Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Shower The People You Love With Love

     I'm curious.  How many of you regularly receive a message, say from an old friend, that in just a few words affirms your beliefs, complements your abilities, and finds your life's work worthwhile and meaningful?


     Yeah, thought so.  Me neither.  I have loads of people in my life who do the most incredible things, and yet I never think to sit down and take a moment to just let them know how immense their influence is in my world. 


     A few weeks ago, a dear friend of mine decided to let me in on what he thought about my life, and I have to admit, it was quite a gift.  From the moment I was first reading it, I wanted to post it here. Not wanting to appear the ever self-congratulating narcissist, I kept it to myself. 


     So here is my idea.  I am a newbie blogger and I don't have a blogroll or memes or even a decent method of leaving comments, but lets just bear with that and give this a try.


     Write someone a letter.  Write it to a person in your world who just might not know how influential, inspirational, or just downright awesome they are to you.  It doesn't have to be lengthy or well written- just get to the point.  Tell me about it in a comment.  If you like, post it on your blog and you can leave a link to it in your comment.  Tweet it, facebook it, stumbleupon it, whatever you like.  Just let someone know today that you think their life matters, and tell them why.


     And as an example, I'll post an excerpt from the letter I got.  At his request, I am referring to the author as Humpty Dumpty.


  Jemima, “people” don’t do what you have done. “People” don’t listen. “People” don’t hear that voice that tells them what they should be doing with their lives. You, on the other hand, did just that. In organized religion, they have a word for that – vocation, from the Latin “vocatio”, or calling. But you already know all this, don’t you? You got your calling, and didn’t shy away from it. That is what makes you Jemima.
     I am sure you would agree with me that you and I probably share very few “religious” beliefs. I have a feeling, though, that we would find that we have many socio-cultural values in common. I chose to help you guys out because I love the fact that your mission has such a strong social base. I respect that immensely. I also know that if more folks who preach religion were to put their preaching into practice like you, Rooster and Cricket do, the world would be an immensely better place. . .
      . . . I have a feeling that you and I share this one, very simple thing. As I have grown to know you a little through our exchanges, and through your blog, I have realized that like me, you don’t struggle with the whys, hows and wherefores. You simply love.
      The contexts in which you and I apply this most simple of messages could not be more different. But the outcome is the same. We sow the seeds that blossom into expressions of love. People will believe the message that you bring them, Jemima. They won't believe it because you express it well, or because you "sell” it to them. They will believe your message because it will not be made up of empty words, rhetoric, smoke and mirrors. They will see that you live it day by day, and fully. That, my friend is the ultimate sales strategy.
 -Humpty Dumpty



     There are no words for how this little message impacts me.  So often, I assume people see me as I see myself- the ill-equipped, bumbling, stumbling gypsy on a quest that I haven't fully defined.  He hit the proverbial nail on the head about what I actually want people to see in me.  I'm grateful.


     So go spread a little love today by letting someone know that they matter, and then come back here and tell me about it.



Letter photo courtesy of Dave Di Biase.
Hands photo courtesy of Stephen Eastop.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Day The World Met Cricket (This Is NOT A Birth Story)

     Ten years ago on this very day, my darling Cricket was born.  Hooray!  Ten years.  Where does the time go?  Today will quite possibly be the busiest day, what with
taking cupcakes to his class and making a birthday cake (ice cream sandwich cake with caramels, just like he asked for, 'cause that's how I roll)
and prepping for his first football scrimmage of the season tonight,
and the dinner for nine I'm doing tomorrow...

I need a nap already.
 
     Just think, in 14 days, I'll do it all over again for Rooster's birthday...
and then there'll be the Great In-Between Birthday Party Bash (a name Rooster gave it because we always have a party for both of them somewhere in between the 14 days, and it stuck).

      Somewhere amidst all this ruckus of frosting and cheesy poofs and pointy hats and streamers is my birthday, nestled neatly in the middle of the Fourteen Days of Birthday Madness. HINT HINT

     I'm telling you all of this to say that I am NOT giving  you a blow-by-blow account of my three day labor and delivery of Cricket, fascinating though it may be.  Time is short.  However, I will tell you one teensy story from that day.

     Did I mention that I was in labor for three days?  THREE DAYS?  I got to know a few labor and delivery nurses during those 72 hours.  I really respect the work that they do.  It isn't easy dealing with a woman like me in one of the most uncomfortable (and that is the understatement of the year) situations of my life.  One of them could only aptly be described as a crabapple.  Crumudgeon doesn't do her justice.  She was an old, crabby, ate an under-ripe persimmon for breakfast piece of work.  In hindsight, I should have prayed for her.  But did I mention that I was in labor for THREE DAYS?  I was in a highly narcissistic mood.

     So out pops Cricket at the speed of light (dismiss the irony, I know), into the arms of a nurse to scrub him down, and as I lay back I realize who the nurse that got to touch the skin of my child for the very first time happened to be... It's none other than Nurse Ratchet.  I'm too tired to register my disappointment until she's swiping away, and what does Cricket do during his first moments on earth? 

     He pees in her face.

     And he's had his momma's back ever since.

     I love that boy.  Happy birthday Cricket.







Photo Courtesy of Juliet Belasyse-Smith.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Then and Now

writers' week


     The difference between then, when I said yes, and now, when I say nothing is 16 years, eight months, and 21 days.

     When I said yes, I said yes to whispered good-mornings and late night kisses.  When I said yes, I said yes to summer vacations at the beach and Christmases by firesides. 

     I said yes to cooking dinner, washing laundry, scrubbing floors, making beds.  I said yes to washing bottles, changing diapers, wiping noses, kissing boo-boos. I said yes to growing waistlines, sagging skin, graying hair, aching knees.

     When I said yes, I said yes to a life lived safely within the walls of only one person's heart.  When I said yes, I said yes to him.

     I knew these things.  What I didn't know (and how can anyone know?) is to what else I'd said yes.

     Yes, he'll notice my weight, and yes, I'll notice him noticing.

     Yes, he'll stay late at work and yes, I'll wonder.

     Yes, he'll flirt with the neighbor, and yes, I'll doubt.

     I'll doubt when he tells me that he doesn't regret getting married.

     I'll doubt when he tells me that he still finds me attractive.

     I'll doubt when he tells me he's just going out with the guys.

     And I'll doubt she exists up until the moment that I see her face and realize with a clarifying horror that all of my doubts were real.

     But I said yes, right?

     So then I also said yes to mortification, to fear, to public humiliation, to starting over without the confidence of a young love.

     But I said yes, and I meant it.

     So now when he's knocking on the door, sitting down in the kitchen, and telling me that someone else said yes,
     I say nothing.

     I can't say it again.

     Eight million, seven hundred eighty five thousand four hundred fourty minutes ago, I said yes.  And the difference between then and now is now while I'm watching him walk away, I'm silently breathing another word.

     No.                                                                                                                         

Turn And Face The Strange Changes

     I'm breaking another one of my unwritten rules of blogging.  When I started this thing, I said I'd never ever under any circumstances write about my ex husband, Rooster and Cricket's father.  Our lives together and our divorce were private, and frankly, it was painful enough the first time around, so why on earth did I want to go and rehash it for everyone else? This week has changed my mind.

     I've known that my capacity for spoken thought is quite underwhelmed by my ability to express myself in writing.  I just can't get it out when I talk.  There isn't enough time to think when you're talking.  And this is something I need to talk about, even if it is with my virtual friends on a computer screen (see how important you are?).  I can't get this out, period.  

     I need to talk about my ex husband asking someone else to marry him.

     I asked my followers on twitter the other night what I should have said in reply when he told me his big news.  They made me laugh at a time when I thought I might just die.  I am grateful for what they said:
     "Can I come to the wedding?  And throw rocks?"

     "Well isn't that special?"

      "and why the fart are you telling me this? I don't give a flying fart whose life you ruin!"  (Ok, I edited that last one, just a teensy bit.)

     I needed a laugh in a really bad way, but here's the point- the one rule I'm not going to break is talking ugly about the father of my children publicly.  So I'm asking you to help me out with this and post tons of comments, but make sure that they won't humiliate my children in front of the world.

     I've also been wracking my brain since Monday morning to come up with an idea for a writing contest running this week.  As well as being highly cathartic for me, my next post will be my official entry into the Writer's Week Writing Contest hosted by Suess's Pieces, and if you like, you can read more about that here. http://blog.emilysuess.com/2011/09/12/writers-week-writing-contest/    I'll post it a little while before it's due, so please feel free to comment if you notice anything technically wrong with it- I'd really appreciate that actually.

     I'm more nervous about this post than anything I've ever written for obvious reasons.  I'm also nervous about the style.  It isn't really me to write "heavy-handed."  I enjoy the fact that my pieces are light hearted and easy, with maybe a little random seriousness thrown in just to prove that an adult actually writes this stuff.  I'm excited to try something new, but I'm not too proud to mention that I'm scared.  Help me out here, guys.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Tap Taps: Ride Them, Love Them, Paint Them Wacky

     A lot of my regular readers actually know me.  They know how much I love Haiti, and some of them have actually been with me.  I have been really honored to serve in such a country.  The people of Haiti teach me so much about how to live.

     So lookey lookey at what I found!  I am so excited to find a book about one of my favorite things in Haiti- the tap tap!

    For those of you who don't know, a tap tap is a Haitian cross between a bus and a taxi.  It is usually a pick-up truck with an enclosed bed.  Two benches run the length of it, and you can cram a TON of people in one.  The reason they call it a tap tap?  To the best of my knowledge, you get into the back of one, and when you want to get off, you tap tap on the roof.  I love, love, love me some Haiti.

     I'm not giving a review on this book, because I just found it, but it is written by one of the same authors that wrote Four Feet, Two Sandals.  It should prove to be a special find for those of us who love Haiti and want to share it with the little ones in their world.

Four Feet, Two Sandals

     Four Feet, Two Sandals, written by Karen Lynn Williams and Khadra Mohammed and illustrated by Doug Chayka, is a refugee story set in Peshawar, a border town in Pakistan.  The story is inspired, according to the authors, by a real-life refugee girl who asked why there were no books about people like her.


     The story is about two little girls who meet in a refugee camp in Peshawar, after fleeing with what was left of their families from Afghanistan.  Neither of the girls have shoes, and when they find one pair that fits both of them, they decide to share the shoes, and develop a friendship.


     It can be assumed that the descriptions of daily life for a refugee are accurate, because the authors themselves have worked with this same refugee people group in the United States and in Pakistan.  Although accurate, the story is designed for first world children, so it is a soft introduction to the plight of refugees that is appropriate for young readers.


     I especially appreciated the author's note on the final page, which answers the question, "What is a refugee?"  For parents interested in teaching their children about a rather large and particularly vulnerable segment of our global society, this is a good starting point.


     It is worth noting that the story does not refer to the children as "refugees."  You may wish to point out that people prefer to be known by their names, not by labels.  The book does an excellent job of creating individuality out of a mass group.


     There is an online guide, meant for teachers, that is worth reading.  It discusses the story's themes and suggests questions to ask your children that will better their understanding of the book, and how they can relate it to their own lives.
http://www.karenlynnwilliams.com/files/sandals_guide.pdf

     I like the book, enough said.  The information aspects are important to me, and they are things that I want my children to know.  The artwork is engaging.  It isn't as colorful as most children's books, but it depicts the landscape of the region, the ethnic dress of the people, and their home surroundings accurately.

     For those of you who are disclosurites, let me restate what I've said in my last post.  The opinions expressed here are my own.  I am not paid by Amazon or anyone else to express them.  I do, however, get a commission from the sale of the book if it is bought through the Amazon links posted here.

Monday, September 5, 2011

A New Blog, A New Me.

     I started this blog with a few things in mind. 

     I wanted a place to chronicle my family's year of transition from the "at home" family to the "living abroad, working for God" family.  I wanted a way to keep all of our stories, good and bad, in front of us, and I liked the idea of the accountability that having an audience would provide.

     I wanted to stop writing the dreaded newsletter email.  You know what I'm talking about.  The opus that some families send out a few times a year with what seems like every detail of their lives crammed into, oh, a few thousand words.  The people in my field of work are famous for them.  And most of them get deleted before they're ever even opened.  Why?  Because they're boring.  Here we are, in some of the most exciting places on earth, doing the most exciting work on earth, if I do say so myself, and we're boring you to tears.

     It is my dearest wish to stop this madness.

     Next on my list- Every now and then, someone asks me how they can contribute to our  Work, and it was suggested that I have a spot online somewhere with a paypal donate button.  It's over there>>> to the right of this article.  Check one thing off the to-do list, pat Jemima on the back.  So if you do ever feel the need to help out our Work, feel free to avail yourself of this service, and I am much obliged to you.
   
     That was really it.  The only things I wanted to do with a blog.  I had absolutely No Flippin Idea what was out there in the world of Blogdom.  I discovered rather quickly that there were other avenues I could be taking, and those of you who've been around since the beginning have seen how I've played a bit with it.

     Anyhoo, I've made a few decisions, and I'm very pleased to announce that I am now an associate for Amazon Affiliates.  What does this mean?  It means that from time to time you will see ads for products sold on Amazon.com.  If you click on the link, and purchase ANYTHING from Amazon, I'll get a commission from it.  This goes for most of the ads on my blog, but they are run by Google, so it's a different story altogether.  It also means that I am going to get to do something very near and dear to my heart. . .

     I'm going to start writing book reviews.

     I'll be starting with a series of children's book reviews-  six story books written about children who live in different places all over the world.  It is of extreme importance to me to raise my children to recognize, understand, and appreciate different cultures everywhere.  These books are for parents who have similar desires for their own children.

     Of course, at the end of every review will be a link to the book.  The proceeds will support our family in the Work that we do.  Questions?  Please ask.

     And don't worry, I'll review my own faves as well.  They won't all be children's books.

     Want a sneak-peak at the first book?  It's up in the left corner of this post.  Go ahead, I won't tell.

     Anybody know of a great book they'd like me to review?


Photo courtesy of Mateusz ┼╗danko.