11–20 of 26 entries from the month of: July 2008

Correspondence Chaos

July 22nd

Hi there! I don't close. I am gross.

I can’t handle clutter. I don’t like knickknacks or collections or piles of anything — with new-to-me books being the sole exception. (Okay, and maybe piles of cash.) I’m in tidying-mode this week — trying to clear out my studio of craft supplies that could find a better home, my closet of clothing that doesn’t fit, my bookshelves of items that will be better suited at the Tempe Library. Even Esme is off to a new home; my friend Sam will hopefully be putting her to use soon with Phoenix Copper Bikes.

Hello cards!

With this in mind, I tackled my paper supplies last night and reorganized my stationery. I jokingly refer to myself as the Correspondence Queen because chances are, if you get a new job, celebrate a birth, buy a new house or do something that just knocks my socks off, you will find a letter in your mailbox saying so within a few days. I love to write letters because I remain steadfast that going to the post and finding a handwritten note among the junk is joyous.

Feed me!

This file accordion provided the perfect way to clean up my rubber stamp box and give ready access to cards, envelopes, gift tags, stationery, scrapbooking paper, envelope templates, etc. I found some order in the previous correspondence chaos. I am thinking another accordion would work perfectly for sewing patterns.

Lookie! I'm full of pretty paper.

Next up: fabric scraps. I want to make a scrap quilt for some friends who are getting married this Fall. I need to go through the stack and decide what will and won’t work. I am going to put together some kits of left over supplies for my friends who are elementary school teachers.
I must say, taking inventory makes it much easier to use what you have. I don’t need to buy patterns, craft books, yarn or fabric for a long time. Now if my friend JoAnn would just stop sending me coupons to tempt me otherwise.
Do you have a great organizational technique that makes your life easier? I’ll randomly select a commenter to receive a collection of homemade cards. How’s that for a theme?


Posted in
Correspondence, Domestic Art, Goals, Good to Great, Journal
Comments (32)

Offering to the Travel Saint

July 21st

Voila -- African wall hanging

What to give a man who has everything? Well, if he is your African Travel Saint, how about a wall hanging? My sweet friend has several homes that are decorated with items gathered from his 30 trips to Africa over the years. I figured a wall hanging celebrating his favorite continent was in order.

African wall hanging -- back

It took a while to put this together, but I am pleased. I needed a refresher on binding, but thankfully Quilting 101 is on my bookshelf. I’m sending this off to Spence later this week with a Blurb book I made of photos celebrating our trip. I think he’ll dig it. Regardless, it was challenging and fun to create.

Maybe I need one of these too...

Maybe I need one of these…


Posted in
Africa, Domestic Art, Journal
Comments (17)

Habit Forming

July 18th

My African mantle

One of the many reasons I’m looking forward to my new job is the fresh start — the chance to set the pace for an organization, work hard, dig in my heels and really get to know a new arm of public health. I am fighting the feeling of being overwhelmed by this new challenge and am instead trying to focus on the happiness I find in learning, dedicating myself to a cause and feeling like my work matters.

Mozambican capulanas

One of the happiest times of my life was in college when I was running the student newspaper. I was taking a ridiculous course load and easily putting in 30-40 hours a week at the newspaper. Essentially I lived in the Com building and at one point even had my own key so I could come and go as I wanted. The joy came from feeling so dedicated to doing my very best. I felt like the newspaper that printed each week was a direct result of my leadership and the amount of effort I was or was not willing to put into the project. There were weeks when it was great and there were weeks when glaring typos made the front page headlines. Still, I loved being in the trenches and two of my closest college friends were right there digging next to me. I think the fact the three of us struggled together to make this newspaper work each week is part of the reason we are such good friends today.

Love these

I hope to find and create that type of joy in my new duties. In the meantime, I’m trying to tidy up things at my current desk and leave gracefully. This job has been very good to me during the last five years and I will remember my time here fondly.

Makes me want to eat more salad

New job, new energy, new resolve. I ran across this quote the other day that pumped up my spirits:

African nativity

“Watch your thoughts, they become your words.
Watch your words, they become your actions.
Watch your actions, they become your habits.
Watch your habits, they become your character.
Watch your character.
It will become your destiny.”
Rabbi Hillel

African Jesus

I’m watching my habits and making some important changes. I find focus is an all or nothing game. When I’m in the zone, I’m eating healthy, spending money wisely, spending time in prayer and keeping God first.

Stone angel from Nicaragua

But oh, how I wish these things were routine and not something I had push myself to accomplish each day. In the meantime, I’m celebrating the little victories and learning from my elders.


Mortar and Pestle

* A few of my purchases from my summer travels: Nicaraguan pine basket, capulanas from Malawi and Mozambique, elephant salad tongs from Mozambique, Mozambican nativity, stone angel from Nicaragua, mortar and pestle from Moz.

Posted in
Faith, Goals, Good to Great, Journal
Comments (26)

Summer Knitting

July 17th

Summer knits

I may be the only person on earth who looks forward to lengthy international flights; how I love all that time to read, knit and watch movies! Plus, every hour or so someone stops by to make sure I am okay and offer a drink and a snack. It doesn’t even matter that my long legs are tucked up by chin and I might as well be with the baggage — you can keep your first class tickets. I don’t need lots of room to be happy when traveling, just enough time to get my needles singing.

Baby sweater for Second Birthday

This wrap sweater is for my friend Tiffany’s two-year-old daughter Rory. Spring colors for a fall sweater, I know. But, they live in Michigan and when the rest of the tots are wrapped up in navy and gray, Rory is going to rock the preschool in a shade of happy. Plus, I think pink should be a color for all seasons.


Posted in
CAOK, Domestic Art, Journal
Comments (22)

Comfort in Reading

July 16th

journey safely

I’ve done a good bit of reading this summer toward my goal of 40 books this year. To add to the list:

18. “What is the What” — which I already reviewed and loved. Five out of five bananas, absoloodle. The perspective and writing are excellent. This has serious potential to be my Christmas book of 2008.

19. “What the Dead Know” by Laura Lipmann: Two bananas, good plot and I liked the Dennis Leary-esq character Kevin Infante, but too heavy on the needless profanity to be truly enjoyable.

20. “Kabul Beauty School” by Deborah Rodriguez: Three bananas, fascinating memoir and I appreciated this foreigner’s take on living in a Muslim country as a divorced Christian woman. However, some of her choices leave her as a less-than-desirable lad character.

journals for mother and daughter

21. “I Capture the Castle” by Dodie Smith: Four bananas. Love the characters, the way of telling the stoyr, the creativity of the author. It was an entertaining summer read that I recommend for teens.

22. “Hank & Chloe” by Jo-Ann Mapson: Two bananas. Didn’t hate the story but didn’t think it was much more than mind candy. Lots of sexual detail that made me blush when reading this in public.

23. “It’s Not About the Tapas” by Polly Evans: 1 banana. I couldn’t get hooked on this one, but it would be a good read for European history buffs. It is a nonfiction travel memoir of a girl who decides to ride her bike across much of Spain.

24. “Millions Saved.” Four Bananas, and a mandatory read for anyone interested in international public health programming.

25. “Good Faith” by Jane Smiley. Two bananas. This was slow and again I wasn’t sure I liked the characters by the end.

africa, back patch

26. “Fieldwork” by Mischa Berlinski. Four bananas. Such a vividly written tale that when I was done, I felt like I’d been the one traveling through Thailand. I loved this story. Several of you recommended it, so thank you!
{Sidenote, Berlinski recommends “The Dogs May Bark but the Caravan Rolls On.” I am going to add this to my library list.}

27. “Three Cups of Tea” by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. Four bananas. This true story of a man building schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan has been handed to me several times by friends. When I finally sat down to read it, I couldn’t put it down and did the very socially ugly act of even reading at the dinner table. It was that good. If you want to be motivated into how one person truly can make huge change, pick this up. Mortenson is one of my new heroes.

28. “The Law of Similars” by Chris Bonjalian. Three bananas. I like the way this author teaches the reader so much about topics — such as food allergies and homeopathy in this case — without it coming off as stuffy. Good fiction.

29. “More Than You Know” by Beth Gutcheon. Three bananas. The author does a good job of bouncing between two main stories and eventually tying them together.

30. “Soul Cravings” by Edwin McManus. Five bananas. My minister gave this to me before I left and it was perfect timing. This book is written in entry-style, so you can read it a bit each day or all at once. Great spiritual insight and motivation to ask more questions about faith.


31. “We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will be Killed with our Families” by Philip Gourevitch. Five bananas. This is an excellent read for anyone interested in the Rwandan genocide and Africa politics. It is a good study of what pushes the average everyday mind into being comfortable with killing others and how to prevent this sort of nonsense from happening again.

32. “Vinegar Hill” by A. Manette Ansay. Two bananas. Surprise, surprise. This Oprah book pick left me sad and miserable. The female lead lives a hopeless life.

33. “Hard Laughter” by Annie Lamott. 1 banana. I know, I know. Usually I love Lamott. Come to find out I really love her nonfiction. Her fiction is a bit too odd for me.

34. “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel. Five stars. Again, another spiritual book that will rock your socks if you give it a chance. I have found myself repeatedly reminding myself of these agreements when faced with obstacles and they’ve helped me to find grace in the journey.

35. “At the Mercy of the River” by Peter Stark. Four bananas. A nonfiction adventure tale about a team who decide to kayak the Lugenda River in Mozambique. Absolutely wonderful writing and I am bias because I kinda love the country.


36. “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe. Three bananas. Good story with interesting African tribal insights. Reminded me of “The Alchemist” in the writing style.

Currently reading and loving, “Cold Mountain” with “Lucky” on deck. What have you been enjoying?


Posted in
Goals, Journal, Media
Comments (22)

Tstress-Tstress & Tsleep-Tsleep

July 15th

boabab, Malawi

So, let me be honest. I’m a bit of a hypochondriac drama queen. I’ve been through this before and didn’t have TB. And I’m 100% convinced I don’t have sleeping sickness. Shoo tse tse fly! Don’t bother me.
Because I resigned today. And my headache disappeared. May have something to do with the hard 9 hours of sleep I got last night (how is that for reassurance you are making the right choice?). Or it could have to do with the great breakfast I had this morning. But it certainly has to do with less stress.
I’ve loved this job and still love the organization, but I’m moving on to greener pastures — another non-profit within a few minutes of my house on foot, still working with African folk, still focused on public health. Plus, I got a great farewell Africa tour out of this job before I handed over my resignation.
Nope, the rodeo hasn’t arrived in town. That’s just me, headache-free, singing, “Giddy-up!”

Posted in
Good to Great, Journal, Public Health
Comments (50)

Jet Lag Go Away

July 14th

So, I’m thinking this headache I’ve had behind my eyes for the last five days is more than just jet lag. I’ve spent more time during the last week under the covers pinching my eyes shut and praying for relief than I have in years. And I’m pretty sure that time I had the flu. This is just this incredibly annoying pain that refuses to leave, regardless of the copious amounts of aspirin I’ve been inhaling.
Could be the change in weather (official outlook in Phoenix: RIDICULOUSLY HOT). Could be I’ve finally pried myself free of the caffeine demons that have kept me hostage for years (haven’t had any in 8 days, but who’s counting?) Could be Africa trying to tell me to get my butt back home. She misses me. I’m thinking its the latter. Regardless, this is about as whiny as I get and I’m hot. HOT! And my head hurts. And I am really missing being in Africa. (And am trying not to be too worried that maybe one of those stupid tsetse fly bites I got from the elephant safari could mean sleeping sickness. This would explain the headaches.)
Last photos of the adventure:

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Check out the toy car this kid fashioned out of trash. Tell me these kids couldn’t kick your student of the month’s butt in ingenuity? Yeah. Pretty sure they could kick my butt too.

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Seriously awesome.

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Who needs a JoAnn’s for supplies? Not these two village tailors. They put whatever they’ve got to great use, including these sewing machine relics.

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And they are pumped by foot.

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Gratuitous pretty kid photo. How beautiful are these girls? Stunning!

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These guys too!

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Thanks again for cheering me along through this adventure. Tomorrow I resume my domestic blogging duties that have been seriously neglected for the last two months. In the meantime, I’ve got a date with some Excedrin and a big bottle of ice water.


Posted in
Africa, Journal, Photography
Comments (24)

Mozambique: The Work

July 13th

When I’m on the ground working at one of our project sites, I spend most of my day observing. I walk with our public health workers through the villages, watching how they interact with families, seeing what their communities look like, scrutinizing the children and trying to tell if they are getting enough to eat, if there are mosquito nets hung in their huts, if there are pit latrines and clean wells available in the area. I take a lot of photographs and notes and try to come up with a plan to make our health projects more effective. A bit of what I saw in Beira — and I’ll warn you, some of these are disturbing:

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This is a typical home in a village near Beira.

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This is an improved method of hygiene that has been introduced. If your dishes air dry off the ground, they’ll stay cleaner and animals and children won’t be able to touch them either. (Obviously these still need to be washed.)

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A health promoter interviews a family in Msena — a local language.

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This family cultivates rice in one of the many flood plains nearby. They dry the rice on plastic sacks and then grind it with a giant mortar and pestle. They then take this ground material and put it in a large flat basket and wait for a slight breeze. When the breese is just right, they bounce the ground rice in the basket and the husk — which they’ve separated from the rice with the mortar — blows away in the wind leaving the rice ready for cooking. This process takes days for very little in terms of calories or vitamins gained. In other words, this isn’t Uncle Ben’s.

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Speaking of vitamins, there is a malnutrition issue in many of these communities with babies. Babies who can’t breastfeed — because the mother died in birth, her milk didn’t come in, she’s HIV-positive and doesn’t want to feed the baby her milk, or the baby is lactose intolerant and can’t keep the milk down — die quickly. There is Plumpynut available for those who bring their children to the malnutrition feeding centers. This is a healthy baby being weighed.

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In constrast, this is the one-year-old I described earlier. She was later taken to the central hospital and put on a feeding tube. She weighed 5.5kg at 14 months.

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Her brother, who I carried to the clinic that day, was also malnourished and was cared for at the hospital. A more urgent issues was matakenyas — a worm that had invested his sweet little feet.

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I heard the little girl in this photo crying before I saw her. Her mother is resting on the reed mat under the blankets in the far right side of the yard. She was 18 and had been sick since February.

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Her little girl sat in the dirt, listening to her mother moan. I can’t imagine she was older than a year. She cried when we appeared, but seemed to otherwise be entertaining herself.

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One week later when we returned to the community, the mother had died. I am not certain what will happen to this adorable little girl. With any luck, she’ll be taken to an orphanage where she’ll be fed and eventually sent to school. There was an HIV clinic offering free testing and treatment within a 15-minute walk of this village. I would guess stigma kept this woman initially from seeking care and handcuffed her family from doing anything after she was unable to do so for herself. If we can change one thing in southern Africa, may it be HIV-testing and treatment stigma. With treatment, people can live 20-25 years longer. It isn’t a cure, but it would have been a chance for this mother to see her little girl through childhood.

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These beautiful women are some of the Mozambican saints who work and care for such children at orphanages. The work is thankless, tiring and never-ending. Yet, they do so with a smile that I have to believe only comes from a spirit fueled by God. They give me hope for the future of Mozambique.

Nothing subtle about this prevention message

That and the exceedingly obvious prevention messages that are becoming part of the culture. This condom machine provides customers at a cafe in central Beira more than just decaf or full-jolt.


Posted in
Africa, Journal, Public Health, Travel
Comments (22)

Joy Shines Through

July 11th

The children of Mozambique are some of the sweetest I’ve encountered. I had so much fun taking their photographs and getting to know them. I spent much of my time with these sweet wee ones — jumping rope, teaching health lessons, playing games. A few of my new friends:

Mozambican children
Mozambican children
Mozambican children
Mozambican children
Mozambican children
Elio rocks out
Mozambican children
Mozambican children
Mozambican children
Mozambican children
Mozambican children
Mozambican children
Mozambican children
Mozambican children

I think this one gets her chubby cheeks from me, don’t you?

Posted in
Africa, Journal, Photography, Travel
Comments (34)

Malawi Roundup

July 10th

A couple more of my favorite photos from Malawi before I move on to Mozambique:

Mount Mulanje

Mount Mulanje — apparently there is a porter race that goes up the face of this giant and down the other side. Amazing!

African transport

A truck that looks like it might just die on the spot from being overloaded: a common sight on roads in southern Africa. The only thing missing from this scene is a goat or a bunch of chickens tied to the top of the heap.

Pretty Malawian Patio

Pretty patio in Malawi. I love the simplicity of the furniture and colors. I want my patio to look like this!

Jack fruit

Jack fruit. I’m not sure what these taste like, unfortunately. But I can tell you their seeds mold within days. You take a walk around these trees and there are hundreds of furry little seeds at your feet growing like petri dishes.

Grilled fish, head and all

I did, however, get a chance to eat this baby. And a few others. I love grilled fish with lime.

Lujeri Clinic

The Lujeri Tea Estate has a pretty remarkable health care system for their employees. They have 60 births a week at their five clinics. I think this must be one of the highest fertility rates in the world. I was impressed with the cleanliness and access to service they provide their workers. (It’s win-win. Healthy workers = more tea.)

Showering in Africa

An African shower. Just add hot water to bucket.

African breakfast tray

African breakfast. Mosquito repellent, tea and biscuits (cookies).

Cow camp digs

African lodging. This is the home my friends Ken and Debby built. It is so pretty inside and the thatch roof keep the bush babies away.

Mozambique manana, amigos!


Posted in
Africa, Journal, Photography, Travel
Comments (14)