I know that it’s Memorial Day and I should probably post a blog along that theme. But since I just recently posted a blog on my Grandfather (who was also a WWII veteran), I’ve decided to post on a different topic…one that we’ve talked about before, but not for a while: Compassion International. You’ve heard me talk about Compassion International’s Leadership Development Program students before. They are an amazing group of students. This past week, I got to spend time with five of them.
First up was two days and two nights last weekend of sightseeing in Nashville with Stella from Kenya. I met Stella on my first trip to Kenya 3 years ago and have gotten to see her several times since….including getting to go with her to Seattle to meet her sponsor the first time she was in the states. We both loved the Delta Riverboat cruise at Opryland and Stella proclaimed Broadway to be “very American” due to all the hats and cowboy boots. But beyond all the fun times, I loved getting to be around Stella’s encouraging spirit. Her absolute faith in the Lord is inspiring and her positive attitude is infectious.
This past Tuesday morning, I dropped Stella off in Huntsville with her host family and continued on to Talledega, Alabama for Student Life Camp training week. When I was India this past March, I absolutely fell in love with the LDP students we met. One of the students, Vicky, is still in India finishing up his University exams, but the other four students are here and getting adjusted to life in America. We had lots of good conversation about the oddities of American culture (why DO we take ice in every drink, even if it’s cold outside…or inside?) and what they would encounter this summer. Hearing them practice telling their stories and the impact Compassion International has had on them and their families was amazing. It’s incredible that these students who grew up in such extreme poverty (one boy mentioned his father’s wages were around 85 cents per day in US currency), in some cases in single-parent households or the children of addicts, are now able to stand up and tell their stories…..stories that end in changed hearts and lives and great success. Today the students shared these stories with their teams on behalf of the many many children in the world that are still living in poverty, without hope or dreams.
So, this Memorial Day as we remember the many who fought for the freedoms we enjoy as Americans, let us not forget the many others living poverty around the world who don’t have those same opportunities and freedoms. I’m thankful for these students and the amazing stories that they share on behalf of the voiceless children still oppressed by hopelessness.
If you would like to sponsor a child through Compassion International, either click on this link here, or on the banner that appears on the sidebar of our blog. Or, if you would like to become part of the story of one of Compassion’s amazing Leadership Development Students, you can click here to become an LDP sponsor.
Sometimes I feel like half my blog posts are about what I learned by jumping on this or that bandwagon, and today is no different. I saw this “No ‘Poo” thing mentioned on a few blogs and facebook statuses, and was curious.
Let me just say that I hate the unfortunate moniker ‘No Poo’. I mean, the very last thing I need in my life right now is to form more sentences with the word “Poo” in them. See also: life with toddler.
ANYWAY, the No ‘Poo concept is this: Modern shampoo is too harsh and actually wrecks your hair everytime you wash it. Modern conditioner is nothing but a poor chemical stand-in for all the natural hair oil that you just washed out. So some people are discontinuing hair washing entirely, just scrubbing their heads in the running water. Some are washing with baking soda and vinegar. Here are all the purported benefits:
- Reduces use of petroleum-based stuff.
- Less plastic waste.
- Less chemicals washed down the drain.
- Saves money.
- Hair has more body.
- Hair is shinier.
- Hair is less frizzy.
- Hair is less oily, and needs less washing.
I was intrigued. I’m kind of in a phase of trying to reduce or eliminate chemicals that I can’t pronounce from my environment. But lets be honest here, I really only care about the last four on the list, all pertaining to my HAIR. I would be totally uninterested in saving the environment but having worse hair. Come on.
So, I decided to give it a whirl. The process is simple. I use a tablespoon of baking powder mixed in a cup of water in place of shampoo. For conditioning, I’m using a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in a cup of water. I keep these in two little squeeze bottles in the shower, and that amount lasts me about two washes. People use an array of different recipes, and some use fancy stuff like lemon juice for conditioning.
I’ve been doing this for weeks now and you know what? IT WORKS. At first I couldn’t even believe it. My hair is unbelievably LESS frizzy. I mean, like basically not frizzy at all. And y’all, I’ve had frizzy hair since 1995.
I really did blow my mind at first. What about all the shampoo/conditioner marketing, pretty bottles, descriptive labels, detailed descriptions of how to apply each product? Is all that a sham? I don’t know, but I can honestly say that the baking soda/vinegar method works. My hair is clean just like with regular shampoo, and yet better and happier. Seriously, baking soda?
Last weekend I went to an outdoor wedding where it was 92 degrees and 110% humidity. Air so thick you could cut it with a knife. See pic below. Yeah, my hot roller curls fell out, but no frizz. I proudly marched around in a sea of other folks’ frizzy heads.
What are the downsides? Well, one morning I accidentally made my baking soda solution with baking powder by accident. That turned out kinda weird and gross. So there’s that risk to deal with. The vinegar smells exactly like vinegar when you’re using it. That’s not awesome, but the smell does rinse out entirely. There’s no soap suds or foaming, and frankly the whole “Herbal Essences” shower experience is kinda gone. But I am 100% willing to deal with all of the above for better hair.
Here’s a real-time self-hair-portrait for further proof. I washed it two days ago, styled as usual, and haven’t really bothered with it since.
I absolutely recommend you try this, if you have any complaints about the status of your own hair. Who knew something so cheap and simple could actually be superior?
One Happy Friday recently, Bethany and I had a mini-reunion, that I’m going to memorialize right now in its entirety.
First Ransom and I met her at a coffee house near our old digs in the Fondren district of Jackson, MS. Bethany got her old standard – a peach yogurt smoothie. I got my fav ‘local honey iced coffee’.
Then we walked over to the “Rainbow Grocery”, a place that makes Whole Foods look like a Super-Walmart. We oogled the castile soap, looked for organic chicken feed, and bought Ransom $2 worth of dried cherries. Which he devoured. Then we dropped that kiddo off with his daddy and headed off for more adventures.
Bethany wanted to see the new house, so we did a couple of drive-by’s. (We’re still just under-contract, 2 more weeks to go! Or more, who knows.) In lieu of touring the house, I offered to give her a tour of the city. And by city, I mean “hamlet”. Population 2,000. But seriously, as you are about to see, our future hamlet city is the most adorable thing ever.
First off, like any self-respecting Southern city, it has a square. But this little city kicks it up a notch by have a picture-perfect water tower right in the middle.
We *think* we saw a couple of film assistants walking around scouting locations, and I can’t say I blame them. There are scene-worthy views around every corner. How ’bout this courthouse?
How ’bout this adorable Catholic church? I think it was built in 1880 or something.
We walked through the tiniest Sunflower on the planet. Totally adorable. Next up, dinner at the brand new Taco Del Mar. Let me list the extent of dining option in the little town, besides Taco Del Mar: To-go hibachi place, Sonic, Subway, a local greasy spoon, and Pizza Hut. I believe the church-to-restaurant ratio may be slightly off. There are a bunch of churches, so just where do these good folks eat for Sunday lunch? Home? Heavens.
Okay. We’re not done yet.
After dinner we drove back through the campus of Mississippi College, Bethany’s alma mater. Driving past the science building, Bethany just couldn’t contain herself. We had to go in. Luckily a young lad in the lobby thought we looked trustworthy and let us in the building at 8pm on a Friday night.
As we wandered through the halls, who should pass but Bethany’s old advisor, working late obviously. He was SUPER excited to see her and insisted on giving us a tour of the entire new biology building.
Oh yeah, ps, Bethany, the personal assistant by day and freelance violinist by night, has a B.S. in Biology.
So we are ducking in and out of fancy new labs, checking out the fan-tabulous light switches, and so forth, when we finally reach the pinnacle of the tour. Good thing Bethany took a photo because there are no words:
“Did they just bring me in a room with a bunch of dead bodies?”
“Could there be any other logical explanation for why those white bags are shaped like bodies?”
“What just happened here?”
The answer are: Yes, they did. No there isn’t. And I have no idea. The END.
Not really, we went back to the original coffee shop to brainstorm on blog stuff and take pictures of our bangs. Bethany had another peach yogurt smoothie (badly made this time) and I had a hot tea. A full day. HAPPY WEEKEND Y’ALL!
The whole “Nature vs. Nurture” war has been raging for years and personally, I think there is a strong case for the effects both elements have on a person. But no matter how you spin it, I’m pretty sure my love for the written word comes at me from both sides. It’s in my blood, and deeply woven into my web of experience as well. And now I work for an author. Another stretch of my life path, with books for pavers.
I lost my grandfather eleven years ago next week. He was elderly and had severe respiratory problems caused by years of smoking back in the days before people knew that smoking wasn’t safe. They say that time heals all wounds, but I’d have to disagree on this point. I think I miss my grandfather more as the years go on and I grow older and become more and more aware of the unique person he was. I wish I could sit down and ask him a whole slew of questions that it never occurred to me to ask. I wish I could hear his reaction to the adventures I’m having as an adult and to the ever increasing discoveries of modern technology and medicine. I wish he could meet my husband. He would love my husband.
My grandfather taught me lots of things as a kid. Like how to spell “squirrel.” And how to say “Lemon Yellow Lollypops” when I was having trouble differentiating between the “L” and “Y” sounds. And once, in the days before Google & the Internet, we sat down with a pencil and a sheet of lined notebook paper and from memory wrote down all 50 states of the United States and then put them in alphabetical order. He asked me questions and listened when I answered, no matter how silly or long-winded my answer might of been. And in between all that, he read books. Lots of them. He was ever in “his chair” with a book in hand and a crossword-puzzle as a bookmark. My mother read to me in the womb….and every night of my childhood thereafter until I was able to take over and read to myself. And even then, she continued to read to me when my eyes were too droopy with sleep to process the words, but the story too enticing to abandon.
My uncle is an author and an avid reader (as well as a gifted fiddle player). In fact, he’s many times earned his paycheck writing reviews of other people’s books for various newspapers and magazines…the perfect combo for an author/reader. This past weekend, when I was visiting my parents for Mother’s Day, he decided it was time to comb through my grandfather’s vast library. He kept a large stack of books, and the rest came to me to keep or sell to the local used bookstore. Some of the sorting process was easy…pulling out classic works that weren’t yet a part of my personal collection that I’ve always wanted to read. The yellowed copy of “Nicholas Nickleby” for instance, that I used to beg my grandfather to read to me; undaunted at age five by it’s 939 pages. Tucked helpfully inside is an equally yellowed index card listing a “Who’s who” of the story’s characters in my Grandfather’s eloquent script. But then it became more difficult. All the volumes of PD James that I have no desire to read, but that I can’t seem to part with either. Some of my earliest memories are of carefully running my fingers over all the book bindings on my grandparent’s bookshelf, thrilled at the thought of the mysteries and glorious tales those volumes might contain. When I imagine their house, Michner’s “Texas” is an integral part of the decor.
So while I may never crack open any of them, the works of John leCarre will probably take up residence next to whatever popular fiction my book-club is currently reading, at least for a while. These books to me are happy ghosts of years past; comfort items that remind me of when life was simple and the highlight of my week was story-time at the Burleson Library. As I write this, I glance up from my screen and scan the bindings of the hundreds of books that sit displayed on the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves Keith and I had custom-built into our front room last Spring. My grandfather would have loved those bookshelves.
“I had a mother who read to me
Sagas of pirates who scoured the sea.
Cutlasses clenched in their yellow teeth;
“Blackbirds” stowed in the hold beneath.
I had a Mother who read me lays
Of ancient and gallant and golden days;
Stories of Marmion and Ivanhoe,
Which every boy has a right to know.
I had a Mother who read me tales
Of Gelert the hound of the hills of Wales,
True to his trust till his tragic death,
Faithfulness lent with his final breath.
I had a Mother who read me the things
That wholesome life to the boy heart brings-
Stories that stir with an upward touch.
Oh, that each mother of boys were such!
You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be —
I had a Mother who read to me.”
-Strickland Gillilan (1869-1954)
Something about Mother’s Day weekend always seems to bring me and Mary-Hall together. Last year, we had a last minute visit in Columbus which was lots of fun. This year, we had our very first blog mini-meeting and a random Friday night out. But we’ll tell you about that later. Today we just want to keep it simple and salute the two fabulous ladies that brought us into this world.
Thanks for doing all the cooking, shopping, washing, transporting, teaching, entertaining, science projecting, stepping on Legos, supporting, visiting, maintaining, and organizing, and everything else. I don’t know what I would do without your constant voice of encouragement in my life. You are the best Mom & Smokey and I look forward to all our future adventures!
So many memories come to mind today…of all the ways you indulged me, disciplined, taught, loved, guided and encouraged. The hours of homework you helped with…the countless musical recitals and other competitions. And all the other many ways you are fabulous. Thank you for the influence you have been on my life! I love you lots and lots!
Love, your little Bethany Jean
Some people around this blog are bebopping to India and Brazil, while some other people, ahem, will be keeping things a little more local. And that doesn’t mean there aren’t adventures to be had. No sir!
Three weeks ago my husband said, “Want to do the Bluz Cruz with me next weekend?” What? He does that race like almost every year with a friend, in our old beat-up blue canoe. Its a 22 mile paddle race down the largest river in the US – the mighty Mississippi. And last mile is against the current. Yaay.
Then he said, “We have to do it, my picture’s on the t-shirt.” Game changer!
And you know what, why not? Boy scouts and old ladies do it every year too. I felt confident that we wouldn’t have to be towed in by the safety boat. So that is how I ended up in a casino parking lot in Vicksburg, MS at 6AM on a Saturday morning.
By 8AM we had been bussed north to a boat ramp where we prepared ourselves for the upcoming adventure. This year’s race had a great turnout, 90 total boats, but only 7 were canoes. The rest of the people are smarter and bring kayaks. Kayaks cut through the water with grace and ease. Heavy aluminum canoes kind of plod along.
At some point we put our boats in the water and then they honk a car horn at you, which means GO!!! So off we went. The first 6 miles or so were wild and windy. We were facing two-foot swells at least. I felt like just like Gilligan on that fateful trip. The skipper in the rear did a great job of not getting too frustrated with me, though I was always paddling on the wrong side and threatening to flip us.
The river actually had a current of ~5mph that day, and our measly little paddling just added a couple extra mph on top. NOT for lack of trying though. We really wanted to beat this one other canoe, but we quickly realized that was not in the cards for 2013. Still, we gave it all we had – for 3 HOURS.
I distracted myself from the muscle pain by singing “Just around the Riverbend” in my head and attempting to channel Pocahontas herself. Never been one for “arm strength” per se.
A big part of the race is actually knowing how to ride the river most efficiently. Its faster in some spots than others, shielding from the wind, yak yak yak. Ask August about it. Good thing this was his 4th (6th?) race. All I know is, I was basically only allowed to paddle on the left side for the entire trip. The river is so stinkin’ large that once all the kayaks pass out of site, I basically felt like we were going zero mph and would likely be towed in after all.
But, the sun did come out, the waves chilled out, and we made it. Once the big bridge is in sight, you’re almost there! All that’s left is a 1-mile upriver stretch on a tributary called the Yazoo. FUN!
As I mentioned, one canoe was WAY past us by now. But right as we were heading up the Yazoo, a second canoe that had been behind us the whole way was edging around in some kind of superfast miracle current. They passed us. Then we got back in the lead. Then them. Then us. Then RIGHT at the FINISH LINE, it was like a fullspeed ahead duel to the death. OMG my arms were about to fall off and I don’t know if August was paddling that hard but I was sure as heck going to give it my best shot. We won by 1 second!
Here’s the sad/bad/silly/nutty part. That other boat was a man…. and his kid! Yes, I gave it my all and beat a kid by 1 second. August says he was thinking about letting them win. I wasn’t because I figured they were in a different class. The race offers Male, Female, and Mixed classes, and obviously we were in mixed. Apparently a man and a boy are mixed as well. Because at the award ceremony, they did in fact get 3rd place behind us. Then I felt a little bad.
Here’s a shot of the kid looking cute and a little concerned about the crazy lady in the other canoe.
Oh well. Its a hard-knocks life, is it not? I do feel kinda bad. On the other hand, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place all get the same thing – awesome handmade trophies.
And later that day, I couldn’t even lift my arms over my head to wash my own hair.
Nerdery addendum: Through the miracle of technology, my skipper husband collected the following GPS track of our progress. Although it looks like we paddled right across a sandbar, the river level was actually WAY up on race day. We did keep her in the water.
Our local farmers market opens for the season today and I’m so excited I can’t stand it. Partly because it’s just so fun to walk down with friends and eat dinner at the food trucks and browse the locally made and grown goods for sale, and partly because it reminds me that in a few weeks I will be gleaning edibles from my own mini garden.
I swore I wouldn’t do a veggie garden again after our previous possum-and-squash-bug-fueled failures. And I haven’t REALLY done a garden this year. But, I do have a few things growing in the back yard. We have already used some of my herbs…cilantro for our tacos on Cinco De Mayo and Rosemary and Thyme when we cook our veggies for dinner. So yummy, and so fun to pick stuff in the yard instead of pulling out a jar of something I paid $6 for at Kroger.
And then this past week I acquired two jalapeno plants and three tomato plants that my boss was throwing away. (She’s a little crazy about her garden which is so fun….to go and see everything she’s planted…and she even gave us a batch of spinach last week! It was dee-lish!) And, I’d planted some Burpee Kentucky Heirloom pole beans next to the chicken coop in hopes that they would grow up the side and provide a) beans for us to eat and b)shade for our chickens when the Tennessee summers get so hot. The beans sprouted this week and I was in such amazement over the whole thing (I typically haven’t had great luck keeping plants alive) that I texted photos to other gardening friends. I know. It’s beansprouts. But I was thrilled nonetheless.
In other garden updates, we got a rain barrel this week! I’ve wanted one for a while, but it hasn’t really made sense until now. I’m still learning about all the benefits of having one and how to maximize it’s potential, so I’ll have to give you all some pointers as I learn more. Keith was a trooper and hung a gutter on our backyard shed that feeds in to the new barrel. We haven’t added barrels to any of our house gutters yet, but we might do that soon. I’ve put some additional rain barrel notes at the bottom of this post in case you are interested in trying it yourself!
We also started the organize-the-shed project the other day and I found a pair of rainboots from college that I was going to throw away when I saw an opportunity to re-purpose. I’d been wanting a pair of garden clogs anyway for my daily trips out to the chicken coop and to water the garden, so I simply cut the boot part off and made them slip on clogs. I love them and have used them every day for the past week. If you want to try this trick with an old pair of boots, I’d recommend using tinsnips instead of scissors. They are a little more heavy-duty and make the project easier.
What are you guys doing in your backyards? I know Mary-Hall has some schemes for all that land she’s buying and would love to hear any ideas or advice you guys have!
Rain Barrel Tips:
If you are in the market for a good barrel, let me recommend the Rain Wizard 65 Gallon Rain Urn by Good Ideas. As always, I’ve done my homework and this is by far the best product for the cost. It holds an amazing 65 gallons (most in this price range only hold 50) and it comes with the best overflow system out there and a metal spigot as opposed to a plastic one that will crack and leak. The link I’ve provided is to Home Depot where it’s $109 + fee ship-to-store. However, if you are a Sams Club member, they carry it for $78.98 and I purchased mine at Tractor Supply Co for $99. (They are on sale there right now, but are not listed online. You have to find one in-store). You can also find it on Amazon for $129 + free shipping. [Bargain hunting is one of my favorites. If you want to read my other thoughts on this subject, check out my post on the Great Ottoman Search.] My friend Kris has about 6 rain barrels on his property that keep his large garden watered. He puts goldfish in his barrels to keep the mosquito population down, a trick I plan to try. Minnows and guppies also work. Just remember that while all rain barrel water is non-potable (not for human consumption) if you try this, you will have “fish tea” (poop) so you will want to use the water for gardens/plants only…not as drinking water for pets. You’ll also want to take the fish out when the weather turns cold and keep them in a bowl inside for the winter. And make sure to add water during dry summer months so the fishies always have water in their barrel.
Its funny now to look back on my 30×30 list. Many of those things which seemed so lofty and out of reach in December of 2011 when I first wrote them out, are now parts of my everyday life. Healthy eating and cooking for example. (Keith just the other day said that he loves that I’ve stopped taking pictures of our dinners because a healthy-homecooked meal is commonplace now!) One of the things on my list was to visit a new country, which I did.
But this year has been different. In March, I went to India. And now, I’m headed to Brazil in June. To sleep on a boat. On the Amazon river. The best way I could possibly think of to christen my new ENO hammock. I’m so excited I can’t stand it. I’ll be traveling with my boss Kelly Minter and a group from a non-profit organization called JMI: Justice and Mercy International. They are a fantastic organization that seeks to “change lives by confronting global injustice.” I hope that we will be able to do just that….change lives and confront injustice as we travel to Manaus. Since I began this job last August I’ve heard lots about this place in the jungle and I’m beside myself that I am now getting the opportunity to go and see with my own eyes all that I’ve been told about. There will be blogs-a-plenty about it when I return, no doubt.
While I don’t need to fund-raise for my actual trip cost, if you would like to be a part of the work we are doing in the Amazon, there IS a way you can contribute. We will be bringing food bags along with us to distribute to families in need. If you would like to purchase a food-bag for us to take on our trip, you can visit the following link: http://justiceandmercy.org/donate/ and then scroll down to where it says, “Support a missionary or Pay for a Mission Trip”. In the blank simply type in, “Food Bags for June Brazil Trip.” Food bags cost $45 each, but you can give any amount that you wish to donate…above or below that amount…and it will go towards the purchase of Food Bags. Please let us know if you choose to donate! I would love to be able to tell the story of the family that your food bag supported.
In other news, our little blog is now on Twitter! We’d love to have you follow us which you can do at @TwoGirlsTweet . We’ll give you blog teasers and photos and anything else we can say in 140 characters. Tweet tweet.