30.11.08

Why We Don't Do Conventional Christmas

I grew up celebrating Christmas much the same as everyone else does. Our family had it's little rituals and traditions just like everyone else does that were unique to us; buying a tree, mom sulking around angrily until dad got the lights untangled and put on, baking, homemade decorations, the tree almost falling down year after year, stockings and presents, etc. I can't remember a Christmas after 10 years old that I wasn't disappointed Christmas morning somehow. (Except for the year I got a mountain bike.) I was a little snippy, ungrateful and spoiled brat that I can remember. (I guess kids who grow up without a lot of money can be spoiled too.) Poor my parents putting up with me.

But I loved the part where we all got together with my whole extended family to sing Christmas carols and pig out on dessert. I loved the family dinner at my grandparent's house. I loved the story and the snow and the lights reflected off of the snow. I liked concerts and pageants, I like hot chocolate and skating parties, sitting in the firelight with the lights out looking at the tree.

Something was often missing on Christmas morning. I knew because I was often forlorn. (Though it could have just been too much sugar.) But then, huge chunks of happiness were missing from my childhood, thanks to the mess that my parent's marriage became, so how could I tell what was due to what?

Then I met the Genius Husband. His family didn't celebrate Christmas, or rather, they did it completely different from any one I had ever met. There was no tree, no gifts piled high, no stockings. They didn't run around like mad the weeks before Christmas trying to figure out how to buy every one presents with the little bit of money they had on hand.

Every year what they did was a little different, but it all had one theme. Christmas isn't about us, it's about Jesus, God made flesh, God so loved the world.

And so they threw a birthday party. Some years they would even cover the house with balloons and streamers. The most important part of their celebration was the decision of what gift to give to Jesus on His birthday. And yes, it was phrased that simplistically, so even the littlest kids would understand. [The grownups may have thought of it in theological terms like incarnation, and that it's the task of those who believe to continue to be the presence of God in the world as Christ was, but it's all the same thing.]

What would make Jesus happy? How do we show our love for Him? Well, Jesus loves the world, loves every person in it. Would it make Him happy when we love and take care of the world and the people He loves, especially when we notice and see the people that no one else notices and loves? How can we do that this year?

Some years it means going downtown Christmas morning and feeding dinner to a bunch of low income or homeless people, giving them sleeping bags and back packs. Sitting and talking with them and helping them to feel human and cared about just with the gift of time and attention on one of the loneliest days of the year for them. One year my friend, a hair stylist, gave free haircuts at the same time.

One year it meant helping a couple who were living in their car with a baby due any day to get enough money to stay in a motel for a few months after the baby was born, and the gift of diapers and clothes and other items they needed. My MIL went into the hospital with them when the mother was in labor and stayed with them and made sure they got the care they needed.

On years when we lived far away my MIL would send each of my kids a little bit of money, $10 or so, and tell them that it was their job to decide what to do with it to give Jesus a present and then write to her and tell her what they chose. She is keeping the letters for them to read when they are older, a history of giving.

This year, we are all going to an orphanage in Mexico for a few days, (if the Boy and Girl get their passports back in time) and we will wrap hundreds of presents and throw a big party with decorations and food etc. for all of those kids who have nothing and no one but the people who run the orphanage. We'll be there three days.

We still get all the great parts about Christmas. We get food, time together, fun, music, laughter, and joy.

Best of all is what we don't get. We don't start to feel greed or dissatisfaction, things that seem so hard to avoid this time of year. At least, they were for me. Just the act of thinking about what I want, rather than what I have is enough to create dissatisfaction. I can't tell you how obviously manipulative the commercial aspect of the season becomes when you've chosen to opt out of it.

December can be a peaceful month. The first time I didn't do Christmas the way I grew up doing it I remember feeling so relieved, so much peace. And I remember laughing at all of the television commercials portraying all of the stressed out shoppers and expensive solutions and realizing that it was all an artificial construct to make people spend money.

All is really just a preamble to explain why I like this video so much and wanted to share it with you.

I'm probably preaching to the choir here, because I know how generous you guys have shown yourselves to be in the past few months. And some of you have shared some incredibly fun sounding family traditions of giving and togetherness and serving the world around you during this season.

I was thinking it would be fun to share some of those ideas here.

If you have a family tradition of giving that you would like to share please do. I'm excited to hear about them.

Please leave a comment, or email me if it's long, or post about it on your own blog and tell me about it. Once a week until Christmas I'll devote a post to sharing your ideas and traditions here and links so we can all read about what other families are doing to serve their communities and love the world around them. I think we'll all be inspired. If it gets really huge, I'll use Mr. Linky and make it a carnival.

So go, tell me your favorite tradition of giving, and spread the word if you know another blogger that has something to share.




Other posts:
Non Commercial Christmas-A few more thoughts

Ideas for a Non-Commercial Christmas #2-What about the family?

Ideas for a Non Commercial Christmas

Why We Don't Do Conventional Christmas

28.11.08

1000 Gifts Friday-Week 6


It would be a little bit lame if I missed posting on 1000 Gifts Friday because Thanksgiving has thrown me off schedule wouldn't it? Sorry, I've been too busy stuffing my face with turkey and then laying around moaning in the name of giving thanks to actually give thanks.

Well, it may be late in the day, but here are the things I wanted to share from this week.

1. I'm thankful that I have the type of marriage, the type of husband, where a potential disaster has no power to cause strife. Wednesday evening the alternator broke in our vehicle. In the home of my childhood a car that was dead and needed repair the day before Thanksgiving would have been anything but cause for thanksgiving. There would have at least been bickering, maybe even full on fighting about it between my parents. There would have been stress and fear and impatience among us kids as we alternately hoped that dad could fix the car so we could go and hid behind things to try and escape the emotional fallout of their anger spilling over onto everything around us.

Here's what happened instead. The GH called a friend he was supposed to meet with that night, and the friend came to meet him and drove him to get a new alternator as the tow truck dropped off our vehicle. Then he spent the evening in pleasant conversation with that friend and then with me. Early the next morning,(Thanksgiving Day) before I even woke up, he was helping the kids find "work clothes" so that they could go and help him fix his car. They all cheerfully trooped out together and thought it was the funnest thing ever to get to help daddy. I made breakfast for them all when they got back inside, alternator replaced.

That would never have happened in the family I grew up in. And the story is only improved by my relating to you that the car still wouldn't start because of something about the distributor cap needing to be readjusted or some such, and the ride we tagged to Beema's house in her car, and the night we spent there, and the fact that the GH finally got the car to start this evening after several more hours. ALL without fighting, or unpleasantness, or anyone sulking about the inconvenience. Including me. Which means I've started to out grow the habits of relating from my childhood. This gives me great joy.

2. The unexpected gift of a walk to the store after a rain shower. I was very prepared to be upset about the whole thing. I opened the cupboard under the bathroom sink to get laundry detergent and discovered a leak, just small enough to soak all of the clean towels. Now I had two more loads of laundry and not enough quarters. It was a grey, rainy, dismal day and I needed to pack everyone up and walk to the store to get enough quarters to finish the laundry.

Only, when I got outside it was sunny, and the air smelled fresh and the breeze was scouring everything and sending puffy clouds scudding across a blue sky. We had a lovely invigorating walk and I reflected that I wouldn't have even gone outside at all if it wasn't for the towels. I would have missed it.

3. I would also have missed the sight of the Boy proudly walking down the street with Little cradled in his arms, her head on his shoulder and her arms wrapped around his neck.

4. I started to teach the Girl to knit this week. It's our special project. She's learned one stitch, though it's excruciatingly slow. But I don't mind. I get to sit with my arms around her and help her learn and I love every second. I keep hoping that this is one of those things that will go deep into her memory too and she'll be able to go back to at least one thing where her mommy got it right, and was content to just spend time with her.

5. I almost forgot to include this one because unlike the others it's the absence of something, rather than the thing itself. I am thankful that there is not one thing I can think of going out and spending money on today. I have no desire for anything that I don't already have, and no need to go an purchase anything. I even have a hard time thinking of gifts for the girls for their birthday this month, because they have so much already, it's hard for me to think of anything else that they might need or want. And I'm glad that I have that kind of peace growing in me this year toward stuff. It's felt really great to see the empty spaces as I start to pack and get rid of things that aren't coming with us.

The gratitude community is here.

I hope you all had a wonderful and joyous time with your loved ones, And I Hope you have much in you life to give thanks for. I continue to be glad fro each and every person who leaves a comments or drops me a note here on this corner of the internet, and who give generously, even sacrificially I suspect for some of you, to help take care of kids you have never met in a country you may have never been to. I feel privileged to be allowed to share parts of this journey with with you all.

25.11.08

Haircut picture

Well, the best way to end an emotional/hormonal roller coaster of a week of course is to look in the mirror and declare, "Self, you need a haircut. You can't do much about the tired eyes and the skin that wishes the weather would make up it's mind, but you can hack off your hair. Won't that feel better?" And then you respond thusly, "That's a great idea self. Why, here are the hair scissors right here, how about we do this before we take a shower?"

What? That's not what you do? Oh...

Well...

I have almost cut my own hair before. I gave myself a pretty cute bob by tying all of my hair at the nape of my neck with and elastic and then cutting off the pony tail. Of course, the first time it was because I was planning to cut all of my hair off, that was just the first step. But it looked quite cute.

A few months back I tried it again, only with my beloved SIL standing by to fix and even things out, which she did, and it was again pretty cute I thought.

So on Friday I decided to try and do it all myself, because I figured it would be nice to know if I could if I ever needed to.

This is how I ended up mostly naked while balancing on a bathroom counter contorting my body in order to see the back of my head in the mirror while trying not to fall. And then I kept going back to the scissors for a few days to get at spots I missed, and to keep going shorter, because it wasn't short enough.

On Sunday I snapped this picture for all those people, okay one, who wanted to see how it turned out. It's not the best shot of the hair cut, but you get the general idea. I think I'll keep it.

24.11.08

Go vote for my Manly Man-Pretty please?

Well, I was going to post something about the haircut I gave myself this weekend today. I twittered it, but people wanted to see pictures.

I'll get to it. But first I had to tell you some good news.

See, I write over here too, for this other site called Blissfully Domestic, about marriage. And through that I found out about, don't ask how, the Art of Manliness-Man of the year Award Contest sponsored by Old Spice. (Of course.)

So when I found out that there was a $2000 cash prize involved... well I just had to write up an entry and send in a picture of the Genius Husband, because I think he's pretty great myself. Why shouldn't he win a basket of Old Spice products [snicker] for being his awesome self. Oh yeah, and $2000. And a great title to put on his resume, or his ...well, I'm sure the title would come in handy some how.

And I just found out that he is a finalist. Which is really amazing because I read all of the other finalists stories just now, sizing up the competition, and wow, there are some pretty amazing guys in the top 10. Of course, I still think mine is the best. Reading the other stories though I see that it's quite an honor that they chose him to be among such distinguished company.

And since there are some great men in that crowd we need your help. The winner will be the man who gets the most votes in the next week or so. I'm not sure how long it runs. And the winner gets $2000. You know why I'm so excited about that right?

Because that money will help us establish the charis project, and help to take care of the kids from Burma.

So what are you waiting for. Go read about why I think my guy is a good man, and VOTE. Pretty, pretty please?

21.11.08

1000 Gifts Friday-Week 5


I always have trouble going to bed at night. There's always on more thing to do, one more things I forgot to do earlier in the day that I need to do. There's always a vaguely unfinished feeling that keeps me puttering around when I should be sleeping.

That has lessened now that I spend the last few minutes writing in my gratitude journal each night. I end up putting it down with a smile on my face and go peacefully to bed. It gives me something to look forward to at the end of the day. It's the night cap I'm looking for. It restores peace to my weary heart that can only think of the things I didn't do today that I should have done. It silences the voice of discouragement in my head.

This week:

Friends who share the exact right words of comfort when I'm worrying needlessly.

The Boy and I had several rough patches yesterday. He wasn't listening, I would yell frustratedly at his , "But I didn't hear you" excuse because that of course was the problem. We got through the day. I managed to hold my tongue for most of the evening, he managed to remember to listen and obey. I even managed to notice when he was doing the right thing and praise him for it after that, but in my memory it was a rough day. Then as we were praying together before bed I he said, "Thank-you God for mommy." It's not something he normally prays.

As I was praying for my turn I was saying thank-you that we got to spend the day together, because even a hard day together is way better than not having each other to spend it with. He snuck over next to me and gave me a long, sweet hug while I was saying this and then snuggled next to me like he used to until we were done. I am so grateful that we can heal our strained relationships. One misstep doesn't shatter them forever if we take the time to repair them. I know he felt it too, this need to spend a moment loving each other again, to heal the hurts of the day.

Sweet, peaceful, uninterrupted slumber. I only got one night this week but it made such a difference just when I really needed some rest.

The kids all playing follow the leader, with Little leading.

Baking weather.

That there is much to give thanks for.
The gratitude community is here.

20.11.08

Forgot

I have a post up over at Blissfully Wed again.

Yes, I'm still talking about things husbands wish their wives wouldn't do. Apparently, there are an awful lot of things that husbands wish their wives wouldn't do since I'm still going on about it.

Yes, I know wives have a list, but that's not for me to write since men aren't reading these. Well, not many anyway, but they usually leave the funniest comments.

19.11.08

Creating a World Without Poverty-A Book Review



This is probably one of the most important books I've ever read. How's that for a catchy opening sentence. But it's true.

If you don't know who Muhammad Yunus is here is the quick version. He's from Bangladesh, he invented micro credit, or at least figured out how to make it work in this century, he and Grameen Bank won a Nobel Peace Prize because of it.

He tells one story about how he became a banker to the poor. He met a woman named Sufiya. All day she would work to make bamboo stools to provide food for her family, but no matter how hard she worked she was never able to get out of poverty. He could not understand it, but as they spoke he learned that it was because of corrupt money lenders. In order to get the bamboo to make the stools she had to borrow money from a money lender. He would only lend her money on the condition that she only sell her wares to him, at the price he set. It was essentially slave labor, a cycle of servitude she would never escape on her own because there was no other form of credit available to her.

Yunus approached banks, but no bank was interested in making $30 loans or less to the poor, even after he proved that they would repay their loans. There was no profit in it. So he ended up starting Grameen Bank, a bank whose entire clientelle is made of the extremely poor. You can read the rest of the story for yourself.

In this book Yunus goes beyond the idea of micro credit and tackles capitalism and the idea of social business. In a nutshell, he believes there is potential for business that are run, not with maximizing profit as their bottom line directive, but a bottom line of achieving a positive social outcome. It is a business not a charity. It keeps good records, it may make a profit, but it is not profit driven. Investors would receive their initial investment back after a certain period of time, but not profits. They would continue to own the company and have a say in it, but it would not exist put to money in the owner's pockets, but to achieve a goal that is agreed upon in the beginning, such as providing affordable food in rural villages.

It's worth reading just for his analysis of money lending in the US and the health care system, even if you never intend to do something in the third world. Imagine an insurance provider whose bottom line was affordable health care for all rather than make the shareholders more money. Imagine a company run as efficiently as a profit maximizing corporation but with the intent to make things affordable for people instead of finding reasons why they shouldn't have to pay out on insurance claims. Wouldn't that be something?

If you are at all interested in issues of social justice, poverty, economic disparity, or just helping people in need, I highly recommend this book. It may change the way you think about such things for the better.

The rice milling business we are looking to start in the village is based on a this model.

I'll leave you with what is perhaps my favorite sentence from the book. Right in the last chapter, see I read the whole thing, talking about poverty he says,
Poverty exists because of these intellectual failures[concepts that are too narrow and accept the idea of poverty]rather than because of any lack of capability on the part of people.

18.11.08

My Heart is Raw Today

I don't know what triggered it exactly.

Was it thinking about whether or not to take the kids to the orphanage in Mexico for a weekend in December?

Was it thinking about what the Boy will do if he wakes up wet? Do they have a shower nearby?

Was it wondering about the Baby, and how she loves routine, loves her bed, loves knowing where everything is and how things work in our house? Would she nap at all in a strange new place?

Would she cling to me?

Is there any point in going if all I'm going to do is hold a clingy baby?

Or was it when I realized that these kinds of things are going to be their life for the next several months? Big transitions, the interruption of routine. Strange face and languages. Strange beds strange food.

How will they do?

How will I do?

I worry about them.

Tears press at the back of my eyes today and I fight to hold them back.

It is raw.

I know it will be alright in the end, that kids are adaptable. I believe it will all be worth it. I believe they will adjust and be stronger for it.

But today it is raw nonetheless.

14.11.08

1000 Gifts Friday-Week 4

Every night the kids and I take a minute before bed to thank God for the day and talk about the best parts of it. Just as I need the discipline of counting my blessings, so do they.

Their choices are predictable. They remember treats, playing with friends, whatever was good and exciting. They have yet to give thanks for a mother who tries to be a consistent disciplinarian, for the moments in the day when they didn't get to do what they wanted but rather had to do what was needful. They haven't expressed thanks yet for the times of correction and tears.

And yet, I find myself mentioning these things when it's my turn. I am growing a genuine gratitude for the more unpleasant parts of the day. I'm glad for these moments because they are learning hard lessons in a safe place. They are learning that not doing something right away when it needs to be done leads to unpleasant results later. They are learning self control. they are learning discipline. They can't see it, but I can. Which leads me to wonder how many opportunities for gratitude that I am missing in my own hardships. How many precious gifts am I given in those times that I fail to recognize because they come in the packaged in suffering or difficulty?

I'll see what I find in the weeks to come.

This weeks gifts.

The first is you, all of you who have been so kind, and given what you can to help take care of these kids. And then there have been the emails from those of you with great ideas to help, and plans for helping in the future. Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you. I have to admit I have gotten a bit teary this week when I checked my email. You are all such a blessing. I don't have thousands and thousands of readers like some blogs do, which makes it even more amazing what can happen when this smaller core of people who care can contribute so much.

(The total right now is more than $400, which is one months groceries, or 4 months rent, or a lot of mosquito nets. And there are more things in the works for the future.)

The others a bit more mundane, but nonetheless worth stopping to give thanks for.

Flowers in November.

The crazy awkward silhouette of palm trees. They look like so goofy sticking up straight to the sky on their own, but put enough of them together and they are quite beautiful.

The absurd face of a pelican.














The shirtless torso of a certain man I love. (No you don't get to see a picture, what kind of blog do you think this is? )

This smile.

These eyes.

This gap toothed grin.

Gentle waves lapping at the beach.

The love of family.

That my children are friends.

The many friends who help me figure out to to do computer stuff so that I can make our website work properly. It's getting better thanks to their input.

The gratitude community is here.

13.11.08

What we saw.

We played hooky yesterday.

It seems like we ought to take advantage of the things we have here, and enjoy it while we can.

So we got on the train and went to the ocean.

It was a good day.

























12.11.08

WFMW-Helping kids get rid of toys.


Well, one of the things about moving to Thailand is that there isn't much room in our luggage to bring the entire room full of toys and clothes belonging to my children. Over the years I've tried many things to help them cut down on the number of toy they have. We've had them go through their toys and choose 10 things to give away once a week. And that sort of works, but it doesn't get the number low enough for our purposes. I've tried disappearing things after they are in bed, but they are able to remember toys now and will inevitably ask me where the bunny with the flower on it that the Girl gave to the Boy for his birthday went.

I thought I'd share what I've done since the too many presents season is soon upon us all.

So here is what I've been doing the past two weeks, and already the toy basket is almost empty.

After the kids go to bed, I put anything still lying around into a big plastic garbage bag, toys, clothes, shoes, jackets, etc.

I told them I would do this before I did it the first night and we had a practice day. I put everything I could find in the bag, from under the bed, from in the corners of the room, from the closet floor. I had a pretty full bag by the time I was done. The next day I waited until the middle of the afternoon and asked them if they noticed anything missing. They hadn't.

So I dumped out the contents of the bag on the bedroom floor and told them that they needed to put things away or the next night they would be gone for good. (With one caveat. Every night that I don't find anything of theirs on the floor, they can choose one item from the bag that they can get back.) To my surprise, they sifted through the stuff a little bit and then put at least half of it back in the back.

It's helping them to learn to prioritize and choose the things they really care about, and they get to be part of the decision making process of what goes and what they keep.

The Girl has been just putting the things she really loves away and leaving the rest out for me to pick up, which is fine, because we have cut down drastically on the number of stuffed animals underfoot that way. She's pretty diligent to clean up the next day if something she wants makes its way into the bag the night before.

The hardest part is not rescuing toys that I care about when they don't. We'll be finding a worthy charity to take it all to in December. Probably the orphanage in Mexico the family is going to help out at.

Want more great tips? Go to Rocks in My Dryer.

11.11.08

Well, the results are in.

68.6% of you don't want things to change around here. At least, not the the names.

So I will bow to the democratic process this once and keep things almost the same. Except for the part where I take the advice of one lone commenter and do that.

Embejo suggested I go with Boy, Girl and Little, an idea I loved and so that's what I'm going to do. Besides, the Baby isn't such a baby any more, she's almost two, but the tiniest two year old you ever saw, who is healthy. (Seriously, she's 20 pounds and still wearing 6 month pants because anything bigger falls down on her, and she won't stop eating..)

So from now on the child formerly known as Baby will be referred to as Little.

*************
ps. Thanks to those of you who made a donation yesterday. We'll be sending everything to help the kids get food by the end of the week. You are the best readers ever.

10.11.08

Children in Crisis-Update

I decided to make it easier for every one. There is now a donate button right in the post. Sorry about the mix up with it not working.

You wake up in the morning to the whine of a mosquito hungrily seeking breakfast. Your body aches where it pressed against hard floor during the night. You fling a hand out to the side and encounter nothing but air. You are alone. You remember her leaving. She walked away from you, from this poverty, from the hungry faces of the children.

The children.

You get up and go into the girls room. 15 small bodies are strewn across the floor on a wall to wall carpet of sleeping mats. "Get up," you call, "You must go to school."

One of the smaller girls curls up tighter holding her stomach. "Is there any food today," she asks?

The question twists at a constant pain inside of you. For days it has followed you as you look into pinched faces of lethargic children. Always hungry, always needing more. You are hungry too. But you are used to being hungry, you can deal with it. It's harder for a 10 year old.

You don't answer. Instead you go to the boys room. Some of them are already up. They are pulling on the borrowed uniforms you had to go into debt to rent for a month. They can't go to school without them.

But how will they learn when they have nothing to eat?

Education is their future, their way out, but soon there will be nothing left. Nothing for food, no uniforms, only hungry faces, and debts you cannot repay.

Your credit has run out with the grocer. There is no one left to borrow money from.

Soon someone from the government will come and take the kids away and charge you with neglect. For a few years now you have been their home, their sanctuary. You have kept them from harm. If the government takes them they will be deported, sent back to the violence they once escaped. Or they might be captured by slave traders and forced to work as sex slaves in brothels in Bankok. All alone in a hostile world.

You can't let that happen. You need to find a way to hold on.

There are whispered promises. You cling to them. Money coming from people who want to help. Your friend has a plan. In a few months these children will be citizens of the country they now live in. Can you hold on until then?

You pray it is not too late.

You send them off to school, promising the skeptical driver that you will pay him this month. You know he doesn't believe you, but miraculously, he still takes the children to school and back. 40 kids can't be driven on the back of a motorcy. And it is too far and too dangerous to walk.

You go over everything again, the cost of rice, toothbrushes, mosquito nets, uniforms, food, cooking fuel. You wonder if you can find work during school hours to pay for some of the expenses. It is so much harder now that you are alone and have to be home to care for them all the time.

You start walking to an internet cafe you know of. You have been making friends with the owner. Maybe today he won't charge you to send an email.

You use what English you know and write a note to your friend who is far away.

Currently the kids do not have enough food, each day they are facing crisis of food.

Maybe help will come in time.

*************
The Back Story

Chala's wife left him this month. Her parents decided that he wasn't taking care of them well enough and so they left. According to their culture they can make her to go too since her husband isn't keeping up his end of the bargain. They were helping him care for the children but now he has no help at all.

They moved to a new district because Chala has a friend in the government who will give the kids citizenship papers. This is really important for them to have. It makes their futures much more secure. But the move brought unexpected expenses. The new school demands that they have new uniforms to attend. They are now in an area where malaria is a problem and they need mosquito nets. Their rice cooker broke and they can't afford a new one. It costs more in fuel to cook rice in a pot.


We have a plan that may be able to make this orphanage self sufficient, or at least less dependent on donations, but that will take time too.

Thailand isn't cheap. It's not expensive compared to here, but it's not as cheap as say, many parts of Africa or India. The price of food has more than doubled in the past year and the value of the Baht compared to the US dollar is higher than it used to be. It's 30 baht /$1 right now. That means that Chala's ideal operating costs, where he even has enough money to pay some staff to help him, comes to about the same as what it costs us in one month to take care of a family of 5 in San Diego, California.

He can feed 40 kids on a little more than my monthly grocery bill for 5. About $300-$500. The more money the more protein and vegetables they get in addition to rice three times a day.

We've been able to send him enough to at least buy rice until the end of the month out of our personal finances. We are holding some fund raisers in December that we hope will be successful.

If you would like to help you can make a donation






All of it will go to help the kids. And you can tell others about it too.

If they were your kids you would hope someone would take care of them when you couldn't. I'm sure their parents hoped the same thing once, before they died.

7.11.08

1000 Gifts Friday-Week 3

I've started wondering, as I keep this gratitude journal, what would have been different about my life if all my other journals had been designated gratitude journals as well. I imagine myself in a moment of ennui turning to my journal for solace and pausing for a moment over a blank page. I would want to pour out all the pain and anger onto the page, but this was a record of gratitude. My pen would hover. "What was there to give thanks for in this?"

And that question could have changed so much. Because there is always something. Searching for the blessings instead of dwelling on the sorrow could have changed me for the better, altered my perspective, taught me reactions other than self pity so much sooner.

Well, better late than never.

Here are a few things this week that made it into my journal.

One evening at dinner the Genius Husband and the baby were playing a game, he would lean up close to her face and say "boo". And she would laugh and laugh and laugh. And then every one else started laughing too. For 5 or 10 minutes the only sound around our table, in our home, was the sound of children laughing merrily.

Walks at sunset at the end of a sunny crisp autumn day.

The Baby dragging me from my chair to stand with them and play with balloons. We spent several minute just hitting the leftover balloons from the Boy's party back and forth at each other. And laughing, again with the laughter.

Mid-morning dance parties.

A husband who makes breakfast on his day off.

An organization in Australia wants to partner with us in building an orphanage that will be a safe place for kids who make it across the border into Thailand from Burma. Right now the only place they know to go is to a monastery, but the police know to find them there and deport them, and the slave traders know to find them there too, and they end up in brothels in Bangkok. It looks like we will be able to make a safe place for them much sooner than we anticipated.

After the big kids are in bed it usually takes the baby a while longer to wind down and fall asleep. She usually plays by herself while I get things done. Last night she was following me around so I gave her a job. I gave her a kiss and whispered in her ear, "Go and give this kiss to Daddy." She obediently ran and gave him my kiss, and then he gave her one to bring back for me. For several minutes she was kept busy passing kisses for mommy and daddy. It was almost as much fun as kissing him myself.

The discipline of gratitude

The smell of sun warmed eucalyptus trees as they start to cool at sun down.

A cool breeze and warm sunshine on my face together.

Fresh smelling cold night air creeping in the window.

A strong shoulder to fall asleep on.

Granny smith apples.

Would you like to join the Gratitude Community?

5.11.08

Random

I have so much on my mind today, and I can't write about some of it. Things are changing for people I love, but I promised not to tell. And I'm ambivalent about the changes. Hoping praying that they will bring lasting happiness to the ones I love and knowing that the path ahead may prove hard, maybe too hard. And trying to let go of the desire to protect in exchange for the much healthier interaction of just loving and supporting, come what may.

************

I need to find a place to stay for January and February. We can't stay here without renewing our lease or paying some exorbitant month to month rate. But we're not going to be ready to go until March probably. It would help to cut way down on our monthly expenses. Free would be good. Anyone need a house sitter?

*******

I'M MOVING TO THAILAND PEOPLE! The reality is finally starting to sink in. It's the sorting and not packing that's done it. (What? Don't you not pack too? You know, where you look at things and think to yourself that you ought to start packing them, or getting rid of them, and then, you look at some more things and do the same.)

*******

My MIL wants us all to go to Mexico together for a weekend in December to help out at an orphanage. It's the three days right in between the girls birthday and less than 10 day before we have to move out of here. I think she's disappointed that I'm less than enthusiastic about the whole idea, but just thinking about it and I'm exhausted.

And yet... what a cool memory that would be... Why does the timing have to suck so much?

*******
I must say that I hope the people who were the most ardent Obama supporters aren't too disappointed once they realize that they will still have to pay their mortgage, and gas prices haven't magically gone down now that he is the president elect.

It's not like when he promised the figurative chicken in every pot he really meant he would be giving every one in the US a literal chicken. But American voters are more sophisticated than that right? They knew he wouldn't be able to deliver on even half of his campaign promises, no one can, so they won't be all that heart broken when things don't change all that much. The tears were just...because he's so shiny, yeah that's it.

I wish him well though. I really do. I wouldn't want to have to deal with the mess he's been handed.

*******

I realized just the other day that the profile picture I have up is more than a decade old now. My dad took it when my sister and I were trying to start a band together and needed publicity pics. When I started blogging it was the only picture of myself that I had on my computer back then, before digital cameras entered my life. I feel I ought to replace it with something more current, but I fear the sudden sight of my currently haggard face will cause you all too much shock. I need to ease you into it with a montage that shows me aging or something.

*******

As a sign that we all eat our vegetables around here I cleaned up a puddle of pink pee this morning. I finally realized that it's probably because we're having a lot of purple cabbage these days. And the Baby's diaper was a charming shade of orange from eating so many carrots.

******

I have a couple of loads of laundry to do but I don't want to walk them over to do it. I'm too afraid they'll be stolen, again. I don't have the luxury of spending an hour and a half guarding my stuff every single day against a person with apparently no sense of decency whatsoever. I have about 2 hours left to get over this because it needs to be done today.

******

Hot little baby heads snuggled near your face when the air is crisp feel just about perfect. Head butts, not so much.

4.11.08

Training?

It's one of those mornings.

This morning I ran over with the kids to pick up the laundry that I forgot about last night. By the time I remembered the doors to the laundry room were locked. This has happened hundreds of times in the 3 years we have lived here and nothing has come of it. I guess we've just been lucky.

This morning a load and a half of laundry was gone, and my laundry cart. Random stuff was stolen, bed liners, baby clothes, the GH's dress pants. It makes no sense to me.

The greatest tragedies are the baby blanket my great grandmother crocheted for me 32 years ago and I've had ever since. She passed away 4 years ago. It was a comfort to have that around, to cover my children with it, to imagine her with hers. It's gone now.

And the Boy's new pants that we got for his birthday. Those can be replaced, but he is upset.

It's a small thing really. We are needing to get rid of the stuff we have accumulated over several years. We aren't taking it with us when we go to Thailand.

They are only things. And yet I am sad.

And I feel a little bit childish because of it.

Remember Chala? He's still taking care of orphaned refugee kids. He moved them to the new district where they can get papers. He's got bigger problems than I. His wife left him. His in-laws decided he wasn't taking care of them well enough, which is his cultural obligation when he married her, and so they left, and she went with them as is custom. And still he struggles to keep these kids fed and clothed and healthy.

What is a bit of missing laundry compared with that?

I must get stronger, hold to things more lightly, remember what is really important.

There were bugs in the oatmeal when I went to make breakfast after the laundry. And as I washed them out, (Yeah, we ate it anyway) changing the water over and over again I wondered how often I'll find myself doing this in 6 months or so. Washing bugs out of grain is almost normal for me now, I've done it enough. What else am I going to have to get used to?

I feel the stretching, the pulling of these inconveniences as I try to keep them in perspective, try to remember that they aren't that big of a deal. I fight with myself, the desire to just stay and be comfortable warring with the knowledge that it isn't about me. There are bigger more important things at stake, a story to be told and written into the lives of the least of these, children that the world has forgotten. There is a chance here to be a player in an on going epic, the story of kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven. If I can just stop thinking about myself and my own comfort. If I can just raise my eyes to the bigger picture.

Today it feels like a thousand tiny griefs stabbing at me as I sort and sift through things, stuff, and know I can't take them with me. And yet, I know that once they are gone I will be more free.

I need to learn to travel light.

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Donations can still be made to help Chala, and the others like him. The kids need mosquito nets. There is malaria in their new district. And uniforms so they can go to school.

Go here to learn how.

Also, the store is up. Sort of. There is more stock to list and I'll be doing that this week. I had to figure out how to use an FTP client because I was having trouble publishing everything. I'm trying to figure out a more efficient way to do it. Go ahead and share if you have ideas.

3.11.08

Nick Names

I have considered it one of my chief failings as a "mommy blogger" that I don't have cool made up names for my kids on this blog. I know, I should get a life.

The problem is, I am terrible with nick names. I don't nickname, ever. I named my kids so their names would be hard to shorten into nicknames, and here I am wanting to do it now.

But the Baby, she seems to have solved this problem for me by giving her siblings nicknames of her own. And they love them so much that they tell each other about them.

The Boy has become Yiyah, which sounds sort of like his real name. The Girl is Baba, which is nothing like her name, and I find myself frequently calling the Baby what her dad calls her, Little.

So the question is, are these nicknames good blog names too?

I'm not sure so you tell me.

I even made a poll, fun huh? So what do you think?

Perfect Post Awards

The Original Perfect Post Awards 10.08
For a many months now I have been reading Jennifer F. of Conversion Diary. I'm fascinated by her story of her journey to faith, the way she articulates the things that guided her there, and the way she expresses the things she has discovered as she tries to live out a life of faith now.

I've been inspired by her segment on finding peace in daily life. It's led me in many directions that I may not have found myself going without her. And they have been fruitful.

I continue to be drawn to her understanding of vocation, as a choice of whom you will serve. This month she posted some reflections on being tired. And I thought them so wise and thoughtful and encouraging that I decided to give her my nomination for a perfect post this month for this post.
Conversion Diary: On being tired - The diary of a former atheist

For more perfect posts check out the hosts petroville suburbanturmoil

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