Tonight

Baby girl A ended up arriving on Thursday. She is beyond adorable and we are quickly falling in love with her. Though I’ve called my brother and sister-in-law no fewer than 10 times in the last few days with questions like, “Do 18-month-olds eat with regular silverware or do they need those baby spoons?” And, “What kind of carseat will I be needing?” I am nothing if not a lifetime learner so it’s been fun to regain some of this knowledge I once had but tucked away. No idea how long A will be with us but we’ll be thankful for the moments-good and bad-and go from there.

Yesterday my brother graduated from Palmer School of Chiropractic. For anyone who doesn’t know Marcus, he is pretty quiet guy. Thus, my whole family was surprised (only because he never said anything) that he had in fact graduated Magna Cum Laude. If you’re in the Altoona, Iowa area he’ll be setting up Dawson Chiropractic inside of the Altoona Family Chiropractic office on 8th St (by Fireside) soon! Of course I got all big sisterly the last couple of days because I am just so proud of the man he is, the husband and daddy and of the chiropractor he’ll be. Love you Dr. Dawson!

My siblings (and niece, of course, she can’t get far from her aunties when we’re around).

Zach was chosen as the Young Leader of the Community. We went to the ceremony last night where they mentioned they had the most amount of nominations they’ve ever had. What I loved the most was the ways they talked about him actually changing the community in which we live. Though he has taken Camp Abe Lincoln from operating in the red to operating in the black, he has done so much more. I have always shouted his praises from this particular blog rooftop but I was so thankful the rest of the community is catching on.

There was a caricature artist at the ceremony last night. We had to bring baby A with us, as she can’t be babysat by my parents like the rest of my kids (only certified foster/adopt/respite people are allowed to baby sit kids in the foster care system) so she got in on the action too.

My parents and grandparents made the trip to Davenport to celebrate Marcus’s graduation, as well as Lindsey’s (Marcus’s wife) parents. Some of my favorite moments this week were spent these last few days talking to all of those people. I am very blessed to have such a great family. And particularly blessed by my niece Adley Sue who looks up to Trysten like no other. They were so cute last night.

And tonight Trysten has his birthday sleepover with a few friends and 2 of my nephews. He is so excited and I am admittedly excited too. I’m grateful he has learned to make great choices in the friend department, so it’s always a pleasure to see Trysten in that element. Also, time with my nephews? Can’t get enough. But first, a little ice cream to start off his festivities today.

Happy weekend to you!

Tomorrow

I have a few minutes before the kids get home from school so I wanted to sort through my thoughts a bit. Since Zach isn’t here I guess you guys will do. 😉

I got a call yesterday about fostering a little 1 1/2-year-old. In the past we have fostered a newborn and a 9-year-old. The newborn was fun for all of his cute, squishy goodness but a real wake up call -literally- when it came to nighttime feedings and whatnot. Our lives, as it turns out, are so far removed from babies that it was just too much of an adjustment.

The 9-year-old was much the same story. We are not actually “open” to a child that old (we signed on for 0-5) but it turns out they’ll call you on anything. Anything. We’ve had calls ranging from 0 to 17-years-old. True. Story. And for a girl like me, it’s really really hard to say no. No matter if they are a 17-year-old boy with significant issues or a newborn baby with no issues. The 9-year-old was kind of thrust at us, for lack of better term, and we felt unprepared to say no. Mostly because they handed us her contract right in front of her. We loved and cared for her for a week and then she found a more permanent place.

So we’ve learned lots of lessons already, which I guess is good. The hard part for me is our learning has come at the expense of actual children. Having adopted kids from hard places I know what even the smallest of things can do to a child, let alone the constant transitioning between caregivers.

After the 9-year-old I told Zach I wanted to take a break. I felt like it was too much. I had forgotten how hard it was on everyone (and selfishly, on me) to attach to new people. I had forgotten how emotionally draining it is to be everything for a child who has nothing. It. is. hard. And I wanted to be done with it.

But something kept pulling at me. If you’re anything like me, you too constantly gravitate towards comfort. I want things to be easy, I desire stress free environments. Fostering is not easy. There, I said it. The reality is, though, I really do believe we are made to live in tension. Particularly those of us who are blessed to have enough food, clean water, shelter and jobs every day. For those of us who have the basics cared for, I am convinced we are meant to live in a place where we are challenged, always moving forward either on our behalf or neighbors’.

It looks differently for everyone (I’m certainly not one to say everyone should adopt or foster or do the things I’m doing) which is kind of what I love about the whole thing. If we actually act on what pulls us, if we actually do the things that might make us uncomfortable at first but has the potential to change us…well then we really could change the world. Each in our own little ways, each in our own little spheres of influence.

Tomorrow a little girl will get off a plane and come live at camp for awhile. I have no idea for how long  and I have no idea what it will look like to have her here. Today I’m going through where she will sleep, where we will put her clothes (where will we get clothes?). But tonight while I try-and fail- to sleep I’ll think about my fears and hopes and dreams and anxieties. Like I do all the time. Whether we have foster children or not.

Because if there’s one thing I know for sure, the tension I’m living in today always results in a breakthrough of sorts. Usually it’s a realization of my own shortcomings but sometimes it’s a revelation that even someone like me-a deeply flawed human-can affect even a little bit of change. I just have to get over myself a bit and allow it to happen naturally on it’s own.

In the meantime I’d take prayers and positive thoughts, not for me but for her-that she might have patience with me. And that she might know regardless, she is a deeply loved human.

I really liked this post by one of my favorite bloggers about how we view missions, etc. Please go to that link (and, if you have time, follow the other links she uses). I’ll wait…

So I got a new (to me) computer from a friend of mine. She (the computer) is beautiful and fast and sleek. I love her. I feel a brand new excitement over blogging because things actually happen when I ask them to and that is very new and refreshing. It’s also easier to post pictures. Yay!

In the car Tariku and I fell asleep. When I woke up he was draped over my shoulder with his hands encircling mine. We have come a long way, my friends.

Dailah is in a new dance studio this year. It is SO much better than her last one. I loved this quote from her studio, “Today is your day to DANCE lightly with life, sing WILD songs of adventure, soar your spirit, unfurl your joy.”

Went on a date with the hubs. I don’t love Valentine’s Day. I hate anything that feels forced and unnatural. A day to celebrate love is my kind of day but a day to celebrate love forced on us by mega corporations? Nothankyouverymuch. So every year Zach and I pick a different day to celebrate love. It’s our way of throwing our fist up at the man.

The kids went to their first Iowa Hawkeye wrestling meet. The Hawks are really, really good so it was a lot of fun. The big 3 got front row seats with their grandpa while the rest of us sat a little higher. It was so much fun.

Tomas had his first piano “recital” last night. He has only been playing for a few months so it was mostly just showing us what he had learned. Regardless, I was so proud of him.

Tomas was SO nervous-as evidenced by his chewing his fingernails off. But he killed it. My precious son. A lot of our family came to watch his debut. For our kids from hard places there is something so profound about people they love showing up. When Tomas woke up yesterday he put on the nicest outfit he owns. All black with a red tie. Upon seeing his outfit the rest of his siblings emerged with similar looking outfits in solidarity. It meant so much to him. I just think that is the coolest. I think he is the coolest.

Not to be outdone, Zach and his brother Jake performed a little Heart and Soul as well. They looked like a couple of twins. I loved every second.

Haiti…Part 3-Photos

Haiti wasn’t all soul shaking and serious. Oh no. In fact, a lot of it was just nice. Spending time with so many women I love is one of my favorite things on earth to do. It worked out that we happened to be experiencing Haiti together. These pictures are not in chronlogical order nor any order I can determine, this is just how my computer spit them out and I’m too lazy to correct. Alas…
We were in the car. A lot. And the streets of Haiti are like the ones in Ethiopia. A very. big. hazard. Potholes abound, stoplights are rare and driving is perilous. Erica (far right) started calling the bumps “Haitian massages”. Not sure why they look so pretty during said Haitian massages and I look, well…

The food we ate. Oh the food! Loved it. In fact I can’t remember one thing I didn’t love and wish was in the states. Here on our final full day we found an Italian-type restaurant.

We laughed. A lot. Sometimes it was because things were funny, sometimes because they were awkward. Sometimes because you found yourself paying a gentleman for some toilet paper so you could use a restroom in a trailer. Then you found yourself laughing harder because your toilet didn’t have a lid and you were next to a man “taking a twozie” as my kids say.

One of the stove vendors made us a meal from the stove. Rice and beans, the staple of Haitian diet. I fell in love. Mouth is watering thinking about it.

Haiti was beautiful.  So. Beautiful.

This picture had to be added despite the overexposure because Jody and I were just having a nice heart to heart. Erica came upon us and pointed out that we were standing in front of a painting that was, ahem, risqué-complete with pubic hair and such.

I got Jody to drink a beer! Yup, it was exciting. I think the only reason I did was because she was literally knocking on death’s door and figured “why not” but still, felt like a victory. And the Prestige is a great Haitian beer.

Did I mention we were in the car a lot? (Here with an interpreter).

Mmmmmmm food!!!!

Food! (I took most of these food pictures for my sister, Leslie). 🙂

My purple hair sure was somethin’ else in the Haitian sun. I felt relieved(?) to see it matched a menu at my favorite Lebanese restaurant.

The whole group.

Stoves!

Thought it was so cool that the stoves were made in a carport by the locals. So cool.

I think that’s all I have for the Haiti trip. I might work some more out of it throughout the year but that’s the condensed version. I am very thankful for the experience. If you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment or shoot me an email! 

Haiti…Part 2-Eshet Chayil

Thursday I wrote a bit about what I initially saw in Haiti. Today my focus is on some of my thoughts since being home.

On the way home from Haiti I read Rachel Held Evans’s book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood. Though the book was slow to start for me it rebounded well and I really enjoyed it overall. Anyway, one of my favorite parts was when Evans was discussing the Proverbs 31 woman. I don’t want to go into the whole thing here but in the end Evans says the Proverb is actually a love poem (modern day Christians often interpret this passage prescriptively which, Evans claims, is not at all how it was originally written) if you will, to an Eshet Chayil which loosely translates as “Woman of Valor”.

That phrase “Eshet Chayil” stayed with me. A few weeks of introspection proves that phrase spoke to me because Eshet Chayil was all around me in Haiti.

Indeed, UNICEF reports that the ripple effects of empowering women can change the future of society. It raises economic productivity, reduces infant mortality, contributes to overall improved health and nutrition, and increases the chances of education for the next generation.A Year of Biblical Womanhood

Marie was the first stove vendor we met at the large market in the heart of Port au Prince. She was the top seller for The Adventure Project (TAP). Marie pushes out somewhere close to 80 stoves a week! Marie learned about TAP because one of her friends was a vendor but “didn’t take advantage of the opportunity”. So Marie asked if she could try, and try she did! Marie is a mom to four. She now makes enough money to provide transportation to a job for her older two children. Marie’s younger two children can now go to school. Marie is the very essence of an entrepenuer. When asked if there was anything she wanted to tell us she went on for minutes. Ideas about ways in which to grow her business, to provide for the citizens of rural Haiti as well. We never had to ask Marie to smile, the woman was on fire. All of the intelligence, dignity and strength she possessed before was only enhanced by her opportunity with TAP. Marie is a Woman of Valor! Eshet Chayil!

Mylande was another vendor we visited just outside the city. When those of us from TAP first arrived at the meeting place there was a group of men meeting inside the building. There was much talking between them. When Mylande arrived it was quiet. She approached us with shoulders back and a soft smile. Mylande is a young woman who lives with five people in her home (mom, dad, aunts, uncles, etc). She is now able to provide for all of them with the income she receives as a stove vendor. Also? She is able to buy a few nice things for herself. Because she is not unlike so many of us, she was very proud of that. I can’t blame her. Mylande, Eshet Chayil!

Nicole is the second best seller of stoves. When we arrived at her house there was somewhere around 10-15 family members there. I’m not sure if they all lived there but it was clear they were all enjoying lunch at her house. While talking with Nicole a group of 5 children came home from school. Their uniforms were clean and bright. I was struck by the realization that all of this came from one opportunity. But of course that one opportunity didn’t make all of this happen, Nicole made all of that happen. Because she works her butt off. That potential was just sitting in wait, she took the opportunity and ran with it. Providing food for her family and schooling for her child and the children of her community. Nicole, Eshet Chayil! (Note: Nicole didn’t want her picture taken so you get a picture of me asking the Director of TAP’s partner, ILF, a question. I asked lots of questions. This is actually what I looked like most of the trip: sweaty and annoyingly inquisitive).

There were more stove vendors, of course. All with similar stories, all women of valor. There was even a man! Another group visited him and came back with his incredible story. But it wasn’t just the stove vendors that were women of valor on that trip.

There was Erica who was a fund developer for another charity I support 😉 Erica who goes to India on yoga/spiritual retreats. Erica who quit that really amazing job to lend her support to TAP for free. Erica who was the only other vegetarian on the trip and often had to “share” a meal with me (I ate most of it). Erica-Eshet Chayil!

Sarah who also volunteers as TAP’s numbers genius. Sarah who started one of Texas’s biggest and most successful real estate companies. Sarah who clearly takes on life with an amazing smile-all the beautiful and terrible. She is Eshet Chayil!

Megan who is a busy mama to five. This craft maven of an uber popular blog took her passion (crafting) and turned it into a thriving business. She hosts craft weekends that have a long waiting list just to attend. I got to room with Megan and I can tell you her heart is good and it’s pure. Her love for all things God loves is true. Megan-Eshet Chayil! (There are no pictures of beautiful Megan because she happens to be an amazing photographer and took beautiful pictures. This is all I have, from the last day when we dressed in the same colors.)

Rebecca is a big shot marketing director in New York. But meeting Rebecca you get a sense that marketing is just her day job. Rebecca travels the world learning about new cultures and new communities. She falls in love with them all. Rebecca so obviously understands so little separates us all. Rebecca owns all that she is and it is a sight to behold. Rebecca, so clearly is an Eshet Chayil!

Rebekah is the southern belle I always pictured myself being. She is sweet and smart, funny and strong. Rebekah had all the women and men we met in Haiti eating out of the palm of her hand. Her charm came from a place of strength and a complete awareness of self. Though Rebekah is a successful businesswoman, when I left her the only way I could think to define her was Eshet Chayil!

Christine and Raphaella were the Directors of the partner that TAP works with in Haiti. Christine is half haitian, half french canadian. Hearing her extensive knowledge of Haitian history and her passion for renewing Haiti to it’s former glory was absolutely inspiring. Christine-Eshet Chayil! Raphaella, a beautiful Italian woman who had just completed her PhD in International Aid. A woman in her 40s, when she told me her life’s story it was a story about constant re-creation of self. When Raphaella realized what she was doing with her life wasn’t what fulfilled her anymore, she tried something new. Raphaella was an ever evolving woman who, throughout her life, was clearly the essence of Eshet Chayil!

Jody and Becky, the co-founders of The Adventure Project. They are what started it all. For me, for the stove vendors, for the women on the trip with me- it’s all because of them. One meeting many years ago in the back of a van in Uganda led these women to start a non profit that is quickly becoming the model for other non profits. Becky, a woman who is educated in International Aid but whose heart has been there long before. Becky who has a sense for the need and exactly how to provide it so that it doesn’t look like she was involved at all. Becky who knows exactly what she wants for TAP and has poured years of blood, sweat and tears into making it happen. Becky who will stop at nothing to add venture to the countries who need it most. Becky-Eshet Chayil! And Jody, a friend of mine for whom I’ve been thankful as long as I can remember. Jody, who knows instinctively how to rally those of us at our homes, taking care of our kids or in offices working away at cubicles. Jody who relates so well to the women in America who want to change the lives of the women around the world. Jody, who really knows how to bring heaven down to earth in so. many. ways. Jody-Eshet Chayil!

This blog was wordy, I know that. But I think it had to be. Because I want so badly for you to get a glimpse of what I saw in Haiti. I want you to see that it was a story I could’ve told about women here in the States as well. So little separates us. I love knowing that my money is providing opportunities for women there to change the face of their families, their communities and their nation. I. love. that.

I knew somewhere deep in my bones that a revolution was afoot, that the women of this earth were rising up, and that, in some way, great or small, I was going to be a part of it.A year of Biblical Womanhood

Haiti…part 1

Two weeks ago I went to Haiti. I posted that I was going but have been wanting to really process what I saw and be purposeful about what I wrote. So I took my time and waited until I felt like I could tell you.

Haiti is in pretty good shape y’all.

I’m sure you’ve read the same things I had read before I left. That it’s the cholera capital of the world, that it’s still in shambles since the earthquake 3 years ago. All of that. I’d read that and let it affect the way I felt when I thought of Haiti.

But by and large, it’s just untrue. In many ways I think that narrative is out there to serve the agencies that want you to donate to make it better. I’m not saying it’s good or bad (you can judge that however you’d like) I’m just saying that it is.

Haiti looks like virtually every other developing country I’ve been too. Many times we’d be driving/bouncing through the streets of Port au Prince and I became mentally transported to Ethiopia. When I’d see a building that looked leveled due to the earthquake I’d ask the driver, “Did that collapse during the earthquake?”

“No. It’s always been like that.”

“How about that building?”

“No.”

A source there said Haiti now is exactly where it was before the earthquake. Is it great? No. Is it still a developing country figuring it out? Yes. But it’s not what you’ve been thinking.

I say all of this because I think it’s important. For those of you who gave to various charities right after the earthquake and for those of you who didn’t. Because you should know there is always hope and there is always something beautiful after something terrible. I learned that from my friend, Jody. 🙂

So Haiti is beautiful. It really is. And do you know where I saw the most beauty?

In the men making the stoves and the women overseeing the process.

I saw it in the stove vendors and their families.

Let me first say I am not in any way being paid by The Adventure Project. I went to Haiti with them because I wanted to see how they work with their local partners. I ask all of my family and friends (and people I’ve met only once or even ones I’ve never met) to give a lot of money to The Adventure Project (TAP). That’s a big deal to me. I wanted to make sure that TAP was THE non-profit in which I wanted to put my energy.

And they are. They are doing it. Charcoal efficient stoves don’t solve all of the problems that afflict Haiti but it solves so. many.

They keep children who would normally be very sick or even die healthier by burning about 40% less charcoal, thus making the air healthier to breathe.

They burn the charcoal slower, thus making it cheaper.

It takes about 1 1/2 hours LESS TIME to cook a family dinner on the TAP stoves. This frees up time to do other essential stuff like cleaning, taking care of children or working.

The charcoal efficient stoves provide jobs. Because when you donate to TAP you are helping subsidize the building of a stove (done exclusively by Haitians) which are then sold (exclusively by Haitians). It employs locals at every. single. level.

Which is HUGE for a country trying to pick themselves up from such a horrible tragedy.

When I asked a local how they really felt about international aid they said simply. “We know we have to have it right now. But we want to get to a point where we don’t need it. We want to pick ourselves up. We want to rely on ourselves. We aren’t there yet, but we want to be there some day.”

I was told of another agency that bought 10,000 stoves and then gave them out. A local said that ends up taking the country 2 steps back.

Because “charity” has to stop being a hand out and needs to start being a hand up.

That is why I love The Adventure Project. Because their goal is to become completely obsolete in the whole picture. For the stove venture to become a completely Haitian venture. Come on, that’s amazing!!!!

Ok, off to take eldest to the doc. I will finish my series on my Haitian adventure. There’s still important stuff I want to tell you. This post was heavy on what The Adventure Project is doing. The next posts will be more about the way I see my role in this thing called “life” and “caring for each other” and all of that. And there will be more pictures. Hopefully there will be post with a little bit more of my wit and sarcasm. Get excited for that. 😉