Sunday, December 26, 2010

Our departure date is creeping closer. Eric has been injected with several live organisms in an attempt to prevent disease, the malaria medications have been retrieved from the pharmacy, the mosquito net from home has been sent, and several "to do" lists have been written (and lost). We leave in 9 days, which is a little hard to believe right now. I am totally unprepared to go right now, which I'm OK with seeing as this is my 3rd time, but I'm trying to figure out when exactly I will manage to get everything done between work and sleeping, which seem to take up far too much time. I don't even have a suitcase! Somehow I will manage though. So wish us luck as we prepare for our journey.

I though a few refresher photos were in order... just in case your forgot the amazing country of Uganda.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Time to return

It's been over a year since I was in Uganda and my heart had been longing to go back. It's been months of pleading with my boss to pin down a time when I could taken some time off and after going back and forth between different dates and different month she settled on the origional dates I requested 5 months ago. Go figure. I bought my ticket yesterday (actually, 2 tickets, because I'm bringing my boy with me!) which leaves me exactly 24 days to prepare for this trip. Luckily by your 3rd time there's a lot less to do. I'm already immune to typhoid, yellow fever, Hep A & B, and several others. I can simply renew my malaria meds. My passport is ready. I don't really need to worry about packing (except to dig out the summer clothes that have taken residence under my bed since it's 20 degrees and snowing in Chicago). I'm really not concerned about about where we're staying, because I know half the mzungus in town. The the 24 days doesn't really sound all the bad. Eric, on the other hand, doesn't quite feel that way, which is understandable since he is not immune to all African diseases and is lacking in social contacts. But that won't be true for long.

My main obstacle is trying to figure out if it's possible to transport a ginormous baby warmer with me. My hospital is donating one, but this thing is like twice my size, so that's something to work on. Any ideas anyone?

I've got a box full of random medical supplies that we've collected from the hospital. Lucky for me, we're a very wasteful place. If you open something and then don't use it you have to toss it. If you drop something you can't use it. So I've rounded people up to collect those unsuable supplies and dump them in a box in the corner, which means Jinja gets some very useful things. Especially those that are going to have a baby, seeing as I work in labor and delivery and most of our stuff revolves around babies.

The main event this time is actually going to be a baby, assuming the kid decides to wait until I arrive. My sweet friend Tamara is due to have her baby in January and if things go as planned I will be there for the delivery, though I know babies don't often follow our plans. But either way, I'll get to meet this sweet baby and that is good enough for me.

So, I guess you probably already figured it out, but I'm back on this blog for a while. I shall do my best to keep you updated on the happenings surrounding this trip and will, as always, keep you entertained with the exciting stories of my adventures.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

And back I go... january 5-22nd!

Friday, August 20, 2010

$1300 for a plane ticket to Uganda. Would it be too crazy to quit my job and go?

Monday, July 26, 2010

A breaking heart

I know that I haven't been on here in a while, but I haven't been able to bring myself to write about Uganda. My heart has been aching for this place and for these people. I'm stuck in this place of waiting. I don't want to be here in this job, in this place.

Every day I go to work and I listen to nurses complain and doctors yell and my heart breaks. I wish that I could take them to this place that would turn their world upside down. I wish that they could see that the miracle of a healthy baby is enough to make this job worth it. I think of baby Lokute and how hard he fought for life and I just want to scream that it doesn't matter that they had to wait 5 minutes extra to start their surgery. There are kids dying all over the world and all these people care about are the delay in their surgery and kills me. Every day my heart breaks a little more and aches just a little more for Uganda.

Friday, April 2, 2010

The first diaper...

The Preemie Project's first diaper has been made!!
Now that you know it can be done... get sewing! (see a few posts below for patterns and let me know if you need help... the sewer of this diaper has offered to assist people if necessary)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Now that I have seen...

Now that I have seen, I am responsible.

Last night I lay in my bed, mind racing, the faces of the Ugandan people flashing in front of me. I can hear their laughs, their cries, their songs. I wish that I had the words to tell you what it feels like. I wish that I could make you feel it to. Because if you knew, you would never question why. You would never look at their pictures and then walk away. You would never pass by an opportunity. You would never tell me to stay here.

Now that I have seen, I am responsible.

Do you really want to see or would you rather just pass them by without taking a second glance? Because that's what most people do. They'd rather not see, because then they too would be responsible. But what is our faith worth if we deliberately choose not to see? If we walk by and pretend we didn't know? Does that really make it easier? I wish I could make you understand, that if you saw, I mean really saw, then you wouldn't want to look away again.

Now that I have seen, I am responsible.

They are standing right in front of you. I have carried them back with me and I have shown you. When you look at me, you are also seeing them, because they are part of me. I have held these sweet souls in my arms. I have seen them die because they didn't have the things they needed to live. I hold their hopes and dreams for the future in my heart. I have seen and thus I am responsible....

Now that you have seen, You are responsible

(scroll to the very bottom of the page and click on the song "Alberdine" on the playlist and read along as you listen)

I am sitting still
I think of Angelique
her mothers voice over me
And the bullets in the wall where it fell silent
And on a thosandth hill, I think of Albertine
there in her eyes what I don't see with my own
now that I have seen, I am responsible
Faith without deeds is dead
now that I have held you in my own arms, I cannot let go till you are

I am on a plane across a distant sea
But I carry you in me
and the dust on, the dust on, the dust on my feet

I will tell the world, I will tell them where I've been
I will keep my word
I will tell them Albertine
I am on a stage, a thousand eyes on me
I will tell them, Albertine
I will tell them, Albertine
To Diana, Aisha, Cathy, Laticia, Doreen, Angelina, Benjamin, Pious, Daisy, Gloria, Gift, Matthew, Nicole, Ditte, Aligaya, Becca, Daphine, Esther, Fatuma, Getu, Elijah, Losira, Lydia, Rachael, Joshua, Sharon, Freda, Ruth, Lokute. I will tell them.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Watch the video from the "Stories from Uganda" night- a new version will be posted soon with more information on how to get involved, but for now, enjoy!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Hello again...

Well, it seems that it's been quite a while since I've posted anything on here. But today we have internet at our house, so finally I am back.

Wanted to give an update on the Nets Not Caskets project...
Total to date: $900! (though thanks to the kids at SACC there's even more, I just have to count it)

Keep a watch out for more information on Uganda Movie Night! (tentative date: March 23)

On another note, I interviewed in Chicago last week for a labor and delivery position.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Preemie Project: Patterns

So you're good with a sewing machine? Then thread your bobbins, measure your fabric, and get stitching... Here are your diapers patterns... -- this has a bunch of variations. Choose your favorite (but please stay away from ones that involved using safety pins (velcro is better). - cool pattern for the slightly more advanced sewer - this has a whole big selection of patterns. choose your favorite.

A few specifications...
- Diapers should be made in preemie and newborn sizes. Feel free to alter patterns to make them to fit the littlest babes (below is a picture of Lokute to remind you just how small their little bottoms can be).
- Please use velcro or snaps... no pins.
- If you can include soakers, that would be great. They can be made out of old towels OR get an only wool coat or sweater, wash it, then run it through the dryer to shrink it down and cut to fit your diaper.
- Let me know if you need any fabrics (remember... old shirts/sweaters can be used too. Be creative!)
- Diapers can be brought to PCC and deposited in the box in the back.


Note the very tiny bottom!

Missing you.

There are some days where there just are no words for what it feels like to be away from Uganda... today is one of those days.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Nets Not Caskets

This is my friends Tamara and Jeremy's latest blog (it relates to the Nets Not Caskets)....

"We keep a receipt as a bookmark in our Bible to remind us of Peter. It’s for the cost of his casket.
Peter was a young man, maybe 25, who worked in the furnace of the local steel plant. It’s a tough and dangerous job. His body evidenced this fact, pock-marked with bloated scars where molten steel had exploded onto his skin. And he was as strong as an ox. All those days working the mill gave him rock solid arms. We remember them well because we had to wrestle with him for hours. Out of the church, into the van, across town, through the clinic, strapping him to a ‘hospital’ bed. Then again we wrestled so nurses could test his blood, administer his IV and other medications. Peter didn’t know we were trying to help so he fought against us. In his mind we had bewitched him.
The night before, Peter had stumbled to church from the factory where he slept outside, on the ground, exposed to the elements. He came for healing. By then he was really sick. Sick enough to die. And that’s how we found him. He was face down on the church alter, writhing in pain, sweat pouring from his brow, eyes bulging, legs paralyzed, his saliva making a paste of the dirt floor underneath him. He spoke to people who weren’t in the room, and spit on those who were. It was a terrible scene, like out of a fiction book. Having never seen anything like it we found ourselves asking, “Is this man possessed?”. Our friends replied,“We’ve been praying for him all night. He became calm and then the demon’s once again entered his head”. We knelt around him and prayed again but the chaos of his condition persisted. We assured them that God was big enough to set the man free with a single, humble prayer. Suggesting the problem was physical, we made our way to the clinic.
Not even the tranquilizers could calm Peter from the effects of cerebral malaria. But the convoluted outbursts filled with fear and anger mellowed before nightfall. We thought we’d turned the corner and sighed relief. Peter began to speak with us coherently and, for a brief moment, we began to see the young man beneath the madness of this cruel disease. He was scared, he was thankful and he wanted to live. Tragically, this was the calm before the storm. By sunrise Peter had died. “Maybe it was an aneurism or he aspirated on his own vomit” the doctor said. Either way, there was a dead body and we were responsible. We searched until we found his sister and a few friends. Together, the few of us tied his body properly, bought him a casket, loaded him into a pickup truck and returned his body to the church where he’d come for help the day before.

The slum was electric with curiosity about Peter and the church who’d fought for his life. They stopped in to take a peek at his body, mourn and thank members of the church for giving him a respectable end. That’s a lot more than people typically get in Masese Slum. Often, with no money for caskets and no land, families don’t know what to do with the bodies.
But can’t we do better than this? Better than a respectable end? Better than caskets?

We think so. We know so. That’s why we keep Peter’s receipt. To remind us, not only that we can do better, but that we are called by Christ to do better. According to Philippians 1:10, the love of Christ ‘approves the things that are excellent’. Likewise, the love of Christ disapproves of things that aren’t excellent. Plain and simple, love disapproves of merely buying caskets for those who’ve died when there’s a more excellent way.

Of course, we all want to ACT NOW. But it’s important to note that the answer isn’t plain and simple and that our action must be more than just passionate. The same passage in Philippians tells us that love is filled with ‘true knowledge’ and ‘all discernment’. Our response must be girded with wisdom if it’s going to be loving. A loving response takes the time to understand and find the most excellent way.

There’s a more excellent way than white people buying 1,500 mosquito nets, giving them away and leaving. The people who live in Masese Slum wouldn’t see their value, they’d sell them for food, they may not even know how to use them and we’d miss out on bigger opportunities to effect sustainable change. To do this right people need awareness of the issue, ownership of the solution, training and follow-up to give them the best chance of malaria prevention long-term. And this project could be the right platform for the church to begin doing what it was intended to do. While it’s certain to be a drawn out, messy process, every step of the way is an opportunity to engage the people of Masese with the message of Christ’s excellent love.
Peter came to the church for is the time for the church to take healing to Peter."

Don't forget to come on Sunday evening... this is what you'll be supporting.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Preemie Project

How would you feel if your 2 lb baby was being heated over a charcoal stove or wrapped in a urine soaked blanket? This is the reality of life for premature babies in Uganda. I'm guessing that most of you know instictively that the smoke from a fire would not be good for immature lungs and that lying in one's own filth does not promote a health immune system. Now stop and think about why you know that.

Figure it out yet?

It's because you're educated. Because you grew up in a world where those kinds of things are basic knowledge, where you could flip on TLC and watch a show about babies or see something on the news about new medical technology.

Now here's the shocker... they don't know that in Uganda. Why? Because nobody ever told them!

The Preemie Project is seeking to provide a few basic things to one small community to help them care for the premature babies in their village and to equipt the people there with the education to teach the villagers these simple facts and save the lives of babies like Lokute.

There are 2 things that you can do for the Preemie Project...
1. Buy a hot water bottle
2. Make a cloth diaper

My favorite is the first link with a pattern for a cloth diaper made out of recycled shirts. So get out your sewing machine and start stiching. It's OK if it's not the most attractive diaper... the babies won't mind.

And don't forget... Feb. 28 @ 7:30 pm. PCC Fireside Room.
Be there!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Stories From Uganda - The Event

So, I mentioned before that I was working on something. Well, here's part of it. After talking to Tamara, I was informed that the biggest project they're working on in Masesee right now is providing mosquito nets for the entire village, that's 1,500 people.

Here's what you can do:
1. Visit these two links: Stories from Uganda Event and Boones in Africa
2. Come to the event on Feb. 28 (info below)
3. Donate $ - via PCC (make sure it says Uganda in the byline) or directly through the Boone's website (make sure that it goes to Tamara and Jeremy Boone for Nets Not Caskets)
4. Get involved in the Preemie Project - Go to this link for diaper patterns (More on this project coming soom)
5. Spread the Word!! You can share this blog by posting this link: or the Event page by posting this one: Please post these to your own blogs, e-mail them out (especially to PCC people), tell your friends!
6. Pray!

Stories from Uganda

Feb. 28, 2010
7:30 pm
Fireside Room @PCC
3560 Farm Hill Blvd., RWC
Come and hear stories, see pictures and videos, and learn about how you can help to supply an entire community with mosquito nets and provide basic teaching and supplies to care for premature babies. And have some cookies!
*Even if you can't come, please come visit the table in the back of church after any of the services... there will be information and ways to get involved. And please PASS THIS ON, especially those of you from PCC! AND... visit if you'd like to donate anyway... just be sure it goes to Jeremy and Tamara Boone for Nets Not Caskets.*

Goal 1: I'm asking God for something big, something really big! $9,000. $9,000 will purchase 1,500 treated mosquito nets, providing every resident of Masese III with protection from Malaria. (click on the link: Nets Not Caskets)

Goal 2: The Preemie Project - Provide the basic supplies that will allow premature babies in Masese to be cared for and cloth diapers to promote hygiene.
    - Needs: Hot water bottles, reflective emergency blankets, preemie cloth diapers (patterns available)

Most of you know that I have traveled to Uganda twice in the past 2 years. During this most recent trip I got involved in a slum called Masese III (read below for a brief history of this place). While I was there I there I was introduced to a fantastic couple who are working in Masese, trying to provide the people there with sustainable changes that will radically change the way they live.

Upon my return I decided that even though I can't physically be there, I can still help to change this community. And so I am inviting you to come listen, to hear the stories of these people.

A Brief History of Masese (from

Just outside of Jinja, Uganda, there’s a hill. On one side you’ll find Jinja’s land-field. On the other, a slum called Masese III. The stunning view of Lake Victoria and the bustle of town nearly cause you to forget where you are at times. This place has earned a reputation as the shame of Jinja. Masese Slum is the home of around 2,000 men, women and children - mostly Karimojong. 50 years ago, Karimojong families fled to this area in the Southern part of Uganda to escape war and famine. Many imagined a life near the prospering town of Jinja. But over the years, the refugee camp that offered a ray of hope became an urban slum filled with hopelessness. Masese Slum holds the worst of village and city life and the combination is deadly. Unthinkable poverty, hunger, tropical disease, inadequate health care, and lack of infrastructure combine with population density, unemployment, landlessness, every kind of communicable diseases (AIDS, etc) as well as rampant alcohol addiction and prostitution. Because there’s no land, few can farm to feed themselves. The majority depend on brewing alcohol, and picking trash from the land-field and local rubbish bins. Diseases like cerebral malaria often leave people brain damaged or dead, yet hardly anyone has much needed mosquito nets much less the money to pay for proper care. Very few latrines means a majority of the people leave their waste laying in public areas. Children are covered in sores, worms, funguses and severely infected wounds. Not too many years ago, the rainy seasons came and a cholera outbreak killed dozens.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Travels with Monica: The Conclusion

And then, we reached the end of the road. The final two to wheel through the doors to be greeted by our moms.

A sweet reunion.

And a smile.

And a good-bye.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Travels with Monica: Part 5

One thinks that when you get off the plane the journey is over, that the exhaustion will end, that the crying will cease, that you will stroll down the aisle to be met by the freedom of handing your temperamental two year old over to her mother.

It's a lie.

We were the last people to get off the plane because trying to collect all of our things and set up the stroller was harder than it looked. I had to wake Monica to put her in the stroller so we could wheel our way to freedom and by the recommendation of a flight attendant, we backed off the plane (apparently you get caught on less things that way). Of course, this caused an uproar because Monica had to look at said flight attendant who followed us off. We also lost a wheel half way down the aisle. That's what I get for buying a cheap stroller: One that periodically loses its wheels.

We finally reached solid ground. Smooth sailing from here, I thought. Until we hit the line. Yes, the customs line that wrapped itself around the room a million times and all the way down the sterile hallway where we placed ourselves at the very, very end. I'm pretty sure there were at least 500 people in front of us and that is not an exaggeration. 500 people, and then me, the one with the screaming child. We were out of food. All airplane food had been rejected. The sandwiches were thrown aside. The granola bar evoked louder screams. There was nothing left.

Thank God for the first kind soul I'd met on my entire journey. The woman in line in front of me was traveling alone with 2 kids and kindly pulled out some alphabet cookies, which miraculously soothed my screaming child.

It was about 20 minutes later when we finally made it into the actual room where customs was and that is when I saw the small line off to the side marked "immigration." It hadn't occurred to me before that this child was immigrating into the U.S. My dear friend in front of me offered to hold my place in line while I went to investigate. The flight attendants in the line next to immigration looked apologetically at me as I wheeled myself to the front to inquire about where exactly I was supposed to be.

The man I asked quickly shuffled me forward, taking my paperwork and asking me questions. Freedom at last! Someone was finally going to give me a break. I was going to the front of the line! Take that 500 people who don't have screaming children! I'm going first!

Then he handed me back my papers. I've put you in the system, now go back to the end of the line.

What!?!? Are you kidding me? Please say this is some cruel joke.

No. It wasn't. Back to the end of the immigration line I went, walking past the flight attendants who questioned me as to why I was returning (You see, they were on my side. They thought I should get to go first too). So there we stood, at the back of the line once again. The screaming had died down... temporarily. But soon they started up again.
Fine. Cry as loud as you want. If you want to scream a little louder, that's fine with me too. Come on, let them hear you Monica. If they're going to make my pour, exhausted, hungry child wait, they'll at least have to listen to her scream.

I was hoping that our little melt down would get us bumped forward, if only for the sake of shutting us up. Then another lady with a cracker showed up. I was slightly less thankful this time because the cracker caused quietness, which completely ruined our chance of getting to the front of the line.

So there we stood for another hour while all 500 people passed through and the 20 of us in the immigration stood, waiting. After a while I whipped out my phone and turned on some music. I figured if we all had to wait, we might as well have something nice to listen to. The music played and the line dwindled, and finally it was our turn. The last of the last. I once again pulled out our stack of papers and presented them to the far too chatty man at the desk who insisted on telling me of his cousin's story of adoption and discussing Monica's future. How I kept from grabbing him by the throat and yelling that he had better hurry up so I could go home and sleep, I don't know.

But we made it through. We had a U.S. visa in hand and only one last obstacle to tackle. Baggage claim. Once again it was me, a child, a stroller, and a cart full of luggage, struggling through our final steps of the journey until....

(to be continued)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Travels with Monica: Part 4

We shuffled down the aisle to the back of the overcrowded plane where we took our seats in a 2-seat row. Monica began howling moments after we sat down... she was both starving and exhausted. There was no quick fix for this one though. We had run out of our stash of food and thus had to wait until the plane food was served, of course this takes ages because we had to wait until we had safely been in the air for at least a good hour. And remember, we were at the very back of the plane, which meant we got served last.

The exhausted and frustrated cries of my 2 year old were heard loud and clear by all of those around us. Thank goodness for the girl sitting across the aisle who was able to entertain Monica for at least a little while, because there was nothing I could do to pacify her at this point.

At last our food came. Feeding a 2 year old Uganda child is a lot harder than I had ever guessed though and finding suitable foods on the tray was a challenge and was met with more screams as each offer was rejected. I think she finally settled on some strawberry yogurt and a roll. (P.S. Jody... Monica might have a slight allergy to strawberries because after that she started compulsively scratching herself and rubbing her nose) I of course felt a sudden panic, thinking that she was going to go into anaphylactic shock right there on the plane. Thank goodness I had some Benadryl just in case. Did I mention how handy that sleep-inducing drug was?
When the food was finished and I was finally ready to get Monica to sleep (a good 2+ hours into the flight) the flight attendants disappeared and we were stuck with her tray, making it impossible for me to get her comfortable in her seat. After hitting the call button and nearly screaming for someone to come and help me, I finally collected all of our things and trudged down the aisle to hand them over.

Then the challenge of sleep began. I've picked up a few techniques for getting kids to sleep over the years so I implemented my favorite. My friend Genevive calls it "beating the baby to sleep" because it involves laying the baby on their tummy and patting their bottom in a somewhat aggressive way. Works like a charm... usually. Of course, Monica made it more difficult and fought me every step of the way. So there I was, pinning her to the seat, patting her bum, and pushing her head back down every time she tried to sit up. I'm sure it looked terrible, but I'm telling you, best sleep technique I've ever learned. Eventually she fell asleep, stretched out across her seat and about 70% of mine. For fear of lights waking her up I created a tent out of blankets that stretched from the top of the seat and into the tray and then over to my seat.
Of course, this left me precariously balanced on the edge of my seat, at the point of absolute exhaustion (having now not slept for 2 days) but unable to sleep due to my lack of space. At one point I nearly climbed down to the floor to sleep, but figured I'd get yelled at for not having my seat belt on. I tried to lean my seat back a little bit but got cursed out by the guy behind me for the inch I'd moved it. I should have punched him. Instead I sunk down into my seat to endure the miserable 8 hours left before we landed.

The story of this flight continues very much the same as the paragraph above and consisted of me trying to find a comfortable position for 8 hours while not waking the sleeping child next to me.

Our trip was not over though. We still have to make it off the plane and through Immigration.

(to be continued...)

Friday, February 5, 2010

Travels with Monica: Part 3

And so the story continues, because remember, we are only just arriving in London and there are a long 18 hours to go. When we got to London it was cold. We had to walk off the plane onto the ground, which is no fun when you're toting a child, an unopened stroller, and 2 bags. I'm lucky we didn't face plant on the way down the stairs. Out into the icy air we went... Monica's first taste of a true winter.

Upon walking into the airport they were checking passports, which of course means we got stopped. I informed the security guard that he was going to have to let me get Monica settled into her stroller before I could show him our papers. The second Monica's toes brushed the stroller, the screaming began. Top of the lungs, piercing screams. I'm sure everyone there was thinking I must have kidnapped this child or something.

So there i stood, rummaging through our extremely small backpack trying to find the papers I needed while she shrieked. (And remember, I was running on NO sleep) As I handed over the papers, it became clear to me that nobody in the airports know what to do with adoption. The papers went from person to person. Confused looks promptly appeared. Glances were exchanged and then they would shuffle off out of ear shot to try and figure out what to do. Eventually they would give up trying to understand and send us on our way.

So off we went, the screaming echoing through the halls, to spend the next 8 hours wandering Terminal 5 of the London airport. Monica became more adventurous and would wander around beside me as we waited in the security line (if you remember that same security line caused me to miss my flight to France). We made a few laps around the place, investigating all the possible places to hang out and finally I settled on a seating area that had semi-comfortable chairs and finally got Monica down for a nap. She didn't sleep long and when she woke up, she was in a nasty mood.

We had pancakes for breakfast. But no blueberries! If I so much as suggested trying one, the screaming began again. And of course, as soon as I put her back in the stroller, she began to wail. So there we were, walking back and forth through the airport, Monica shrieking, and me on the verge of collapse. I wanted nothing more than for her to fall asleep in the stroller so I attempted to lean it back (it had an adjustable seat), but no matter how hard I tried, I could not get the stupid thing in place. At one point I had removed Monica from the stroller and proceeded to attempt beating the stroller into submission. Eventually it worked. But the change caused more screams.

The story continues like this for another 4 or 5 hours.

Once again I finally got her to sleep on a cozy chair. It was blissful for all of 15 minutes when our gate number finally appeared on the screen and we had to move to a different part of the airport. I attempted a gentle transfer back into the stroller in hopes of keeping her asleep until we got on the plane. But no such luck. We arrived at the gate crying (her, not me), swiftly boarded the plane, as I prepared myself for the true horrors of traveling with a 2 year old.

(to be continued....)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Travels with Monica: Part 2

I left you with us having finally relaxed into our seats, ready to fly from Uganda to London. Luckily, that route is not particularly popular, as Uganda is not exactly a booming destination, and I was able to snag us an entire middle row to ourselves. As soon as I set Monica into her seat she tipped over and fell asleep. I was able to stretch out next to her across 4 seats, using my legs to keep her from rolling off the seat, and rest. I couldn't sleep because I was worried about her falling/waking up/crying/and a number of other possible scenarios. Thus, I remained awake for the entire day and all through the night (we left uganda at 12am and flew for 9 hours). Monica slept almost the entire way and woke up just 2 hours before we landed. She sat patiently in her seat watching cartoons and munching on some crackers. We got up to wander the plane a few times. It was completely uneventful. No tears. No whining. She was perfect.

'Man I have it lucky,' I thought. 'She is so good!'

Words that were spoken too soon!

(to be continued...)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Travels with Monica: Part 1

Finally comes the story of Monica...

It was a week into my trip when I finally got a chance to check my e-mail, a rare joy in Uganda. There in my inbox was a message from Judy Kleis. There was a lady named Jody adopting Monica and she needed someone to fly back to the states with Monica. Judy thought of me.

The timing was perfect. Monica's papers would be done right around the time I was leaving (we ended up getting them the day before we left). After brief consideration, I decided there was no reason why I shouldn't bring Monica back with me, other than the obvious of course: she was 2 and we would have 30+ hours of travel!

I'll spare you all the details of what happened between me saying yes and our actual departure. The journey home is where the good stuff is.

The day we left was a sad one. I had to say good-bye to my all my kids who were spread out around Jinja. I had to say good-bye to my friends, both new and old. And then I had my final lunch at Amani with Judy, Andrea, Malia, and Monica. We sat on the clinic steps, much like we used to, while the mamas said their good-byes. And then off we went.

Me with Malia and Monica

The journey to the airport was over 3 hours, thanks to lots of traffic, and Monica clung to either me or Andrea until we finally got her to sleep. Then it was another 5 hours at the airport before our plan left. I wish I had a picture of the scene that ensued after our arrival at the airport. I had my two bags plus a big bag of Monica's, her backpack, my camera bag, the stroller, and her. After tying her to my back with a scarf I managed to load everything onto a push cart (thank goodness they had them!). I then immediately had to unload it all onto the x-ray machine, which you had to go through if you wanted to go to the waiting area, and then load it all back onto the cart. By this time, Monica was getting cranky and hadn't eaten dinner, so we went in search of food. Of course there was only one place to eat and it had a limited selection. We ended up with fruit, a samosa and a juice box. Half way through the meal I realized Monica couldn't drink with a straw. After brief consideration I decided that she probably would freak out if I walked away from the table, so I scooped her up to bring her to the counter with me. Big mistake. She thought I was taking her away from her food and thus the screaming began. This was not just a regular child's cry. This was top of the lungs screeching. We were already a spectacle enough, white girl/black baby, without the screaming. At this point everyone in the airport was staring at us.

Next came the waiting game. I arranged Monica on a bench and attempted to get her to sleep. Eventually, she passed out and I was able to rest next to her, which was difficult considering I was trying to keep her from falling off the bench at the same time as making sure none of our stuff got stolen. Eventually we were able to go through security so I carefully lifted Monica and put her in the small basket on our cart. I loaded everything onto the x-ray machine again, gently lifted Monica out of the basket to walk through the metal detector.

This is where things get real good. The security guard was apparently quite fascinated by us and obviously had no idea what to do with the fact that Monica was obviously not my child. The other guard started yelling at me to get my stuff off the belt as I stood there holding Monica. In that moment I got a glimpse of what it feels like to be an overwhelmed mother. I was pissed and i would have done anything in that moment to get what I wanted. I started barking orders at the guard, instructing him on how to open the stroller so I could put her down. He, of course, had no idea what to do and couldn't follow instructions to save him. And, to make matters worse, he was trying to ask me to marry him as he did all this. Had I not been holding a sleeping child, I think I would have socked him in the face.

Eventually all of our stuff was sorted out, I got Monica into the stroller (though she was now awake), and convinced the guard to walk me to the counter because I couldn't push both the luggage and the stroller. After what felt like hours at the counter, we finally made it through customs and into the waiting area, though we couldn't go to our gate yet, which meant sitting on a hard chair while Monica whined in her stroller (I discovered quickly that she doesn't sleep in a stroller).

Two hours later we got to go to our gate. When I got to the check in counter there, the lady tried to take our strolled and check it all the way to SFO. At this point, I was running on very little sleep, and here is this woman telling me I can't take my stroller! I kept trying to explain that strollers are usually put under the plane and returned upon the plane's landing, but she just was not getting it. "Look, I have to wait 8 hours in the London airport with a 2 year old. You are not taking my stroller away from me!" After she realized that there was no way I was handing over my stroller she agreed to let me talk to the flight crew before we left.

Exhausted, I lay Monica on the floor and collapsed next to her.

"Excuse me. I need to take your stroller now."

I jumped up, grabbing onto my stroller. "You are not taking this away from me!"

Once again the struggle began with a new person, where I once again explained that I would not be handing over my stroller.

Finally, we headed for the plane. Being a person traveling with a child, I got to go first. So off I went, Monica in one arm, camera bag, backpack, and stroller in the other. No one offered to help, of course. Standing in line I saw that the woman in front of me had a stroller too. I asked her if they were letting her keep it. She had the same story as me. When we arrived at the plane door, together with our strollers in a death grip, the flight crew tried to take them away.

At this point I was nearly in tears. "You cannot take my stroller!"

I guess the lady realized that if she took it, I might seriously have to hurt someone, and agreed to let me try and find a place for it. So there we were, me, Monica, and our stroller, sitting on a plane bound for London.

Me and the stroller (sewing on a patch)

(To be continued...)

Monday, February 1, 2010


I know that a number of people have been unable to comment on my blog. I believe I have finally fixed the problem, so comment away! :) (I love to know people are actually reading this)

Thursday, January 28, 2010


This has nothing to do with Uganda, but since coming back I've had no luck in finding a nursing job, so in the meantime I'm starting up a small photography business. If anyone needs portraits taken, let me know!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Why Uganda?

People ask me all the time, why Africa? Why Uganda? Why would you go so far to a place like that to help those people when you could do plenty of helpful things right here? This is what I want to tell you...

It's because I've met those people. Because I know those people. I know their stories. I've shared life with them. We've eaten meals together, We've run together. We've swam together. We've read books and drawn pictures. We've laughed. We've danced. They are part of me and I am part of them.

People always say that Africa gets in your blood. That once you've been, it changes you. They're right.

When I think about Uganda, I don't just think about a place. I see faces. I see these faces, and I can't walk away from them.

The reality of their world doesn't just go away because I do. Diana still wakes up every morning and has HIV. Lokute's mom still is without her son because there was nobody there to take care of him. And I can't live in my comfy house with my nice things and know their reality at the same time. The two cannot exist side by side.

As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. "Good teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" "Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.'" "Teacher," he declared, "all these I have kept since I was a boy." Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me...."
"I tell you the truth," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first." -Matthew 10:17-21,29-30

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Then and Now: Amani

A year and a half ago I flew to Uganda, alone, to work at Amani Baby Cottage, an orphanage I knew little about. I spent 2 months there living with, caring for, and falling in love with these babies. Since then I have been able to visit 2 of the kids in America, share stories of their kids with families who have since adopted, brought one of the kids home to America, and been priveledged enough to get to see so many of my babies again. When I left last time I wasn't sure I'd be back in time to see the same kids again. But I did. And seeing how these kids have grown and changed and to be greeted by their smiling faces was worth the trip.

So here they are, then and now....

I would like you to meet my sweet Ugandan babies...

This is Benjamin. My sweet, cuddly Benja. Once one of my baby "B's," Benja has moved all the way up to the toddler house. Benjamin is waiting to go home to his forever family in Texas.

Meet Patrick. Last year I picked Patrick up from Watoto, a children's home in Kampala, to bring him to Amani. Patrick had been found, abandon, in a plastic bag. When they saw that he wasn't dead, they brought him to the athorities and in the end, he came to live at Amani. He is all smiles these days. Running up to me yelling, "Auntie, Auntie" in hopes of getting a snuggle.

Daniel, now known as "Fat Dan" came to Amani last year. In the first picture he was about 7 months old, but the size of a newborn. He is now king of the Baby B's.

Dan. He hasn't changed a bit.

My sweet Gift. She was my baby, my special one, the one I would have brought home with me if it was legal. She's now running and laughing and talking, and a little bit of a terror.

Mebra, twin of Isaac.


Monica is the little girl I brought back to the states with me. What an adventure that was! But that's a story for another time.

Ditte was our sweet, shy, beautiful little girl. She was a skinny little runt before, but she's thriving now, and quite the little pudge!

Matthew was another one of my Baby B's who is now a toddler. And he hasn't changed a bit. He's still whiney and fussy, but I still love him dearly.


Friday, January 22, 2010

Excerpt from Katie's Blog...

Matthew 25 says... "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'

They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?' He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for the least of these brother’s of mine, you did not do for me.’"

This is from my friend Katie's blog. I recommend you go and read it!.
I BELIEVE that when Jesus said, “I tell you the TRUTH,” He meant just that, that His words were true and He wasn’t kidding. YES, I believe that I am saved by faith through GRACE. Grace that is freely given and cannot be earned by anything I do. But I also believe that sometimes we rely so heavily on the Grace of God to cover our sins that we blatantly disobey His word and feel ok about it. “Depart from me you who are cursed into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” THAT is what Jesus will say to those of us who do not care for the least of these. I believe this is true because I believe His word is true, EVERY word is true, plain and simple. That is a heavy, heartbreaking thought. How often have we neglected you, Lord?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The thing about Uganda is...

It's ok to fall asleep wherever you want.

Hanging your socks on the wall is totally normal.

You can dance while you clean if you feel like it.

You're never to old to play in a box.

If you want to eat grasshoppers, eat grasshoppers.

If you want to be naked, that's OK too.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Come to the front for your wounds...

As you know, after our night of staying up all night watching Lokute, we were due to teach our health class in Masese. When Tamara and Jeremy came to pick us up at the hospital, I was on the verge of collapse, sprawled across the floor nearly asleep. I dragged myself up from the floor and flung myself across the birthing table where a sadly dry muffin awaited me. After a short discussion on who would watch Lokute, we decided to text Emma to see if she could come.

"What hospital are we at again?" I asked Tamara.
"Al Shafa."
"Al what?"
"Al Shafa."
"How do you spell that?"
"A-l S-h-a-f-a."
"OK," I said as I attempted to type that into my phone.
"Wait, spell it again."
"Let me just do it for you," Tamara finally suggested reaching for my phone.

Exhausted. That is what I was.

After a quick trip home to take a shower we were on the road again, headed to Masese with a steaming cup of the most delicious coffee I've ever tasted. By the time we got there the caffeine was beginning to kick in and I was actually somewhat pleased to be greeted by the mob of children that had begun to climb the side of the car like monkeys.

Whenever going to Masese, my goal is to try and stay clean for as long as possible. Now, I know that cleanliness is not a reality in this place, but it's fun to see how long you can go. Of course, in my tiredness, this did not last long. Upon climbing out of the car, my leg slid along the outside and a huge streak of mud stretched out across my leg. There had also been a rainstorm the night before so the ground was covered in mud. The children walked about barefoot with inch think patties of mud caked to their feet that gave the appearance that they were wearing shoes.

About an hour after arriving we began our teaching session. I'll spare you all the details of this 5 hour lecture, but in a nutshell, we talked about hand washing, poop, worms, wounds, and malaria. I found out after 45 minutes of poop discussion that the village of Masese only has one latrine and hardly anyone uses it. There is very limited drinking water. The spout closest to the church charges a fee to retrieve clean water and it a village as poor as Masese, that's a hard fee to pay.

The lesson ended with wound care. Being the daughter of a teacher, I've picked up a few techniques over the years and knew that for people to really learn and the enjoy what they are learning, you have to have hands on teaching. Thus the creation of my fake wounds. A small container of blood made out of flour, water, and red dye and another container of pus made of foaming laundry soap, water, yellow dye, and a little dirt. We broke them up into groups of 4 and one by one they came up to receive their wounds then returned to their group where another member would have to treat the wound. This continued on for about and hour and a half while everyone got a turn to play each role. There were people running about with "blood" dripping down their faces and arms. Mangled fingers. I was running about yelling "Your patient is bleeding to death! Hurry!!" as these poor people tried to pick the right size gauze to use. It was, to say the least, hysterical. And probably even more so to me because I was so tired. But I have to say, I think that was the most fun I had the whole time I was in Uganda. (So thanks Tamara and Jeremy for asking us to teach that class!!)

We did treat one real wound as an example. It was that of a young boy that Jeremy had been telling us about. He had bumped into a stool or something about a year ago and hidden the small wound. Now, it's huge and infected and so far into the bone that he's probably going to need surgery to repair it. That right there is why we did this class. To try and prevent small little injuries from turning into huge, life-threatening ones. Because a little antiseptic and a band-aid and that boy would have been fine. Tamara and Jeremy have this great vision of being about to teach the people there how to care for each other so that they don't need people like Andrea and I to come in and treat their wounds. Instead, they will be able to help each other and in turn, preventing things so horrible you would never believe unless you'd been there to seem them.

The village of Masese has been blessed with some amazing people, both local and foreign, who are striving to make it a better place. I reccommend you check out Katie's blog too. She's been living there for a while and is currently raising 14 little girls. She has also partnered with a local medical distributer is able to get all the health care supplies for Masese for free.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Lokute's Story Continues...

Baby Lokute's story didn't end where I left off last time. That was only day one and this little guy had a life full of adventures. So let me tell you a little more about his story...

Lokute stayed at the hospital for a little over a week with his mom, Lucia. Everyday I went to check on him, giving mom a chance to bathe and me a chance to see how he was and give him some cuddles. His room was painfully hot for anyone who wasn't a 1 kg baby and it was torture to have to stay in that room for too long, but his mom faithfully stayed there day after day with the little heater on in "Lokute's Incubator."

Tamara and Jeremy took Lucia back to Masese one afternoon so she could see her family and tell them what was happening and bring back someone to translate so we could talk about what we were going to do. Lucia is Karamojong and her language is not very well known in Jinja, thus communication was a challenge. There was a lot of motions, face-making, and laughter whenever we tried to communicate and I'm pretty sure about 95% of what was being said was lost as we acted out our words. But alas, the wonderful Lillian came to translate and we were all able to sit down with the doctor and discuss what should be done to keep Lokute healthy. Because the cost of keeping them in the hospital would be too much and Lucia had another son at home, it was finally decided that they would have to go home. So we devised a plan for how to keep Lokute warm and healthy in his dirt hut.

Lokute's hut looked something like this (sorry it's not a great picture).

Lokute was doing well during his first week of life. We had him bundled in lots of sweaters and tiny onsies and sleepers that I altered to fit him. He was wrapped in blankets and tucked into a foam pouch. And he was holding his temperature relatively well. He even went on an adventure to the chapati stand next to the hospital to get some lunch. He was quite the hit with the locals who were quite curious as to what kind of baby I had tucked away in my roll of blankets. "He's a Ugandan baby," I'd explain. "Not a Mzungu."

They day before I was to leave, Jeremy and I went with Lucia to the village to look at her hut and speak with her and Lokute's father about how they could care for their baby. We sat on mats on the dirt floor explaining ways to keep him warm and clean. About how much he needs to eat. We explained how to use a hot water bottle (something we were hoping to find so they could keep him warm at night... though one was never found). We explained and explained again, asking for them to repeat what we'd told them. And then the father left. And when he returned, he began snorting something out of his hand.

Masese is a dark place where alcohol production is a main source of income. The people are drunk much of the time, as was the father during our teaching session. Jeremy had to restrain me from telling off the father about his drinking, reminding me that culturally it would be better if he talked to him about it. Of course, once the snorting of drugs happened, I lost it. I'm not sure exactly what I said... something along the lines of, "You're going to kill your child if you bring that stuff in the house." It was like talking to a wall. He was too drunk to even register what I was saying to him, which was probably a good thing for my sake.

And that's when the translator spoke up. "He says he beats his woman sometimes." Right there, in front of all of us, as we're teaching him how to take care of his premature baby, he tells us that he beats his woman. Jeremy and I turned to each other. "This is not going to work," he said. There was no way we were going to turn this tiny baby over to a man who loses his temper like that. I have never in my life felt that much anger towards a person as I did in that moment. Tamara appeared in the doorway at that moment, rescuing us from what we probably would have said had we been left in there with that man any longer. We emerged into the light, me trembling with anger as we quickly relayed in hushed tones to Tamara what had happened.

We left that day frustrated and angry and at a loss for what to do. Back at the hospital I sat on the bench in the courtyard contemplating what solution there was for Lokute. Then Anna called (Anna is an amazing volunteer at the children's home I was living at). She told me that Holly and William (who run the home) might be willing to let Lucia, Lokute, and the other son to come and live at the boys house until Lokute was strong enough to safely return home.

Tamara and I sat there, exhausted and angry, discussing what we could do. Then the conversation turned to the larger picture of how many other stories just like that happen in the village of Masese. (Another time I'll talk about my dream to one to get to return there and work with those mom's and babies)

To bring this extremely long story to an end, Lucia, Lokute, and his brother moved into the children's home where Anna, Emma (another volunteer), and some of the mamas took shift watching over him and ensuring that he was doing well. I haven't heard the whole story on what happened, but he deteriorated quickly and two days ago he just stopped breathing. He was a fighter and he was loved and I believe he shook up the lives of all of us who cared for him.

Lokute William
December 11, 2009 - January 12, 2010

This is an excerpt from an e-mail Jeremy sent out that I wanted to share with you...
"We just returned from Masese after burying 2 baby boys. Of course, one was baby Lokute. The other we found in the arms of a mourning mother when we arrived. His name was Joseph, a one-year old nephew to Michael and Lillian. We dug two holes side by side on the hill, and crammed between the bushes next to a pig pen to hold the ceremony. There was no making the bodies look peaceful or concern about buying a casket. The babies were placed straight in the ground, wrapped in their everyday blankets and clothed in last nights pajamas. It was quick and functional for the most part. To us, disturbingly routine. For these families, especially the mothers, this was a proper burial and they were thankful.

There was obvious strangeness in contrast to our own 'culture of death', but It was also an unusual experience in light of Karamojong culture.
The Karamojong frequently abandon their dead, yet both of these mothers struggled for the lives of their children and carefully watched over them up until they were place in the ground.

Bodies are often discarded like refuse because families have no land and the public burial ground is full. Plots cost more money than they can afford. But today, a friend of the church came forward and gave a plot for the children to be buried properly.

And the Karamojong rarely pay respect to the dead, let alone hold a God honoring service. Of course, Pastor Joseph and other men of the church jumped at the chance to lead the service and minister to the family as well as the greater community with the love and truth of Jesus.

Contrary to our fears of how they'd receive us as we arrived with Lokute's body, the family was filled with thankfulness and asked only one thing from us.... that we not forget them and return to visit them at home. Mourning with them and the larger community brought about a rare occurrence. We felt like we were 'just part of them', and We were humbled and honored to mourn with them. Afterward, Lokute's mother thanked us profusely for trying to help her baby, and for helping ensure he was given a respectful service. We can only thank our merciful God. It's so clear how He continually works for their good, even in the midst of tragedy.

God has a history of using tragedy for His glory, to open eyes , to change hearts, to prepare and launch people into Kingdom work. We pray the tragedy of these two baby boys buried in the ground would be like seeds planted, springing up to new life.

i know this sounds heavy, and it is. But we're doing really well and have great peace in Christ. Pray for Masese."

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Yesterday baby Lokute went to be with his Jesus.


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