Off we go on an adventure!

I remember when I was a little girl, going into our storage room and just standing there looking at all the food. I would imagine that we fell on hard times and had to ration the food to make sure it was going to last. Eventually that would lead to daydreaming about Ethiopia. As every kid knows Ethiopia is where are the really poor kids are that would be happy for your oatmeal mush. I would day-dream that I would go there with nothing but a handful of corn and little by little I would work my way into owning a mansion and employing dozens of locals and completely changing the village that I lived in. That’s what I day dreamed about when I was nine years old and supposed to be doing the laundry.

Yesterday, I got some exciting news. I am going to Uganda. Not with a handful of corn and not to make my fortune but to hopefully make an impact in the lives of the women who live there. I am going to be working with a company called Musana that is dedicated to helping the women of Uganda better their lives by providing work and an opportunity to learn some new skills. The wanderer in me couldn’t be more please with this opportunity to once again embark on a journey outside of the country. The story-teller in me couldn’t be more satisfied with the plethora of stories that I will undoubtedly have to tell about the people there, their experiences, and my life there as well. I am excited for all the ways that I know I will grow and for all the friendships that I will make. This experience is going to change my life forever. There are just three things that I am worried about.

imgres-2The first as you might guess is money. As a student it is not something that I have just lying around waiting for me to decide to take a trip to Africa. The university will give me a scholarship that will help but I am still going to need to come up with about $2000.

url-2The second thing that I am concerned about, and this might seem silly to most of you, but it’s not silly to me, it’s very VERY real and very VERY scary and well…it’s SPIDERS. icky, wiggly, hairy, leggy spiders. What if they crawl on me in my sleep? What if they… well I don’t know exactly what they could do but I know that just by being there crawling in their creepy little way its scary. And what is even more scary is that they might not be so very little. I picked the least scary, most harmless looking spider I could find because even seeing one on my blog is terrifying.

My last concern is without a doubt the most difficult and the only one that really gives me pause about going. And that is my dad. When I was little I remember my dad having breakfast with us when it was over he would roll up his bib cross the ties across the top put his hat on his head and say “that’s all folks” then he would do a little jib as he walked down the hallway through the kitchen and just before he turned the corner he would lift his hat to us and say see you later alligator!

The other day after dinner he finished eating and told my mom he was ready to go back to his room. slowly he turned his legs toward the side of the chair and my mom held on to his hands and pulled him to his feet. He stood there a little shaky trying to get his balance before he slowly shuffled from the room hanging on to her arm. As I watched him go I thought of my old “papadoplous” and his funny little jigs, and his playful attitude. I thought about him going off to work everyday to provide for us and I wondered if I can really go for three months not knowing if he will still be here when I get back. Saying goodbye is going to be difficult no matter what the circumstances but I don’t want to say goodbye when I leave for Africa and have him die while I am gone. I want to be here with him during his last days.

To be honest I don’t want him to go at all. A girl just shouldn’t have to lose her dad at my age. I’m not ready for that and I don’t think I will ever be ready for that. But…I also don’t think he would want me to continue to live my life in fear of him going. I don’t think he would want me to turn down opportunities. So I am going. I will pray that he will be ok. That I will come back and get to tell him all about my adventures there. He will probably even think that he went with me!149692_449132820657_467824_n

The Fall Colors came…But the Sunshine Went Away

Let me introduce you to the color in my life.

Her name is Shaylee.

My brother and his wife were pregnant with her when they got married. When she was born we all fell in love, pretty instantly. She was so full of personality even as a baby. She developed a little crush on my boyfriend at the early age of about 8 months. It was cute to watch her flirt with him, leaning toward him, fluttering her eyelashes at him and smiling at him from across the table. He couldn’t believe that such a little girl could have such a big personality.

She let everyone know that she was in charge. She saw all other children as babies and herself as big enough to take care of them. She literally brought so much sunshine into our lives. My seventeen year old little sister became something of a mom to her as she was her nanny. The whole family got to benefit as she was at the house all day every day. She kept us laughing with her funny little antics. She would tip her head back and say “Nice” in a long drawn out lazy kind of voice. She would say sorry for everything. If she hurt herself and cried, when you picked her up to hold her she would say “sorry, sorry”

She would spin in a circle and giggle when she couldn’t stay standing. Shaylee sang and danced and head bobbed, She was everybody’s sweetheart.

One day she woke me by coming into my room and sitting on top of me in bed. Once I was awake she went to my chair where I had put my clothes when I undressed the night before and picked up my bra. She looked at it for a minute and said, “What’s this huh?” Then she put it on her head like a hat and started dancing around the room.

She is fascinated with clocks and will take you by the hand and lead you around the house looking for all the “crocks”

She knows exactly where grandma keeps her chocolate. She will go to the office and peek into the cupboard and say “grandma…crockit?”

One day she was playing and wanting alot of attention. My little sister, Esther, was starting to get a little annoyed with her, so when she came in the kitchen where Esther was and started pulling on her and saying “Etu, Etu, Etu” (her version of Esther) Esther turned to her and said “WHAT!” Shaylee puckered up her lips and said “Tiss”

She is very sensitive to moods and will often climb up on your lap and say “Happy?”

She has mastered the surprised face, the happy face, and the mad face and will do them whenever you ask her. She loves swings and gets so excited when she knows you are going to the park. She loves cats and dogs and animals of all kinds. She is fearless when it comes to water and will go down the water slide at her grandparents house and into the pool all by herself and always comes up laughing.

She loves brooms and will be perfectly happy sweeping the floor.

My brother and his wife are now divorced. She lives in Idaho and he lives here. Shaylee left to go live with her mother last week. It was really hard to see her go. We will probably not see her for some time. How do you say goodbye to a little girl like that and let her go without breaking down?

How do you even explain to her what is happening and how do you have any confidence that she will be taken care of, that her needs will be met, that she will live a happy, healthy, life. In reality you can’t. You can try, you can hope, you can even pray, but in the end you are powerless.

I found this out when I was 18 and went through a similar situation with another niece. I learned how to let go and realize that if I loved her for one minute, that was one minute more than she might have had and I had to be happy with that. I realized that if she had stability, affection, safety, and an environment where all her needs where met for a year that was one year that she might not have had. In the end I had to realize that I can’t control her life, I can’t control her future, and I can’t control her decisions or the decisions her parents make.

So how do you say goodbye? I still don’t know but I can tell you how we did. We took her for a picnic in the mountains to see the fall colors. We let her run up and down trails with my sisters and I following close behind enjoying her antics and her happiness.

We sang her favorite song with her. A song that took on a whole new meaning for us.

“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine.

You make me happy, when skies are gray,

you’ll never know dear how much I love you.

Please don’t take my sunshine away.

As we enjoyed the brilliant reds, pinks and every possible shade of green and orange, I couldn’t help but think about how fitting it was for the day.

Fall signals the end of an era. Summer with all of its fun, and warmth has gone. It was wonderful while it lasted but it’s time for something else. I know it will be wonderful too. I know the brilliant white of the freshly fallen snow will dazzle me just as the fall colors are doing now. The circle of life continues, and somehow we all move along with it. We smile, we laugh and we just keep going.

We tried to soak in the last minutes with Shaylee. I held her while she slept and treasured the feel of her in my arms. Then I kissed her and let her go.

“The other night dear, as I lay sleeping

I dreamed I held you in my arms

But when I woke up I was mistaken

and I hung my head and I cried.”

We love you Shaylee!

Time Will Heal

Yesterday I jumped into the pool with my non water proof watch on. My heart sank. Not because it was a fancy expensive watch or anything but because of what it represented. You see one day several months ago, as I was walking across the parking lot on my way to teach a class, my watch fell from my wrist and the face shattered on the concrete. It was a $10 watch from Walmart so it shouldn’t have been a big deal… but it was.

I have come to see my watch as something of a measure of how I am doing in my life. Just a few days before the shattering of this important symbol, my room mate commented to me on the fact that I actually wear my watch now, which is something that I have never done. “I think its symbolic” she said. “You seem settled and happy with your life, you seem like you are living in the moment. It’s like you are really HERE”

As a little girl I thought that life revolved around being married, around having children and a family. I thought that life wouldn’t start until the day I crossed the threshold. I found myself always wishing time away and longing for what I didn’t have.

One of my favorite authors,Elizabeth Elliot left me with a quote that has changed my life. She said, “let not your longing slay your passion for living.” I have tried to live by that, not always successfully, but I am doing better. At that moment my life was great, I loved my job, I was in school doing well, I had a boyfriend I was crazy about and life seemed good. I expected a proposal any day.

Then the watch shattered.

I looked at the jagged lines crisscrossing the face and I laughed, although there was something inside me that wondered if I should cry.

The next day my boyfriend of a year and a half, and I went for a walk to talk. I stood on a trail on the side of the mountain with my back turned to him and sobbed as he explained to me that he just couldn’t marry me. Apparently for him it just wasn’t there enough for him to marry me. CRACK…

That weekend, perhaps not thinking as clearly as I should have I made other decisions that I would almost instantly regret and it made the shattering complete.

Then one night I came home to find a gift box on my bed. It was a new watch with a note from my roommate that simply said. “Be HERE.” She might as well have reminded me of my motto to “Let not my longing slay my passion for living.”

That’s why when I looked at the water droplets on the face of the watch and the hands that stood still, waiting…just like me. I wanted to cry. I couldn’t bring myself to throw it away so I just left it on the counter in my bathroom. Today when I picked it up, the hands had started moving again. Somehow my resilient little watch had found a way to keep going.

Life moves on you just pickup the pieces and hold on to a belief that time will heal a broken heart.