Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Foothills of the Andes

Dear Bolivia,

You fill me up and break my heart all at once.  In your thick, green jungles you hold the secrets to joy and contentment, to true riches, and yet tear a hole in my heart.  We have tread lightly and quickly on you.... your red soil.  Come and loved and been so loved by you, and your people.  We are changed by your beauty and the depths of the heart in your people.

You leave us with an aching to be more, do more, create more.  People say we sacrifice by spending our time and our strength and our money, but it is you who sacrifice to open our eyes more fully.  To really see, to be awake, to leave behind the mundane and sameness that life can become.

People say that Westerners have won the lottery on life, that we just got lucky being born where we were, and that is so true.  And yet there is so much emptiness in the hearts here that your people seem to have found, richness that money can't fill.  And yet it's heart breaking to see the orange, fragile hair that comes with kwashiokor and the poverty behind the neatly swept yards and brick houses.  The medical problems that go untreated for years because of the lack.

So to say goodbye is what breaks me.  To not know when I will see you again and experience those real friendships and the lack of self centeredness among my other Bolivian and American servants who share in the same understanding - of the heights of the Andes and the spacious valleys of the Amazon basin, and the love of your people.

To my new and forever friends, thank you for sharing your gifts and your hearts together with me.  For being an inspiration by how you live your lives!  I will forever be changed.  To quote a friend on the trip, "I am truly the richest man alive".  I shall say woman - and I get to come back home to a family that amazes me!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Vanishing Grace

Some wonderful, grace filled random memories imprinted on my mind and heart:
  • holding a 4 minute old newborn baby yesterday
  • having some of our sweet patients from last week come back for their follow up visits and stop in to say hi. A sweet 9 year had surgery last week and her Mom was on the slate for today. She stayed around all day and became my little student nurse, making beds and watching us do everything and hugging every time we had a spare second. Then sitting with her Mom at while she woke up. She beamed when we told her what a good nurse she will be one day.
  • Little 8 month old Isaiah at the Nutrition Center next door (where kids with malnutrition go for supplemental care for as long as needed). He has a cleft palate and laughs and laughs with any type of attention and cries when you put him down. Those are some dedicated ladies that work there!
  • The heart of the Bolivian team here who work tirelessly to organize everything for when we come so that we can make best use of our time. I have never heard one of them complain once! And then they stay up all night swimming and laughing!
  • Having a shower with a frog
  • beach volleyball in the pool at night, even with the language barrier there is a lot of laughter
  • getting a smile and hug from so many patients who waited all day long, came from hours away, and sometimes didn't get fed
  • The amazing vision and impact of those who work with this organization long term have had
  • The willingness of the Bolivian night nurses to take on our patients with all kinds of things they have never heard of.
  • Last week I talked about sheets.... how quickly our standards change! After pre-opping 9 patients, caring for 5 left over from yesterday and then receiving 9 new post-ops, we ran out today and because of the rainfall the past 2 days, they couldn't dry the laundry. I don't think one person noticed that they had to lie in someone else's bed. At home that patient load would be covered by 5 RNs, so we are thankful for nothing too serious happening when we couldn't be as vigilant as we want
  • Holy hysterctomies! Gynecology (this week's surgeons speciality) is not my thing! Please just send me a gall bladder
  • One of the locals has a translator app. on his phone that you talk into and it instantly translates verbally and written- very cool
  • why did the chicken cross the road? Or the dog? Or some other creature

I have in my head been creating a post for a long while on why I am a Christian.  To the vast majority of people who haven't maybe grown up in a church, or had an experience with God, I don't know if it is fully understand why someone would choose that path.  Growing up in a Christian family doesn't necessarily mean you will continue to follow the way when you yourself are an adult, but does expose you to what it really means in many more ways when you have good examples in your parents.  The problem is most of us are pretty messed up in our own ways, and don't always give the best example to our own children or others about how to be a Christian, and that is one of the biggest criticisms I hear about the church is the hypocrisy of the people in it. And I can agree with that, everyone has their own story and is on their own journey and that is not to say there isn't a more “holy” standard of living we are aiming for. Nothing drives me more crazy than actions that are fake and not met behind with the right heart.

In a round about way that is kind of the whole point of the message though.  We are all messed up and need help, need something or someone bigger than ourselves to make it work for us.  Need Jesus to help us cross that divide between the natural and the holy.  And that is not saying that we can live however we want because we are forgiven later on because of it, but gives me freedom in CHOOSING to serve God, and love Him because I want to, because of all that He had given me, and filled in my own broken heart.  I am just blessed beyond measure in even being allowed to show Jesus to someone else, like in a mirror.

I have been reading the book "Vanishing Grace" by Phillip Yancey and it grabbed me from the first chapter because of the lack of hypocrisy in it, the total openness of his soul into what really is the Good News. I heard him speak and he is a nerdy guy with the worst hair ever and can easily laugh at it.   He talks about how to put aside all the rules that religions build up. Most religions have a set of rules or expectations to follow, that if you do such and such, you are a Muslim, and if the good deeds outweigh the bad you'll make it to heaven. Or Hinduism, if you live well enough, you will be reincarnated as something better next time around. Being a Christian is different because it is nothing about what we can do to get to heaven or make it, but all about what Jesus already did for us because he wants to just love us. That relationship with Him isn't a burden, but as they call it here liberacion. Freedom!

Grace seems to be vanishing from our world in a lot of places and in a lot ways that we treat each other, but I have seen an over abundance of it this week! ( who voluntarily does 5 - 13 hour shifts in a row? And then again the next week) Seen love in action, been blessed to work my butt off for people that can give you nothing back- except a whole lot of love and gratitude- but be way more fulfilled than an all-inclusive trip can give you (a lot more tired of course).  And maybe have some lasting impact on lives. Thankful that my big mess can be used in some small way.

Monday, April 20, 2015

You are Bolivian

     Onto a new week! We had a wonderful, somewhat restful weekend. We could choose to stay back at the hotel or go into Santa Cruz for shopping, dinner and airport pick-up/drop offs. I probably could have used the rest to stay and relax but can never pass up an opportunity to see stuff, get out with people and see a new city. Plus, there were a few things I really needed! I'm sort of falling apart. Forgot to pack underwear, so bought some right off the street in Santa Cruz yesterday, as well, I had a cavity fall out this week, so I'm really turning into a wreck!
     We started the day with a fabulous tour of a coffee plantation which despite the fact that I am a tea snob, I find the whole process fascinating, the smell intoxicating, the whole coffee culture I love, so it was really cool and the scenery phenomenal.
     We said a sad goodbye to 6 of our teammates at the airport. 5 of us are staying on for another week. Then we waited for a few hours for a large group of 15 OB/Gyn people all from the same hospital in Connecticut to clear customs with all their drugs, medical supplies and gear. Bolivia seems to give Americans as hard time, as I was waved through. I rode the “party bus” back from Santa Cruz last night with the Bolivians. The front window had tassels swinging across the windshield, and this nice pulsing strobe light and the same beat music. I slept across the back seats from midnight to 2 am back to the resort despite the Latin party music.
     The new group are super organized and a bit overwhelming, after our tight knit group we had last week. So a real shift in my mind. My Canadian phlegmatic attitude comes out even stronger because I am always a balancer - finding what is missing in a situation and taking that role whether in tasks or personality. If organization or leadership is needed, I can find myself there; if someone calm is needed, I fit there well. When I was sitting in the airport last night, I thought I could easily go home right now to my sweet family, but just need to really take some time to make that shift in my head to move forward, hard when there's a bit of fatigue setting in. I'm looking forward to another great week and having some more nurses to help in pre-op, recovery room, post-op.
     So I pray especially for peace and grace, real bonding with the new team members, and God to do some more miracles in the lives of our patients as well as the team as we serve Him and each other.
I got the best complement today from my new Bolivian friends, they said, “you are now Bolivian”. They love with such amazing servant hearts and open themselves up to new friendships. They are inspiring in their ability to work hard for the sake of their own country and serving in whatever way they can. So that was a real gift!
     I can't wait to have to get my buddy Ramiro (our translator) to translate words like uterus, vagina, cramps, panties :) Gyne is not really my area of expertise or interest, but loving these cute little ladies that I get to take care of is. I say little because they are all about 5 feet tall, and I am towering over them. And they all giggle when I tell them my name (which means pretty in Spanish). I'm sure they think I had some loco parents who named me.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Nursey Stuff

Well... we have had a very busy 3 surgical days at the hospital.  Monday we had 2 sweet ladies with open cholecystectomies (gall bladders), a bilateral inguinal hernia repair,  and something else I can't remember already.  There is another nurse and I that work the pre-op/recovery room/post-op area.   We basically get the patient from off the OR table, take him to our room, and look after them til they go home or stay overnight.  Today we moved 2 more beds into an already full 4 bed ward.  At one point we had 7 VERY FRESH post-op patients in there.  We started out with a 2 year old circumcision who screamed for pretty much 3 hours, then 4 year old Maria-- inguinal hernia repair who was the sweetest girl ever!  She cried for about 20 seconds once, and while they were putting her under.  Then we moved onto Fabricio, the brave 6 year old with an undescended testicle.  I got a kiss from him when he went home.  Then we also did 2 more inguinal hernia repairs, 2 more gallbladders, and an umbilical hernia repair. I don't know where they are all getting these hernias, but they all seem to want to ride home on a motorbike on 4x4 roads.

All this with a manual BP cuff, since our automatic vitals machine died half way through the day.  No ECG monitoring and one patient who came to us with an airway still in place.  Made for busy times. 3 spinals and 5 general anaesthetics.

My feet are tired, but my heart is full.

Other interesting nursing moments for you nurse types:
- one pair of nasal prongs is all that exists for O2 which comes in a big tank that we haul to whichever bedside needs it (nothing piped in, no suction equipment at the bedside).  I guess everyone has to share nasal germs or go without.  Rewashed our one oxygen mask today.
- the post-op infection rate is really low here considering all that goes on, and MRSA- what's that?
- tomorrow we are doing a colonostomy reversal.  I don't know if it's this guy or someone from last year, but ostomy supplies aren't in abundant supply here, and he basically carries around a Walmart plastic bag to drain his ostomy into.  You can imagine how life changing this surgery could be for someone like this!!
- We made a deal with the anaesthetist to give us some vials of Morphina because 60mg of Ketorolac (ouch kidneys!) and Tylenol are what they basically use post-op for even big hernia repairs. At home they could be on a epidural or PCA for a few days.  So I carry some ampoules in my pocket all day for when we need to use it.  No saline to dilute anything so we just pull it out of the IV "bags"/boxes that we have to cut the tip off to open.
- no handwashing audits here, none of the sinks, if you can find one, have soap.  Hand sanitizer!!
- Privacy?
- the patients can get surgery here but it costs about $1000 and no one can afford it, so they are living with these things often for years.  We charge $40 or something like that so that they can feel responsible but also respected and cared for.  Some will wait til next year when the team returns.
- the first day when we asked for new sheets to change the bed it seemed like we were asking for their first born.  There was visible blood on the bed.

Today was a more calm pace and I ended being trucked home early this afternoon due to a wonderful case of Montezuma's.  I got to nap and enjoy the pool briefly which was much needed.

We had a potential ruptured appendix that came last night and we hydrated and antibiotic-ed overnight so he could be operated on today.  Giving 3 hours in the OR, in case of complications, possible resection or whatever, they went in found an abscess that popped pus everywhere, no appendix in sight, put in a drain and closed him up in 45 minutes (sorry Dawn and Erin if you are reading).  He is lucky 19 year old!!  The family has a lot of spiritual stuff going on, witch doctors etc. that they have tried for the last 2 weeks before bringing him to us.  Our "chaplain" shared the Gospel with him and he gave his life to Jesus this morning and went into the OR with peace on his face, much different than last night.

Thanks for thinking and praying with me!  It's really rewarding to give care to people who are so grateful, hug you when they go home, and being able to pray with patients and love on them is a great experience! So thankful for our awesome translators that we will turn into nurses yet!

Prayer requests:
- they are showing the Jesus movie tonight in a nearby neighborhood and then next Wednesday we will show it in the town square so that will be cool
- to top off my day, I had a filling fall out today, so pray I don't get some mouth infection and die in South America. I was able to Skype Kevin and Erin and he phoned our dentist who said it should be OK.
- Doing more kids tomorrow, so that worries me since my peds. experience is so rusty
- some of the team changes on the weekend, some go home and a bunch of OB/Gyn types are coming next week.  Hysterectomies, fibroids, fistulas here we come.  And I really want to see some births!!
- my partner Cindy gets some relief from her allergies and some much needed sleep!

Quote of the day: "No worries about the neighbors trying to steal wifi, when they are crocodilias"

Monday, April 13, 2015

Day 1

Interesting moments/facts from Bolivia I've learned so far:
- it is the 2nd most poor country in the western hemisphere, 50% live in "extreme poverty" and 25% below the poverty line
- the Amboro nature reserve is one of the largest tracts of jungle preserved in South America, has over 900 species of birds, over 100 species of butterflies, more than all of Canada and the US in just 4300 sq. km
- kaka, coca, cocao, and cocoa are all very different things
- tapirs like to drink from the swimming pool
- one set of nasal prongs for oxygen can go a long way
- you can resterile suction tubing when you run out (on day 1)
- if you announce in church that you can have body parts removed, they will come...gall bladders, appendixes, lumps, bumps, lipomas galore ( we only remove when necessary)
-  they have some weird rules about shoes and lab coats in the hallways and in and out of sterile areas.  Had to buy $2 "Crocs" for ease of transferring footwear 100 times/day
- it's really good the AC works in the OR - I drank 3 litres today and only peed one (I know TMI)
- post-op patients in Canada get a lot more pain meds
- La Paz is one of the highest elevation cities in the world.  The airport is on a huge flat plateau that is surrounded by mountains and volcanoes of 22000 ft.
- children are well behaved.. I saw 3 children sit and play in one hallway/ bench for 8 hours without complaining
- planning to ride home for 2 hours on a motor bike with your sister and 3 children(f rom above) post inguinal hernia repair is NOT a good plan.  I made him stay the night :)
- these lovely people are so grateful for any help they can get.
- being told I love you by an ecstatic post op patient made my day  :)
- I'd like to learn more Spanish than the words for pee, poo, blood pressure, pain, nausea, sit up, lay down, bandage, tylenol
- fresh tangerines, pineapple, papayas, watermelon every morning is worth having breakfast at 6:30 am- well not quite but helps
- Working with such a great team who are so committed to serving the poor is very rewarding!  Who wants to come next time!!?

Sunday, April 12, 2015


A few of us took a Sunday morning stroll down some side road.  There seemed to be a lot of action, mostly motor bikes/dirt bikes heading in the direction.  I saw the cleats suing over someone's shoulder and figured it out.  Back in the bush in the middle of nowhere was a soccer field and a boisterous game of football.  Red vs. yellow.  They had to dodge the odd chicken on the field, but definitely had some serious skill.  We watched for a bit and headed back for lunch.

We spent the afternoon unpacking and sorting about 16 suitcases that were full of some essential OR equipment and a lot of donated supplies.  A few of us spent some time setting up the OR and making sure the anaesethetic equipment was working, as well as the ECG and vitals monitoring equipment.  Stuff was divided up into pre-op, OR, post-op and outpatient supplies.  The docs spent some time doing consults to set up the schedule for the next few days.  Sounds like Monday is gall bladders.   Cindy from Wisconsin and I will be responsible to recover the patients and look after the post-op until we leave for the day and the local staff will take over for the night shift.  There is one surgeon here for a large number or people and the back log is severe, as well they do only more simple procedures.  We can't do any orthopedic cases because they don't have an x-ray machine.

Up at 0630 tomorrow, the internet is quite slow so don't know if I can post photos. 

We went to church this evening, and they asked the gringos to get up and sing.  What can you do?  You can't refuse!

Bolivia Day Zero

This morning after a good 10 hours of sleep, I feel rested and more ready to focus on coherent conversation.  The flight was long, Kelowna, Calgary, LA, Miami, La Paz, Santa Cruz, and then 2 hours by bus to our hotel.  I had 2 hour gaps between most flights, which was not restful, as I was randomly chosen twice for more screening, full body pat down, check my lap top, had to go out, change terminals, stand in line again, re-check baggage, get new boarding passes printed etc.  I had hoped to use my new Starbucks card my students gave me, but didn't even have time to do that in airport.  I arrived and was waved right through customs and the Americans took 2 more hours to come through because they need to have photos taken, get visas, and all our medical supplies and equipment amazingly passed through customs- about 8 large suitcases including medications.

Our hotel is lovely!!!  AC, wifi from some areas, hot water, they keep feeding us, and fresh squeezed orange juice.  Today we had a team meeting this morning.  I amazed at the dedication already of the on site Bolivia MMI team that sets everything up for our arrival.  They include a nurse with a masters degree, a female doctor, an optometrist, some translators, another physician, bus driver and some logistics team members.  And they all look about 30 years old!  So young and dedicated to helping their people receive medical care.

Our North American team consists of an OR nurse, an ICU nurse, an nurse anaesthetist, 3 general surgeons, 3 general helpers and me.   Dr. Matt is our team lead and is a bit ADD, totally hilarious, and can multi- task like nobody. Should be a great week!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Sweet Sister Friends

I got a short and very sweet e-mail from an old friend today.  I had been thinking lately how crazy and busy everyone's life seems to be at this stage.  Aging parents, and busy career lives, growing teenagers with lives and schedules, and just the general worry of trying to keep everything going.  There have been too many days lately where I haven't been able to connect on a real deep level with those I hold dearest.  I miss the days of being home full time with pre-schoolers and having time for long chats beside the swing sets with girl friends.  So was thinking of the amazing women in my life and ones who I am so blessed to call friends.

This is re-post from an old one, girlfriends - you totally rock!
One of the problems is that some of them are too far away for my liking!!

So I think of the gifts of each one. The things they have taught me. How different we all are and yet so much the same. The ways that we change because of who we've known, and how they have touched our hearts. For those I have known for longer, I am amazed at the different paths and experiences that have changed who we are and where we have gone with our lives. The way God has directed each step...


My friend said to me that I am one she wants to know when we are old ladies. That is a great compliment, and so I send her funny old lady cards. She has the gift of inclusion! Everyone is her friend and she knows how to introduce everyone to her BEST friend. I have never met anyone with as much joy and enthusiasm, the ability to entertain a crowd, but draw in just one person into a deep conversation, that is a gift!

She is warm-hearted, consistent and even-keeled, even tempered - even with flaming red hair, always reliable and always caring. Athletic and beautiful, faithful in prayer and never ending in speaking clearly of God's promises and blessing, when they haven't always felt like they have been hers. She has a man just like mine and we understand that part of each other. She is like a sister to me.

She teaches me about being real and true to yourself at whatever the cost. To always say what matters and always ask the tough and deeper questions; to not be content with the same.  She's not afraid to stir the pot and make a difference.  She is about knowing Jesus even when it's hard or doesn't make sense. She is confident and assertive, and easy to talk to. She is creative and feminine and beautiful. We can always pick up right where we left off without a missing a beat, and she is ALWAYS up for a travel adventure!

And another one... my friend can do anything she sets her mind to. She is creative and full of love. She is confident in who she is and always fun to be with. She is a wonderful mother of 5 and the most faithful friend. She never complains, and always looks to the bright side. She can organize better than even I can. With every word that is spoken she has a whisper of encouragement to add. Every occasion is reason to celebrate and there are many. Her hands are skilled and her mind is sharp, but not after 9 pm. Her life is a gift to be shared with many; thankful I am one of them !!

She is a true gift. She who is soft spoken and adored by any who meet her, even though she thinks she is easily forgotten. Who could forget such a warm and loving person? Always a listening ear, a wise word, and strong cup of coffee. I see inside her quiet inner world and noisy outer world full of boys to a place of contentment in her soul. That spontaneous, wild adventurous side lurking beneath the phlegmatic is such a delightful contrast.

She stands full of grace and beauty. A quiet soul waiting to be discovered. She sees the world through a different lens. There are people that you wonder how they think, and where they possess such ideas and creativity. And thank God He made them, to show the world another kind of beauty and a reality apart from the everyday normal. She never says no to anyone she cares about and I wish she were my auntie.

Cook for a crowd of 100 - no problem, organize a list of 100 things - easy,  crack a sarcastic joke to make teenage boys howl - she's got it.  I love this one!  She is full of heart and helping others, staying focused and being a Mom to many.  She is a true gift and knows what her gifts are, treats her guys like kings and teaches them to be independent and fold their own laundry.  She has a true and sincere heart for serving and has her priorities right, and puts her actions ahead of her words...AND is the most fun in a small package!

So joyful to walk down life's road with you!

My heart is full.....

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Yellow Fever and other details...

I am so glad I won't be contracting yellow fever and typhoid, but man I can hardly lift my arms today from the immunizations!   I got a bit of sympathy today from my students.  It will be all about details the next couples weeks, til I go.  Anyone who has a BP cuff of any kind they want to lend me would be great!  Also we are taking donations of small toys, school supplies, travel size toiletries, toothbrushes, or reading glasses if anyone feels like helping fill up my suitcase.

The team lead Dr. has been e-mailing me all kinds of information, so I'm getting super excited.  We will be doing a lot of general surgical cases, and also a lot of gyne stuff.  There are 3 general surgeons and 3 OB GYNs going, and a few medical students and 4 RNs and 4 LPNs.

So for you who like details, this is copied from my booklet:
The town we are going to... is one of the poorest counties in Bolivia. It has 25,000 people spread in the main town and other districts. The main activity is agriculture; they grow oranges, rice and cocoa. The land is mainly own by a few families and the rest of the people work for them. The county is also rich in sand and clay for the construction.

In this town (which we aren't supposed to mention on social media), there is one GP Physician per every 3,200 inhabitants. 3 Dentists for the whole population and 2 OB-GYN doctors attends all the calls of the county. There is also a General Surgeon and one Pediatrician. Ongoing prevention programs are not available and the number of preventable deceases is considerably growing. There is 1 Radiologist working half time. The MMI teams have been providing an answer to the backlog of surgical cases, and supplying the need for Dental services, Optometry and healthcare in general.

On this project and by the request of the Municipal Department of Health, we’ll continue to meet the needs for primary care in the surrounding communities, where the physicians get only once every month or less for some communities. Proving medicine to the patient is another way to assure the completion of the prescribed treatment and one of the strength of the project. The surgical component of the project will provide the patients with an opportunity to have access to a surgery in their own community and only contribute with $50.00 to $60.00 instead of $400.00 or more depending on the case; which makes the service impossible to buy for most of the people in the area.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Finally!!! Bolivia Here I Come!

After lots of thinking and praying and internet searching for different organizations, and a real desire to go serve somewhere in a 3rd world country, I signed up to go on medical trip.  A lot of it had to do with timing, since I have a nice 3 week window in April.  So I applied at the beginning of February, kind of late on my part, and have been waiting.... and waiting....  With not much info. from them yet, and a few e-mails back and forth, and so-and-so is out of town and then the next so-and-so important person was out of town, and now finally today I got my package!  Yay!  I was getting kind of anxious as it in in 1 month!!  In my mind I had given them a deadline of Friday- tomorrow- to get back to me or my organized self was going to deem them incompetent and disorganized and could I trust that someone would pick me up from the airport?  Isn't it always amazing how we have to trust to the last minute.


So I am SUPER excited!!  I haven't really said much to many people, because I wasn't sure it was going to all come together.  I don't yet know exactly what I'm going to be doing, but nursey stuff.  We are going to be just NW of Santa Cruz on the map, elevation of 350m.

So I have appointments lined up for immunizations and booking flights tomorrow!  Hoping to maybe stop over in Dallas (Randi?)  because it looks like a lot of the flights route through there.

I will keep you posted!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Things I love .... everyday

Sometimes on a dreary, fogged in winter day, it's harder to enjoy the moments, so a list of things that I love and make me happy always helps:

I love my husband. I love my children. I love waking up to a sunshiny morning and am missing some of those these days. I love the feel of dirt in my hands. I love gardening without gloves and barefoot. I love the color of the sky after it rains. I love hearing the sounds of ocean waves lapping against the shore. I love anything in bloom. I love the first peeking out plants in the springtime. I love to know that someone cares enough to remember my birthday. I love hugs, especially from little arms that can barely reach all the way around. I love hot chocolate after a walk in the snow. I love feeling the wind on my face and in my hair. I love standing on top of something big and seeing a view, especially mountains. I love a long afternoon coffee date with a friend and no place to be after.  I love laughing out loud with old friends that know you deep.  I love feeling that still small voice whisper something to me when I need it.  I love green, especially when it belongs to something growing. I love paint color chips. I love cello. I love gable windows on big old farmhouses. I love dark wood and smooth surfaces. I like textures and feeling the edge of things. I love Jesus. I love peace and quiet. I love a walk along a wooded path. I love to know that I am loved. I love a project: starting a new project and finishing one. I love the steady sound of a well oiled sewing machine. I love navy blue. I love strawberries, and sometimes dipped in chocolate. I love bright blue eyes. I love planning things. I love thinking of all the things I want to do and places I want to visit even if I never get there. I love the mystery of an inquisitive look. I love crunchy fall leaves. I love sweet peas. I love being free, being with people, and being alone. I love the accomplishment of hard work finished. I love people's hands, young chubby ones, and old ones with a life of memories to tell. I love chocolate.  I love summer BBQs with lots of interesting salads that I didn't make. I love photographs. I love rows of tulips. I love laying in a hammock looking up at a thousand stars in the dark night sky. I love staying up late knowing I can sleep in the next day. I love cute little bare bums. I love looking after people. I love hearing people's stories.  I love a new day with nothing written on it yet.

What about you?  Where is your love found today?

Friday, January 16, 2015

Christmas Schenanigans

It always seems to take some time before I sit down and look at photos that I took and sit on the camera for awhile.  We had some good fun over the Christmas break:
These 2 decided to do some baking together :)

Jacob attempting to dress himself for the Christmas formal

Warren preaching it for the care group boys, the only 10 minutes they all sat in one place all night!

Skating with Gramma

Cam and Tracy lovin' fondue!

I don't know how this happened, but they all wanted to cuddle Ditto??

Erin knit Cam a winter beard

New headboard I made for Erin's bed

Thursday, January 15, 2015


I don't know about you, but some of the stuff going in the world is downright scary and also absolutely heartbreaking.  The latest being another attack in Nigeria by the Boko Haram.  They just seem to be evil to the core, no regard for human life, power hungry men doing everything out of selfish ambition and under the guise of religion.

It breaks my heart to think about the daughters who were taken, and who knows what done to.  I can't imagine that being my own girl!  The families and mothers... utterly helpless. And the boys who are turned into hatred and gunfire, with only fear and power to drive them the deeper they get and the longer they are forced to stay.

I read the most interesting book  by  Dr. Nabeel Qureshi over Christmas, and it really opened my mind to the upbringing and mindset of the average Muslim. I been circling around listening to some youTube video lectures he's given and gotten a little caught up in it. He talks in depth about being raised in Islam, the difference between being Western born compared to Eastern born (as his parents were), and the clash of culture that creates.  The guy is super brilliant, has a BsC, an MD and a few other Masters degrees in apolgetics and religion.  Towards the end of the book when he was really investigating why he was an Ahmadi Muslim, a peace keeping and seeking one, and what the religion really was about, since he says most Muslims don't really read and study on their own, because of the high respect and trust in their leaders (imaam) to do that for them, he starting finding so many references to the forced violence and call for Muslims to jihad.  He says the majority of Muslims are peaceful, do not think their religion condones this and do not seek to kill those who don't follow Allah.  But once he started really studying the life of Muhammed and the Quran, he began seeing how that wasn't true and in the end decides that he couldn't continue to follow this path or faith, giving up his family in the process.  The historical evidence for the accuracy of their Scriptures just didn't exist either.

Anyways... this is starting to sound like a book report, but I was so fascinated by the history within the context of recent world events. Being on this continent, we are pretty removed from that, but it is starting to infiltrate the West, especially Europe and there are increasing conversations about sharia law which could be a disaster to our political system, let alone the status and treatment of women!

I have no idea how to respond, or even do anything in our own small lives and our own daily influences.  I feel like I can just weep with the mothers who have lost their children, the horror that those who have survived have seen and with continue to see in their mind's eye forever.  And I am so thankful for people who are brave and work in these places, who fight for truth and freedom.  And pray that Good will continue to battle Evil and know it will win in the end.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

I Had a Grandmother

I was reading some old posts and this is one of my favorites, from 2008:
"Generations come and generations go, but the earth never changes.
The sun rises and the sun sets, then hurries around to rise again.
History merely repeats itself. It has been done before.
Nothing under the sun is truly new.
We don't remember what happened in the past, and in future generations,
no none will remember what we are doing now."
Ecclesiastes 1:4, 5, 9, 11
I had a Grandmother that I met once. She lived a far way off in another country and only came to see me once when I was just a wee girl. I remember she brought me a brown jewelry box with yellow flowers on it. When you opened the bottom drawer it would play a song, "Love Story". That became Oma's song because it's the only thing I remember about her, that and the grey dress and pink cardigan that she's wearing in a photo my family has of her tucked away in a ragged edged book somewhere. I can't remember if she gave me the little dolly that lay in the top drawer, or if I put it there sometime later. It was Raggedy Ann and you know how memories have a funny way of not always staying in the right places or certain details aren't always there, but some are there really strongly, like the lighting in the hospital room when my Dad died or the jump for joy feeling I had the morning I woke up and realized I was getting married, or the smell of my babies' head when they just had a bath.

I heard a speaker recently talk about memories and how when they are remembered, they are re-stored and sometimes the memory changes by the simple act of remembering it, thinking it over and re-storing it in some other part of your brain (also why reviewing while studying makes you remember it in different ways). I suppose this would mean that memories I haven't thought of in a long time are more intact and more perfect than ones that I mull over time and again. Maybe that's why old people have such vivid memories of older days, their minds become more lucid and they go back to days gone by that they haven't thought of in a really long time.

My Oma died when I was 3. My Dad was probably really sad, but I never asked him. I think she was a really good Mama to him, even though during WWII she had to split up her kids to live with some relatives so that they would have enough food to eat. I think my Dad got to stay with her because he was born in 1940 in Europe and was just a baby. I think it would be really hard as a Mama to have to send your children away to be cared for by someone else, but you'd tell yourself everyday that is was better that they were safe and fed. I wonder how she felt? Did she lie awake at night scared and worried for them, praying that God would look after them and bring them enough to eat for tomorrow? My freezer is really full and I don't have to worry about that. Or did she worry that the Germans wouldn't invade and she wouldn't see someone she loved again, how could she not? Did her heart ache at the thought of missing their bedtime cuddles and their daily thoughts? I'd like to ask her. I wonder if she thought about what color to paint the living room. It probably didn't matter, but I still think she loved pretty things- like flowers in her window boxes and that jewelry box. She must have known that her youngest granddaughter would like something like that and keep her earrings in it even when she 37.

Was she a hearty laughing type of Grandma that hugged everyone into her ample bosom? Or a quiet, gentle spirit that just filled a room with peace and homemade cookies, like Kevin's Grandma who I got to know better than my own. What did she dream of when she was a little girl? Did she want to be a Mama to 5 children? Did she fall madly in love with her man? I like to imagine she did because he was a wonderful man. Were her questions about God the same as mine? Is He proud of me? Am I doing everything He wants for me? How can He listen to everyone at the same time? How many recipes did she have in her cupboard? And what did she cook for a meal on a special day one she knew her husband loved? I think she probably could teach me a thing or 2, or 20 about knitting and embroidery. In my mind she even knew a lot about ships because she would sit and listen to her husband at night in front of the fire tell of all the pieces they put together on the latest ship at the docks.

But how can it be that I know so little about her when she is only one generation away? Will my granddaughter know so little about me? I don't even know if she had a middle name. This is a woman who shaped my life in more ways than I'll probably know, who read stories to my father on her lap at night, taught Him about God and how to be a good, strong and courageous man. Who fed his little belly and probably cried the day he left the country for a life of his own at the age of 16. That man who gave me life and showed me love, patience, character and courage in the face of adversity. She faced some adversities I'll never know about. She had love and disappointment, hope and friendships; she made plans and worked with her hands, planted gardens and loved her children, and yet the details of it I can't ever know. Maybe she wrote some things down in some sort of flowing handwriting that I'll never recognize on the outside of an envelope. The thoughts and dreams of women can't have changed that much over 2 generations: to be productive, creative, loving, full of family and friends and love, making a difference to someone's life, being capable and fulfilled, wanting to know what you were made for, giving your heart to others. One day we'll sit and have tea, I think maybe English Breakfast, or I'll introduce her to a lovely chai blend that she never knew existed. We'll sit in a garden with lots of vines that grow up over our heads beside a little cottage by the sea. I'll thank her for her legacy of faith and love, even though the activities of her every day will never be known to me.

"For everything there is a season, a time for everything under heaven." 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Word of the Year

2015.  Here you are already!

You've probably heard of people picking a Word of the Year instead of New Year's resolutions that in my mind are just a big set up for failure.  I love the idea.  A way to just grasp what your overall dream for this year is.  Where you want to head.

So when thinking about choosing my word for the year, the ones that came to mind right away that are what my life is about were words like:

RESPONSIBILITY  ......  OBLIGATION (like cooking dinner every night)  .....  LOYAL  ......  PEACEFUL   .......
but those words felt like they were dragging me down ...

But you also want to have some cool word to anticipate what your year is going to be like such as:

FUN   ......   LAUGHTER  ......  FRIENDSHIP   ..... TRAVEL ......  STRENGTH

Or the ones I had thought about really taking on because we've been talking about some things we'd like to really do this year are:

ADVENTURE  .....  OUTDOORS    ........  AUDACIOUS   ..........

What do you think you want for 2015?  I am so content with so many things about where life is right now and want to stop, not change, not expect anything big and new to come on me, just rest in enjoying the moments I have, and the fleeting time with teenagers, enjoying a pretty new to me job still and doing it better.  Really walk along the paths in front of me right now, and be more faithful in the small things.

So have you thought of a word?  I'd love to hear it.

Doing some reading and contemplating, one word kept appearing in so many places for me, and when that happens you kind of pay attention, take notice and wonder what the tie in is. So I'm not all sure what this means and where it is all going, but there is some anticipation in it, like waking up on a new morning, getting the fog out of your eyes and not knowing what the day could hold. 


Monday, January 5, 2015

On Being Seen

After a very long hiatus from writing, feeling for some time like I don't have a lot to say and that there are so many words "out there" or just that we have become so saturated with words, many without action behind them.  Things and thoughts have been brewing around in my mind, bouncing around, not really sure how to get onto paper.

Someone I work with, recently asked me if I was still writing my blog, I had no idea she had read it.  This right around the same time I was thinking about writing again.  So maybe it was a prodding I needed.

Lately, I've been thinking about the idea of being seen and known to each other, letting others in to deeper parts of who we are.  Maybe magnified by having teenagers is the whole social media appearance of self, and the extensive infiltration of the internet to comment on everything and about everything and everybodyin the world and have an opinion or critique of all things.

Why is it everyone has to know everything about everyone? Post about all the details of life? Care about how many "likes" you get on a photo?  And who is really listening? Or are we just formulating our own opinions before stopping to listen, because that is what we are "supposed to do"?  And on the flip side, how do we show we actually do care?  Be different and not driven by the fast pace and the large, maybe not as deep social circles that permeate. How do we stay involved in each others' lives, really know one another and share.

I'm totally a details person. I do want to know details about people, but maybe not all of them about everyone.  Where do we find the balance in all this?

I hear the cry... to be seen... to be noticed... to be cared about.  And how much of oneself do you want to show, to the world, to watching eyes, without acknowledgement of the risk, the vulnerability?   It takes trust to go there.  It takes trust to show more than only an inch deep of who you are.  I want to wrap my arms around the girls who are posting for attention, and longing for a close friend to whisper secrets to in the quiet.

To really be seen.  To tell them to stay true to yourself, discover who you are, and the extreme value of sharing part of your soul with someone.

Someone sees you, in the depths of your heart and your soul. 

Living with 3 introverts has taught me so much!  When I do those personality tests, I come out confused and different every time, somewhere in the middle, but in this house, I am the extrovert!  They have taught me balance between refueling and socializing.  How they want to be seen, and be known, but  only by the people they choose to let in, a closer circle, and what a gift that is!!  That being said, a lot of attention is being paid to introverts since the Quiet book came out.  And E says today after reading something trite about making introverts feel loved, "they make it sound being an introvert is a mental illness."

So, writing a blog is also risking being seen.  Come on in, and let's have real good brew of loose leaf tea together! And if you like coffee, I'm getting better at brewing it...!!