Move Nourish Believe Challenge (Week Three Wrap-Up)

MNB LJ

Week three of the Move Nourish Believe Challenge has just ended. This was the final week of the challenge, and although I am relieved to let go of the daunting number of tags and hashtags required every day (five!) I am sorry to see it go, and hope the connections I have made remain long after the daily challenge assignments have ended. This was “believe” week.

Monday’s challenge was “Spoil yourself! Do something just for you today! Take a walk, go to yoga, spoil yourself!”

Walking? Yoga? I went for the ultimate (for me) “spoil yourself” item  … Pop Culture!!

Day 11

Tuesday’s challenge was “5 Mindful Minutes  – Do good to your body, meditate for 5 minutes and find your zen.”

I loved this day’s prompt. But I didn’t do a structured “meditation-y” thing. For me, five minutes with no headphones in, just me, the sky, the bird sounds, and some movement (via walking), was freeing enough.

Day 12

Wednesday’s challenge was “Be Happy – show us your happy place!”

Just one happy place? I chose a picture of me running with women at the Gadsden Correctional Institution. Physically, it is a place of boundaries and mandatory uniformity. Add running to the mix, and everyone can transcend those boundaries and let their own individual spirits soar.

Day 13

Thursday’s challenge was “Thankful Thursday – Let us know what you are thankful for!”

Again, how to choose just one thing? But my mind goes daily to the women I met in Guatemala — old and young — the picture below was taken the first full day I was in Guatemala when I visited in July 2011. The joy in the dancing was so pervasive.

Day 14

Friday’s challenge was “Share the love – s/o to your #1 supporter/motivator”!

Gotta hand it to the family on this one. To the husband who deals with the budget hit our family takes from my running and paying a coach. To my daughter who drives my son to the bus stop on my run days so I can get my run in early. To my son who I really miss running with but who I hope will come back to the fold. Neither of them would claim running as “their thing,” but they bend over backwards to support the fact that it is mine.

Day 15

And just like that, the three-week Move Nourish Believe Challenge is winding down! To read about how it was structured, visit this link. AND there’s a Twitter Party on Wednesday night (February 26) at 8 p.m. Eastern for a last hurrah and the announcement of the winner of the $1,000 Lorna Jane shopping spree.  Use the hashtag #mnbchallenge.

Thank you to Lorna Jane and Fit Approach for organizing and sponsoring this challenge.

MNB SKY with writing

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

Helping Those in Poverty Blossom, An Advent Devotional

Each year, the parishioners of Holy Comforter create an advent reflections booklet composed of their own contributions. This is mine, used for December 18, 2013.

For he delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper.

He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy.

From oppression and violence he redeems their life; and precious is their blood in his sight. (Psalms 72: 12-14)

Bob Hentzen

Bob Hentzen

On October 8 of this year, Bob Hentzen passed away from natural causes. I had the blessing of spending a week with Bob when Tenley and I went to Guatemala as part of a Christian Foundation for Children and Aging Mission Awareness Trip in July 2011.

As I read the psalm for today’s reading, I couldn’t help reflecting on Bob’s approach to helping people who live in poverty.

Before our trip to Guatemala, I had possessed a vague idea of the ways in which CFCA helped the “lives of the needy.” Our extended family had given $30 a month for years to help our sponsored child, Silvia, and her family have access to education, food, health care, and shelter.

Although the trip involved the incredible highlight of meeting Silvia, it involved so much more. The most eye-opening parts were when we were able to visit the homes of families being helped by CFCA. I had never seen residences that appeared so vulnerable to weather, so rudimentary from the standpoint of plumbing and waste management, so different from our orderly neighborhoods here in the U.S.

“Electricity” meant one light bulb hanging from a cord. When a homeowner was asked why she did not have the light on, she explained “it’s too hot.” I don’t know if the real issue was that she was ultra conservative about the use of power, or if she truly felt it was “too hot.” No use of resources happened without deliberation.

In addition to the tours of homes, we watched presentations about various ways in which people were given help in learning to make a living. We met women who had learned a skill, gone on to use that skill to support their families, and completed the circle by teaching other women to do the same thing. To see a woman empowered with the ability to rely on herself in order to feed and educate her children was to see a “dawn” of a new and improved life for that woman.

Carolyn Zimmerman, of Topeka, Kansas, said this about Bob after his death: “His steps and his life took him throughout the world, where he connected families across the divides of distance, privilege and poverty.”

The people I met in Guatemala were often people who had “no helper” and needed support to cross the divides that Carolyn wrote of. They were people who had been affected by violence and oppression. Perhaps not personally, but culturally. Although Bob did not treat them with the “pity” mentioned in this psalm, he saw the precious potential in each one. And through him, God helped them blossom.

As you reflect, how can you help someone in poverty blossom?

A Guatemalan Mother Participates In A Reforestation Project

A Guatemalan Mother Participates In A Reforestation Project


Photo credits: Christian Foundation for Children and Aging (www.hopeforafamily.org)

 

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

Speaking of Toastmasters

toastmastersI do not need one more thing to do. If anything, I need to find ways to streamline my life and focus on direction (my “word” of 2013). Why, then, did I join a Toastmasters club a few months ago?

To Improve My Speaking

I am sure this is the number one reason people join Toastmasters. For me, I keep hearing very intelligent people cover extremely important material in the most dull and non-engaging ways.  I am sure most of you, like me, have to sit through many meetings and presentations. My current three pet peeves are “Ums” and other verbal crutches, repetitively beginning sentences with “so,” and uptalk.*** As an attendee, I crave the opportunity to listen to good speakers. As a potential speaker, I don’t want to be the one instigating my listeners to make tick marks for every “ah,” “um,” or “so” instead of absorbing what I have to say.

To Improve My Spanish

Something about Bob Hentzen’s death in October ignited the fire under me to improve my Spanish. Thinking back on his ability to communicate with the families in Guatemala so easily, and my not-so-fluent Spanish which stood in the way of some great conversations I could have had, pushed me to figure something out. Just like I didn’t really have time to take on Toastmasters, I didn’t really have time to take on an additional class, in person or online. By joining a bilingual Toastmasters club (Podemos Hablar), I am at least folding two time commitments into one.

To Force Myself To Create Material

This may be the most challenging part. I am happy to present something someone has written and wants me to discuss, but I don’t feel nearly as confident when the task is creating my own material. Creating my own material and then talking from a mixture of talking points as well as extemporaneous is yet another layer of challenge. Having to do speeches regularly (as well as the weekly “table topics” where we talk for two minutes on a prompt given to us right then) is going to help me get over that insecurity.

So far I have participated in table topics each week, contributed the word of the day once, and given my first speech (all in Spanish!). I have a long ways to go but am excited to be making some purposeful steps toward improving my speaking as well as my Spanish.

The most recent speaking I had to do was a preview of my proposed TEDxFSU talk, since my proposal made it to the round where they ask us for recorded previews (yay!!!!). Here it is (in English!).

Have you ever known you had to join or commit to something, even though you were already committed to the hilt? Tell me about it in the comments!

***Big huge ginormous caveat here!!!! This is just my opinion. I have a tremendous amount of respect for many speakers I am thinking of here, and I would be lying if I said I didn’t do some of these same things, intentionally or not.

 

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

Bob Walked; Everyone Grew

Saturday mornings almost always find me doing my long run. I have run several times through the trails at Lake Lafayette. A few weeks ago, my schedule changed and I was able to participate in a Move Tallahassee walk through the same area. Walking the trail took three times as long as running it would have, but since I ended up among bird lovers and conservationists, things were brought to my attention that I would have missed before: uncommon juvenile birds nestled in the aquatic plants; trash that had been left by walkers prior to us; invasive and predatory vegetation. I left the day with a heightened appreciation for the advantages of slowing down.

When I read an article memorializing Bob Hentzen, President and Co-Founder of Unbound, after his death on October 8, I learned that when he decided to relocate from Kansas City to Guatemala in 1996, he walked. That’s right: 4,000 miles!

The walk from Kansas City to Guatemala can be hard on shoes...

The walk from Kansas City to Guatemala can be hard on shoes…

I can only imagine the human rights issues Bob saw on his walk (and continued to see when he settled in Guatemala).

Did he encounter racism before he left the United States? Did he see citizens of his home country withholding jobs, the ability to rent homes, common courtesy from each other based on which racial group they belonged to?

As he headed south, did he encounter citizens of Mexico, struggling for the right to health protection amidst the HIV/AIDS crisis?

When he arrived in Guatemala, did he immediately see the challenges faced by indigenous people in danger of losing their land and/or livelihood? Undoubtedly he saw what he already knew: that women and girls were in danger of being victims of violence and the inability to get educated.

I know from spending a week on a Mission Awareness Trip in Guatemala with Bob in July 2011 that he cared deeply about the women and girls of Guatemala who needed help to learn skills that would earn them a living; who needed support to get education beyond the initial early grades; who needed protection when spouses succumbed to substance abuse or simply left.

Bob with Guatemalan children

Bob with Guatemalan children

I have so many memories of Bob that have come flooding back since I learned of his death earlier this week.

  • How a few of the kids in the group (and, ahem, perhaps some of the adults) thought it was “quaint” when he walked in for the first time with his guitar. It’s possible a few eyes even rolled. By the end of the week, we were done with that though. I’d give a lot of quetzales (Guatemalan money) to hear Bob sing again.
  • His reference to a song he heard a Guatemalan child sing (paraphrasing here….) “we sing to drown out the sounds of the guns.”
  • The way he interacted with every single Guatemalan family along the way during our week. His little notepad, where he wrote down specific needs and facts. How despite taking notes in his little notepad, those families had his full attention. I remember him asking one teenager if she went to school. She said “no.” There was no judgment coming back from him. But I think a seed may have been planted in that girl’s head. It was clear that no one in Guatemala wanted to disappoint “Don Roberto and Doña Cristina (his wife).”
  • The way he interacted with his staff. I know how short tempered I have been with staff when I supervised. When you’re all crammed together in a mini bus for a week, there’s not a lot of privacy. I listened to him give directions to the Unbound staff and had a sense of abiding, quiet, humble leadership.
  • Despite all that abiding, quiet, humble part, I know that Bob would not brook any nonsense when it came to Unbound. When he talked about charity clearinghouses and auditors questioning how he allocated funds, he was resolute in making sure as much money (and resources) got directly to families as possible while retaining the necessary cushion of financial solidity for Unbound.

Back to walking and human rights. I doubt any of us reading this plan any 4000 mile walks in our lifetimes. What we can do, however, is slow down and walk through our town, our country, or another country and observe the human rights challenges, with an eye to doing something about them.

To extend that example to Tallahassee and my home state of Florida, human slavery steals the rights of women (and some men). In the United States, pick any of a number of issues.

As for other countries, if you have an opportunity to visit and see for yourself, do it. In the meantime, there are plentiful ways to improve your awareness and make a difference.  (One of my favorites is Half the Sky.) In memory of Bob, I also encourage you to visit the Unbound site and consider sponsoring a child, giving a monetary gift, or even simply spreading awareness by sharing Unbound’s message on social media (or face to face!).

One of Bob Hentzen’s most repeated quotes is:  “Society has told them [the poor] all along that they are not capable. We are here to tell them they are quite capable. You are not alone. We are walking with you.” When it comes to the topic of human rights, I encourage you to take a page out of Bob’s book and walk …. blazing a path of awareness and compassion.

Bob and Sponsored Children

Bob and Sponsored Children

(Each year, Blog Action Day “brings together bloggers from different countries, interests and languages to blog about one important global topic on the same day.  Past topics have included Water, Climate Change, Poverty,  Food and the Power of We, with over 25,000 blogs taking part since 2007.” This year’s theme is human rights.)

 

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

Lean In (A Book Review)

I finally read Lean In.

Lean In

After refraining from commenting on the book until I had read it, I’m ready.

After reading the book, I jotted down the first four things that had stood out to me. They were:

  • Lice
  • The concept of “bringing our whole selves to work”
  • How I’d rather stand straight up than lean in or out
  • The necessity of having a global perspective

Lice

Let’s just get the lice issue out of the way. In Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg discusses the time she was traveling to a conference with other corporate executives, and the chairman of eBay offered for her and her young children to fly with him on the corporate jet. After enduring a 2 hour wait while some mechanical issue was handled (and keeping the kids shushed during the wait), they boarded the plane. Within minutes of boarding the plane, Ms. Sandberg’s daughter pronounced, “mom, my head really itches” while furiously scratching her head. Ms. Sandberg was mortified, somehow managed to conceal the issue of her daughter’s newly diagnosed lice infestation, and made a hasty detour to a pharmacy for the proper lice treatment rather than joining the others on the way to the hotel after the plane landed. I have been there and done that (the lice issue, not the private jet). Years after dealing with a lice outbreak at our house, I still remember crying in my car when for the third day in a row the school nurse thought she “still saw something.” Our county has a “no nit” policy and calling my boss to advise that I wouldn’t be coming in (again) was a call I hated making. (Wayne was in the middle of legislative session and couldn’t help at the time.) This little scenario made me feel like Ms. Sandberg may be able to relate to some of my working parent stresses.

The concept of bringing our whole selves to work

Ms. Sandberg says in Lean In:

It has been an evolution, but I am now a true believer in bringing our whole selves to work. I no longer think people have a professional self for Mondays through Fridays and a real self for the rest of the time. That type of separation probably never existed, and in today’s era of individual expression … it makes even less sense.

I wholeheartedly believe that our workplaces will be more humane and more productive when we recognize that the men and women who walk through the workplace doors (or log in to the workplace remote system) bring the joys and stresses of their personal lives to their desks. And while some people may manage to leave the work joys and stresses behind, speaking only for myself I can say my work is with me (emotionally) on Saturday afternoon and in the amalgam of things that parade through my mind as I fall asleep. I am concerned about the messages my children have gotten about “what work is” through the things I have said, the “vibes” I have given, the “frame” I have put around “what work is.” Perhaps more universal acknowledgement of “the whole self” will change the image we portray of work to our children (for those of us who have kids).

I’d rather stand straight up than lean in or out

I understood how the admonition to “lean in” made sense in the context of Ms. Sandberg’s book. Female executives should take advantage of an empty seat at the main table instead of settling for a seat against the outer wall. If an opportunity comes their way, they should assume themselves worthy and chase it. I really, really loved her description of the decision to go to work for Google. She talked about how it was a small, disorganized organization with unimaginable potential. Although the position she was offered wasn’t a perfect match for her skills, “When you get a chance to ride on a rocket you don’t ask your seat assignment, you get on the rocket.”

The thing that kept reverberating through my head listening to the audiobook of Lean In was “why does there have to be ‘leaning’?” For me, it’s often more a matter of standing up straight, for myself at times; for coworkers at times; for ideas that matter that do not have champions yet.

When faced with an executive director who proposed to me, “I just am not sure you aren’t more committed to your family than to your job,” the challenge wasn’t whether to lean in or out, it was to stand up straight, look him in the eye, and say, “my family will always be my primary commitment. Can you show me in a measurable way how that commitment has detracted from my performance? Because if my performance is not an issue, then bringing the topic of my commitment to my family into the discussion wastes valuable time when we could be planning how to make our organization its most effective.”

The necessity of having a global perspective

Of all the people I know who have read Lean In, the demographics are somewhat homogenous: well educated people, working people, Americans and Canadians (for the most part). While I don’t expect Sheryl Sandberg to solve global women’s issues in one book, I can’t forget the woman in Guatemala who met with our group when we visited in July 2011, who had no shoes. The child we sponsor in Guatemala who is trying to learn Spanish to augment her indigenous language, who will be way ahead of the game if she makes it past 3rd grade. The question my teenager asked about the women in Guatemala (“why do they keep having babies if they can’t afford them?”) and my fumbling attempts to explain cultural pressure to procreate. The men in Guatemala who struggle to feed their growing families in a “work a day eat a day” society that is getting more and more complicated as large corporate interests make the environment harder for the lesser educated. These people have an issue different than “will my employer create close parking spaces for pregnant women?”. Until girls around the world can literally survive and be educated, our “first world problems” remain exactly that.

My daughter Tenley meets our sponsored child Estela and her mother in Guatemala.

My daughter Tenley meets our sponsored child Estela and her mother in Guatemala.

I am glad I read “Lean In.” I believe that, like people who commented about Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother without reading it, we owe each other the effort to read before ascending any pulpits. Except for the “get on the rocket and then figure out your seat assignment” line, nothing in the book made a light bulb go off over my head. I did feel a little bit of “I can relate to that” (with the lice, with some of the work/life balance scenarios) and a lot of “wow we have a long way to go still.” Kudos to Sheryl Sandberg for her professional achievements, for being a wife and mom to a family she treasures, and for championing the idea that we all bring a “whole self” to work.

In closing, I’ll leave you with one of Sandberg’s concepts that proves itself to be truer and truer as our world hurtles toward its next configuration:

“Careers are a jungle gym, not a ladder.”

I’ve already written almost 1300 words without really getting into how I wanted to be a stay at home mom OR the “fun” of responding to emails one-handed while keeping a breast pump suction cup firmly affixed to the correct body part. For a great discussion of the jungle gym analogy, I encourage you to visit Gini Dietrich’s post about Lean In.

jungle gym

 *Note: I read the book on audio, so it’s challenging to go back and obtain direct quotes. If I have paraphrased anything incorrectly, I apologize!

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

Getting Lost With Dustin

I seem to get lost every time I leave the Earl May Boat Basin in Bainbridge, GA. I have participated in the Kiwanis River Run there quite a few Januarys, and have gotten lost on the way out almost every time. The year that Paula O’Neill, Arlene Feril, and I rode together (2012) was no exception. We decided to follow the car in front of us because it had running stickers (you know, that age-old indicator that the individual knows where they are going!!). Turns out we were following Dustin Rhodes, who was just as lost as we were. We eventually all figured it out. That January 2012 conversation in Bainbridge was the only time I ever spoke to Dustin face-to-face*.

However, an enjoyable Facebook friendship ensued, especially once we figured out that Dustin, his wife Rebecca, my daughter Tenley, and I had all been at the very same village and church in Guatemala on mission trips (although he and Rebecca were there before Tenley and I were). Once you have been at the church in San Lucas, met its ministers and its people, you never forget.

Our last messages to each other were on my birthday (November 28). Dustin had asked about the Jingle Bell Run (how “low key” it was) and I assured him how family friendly (and non-competitive) it would be.

The following Sunday, Fr. Tim Holeda at Blessed Sacrament added at the very end of the service “please pray for Dustin Rhodes who has been diagnosed with brain cancer.” I could barely believe my ears, since Dustin and I had literally just spoken lightly of a fun run.  Unfortunately, it was true.

Everything moved at lightning speed after that. Dustin, Rebecca, and their son Michael moved back to Pennsylvania to be with friends. Surgery was performed at Duke University in early January. The list of therapies, medications, challenges, and diagnostic procedures is lengthy. So, also, is the list of people who rallied around Dustin, fundraisers that were held (including a skydive/ultra race combination), and compassionate love that was shared.

Dustin participates in the Angels Among Us 5K at Duke University (April 2013)

Dustin participates in the Angels Among Us 5K at Duke University (April 2013)

As of the most recent update on Facebook, the family has shared that the cancer has spread to Dustin’s cerebellum and brain stem. As a result, radiation is no longer going to be part of his treatment plan and the family is evaluating their next steps.

As I was processing this information, I ran across this prayer from the Society of the Little Flower among one of several devotionals that cross my social media stream each day. Something about it intersected (to me) with Dustin’s journey:

God of Miracles, You are amazing!  Out of our emptiness and sterility, You work Your wonders.   Help us to be comfortable with our empty sterility so that You can shine.  Circumcise into the  flesh of our spirits a deep faith in You and Your covenant betrothal of us.  As Jesus touched the  leper with healing power, touch us.  Make us whole and healed.  Make us fruitful so that we can  be a blessing to others and productive in working for Your reign of justice, peace and life.  You  can bring life from where we create death.  Thank you for being the miracle God of Life.  I need Your healing life today!

Time and again over the course of this illness, Dustin and Rebecca have seemed to be the ones ministering to us, as opposed to the other way around. My friends and I have laughed about getting lost in Bainbridge, and the fact that we were following someone who was just as lost as we were. This situation is different and so much more serious. Dustin is not lost here; his unwavering spirit and tenacity have shone brightly. In one of our Facebook conversations, Dustin shared this with me:

God’s work will be done, despite the odds, if we continue to be His hands and feet.

I never had as many face-to-face conversations with Dustin as I would have liked (Lord knows Dustin was so much faster than me that we certainly were never running together!). I feel like I have just scratched the surface of what could have grown into a really wonderful friendship. I fear that in embracing the cause of supporting Dustin, all of us ran the risk of tromping on privacy and personal dignity at a time when this young family needed only to cling to one another and their God. But I suppose, as Dustin said, God’s work will be done…..

….and I’m pretty sure the guy who couldn’t lead three women out of Bainbridge has a very good lock on the Divine.

Thank you, Dustin, Rebecca, and Michael for being just exactly who you are and letting God’s work be done through you.

NOTE: If you are interested in helping Dustin and his family, either financially, by sending a card (appreciated!), or learning more details in order to continue praying/sending good intentions, visit the website at www.dustrhodes.com. Thank you.

*That’s not technically true; I spoke to Dustin face-to-face when I delivered food to his family after his diagnosis. I am so glad I had that opportunity to see him before he moved back to Pennsylvania.

 

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

If The $500 Fairy Visited (A Mama Kat Prompt)

This week, I chose a Mama Kat prompt that allowed me to dream, for at least a few minutes. The prompt is:

If I gave you $500 today, but you could use it for only one purchase, what would you buy and why?

Source: www.morguefile.com

Source: www.morguefile.com

There are three things I would choose from if $500 were placed into my hands right now:

Option One:  Pay down debt. The $500 would only put a small dent in what we owe but every single dollar toward being able to breathe again (emotionally) is a dollar well spent.

Option Two:  Send my mother in law on her dream trip to Rome. I know $500 wouldn’t cover the whole thing at all but it would be $500 closer than I am now.  At 78, her stamina to negotiate an overseas trip like that probably isn’t infinite. I hate to give up on this dream. I wish I could have found a way to save up for it, to win it (I’ve entered plenty of contests), to repay someone who has meant so much to me.

Option Three:  Travel to Guatemala to visit our sponsored child, Silvia. At 18, her time in the sponsorship program is limited (it ends when she stops formal schooling). The guidelines regarding sponsor/sponsoree contact after sponsorsSilvia (the mom), Tenley, Me, Silvia July 2011hip ends are strict, and it is unlikely she and I will see one another again. I want to look her in the eyes, give her a hug, wish her a lifetime of happiness, and thank her for what she has meant to Tenley and to me. $500 would cover the cost of a Mission Awareness Trip with the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging. There would still be the issue of airfare, and getting Tenley there, but $500 would be a start.

Thanks, Kat, for the opportunity to dream out loud (or on screen…..or whatever this is!).

Mama’s Losin’ It

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

Christmas Beyond Red and Green (An Advent Devotional)

I wrote this devotional as my contribution to the Holy Comforter Episcopal Church “Advent Reflections 2011.” It was written for December 16 (Advent 3). The verses for that day included:

Let all the ends of the earth revere him. Psalm 67:7
…my house shall be called a house of prayer. Isaiah 56:7
…you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. John 5:35
When Tenley and I visited Guatemala in July 2011 as part of a Christian Foundation for Children and Aging Mission Awareness Trip, we had a booklet that outlined “the plan” for each day. For example, we knew that on Monday we would start the day with a reflection, spend the majority of the day visiting with our “sponsored friends” (the children that we had been supporting through financial contributions, correspondence, and small gifts), and end the day with dinner and a video presentation.



The “plan” for Wednesday stated that we would start the day at 7:00 a.m. with the “Mayan Prayer” led by the project team. I had no idea what to expect, except that some of our fellow travelers seemed very excited about the Mayan Prayer.


When Tenley and I arrived downstairs on Wednesday morning, we could see what all the excitement had been about. I don’t know what time the team had woken up to prepare the elaborate presentation, but it was beautiful. A carpet of pine needles surrounded beautiful floral presentations – a floral rosary – the CFCA logo in flowers – representations of earth’s gifts such as corn, wheat, fruit, and beans – and in the very center, a cross of five colors.


In the cross, small green candles represented the center of the earth; red candles represented the east; black candles represented the west; white candles represented the north; yellow candles represented the south.


Many of the team members had dressed in their indigenous clothing; beautifully woven textiles that told stories in themselves. The history of the textiles goes back thousands of years, grounded in a land whose volcanoes and mountains have sustained generations of people who have a deep reverence for the earth and its products.


Each of us was instructed to choose a candle to light. For example, the people who had chosen green approached the center together to light their candles. These candles represented the “green fields, where the beatitudes become a total reality when we are conscious of our daily deeds.” The number of people wanting red (east) was pretty high, so I held back and lit a black candle. Black represented the west, “symbols of our death, the end of our earthly life, but the beginning of a new era.”


The Mayan people may have never worshipped in ornate cathedrals; they may have never had hymnals inscribed, “In Honor of So-and-So.” They may not have had many material worship trappings that most of us have become accustomed to.


But there, in the shadow of Lake Atitlan, the sky was as beautiful a ceiling as the most complicated fresco. My new friends, both the Americans with whom we were traveling and the Guatemalans who embraced us as their Christian “familia,” helped us extend our spiritual reach a bit farther, to more distant “ends of the earth.”


And it was in His light that we all rejoiced.


As you prepare to celebrate Christ’s birth, consider opening your heart to another part of God’s creation that you have not experienced. You may find that reaching farther out brings you closer to the center, where everything is illumined by “the light of mutual love.”

Sources:

Christian Foundation for Children and Aging Mission Awareness Trip Booklet
Mayan Prayer, Internet

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

Carla is My Starfish (A Mama Kat Writing Prompt)

Photo Credit:  Federico Stevanin

This week, random.org handed me Mama Kat prompt number one: List 22 things you’ve never done. I love this idea, but I am saving this prompt for an upcoming blog and going with number four: Share the story behind your current Facebook and/or Twitter profile photo.

Here is my current Facebook Profile:

And this is my Twitter Profile/Avatar:

Why is there a six-year-old named Carla on my Facebook Banner and serving as my Twitter avatar? Carla is there because she is my “starfish.”

(If you are not familiar with the “Starfish Story,” it is a story about how just one person can make a difference. A little girl is walking down the beach which is littered with hundreds of starfish who have been stranded at low tide. She picks up starfish after starfish and throws each one back into the sea, into safety. An adult walks by and scoffs at her actions, asking why her efforts matter, seeing as how there are far more starfish than she can personally help. Having just thrown a starfish back into the watery horizon, she turns to the man and says, “I made a difference to that one.” Having had his perspective changed, he chooses a starfish of his own to serve. There is a very nice version of the story here if you would like a version to share.)

Carla turned six on August 13. She lives in Guatemala with her father, who grinds wheat when he can find work, her mother, and two sisters. Her family home has a dirt floor, board walls, a tin sheet for a roof, a rug over bricks for a bed, and firewood for cooking.  I have volunteered to tell Carla’s story in hopes of connecting her with someone who will become her “sponsor” through http://www.hopeforafamily.org/, also known as the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging (CFCA). Sponsorship costs $30 a month. Sponsors also exchange letters and photos with their sponsored children (CFCA serves aging people as well.)

My primary blog describing more about Carla’s family and how sponsorship can literally change their lives is here.

My vlog in which I do magical things with some old grape soda and cooking oil in hopes of convincing someone to sponsor Carla is here:

My daughter Tenley and I met Silvia, a child we have sponsored since she was seven (she is now seventeen), in July. The difference between looking at a two-dimensional picture of Silvia on my mother-in-law’s end table for years and the three-dimensional experience of hugging her, talking to her, and meeting her mother, is something I can hardly quantify. As with every experience I had in Guatemala, it was looking in the eyes of parents (especially moms) and seeing that we all want pretty much the same thing for our children: safety, happiness, and a life that has options, that galvanized my determination to continue helping.

Silvia (the Mom), Tenley, Paula, Silvia (the Daughter/Our Sponsored Child)

Then, during the week of our visit to Guatemala, we learned that if we chose to sponsor another child, we would get to meet him or her that week. Rapidly I went from saying, “yeah, we’ll sponsor a child of our own (Silvia is technically my in-laws’ sponsored child) once my husband gets a job” to my daughter’s emails to my husband (since he had to be part of the decision) stating in no uncertain terms how we couldn’t wait to sponsor a child. She was ready to give up a significant portion of her allowance monthly; the children (and their families’ needs) were so compelling. I think I will always wonder what happened to Wendy, whose folder we left on the table with the others, in favor of Estela. The decision point? Which one, based on the biographical information available, did we think needed sponsorship the most? Since Estela is the youngest of ten children, in a family that survives on the equivalent of $50 a month, she became Tenley’s sponsored child. Just like with Silvia’s mom, when I looked in Estela’s parents’ eyes, I knew we were “in this together.” Their gratitude was unequivocal – Estela now has a chance to go to school, to have improved nutrition and health care, and to exchange letters with Tenley (which will give her additional language training as she gets older).

Estela’s parents look on as she meets Tenley.

I hope Wendy became someone else’s starfish.

As we prepared to leave Guatemala, the CFCA staff talked with the 39 of us who had participated in the trip, about how we could make a difference and keep spreading the word once we returned to the states. At some point I asked for “just one” folder to start with, thinking “well I should ask for several but let’s see how one goes.”

That one is Carla. I got her folder (which contains pictures, biographical information, and sponsorship information), in mid-August and proceeded to blog, FB status, Tweet (in two languages), YouTube, and follow any trail that may lead to someone who could spread the word too. CFCA was gracious enough to put my post and Carla’s picture on their main Facebook page. Many people have been awesome and helped by sharing the links. My friend Robin is donating her teaching time this Saturday (and YogaQuest is donating studio time) for a “donation” yoga where the pay is not a monetary contribution but an agreement to help get the word out via social media (or the old fashioned way — remember that? — where you actually talk to someone face to face!). Usually we have the folders for sixty days, but CFCA agreed to let me hang on to Carla’s information for another week and a half.

I know I have written a pretty long blog tonight. I was so happy when I saw that Karma, in the form of Kat, gave me an opening in the prompt, “explain who is on your Facebook or Twitter profile.”

If you’ll bear with me just a bit more, I have a few requests.

First, if you would be willing to share Carla’s story, it is as simple as tweeting this:

I am helping @biggreenpen with a CarlaNeedsaSponsor tweet! The blog http://bit.ly/ruQDOZ and the vlog http://youtu.be/Meqy5cdC_TY $30/mo #CFCA

And/or sharing the “Hope for Carla’s Family” link on Facebook or in your blogs:

http://waytenmom.blogspot.com/2011/08/hope-for-family-carlas-family.html 

Lastly, many of you in the MamaKat community have shared comments and the like with me over the past year. I feel like I know many of you and you have a sense of what I am about. I could use some honest feedback about what strategies I might use for a campaign like this. Over the past sixty days I have become convinced that there has to be some extension beyond links, tweets, and other social media efforts (like speaking to small groups, etc.). But what do you need to hear in a request like this to feel compelled to share it forward, pursue it yourself, or want to become personally involved? How do you go from “Hm, that’s interesting,” to “Is that my starfish?” This is my first time doing this outreach for CFCA, and I could use some of your great intellect and common sense. Thanks in advance!!

I am going to randomly select two of the commenters to receive a $5 Starbucks gift card* as a way of saying “thanks.” I will select the recipients on Wednesday, October 26.

In closing, I ask you who will be your starfish? And if you are a parent, how are you teaching your children that each starfish matters?

Complete possession is proved only by giving. All you are unable to give possesses you. Andre Gide

Mama's
*Note: These are gift cards I was given by Tekara Organizational Effectiveness, Inc. as a “thank you” for some comments I had shared on one of their blogs. They are aware I am sharing these gift cards with you, and I thank Tyrell Mara and Tekara for their permission!

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

Hope For Carla – The Vlog Version

Hello everyone!

Tonight I am extending my efforts to help find a sponsor for Carla through http://www.hopeforafamily.org/. (I wrote about Carla previously in this post.)

In this video, I talk about how sponsorship can change Carla’s life (and I find a use for that expired grape soda in our fridge – how’s that for multitasking??!!).

If anyone you know has any questions about sponsorship (for Carla or for other children/youth/aging in any of the 22 countries served by CFCA), please let me know!

Complete possession is proved only by giving. All you are unable to give possesses you. -Andre Gide

Note from Paula: It is possible that more than one person may contact CFCA about sponsoring Carla or that a potential sponsor may really have their heart set on sponsoring a boy instead of a girl, a child from one of the 21 other countries served by CFCA, or an elderly person. Please know that CFCA has many sponsorship opportunities available and will be happy to work with you to select who you want to sponsor. You can get more details on that here.

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