About Paula Kiger

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

5 Lessons Learned While Rocking My Message

Have you gotten in on the rock painting crafts craze? It is big here in Tallahassee, as this article attests. Even the #TLHTwitterMayor created and hid a rock.

Rock Painting Crafts

I’m doing my first painting/hiding project this weekend. Bella is helping me check out my rocks.

Rock Painting Crafts

As I read through various sets of instructions about how to paint rocks, it occurred to me that rock painting, like many projects we tackle, has more steps and deeper meaning than seems obvious at first.

Planning

If you’re like me, you don’t have beach pebbles lying around. I had to plan ahead in order to have rocks to paint. I read about what other people had used, then figured out how to get my own beach pebbles even though it’s difficult to get time away from home due to caregiving demands. (Thanks, Amazon gift card + prime shipping! In other news, my UPS guy may not be speaking to me for a while.)

Although spontaneous messages are sometimes effective, thinking through your goals increases your chance to say what you mean to say. 

Priming

Many sets of instructions I read suggested to use a base coat of acrylic paint or mod podge before painting designs.

Before sharing a message important to you, touch base with your fundamental values and know the foundation supporting what you are going to share.

Painting the Designs!

While painting the designs, we have to think about what it is we want to express. If you’re like me, you have to overcome that horrible “but I’m not an artist” feeling. You may even want to practice first (rocks are bumpy canvasses).

Having a sense of adventure and courageously unleashing your creativity are key to expressing what is uniquely “you.”

Sealing Your Rocks

You need to use a clear acrylic or some other type of sealant to make sure your message stays clear.

The best messaging in the world won’t matter if friction, the elements, and opposition make it disappear. Putting a clear coat on to protect the message helps it get to as many people as possible.

Hiding Your Rocks

You have to find a place where your hiding activities will comply with the community’s rules, honor businesses’ wishes to be involved or not, stay safe, and find the balance between concealing and revealing that will lure a searcher in but still present a challenge.

Designing a great message doesn’t matter if it still sits in your hands. Take it out into the world and send it on its way. 

MY FIRST DESIGNS

I have a few organizations, people, and places on my mind, so I’m channeling those thoughts into my debut rock artwork (yes, I use the term “art” lightly!).

EQL

EQL, pronounced “equal,” is an organization I’ve recently learned about. EQL has the ambitious goal of promoting acceptance, respect and rights for all. EQL’s strategy is to make equality “a quiet march that happens every day, everywhere” by replicating what major brands do: encouraging positive emotions and enlisting brand advocates.

EQL sells gear with its logo here and donates 35% of the proceeds to causes such as the ACLU, according to their website.

Learn more here or here and look for the hashtag #WeMarchEveryDay to find fellow fans of EQL.

Honoring Savannah’s Courage

Savannah’s statement in front of her congregation moved me. She is a 12-year-old Mormon girl who proclaimed in front of her congregation, “I know I am not a horrible sinner for being who I am” (more here). She was cut off by a leader before she had finished her speech, but the rest can be read here.

Stepping Up My Support of #BlackLivesMatter

I am not sure how to approach this, but I recently agreed to do a guest post about how people can find common ground related to the topic of #BlackLivesMatter so I’d better get to thinking!

This rock will honor Alicia Garza,  Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, the three founders of #BlackLivesMatter. While of course it is technically true that “all lives matter” and it is very true that “blue lives matter” (i.e., law enforcement deserves our support), it is critical at this point in time to say this:

As a white person, I am declaring my overt support of #BlackLivesMatter. The disproportionate mistreatment of people of color, the institutional racism that influences some (not all) law enforcement agencies, the divisiveness among our nation’s citizens, won’t be resolved until we “get” why #BlackLivesMatter is a thing.

BIRTHDAYS!

One rock will honor my daughter, Tenley, on her 21st birthday (June 26) and another will honor my son, Wayne, for his 18th birthday (July 1). Two big milestones!

A GREEN PEN

Sounds easy to draw but we’ll see. I love encouraging people to #WriteOptimistically, so I’ll give it a whirl.

CATS!

I saw a cute idea for creating a cat out of two symmetrical rocks. I can’t find it now (sigh) but may give a cat rock a whirl, for no other reason than the fact that cats are fun!

Have you painted/hidden rocks before? I’d love to hear about your experience!

Rock Painting Crafts

Editor’s Note: I am still working on my painted rocks. I’ll drop a picture in when I’m done, before they are hidden!

Five Minute Friday: STEADY

Welcome to this week’s “Five Minute Friday.” Our instructions, via creator Kate Motaung: “Write for five minutes on the word of the week. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation.” Today’s prompt: STEADY.

Five Minute Friday

When I picked up a prescription for my husband yesterday, the staff person said hello to me as if he knew me. I scrambled to see his nametag (I am Faceblind, so these types of interactions are complicated). Turns out it was Justin, who usually works at the Publix where my father-in-law has his prescriptions. He happened to be doing a shift at “our” Publix.

“Yeah —- your brother comes in sometimes to pick up prescriptions right?”

Brother?

I corrected him: HUSBAND.

But this question, like the “are you retiring?” questions I received when I left my job in 2014, carried so much more weight than the questioner intended.

We celebrate our 25th anniversary in August. Are there times when this marriage hasn’t been “fiery,” volatile and spark-y? Yes.

But brother?

The thing is, I have grieved the opportunities for a “spark” thing over the years, in very deep ways.

BUT over the last six months, I have watched my husband be the steady hand/arm my father-in-law needs as he becomes increasingly Unsteady. It has not been pretty and as I have written about elsewhere, lots of bodily fluids have been involved. Lots of difficult behavior wrangling too. But there’s nothing more attractive than a man taking care of a loved one.

Five Minute Friday

This post is part of the weekly Five Minute Friday linkup.

2017 Goals: Announcements and Moves

I still believe that, to paraphrase Brian Tracy, “Only 3% of people have written goals and the other 97% work for them.” While I am not dying to have lots of people working for me, I think the principle applies to success in general. We are more likely to succeed when we document our goals (and seek accountability).

Somewhere along the way, I stopped writing my goals down. Six years ago apparently. SIX. YEARS. AGO. My last “here are my goals” post was in 2011.

Now it is 2017, and a couple of catalysts are calling me out of the goal-less quagmire:

My friend Laura Petrolino wrote this post that outlines the four reasons we fail to reach our goals (hey! I’m 4 for 4!).

My friend (and Laura’s boss) Gini shared a motivational recording with the PR Dream Team that gave me a kick in the butt.

My personal aspirations the last three years have become increasingly hemmed in by my father-in-law’s caregiving needs. As his time with us is finite, I am going to wake up in the not-too-distant future and ……be free of the obligations/excuses/responsibilities that come with caregiving.

It’s long past time to write down some goals

Number One: Improve my Spanish

The “become fluent in Spanish” goal began long, long ago when our family was stationed in Puerto Rico. As a kindergartner, I took Spanish. The seed was planted.

Even though I took Spanish in high school, and minored in Spanish in college, I am nowhere near fluent. I joined a bilingual Toastmasters club to improve. Although the club is great, and my speakings skills improved significantly, it wasn’t the best choice to improve my Spanish specifically (we were allowed to give speeches in English and frankly I defaulted to that 90% of the time — it takes a long time to put together a speech in Spanish.)

The plan: I’m going to do Berlitz’s online self-paced program, partially because I can get an initial assessment that will give me some type of objective bar for improvement. I’m still going to seek some local (and less costly) option for conversation practice.

Number Two: Improve my nutrition

I am heavier than I have ever been. Heavier than during either pregnancy. I haven’t made peace with my inability to run due to multifocal atrial tachycardia but it’s time for the excuses to stop. Maybe the issue is I have been running to the refrigerator instead of around the block!

I’ve tried to explain emotional/stress eating to a couple of significant people in my life, and a not uncommon response is “just stop eating.” I wish it were that easy!

The plan: For now, I’m starting with a very small, but hopefully beneficial step. I’m increasing the amount of fruit I eat per day. This involves (gasp!) buying healthy food in advance at the grocery store. Publix, here I come.

Number Three: Reinvigorate my exercise routine

Numbers two and three are closely related, Exercise should probably precede nutrition, but they are connected.  Running is out for now and I can finally say that without crying, But the list of things that are not out is much longer than I have been willing to acknowledge: walking (duh), yoga, indoor cycling, most boot camp/rowing activities as long as I take my beta blocker in advance and swallow my pride when I have to sit out a running drill.

The plan: For now, walk a mile every day.

Goal Setting

Goals in the Wings

If you are reading this, I would love your involvement in keeping me accountable for the three above! Hablo español conmigo, eat healthy things with me, or let’s go for a walk.

But the three-goal trio is not all. Here are two other goals.

More Learning!

I am always up for more learning. Always. But to be specific. I am considering getting a Pharmacy Tech certificate so there is something flexible and easily accessible I can do once Dad passes away.

Secondly, I love my freelance work for Smartbrief and want to position myself to do similar/more responsible work with them or another similar organization. I mean, I managed to break up with the Oxford comma (painfully) so why not keep drinking the AP Style koolaid?

Book

Ironically, my freelance job at Weaving Influence revolves around helping authors expand their digital presence. I love helping authors promote their books, but in the back of my head, always is a little writerly voice asking, “when are you going to be promoting your own work?”

I have kind of evolved from considering writing about Camp Gordon Johnson to writing about caregiving, with an emphasis on the ironic humor of the whole caregiving situation but a healthy dose of useful advice too.

What now?

I scrolled through Pinterest (What? You go elsewhere for inspiration?!) and this quote from The.Success.Club struck me:

Goal Setting

Let’s call this blog the “announcements part.”

Now it’s time for the moves.

Five Minute Friday: WORTH

Welcome to this week’s “Five Minute Friday.” Our instructions, via creator Kate Motaung: “Write for five minutes on the word of the week. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation.” Today’s prompt: WORTH.

Five Minute Friday

Worth is a concept that presents a challenge to me. It’s easier to ascribe worth to someone else than it is to myself.

Especially over the last three years, after I quit my “real” job and began the patchwork of caregiving + part-time work + life, I have increasingly found myself asking “how do they do it?” when I see friends/acquaintances juggling a “9-5,” family, and community obligations.

I have had several conversations recently with friends about what “counts.” I will admit I am a bit driven by external recognition — certificates, being mentioned on social media, winning awards (I used to aspire to be an FSU “Grads Made Good” but that ship has probably already sailed as far as it being a possibility – unless I write an amazing book – you never know!!). But there are smaller, subtler things that have worth too. A couple of times recently, people have made it a point to mention how they used a green pen I gave them and it made them smile. A simple green pen!

But I don’t give green pens to just anyone. Choosing to give one means something worthy, maybe just to that person and me, but there is optimism in the exchange. Maybe I need to remember to give myself that same optimism, every day.

The caregiving life is full of times you wonder if your choices matter, if anyone notices, especially the recipient of the caregiving. [STOP]

Five Minute Friday

This post is part of the weekly Five Minute Friday linkup.

Everything Worthwhile is Bittersweet

I am delighted to welcome my friend Shea Atkin as a guest blogger today. This post started from a simple Facebook exchange about the fact that healing is not linear. I asked her to expand on that idea, and she did so beautifully. Thank you so much, Shea. 

Trauma Touch Therapy

Why is 500 words of my own story so hard to write? I mean, it’s my story, but where do I start? How do you succinctly craft 500 words together to tell the journey of what feels like a million nights? And what is the texture and content of authentic–and how does it and feel and taste inside this body that I’ve been given?

My authentic heart feels free now, but the process has been messy and I can’t count how many times I wanted to just give up and say fuck it. But sometimes I would say it, and keep on walking and not giving up. As a survivor of sexual abuse and a lifetime of alcoholism and addiction, sobriety was the best thing that ever happened to me. It was also the hardest because I had to take personal responsibility for my healing, recovery and actions (past and present). That will introduce you to true humility and freedom–but with no anesthetic. Raw and unfiltered and interwoven with a lot of grace.

I’m a big believer in synchronicity. I stumbled into massage school at 19 because I was already failing out of community college. My mom said that it would be best to get licensed in a trade so I could at least start making money if I couldn’t make it through college. She gifted me a massage for my 18th birthday and I remember thinking how amazing it must be to have a job where you could make people feel that good. It truly felt life changing. So I started massage school.

As I started giving and receiving massages, emotions and flashbacks started to occur. One day the rape (that I blocked out of memory for 7 years) surfaced fully and unapologetically. That was the defining moment that I knew a) that memory was stored in muscle and symptoms present psychosomatically and b) I wanted to dedicate my life to healing others from this as I continued to heal from multiple layers of trauma.

I continued to transition through 7 more years of active addiction until I finally let go and got sober.

The real work of finding my authentic self really started when I put the drugs and alcohol down. Only then was I able to truly process, grieve and accept the things that happened to me and the things I did to others while caught up in active addiction. I’m still amazed that I was of any use at all in those years but that’s the thing about grace and mercy–it’s free and everywhere.

I was used as a vessel of healing despite my weaknesses and struggles–that is truly a humbling reality. It was at the point when I found out about trauma touch therapy that all the pieces started to come together and I felt like I finally had a little direction on what the next part of my journey would be. As I received my own session of trauma touch therapy and practiced on others, more healing continued to happen.

That’s the thing about numbing–we can’t selectively numb. If we push down and suppress the negative, we also cut off the positive. Sadness and joy can (and should) co-exist, because that is the nature of being human.

All in all, it’s been a wonderfully terrible awakening–but everything that is worthwhile is bittersweet. The light cannot exist without the darkness. Both hold equal importance and until we can accept the “Good” and “Bad” aspects that co-exist inside these amazing bodies we’ve been given–we won’t be free.

Trauma Touch Therapy

Shea is a licensed massage and trauma touch therapist at Abundance Wellness Center. She is also working toward certification in craniosacral therapy. Here are her contact details:

Trauma Touch Therapy

Five Minute Friday: EXPECT

This is my first week to join “Five Minute Friday.” This is the deal, via creator Kate Motaung: “Write for five minutes on the word of the week. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation.” Today’s prompt: EXPECT.

Five Minute Friday

I read this “expect” prompt last night, and several different thoughts on it ran through my mind as I drifted off to sleep. First and foremost, I think, are my expectations around this close-to-the end phase of caregiving. As yesterday would attest, I can’t expect to string together a full sentence (written or spoken) without being interrupted. My father-in-law, who sleeps for hours-long stretches now as his cancer continues its assault on him, has his most restless times at exactly the moments I need to concentrate. I gave up yesterday and called the home health agency to hire someone to come attend to him after Wayne has to leave for work, so I can finish the part of my day that is deadline-driven. It’s unfair to Dad for me to be frustrated and stressed about dealing with his bathroom needs (which take FOREVER and result in massive cleanups afterwards) as well as his pain management.

Also on the topic of expectations, he is meeting exactly what the book we were given by the hospice workers predicted about this stage: confusion, talking about loved ones who have passed, etc. Yesterday, he asked for my mother in law, who has been dead almost four years. “She’s not here,” I said. “Is she still alive?” he asked. I responded she was not. “We’re dropping like flies,” he said. It was a rare and crystal-clear accurate moment of lucidity from a man who tried to smoke a slim jim the other day, thinking it was a cigar.

This is all new to us. We don’t know what to expect. It is frightening and there is the sense that we only have this one time to help him navigate his death experience – it isn’t about “not messing it up” but about focusing on it with grace. 

Five Minute Friday

This post is part of the weekly Five Minute Friday linkup.

A Late Cleanup

Personal Organization

Three years ago, I came home from my last day of work at Healthy Kids and placed a box of assorted “office stuff” in our dining room (which we don’t use for dining). There it sat. For three yearsEvery time I walked by it, I used a few brain (and heart) cells thinking “I really should deal with that box.”

As this picture shows, the box fell apart. It accumulated items that had never graced my office (like the “triathlon” license plate holder). I don’t know what was keeping me from dealing with it. Maybe some deep-seated processing I still needed to do about leaving Healthy Kids after almost 20 years. Maybe something less complicated, like laziness.

Time for a Small Win

I am currently reading the book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do by Charles Duhigg. This book is full of many incredible takeaways but I’ll save most of those for a different time. For now, I will point out the author’s emphasis on the power of a “small win” to make a “big difference.”

The power of “small wins” lies in the fact that they create momentum for behavioral changes that evolve into bigger wins over time.

Walking past that falling-apart box was a downer every time. A non-productive downer that did nothing to contribute to the fact that I need to physically clean my environment in order to have more emotional breathing space.

Walking past my sock drawer is the opposite feeling from the “old office memorabilia box.” Ever since my friend Fred Davenport challenged me to blog about my sock drawer (really, he did!) and I cleaned it out as a result, it has been pristine. I take care of it because I feel accountable to my friend (not that I expect him to drop by and inspect my sock drawer).

I guess the difference with the “office box” is the fact that now my accountability is just to myself.

What Was Getting In The Way?

The box and its sad neglected state signify at least three things to me.

No Place to Work

I think one factor keeping me from dealing with the “office box” is that I don’t have anywhere to go (as far as a workspace) despite the fact that I am working around 30 hours a week on my two awesome freelance jobs. The family pictures, the treasured glass “bluebird of happiness” Tenley gave me in kindergarten, the crystal clock that had been a wedding gift and became my office time piece — there is no place for them right now.

When I first started working from home while caregiving, I would move my laptop and other work-related materials into Tenley’s room in order to have a facsimile of a “workspace.” Over time, though, it just became easier to work from the dining room table.

I know our virtual world is making it possible to work from almost anywhere, but I miss the structure of sentimental “things” around me. 

Unresolved Relationships

What do unresolved relationships have to do with cleaning out a box? You would think absolutely nothing, but certain items in the “office box” remind me that loops did not get closed. The framed print of our corporate values like “family focus” and “transparency” reminds me that I never got feedback from the people I had supervised once I received a lateral transfer and was no longer their supervisor.

On the flip side, time has done its work in some ways. One bridge I really felt I had burned turned out to be not so much burned as in need of reinforcement.

I am first and foremost a people person and somehow leaving the items in that box undisturbed kept me from having to accept, again, that there are parts of my Healthy Kids experience that simply have to go in the “it is what it is” category. 

Clutter is Overwhelming and Paralyzing

You know, I don’t know the solution to the fact that I allow clutter to accumulate yet would feel so much freer if I would just deal with it. I recently went to a new place for personal services (think: nails, hair, massages – don’t really want to single anyone out). While I wasn’t unhappy with the individual’s work, I was turned off by the general disorganization at their workspace.

My entire house (except for my sock drawer and the space where the office box used to sit) is a generally disorganized workspace. If I don’t like it when I’m a customer, how does the disorder around me impact my spirit and ability to achieve my goals?

Back to Those Small Wins

I’m not sure what exactly prompted me to clean up the “office box.” Okay, I’ll admit I was running low on blog topics and needed something to talk about.

But I thought about how I feel every time I use that utterly orderly sock drawer.

And how outer order will (may?) bring inner calm.

And I found myself one small win.

Three years late, and admittedly small, but still a win.

Personal Organization

Personal Organization

This post was inspired by the Mama’s Losin’ It writing prompt: Write a blog post inspired by the word: late.

Personal Organization

A Photo Finish for a Helicopter Mom

My husband and I have been surprised throughout my son’s school years when pictures of him have shown up in our newspaper, The Tallahassee Democrat.

There was the “Home Alone”-ish shot of him watching his teachers do a presentation designed to get him excited for standardized testing.

Mom Fail

And the shot from Summer Track in 2008, noting his “shirtless and shoeless” status:
Mom Fail

Photo Credit: Phil Sears, Tallahassee Democrat

You Never Know When Your Shoes Will Matter

As high school graduation day approached for Wayne, I shared this phrase with friends in real life, in Facebook groups, and wherever else I could:

“After this one last detail, I am officially retiring my helicopter rotors.”

What was the big graduation-related detail that I just had to have go my way in order to avoid a “mom fail”? I needed him to have nice shoes. At his convocation ten days prior, I was mortified to see the state of his shoes. (My daughter, who graduated three years ago, was very particular about clothing and shoes, so I had not had a reason to helicopter in for anything related to her graduation ceremonies.)

Immediately after convocation, I told him he needed to get better shoes and that I would pay for them. In the ten days between convocation and graduation, he put some shoes in our Amazon cart that I rejected (they were too expensive and I was pretty sure the only thing he would be wearing these shoes for would be graduation and his any funerals in the near future (we have a relative on hospice care)). I was pro-Amazon because I have a gift card balance but didn’t want to use that much of it on shoes that wouldn’t get worn often.

Once I rejected the Amazon idea, we fell into a pretty typical communication pattern between us. It went something like this, with variations over the ten days:

ME: “You need to get shoes.” Related emotional state: Frustration that it wasn’t getting done, worry about spending more money, annoyance that for the umpteenth time in our parent-child relationship I was carrying the worry-weight of something that didn’t matter to him.

HIM: “Yeah. Okay.” With some variation of “It would be easier on Amazon” or “I’ll get to it” thrown in but no action. His related emotional state: My guess may be wrong, because I’m not him. BUT I’m pretty sure it was heavier on the “will she just stop with the shoes thing?” than on determination to take care of a graduation-related detail and erase one worry off my list.

Graduation Day Dawns

I woke up graduation morning, fretting (still). The shoes had not been bought. He was going to graduate no matter what was on his feet, so as long as the shoes were the “dark” shoes required by the dress code, what did it really matter? Did his ratty shoes really equate to a “mom fail”?

We also had limited time. I needed him home (as he had agreed to be) from noon to 3 because I had plans and we can’t leave my father-in-law alone. After three, it would be almost time to leave for the ceremony. He had a brief period the morning of graduation to do this.

What Happened?

He bought shoes. They are actually shoes he likes, so maybe they will get worn beyond graduation and funerals.

I asked myself multiple times why it really mattered, because out of almost 500 graduates, who would be inspecting his shoes? His diploma would be just as valid no matter what was on his feet.

But, as the Kiger family has learned over the years, you just never know when the local newspaper may take your picture and an entire community (plus all your mom’s friends on Facebook) will see that your shoes did, indeed, look great.

Mom Fail

Photo Credit: Joe Rondone/Tallahassee Democrat

Are the Helicopter Rotors Gone?

Do me a favor and ask me that once his thank you notes are done!

Mom Fail

This post was inspired by the Mama Kat writing prompt, “share a mom fail.”

Mom Fail

Saying Goodbye to Silvia

It is time to say goodbye to Silvia, the first person our family sponsored through Unbound. Although I knew her time in the program would end, it was still a sobering moment when I received the notification, even though her departure is due to her success.

The Farewell Notification

Humanitarian Programs

Unbound sent us a letter notifying us that Silvia had graduated, along with a farewell letter written by Silvia’s cousin (and translated by Unbound), explaining Silvia was unable to write due to her job. Here’s an excerpt:

…Silvia is in good health thanks to God along with her family. We thank you for the support you have given her since it has benefited her with healthcare, education, food supplies, shoes, clothing and much more.

She has gotten other significant benefits such as cinder block, sheets of tin, cookware, bed and others which got better her home. I also tell you that Silvia leaves Unbound program since she graduated from high school and she got the art and sciences diploma, she has gotten a job actually and she works selling clothing, now she is able to support her family.

 

Our History With Silvia and Her Family

I don’t recall the precise date Silvia became a part of our family when my in-laws chose to sponsor her through Unbound (I think it was around 2002); they picked her partially because she was close in age to Tenley and my nieces, thinking shared gender and age would help the connection feel more “real.”

Humanitarian Programs

Over the years, I felt increasingly led to meet Silvia in person. Pictures and letters can only convey so much. I wrote about the goal here and here.

In 2011, th goal became reality! Tenley and I traveled to Guatemala as part of an Unbound Mission Awareness Trip and met Silvia and her mom (also named Silvia). I shared our experiences here and here.

What I Have Learned

Documenting what we have learned over the time we have sponsored Silvia, especially through the trip to meet her in 2011, is a challenging task which largely defies words. A few observations, though.

Sponsorship is not a one-way street. Yes, our monthly contributions provided her and her family with support they would not otherwise have had and enabled her to get an education (not something to be underestimated in Central America) and her family to have better housing. Hopefully the letters and packages (back when we were allowed to send packages) sent by my in-laws and us (technically my in-laws were Silvia’s sponsors) inspired, amused, and affirmed her and her family. But as cliche’ as I know it sounds, we got as much or more out of the experience than they did.

This experience pointed up our sheer humanity and imperfection, which is why God’s grace is so central to our lives. My fellow parishioners at Holy Comforter made a Humanitarian Programsbeautiful quilt for Silvia. Each parishioner crocheted or knitted a square, then they were sewn together and blessed at church before being taken to Silvia. It was truly a lovely gift. I have to say, though, in retrospect, Guatemala is a very hot place. I am sure Silvia and her family treasure the gift but as practical gifts go, I could possibly have made a more useful choice! I also underestimated the fact that she was (at the time of our visit) a typical teenage girl. After meeting her and seeing her sense of style, I thought of other things we could have given her that may have been a bit more to her liking!

Spending time in a developing country is far superior to reading about a developing country. I know we can’t all go to countries about which we are curious due to financial, time, or health constraints, but do it if you can. I will never, ever, ever forget visiting one family’s humble home with a homemade welcome sign on the door. The home was so primitive, and the owner apologized for the home’s small size as I entered. But the Humanitarian Programssentiment on the door and the genuine love shown by the people we visited trumped every standard-of-living consideration. That said, we have it so good here, y’all (speaking to my friends in the US, Canada, and other countries where we have everything we need even if sometimes we perceive we don’t have what we want). We need to let that ease of living fuel our generosity to help others who aren’t so fortunate have the tools they need to support themselves.

Having to wait things out is a blessing. Our first 24-48 hours in Guatemala did not go smoothly. It was an adjustment to remember to throw the toilet paper away rather than flush it, to take the Pepto Bismol every four hours to fend off gastrointestinal distress, to remember not to drink the water. I am not exaggerating one bit to say Tenley was miserable and I am pretty sure I recall her emailing her dad (when we had a moment of internet connectivity at Unbound’s center) to tell him she wanted to go home NOW. Thank goodness that wasn’t a possibility, because she had done an emotional 360 by the end of the week. We have all gotten used to instantaneous everything, including rapidly ditching situations that no longer please us. I am so grateful that wasn’t an option for us.

What We Hope For Silvia

One of the biggest challenges of the end of an Unbound sponsorship is the fact that it truly is a final “goodbye.” For a variety of reasons that make perfect sense from a practical and security standpoint, we are not allowed to share addresses or attempt to continue contact.

Tenley said to simply “tell her we love her and to never lose faith in Christ.”

Maybe it’s as basic as that. We want her to always know how loved she was (and is) and to keep up her faith. I would add, though, that as a female in her early 20s in a country like Guatemala, I pray that she use the education she received to control the reins of her life, that she is immune from being controlled by a man who does not want the best for her, from being restricted by a government that does not value her equally with males, that she is as free as possible from self-doubt.

How to Help Other “Silvias”

Unbound gave us the option to roll my father-in-law’s monthly contribution to another sponsored individual, but due to his terminal illness, we declined. (Our family still sponsors Estela in Guatemala and Stanley in El Salvador.)

If you are seeking a way to make a difference for a child, individual with special needs, or aging person, I strongly encourage you to consider sponsoring through Unbound via a $36 per month contribution.

Because it is more difficult for adults to find sponsors, I have chosen to feature Leonel Oscar:

Humanitarian Programs

According to Leonel Oscar’s profile on the Unbound website, he Leonel likes praying for the people in his community, so they can live with a better quality of life. He has a mental disability which makes it difficult for him to pronounce some words. Speech therapy would help him improve his ability to communicate with others. Leonel lives with his sister in a concrete-block dwelling. It’s far from the urban area, so they go by bus to the market. Leonel and his sister grow watercress and herbs to sell there.

Unbound’s site shares information about everyone needing sponsors on their site; you can sort by birthday, first name (I had hoped to find another “Silvia” to share with you!), and other criteria. Click here to start your sponsorship journey. (If you have an interest in Leonel Oscar specifically and can’t find him, I will be happy to try to help you.)
Humanitarian Programs

National 529 Day Scholarship Giveaway!

This post and the scholarship giveaway are sponsored by the Florida Prepaid College Board. All thoughts are my own.

My children and I were involved as volunteers with the Florida State University Film School for several years. The first time we went to campus to watch one of the films be screened, I headed automatically to the on-campus theater I remembered going to when I was a student at Florida State (1982-86). Nothing was going on at the building I approached; clearly I was at the wrong place.

Scholarship Giveaway

A few frantic phone calls later, I was directed to the beautiful Student Life Cinema, which in its luxury, size and modern design made Moore Auditorium look like the dinosaur it was.

The Cost of Higher Education Changes

Like the move theater facilities at Florida State, many other things can change over a couple of decades. One of those things is the cost of a college education.

As National 529 Day approaches, this is the perfect time to think about opening a 529 plan for a child in your life.

(If you don’t have time to read everything I am about to share, click here to enter a contest to win a $529 scholarship deposited into a Florida 529 Savings Plan account!)

Still with me? Here is more info about 529 plans:

Education savings plans called “529 plans” are named after the IRS code that created them in 1996. They help families save for college costs. If you are wondering how they are different from prepaid tuition plans, here’s a breakdown.

Enter the Scholarship Giveaway!

What’s not to like about a $529 contribution into a 529 Scholarship Plan for a child you love? Ten people will win!

It’s simple to register to enter (you do have to be a Florida resident). After that, you can accumulate additional entries each day by participating in activities on the site, like creating a meme. Here’s one I created of my son and me:

Scholarship Giveaway

(Editor’s Note – 5/17/17 – now that my husband has pointed this out to me, I can’t unsee what he saw so …. just for the record …. my son is not shooting me a bird here — he is holding a medal he had been awarded at school. This is how rumors start, people!)

More details on the contest:

You can enter anytime between May 15 and June 11.

(Editor’s Note – 5/29/17 – The Starbucks giveaway is closed but the scholarship giveaway lasts until June 11 and FL Residents age 18 and over can enter daily!). 

Bonus: I will randomly choose a winner to receive a $10 Starbucks gift card from among everyone who registers for the giveaway and helps promote it between May 16 and May 20 via the Rafflecopter below. You could help a child you love get an education investment jump start AND get fully caffeinated. Yay!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Scholarship Giveaway