A little girl and her heart

In August when we traveled to Ethiopia, we were blessed to be driven around by a wonderful man named Dawit. This was actually the third time he has been our driver in Ethiopia, and we couldn’t have had a better person to keep watch over us. By the time the two weeks of this trip was done, he felt almost like family to us.

With Dawit

With Dawit

On Mother’s Day I found out that his little daughter Yohana, age 1, has a couple of fairly serious heart defects for which she will need surgery.  For those of you with medical knowledge, she has a large atrial septal defect and a small patent ductus arteriosis. The problem is that this type of surgery (though commonly and easily done in the US) is not available in Ethiopia.

The closest place for this child to be treated is in Kenya, at a mission hospital where a visiting US surgeon will be next February. The cost is overwhelming for this young family, as you might imagine. She will need to travel to Kenya twice, once in August for an evaluation, and then again in February.  Just airfare and hotels will probably cost around $2000.

Thankfully a number of people have come together and already donated $2800, enough for travel, and for at least some of the medical care needed. But if you are inclined to donate to cover more of Yohana’s medical expenses, you can do so via paypal through a medical missionary in Ethiopia named Jodi Ross. Jodi is a trusted friend of my sister Sophie, and they lived and worked in Ethiopia side by side for several years. Jodi’s email is jodi_rss@yahoo.com.  Feel free also to email her with questions.  And whether or not you are able to help financially, would you consider praying for little Yohana?  This has to be a scary time for Dawit and his wife.

Thanks so much!

Being a nurse, part 2

(If you missed it, here’s Part One)

Now for the rest of the story of night shift nursing:

2AM to 5AM on night shift:

When it’s quiet or even moderately busy, here’s where the night starts feeling long, the yawning starts getting serious, and the ‘since I can’t sleep yet’ eating starts happening.  I try not to have caffeine after 4 AM or so, because I want to sleep well when I get home, and also if I overdo the caffeine at this time of night, my stomach gets uneasy. But usually I feel in desperate need of a pick-me-up.  Lately I’ve been drinking just a little black tea around that time.  I will also often run an item personally to the nurses on the ‘other side’ of the OB department rather than using the ‘tube’ system, because a brisk walk is a nice pick-me-up at that time of night.

When taking care of moms in labor:

When the night is busy, even this part of the night can roar by.  I especially like having a birth around 4-5 AM, because the busyness surrounding the birth carries you through the tiredest hours of night shift while still giving you time to wrap up loose ends of charting before the tail end of the shift. And usually if you have a mom who delivers between 4-5 AM, you (probably, usually, unless it is a hectic night) won’t get assigned another labor after she delivers.

I tend to use a lot of energy coaching moms near delivery.  After that ‘whew, we did it!’ euphoria of a good birth, it can be hard to hand off that patient to her postpartum nurse and run back over to the labor side to do it all over again.  Especially hard is to be equally energetic with the next momma, especially if you get her at 5 AM and know you probably won’t even get to be in on her birth.  On busy nights it’s just a fact of life that we go from patient to patient.  But when it happens near the end of my shift, I really have to pull the energy up out of my toes to give that next momma my best.

When taking care of moms on postpartum:

Often the postpartum side has a time of quiet between 2 and 5 AM, even when most of the rooms are full.  The visitors are usually finally gone.  (Side note: I am BLOWN AWAY at how many people will visit new moms at midnight or later, often trundling little children along with them.  What can they be thinking??) By the wee hours of the morning, the moms are getting tired and they’ve gotten their pain meds and some of them even turn off their TV’s and actually get a little sleep, if their babies and visitors (grr) allow it.  Nurses have a dab of time to eat lunch and get caught up on charting, and maybe even sometimes sit and chat for a few minutes before the pace picks up again and we need to do our 5AM lab draws and other end-of-shift things.

Since we don’t have a well-baby nursery per se, often there’s a baby or two behind the desk keeping us company while a momma or two tries to get a little rest.  My daughters think I’m crazy, but I find almost all newborns to be completely adorable, so it is fun when I have time to give one a snuggle, or if the aides are busy, sometimes even a bath.beautiful babies

5-7 AM on night shift:  Here’s where the night shift feels most brutal, and almost everyone wonders why they signed up for this gig.  You’re so close to bed and yet so far away still.  When it’s quiet, you’re exhausted, and when it’s busy you’re even more exhausted.  Time does go quicker when you’re busy though.

One of the craziest times (I think) to have a delivery is between 6 and 7 AM.  Some nurses are good at staying caught up with charting, but I tend to get behind on charting at the tail end of labor, because patient care feels all-consuming.  So a 6-7 AM birth almost always leaves me still charting at 7:30-8 AM, and straggling home late.  I almost always clock out late when there’s a ‘shift change’ baby.

On the postpartum side, you tend to have a teeny bit more control.  I spend this time trying to be as organized as possible, finishing every scrap of charting, making sure my moms’ needs are fully met so I’m not scrambling trying to do things at 7.  Also looking at the clock.  And looking at the clock.  And wondering why on earth I ever thought night shift was a good idea.

Around 6:50 AM the clickety-BEEP of the time clock gives our sleepy brains a reason to rejoice– the day shift staff is starting to clock in!  It’s almost time to go to bed.

At shift change, as long as you aren’t in the middle of delivering a shift change baby,  being on the labor side is nice.  All you have to do is give report on one patient to one nurse and then you’re off, home to bed, sometimes even a few minutes early.

On the postpartum side, you usually have 3 or so mother-baby ‘couplets’, and very often your assignment of patients has been divided in a different way on day shift than on nights, meaning it’s common to give report to two or three different nurses.  So there’s lots of waiting around to give report to various nurses during that final snails-pace half hour. Almost always giving report, and then introducing patients to the new staff, takes til 7:30, or sometimes longer.

Then finally, off I go, yawning my way toward home and the blissful thought of sleep. Driving home, I try to shut off the worries about what I might have forgotten to do– usually it’s charting-related, not patient care.  But it is incredible how much charting there is. Once home, I usually don’t manage more than 20-30 minutes of awake time with my family before I trundle off to bed.  Sleep.  Bliss.

~~~

I’m fortunate that (thanks to a fan, room-darkening shades and a quiet family)  I sleep pretty well during the day, usually til around 3 PM. By then the boys are just getting home from school and the girls have been done with homeschool for several hours.  (Maybe I’ll share in another post what we’ve been doing to make homeschool doable on my work days.)

In the afternoon when I get up, I’m completely groggy.  I make my way to the coffee pot and sit in my comfy chair in my sweats for an hour or so, and gradually wake up.  By the time I’m actually awake, it’s already time to rassle up some dinner and get ready for work.  Often I’ll order pizza, or do something super simple like fish sticks and tater tots.  I don’t tend to have much energy to cook in between two work nights. Lemme tell you, night shift nurses EARN that hefty hourly shift differential.

But the good thing at this point in the week is that I only have one more shift to do before I make it to my next stretch of days off.  AND (unlike before my first night shift of the week when I can never sleep) I spent this whole day sleeping. So once my coffee kicks in and I’ve come up with some type of food for everyone, I’m usually awake enough and energized enough to hit that second and final 12 hour shift with energy and enthusiasm.

There’s another bonus of two nights in a row:  sometimes I get the  patient I had the previous night.  I usually enjoy caring for someone who I already know, and who already knows me. In fact, even if I don’t get assigned the previous night’s patient, I will often zip over to her room and say hi to her sometime during the shift. And sometimes, of course, instead of getting the happy grateful type of patient, you can be assigned a challenging/needy, or very ill patient two nights in a row.  But even then, I try to give it my all, and use what I already know about her likes and preferences to make it as good an experience as possible for her.

The last hour of my second 12 hour shift often really drags, because by then I am really ready to head home and be done with work for awhile,  but finally report is done and I’m out the door, heading home to bed.

Often on my second day of sleep, since I know I’ll be able to sleep that night, I’ll only sleep til 1 or 2 before getting up for the day.  That way I can sleep better that night.  Always, no matter how short or long I sleep, I’m foggy and sometimes short-tempered (tho I try not to be) for the rest of the day.  Dinner again tends to be something super easy.

What’s changed about life since I started working

I definitely do more convenience food or fast food on my work days. And even on my days off I think I cook a bit less than I used to. But it feels like a reasonable compromise given the added demands on my life.

Another thing that’s probably less positive overall is that I find I’m simply quicker to spend money.  We have a bit more than we’ve had for a couple decades, and already I can feel that it’s changed the way I feel about a $30 purchase, or even one that is $130.

Just today I bought 4 outdoor lights that will be a nice upgrade to the exterior look of our house. They were only $29 each at Costco, which isn’t bad at all for nice lighting.  But it was a total impulse buy and not necessary.  I need to watch out that ‘little’ splurges like this don’t diminish the financial benefit that work is bringing our family.

I also am trying very hard not to use work as an excuse to not do activities with the kids, or to not be focused on them when I am home– which of course is part of the reason blogging frequency has been decreased lately.

I have to say that I’m very glad I had 17 years where I wasn’t working outside the home.  It allowed me to really focus on the kids when our house was full of little ones.  It was a financial sacrifice, but there’s zero doubt in my mind it was the right thing to do for that time in our family’s growth.

And this new schedule seems to be working for our family where it is now.  Of course anytime one of my kids is struggling with anything to any degree, my mind goes to the fact that I’m working, and feels guilty.  Would they be struggling if I was here all the time?  Am I doing the right thing?  But when doubt starts riding me, usually John reminds me I’m only gone two nights, and he’s home almost all the time I’m gone. (He works 3 12-hour day shifts a week.)  So most of the time there’s still a parent here.  I think we’re doing ok. Overall I think it’s fitting and working and is a success.

Well, that’s more than enough from me for now, but I’d love to hear from any of you who are thinking of transitioning back to work, or want to stay home and are figuring out logistics. Or maybe you’ve recently made a similar life change. It is an important decision for a family to make, and I’d love to hear how it’s working for you.

Being a nurse: what it’s like

This transition from being an at-home mom for 17 years to working two days a week has been mostly good, I think.  But it is interesting how back and forth my emotions can be about my job, depending on where I am in my work week.   Just for fun, I decided to document my thoughts throughout a normal work week.  (This post ended up SO long that I think I’ll break it up into 2 or 3.  Feel free to skip them all if you’re not interested in life as a nurse.  🙂 )

My ‘week’ varies wildly in length.  Often I work two days in a row and then have 4-5 days off before my next ‘week’ begins.  But since I work every third weekend, sometimes I’ll only have a day or two off between sets of days, and other times I may go 12 days without working.

At the start of a long stretch of days off 

Me:  “I love my job.  Who’d have thought that I could work and make good money and still have so much time at home?  This is awesome.”   Kids and hubby:  “When do you work next?  Not for a week? Awesome!”

3 days before a chunk of work days (which are actually nights)

I start getting obsessive about getting to bed on time.  “Gotta sleep.  I only have three (two…one)  more night(s) to sleep before I work.”  Also:  “Gotta get stocked up on groceries so my people have food while I am working/sleeping.” Also:  “Gotta get things done because after this I’ll be in zombie mode sleeping all day for two days.”

When I’m scheduled to work that night

Me: “I better be chill today, save my energy, just in case it is crazy at work tonight.”  The kids and hubby: “You work tonight? That stinks…”  (Mournful puppy eyes, which of course assails me with ALL the guilt.  Should I really be doing this?)

Getting ready to go to work

Me:  Telling myself positive things

My family: looking glum but resigned.

 

On the way to work

I start remembering all the things I love about work:  the babies, the mommas who need help, the super awesome coworkers on night shift. I start thinking about where I will be assigned this evening, and can’t decide if I’d rather work on the labor side  (the excitement!  the drama! the one on one care)  or on the postpartum side (the steady scurrying, the teaching, the task-juggling, the fussing over the mommas.)  Ah well, it’s up to the charge nurse anyway.  I’ll happily take whichever assignment I get.

Almost always on my way in, I crank up the music and usually there’s some inspirational song along the lines of being salt and light, making a difference in the world.  And maybe it’s utterly corny but my heart swells, because, wow, I want to make a difference for the moms I serve.  I want to be a blessing. By the time I get to work, I’m ready to go.  I hit the elevator with a smile, and am happy to greet all the truly awesome people who are my coworkers.

Night shift, 7-10PM

When it’s slow:  “Ohmygoodness, it’s only 9 PM?  How can that be?”  But as a nurse you (superstitiously) never wanna wish for it to be busier, because pretty soon then you’re faced with two moms trying to race each other to deliver first, another who’s threatening to need a c-section, and another whose family has the labor room so packed that you can barely walk through without tripping over 3 or 4 people–  the kind of night where you can’t keep up no matter how fast you scurry and you find yourself charting til 8:30 the next morning.  So no.  When it is (sh) quiet, you don’t wish for more.

When it’s comfortably busy, I scurry around contentedly doing my thing.  It is a nice feeling of contented usefulness. I love my job: interacting with the moms, helping with breastfeeding, encouraging them in their learning to be moms, admiring their babies, helping the dads find their place in supporting the moms…I just really enjoy it all.  Whether I’m helping a well-educated mom who already knows a lot about mothering, or encouraging a 17 year old taking her very first steps into motherhood, I try to meet the mom where she’s at, affirm her ability and her good instincts, and just help her a little way down the path.

When it’s crazy, I still try to fit in as much nurturing as I can, but it is harder and I don’t have time to think about whether I like my job or not.  I just work as fast as I can, while trying not to look rushed as I care for each mom.

Night shift, 10PM-2AM

When it’s slow: I’m taking advantage of the pace, fussing over my patients, charting well, looking for ways to do a little extra, maybe even getting some assigned e-learning done on the computer.  Staying busy at this stage of the game feels productive and isn’t too hard yet, because the night is still young.

When it’s busy: Ohmygoodness, hustle, hustle, and grab a yogurt when I have a minute because it’s not looking like lunch is happening tonight.  And please, please don’t let anything really hard happen because, eek, if it’s something I’ve never faced before, I won’t know what to do.

Honestly, that fear of the unknown is always in the back of my mind.  In my previous life as a nurse, I worked in a birthing center where most of the patients were very healthy.  That’s not always the case here.  After working 10 months, I’ve gotten to the point where probably 4 out of 5 shifts I feel capable and prepared to take care of my patients well.  But that 5th shift, when my patient’s blood pressure is too high or her baby is looking distressed, or somebody needs a blood transfusion, I am incredibly glad to have super-knowledgeable coworkers to walk alongside me, allowing me to continue to provide good safe care using the wise ones around me as backup.

The night shift nurses at my hospital are THE best at being that extra set of hands and sharing their expertise and wisdom in supportive and encouraging ways.  And that true, gracious, kind teamwork turns even a hugely stressful shift into something where there’s lots to be thankful for.

Being a nurse

Photocredit: Pixabay.com

My coworkers are true friends to each other– trading shifts to help each other out, sharing hand-me-downs and making handmade gifts for each others’ babies, even hanging out together after work hours.  I so much enjoy the group of talented, wise and kind women who are my coworkers.

buzzing around….

Hello!!  Yes, I’m still here.  Just buzzing around doing all sorts of interesting things.  At least once a week I’ve been enjoying that sweet new grandbaby and playing with her older siblings so mama can nap. We’ve been homeschooling and keeping up with all the normal stuff around here, including 2 night shifts a week at the hospital.

As an addition to our homeschool learning about refugees, the girls and I have been volunteering with a local ministry that helps new refugees settle into our community.  We have very much been enjoying getting to know a family that just arrived in Boise from Malaysia, and have had fun learning bits of each others’ languages.

Along with all that, John and I have been noodling around the idea of selling our place here and moving to a place in town.  And after 22 years of beating down the weeds and doing the upkeep on our three acres, we are realizing we may be getting a little weary of having so, so much land to tame.

The chickens and the cow and the huge garden and greenhouse have been lots of fun.  But we’re wondering if maybe we’d like to shift some of our time in other directions during the coming years. This house is just about paid off and the difference in property cost between here and a place in town would be a great jump on the start of our (someday) ocean dream.  And a smaller yard is sounding more and more appealing.

So we’ve been dipping our toes in the local real estate waters. We’ve begun looking at houses to see what we might be able to get in town that would leave us some equity to put toward our beach house dream.  Lots of house-hunting has netted some possible options.  But nothing so far feels decidedly ‘ours’. I’ve fallen in love with a house or two.  So far we haven’t been able to find out that would give John some good shop space.  Maybe we’ve lived here too long to get that ‘home’ feeling about anyplace but here. But maybe there’s something out there.  We’ll keep looking.

We’ve also been looking at our own house with resale value in mind, just in case we do find a good place in town.  We bit the bullet and replaced the elderly furnace. I did some major decluttering in the garage, with the plan of eventually texturing all the walls and shooting a fresh coat of paint on everything out there.

I’m cleaning out closets and giving away all sorts of things that we don’t need. The linen closet with half its contents removed looks incredibly more spacious and well organized. I need to paint the shelves and put the door back on, and then next on the list is a similar makeover of the master closet.

Useful grey by Benjamin MooreI’ve repainted all the doors and much of the trim on the main level of the house. The trim is just a plain white, and for the walls I chose a Benjamin Moore paint in a nice soft neutral tone called ‘Useful Grey.’  Funny name, eh? To the right is the color in someone else’s home.

New paint and door knobsAnd here’s a picture of our hallway showing the contrast between grey and white.  So clean and crisp.  (It proved crazy-hard to get the paint to show up as the right color on my camera, though– thus the photo above.)

This photo also shows our new door knobs. I bought new doorknobs and hinges for the whole house, to replace the brassy ones we’ve had since the 90’s. The grand total of that project was $280, and they really update the doors, I think.

We have new living room carpet coming soon.  Our current carpet is a very worn teal green that just screams 1990’s.  🙂  I got bids from a bunch of places but settled on RC Willey since their cost was the absolute best, and their work has been recommended.

As is typical for me, I want to do ALL.THE.THINGS. at once.  (Except, apparently, blogging–oops!)  It could be that after more house hunting we will just decide to stay put here– who knows?  Or maybe just the right house will show up during the next few months and we will make the leap to a new place.  But in any case these new fix-ups on our house are really fun and fresh, and (except for the boring furnace) not even all that spendy.  I keep forgetting to take pictures of my projects, but I will share more soon, because there’s lots happening.

Until then, thanks for sticking with me and checking in even when life gets busy and I don’t post often.  I appreciate your visits here!

 

Reading about immigrants

Well, we’re back home and back to school, all in one fell swoop. Thankfully we’re over the worst of the jet lag by now. For awhile the girls were waking around 3 AM and then having a hard time getting back to sleep, which meant they were all practically comatose by 6PM. I kept having to coax them to stay upright just a little longer in the evening so that they could get back to Idaho time.

Josh and Ben are doing well in public school so far, though I continue to have pangs feeling like (in allowing them their wish) I have deserted some of my responsibility to them. Funny how something that seems so normal to the vast majority of the world can feel so foreign to me. But I think they are doing OK, and of course it is God who is in charge of their life, not me. So I keep praying, keep talking to them about how things are going, and also now and then remind them that some of the questions I’m asking are not really a reflection on them, but simply me getting used to this new thing.

immigrantsJumping into school straight from 2 weeks in Ethiopia gave me an idea for a unit study with Emily, Julianna, and Zeytuna, my three homeschoolers this year. So many Ethiopians were happy our girls had come to Ethiopia to visit, but multiple times the girls were told to stay in America to live, as Ethiopians see America as the land of opportunity. Then of course we came home to read about all the refugees from Syria, and the terrible ways in which they are struggling to provide life and safety for their families.  Many of them also are longing to come to America.

Always in the past America has been seen as a place of refuge, a land that welcomes people who are struggling. I hope this will continue to be true in the future. I decided I really wanted our kids to learn a little more about the immigrant experience, and did an amazon hunt for some books that we can read together.  Most of them talk about the immigrant experience from the point of view of children and teens.

Four of the books tell the story of people who came to America via Ellis Island.  Children of the Dust Bowl is the story of kids who moved to California during the Dust Bowl and how they dealt with the discrimination they faced in that move. A Long Walk to Water is the true story of one of the lost boys of Sudan. Esperanza Rising is fiction and tells the story of a girl who moves from Mexico to the United States. Inside Out and Back Again is the true story of a child who fled Vietnam after the fall of Saigon, and it is written entirely in poems.

My plan is to begin with that last book, and to do a fair bit of the reading at lunch time to the girls while they eat.  I am hoping that our fresh experience in another country might make these immigrant stories more meaningful to our kids, and might give them a deeper compassion toward people who struggle to find a place in this world.

 

Part 1-We’re off to Ethiopia!

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10

Here we are this morning with our 6 checked bags and 6 carry-on items. Yikes! So much for packing light. However, 2.5 of our checked bags are things we’re delivering for other people, and there are 5 of us, all girls, traveling for 16 days. I think we could have done worse.

At the airport this morning

As I write this, we’ve made it all the way to Houston. Julianna was getting a bit stir-crazy by the end of that 3 hour flight, so hopefully she will survive the next two flights, each of which is 9+ hours. Wow. I am very much hoping for seat-back TV’s to broaden the entertainment options. We also have some movies on my tablet, which should also help.

So far the only hitch we’ve had is that I managed to forget the plug that lets my Fitbit download onto my computer, which means that although it will still count my steps each day, it won’t tell me how well I sleep each night. (Sob.) Such a first-world problem. John wanted to go back and get it for me, but I decided I’d rather get to the airport 15 minutes sooner. And it turned out to be a good thing. The Boise airport was hopping this morning, and the security line was longer than I’ve ever seen it.

Anyway, we’re off! Next time I update you, we should be in Addis!

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We’re off tomorrow!

After years of wishing, and months of planning, and days of packing, we are finally ready to set off on this great adventure to Ethiopia. We leave Tuesday morning, which is a ridiculously few hours from now. We’ve got meals planned for the guys at home, and hotels planned for the girls who are going, including, blessedly, my sister Sophie who has lived and worked in southern Ethiopia for the past five years. It will be such a blessing to have her there to translate and share her experience, and just hang out with.

Soddo

I’m really excited to finally be able to see Soddo, the place where two of our girls were born.  Soddo has also been Sophie’s workplace for the past five years, where she has cared for many pregnant women, offering them medical care that they might not otherwise get.   She is closing that chapter in her own life now, but her friend and fellow nurse Jody Ross will continue on in that important work.  (Sophie and I would both love it if you’d support Jody in continuing that work, if you feel so moved.)

Sophie

 

We’ll also be visiting Harar, one of the most ancient cities in all of Africa, and the place where two other daughters were born.  Some of our girls will be visiting extended family on this trip, though I will only be sharing as much about those visits as our girls are comfortable with me sharing.  Harar

My sister has warned me that internet access will likely be spotty, especially in Harar, and possibly even in Addis at times. But I will be writing as much as I can each day, and taking photos of all that we’re doing, so that I can use the internet whenever and wherever it happens to be.

Be praying for our family when you think of us during the next two weeks, will you?  For safety and peace of mind for all of us when we are apart from each other, that we can be a blessing to the people we meet along the way, and also (most of all!) that this trip will be a blessing to our precious girls and their extended family.  Doubtless this trip will stir up many emotions in us all.

Packing light for a long trip

Excitement is building here for our trip to Ethiopia.  It’s only a week away!  I’ve been working on a packing list, and thinking about how to pack as lightly as possible while still being prepared for what is forecasted as a LOT of rain.  We are also going to be traveling to several different places in Ethiopia, and the last thing we want to do is pack so much that it is miserable trying to schlepp our bags from place to place.

We are aiming to have three large bags total for the five of us, along with one small backpack for each person. We’ll see how it goes!  Here are some of the best tips I’ve discovered and collected over years of traveling to various places that I am planning to use as we pack for 16 days away from home.

Pack Light

 

 

1.  Start by making your wardrobe selections within a limited number of colors, so that as many items as possible can be mixed and matched.  If a particular item cannot be worn with more than two other things, don’t bring it.  This time around I’m doing lots of navy and black, with a few items that are pink, blue, or green to liven things up a bit.  I’m also packing several scarves that can be used for a little color with all the dark clothing I’m packing.  (This gal’s list is a great example of this concept.)

2. Compress as much as possible when packing. I’ve found that rolling clothes up is a great way to fit more into less space.  It also allows you to more easily see everything that you’ve packed, since clothes aren’t stacked.

3. Divide and conquer.  Another way to keep your bags organized on a trip is to sort clothing by type and organize each type into smaller bags.
This time around I ALMOST sprang for ebags, shown on the right.  But when I priced out those adorable bags for the FIVE of us, I decided to go with my old stand-by–zip loc bags, which have worked great for me on previous trips. Three dozen 2-gallon bags cost a mere $15, much more within my budget, especially considering that five of us are going on this trip.

I labeled the bags by type and by suggested quantity to create an effortless packing list for my two younger girls.  For example, one bag says ‘3 pair pants’, another is labeled ‘6 short-sleeve shirts’.

4.  Pack only what you love, and pack less than you think you’ll need.  Most likely you can decrease the number of items packed by 20% without running short on a trip. And one of the ways you can decrease the amount of luggage you bring is by being willing to wash once or twice during the trip.  Lightweight items wash and dry best– wring them out well after washing them in the sink.  For even quicker drying, roll  wet items in a dry towel and walk on the rolled towel for a minute or so to squeeze as much of the water into the towel and out of the clothes before hanging them up.  You may even want to bring string and a few clothespins for hanging items.  Or hang things on hangers on the shower rod.

What do you do to pack light on trips?  I’d love to hear your ideas too!

 

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Some of our previous trips:

Ethiopia adoption trip- 2007

Dominican Republic (Compassion International) – 2008

South Korea Homeland Visit -2009

Chilean Wedding- 2011

 

 

Friends and Ferguson

yes, they're sisters

A few weekends ago I went to Pennsylvania to speak at the Joy for the Journey retreat for adoptive mommas.  Some of the most memorable and sweetest time on the trip turned out to be visiting with a new friend named Adrienne who drove me to and from the airport, a drive of about two hours each way.  As embarrassed as I am to admit it, this was probably the third time in my entire life that I’ve visited at length and talked in depth with an adult African American woman.

As a momma of Black kids, it hasn’t been anything I consciously chose.  It’s just how it happened. We live in a predominantly white area.  I am surrounded by white friends.  It feels awkward to try to hunt down African American women in our area with whom to form friendships that in the beginning might be based just on color.  And yet I do long for more diversity in my life, and wish that my past efforts to connect hadn’t been so ineffective.

I saw such humor and beauty and strength in the women that surrounded me that weekend in Pennsylvania.  I long for more connection with adults who look like my own children.  And if I long for it, I can only imagine my children must wish for it even more deeply. I came away from the weekend with a deep conviction that I must do better at broadening my world and my friendships. Be braver. Be bolder. Step out of my little comfy white box.

I actually wish that for all of us– that we all could live more integrated lives- the type of life where we’re just as likely to be friends with someone who doesn’t ‘match’ us in skin tone as one who does.   I think we all would be blessed to know people of every color who we honor and value, whose opinions we respect, and whose hearts we know and trust.

That’s actually one of the cool things that adoption has done for our church family.  In a Sunday school of 40+ children–ours is a tiny church–  there are 8 African American kids, along with a couple Korean Americans. I really hope that the early friendships all these children are enjoying will make them less likely to later make snap judgments about the people around them on the basis of skin tone.  I want them all to grow up to be the type of people who know and love people for who they are, and who will base merit on character and worth in Christ, not color.

I really appreciated listening to this 30-minute podcast In Wake of Ferguson:  Brant and Sherri talking about racial tension.  In the podcast they spoke frankly about reality of racism and racial profiling, and our place as Christians living in this imperfect world. Sherri acknowledged the frustration that can come from hard experiences but says that any anger and hostility is best placed in God’s hands.  It’s well worth a listen.  I also really appreciated these thoughts from Journey Mama.

Have a blessed Monday!

Book giveaway: Waking Up White


Later this week I’m going to answer some parenting-logistics questions that I’ve been asked lately– things like what we do about allowance, how old our kids have to be to babysit siblings, etc. If you happen to have questions about how we do things at our house, will you shoot them to me in comments? I’ll add those questions/answers to Wednesday’s post.

Today, however, I am giving away an intriguing book called Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Irving.  She grew up in a privileged white community in the 60’s and 70’s, and realized well into adulthood that, first of all, she was so uncomfortable with race issues that she was often nervous talking with black folks, and second, that she desperately wanted to be the type of person who works to break down barriers, rather than pretending they don’t exist.

I think a lot of white people would like to think that racism is a thing of the past, that everyone plays on an even playing field these days.  But the more she explored this, the more she came to realize that’s just not true. It’s a proven fact that black boys get pulled over by police more often than white boys. White women still cross the street when black men walk by.  And black men have to dress much more neatly than average to go shopping at the mall without being covertly watched and sometimes even questioned by security people.

Chapter by chapter, the author shares her own personal journey of racial awakening– of really understanding the privilege she gained simply from being born into a white family.  She also came to realize that the reserve and politeness she learned from her family of origin, were sometimes causing her to avoid the kinds of deep conversations that might lead to understanding another person’s point of view, to really imagine life in their shoes.

She talked about the different values in different families, and how some of those values might add layers of complication to how we perceive folks.  For example, a student  she’d labeled difficult and distractible because of her tendency to leave her seat and go chat with other students turned out to be from a culture that highly valued cooperation.  The child was honestly trying to help other students out.

Another time the author realized she was inadvertently offending black associates by being too quick to call them by their first names instead of honoring them by saying Mr. Smith or Mrs. Jones.  From her cultural standpoint, she saw it as a sign of friendliness. But many people, especially those growing up in the South, do not.

Yet another time she learned that calling a black person ‘articulate’  can be seen as an insult — a stinging jab often heard as ‘he’s unusual for a black person’– and not a true compliment at all.  Of course relationships between any humans can be complicated, even at their best.  But the overarching message of this book to me was how important it is to be honest and humble in our dealings with each other, to not assume that everyone is coming from the same frame of reference, and to be willing to hear and believe people telling you that life is very different for them than it may be for you.

As a mom to children born in several different countries, I read this book with interest and found it to be very worthwhile.  It left me with greater understanding and a renewed determination to be the type of person who builds bridges and grows relationships wherever I go.  As the author states in this book, we’re all different, but we all belong here.  We should treat each other as such.

If you would like to enter the drawing to win a copy of this book, comment below. I’d love to hear how you talk about race with your kids.  Do you encourage your kids to help all kids feel welcome in their classroom? How do you respond when your child points out someone of a different ethnic heritage in the grocery store?  If you are adoptive parent, how do you talk about race with your kids without leading them to expect bad treatment around every corner?

 

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Related story:  Raising Black Kids in a ‘White’ State