knob.

I try pretty hard to not try to make him into his siblings: hard worker, athletic, can run like the wind, compassionate and giving; or brilliant, outside-the-box thinker, spiritual, world aware.

And maybe I have tried too hard to make them individuals and forget there can be some crossover. As in: artist whose academics come so easily that he doesn't even have to bother thinking about them while he's drawing.

And treatise of "all the things Jamie was good at." This isn't about me. I am a relatively mentally healthy adult. Not casting blame upon my parents. We all do the best we know how to do. OK? OK. No one tried to make me into my sisters but me.

I'm OK. You're OK. We're all OK.

Friday, February 24, 2012

40 days: day two

Solidarity with: Mexico
We ate: burritos,tostadas (tortillas, pintos, hamburger, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, salsa)
We were: not at all left feeling like we had it better than them.
Number of people who ate until they cold hold no more: 6
Funny/snarky comments about the food: none

In the interest of full disclosure, I believe that if we were exercising solidarity with the poor of Mexico we would have needed to use only corn tortilla and leave off the cheese and ground beef. Also, before I started this project, I mentioned to my mother that Mexico would be my country of choice if I was going to do a full 40 eating like another country because that's basically what we did growing up. At which point I told her that maybe then I would be exercising solidarity with my childhood.

We left the tortilla chips in the cabinet.
No one missed them.

Thursday, February 23, 2012


I'm struggling with something:

I want to go to Paris.

A couple weeks ago I read Melissa Faye Green's latest book, No Riding Bicycles in the House (Without A Helmet). In it she told her readers a conversation she had with her husband after her second (or third) child went away to college. It went something like: Remember how we adopted all these kids so that the emptying of our nest wouldn't hurt so bad? (Yes) It isn't working. (And we can't even go to Paris.)

You know how sometimes you are nudged in the same direction over and over again from so many different sources until you can no longer call it a coincidence? This morning God and I had a chat. It went something like this:

Me: But, but, but, but....
Him: nudge, nudge, nudge
Me: But GOD! I want to go to Paris!

I have never in my life desired to step foot in France. I'm a non-confrontational person. I heard once (or many times) that people in France hate Americans. Enough said. Won't go. I don't want to be yelled at in a foreign language. I don't want to try to ask directions from someone who is pretending they haven't learned English. And I wear yoga pants all the time. Fashion queen, I am not. France is not my destination of choice.

This isn't really about Paris. It's about a life. My life. And I want to spend it doing the things I want to do.

Me, me, me. For goodness sake: ME.

I want to dig in the dirt. I do not want to do the dishes. I want to raise up kids and send them on their way and welcome my little multi-colored grandbabies when they come back. And I want to go to Alaska and the Caribbean, and Indonesia and Easter Island. I intend to clock out of this dish doing, meal preparing, clutter redistributing, laundry doing, noise filtering stage of life in 14 years and clock into adventure.

These kids, they are my great adventure.


But I suddenly want to go to Paris.....

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Place at the Table: Day 1

Today, the beginning of Lent, a season that no church I have ever attended participates in, my family began an experiment based on the book A Place at the Table: 40 Days of Solidarity with the Poor.

I struggled with this one for many reasons, primarily, as my friend said, "You can't force Lent on someone else." How can I force my family to choose a country to identify with and eat only what they eat for 40 days? She decided that for the Six Sundays of Lent, she would serve a meal like one of their sponsored children would eat....which set my mind rolling. And finally I came up with (yes, it is the easy route) 40 days of at least a side dish that a person in impoverished circumstances would consider a full and welcome meal. We would discuss the dish, where it is eaten and whether we would like for that to be our meal. If I am having a holy night, we will also pray for the people of that country and for gratitude in our own hearts for the food set before us. If I'm rushed and frustrated, one of the kids might pray: Thank you God, for this food, and bless our bodies, and let us have Iris, Amen. Which has been our standard go-to prayer for far too long.

Yes, I know. It is, indeed, self serving. It, being gratitude for what is set before us....and let us have Iris. Both and. But I was referring to MY prayer and not theirs.

But, also, I don't really want to eat lentils either. It is a multifaceted self-servitude.

Tonight our dinner was: fish, tomatoes, curried lentils and naan.
We prayed for: India and our Indian sponsored child Aruna.
Quote of the night: I don't think lentils would make a very good main dish. (Princess)
Followed by the second quote of the night: I'm not feeling it tonight either Princess. (Brent)
Followed by the third quote of the night: Dad's eye is twitching. (convulsive giggles) (Eldest)

I think/hope this may produce the desired result.
By way of ingratitude.
This should be interesting.

Among Other Things

Today I just feel sick, for so many reasons. None of them actual sickness. Most of which I can't talk about.

SO, I will give you the reason that I CAN talk about. It is Suzanne.

She looks just like Brent. She looks just like my Princess.
And I am totally unprepared to even consider it.
And I'm neck deep in a different adoption.
And.....(excuses, excuses)
I woke up all night thinking about and praying for her and a couple other girls that I saw here. There is so much need and I am only one person and I have a lot of other persons to consider as well.
But, I thought that for now, I would advocate. Because it is unthinkable for me to have a child who looks like one of mine growing up in an institution.
I don't have many readers, but maybe, by some fluke, someone will happen on this post and know that Suzanne belongs to them.
If you discover it is you, please let me know. I am in prayer for you today also.

Monday, February 20, 2012

In Pursuit of the Story

Anyone who has traveled with me and Brent knows about our relentless pursuit of a good story.

For your consideration, I give you:

Brent telling the story of the "cat vomit" abdominal exercise and demonstrating it on the beaches of Eilat.

Our participation in Jordanian TV propaganda. ("We love Jordan!") And the demonstration of the MC Hammer dance on the way down from the sacrificial high place. "We call you 'Smooth Hammer!'"

Making sure we swam in every body of water in Israel, and having hypothermia to show for it.

Seriously? Doesn't this speak for itself? As does "Stars and Bucks" coffee shop and the Cana Wine company.

The funeral at Bethlehem that we thought was staged....and wasn't.

Being yelled at by the Orthodox priest. "SHUT UP!"

You can't see it, but this is one of those "Peaceful protests.....Like in Egypt." "I hope you enjoyed what we did to you."

Being "Nekked" at the Western Wall.

And the Easter Ostrich. $30 I paid for this Kitchy thing because it made me laugh so hard I thought I would pee my pants.
Brent and I try really hard not to take ourselves or others too seriously.
We love to laugh.
We enjoy tag-teaming a story.
Neither of us is half as funny telling the same story alone.
In fact, I'm not funny AT ALL without him around.
I'm kind of a curmudgeon.

But that's just an excuse.

Because I hurt someone with one of my stories this week and I am horrified.

I can come up with lots of excuses. But I won't. Because excuses mean nothing when you've hurt a friend.

It does bring to mind many things today, however.
How much of this am I guilty of? (too much)
How many times have I told a story centering on another person and laughing at their expense? (too many)
Does the fact that I make fun of myself and Brent ruthlessly negate the fact that another person might not appreciate it when they are the subject?  (nope)
How many times am I complicit in a conversation, not because of something I said, but because I didn't defend the person from someone else? (oh wow.)
How very, very easy it can be to wound another with our words. And in some cases, our lack of them.

I don't know how to proceed from here.

I can tell myself that I'm not going to talk anymore....but I will.
I can promise that next time a person isn't present to defend themselves if they come up in conversation, I will defend them....but I might not.
I can tell myself that when I talk I will only edify others....but will I?

"With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be."

I can claim that I was not "cursing" but tell that to the person who received it as a curse.
And to the other 30 who were involved in stories that didn't call me on it.
Forgive me, my friend.
I am sickened by my thoughtlessness.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

....So, What Are You Going to DO With It?

I'm one of those people who thinks God talks to me. For the sake of this post, I'm going to be unapologetic about it. I know my atheistic friends probably think that, at best, I have a good imagination and, at worst, have a mental disorder. And I suspect many of my Christian friends have similar thoughts.

I rarely tell people, "God told me thus-and-so," because it seems so presumptuous, but hey, if I told you even half of the things God has said to me in a typical day, I wouldn't shut up. So, let's just, for the moment, pretend it's a bi-weekly occurrence and leave it there for now.

We'll leave out the dialogue over dishes and the sarcastic remarks throughout the day.

On Thursday morning I was having a real pitty pot party. Just super discouraged, mad at the world, angry about the adoption process. Frustrated with people. Over tired. Life is good. Emotional life is black. Get it?

So I was crying into my coffee, figuratively, of course, when God, in His fashion said, "Jamie, you need to do something nice for someone else today. This needs to stop."

I immediately knew what I needed to do and for whom. Except the list kept growing. And before you know it, I was dropping casseroles at the nether reaches of town. (Which, incidentally, is about one square mile, but for the sake of our conversation, I was running "all over town" delivering dinner to people without even warning them that I was coming.)

The first ones were easy. There was an obvious and legitimate reason for bringing food. I didn't much need to explain myself. But eventually I was getting confused looks and statements of "You didn't have to do that."

Actually, I did. Please don't ask why. Because then I would have to tell you that God talks to me and then you'll think I'm One Of Those. Which I AM, but, you know. The favor of man and all. It gets complicated. What if God doesn't talk to you and then it's like I'm trying to sound holy and I don't care for holy sounding people that are also sometimes jerks and you'd think that if God really talks to me I'd do a better job of serving Him than I do and I don't so Pleasepleaseplease don't ask. Because I'm so tired of being a hypocrite.

Got it?

Important aside: I felt much better. Not after delivering dinner. The moment I decided that, yes, I would.

SO, it should now come as no surprise to you when I tell you that yesterday morning in the shower. I was ruminating on a passage I'd just read in 7, And Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. Lots of stuff flashed through my mind. The name it / claim it crowd. The crowd that insists that God will give His people everything they want. The people who think you should have nothing. The book of James. My house. My stuff. What's right. What resonates. And the statement I heard a lot when I was showing my friends photos of my new house before we moved. One phrase kept popping up.

"Wow. The Lord has really blessed you."

Which is beyond true. It would be true even if we lived in a two bedroom apartment. It would be true if we lived in a mud hut in Africa.  But for the sake of the story, we'll focus on possessions that we do now have. Which happens to be quite a lot.

But in the shower yesterday morning while I was ruminating and thoughts were falling all over themselves and voices were echoing with, "Wow, the Lord has really blessed you...."

God said, "What are you going to DO with it?"

Ah, marriage.

Some times I am flat overwhelmed with the gift that I've been given in my husband. This morning is one of those times.

I needed to say that before I spend the whole day immersed in basketball of one form or another and I forget.
He listens to my raging lunatic explosion and once it's cooled to a slow simmer, he tells me I'm wrong.


Without saying, "You're wrong." And while using the fewest number of words possible.

He's had to do it a lot lately.

It helps when he isn't the subject of my wrath.
It doesn't go down as well then.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Enough With the Pregnancy Illustrations Already

You know how when you're overdue and you don't want to go out in public because you know everyone, and I mean everyone, is going to ask you when you're due?

I'm the freaking size of a house. I was due last Saturday. Shut the bleep up.

When we got home from Ethiopia I didn't want to go out because I didn't want to answer, "How was it?" "How did it go?" "Was it amazing?" "Is she just so excited to be adopted?" "How was your trip?" "How sick did you get?" "How was the food?" "Insert whatever your question would be?"

I was numb.

Mostly Brent answered.

I finally landed on my standard answer, "Hard. It was hard." If they looked like they might be genuinely curious and might actually want a real answer, (or if I was just ready to explode emotion all over them) I might elaborate.

Occasionally I'd drop a "You really don't want to know."

Actually, sometimes I still do.

Most of the time I act like a grown up and pretend the person on the receiving end actually does want to know.

Let me tell you right now; If you are comfortable in your life, you don't really want to know.

I don't want to know.

I'm carrying around an ache in my chest that feels like a bowling ball is sitting there and I can't breathe and I can't put it on the shelf so that I can talk about it or, frankly, much of anything else, sorry.

I finally got to where I could go out in public in small doses. I live in a pretty small town and most of the people who were going to ask, have asked and I don't have to deal with it most days.

Except now the questions have changed.

"So when will you get her?"

Oh dear.

{insert raging lunatic overreaction of your choice--my assumption is that it would sound something like IHAVEZEROCONTROLOVERANYTHINGIHAVENOIDEAWHENSHEWILLCOMEHOMEANDI'MSCAREDTODEATHABOUTWHENSHEDOES}

Thank you, friends, for caring.

I'm going to just go curl up into a figurative ball over there in the corner now.

Call me when it's over.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Yesterday Brent planned a surprise date for me that he had to tell me about since I pretty much skipped a shower yesterday, had agreed to babysit for a friend, and was getting ready to put supper into the crock pot. After abundant joy and frenzied scrambling, I righted all my wrongs and got dressed up for him.

Just before we left, as I was putting on guilt inducing jewelry--that I still really, really like, but do feel a little more than guilty about owning--I asked him, "Do you think we can, for one night, forget that there are people starving in the world?"

Antony is a 14yo boy in Zambia. He has 8 siblings and works his family farm. He likes math.
 "In what way?" He asked me.
"Well, for starters, eat at Bonefish."
"Yup," he said, "that's what I want, too."

So we went. The bang bang shrimp was excellent. As was the corn chowder with chunks of crab, the kobe burger, and the chocolate creme brulee. Delicious.  And then the check came:

Aradhana is a 1yo girl in India. She is an only child whose father is a daily wage worker.
 When I got out to the car I asked if he noticed the price of our meal. He asked if I was thinking about how much food that would have bought in Ethiopia. My answer? " Thanks for that. But it was $35. We could have fed a child" (he joined me) "for a month."
Asemahle is a 5.5yo girl in South Africa. She lives with her grandmother and two siblings. Her job is to carry water.
 We went from Bonefish to the liquor store (sorry mom) where we bought our once a year splurge Raspberry and Peach Sparkeltinis. (and now I feel I need to apologize to people who drink real wine)
Our total?
Edward Samwel is a 10 yo boy in Tanzania with five siblings. His job is sweeping floors. He likes math.
 We peeked around the furniture store to see if we could find a dresser for our boys room (Maybe) and then proceeded to Target. Once you deduct the t-shirts I bought for my friend's Dresses for Kechene project, guess what we spent.
And it wasn't on necessities like TP and soap. Chocolate was involved.
Mirriam is a 7.5yo girl in Uganda. She has five siblings and her work is to wash dishes. She likes to jump rope.
I'm not exaggerating, friends.
It's everywhere you look. Every time I think I have stretched my budget as far as I can, I discover one more frivolity that I easily drop $35 on.
But here's the deal: though our budget could accommodate another sponsor child or, apparently, three, we can no longer stretch our time to give each sponsored child the time they deserve. Now that we've met two of them, we realize how very important that communication, that prayer, that love is.

I keep seeing those 35s pop up in my spending and every time I do, I think, "There's another child." Maybe this is an excuse, but I want to dedicate myself to the five we already have. I want to be supportive to them and to my four at home and to the one on the way. I'm not saying I won't dilute the waters again, but right now my God is asking me to advocate. To share the love with others. I can't save them all. I can't love them all. But I know I have more friends that can. And those friends have friends who can.

So I'm asking you, my friends if YOU have something else in you for a child who is in desperate need of an advocate to do more than pay for their school, for their parents to learn about health and sanitation and for their community to learn about their value beyond how much water they can carry, but to also love them, write to them, pray for them.

 Do you?

If not, do you have $35 a month to throw at them to make me go away? I'll work with that because I know that eventually you'll come around to loving them like I love mine.
Each of these children is available for sponsorship. I have their cards.
Let me know.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Catch the Vision! (Part 4) Also entitled Wurllllld Vishin

I don't have photographic evidence for much of the next portion of my visit to the Wonchi project.

If I had it to do again, I would take lots of pictures. But I'm an In The Moment girl and like to absorb things with my eyes and not through a lens.

Besides, I'd been warned that Ethiopian people don't like their pictures taken and/or want to be paid when it happens. However, our guides were more than enthusiastic about stopping so we could take pictures, so why I didn't take many at the main Wonchi headquarters is beyond me.

In apology, I give you this boy who spotted the ferengi in the back of the Land Cruiser when we were driving in to see a school World Vision built. (Photo of THAT later.)

Doesn't he have a beautiful smile? If you ask him who gave him his sweater(a school uniform), he would probably tell you "Wurllld Vishin" as we heard time and time again. 


Less than five minutes from Alemnesh's house, we come upon the World Vision Wonchi headquarters. Remember how I told you that it was likely that Alemnesh was one of the first children in the area sponsored? I have reasons behind my belief. Like the fact that her family is so close to the headquarters. It only stands to reason that they would start with the kids nearest them and expand out. That, and we soon found out that World Vision Wonchi began in 2001, the same year we began sponsoring Alemnesh.

This sign just thrilled me. I can't explain it. How any envelopes have I gotten with this emblem on it? It was just surreal.

First stop: bathrooms. Mens to the left. Women's to the right. After the restaurant squatty potty fiasco, I expected another. I had incorrect expectations. Though the first room I glanced into was a hole in the ground (on later, further inspection, I discovered it was a shower and had to laugh at myself), the one I entered had a genuine, first class, flushing toilet. Did I get locked in the bathroom? Yes I did. When I got out, did they have soap? They did not. But they did have running water, I did scrub and, by now, I never left my bag or its contents (TP and hand wipes) behind.

Regardless, when our guide took us to the restaurant, he first directed us to sinks with SOAP. (I know. I am so American.) 

So we headed to the "restaurant" which was a buffet of Ethiopian food (injera, chicken wot, salad, and :) shoestring french fries), that was less "restaurant" and more family style communal eating. We'd been forewarned of a presentation, so when they turned on the TV, I expected the presentation was happening during lunch. It was not. The workers gather together to eat and, it seems, watch the noon world news.

By my understanding, all the Wonchi staff lived and worked together. I saw people coming out of bunkers that appeared to be their private living space. I believe I used the only bathroom on the lot. They ate together for all meals. They live very modestly. Much more modestly than even the local subsidized housing or Women's shelter here in the 'Boro. Did they eat well? Yes. But the furnishings were basic. The linoleum was chipped. The tables were standard folding tables. The couch was well worn. The offices were simple. There was no unnecessary furniture. No unnecessary.....anything.

And on to the presentation. Which was power point and which he downloaded onto my camera chip, but which I don't know how to get off. So I'm glad I took this picture:

ADP: Area Development Project
Woreda: To my understanding it is kind of like a county. It is a region, space, larger than a community, smaller than a state. Wonchi is 400 sq km.
FY: founding year, in this case 2001
Supported by World Vision USA
Source of funds: first by sponsorship, second, and a much smaller percentage by private non-sponsorship grants.
Total RC: Total number of children in the project. In this case 5000. That is 5000 children who are covered by World Vision Wonchi. 5000 children who get to go to school. 5000 children whose families are trained in sustainable farming, sanitation, health education, vaccination, and much more.
Staffed by 40 people. And so accountable that they even count in the "office girl" (whom I met). I don't remember what the CDWs were. I would say that during lunch, we probably saw fewer than 20 people, so...that would probably account for the "regular workers" the "guards" and the "office girl." The CDW must be off site.
Don't let the "Land Cruiser" fool you. This was a very well used vehicle. I rode in it all day and it was brought into question more than once whether it might not get us home.

Wosson told us SO MUCH information in that presentation, I didn't retain even half of it (hopefully, my dad will be able to get the presentation off my camera chip if I ever get around to asking him). One thing that stood out, though, was how proud they were of training communities to not poop in public.

I know. But someone has to do the educating. Sometimes the status quo goes even if it doesn't make sense.

In fact, our family was now, after 10 years of sponsorship, a "model family." World Vision brought people from the nether reaches of Wonchi in to see the family's homestead. To see how to live in such a way that disease was not spread. First by digging latrines.

They have awards for communities--and these communities compete--for making their communities Outdoor Defecation Free Zones. When every home in the community has its own latrine (a hole with a fence) and the community has built approximately 10 latrines for the travelers that are walking through (and someone is ALWAYS walking through), they get a clock and a sign at the entrance of the community that indicates it is ODF. (Sadly, no photo. But I did see them. The signs AND the public latrines. I will never complain about a lake bathroom again.)

When Wonchi began in 2001 the area was 0% Christian. I think they said they are now 25% Christian. And my prior posts on this will indicate the truth of a faith growth.

They went from the children basically not being vaccinated to 100% vaccination rates.
Their live birth rate has gone up.
Their OB mortality has gone down.
The number of schools in the area has gone up.
The number of clinics in the area has gone up.
The number of vet clinics in the area has gone up.
And on, and on and on.

Seriously folks, my jaw was hanging open. I've gotta find that power point presentation.

Here we are at the headquarters. The only extravagance I could see was in landscaping. You can see a bit of it there under Brent's elbow. And it was far more basic than my landscaping. The trees smelled like Florida in the spring. I would have loved to have bottled that up and brought it home.

Wosson finished his presentation and, of course, encouraged us to send our friends to pick up the slack between the number of children actually sponsored and the number of children who are covered by World Vision Wonchi. (5000 covered. The power point said 4444 sponsored, but I'm pretty sure he told us the actual number was 4465.) I didn't make it clear earlier, but when you sponsor a child, they do get funds directly, but part of the monthly sponsorship is pooled to do community education, etc and ALL children in Wonchi who sign up to get a sponsor, get the benefit of school WHETHER OR NOT they actually HAVE a sponsor. After our tour of Wonchi, which I will tell you about in another post because it was more touristy and less lessony it was pretty clear that HAVING a sponsor benefited you more than not, but that they still covered all the children to a degree....well, I like it. I always wondered about the kid down the block that wasn't chosen, ya know?

Anyway, today I'll leave off with some photos of some of the stuff WV has built. In Ethiopia, if you build a school, Ethiopia will staff it. Same goes for a clinic. And vet clinics. So WVE builds them, govt staffs them and they are all well used.
Yes, I'm fascinated by the circular mud hut with the clean yard. It was probably in an ODF zone, too.

Here is a World Vision built vet clinic up near Wenchi Crater Lake. You can't see it in this photo, but the sign over the door has the WV symbol on it.
Here is a wide view of the many buildinged high school WV built so that the kids wouldn't have to live away from home in Wolisso to go to high school as they had to even just a couple years ago. It is the same school the boy with the lovely smile escorted us to see.

Different/closer view of the high school. 

And, because I love them, more happy children running to see us from the circular mud hut.

We also saw clinics. I can't find a photo in my 2000 pictures, but I'm sure it's there.

And just in case you are thinking about being inspired to sponsor, I give you Antony:

He lives in Zambia and is 14 years old. You have the opportunity to be a light in his life. $35 a month. How easy it is to blow $35 a month. But $35 a month will CHANGE HIS LIFE. You could be a part of that. If you are interested, let me know either by commenting or emailing me and I'll give you the details. Let's put a smile on that face and the faces of the boys and girls in his community.

Friday, February 10, 2012

new layout/color

Colorblind people? Any difficulty seeing the font colors?
I think FINALLY my videos and sidebars won't go wonky.
But I can change the colors, if necessary.
Though pepto bismol pink isn't on my fav list and would be a six year throwback of unnecessary proportions.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

When All Is Naught

Go to the greenhouse.

I have this friend who lets me come dig in her dirt and we both pretend it's my job.
I work for trade.
And I would totally work for free. (shhhh, don't tell!)
It's just an added bonus that I get to take some of the goods home with me.

As I've been telling my sisters (one that is my sister and one that does a bang up job on the stand in position) I find that there is this inner rage that is riding just below the surface at all times these days. They ask me "at what?"

Yeah, that's the problem. It could be anything. You never know when my blood pressure is going to soar. It could be a marker cap. It could be parents in a crosswalk. It could be that old lady who is driving so slowly she might as well be in freakin' reverse. And without a doubt it is the Old Navy coupon that won't work at checkout even though it clearly states that the sale starts today. And if it is only on baby gear they stinking should have written that ON the COUPON. "Oh, baby, what a sale" could mean anything, ya know? And they were all kids clothes, sheesh. (Because, you know, four our of five of my children have outgrown everything they own suddenly and the fifth one needs a whole wardrobe.)

My blood pressure just went up thinking about THAT one again. And here I thought I let it go.

My sister gave me a pass. She said, "Well you have been under a little stress lately."

Ya think?

So.......I went to the greenhouse. And I dug around in the dirt. So much cheaper than therapy. I spent two hours pretending it was May. The cats also thought it was May. And after we decided they were not fighting, I also got to laugh. A lot. Poor kitty. Him? I don't feel sorry for.

Alas, planting is done for the time being.

But on the bright side, I have a BIRTH CERTIFICATE! And it declares that Iris Brent Chaos is our full and legal child. Now on to passports....

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Kechene Update

We are pausing our programming, partially because I can't think tonight and partly because I have something exciting going on.

I have a sweet friend who is putting her administrative gifts to work so that I can take a dress or new shirt back for EVERY ONE of these kids.

That is approximately 65 dresses and 65 new shirts. So that children like these:

Minus me and Missy and Tigist's mother) can have a brand spanking new thing (maybe their first ever new thing) to wear.

Would you like to help? Donations of new shirts for boys size 4-10 can be sent directly to me. For dresses, go see her. She has simple patterns or will take donations of supplies.

Thank you!

Monday, February 06, 2012

A Word in Good Season

"He is very good at being God."

And Yet...

Today is one of those days that I'm just tired of fighting the good fight. I'm weary of doing good. The goal is too far away to bother pressing on. I want to unknow what my eyes have seen. I don't want to be responsible to act. I want to be like the heathens who go about eating and drinking as if the floods are not about to come.

And yet.

I know that in the And Yet, my Father will meet me.

Friday, February 03, 2012

on blog stats

My blog stats fell by half this week.

I have apparently gotten offensive, irritating, or boring.

Maybe I should dump my sitemeter. It makes me obsessive.

Catch the Vision! (Part 3)

Part 1
Part 2

As the next hour progressed, we found out many details about their daily lives. That Alemnesh has another syllable in her name, that her father's name is pronounced with a ch rather than a K, that coffee ceremonies consist of three rounds of coffee (the best I have EVER had), no more, sometimes less, but always three for the honored guest. We found out that our Alemnesh wants to be a doctor and will test into or out of college in May. We discovered that in Ethiopia, if you go into the biological sciences, you learn the whole of biology but not anything of the other disciplines (they were quite surprised that with my background I wouldn't know what type of tree they were talking about even after they gave me the scientific name (I replied with Microbiology, not Botany--conversation ensued)). I found out that Alemnesh would go to a nearby town on Mondays and stay until Friday in order to go to school. There was something lost in translation, so I'm having difficulty remembering if she would no longer have to do so because World Vision built a new high school near by. Though we visited the high school, I can't remember if it was any closer than the town she would walk to on Mondays.

We learned that now they cook on an energy conserving coal stove rather than using firewood which improves air quality and, apparently, uses less energy since a wood fire would have to be maintained all day and this would not (?). They made bread in a communal oven that was off site. We were served some of this bread that was made from their own wheat. It was cooked in a round and served in thick squares. It was a very hearty bread.

When we asked why people were sitting along the wall in the dark on the far side of the room from us, we were told it was giving us proper honor. When we asked why Alemnesh's parents weren't joining us, we were told we were being honored. When we begged them to join us, they did and good conversation ensued.

We discovered that Alemnesh has three brothers and three sisters and that she is somewhere in the middle. We discovered that the reason her family thinks of themselves as rich is because before sponsorship they hand farmed about an acre of teff and now they farm eight hectacres (17ish acres) of teff, wheat, corn, tomatoes, coffee--which they picked, roasted, brewed and served to us, false banana, onion, a cherry-like fruit, and more. Much that they are able to sell at market and all because WV has taught them farming techniques, provided seeds and seedlings, and taught them fertilizing techniques as well as easing their financial load so they could purchase more land.

When we discussed with Achalo that Brent's family farms and the many, many acres they farm, he made that whistle sound and asked if they had many oxen. We shared a good laugh after we told him we used "cars," "big cars." How do you explain a tractor to a person who has likely never seen one?

Alemnesh's brother came home from seminary to meet us. Or maybe he was home for Genna. Either way, he had a friend along who wanted to share some scripture with us. After the third cup of coffee, he did. He took us to John 14 where Jesus told his disciples that he was going to prepare a place for his them. The speaker then extrapolated to us, "Don't look at our home and pity us. We have Jesus and he is going before us. This world in temporal, but life after is eternal." He said more, but that was the gist. And then he asked if he could ask us a question. "You have so much. Why share it with us?"

I said, "We have been given much. To whom much is given, much is required."
Brent said, "We believe Jesus told us to."

He sat back, shocked. Leaned forward. Brent asked if he had another question. "We have been told America is falling away from God."

We assured him all of America has not left God. It is dividing along the lines of believers and unbelievers and where we used to all pretend to be believers, we now pretty much have to make a choice.

A theological discussion followed wherein they told us that because of World Vision, they are now Christians where before they had no hope. They were trying to share their hope with us. It was beautiful.

That done, and after the opening and drinking of Pepsis (which they REALLY wanted us to have but had great difficulty opening) we toured their homestead.

 Alemnesh presented us with fruit as well. Directly to the right of this picture is another hut of similar size that shared the fence. The fence had another opening onto their false banana groves. Brent remembers more huts than these two. As he tends to be observant about such things, I will cave to his opinion.
 Their false banana groves. They don't need much water, but produce lots of edible bark. I presume it is also roofing material.
 These are their tomato plants. Tomatoes have become a staple in their diet. They can now plant enough to eat AND sell.
 Here we are being escorted through the corn.
 And being followed by children. :)
 Coffee plants. And they proudly showed me that they fertilized with manure.
 Teff fields, hand cut.
 The teff kernel. Small like a grass seed.
 And after Alemnesh's mother asked if she could cook us lunch and the World Vision guys told her that WV was cooking us lunch at their headquarters, they escorted us away. It was hard to walk away from them. They dropped off one by one. Alemnesh's brother and his friend led us, Alemnesh walked with us, but the rest walked about halfway and waved us away. Her friends were coming home from school, so we caused quite an uproar on the road.

She's such a shy, gentle girl, my Alemnesh. And so grateful. I miss her.

But it wasn't the end of the day, not by a long shot.


Two nights ago I had a dream about a baby. It was someone else's baby in the beginning. I think we were having a contest about baby care? It was absurd, I know this. But at the end of the contest, no one came to pick up the baby. So, I'm hauling this child around. He was a chubby, blond, curly haired little guy, maybe 9 months old that snuggled in like he'd never known another mama. Eventually, he morphed into Frodo, but since both Frodo and Charming were in the dream, he wasn't actually Frodo, but a baby who resembled him. I loved him.

When I woke, I could not let this baby go. And though the emptiness has worn off its hurtful edges, I still miss him.

This isn't the first baby dream I've had. I had one, oh, five years and nine months ago. Three weeks before Charming was created.

In that dream, I was in the hospital visiting someone, but "they" wanted me to see a baby. I refused to look at the baby because I just knew that if I did, something would change. "They" continued to encourage me to look and when I finally gave in I was filled with a love so complete, so overwhelming, that I began to sob. I picked her up and apologized profusely for rejecting her. She was a perfect copy of my Princess.

When I woke from this dream, sobbing, I asked God what it meant. I wish I could find the journal where I wrote the impressions on my heart that night, but alas, I am a clutterbug and have far too many half finished journals stacked on far too many shelves. But anyway, it was very much: I have another child for you and you are doing everything in your power to avoid this gift.

I wish I could tell you that I repented on the spot. I did not. We "fought" for hours. a) I was completely overwhelmed with my three. b) I had terrible post-partum psychoses that went way beyond depression. c) I hate childbirth. And He returned a) children are a gift from the Lord. b) my strength is made perfect in weakness and c) have I not removed the curse? And because I am a child of God who desperately wanted to go back to sleep, I finally said "OK, but you are going to have to trick me, because there is NO WAY I'm going to do that to myself intentionally." And went back to sleep.

I ovulated on day 8.

The rest is history.

So when I woke on Wednesday missing that baby, do you think I said, "OK, God. What am I supposed to learn here?"


I pretended it was not the vivid dream that requires a prayer for inquiry. I pretended it was a really strange dream in which I had two Frodos. Now is not the time to have a baby. I'm bringing a very needy child into the family, for crying out loud. I'm 36. I have five children. Surely if this dream meant anything, it is that God intends to show me another child to adopt.

A blond, blue eyed, curly haired baby. Nine months old. Someone else's baby. God did not give me a heart for adoption so that I could give birth a dozen times. That makes absolutely no sense.

And now, for the toe stomping. *disclaimer* The following is not a cleverly masked attack on anyone else or their particular decisions. It has nothing to do with conversations I may or may not have recently had with you. This is MY situation and MY heart and MY conviction. Nothing more and nothing less. It is also not an invitation for you to give me any advice unless you have a thus sayeth the Lord, and I will even question that OK? OK. Moving on.

The thing is, Brent and I have been discussing family size and babies and permanency. I guess once you have three/four/five children, people begin to think you should be "done." Perfect strangers, or at least distant acquaintances think this is a completely reasonable question to ask you at the library, or the grocery store, or on your Facebook page. It is something they discuss in polite society over coffee. Which is a little bizarre to me. My answer is typically, "I don't know. Nothing permanent has been done." And since people think they can ask these types of things, I guess it is fair game to put on a blog that my dad and mother-in-law read.

Have we considered permanency? Yes.
Have we done it? No.
Do we revisit the question frequently? Yes.
Do I want to be pregnant at 36? No.
Are we open to more children? Yes.
Do we feel like we need more genetic children? No.
Do we feel OK with expanding our family through adoption? Yes.
Do we feel like we would be missing anything if we never had another baby? No.
Can we find a thousand reasons why this is OK? Yes.
Has God given us permission. No.

*Tangent* When I was suffering though infertility and miscarriage I made a very vocal promise: I will NEVER use birth control until I am SURE I am done because I would never be able to forgive myself if I prevented a baby and then couldn't get pregnant later.

After Charming was born, I asked God to break me. The prayer was very much like this: God, I know I asked you to heal my womb and I thank you for it, but if you could break me again that would be great.

Two years ago I had a miscarriage. My prayer has haunted me. Was it a planned pregnancy? No. Do I mourn that life? Yes.

So, here's the thing. I have been petitioning God for permission to permanently render us sterile and He is withholding permission. I can come up with lots of holy reasons why it should be OK and yet I'm not free to make that call.

So when I finally nutted it up yesterday and asked God what my dream meant, it was very clearly made to me: I am waiting for permission that probably will not ever come. If God is the author and creator of all life, He has a pretty good idea what is and is not right for my family. Making this choice is playing God. For me, it is sin to proceed.

Dang it. I've never been an open womb/closed womb person. I hate eating my words.

Now, will I commit a thousand little sins in direct avoidance of the one big one? No promises.

Is it possible that there is a little boy in foster care or the Ukraine or somewhere else that makes blond, blue eyed babies that look just like my biological children waiting for me? Yes.

Is it likely? Who knows?

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Catch the Vision! (Part 2)

To read part 1, go here.
To read about Almnesh, go here.

Let's see....we've driven into Wonchi Project, yes?

Let me back up.
I don't know exactly WHEN we drove into the project, except at one point Kasaun pointed out that we had entered. Mostly, I just noticed World Vision signs peeking out at me.

And that it was clean.

Don't hear me wrong, it was still dusty. It was still grimy. I still was breathing dirt and my hair was still filmy. There were still people walking and they were still the color of their surroundings because you can't help but be. But there just wasn't the refuse everywhere, ya know?

There was a widening in the road and Andreas swung into it and threw the vehicle into park. It was picturesque so my natural thought was that he wanted me to take a picture. It had become norm for them to hear me clicking from the backseat and offer to pull over. I guessed that he had just tired of asking first.

"Well, we're here," one of them said, and threw open the door.

Wait, what?? I knew this was what this day was about, but I wasn't prepared yet. We'd just driven into the project. And it was gorgeous. And where were we going? How far would we need to walk?

About 200 meters, it turns out. Back there, behind that "shrubbery" is a compound (for lack of a better word).

We heard them before we saw them.

(Again with the lack of camera. I'm such a dork.)

We could hear chanting and clapping and the distinct sound of rejoicing coming from behind a fence made of poles lashed together with another organic material (false banana bark? grasses? reeds?). And we ducked through an opening in the fence and stepped into a place most Americans don't really know exists outside of folk tales.

Why yes, that IS a circular mud hut with thatched roof that my sponsor child DOES, in fact, live within. Many of those people are, in fact her family, and do, in fact, live in it also. The rest of them live in the hut that shares the fence and yard with them. The yard where chickens roam. You can't really see it in the picture, but they've scattered reeds throughout the courtyard so you are no longer walking on dirt.

We stepped into a swarm of people dressed in their best clapping and singing....all for us. (They are not all in this photo. It was taken later, when I regained my senses.)

First we were greeted by Almnesh's father, then her mother, and then her. Kisses all around.

Ethiopians kiss greetings. I don't think I've mentioned that. Right cheek, left cheek, right cheek. Accompanied by a shoulder bump, while holding right hands. Three, not four. Though if you go for four, they forgive your Americanism and might proceed to six.

Almnesh handed me that gorgeous bouquet made of who knows what (false banana bark/leaves, grasses, palm, silk flowers is my guess) and then we were invited inside their home.

Again, we had to step up and over while ducking down to make it through the opening.

I'm not sure I can emphasize adequately how the next hour went. I know we were ushered into seats of honor at the table that was prepared for our coming. I felt like royalty.
They had gone above and beyond to make sure we felt welcomed. There were flowers. Cushy seats. Soft drinks. Popcorn. And candles.

The poor flash setting explains a lot of these photos, but they are precious to me, so you have to deal with some blurry mess.

If you can look, you will see that the floor in here is also strewn with grasses. It is dirt. The chickens do come in. The walls are mudded, and whitewashed. And covered with newspapers, I think to keep out the drafts.
I know I look stoned in this picture. There were no peace pipes being passed around. There were no lights aside from the candles and my pupils were reacting.
They only had one "closet" which was mainly shelves with their few possessions stacked on them. You can see that their injera baskets are hung on the wall with their few clothes and bags. Their beds (a very few foam mattresses) were stacked along the back wall. The room was probably 15-20 feet in diameter.

If you gaze over Kasaun's shoulder, you will see people squatted along the back wall. They came and went. We were the main attraction that day. They didn't dare join us, or try to speak to us. Just sat in our presence, but not quite. It was interesting, to say the least.
The ceiling. Amazing, no?
We were told before we went to Ethiopia that we could "bring gifts" but weren't really guided as to what that meant. Some missionary friends suggested fruit, so we went armed with fruit and a few other things. Brent's grandma had made dresses for us to hand out "where we saw need." We brought those with some shirts for boys, expecting to meet village kids. When we asked about it, though, our guide told us that it was best to give them to Almnesh and let her distribute them to the village kids as it would be a great honor for her. So we left those. But while I was digging around in the bag for the gifts we brought for Almnesh, her mother began talking.

A little background which I will expand on in my next post:
A) We have sponsored Almnesh since 2001. The Wonchi Project was formed in 2001. We were one of the very first sponsors. She was probably one of the very first children sponsored. A LOT has happened in Wonchi in 10 years. We were only a very small part of it, but we were in on the ground level.
B) This family has 7 children. There are probably six more sponsors.

(Insert very formal greeting that I don't remember exactly but probably went "Thank you so much for coming today. It means a lot to us that you've come. You have been very generous with us...." yadda yadda yadda)

"Before you sponsored Almnesh, we were very poor. We had nothing. We ate only teff. We lived day to day. And now we are rich."

(insert many more details and much more gratitude)

I was stunned. I am squatting in the dirt in a 15 ft circular room of a newspaper covered mud walled hut with 6 chairs, lit only by candles, where chickens are coming in and out and the lady of the house is crediting ME for making

Yes, there is a part 3, 4, and probably 5.