Ameena & Aurellio. One month & a world apart.

Ameena & Kenyan friend Aurellio in our Kenyan home

Ameena Project was born out of the heart-wrenching, true-life experience of seeing how 2 children, born just days or  months apart, both in Kenya, can have such a different outlook for life.

The stark reality is that Aurellio will struggle to make it past his 5th birthday living as he does in poverty–constantly exposed to rampant, life-threatening illnesses such as diarrhea, cholera, typhoid, malaria and meningitis.  While Ameena will grow and thrive up to and past the age of 5, certainly exposed to illness, but almost certain to overcome it easily with convenient and inexpensive medication.

Is Aurellio of less value than Ameena?  Does he have less potential than Ameena?

Am I of more value and worth than his mother?  Does my origin of birth, upbringing and opportunity REALLY justify that I should  have more than 99% of the world population (that’s if you made at least $52,000/year in 2009)?  And lest we feel sorry for ourselves, if you make $25,000/year you’re still doing better than 90% of the world’s population.

No.

The answer is that we truly feel that each child should have the opportunity for health, development and dignity regardless of the parents origin or residence.

We know we can do something about this,

and we’re going to.

“To whom much is given, much is required.”

Introducing……Kenya Part 2!

It hasn’t escaped our notice that our blog title has read: “Our journey to Kenya and back” and that the title has seemed awkward since we have been back home here in the United States.  Ian and I have discussed if I should change the title, but there has been something in me (and him) that has been unable to let the title (and the experience) go.  I think maybe a part of us still hasn’t made it back.

We have now been home for 15 months, the exact amount of time that we spent living and working among Kenyans in Thika, Kenya.  I reflect back and already cannot believe that the woman living and experiencing that life….was me.  I read back over blogs written while there and realize how much has slipped from my memory already.  Did I really sit on benches next to laboring women in 3rd world maternity wards, travel pregnant in a public vehicle with 20 Kenyans, and navigate Ian being held & questioned at a Kenyan police station?

Many of you know Ian.  He’s great & I am so thankful that I get him as a partner in this life.  You also would know that he can be really  intense.  He says stuff that makes me want to stick my fingers in my ears while mumbling, “La, la, la, la. I don’t hear you.”  He knows this.  So instead, he chooses carefully when to share these thoughts with me & I in turn try to listen without freaking out.  He hears intensely from what we call the Holy Spirit: that inner prompting of your deepest self to take action that can be scary, challenging, and humbling.   Ever since leaving Kenya he has struggled with  knowledge that he can do more for people living in chronic & serious need.  He struggles with balancing the safety and comfort we both want for our family & listening to the quiet yet growing call to use his talents in places that other people would rather only visit and take pictures of.

Can I just say that it is downright terrifying to think of giving up all of the wonderful comforts of Portland, Oregon AGAIN to go somewhere…..ELSE?  It wouldn’t be a short-term choice if it happened again.

I’m pretty darn sure that the Holy Spirit is working on both me and Ian.  There is definitely the knowledge that this Kenya Part 2 is probably just the gate to something else amazing & scary & perhaps downright crazy….but I am so pleased to share and announce to you all that for now, from Portland, Oregon, this desire to serve globally is being done through the launch of:

                                                Ameena Project

I am thankful that Ian called on some like-hearted friends, Megan Steele and Shari Altree, to listen to his desires to continue serving globally & that they whole-heartedly jumped in with us.

Tomorrow I’ll take you on a tour of Ameena Project:  What it is, How we’ll work, What it will take and so on!  We’re so happy to welcome you on this journey with us.

A memory of someone

In the winter (like February maybe?) before our family left for Kenya my wonderful girlfriend Natalie invited me to a women’s retreat.

I have to say that I generally find all sorts of reasonable excuses for why I can’t go to these kinds of things.  They just generally aren’t (or weren’t) my speed.  Too much awkward chit-chat.  Sometimes too much information from one person who overshares and dominates conversations.  People wanting to give unsolicited advice, dorky book bags with even dorkier iron-on graphics, and on and on.

Anyhow, I decided that I would go just for the benefit of spending time with my wonderful friends Natalie and Erika.  It was at the beach, and I still had some good skipping out skills in me that were perfected in highschool.  I figured if the sessions were too boring, I’d head to the beach.

So, short story on the retreat was that it was pleasantly surprising in the time I got to spend by myself and reflect.

The reason for me writing this post is that Natalie’s friend, LoriLee was the worship leader and piano  player during the conference.  She was unabashed in her worship and playing.  If I could paint a visual picture, you would see a dark haired, skinny women, standing at a keyboard, bouncing up and down and she banged on the keys.  She was one of those people who played the chorus OVER and OVER.

We kind of made some inside jokes about it.  I had never heard the song she banged out on the keyboard, but after that conference it was BURNED into my brain.

After coming back from Kenya, and a few short months later (I think), Natalie shared with me that her dear friend had died of a brain tumor.  The next day after going over a year and a half without hearing that banged out song, I heard it on the radio,  and it felt like LoriLee was singing it right at me.

Today, every time I heard that song, I think of Lorilee banging on that keyboard, of a wonderful retreat with my girlfriends and some great time to really reflect.

What song, or smell, or sight brings up a specific memory for you?

By the way, the song is My Savior My God by Aaron Shust,

 

Ameena

Today we celebrate one wonderful year of having Ameena in our lives.  

What a full year this last one has been. 

Being pregnant while living in Africa was interesting.  I felt healthy, but had more physical symptoms than with any of my other children.  Crazy high blood sugar that I monitored much less than I should have—seriously, you think they have glucose meters and testing strips there?  I think the chemist laughed me right out of his pharmacy when I asked about it.  About 4 months into the pregnancy my in-laws were kind enough to bring a meter and strips…and I rationed those babies out til almost a month before the baby was born.   I perfected a pretty good routine of walking a brisk path from our house to the Centre office, around the playground and back to the house…generally before I started dinner as darkness falls quickly and routinely every night there by 7pm.  On some evenings if my sugar was especially high I’d lay on the thin rug covering our concrete floor in the living room and do the “bicycle” like I was escaping town.  I’m sure it looked humorous, but it was pretty effectively in bringing the sugar levels down.

I also dealt with some horrid lower back pain which was in no way helped by the fact that we did all of the washing by hand until mid November.  Unlike our Kenyan househelp who would come twice a week and stoop to do the laundry, I happily seated myself on our little green plastic stool to dunk the clothes in and out of the bin.  The laundry (aka shower room) was my home for good parts of the day.  Sometimes I’d go to stand, and would cry out in pain……it seemed like the only relief would come from going into the child pose.  Many a Kenyan walked into our home in the evenings and found me there in the middle of the room practicing some good ol’ yoga.

I also suffered a great deal more nausea than usual.  This was not helped by the schizophrenic driving conditions we navigated on a daily basis.  One day, when driving with Megan into Nairobi I had to pull over to vomit on the side of the road.  We had just passed through a rural town and I carefully picked the pullover spot to ensure that it would be free from the usual roadside gawkers.  I got out of our car, crossed in front of the car to the side of the road and bent down to vomit.  Out of no where  a group of school kids appeared and in broken English began to ask questions like, “Why the muzungu vomit?”  “Muzungu vomit?!?”  “What wrong pretty lady?” as they pointed at me.  Megan yelled from the car for the kids to go away.  They were unphased.  I quickly signaled for her to take the wheel and climbed into the car hoping to escape their curious stares and prying questions.  A staff member at the Centre later informed me that Kenyan’s have all sorts of beliefs about white people:  1)  We never vomit   2) If we are in the sun too long, our skin might melt  3) We can get anyone into the US and so on.

Even my delivery with Ameena was interesting and so Kenyan.  I was pretty determined to not have to have an epidural during this delivery…I mean I was at a nice hospital, but crazy stuff happens in a 3rd world country and I didn’t want first hand experience.   Having had my first two babies in the US, I was used to nurses coming in and out, checking the vitals, seeing how “far along” things had progressed, bringing in ice chips, wiping down your forehead, fluffing the pillows, telling you what a great job you were doing.  Pretty high standards.  While I did get a visit from my doctor at 9 am, I had labored all morning mostly alone and had walked my room (not a delivery room) wondering when someone might come to check on me.  I parked myself on that labor ball and counted the floor tiles in my room.  There were a good 30 tiles that I could count through on every contraction.

Same position for about 5 hours….and all I could get on t.v. was the election of a new Prime Minister in England. Torture.

Ian finally arrived back from breakfast (it’s never an easy trip in Kenya) at about 10am and after one good look at me went for a nurse.  She came back and decided we better MOVE!  We barely got into that Labor and Delivery room, had me on the ball and in a position to see a good 30 tiles when DANG that pain ramped up.  I started to panic and asked if we might put that sweet bathtub to use.  I’d always wanted to try it during labor.  True to Kenya again, the nurse indicated that it would take a while to get some hot water into it. I was willing to wait.

 
My body wasn’t.  My water popped like a good summer water balloon.  Ian and I later cringed over the thought of that birthing ball rolling over to the corner of the room without a second look from staff.  Gross.
 
I really started to panic.  No hot bath.  Was there anything else I could have?!?  PLEASE?  You know that moment.
 
The nurse started babbling about laughing gas, but that we would need a fetal heart rate first.  She got me up onto the delivery table, strapped that monitor on my belly and started to fiddle with the machine.
 
At that moment, I went a little CRAZY.  The pain was insane.  I starting that horrible writhing around and ripped the belt off of me.  The nurse (Yes, only one) was a little taken aback by my behavior and decided to check me.  “Just 7 cm” she pronounced.  I wanted to kill her.  7 freaking centimeters?  Was she high?
 
She proceeded to get on her cell phone (nope, no landlines, not even in the hospital) to call my doctor on over…..and as she did, I think I made some vulgar comment about either having a major bodily function happen or I was having this baby. 
 
“NO!” everyone (ok the nurse and Ian) yelled.
 
“Whatever” I thought….and you know what?  I pushed that freaking (sorry Ameena) baby out as that darn nurse about had a stroke (trying to hold the phone and put on her dang gloves) while yelling out into the hall and Ian jumped to keep this surprise from dropping on the floor.  The nurse  recovered, and quickly grabbed her goo basin to put at the end of the table and took over for Ian in holding Ameena.  Poor Ian slumped and an additional nurse who had just walked in grabbed his arm and a paper bag for him to breathe into.  Poor  guy.  Too much blood, too much gross, too much baby–all way too fast.
 
Not enough doctor.  She sauntered in 10 minutes later to check everything out.   All I could think was, “Man, I still have to pay her delivery fee and she didn’t even deliver the baby!  But then again, it’s a good thing we don’t pay them for how long they “attend” or some of us would have some ridiculous bills!
 
With all that said, it has been quite a ride Ms. Ameena.  The first 3 months of your life in Kenya have made these last 9 months in the US pale in drama, but I wouldn’t trade a second of it.  You are everything God intended you to be for our family.  Without a doubt I can say that we all adore you and are thankful for the gift that you are to all of us. 
 
Baby, you were worth the wait.
 

Life is short

In the past month I have been so reminded of this fact.

My dear sister’s husband came down with a horrid illness that led to hospitalization, then acute rehab, and now home.  He has a long road of recovery & we are all praying  that he recovers all of his language and brain function.  Life changes in a second…..even when you live in a place like the US that seems relatively safe and routine with state of the art medicine, and technology and all of the things we surround ourselves with.

A friend returned from Kenya this last week.  She is a regular supporter of Karibu Centre and conducts regular trainings with the staff there.  A wonderful woman.  She brought with her the news that the husband of our househelp Elizabeth, had died.  I’m guessing he’s a few years older than I.  She lived right next door to our home at Karibu Centre, in the slum.  I met Elizabeth early on during our time in Kenya, she was one of 5 core women from the slum that volunteered to help Ian and I cook food for the feeding program that started Karibu Centre.  Elizabeth had spunk.  A tough woman who was interested in these wazungu.  A woman willing to pound stone all day long into ballast (gravel) just to earn a $1.50….because idle hands don’t feed  a family.  A few months before we left Kenya, and before Ameena arrived, Elizabeth came to work in our home.  It was an adjustment for both of us.  For her to be privy to American customs and ways of interacting.  For me to have this rough and slightly awkward woman in my business.    I am trying to imagine the circumstances that might have led to his death.  Thinking of Kenya, it could have been a sudden case of cholera, a misunderstanding that led to being beat to death, a matatu/truck accident, or trouble at work (he was a security guard).

And then dear Ameena.  My sweet baby is approaching a year old this next week and I can hardly believe it has come and gone so fast.  She truly is a unique baby.  Happy in spirit almost all of the time, quick to smile and laugh.   Easy going and pleasant.   She is the product of  such longing and hope, and a pregnancy experienced in a different culture and place.  Truly she had to end up a special baby!  I squeeze her, take in a breath of her smell as I rub my nose on her cheek and close my eyes capturing it all in a memory.

With Ian’s temporary job ending after May, it is easy to get wrapped up in worry and anticipation of what might be next.  But, in remembering how life is short, and unexpected, and never what you think…..I’ll choose instead to be grateful and thankful for the moments of today.

This is what I think about, sometimes.

This is what I think about (inside my head, not generally out loud like other people I know *cough, cough* LUCY).

Patterns, and pretty fabrics and the endless combination possibilites.

Here is one of  the two patterns I’m going to work on next:

I’m gonna make the dress on the left, but not with a flared sleeve.

These are the fabrics I have in my stash and am contemplating:

 

with a vintage pale blue with red and blue small little roses

and:

I’m still thinking of how I’ll combine them all.  So many possibilities.

Here are some great examples of what other people have done:

As you can see, the variations are endless!  I’m branching out a bit on my own with my own fabric combinations, we’ll see how my finished product matches up!

Dear Karibu.

“We are stitched together, and what love has tethered, I can never undo”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KI2JJ1OCz8U

Dear Karibu Centre family,

When you call me crying, you make me cry. 

When you call and need answers, and neither you nor I have them, I hate telling you so.

When you call and say you’re expecting a baby, I wish I were there to watch the amazing miracle of life grow and change you into an amazing woman and mother.

When you grieve the loss of a baby, I grieve with you and wish I were there to walk with you through the valley of the shadow of death (psm 23:4).

When you struggle, and fight, and are harsh with one another like Kenyans can be…..I want Ian to come over there and do something silly, just to make you all laugh and lighten up a bit.  And then I’d like to look you all mean in the eye, as if you were my kids, and tell you to knock it off!

When you send pictures of new babies, I yearn to KNOW them, not know of them. 

When you need an encouraging, loving, uplifting friend, know I will be here.  That though I may be a world apart from you all, we are stitched together.

I love you.