Friday, August 17, 2018

Fiwagoh Orphanage Mission School

It is my desire to chronicle the sights and sounds of Africa, especially for each of you that prayed and assisted financially to help with my trip and to finance our projects while in Fiwagoh, in the hopes of  sharing with you and of helping you experience it from a far.   I have struggled to figure out the best way to organize my thoughts, for sharing with you because there is such a rich history and beauty in Africa and in its people.  I am going to start in the beginning overviewing the history of the orphanage, and my observations of life at mission home.  In all seriousness, this is also selfishly motivated so that as time passes, I will not forget this journey.   

Upon arrival at the Fiwagoh Orphanage, it was clear, that they had been preparing for our group with eager anticipation!  We immediately felt at home.  Our rooms were prepared, our beds and mosquito netting waiting for our arrival! Arrival was late in the night after over 30 hours of continuous travel for us, the team,  and a broken down van, and two rental cars for the staff as they headed to the airport to retrieve us in Nairobi we were all spent. It was over a two hour drive to the mission home, even so late at night, so we quickly settled in as exhausted overtook us!  After experiencing a good nights sleep, we woke early to singing voices,  eager to face the new adventure that Monday morning brought! 

About now you are either deciding to skip the words and just look at photos, which is fine, or you are making the choice to continue reading.  I want to encourage you to keep reading!  While your are reading, please be praying also, and perhaps you will catch the vision for this ministry and feel called learn more!

So here we go, from the top! I'll start with the link to the orphanage web site: Fiwagoh Orphanage

Pastor Benson and his lovely wife Florence, started ministering in Africa to hurting children 13 years ago in their rented two room house.  After spending two weeks with this amazing family and staff (all 260+ of them), here are my observations, in no particular order.  I can speak to their character, their heart for these children and their love of the Lord just as I casually observed their daily lives.  As an additional blessing, we had the distinct honor of hearing their love story one evening when visiting one of the graduates in his new home.  I don't have their permission to share there story here, but I can say that they are an inspiration, and that the Lord certainly had a plan as He drew these two, like minded and God fearing people together for life!!

  • Nothing goes to waste. Not a morsel of food, a teaching moment, or admiration of the beauty around them.
  • All of the children are willing participants in caring for their home, and each other.
  • The "graduates" from the home, are like celebrities to the younger children when they come "home" for a visit.
  • At no time in my two week visit did I witness grumbling or complaining from a single child or adult, (keep in mind, I do not speak Swahili) but they do speak English on the regular and facial and body language needs no interpreter!  
  • No matter how young or old, they all made eye contact when spoken to and could and did respond in a manner that was genuine and well spoken in greeting and conversations.
  • Kids are kids all around the world!  Boys in particular! 
  • Pure joy could be found on multitudes of faces at any given moment of any day because of a smile, a hug, a word of encouragement, or a bubble machine !! 
  • All of us want to be respected, loved, nurtured and cared for. At Fiwagoh, they have this mastered in how they care for each other and for their guests. 

This is a photo of the entire family in their school uniforms. The sweaters are what they are "showing off", as our team was able to replace all of their tattered and worn out school uniform sweaters (and socks) for the upcoming new school year that starts in September.  Yes, that is 264 children (aprox) ages 18 months though 18 years of age.  Thanks to each of you and your support as you were part of these provisions! 

When you look down the hill from the main gate, the chapel is in the first photo, and you will see class rooms, and training rooms for culinary, sewing and wood shop in the second photo.  While these buildings are fairly new, the roof tops were furnished by my home church here in Florida, (Woodland Community), the last time Pastor Benson was in the states, to share and update about his ministry at Fiwagoh. The red roof tops represent $9,000 US dollars.  By completing the roof project, the shops and classrooms and the chapel are now and have been for some time, usable spaces, safe from storms and weather, and set up for teaching and training the children's hearts and minds.  

Because we were a small team, we got to do and experience so many wonderful day to day things with this family, which included; but are not limited to, laundry (washing and hanging), sweeping floors, grocery and staple shopping, riding in a tuk-tuk, gathering supplies at a local farm, purchasing building materials, banking, harvesting beans, carrots, sorting beans and maize, grinding maize to cornmeal, cutting fabric for uniforms, playing soccer, playing with bubbles, learning to play chairs, and signs (games the big kids loved) collecting firewood, hiking, exploring, side walk chalking, worship services, serving meals, doing dishes and good night hugs and stories!   (A more detailed blog with photos will come detailing all this at a later date.) 

The property is 23 acres which has grown over the years from the original 17 acres, and every area is used for a particular reason.  About 10 acres are farmed.  They grow bananas, sunflowers (for oil) mangos, papaya, kales, beans, carrots, potatoes and a recent addition of figs! 

They have experienced some hard times recently due to draught conditions that has lead Pastor Benson and his wife to experience an even greater burden of caring for their 264 children.  The drought has brought uncertainty to the home due to dwindling food resources.  While in a good season the farm can support their vegan lifestyle, without good harvests in the past year,  the stock houses were running out of basics.  Our team, with your generous donations were able to bring relief and joy to the family by purchasing beans, maize and lentils for the stock house and rejoiced with them as the fields were being tilled for a new planting cycle and the hope of a hearty bounty with the return of rain.  Rain that waters crops directly and restores their water tanks for the irrigation systems. 

Classrooms, and housing are other components of the acreage that they have. Boys and girls dorms. Staff housing that is provided for the teachers, gardeners, gate keepers, kitchen help, nurse etc.  Space for shipping containers, bathrooms (out houses) baptismal pool, playground and soccer fields, six green houses, tool sheds and water towers are just a few other structures or specific areas you will find throughout the compound. 

After seeing all those children, you may be wondering how they keep everyone organized.  
Such a very simple method is used ...

That's it folks!  That bell rings, and their feet hit for floor to start the day.  Another ringing of the bell and they hustle to morning worship, followed by breakfast.  If the school year is in session, yet another bell sends them all to their classrooms.  Once again, its tolling ends the school day, and starts the chores. Ringing again, at 4:30 begins dinner, and evening worship.  

I do not for one moment think that they are all happy all the time about the bell.  Like all other children around the world, they know when and how they can "push the envelope" but it is an effective tool for rounding up, starting and stopping group activities for the masses throughout the day. Regardless if you are in the fields, playing on the play ground, in your dorm, or at the gate, you know and recognize the signal for change in your day and routine.  

As a mom of many, of course I was intrigued by the day to day operations like brushing teeth and laundry. 
This is one of the boys toothbrush holders!  They brush outdoors by the spring and then place them here to dry during the early morning hours.  

Wet laundry can be laid out in the sun to dry on top of the stoney areas surrounding the dorms.  There are wash lines, but it seemed to me like there were never enough. 

Each child was responsible for their own laundry once they enter school  (5-6 years of age) and while the older children do assist, as to do the matrons of the dorms, the responsibility falls to each them.  If you are too short to reach into the sink by standing in front, no worries, hop up and stand in the sink.  The wash room is made from solid cement sinks, with a floor that has drainage to the outside trenches used for irrigation of the trees and vegetation surrounding the buildings.  

Shoe racks just like in the department stores!  Although I feel like this was a staged photo because one night on my way to bed, I walked past the boys dorm and saw 50 plus pairs of shoes piled in front of the door in their haste to get inside!! 

What did I say earlier - kids will be kids?  

These boys were thrilled to have a set of monkey bars to play on while the bigger boys emptied the truck that was full of cement bags.  Best part about the truck coming with supplies?  Many hands made light work, and then we would all hop in and ride in the back to the parking area above!  It was about as fun as any amusement park ride I have ever been on!  But the best part was the joy on all the faces, big and small as they laughed and clamored around on the truck.  Nelson the driver, was patient and kind and allows the children this treat every time he comes in with supplies!  

Additionally, the girls also love all things "girly" and figures out how to improvise polishing their nails by using sharpie markers!  They also love writing and sending notes, and giggling and pranking each other late into the night!  

These kids are loved and well cared for by Pastor Benson, Florence and the staff at Fiwagoh!  There is no doubt in my mind after talking to these young people that they are being inspired to be their very best.  One day, I made it a point to ask as many children of all ages, what they desired to do when they grew up.  Doctors, Engineers, Road Construction Engineers, Nurses, Social Workers, Teachers, Missionaries, Policemen and Pastors were the repeated theme.  Their minds are being stretched, they are being encouraged to think and dream big!  Their being educated in math and science, are creative and industrious. 

All of these children would love to have sponsors, (some of them do already), so if you have a desire to speak into the life of a child, there is no more a deserving group than these kids at Fiwagoh!  They would love to write to you and share life with you!  When speaking to one of the older girls, she indicated that her sponsor is in Germany, and that she will get to meet her sponsor in the next few months as they are coming to Fiwagoh for a visit.  Her eyes sparkled and danced, as she has only written and gotten photos from her sponsor.  Meeting in person is something that she will never forget!  

It matters not how far away we are from these children, or for that matter anyone in the world less fortunate than ourselves.  God calls us to minister to the those less fortunate, the poor, the downtrodden, the widows and the orphans, as an extension of Him!  Fundamentally, poverty is a result of lack of options.  These children at Fiwagoh, because of the continued prayers and finacial support of many around the world, have options, and hope! 

When their lives could be filled with hopelessness, at Fiwagoh, they are being filled with hope.  

When they could be stuck in their past, living life through the lens of regret and bitterness, they are humble and gracious and looking forward to their futures.  

Their smiles are simply perfect,  shining with a joy that reaches their eyes and comes deep from a heart of gratitude.  

They do not hesitate to share that they do not know where they would be if it were not for their 
" Dad and Mum"!   

Feeling blessed not to have to make this stuff up!  Lived it, loved it, and would do it again!  

Thursday, June 7, 2018

I have this amazing, funny, talented friend from years gone by, that got an idea to compile a book of true stories, based on how the Holy Spirit often times grabs our attention, working in mysterious ways, to make known God's glory in our daily lives.  

May I be among the first to introduce to you to Gina Napoli's newest creative compilation of stories:

Clunk on the Head
How the Holy Spirit Got Our Attention

Here is the back story.  In or around November of 2016, I received an email invitation, addressed to myself (and really anyone that is an aspiring writer), with an "Ah-ha", God inspired moment, that could be recalled in vivid detail and clarity, to share it with Gina and her team for consideration for inclusion in her compilation of stories entitled "Clunk on the Head".   

She had my attention! I have tons of stories as a mom of seven. Frankly, I am never far from a story that will make you laugh until your cry, or rejoice knowing at the end of reading my story you are not me, and your kids are much more "normal" than mine. Our antics in the Land of Lingle are always real, always true and always try to encourage others that they are not parenting alone!  

However, the tone and theme of her inquiry took me some time to really think and work through.  Each of us have those moments in time when we can look back and see how clearly the Lord was working out the details behind the scenes for our behalf and that of our families.  But were they actually "ah-ha" God moments?  Holy spirit "talking" to me moments? Times where the course of my life was altered or in any way changed through that moment in time??? 

As I contemplated and reviewed the last 25 plus years of my life and prayerfully considered how or what to submit as my "story" God clearly showed me through my quiet time, a section of notes in the book of Acts that I had handwritten in the white space of my bible pages while listening to a sermon on line in the late summer of 2006.  Enough said. 

As you see Gina and her team accepted my submission and included me in the compilation of stories about how the Holy Spirit got my attention along with the attention of 11 different authors!  

I am just a mom of many, who writes to keep stories and antidotes about our family in somewhat of a chronological order,  a highlight reel if you will, to pass down and preserve for generations to come.  

Additionally, sharing my crazy experiences I think often helps others know that they are not alone in their parenting journey regardless if they are parenting their own biological children, adopted children, foster children, or grandchildren.   The longer I journey, the more I am aware that the Lord many times has to "clunk" me on the head to get my attention.  For this I am grateful and humbled.  

If you would like to order your own copy of this compilation of stories, "Clunk on the Head", please click the highlighted link which will take your right to the Amazon page.  It is available in paperback and Kindle versions. 

I hope you are amazed and even encouraged by these authors transparency in the telling of their stories!  Thanks Gina for doing such a great job listening to the Holy Spirit's encouragement to share our stories to inspire others!  

You really can't make this stuff up!! 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Happily Making a Mess of Things

For those of you who have been following the antics of the kingdom for any amount of time, you will know that Happy has a knack for flying low on the radar, and cycling through some pretty mild, and often time funny offenses, which typically end up all coming to light at the same time, creating a hot mess for him all at once.

Here is some background on Happy for those of you that need to catch up.  He is 20 and is scheduled to graduate high school this May.  Due to his special needs, the Prince and I have full legal guardianship of him for life, which means we are responsible for the decisions in his life that require forethought, finances and health related choices.  At this stage in the game that includes, juggling school responsibilities, work related activities, social issues and his finances.  Happy is gainfully employed at a local grocery store as a bagger, and part of the cleaning crew on nights that he closes.

Let's rewind to early last week.  Happy's last scheduled shift at work for the week was on Tuesday. At his paying job.  I did not think twice about it because the schedule is released for the upcoming week on Wednesday's and so the potential for him be schedule for later in the week or the weekend was good.  Due to his school schedule and his "on the job training program",  he is required to work 15 hours a week at his real paying job, but then he also  "works" while at school three periods a day, to gain experience for this resume.  Through this program over the last 3 years he has held jobs as a dish washer, a supply gatherer for a hospital, a retail clerk at the goodwill, a maintenance man at the YMCA and most recently as a janitor at the school.  In addition, because he is typically a great worker, these on the job volunteer experiences have lead to paid employment as a dish washer and his current gig as a bagger at a local grocery store.

It is typical that Happy cycles through his behavioral issues about every six to eight weeks.  Sadly, most often, the staff and administration at his school and place of employment are a bit slow to report incidents and situations to us, which I believe causes Happy to think he is "getting" away with things and so he often ends up spiraling in a downward trend with his behaviors until one of the other groups of adults in his life has had enough and they contact us, or we start to pick up the clues that he is leaving behind (like 5 days of being off work) and start reaching out ourselves to his employer and the school.

Last week I was dropped a big clue that something was amiss when Happy's job coach called to say that he was missing from his school work placement, and had been for almost 40 minutes.  This incident however alone, did not alarm me at the time.

It seems that day, Happy was angry because he had to go to his old job placement the morning at the YMCA due to circumstances out of his control, and that made him upset.  Of course instead of using his words to express himself, he waited until he got to the Y, and then helped himself to the gator keys off the office key rack and went on a drive about. 

He toured the facility and then headed over to the school grounds and down to the pond, which is where they found him 40 minutes later.  When questioned about his antics, he reported that he was picking up trash, however there was not trash in the gator, and he indicated he did not see what the big deal was.   Here is where that lack of forward thinking enters as a problem for Happy.  It never occurred to him that he could not "help himself" to the gator (which is owned by the Y) and disappear without asking permission, taking an adult with him, or telling someone where he would be.  He did not like that fact that everyone was in his business, and could not understand that had he wrecked the gator, or he had been injured while in the gator no one would know where to find him.  When the staff at school, work, and vocational rehab tried to point these things out to Happy , things got a bit heated and so the overall incident lasted about 2 1/2 hours that day. 

Last week it took me until Thursday to notice that there were no shifts at the grocery store for Happy on the house work calendar until Monday, giving Happy six days off work. I questioned the dwarf before he left for school that day and he told me that since snow bird season is over, they are not that busy and they are cutting everyone's hours.  While that sounded like a legitimate scenario, he is still required (and they agreed to the contract) 15 hours of work a week.  I processed the oddity of that, and then contacted his job coach and asked her to investigate.   And this is where the wheels really started falling off the bus for Happy.

It seems that he has had some exciting days at work in the last two weeks.   He was cited for eating ice cream bars while using the floor cleaning machine at closing.  A big no-no, because if you do not keep both hands on the machine and run off the course you could clear whole shelves of product or take out entire end cap displays.  In addition to that write up, he was also cited for bringing the electric carts in from the lot, riding them while using his feet instead of his hands to drive them.  I suppose it never occurred to him that his foot could slip and he could veer into a parked car, or loose control in any other fashion....

Additionally he has been refusing to offer to push customers groceries to their cars and load them for them.  This is a service that the grocery offers at no cost, but for some reason as social as Happy is, this is not a task that he enjoys at all, so he just refuses to offer it while bagging.

After this quick report from his job coach, I figured it was now time to take things into my own hands and contact the store myself.  Little did I know there was yet one more surprise Happy incident awaiting me.

As I started talking to Happy's supervisor, which has changed since his original hire, I immediately recognized that she has no idea about Happy, his disabilities and the Prince and my guardianship of him.  I went through the normal speech indicating that if they do not keep us updated immediately about situations with Happy, that we are not able to back them up, reinforce what they are trying to enforce, and in the long run, we are setting Happy up for failure, where if we all partner together, he has more of a chance at success.  I found out in regards to the incidents, they did have the male store manager sit with him and have a stern discussion, and since that time, he has been tracking better, but again I reminded her that they can contact us and we can be present for those meetings, or if they had let us know about the first incident, perhaps the others could have been avoided.

Now during the conversation, I was assuming that Happy's hours had been so drastically cut as part of his consequences of poor choices and bad behaviors.  You know, like a week on the street without pay.  That, she assured me was not the case.  It seems that Happy, who was upset with his availability, and the fact that he is not allowed to change it himself (without the Prince or I's permission) or request his own time off from his job, took matters into his own hands by writing a letter  and sending it to the corporate Human Resources offices, in effect lodging a formal complaint against his current managers. 

The result of his letter of complaint, was that he got to adjust his availability.  He made himself available from 6-10 M, T, Th, F, and Sat.   This is not a shift time that they have.  So he essentially made himself not ever available for a shift at the store. 

Have no fear, I corrected that immediately for them.  He is available every day of the week after 1:30 PM except Wednesdays.   We also shared with Happy that with graduation less than a month away, he better get used to the idea of working 30 plus hours a week.  I think he is still processing that nugget of information.

You really just can't make this stuff up!

Monday, April 2, 2018

It's no secret, the Prince loves to clean... Here's why!

It is actually no secret at all, the Prince loves to do housework!  He enjoys doing dishes, and scrubbing stuff until it shines.  He is not shy when it comes to laundry either, he can work the washer and the dryer with equal amounts of finesse! I know call me blessed and maybe him, a little crazy.

Really if there were a secret to getting the men in our lives to clean, I think that it would be to fashion cleaning supplies and equipment with unique attributes that entice our men to figure out how they work, and be impressed by their outcomes, while exerting as little effort as possible. All this to say, we have a new favorite cleaning toy, I mean tool here in the kingdom!  Since it looks like a tool, and is cool like a tool, the man in my life loves to use it!

I don't know about you, but I find as I age, it is much harder, to crawl around on my hands and knees to scrub the tile and hardwood floors in the house.  The Prince has noticed this change, and because in part to his love for me, and because of his love of cleaning things, he is always looking for great new products to make the chores around here easier!  This recommendation came to him, via a friend about a month ago.

The Shark Steam Mop Genius  has revolutionized cleaning of our non carpeted surfaces here in the kingdom!  Not gonna lie, I was skeptical.  It looked like an over sized swifter with a power cord to me.  I just was not able to wrap my head around it actually working well.  Call me a believer!

The new "tool" is compact, light and flexible.  The steam option works just like your household steam iron.  Using the included ( hangs on the handle of the machine) cup,  fill the reservoir, plug in the Shark, and heat the water in the reservoir.  Press the button on the front of the tank and viola... steam!!   

The steam works through the bottom of the pad to scrub the hard surfaces, wood or tile.  When one side of the cleaning pad gets dirty, with the push of a button on the rear of the tank, the pads drop down, and  hands free, you can change to the cleaning pad from the dirty side to the clean, or replace the pad completely with a new clean one.

But as they say, "the proof is in the pudding" or in this case, the amount of dirt that comes off the floors!  There is no longer any doubt in my mind about how the Shark cleans!  After half of the kitchen floor had been steamed cleaned, this is what the pad looked like on both sides ...  (no judging...) 
but wow what a great clean.  

I am not sure how often I will actually get to use my new toy, I mean tool, if I pull it out to clean when the Prince is around, but I can not say enough great things about the Shark Steam Mop Genius!!  We did also purchase washable mop pads, so that we can keep fighting over the cleaning the floors in the kingdom!  

Really team work makes life so much easier! You Can't Make this Stuff Up!!  

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The "Egg-ceptional" Story Continues!

Easter is right around the corner.  For one very small window of time, I literally, eat, sleep and think all things eggs!  Call it egg-mania!!  Call it egg-straodinary...  call me with your orders for peanut butter eggs, coconut cream eggs and butter cream eggs!

In years past, really all the years of my life that I can recall, Easter was the season to make homemade easter eggs of peanut butter, butter cream or coconut.  This is a family tradition that just seemed to "roll" down through the generations.  I remember fondly, being a child standing on a chair in front of the kitchen counter rolling dozens and dozens of eggs along side my grandmother and mother, then with my mother, and then eventually teaching my own three girls the art of making easter eggs.

There is really something magical about these eggs! I believe it is all the tradition, memories and love that are rolled into each one.  If I do the math right, multiplying the number of times that I have been asked for the recipe, and let's just say for argument sake, everyone that asked was willing to pay me a dollar, I think that I could safely say I'd be at least a thousand-aire a few times over!

When we lived in our home state, I made eggs and gifted them to family, friends, neighbors and co-workers alike. After some years of this tradition, around the Easter holiday I would be stopped at the mailbox or bus stop with special requests... "if I was making them again this year."  Once we moved to Florida four years ago, I did the same thing here, but the response was not as overwhelmingly positive, like I had become used to.  Instead the neighbors sort of thought my homemade wares were a bit odd, and I have never really figured out how to mail them to family while keeping them intact, so making them the first two years here was more about suppling the wants of the dwarfs and the prince in our kingdom.  It really was not until last year that my passion for egg making was reignited!

Last year, when my youngest daughter, Sleepy and I were planning our mission trip to Peru, egg season was upon us, and we happened to also be in the height of our trip fundraising efforts.  So to increase interest of someone considering donating to our trip we offered eggs.  If someone donated to our trip, we gave them some eggs as a thank you along with our prayer card.   No set fee per say, just whatever the person receiving the eggs felt that they could contribute to our mission trip.  And wow,  how the Lord blessed us in this effort, we collected about $1,500 towards our trip costs, simply by making some sweet and delicious chocolate covered eggs! (one woman gave us $500 donation for 50 eggs!!) Click for 2017 Egg Post

I have found myself in a place of deeper reflection this year as I have heard myself telling the story of how these eggs became part of not only our family tradition, but part of who I am, and now how they are part of how we have used them the last two years to serve the Lord.  It would not ever occur to me to celebrate Easter, without making eggs.  First there would be a huge revolt in the kingdom, by the dwarfs and the prince, and secondly, it would rob me of the joy and the blessing of sharing not only a sweet treat with others, but of the opportunity to share the love of Christ.

This year, the easter season, sort of snuck up on me. I made my first batch of eggs in a hasty fashion (66 peanut butter delights) and within 12 hours was out of them completely!  Keeping with the traditions set before me, I never have sold any of my eggs. Just like my Christmas baking, it is always made and gifted to others as a way to share the joy of the season.  As conversations starting around me this year about my eggs,  and when I was asked if I was making them, and could they be bought, I decided that I would once again do the same thing as last year, make the eggs and offer them for a donation towards my trip to Kenya this summer with Go Be Love International (Click for link to trip page).

Again, everyone is clamoring for the recipe.  I am not sure if it really is a "secret" family recipe, but saying that it is adds to the allure of the eggs.  Occasionally, people have been over to the house and seen my pile of supplies on the counter, only one kind of Semi Sweet chips, Chip Link, only one kind of peanut butter, P-Butter Link, only one kind of butter, Butter Link, only one kind of coconut, Coconut Link... any kind of confectioners sugar will do, and then the secret ingredient...  I know... you all were super excited, thought I would link to it...   Nope!  Not marshmallow fluff, no cracker crumbs... gosh I really wish I could tell you, but then anyone could make these great eggs!! 

There is no real recipe. There is just the ingredient list.  From there,  it is done all by hand mixing (and I mean take off your rings, and roll up your sleeves and dig in!)  and the taste and the feeling of how the mixture rolls in your hands.  The real treat to teaching my girls how to make them; is that is the same way that I was taught, and I am sure it is how my mother was taught by her mother, taste and feel.  Too heavy on the peanut butter and then the creamy texture is off.  Too heavy on the secret ingredient and the peanut butter taste is diminished.  Too much confectioners sugar makes them crack when you bite into them.  Its an art, and no two batches turn out the same, or turn out the same number of eggs!  The butter eggs are the base to the coconut eggs, and I am doubtful that there are too many variations of this recipe. We have done them with dark chocolate chips, and milk chocolate chips... the butter and vanilla and confectioners sugar are a sweet sweet concoction!  Adding the coconut flakes help cut the sweet a bit!  Coating the eggs is a bit tricky.  Honestly, the hardest part of the process to master is coating.  I use a double boiler, Link for Double Boiler Double Boiler Link and slowly melt the chips over a med/high heat, stirring often until smooth.  I use a standard kitchen fork to drop the eggs in the melted chocolate, and to roll and remove and shake the excess chocolate off.  It is a science to get the perfect coating and not steam your skin in the process, but oh so worth it in the end, even if I do get the occasional steam burn! 

At the end of the day,  however, hands down, the peanut butter eggs are the ones that everyone clamors for!

This year, I say... clamor away, because I am happy to make them by the dozens!! Hundreds of dozens if that is what is needed to say thank you to those that have a hankering for peanut butter and chocolate and are willing to donate to my mission trip.  Oh yes, and all the while they will hear about how God provides in ways that are more than astounding to me, allowing me to do something that I truly love and enjoy, feeding people's belly's and planting seeds of faith.

Yes, that's correct... 100's of peanut butter easter eggs gifted last year and this year, as a means of supporting a mission trip, really, you can't make this stuff up!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

I found JOY!

It is not a secret that over the last several months I have managed to lose my joy.  I have been feeling overwhelmed by life.  My circumstance have been sucking the life out of me and along with it my joy. 

If any of you have ever experienced a season of "joy drought", you know where I am coming from when I say, life is hard, and when circumstances out of our control, and even those in our control, spiral out of control, life becomes harder than it needs to be.  

I personally would not equate the "joy drought" with depression, as I was still able to function.  I handled all my responsibilities, was able to do all that needed to be done each day including many activities that I just wanted to do, but I just was joy less!  

Additionally, during this time, when there was any sort of incident in my day, it became overblown and would drag me down into my joyless pit further.  I have spent more time in the last three months being cranky, and out of sorts than I ever remember in my life, and you know what?  I do not like this new joyless me. 

It hit me about three weeks ago that there was a huge hole in my life.  I had become a Negative Nancy, a crankapotamus...  looking up from the bottom of the pit I could see the slow progression it had been into said pit.  I made up my mind, I wanted out....  so I purposed to start the slow steady climbing out, one day at a time, attempting to adjust my attitude, roll with life's punches, and trying to keep a bit better of a perspective.  I am not going to lie, it is not going to be as easy as I thought to resurface in a joy filled life.  Each day I made some progress (usually when I was alone, and the house was quiet) but by the end of the day, or the third or fifth interruption of my day... I saw myself backsliding into that stupid joyless pit!! Oh the frustration of knowing you want to overcome something, yet finding yourself close to the same place at the end of the day again!!   However, I was rejoicing that my eyes had been opened to my situation and at least I could see how I was managing to get there... and I had not slipped the whole way to the bottom... progress!! 

Fast forward to this morning.  I went to our church for the annual Christmas program and I was reminded about the joy of the season, and why in my life I need to find my joy again. I love Christmas.  I love the peace, the calm, the reason for the season.  I was once again reminded that I can't continue to make excuses and blame others for my joylessness.  I am allowing them to steal my joy. I have stopped fighting back.  I have become defeated and I allowed life to beat me down.  One can not live that way for long!  It was one more reminder that I need to find the joy of the Lord, the joy of small victories, the joy that comes from being a child of the one true king.  For the sake of my family, I need to regain my joy.  For the sake of my friendships I need to regain my joy.  For the sake of my witness I must regain my joy.  For my own personal sanity I have to regain my joy.  

In the midst of my self reflection the last few days, a funny thing happened to me this afternoon.  I opened JOY.  Joy had been sitting in my house for a week all covered up in wrapping paper inside a HUGE cardboard box.  I opened a box filled with JOY.  I wanted JOY.  I fell in love with JOY last Christmas at our local hardware store, and rediscovered my love of  JOY this year, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, when the same store had the same JOY up for display again in the decoration aisle.   

I now own JOY!!  She is all mine!  She is shiny.  She is a light in the dark for all to see.  She is my reminder that I want to be JOY!!  Not only is my JOY large as life, she is a great reminder that when we have joy, we are larger than life to others!  

Our joy can be contagious, just like our lack of joy.  I want to be known for my larger than life JOY regardless of what life hands me, and trust me lately it has been a ton of tough stuff. None of that stuff  is a surprise to my God.  Remembering to trust in Him, not in myself, or the actions or reactions of those I am surrounded by will help me stay grounded in my JOY!!   

I am thankful to my family who heard about my love of JOY, and who made the sacrifice to buy me JOY, even when I was the opposite of JOY, as she now is my perfect visual reminder of exactly what and whom I want to be !  

For those of you that may have been affected by my joylessness, I hope you will soon see the return of true and heartfelt joy in my life.  Feel free to hold me accountable, call me out if you would as I will appreciate it later even if I am cranky about it in the moment.  Rejoicing in the reminders of the Christmas season and the many, many reasons that I have to celebrate JOY!!  

Monday, November 6, 2017

When you can't follow the rules

So there is no need to belabor the point of this story. Sometimes, some of us just can't follow the rules.  We either don't think they apply to us, or we are certain that they shouldn't apply to us, or we just want what we want, regardless of what the rules are.

Here in lies the story of a dwarf that wants to have his ears pierced.  Nope not talking about Grumpy, he made it to 18, and then with much deliberations, a piercing, a removal, and a re piercing and yet another removal and replacement, I think his are in to stay.

This story involves the Bashful. I have not had much to say about Bashful, because frankly, to put words to his behaviors is not comical or even humorous... until last Thursday.

First let me back track a wee bit.  Here in the sunshine state the average temperature during the day is still in the comfortable 80's.  In the early morning hours there have been some dips to the low 60's and early 70's which are now causing my born and raised in the north dwarves to grab hoodies because they are "freezing".

Earlier last week I had a long conversation with Bashful in the car as I was picking him up,  about how when he exits the high school with hundreds of other students, he should make more of an effort to pay attention to those around him, and perhaps take his social cues from the "crowd".  Normally, I am not a propionate of following the crowd as it were, however if you have a dwarf with stilted social skills, perhaps I think that if  they could hone their powers of observation, they could learn something...  Something like at 2PM in 85 degree weather NOBODY is strolling out of the school with their sweatshirts on, much less the hoods up over their heads.   While Bashful attempted to use absolute wording with me and start and argument with me about how EVERYBODY wears their hoods up at his school, I calmly pointed out that there were at least 300 students in the car pool area, and not one other person had their hood up, and as we slow rolled past the bus areas, noted again that there was not another single student with their hood up.  I continued to share with the dwarf in denial, that the hood blocks any and all attempts for someone to talk to you, you miss opportunities to converse with others that you may know, it is in a sense a sign outwardly that you do not want to be bothered, that you are hiding.  Of course I know nothing.  Nothing at all.  Additionally, just like hats, hoods need to be removed inside buildings so I know that a school with a no hat policy also has a no hoodie up policy. 

Oh I am not stupid.  I know that you are not a fan of yourself Bashful, that you are conflicted about who you are, where you fit in and what kind of group you want to make your homies, however the thug life was not intended for you.

Fast forward the the second 85 degree day in Florida on Thursday.  Here we are once again at the school pick up line.  Out strolls (I think, he thinks he is swaggering) Bashful in full on hoodie up mode.  Pulled so forward I might add that in order to find my large RED vehicle he has to move a hand to the side of his face to scan the vehicles in the line.  He spots me, hops in the vehicle and I say "are you cold?"  "No," is his reply," I already told you this week EVERYBODY is wearing their hoods up."  I challenge him to find me just one other person that day with their hood up.  He is unable.  I let the situation go.  Really in my mind I feel like I have made a yeoman's effort to help him understand that he now just looks ridiculous and that people are making fun of him.  If this is the look he's going for, fine it is not a reflection on me.

It happens that we are scheduled to go to a  RAD therapy appointment at 5:30 that afternoon.  So there are several hours at the house where the dwarf can be observed, and he is hard core, not budging on the hoodie removal.  At one point as he is doing a chore I can see that he is literally sweating... in the air conditioned house.  The other dwarves have throw in with snide comments and retorts, usually a great peer pressure source, yet the hood is firmly in place.

We arrive at therapy.  Bashful, knows the rules; and while he usually attends therapy with his father, there is not a hat or a hood worn, the posture on the therapy sofa is appropriate, outward signs of showing respect even if his insides are revolting. This day he choses to divert from all the known and preferred behaviors.  He refuses to remove the hoodie at my request, he refuses to remove the hoodie at the therapist request, and he refuses to sit up straight at our requests as well.  He begins to curse and tell us how he really feels about the rules of society, how he can do whatever he wants, and how all this is just stupid.  Mostly he shares that I am stupid, he should live with his friends because their parents are cool ( well frankly, I was just shocked to hear him say he has friends) and that if it were not for me, basically his life would be his own.   Finally after 15 minutes of this, I ring his father, who calls, and we place the Prince on speaker.  To make his point that he doesn't respond differently to his father than I, Bashful takes a full five minutes and three request to remove the hoodie.  However he only removes it partially and pins the hoodie on his right side to the side of the couch with his head.  Alas, I know what he is thinking... He wins the battle.

Sadly we wasted an hour of everyone's time and energy because Bashful is a hot mess.  It is in the last 5 minutes of the session after he is highly aggravated, that he sits up and the hoodie falls to the top of his shoulders that the therapist, says, "Bashful, is your ear pierced?" 

I am not sure what the dwarf's plan was.  Spend the whole rest of his life until his 18th birthday living in the sunshine state with his hood up... or maybe he figured he would just wear the hood for six weeks non stop until he could take the earring out at home and put it back in at school.  I can't pretend to know the mind of this dwarf at all.  My suggestion would have been all along, wait until  you are 18 to make the decision.

Most upsetting to me is that this happened at school.  In the boys bathroom.  Can I ask where the supervision is?  How do children have enough time to pierce their ears in the rest room and no one misses them.  Hallway and classroom switches are two minutes in duration.  Even if he left with a pass to use the restroom in the middle of class, would someone not have noticed an extended absence where the yellow headed dwarf left, and came back with a throbbing red and inflamed earlobe, casually sporting a new piece of bling?  Sigh, this rant could be an entire post on it's own.

When the therapist discovered the earring, I gathered my things and got up and left the session. I made my way to the car to call the Prince, plotting ways to leave the dwarf where he was to fend for himself  and figure out how to get home, as I raged not so silently about how he was such a jerk.

To Bashful's credit, upon the therapists discovery of the earring (that she knew was against our house rules) he had some sort of realization between whatever her words were, and the time he got in the vehicle (with his hood off).  He was able to state that he pierced his ear because his "friends" were all making fun of him because he did not have it done.  Then one of the "friends' brought a home kit to school, and so to save face Bashful had to go through with the plan of piercing his own ear, because he doesn't have enough confidence to just simply say, no thank you.  By the time the end of the day came, he was torn between doing the right thing, and how we would respond when we saw the earring that he so desperately wanted so that he could fit in.   He was able to under his own thought processes state that probably these were not true friends, and that he should perhaps try to find another group of kids to hang out with.  He invited me to come with him this week to his session so that we could make up for the horrible waste of time last week.  His father will be joining us just to keep an eye on the situation.

I am happy to report that he is back to earring free, and I have not once observed him looking like a thug since Thursday... Baby steps!

You really can't make this stuff up!