Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Honduras | Behind the Scenes + What was I thinking?!

"What am I getting myself into!?" 

I must have had that thought 100 times leading up to this impulsive trip.  Two weeks before departure I scanned the to-do list I was given -- get vaccinations, malaria pills, Imodium tablets, emergency evacuation insurance, military grade mosquito repellent, register with the embassy...I felt in over my head.  The trip seemed daunting and exciting all at once.

In spite of my apprehension, I knew that there was important work to be done and I discovered that determination is stronger than fear.   So I took a deep breath, checked off every item on the list and got on a plane destined for the unknown.

It's always a bit scary to explore -- whether it be the world, another person's heart or your own beliefs. It's frightening because it forces you out of the familiar.  I'm learning that the raw, vulnerable feeling of stepping out of my comfort zone isn't enough to stop me from seeking out the unknown terrain of places. people. my own self.  It pays off in so many ways.

So I arrived safely in Honduras. I have to say that this was the first time I've ever traveled without expectations and that left so much more room for gratitude and wonder.  I was breathless most of the time...sometimes with admiration for the people I met and sometimes with grief for the realities they faced.  I'm still processing all that I witnessed and learned by reaching into the poverty of a third world country.  There is so much beauty there, even in the brokenness.

We stayed in a friary with Franciscan priests and our guide was Sister Larraine, the founder of Water with Blessings.  Tagucigalpa is widely run by gangs, however the friary (which they call a Convento) was like a compound.  Cement walls surrounding it, barb wire, metal gate and an armed guard.  It felt safe.

Inside the friary was simple and serene.  By Honduran standards it was luxurious - clean sheets on the bed, running (but not safe to drink) water and functioning kitchen. Here's a peek inside:

my simple, yet comfortable room. there were screens on the windows to keep bugs out, but no glass and, of course, no air conditioning.
the common area
we played Spades in our down time at night

The one thing I was surprised by was the food - it was incredible.  We paid local women to do the shopping and cook three meals a day.  I don't think I ate one processed thing for 4 days.  Everything was fresh and from scratch.

Water Women training - the reason we were there. The training facility was next door to the friary and we were able to reach it without going outside of the gates.  However, the first time I made the trip over there I didn't realize that there was a passage way, so I went via the street out front.  It was one gate over, I didn't think anything of it...but the look on Sister Larraine's face when I approached from the other side -- it was clear I was NOT supposed to do that alone.

Here's a view from the street...which is an acceptable route to take if in a group.  Chris and Paul are carrying all of the art supplies to keep the kids entertained during the Water Women training. 

Meeting the women for the first time, I immediately felt that human connection that comes from shared life experiences.  These mothers and I...these mothers and all mothers...we're kindred somehow.  Loving our children fiercely.  Hoping to give them the best we have to offer.  Our hearts are the same in spite of our circumstances.  I wanted to give each and every one of them the biggest hug.

The pride they had in becoming a Water Woman.  It is very empowering for them to be able to contribute to their families and their communities.

Our transportation was usually a large van, but when the driver wasn't available we did the traditional Honduran thing...squeeze in the bed of a pick-up.  This is the kind of thing that I would NEVER even consider doing back home, but seemed normal in Honduras.  Plus one of the priests was driving...so it felt safe-ish??

I call this next series of photos, "Scenes from a Pick-Up":)

the trash on the streets was shocking.

At the end of our terrifying and exhilarating ride, we reached this church for Saturday evening Mass.  We received a very warm welcome from the parishioners.


Another aspect of the trip was the soccer tournament that we facilitated for the local children.  We brought new pennies for them to wear, medals and treated them to a traditional American lunch...hot dogs and potato chips!
this is Kenny. he's a scrappy little soccer player.  If he would have fit in my pocket I would've taken him home.
these kids were all really incredible players.  so fun to watch.
None of the children spoke English.  But their laughter - I knew what that meant.  Happiness, friendship, enjoyment. Laughter is so familiar and so wonderfully human. A universal language. 


This was one of the toughest parts of the trip for me emotionally. I saw babies in their mother's arms, oblivious to the life they've been born into.  I connected with older children who knew that a life without fear existed, but it would never be available to them.

As I tried to process the realities of daily life in a third world country, the lack of money was clear, but I realized that the real misfortune is the lack of choice. Poverty is having no choice of a path leading to a better future, and no voice to help you ask for one. Still, their gratitude for what they had was incredible.  And I suddenly realized there are many ways in which they're richer than we are.
Although the risk I took on this trip is much more apparent to me now in retrospect (I didn't fully understand how dangerous Honduras is) it was worth it.  I wanted to take this experience home with me, to my kids.  They're just starting to wake up to the world outside of our own.  It's hard for them to understand, but I'm never going to stop trying to connect them to it.

As a whole, it was an incredible experience.  I love to travel - to feel like a part of the world as a human.  Not hiding behind the boundaries of the things that label us all and where we belong, separating "us" and "them".  When I venture outside of these invisible lines all I see is "we".  Humans who all want the same basic things for ourselves and for our children.  It's a powerful realization that continues to change and shape me.

I want to continue investing fearlessly in adventure and in other people. Seeking fully what it means to be human and how we belong to each other.  And I hope to give this gift to my children too.

May we be brave enough, humble enough and quiet enough to learn from people experiencing life differently than us.  To meet other cultures with openness...and acceptance that we cannot fix all that is broken.  But we can do small things, show them our hearts and listen without judgement.
Goodnight, Honduras.  I'll think of you often and remember you always.
To donate a filter to women who are still waiting for one, please visit GiveSafeWater.org
This is a lean organization and your money will go directly to getting safe water into the hands of those who need it most.
And if you're STILL reading this marathon post...thank you;)

Monday, March 12, 2018

6.5 | Happy Half, Sullivan Michael

My summer babe celebrated with 1/2 bday treats at school.
We had so much fun making these together!

Sweet Sully.  You're such an incredible kid.

I was truly, madly, deeply for you from the start and your gentle nature is something I will always need in my life.  

The beauty of celebrating these half-way milestones (and writing about each one) is that it makes me stop and think about the way each of you coming into the world has impacted me.  And there's no doubt I'm a better person for being on the receiving end of your creativity, your selflessness and your quick-witted humor.  I've jokingly told your Dad that I want to be just like you when I grow up;)

I see so much possibility in your being.  Genuine greatness in your quiet leadership.  I can't wait to see how you impact the world as you grow into all of these remarkable qualities.

My whole heart, 
the ski-ball machine is a favorite!
and, of course, flashback to previous years. breaks my heart every time.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

2.5 | Happy Half, Milo Byron!

Our little tradition of half-birthday dinners continues with Moose's 2.5.

We can see the "three's" barreling toward us faster than we're prepared for.  He's becoming opinionated and feisty and LOUD when he doesn't get his way.  This behavior always seems to increase as 3 approaches and peaks right at 3.5.  Then there's a downhill slope toward 4 when they return to earth and start to become somewhat reasonable humans.  This is the pattern I've noticed with my other three and I'm bracing myself:)
He's so darn cute, though!  Those eyes and that smile melt my frustration in an instant.  When he's not busy trying my patience...he's silly and snuggly and loves to dance.  My boy has moves like I've never seen on a toddler!  Ah, he cracks me up.  Most days I'm walking a fine line between "This child is going to make me lose my mind up in here!" and "He's so adorable my heart might burst."
All of that aside, Milo is innately sweet.  He loves to hold my hand (when it's his idea), gives me the biggest, sloppiest kisses and thinks his Dada hung the moon.  He loves his brothers fiercely and wants so badly to catch up to them and be a part of the pack.

Also, he's talking so much these days...like, full thoughts and sentences. And it knocks the wind out of me to realize he's not a baby anymore.

Happy half, Milo Moose.
I love you with the heat of a thousand suns.
feeding Max raisins.

Flashback to our previous celebrations at The Blue Moose...

Milo's .5 blog