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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Small Gestures/ Big Difference

A little before my family and I moved back to the States from Nigeria, I learned about World Moms Blog.  This organization has been involved in many different ways to improve the lives of mothers and children all over the world. 

While living in Nigeria, it became so apparent to me that so many children and mothers do not have access to the basic necessities I had grown so accustomed to.  Clean water, vaccines, and healthy food are a luxury there as they are in so many places all over the world. 

I became a contributor to this awesome group of worldwide mothers shortly before moving back to the United States from Nigeria.  This week we are supporting CleanBirth.org, an organization started by a mom in Connecticut to make birth safer in Laos. Laos has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world.  For $5 CleanBirth.org provides a mother with all the hygienic birthing supplies she needs to make birth safe.  They also train nurses and Village Volunteers to teach mothers about safe birthing practices.
 
 

 
This organization is doing so much good in a world which needs so much...
 
Sometimes when we look around there seems to be so much need and we don't even know where to begin.  This is a starting point, and I hope you will consider helping this cause.There are so many small ways to make a big difference, and I hope that you may consider this way one of the small ways that we can all make a huge difference in a mother and child's life!
 

 

Friday, May 31, 2013

Writer's Block

I know I have been AWOL for a long time on the blog.  As I have written before, moving back and transitioning back into "civilized" life has been a bit difficult for me.  Now, all of the sudden, I find it is the end of May and Jeremy and Elizabeth are ready for summer again!!  Just last summer, we were getting ready for our move back from Nigeria.  Some days it seems that time has flown by and others it seems that it has dragged on forever, but we are still here and enjoying our time together as a family.  Just in case you thought I had totally disappeared....I haven't.  I admit it has been hard to come back and write on the blog because I still have some very tender emotions about leaving Nigeria and coming back here brings back so many memories.  Mostly memories of Happiness and how much our family really misses her.  The kids and I just spoke with her a few weeks ago for the first time in almost a year and it was like I had just talked her the day before.  There are some people in life like that, and I know she was our angel to watch over us while our family was there.
I have been doing a bit of writing for World Mom's Blog and a post of mine is running today at
http://www.worldmomsblog.com/2013/05/31/texas-usa-writers-block/#comment-22012
Just thought I would say hi  and let everyone know we are still here!:)  I see I have a few new friends who have joined me...thank you!:)  Hopefully, I'll get a chance to get back soon!:)

Sunday, January 13, 2013

New Beginnings

 
Happy New Year and I hope you all had a great Holiday Season! (I thought the smiles in the above picture can light the way for the New Year!)  I know ours was pretty busy.:)  We were off to Chicago for Christmas and then a weekend at the beach here in Texas and then a quick trip out to Los Angeles to meet the newest member of our family, my nephew. These memories from this holiday season will always be with me.:)
 
Every New Year comes with a time of reflection and also looking forward.  I am now starting to realize that with each passing year, my children are not the only ones getting older....but I. AM. TOO!!! I can't believe that Guy and I celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary....wasn't I just 22 a few years ago and planning a wedding???
 
Here are just a few realizations I have had over the past few weeks for this New Year:
 
1) 2013 will be our first full year to be back in the U.S. in 4 years
 

2) I realized that I only have 11 more years of Jeremy being home with us until he leaves to go to college!!!  Only 11 years!!! I can't believe it....that seems like such a short time!

3) I only have until August of this year to still be able to say " I have a little one at home." My baby is going to Kindergarten in August!

4) In March of this year, I have officially been out of teaching for as long as I was in it.

5) I used to think it was cool if I wouldn't get carded because I looked " old enough" ...now it is alarming when I am not carded at the grocery store when I buy wine...

But, this year will be a year of " new and exciting", and I am looking forward to the journey this life will take me on this year.  It will be a brand new year with my great family and wonderful friends. I have a few things "rollin' around in my head" of things I want to do in the new year.  But, I am so looking forward to the many New Beginnings this year will bring!:)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

There Is No Reason...

I have always had the view in my mind that everything in life happens for a reason.  Over this weekend, I realized what a child like view of the world that truly is.  I was taking that idea on as a person who has never( and still has never) experienced true tragedy in my own life.  Like so many other people around the globe right now and for the weeks to come, I am completely shaken to the core by what happened in Newtown, Connecticut on Friday. December 14, 2012.  I can't get the thought out of my mind that 20 innocent first graders( the same age as my own son) and their teachers and principal were brutally gunned down without any warning and apparently any reason. 

I think the scariest part of it all for me is that the school and teachers did everything they were supposed to do and this horrific tragedy happened anyway.  This tragedy could have happened anywhere.  As I sat and watched the news reports over and over this weekend (without my children watching them with me), I think I was hoping that the more I watched what happened and heard about what happened that I would somehow be able to make sense out of it and be able to know a reason...there has to be a reason so many innocent spirits were taken from this world so violently.  I kept and still keep wondering what the those final moments must have been like.  Did the teachers even realize what was happening when the shots were fired?  Did the children understand what was happening....did they know what was coming...or maybe they didn't see it at all??? 

There have been so many senseless tragedies which have happened in my lifetime and I am sure that unfortunately they will keep happening.  There is no senseless death which is more important than the other, but I think that perhaps this tragedy strikes me very deeply for two different reasons.  First of all, my son could have been one of those first graders and secondly, I was a teacher and I completely understand how much those teachers must have loved their students. 

I have prayed to God to comfort the spirits of the teachers and children who are in heaven with him now, and I find comfort in knowing that they will never know pain or fear again.  But, through these prayers, I think He also quietly placed an answer in my heart.  When I woke up this morning and saw a father of one of the small girls talking about his grief, it hit me.  There is not a reason for everything that happens in our lives.  How could there possibly be a reason that this has happened?  I cannot imagine being one of the parents of one of these small children and someone telling me that there was a reason for this.  God does not have a specific plan for all of us.  He is a good Father who instills in us His love and His peace , but he gives us the free will to do with it as we see fit.  That is why there is still evil in this world.  God is not a brain washer and he is not going to chase us around with a cross and make us listen to him.  He is quiet; He is loving; and He is always around us, but we have to know who, what and where he is when we see it.  Sometimes, he is staring us straight in the face and we don't even see it.  It could be in your child's face when he asks you to play a game with him and you are too tired so you don't.  It could be the man on the side of the road begging for money, and you turn your face away to pretend you don't see him.

I now believe that things don't really happen for a reason and the only plan God really has for us is to one day make it back Home to Him in Heaven.   He is always there and we have to know where to look for him and truly see Him. He has given us the tools of Faith, Kindness and Love to use in our lives and to spread to the lives of those around us.  It is up to us what we do with them. When tragedies like this happen, people many times say," How could God let this happen?  Where was he when this was happening?"  I really believe that he did not LET this happen.  The person who decided to do this terrible thing chose not to see Him, and completely turned away, and God is not the Father who will force anyone to follow him.  I strongly believe that God was there with the teachers and students when this was happening, and he was ready for them to come Home to Him. I pray that the children saw God in the faces of their teachers and that the teachers saw God in the faces of their students before they left this world.  His plan for them was realized in that instant because those 26 people returned home to Heaven to be with Him forever.

I don't know of anything good that can come from such a horrific tragedy, and I cannot seem to keep the tears from welling up in my eyes as I think of those children and teachers. I know that this instance is very rare from what all the reports are saying, but it doesn't make it any easier to hear.  I am praying for all of the families of the children and teachers who lost their lives on Friday and I am also praying for the family of the gunman...I know they did not ask or want this to happen. 

Guy and I have told both our children about Jesus and God and their love for all of us.  They know ( in our faith) that if they believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that he died on the Cross for our sins that they will go to Heaven.  We have prayed with them.  One more thing we will tell them tonight is that when they are at school, their teachers are us, their parents.  They need to listen to their teachers at all times, and they need to know that their teachers care for them very much.  I pray to God that this tragedy never happens to my own children, but if it ever does, I want them to know that they are with someone who cares very much for them when I am not with them, and when they are scared, they need to pray.

I am ending this post with the realization that "Everything happens for a reason." is simply not true in my mind anymore.  But, I do know that God's plan is for us to love one another, be there for each other in times of pain, sorrow and joyfulness, and ultimately, to make it back home to Him.  I cannot get the thought of the terror in the minds of the children and teachers out of my mind, but I do take comfort in knowing He was there for them to welcome them Home again.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Thankful

My 36th Thanksgiving has come and gone and like many other people around the U.S., I have spent some time thinking about all the things I am thankful for.  These past few months of adjusting to life back in "the world" have been a little rough, a little fun, but most of all, I have really been able to look inside myself and I have learned a little bit more about myself.


I am thankful for Guy because without him, I would not have had all the experiences over the last 14 years of our life together.  I don't think anyone else on this earth could handle being my husband.:)  He knows all my different moods and feelings and he still loves me anyway.:)  And, I love him more than he'll ever know.:)

I am so very thankful for my children, Lizzy and Jeremy.  There was a time in my life I thought they would never exist.  I remember I would lay in bed at night and pray to God to send me a tiny spirit to be my child.  I had read in a book somewhere that the prayers of a mother are heard above all others and I thought, what the heck?  Maybe the prayers of a future mother could hold some water, too.  And in time, Jeremy drifted into our lives and we were forever changed from the moment I received the phone call he was born in Guatemala.  My prayers were answered.:)  Then, two years later, when I wasn't even looking, our second child drifted quietly, yet surprisingly into our lives and she completed our family.  Though there are many days of whining( from them and me), I always remember how blessed and fortunate I am to be their mother.:)


I am thankful for my parents. I am extremely close with them and they have shown me how important family is.   My Mom and Dad have really had a struggle over the last ten years with my mom's health, but she has pulled through her most recent surgery in October and she is really doing great, and I even got to sneak up to Illinois this weekend to see her.  I am so proud of my Mom for getting through this and I am so excited for both she and my Dad to fly out to California at Christmas to meet their third grand child for the very first time!:)


I am thankful for my brothers.  Being the oldest and the only girl in my family, I didn't realize growing up what great guys they are.  But, now, I look at them and can't believe they are all grown up. One a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy and the other one a brand new dad.:)  I love you guys!!:) I am so proud of you both!:)

I can't forget about all of my extended family up in Wisconsin and Michigan ( Kentucky, Arizona, Florida, and Arkansas, too).  Without all of you, I wouldn't have so many great memories of all the times at the beach, birthday parties, cookouts and pool parties.  Those memories are what I picture in my head when I think of my childhood, and I don't think I could ask for a better family.:)


There is a saying that friends are the family we choose for ourselves and that is so true.  I have a few very close friends who I am so thankful for.  I know I can talk to them just about anything and I know they have my back.   Those friendships are so precious to me.


I am thankful that I had the opportunity to be close to both of my grandmothers, and even though they have both passed away, I have the memories of both of them with me every day.  It hurts me sometimes that I can't call them up on the phone to talk to them, but my life is so much better because I knew them.  I learned so many life lessons from them from just watching them and listening to their stories.  They were two very strong women and I am so grateful they were in my life.

Moving back to the U.S. has been a bag of mixed emotions for me.  I am happy to be back and closer to friends and family, but I left someone behind there who was a huge part of my life while I lived there.  Sometimes, i think to myself, it would be so much easier if I had not met her, but then, my eyes would not have been opened to so much that I saw while living in Lagos.  I am forever changed because Happiness came into my life.  She had a way of looking at things and they weren't so complicated after all.  She calmed my fears many times while living there, and she became a part of our family.  It has been a hard last few months for the kids and for me without having her with us, but I am so thankful that she was part of our lives. She taught us to look at things differently and I was humbled many times by her view of the world.  She always saw the "glass half full", and she truly lived up to her name.:) 

I am so thankful for the opportunity our family had to go to Nigeria.  We were able to see things and have expereinces there we would never have had if we hadn't gone.  We now know what true poverty and destitution looks like and we know how fortunate we are to be citizens of the U.S.  We also learned so much about other cultures during our time there and we learned a new appreciation for people from all over the world and not just in Nigeria.  I am so thankful that my children were able to experience some of the beauty of people from different parts of the globe.

I truly have so much to be thankful for not only at this time of the year but every day throughout the year.  My life is so much better because of all the people who were, have been and  are still in it.:)



Monday, October 15, 2012

A Village ( a post for Blog Action Day)

It is so hard to find time to write anything down these says.  One good thing about living on a compound in Nigeria was there weren't so many other distractions because you really had not too many other places to be.:)  I had my Happiness and the kids were happy with their friends on the compound, and I had so much more time to write about my thoughts and feelings about living in Lagos.  Now, my time is filled with car rides, homework and very early mornings because without my Happiness here...there is so much more work to do!!!!!  Can you tell I miss her????!!!!

I checked my email today and saw that a contributor for World Mom's Blog, a blog I also contribute to as well, let us know that October 15, 2012 is Blog Action Day.  I went to their facebook page and I was inspired.  The whole goal of this day is for bloggers all over the world to write about one theme for this day, and this year the theme is "The Power of We" where bloggers can write about making a positive difference in the world right in their own communities or half way around the world.  So, I am putting my evening counter wiping and last sweeping of dog hair aside to finally sit down and just. write.

Asking for help has always been something I have struggled with....I don't like to admit that I could be wrong about something and that I actually can't do something all by myself.  For some reason, I have always thought that if I had to ask for help it was a sign that I had failed somehow or some way.  I had always heard the quote, "It takes a village to raise a child." and I had listened but tucked it way back in that part of your brain that seems to collect dust because there are too many other things to think about.  Then, I moved to Lagos, Nigeria and wouldn't you know that that very quote is a Nigerian Proverb??!!  If you want to see and read about my first impressions moving to Lagos as an American expat, you can check out my blog archive but I can put it into three words for you right here: shocking, heartbreaking , and exhilarating. 

I thought I knew what poverty was before I moved to Lagos.  Not because I had any real first hand experience, but because I had seen homeless people on the sides of streets and sometimes had rolled my window down a sliver to drop a bit of money to them.  But, nothing prepared me for the utter destitution and desperation I would see in Lagos.  When I say that many people living in this city have nothing, that is exactly what I mean....some didn't even have clothes...

I felt overwhelmed about what I saw and how lucky I had been and I really could not wrap my head around  what some have and some simply didn't.  I didn't know if there was a light anywhere to bring some kind of hope and to help someone when there seemed to be poverty everywhere around me.




I had heard about the Ishahayi Beach School Foundation, a charity established by expats in Lagos to support Nigerian Children's education.  Since I was a teacher (and I didn't know where else to start), I thought helping with Nigerian children's education was as good a place as any.  When I first started to go out to the beach school and visit other fishing villages only accessible by boat, I was shocked at the fact that the children had no shoes, and that they had to add bleach to their well water or that some didn't have the 20 naira (about 15 cents U.S.) to buy food from the local village woman who prepared lunch each day.  But, after a few months of visiting the schools and getting to know Lady Salami, a missionary who founded one of the schools the Foundation helps, I saw how much we as the foundation were learning about the Nigerian culture as much as they were so thankful for new material for uniforms and bleach to clean their water and books donated to make a small library for the students.  I loved being a part of that foundation for the three years I was in Lagos.


The Ishahayi Beach School Foundation is not a huge charity and will probably never receive any global recognition for its efforts, but what they have done and will continue to do is provide hope in a place where hopelessness is a daily fact of many lives I saw there each day.  Just as Lady Salami could not run her school alone, the beach foundation cannot run by itself either.  Like the children at the school, it takes many people to help them succeed...some may even call it a village.:)  I learned a valuable lesson during my time there...everyone needs help...it is impossible to do great things on your own.  But, together, many people can come together and provide some hope in the lives of some very deserving children and that is why I had to write about the Ishahayi Beach School Foundation.  I am happy to say that I was a member of that fabulous board and I am so proud of everything they are accomplishing for Nigerian children's education now.  It truly is the little things that count in one's life and this foundation definitely provides the glimmer of hope that the children whom they touch desperately need....just to know they are not alone, and that there is a small village supporting them:)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Jumbled...

I haven't been here for a while....there are lots of reasons I guess.  It is not that I haven't had anything to say...actually, there have been so many thoughts in my head these last months and I haven't had the time to sit down and start to write to be able to sort all of them out...

There have been many things happening in these last weeks...some dear friends of ours lost their daughter after she battled cancer with the bravery of a Roman warrior.  Our hearts have been breaking for them...

My time has been taken up with 2-3 daily phone calls to my mom who is back in the hospital again because she has been battling a staph infection in her leg these past 6 weeks.  Saying that I have been worried out of my mind over her would be an understatement...

The kids have started in their schools.  Jeremy is in first grade....I still can't believe it....and we have homework.every. single.night. on top of his soccer practices and games.  Elizabeth is in two days a week, and loves it, and she has ballet two times a week.

I feel like since I moved back I have become the taxi service I always heard my mom say she was when I was younger.:)

It's strange because the whole time we were gone to Nigeria, I was worried about the kids adjusting and the kids having friends and how they were feeling.  Everything else just kind of fell into place...I thought, "Three years isn't that long...we'll come back and be able to pick up where we left off..."  And, it is true, the kids have adjusted really well and love their school and friends and Guy is doing great with his new job.  I just didn't realize how different I would feel when I moved back here...

I miss Happiness...not just because she did about 99.9% of my housework:)....but I miss her friendship and how when I talked to her each day she opened up a window to a world I didn't know about...

I feel torn between the life I lived in Lagos and the life I am living here.  I saw a picture of the board from IBSF the other day and tears came to my eyes because I miss that....I miss them and I miss feeling like I was a part of something bigger than myself.  I miss seeing the children and I miss feeling like I was really and truly helping others and until I moved to Nigeria I had no idea what it was to really help people who had nothing....until I physically saw them along the sides of the road...

I like being back here because the freedom to hop in my car and drive myself wherever I want to go is really nice....sometimes the compound life was a little confining. I love being able to take my kids to school and pick them up and help with homework and watch them grow and change each day. But, I would be lying if I said I have been really outgoing trying to meet new people because I haven't.  My good friends are sticking with me through this time...but I almost feel like I can't identify with anyone new.  The other day I was at the grocery store and asked about bean sprouts and the man looked at me like I was crazy, and he told me that bean sprouts were off the market because of an outbreak of salmonella about 6 months ago...I didn't know...

I tried to take the kids to the children's museum a few weeks ago at the mall near our house.  I wandered the mall and looked at the directory and asked a few people until I figured out that the museum had moved to another location two years ago...I felt like an idiot...I thought "Three years really IS a long time."

I am back in my home country, but I feel a little out of sorts...kind of like I am in a limbo between two worlds...

I am not sure what will happen with this blog...I don't know if I will continue it, start a new one or just stop.  It's hard to just let it go because this blog has kind of become like an old friend to me. But, until I figure it out....I'll just keep on posting about my "re-entry" even though it may be a bit jumbled...