Wednesday, October 31, 2018

When the Day is Hard

 It is such a beautiful place, the cemetery. Peaceful, full of reminders that I'm certainly not the only one.

Days like this, they haunt me. Blue skies, unseasonable warm, leaves of gold glittering in the breeze. I remember this weather. The same as six years ago. How unfair is it that loved ones must die? How unbelievably cruel when the day is picture perfect? Shouldn't the skies mimic the complete and utter despair? Shouldn't the earth darken when the heart does, too?

Today is Halloween and everyone is giddy with excitement. My son carefully coordinated his "nerd costume" and made sure his candy bag had no holes in it. I passed the duties of trick or treating off to Matt.

I just can't do it. I cannot keep it together a moment longer.

October is so very hard for me to navigate. Avery's birthday starts it off, we end with her death. In between is a balancing act - one that I'm getting better at, but I'm still such a novice. Some people want to talk about Avery, others have moved on. Some still can't quite swallow around the sorrow in their throat, others forget there was an accident at all. I can't seem to figure out who is who until it's awkwardly too late.

It's at the point where there are more and more new families at school who never knew Avery existed at all. They just assume Brody has always been an only child. I still don't know how to answer seemingly benign questions like how many children do you have?

I find myself wondering so much - would Airheads candy still be her favorite? Or would her palate matured along with her age? Would she still like school? Would she have a job? The 11-year old would study her tookus off and get a job at Starbucks. But I only know my 11-year old daughter. My 17-year old daughter will always be a stranger; she will never be revealed to me.

I balance between grieving a child lost and celebrating the child living, constantly filled with guilt because I always fall short with one of them. Today, I am not in a good place to see swarms of happy children laughing together.

Six years ago today I felt everything catch up with me. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't think. I needed to escape but I didn't know to where. Brody, then 3, kept asking when Mimi (the name he gave Avery) was coming home. She had been gone for a week. Jadrian, then 17, was so burdened with guilt and pain I couldn't comfort her. Matt had no idea how to talk to me, much less comfort me. Everywhere I turned someone needed me to hold them up and I just couldn't anymore. So I ran away.

Technically, I hopped in my car and started driving. I got exactly two blocks away when I was met with more children than I could count. So much joy! How dare they. How dare they live their lives as if tragedy hadn't touched them yet!

How dare I judge their joy.

This living with loss is so much like walking a tightrope. Some days you know there is a crowd beneath you cheering you on; but at other times everyone has left to go to dinner and it starts to drizzle. Sometimes I feel confident striding across, other times I barely inch forward. Sometimes I mess up so bad that my balancing stick falls miles below me and shatters.

There are days when I will be the mother I'm supposed to be to my living son, laughing during a game of Yahtzee or watching another episode of The Worst Witch cuddled up together.

And then there are days like today when he really wants me to come with but I just don't have it in me. When I know I won't be able to stop the tears. When I have no more strength left.

Today, Brody went trick or treating with his Dad while I took a super hot shower and cried because the day is hard. I yelled out to God just so I could tell Him one more time how angry I am with Him. How I am still mad and hurt and sad because I miss Avery so very, very much, and I don't think that was fair and it just really sucks and I'm tired of it sucking. And then I asked Him to strengthen me, because that's His promise to me: never to leave me, to be my rock and my foundation, my source of strength. And because I was able to do all that, when Brody gets home I'll be able to ooh and ahh over all the loot he collected in his cute nerd costume and beg him to give up all the red Starbursts to his mom. 

My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.

Psalm 119:28

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

To the Very Last Person to Ever Touch My Daughter on Earth

Avery Johanna McCarthy
10.05.01 - 10.24.12

You were the very last person to ever touch my daughter on earth. You took her stilled, silent body and you washed her. You changed her into the clothes I had brought over in a brown paper bag. Her favorite blue jeans, a bright blue t-shirt with a tank top underneath. Years later, I'd panic, convinced I had forgotten to bring fresh, clean underwear. I contacted the people at the funeral home - can you believe we've become such good friends? I was told that when a family forgets something like that, they simply discretely provide it.

You helped me to understand that it was okay to put fuzzy socks on her feet. You patiently slipped them on her.

You took the down comforter I passed to your hands and listened as I explained through choppy breaths and a stream of tears that she'd need to be wrapped up in it - like a burrito. Because that's how she watched TV. Burrito wrapped in her blanket.

You wrapped her up tightly. And you laid her down gently for the very last time.

I honestly have no idea what compels someone to become a funeral director. I can't imagine many high school career counselors hear that one. In your case, this was a family business, but you could have done anything.

Instead, you chose to comfort the brokenhearted. You chose a profession where you see people at their weakest and most vulnerable. During the times where we are so lost we have literally no idea how we will behave. Some sit stone still, others rage. Some cry, others are in denial. Families fight in front of you, bringing up old, unnecessary wounds when all that should be done is to write the obituary and get it into the paper.

You see the absolute worst life has to offer. A front and center seat to the most horrible of all horribles. Children. Innocents. Disease. Accidents. Heartache. Fathers. Mothers. And those so alone no one comes to cry for them at all.

And yet, you aren't hardened. You aren't cold. You aren't even angry.

In fact, it seems the exact opposite; that your heart continues to grow and grow with unlimited compassion and a gentleness that seems to be unattainable for the rest of us. You love strangers in the most intimate of ways. You care for them. And you do it so gently. So beautifully. As if you know how truly honorable it is to dress the dead.

I wasn't able to see Avery after -- in fact, you looked me right in the eyes and asked me what my last memory of her was. I told you about that morning. How stunningly beautiful I noticed her to be. That she seemed bathed in golden light when she was standing at the bathroom mirror, when she was sitting in the passenger seat flicking on the CD. That light followed her all morning. I told you how she took my breath away when she sang. How I caught a glimpse of her as her older self but not quite - she looked like an angel. I explained how my words were at a complete loss when she looked back as she got out of the car: You know, Mom, I really am a God Girl. I smiled and shook my head, this sweet, sweet girl of mine, as she skipped away.

"Hold on to that," you said. "You don't need this."

I knew what you meant. You were saving me from a memory I didn't need to have. You took on for yourself what you knew I shouldn't have to be hurt by. An image that no mother should ever have to face. How many times have you done that? How many times have you chosen the heartache for yourself to save a stranger from theirs?

I can't imagine it's easy for you. In a society where we're keen on asking what people do for a living and griping about our jobs at dinner parties, where do you fit? When you haven't been to any of your child's soccer games and you miss the parent-teacher conference because you're answering someone else's crisis, how do you reconcile that? When you have to ditch last minute because a stranger's funeral had to be held that particular day, what do you feel when the pictures come back and your date is, once again, alone? How many people have you cared for, comforted, held up and yet they look away awkwardly when you pass them in the grocery store or at the gas station - not because of anything more than they're just trying desperately to figure out their new normal and they're afraid they're going to lose it so they pretend not to see you because that's the only way they know how to deal? How many times have you been avoided simply because of the job you do?

I imagine it might be very lonely for you at times.

I want to tell you thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. I hope you know that what you do for others - what you did for me - will always mean more than anyone can ever explain. Thank you for choosing the hard road, the difficult journey. Thank you for showing up and taking the lead when everyone else is lost and has no idea what to do. Thank you for staying late. Thank you for listening to our stories. Thank you for making us feel that we matter. Thank you for your professionalism. Thank you for your kindness. And thank you for your compassion.

And, thank you, for tucking Avery in one very last time.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Just Pray

During a football game, when a serious injury occurs, all play stops. Players on the field and lining the sidelines immediately kneel. The stadium falls silent. I'm told, although there isn't a specific rule governing bystander protocol during an injury, being still keeps others from gathering around the injured player and getting in the way of people responding to the injury. It is also a sign of great respect. Somewhere in those stands is a mama whose heart just sank to her stomach and she's trying to breathe but nothing's coming. Her child is lying there, not moving, and she has no idea what's wrong.

When Avery died, it was as if the entire stadium of my world went silent. People had heard about the accident, word spread, whispering through phone calls and hushed run-in's at the grocery stores. It wasn't until I pressed publish on my first blog post that the stadium community let out a collective breath and began that slow clap as I began to slowly rise. It would take a long time for me to heal, to stand and to be able to take confident strides, but I was moving. Even if all I was doing in that moment, figuratively speaking, was barely wiggling my pinky toe. 

I found that it didn't matter what side people were rooting for - they showed up when it mattered.

The dynamics of my family - aunts, uncles, cousins, extended family, children, children's family, ex-boyfriends, current boyfriend and everybody in between - I swear have been taken from a soap opera plot. And yet, they were all there. Because even though there's all this crap and bad decisions and jealousies, blaming, hurt and hate, decent humans know that in the long run, none of that matters.

Deep down we all know that our turn for being the injured player on the field is just a matter of time and we just pray that we have a stadium full of decent people to hold us up when it does. Because no one, I don't care how macho or callous you try to make yourself, no one wants to be lying out on that field alone. It's knowing that we're surrounded - surrounded by prayers, by well wishes, good jou-jou, positive vibes and whatever else you call it, that gives us strength and comfort.

On September 9th at 5:43pm, my friend, Amy, posted these words to her Facebook page:

"Someone who I love more than life needs prayers. Please send prayers.... just pray."

Amy. Sweet Amy. Who always wears a smile and who always has a laugh! She has been diligent in supporting me since Avery died. The unexpected private message. The encouraging word at just the right time. She is the fiercest cheerleader I know, seeing so much good in others, especially when they don't see it themselves. She fights for the underdog and won't allow you to quit on yourself. See, she knows a truth that most of us don't, and that's that we give in to the lies of the devil more than we accept the truth of our worth in Christ. You might not believe in yourself, but she does. And she knows God does, too, so you're worth fighting for. And she is going to show up every single time, because that's just who she is. 

She's a private person and respects the privacy of others, but in this case, I think she knows people are trying to knock down the gates and pile into her stadium and she needs them. She needs them to pray with abundance and without ceasing for her son, Austin. 

Austin was in a car accident - and don't get me started on that because the second I heard I fell apart but I quickly pulled it back together because one thing I will NOT let happen is let a mama think she has to do this all by herself. Not on my watch. 

Austin has had several surgeries already so specific prayers right now are for absolute restorative healing and also the complete ability to walk. Austin is a young, good looking guy with a wicked sense of humor and a life story that will hurt your heart, but he's a fighter and a warrior and he just needs to keep on fighting and not give into any of the lies trying to fight for space in his head. 

I believe in the power of prayer.

I believe in Our Almighty God who performs miracles even today. 

And I believe that Austin is going to look up and see that stadium overflowing, filled with neighbors, community members and strangers with prayers on their lips. His family and friends kneeling on the field, eager to stand when he does. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

When Your Imagined Life is Nothing Like This One

There were so many ways I imagined my adult life would be....THIS is not one of them. 

I posted that on my Facebook wall last night. It might have been seen as funny except my choice of hashtags gave me away:

treading water getting nowhere
piles of disappointment
not many successes
worn out and exhausted
out of options

I always imagined my life would be thrilling. Full of exciting adventures and people from all over the world. I would dine at Ethiopian, Thai, and Indian restaurants. I would write books, teach English, coach forensics and direct the play. My husband would be charming and funny and not care about gender roles when it came to household chores. He would beg for at least six kids and I would fall in love with him all over again each time I caught him giving good life advice.

I would take photographs and travel the world documenting the people I came across. I would adopt a sibling group of three or maybe four and work on foster care policies because the ones we have aren't working. 

I would live in a house with lots of windows because nothing feels better than natural light and my walls would be bright and the lights would always be on. The lawn would be mowed and I'd wave at the neighborhood kids from my front porch swing.

I would sing and run and ride a bike - but not a horse because no matter how majestic and beautiful they are they still have teeth and don't tell me horses don't bite because I have first hand childhood experiences with a doozy named Rocket.

I would wear smart clothes and keep running my 5 miles a day because I love the sound of feet hitting pavement. (All you earbud wearing people are missing out.)

I would hop in the car and just drive until I got there, not a care in the world other than experiencing the journey I didn't know I was even on. Surely it would be a convertible.

I would get my own radio show where a stranger would walk in and in a half hour we'd all know their amazing story because every single person on the planet has one. And I would write in my own column whatever I felt like writing about. Surely it would be syndicated

I would have friends over for themed dinner parties and we'd laugh and talk about documentaries and eat gorgeous food that I made myself. I would go to plays and see comedians (but not the really raunchy ones) and purchase popcorn with extra butter for every comedy I would watch in the movie theater.

I would be carefree and happy and doing what I love the most: always learning about our world - like how redheads require about 20% more anesthesia to "go under" than other hair colors or that water can freeze AND boil at the same time - it's called the triple point. 

But none of that is my life. 

I am a 44-year old single mom who lives at home with her parents. The lights are always off in my parent's home because apparently we're anti-light. (Yes, I pay really good rent to be here.) 

I work in a painfully high male dominated industry and I cannot work hard enough or be perfect enough to illicit even the smallest amount of respect from my peers. I should explain that my peers don't even consider me their peer. I'm just "the girl in the office." The only writing I do is in email form or for dry reports in which one particular colleague of mine enjoys picking apart every syllable I write or speak in an effort to make me look completely incompetent in front of my co-workers. This has been going on since I filed a sexual harassment claim against my boss and was told I should "be happy because I got what I wanted - he's gone now, isn't he?" Good times.

I rarely eat out at restaurants that feature cuisine from other cultures because I can't figure out what is gluten free and therefore safe enough for me to eat. I have adopted zero kids and fostered even less. Instead of gaining more kids, I've lost half the ones God originally blessed me with. 

The only documentaries I watch are the ones on Netflix that I watch after my son goes to bed.

The majority of my everyday I do pretty good. I mean, I still read ferociously enough to learn a lot, but every so often this memory from the past rises to the surface and changes everything.

I was just standing there alone like my awkward high school self was known to do when a classmate came waking up to me. They stopped in front of me and calmly said, "I'm going to graduate and be an attorney.... you are never going to amount to anything." The thing is, this is someone I never spoke to. Like, ever. That was seriously the only interaction we ever had. More good times.

I've never cared whether they became an attorney or not but I've often wondered if they knew something back then that I didn't know. Was it the way I styled my hair? How I spoke? The grade I got in Geometry? Because I admit, that was a really bad grade but in my defense I have NEVER needed this:

By the way, those are the formulas to figure out volume and surface area of a right circular cone - and, honestly, other than ice cream cones and those orange construction cones WHY DO WE CARE?!

Sorry if I offended any mathematicians out there but I'm kind of busy having my midlife crisis here.

Which means I have 44 years to save up for my funeral and cemetery plot.

I usually try to end on some high note. Something encouraging and impressive, but I've honestly got nothing. I know this will pass. I know, logically, my life is so very, very good. I've seen what life is like in Haiti and trust me - I'm beating myself up for how petty I sound right now. 

I guess I just figured that by now I would have done something... something sure and solid... built something that would last: a family, a home, a career, a change... something I could point to and say to my awkward teen self, "nah, they've got it all wrong. You're about to knock it out of the park."

Friday, May 25, 2018

The Fisherman

My friend, Amber has been living in Haiti with her family for the past 8 years. She spent most of her time in what I would describe as a more rural area, centrally located in the middle of the country. Then she relocated up north. Way up north. Straight to the heart of the city that God told her to go: Port de Paix, or the Port of Peace. 

It takes anywhere from six to seventeen hours to get from Port au Prince up to Port de Paix. The vehicle will break down. The roads are predominately gravel, or, as one person described it "like the rocky bottom of a dried out riverbed." That was closer to being right.

Port de Paix is a large city with everything possibly wrong with it. A coastal city with too many people, too much garbage and a variety of rogue pigs wandering around. 

There is a beach just a few blocks from where Amber lives and where the Avery House currently sits. 

I let Brody splash around in the water. I figure it toughens his immune system. I grew up making mud pies out of cow manure and I turned out fine. I do make him keep his shoes on, though. Way too much broken glass.

The beach is adjacent to the garbage pit. I'm not sure how garbage gets inside the rock walls but I know both pigs and people scrounging for something worthy can make it both in and out. So can the ocean. It's kind of best not to think too much about it and just be thankful there is a place to cool down in the 100+ degree August heat. 

Amber and her husband met a man who happened to be a fisherman and they started talking.

Amber was describing our beaches - the ones with life guards and metal containers for trash and recyclables. A concession stand and cleanliness. I guess we don't really fear the potential of our kids getting lock jaw from the beach. The newly met fisherman said, "I can take you to a place like that."

Trusting the fisherman, they set out together.

It takes awhile by truck to get to the fishing village where the man lives. One of those drives where everything you see tells you you're getting further away from the water and not any closer to it. There is actual cactus growing out here.

Eventually though, the fishing village appears. Isolated. Desolate. There isn't even a market nearby. But somehow these families have carved out a little peaceful paradise on this great, big planet. 

The vehicles park and the people pour out and life jackets are strapped tightly around the littles. This may be Haiti but somethings still require a United States safety net. The ocean is one of those places.

The walk to the shore is short. The same rough path the goats take. It's beautiful here - that is true, but still littered with broken glass and debris that never seems to go away. The shore is lined with old wooden fishing boats. Paint peeling. A graveyard of worn and weary wood.

Eyes settle on the boats in the water. Three of them. They look fancy compared to the ones sitting inland, paralyzed in their brokenness.

The fisherman readies his craft and crew. He has a beach, he says. One unlike anything you've ever seen before. I will take you there. 

It takes a lot of trust to go off with a man you don't know. But Amber says the peace of God tells her it's okay. She knows something most of us don't: God has plans. Plans to prosper. Prosper even the people of Haiti. She and her husband get on the boat. And when they come back, they know.

They know.

That bold offer from the fisherman... that trust to get on the boat. Lives changed on that trip and soon we will understand how.

You see, we too, took this journey. We got in a vehicle and drove to the fishing village and walked to the edge of the Caribbean.

See that old, rickety wooden boat resting on the shore of the Caribbean? 
I'm about to put my son in it. 

IN GOD WE TRUST painted on one side.
JOHN 3:16 on the other.

I'm acutely aware that the three girls we have with us can't swim. One says she can but I think she's just saving face. I watched her later trying to learn to float. We split between two boats and put the strong swimmers in with the girls. The mamas stick close to their babies. Life jackets checked two and three times.

The boat ride is unlike anything I have ever experienced before. At first, it's calm and smooth, providing a nice view of where we launched from. 

When we get out of the cove the wind and the waves break free. It's the best of any roller coaster I've ever ridden! Salty sea spray washes over us with every crash. I notice they're bailing out water with a tiny yellow plastic bucket. 

There is this point in the journey where my head is tipped up, the sun allowing my closed eyes to still experience its glow, and my 8-year old leans over to me laughing, "I can't believe this is my life!" I laugh back at him and hug him tight. Me either, kiddo, me either.

I realize suddenly that we're literally in the middle of an ocean on wooden boats, the hand carved oars smooth from years of use, with no GPS system to be had. No one knows we're here. There is nothing around us but water, yet the fisherman seems to know where to go without any landmarks to guide him.

We are riding in this man's livelihood. This boat is what makes it possible for him to feed his family, to feed the people in his village. How many days of bad fishing has he had? How many times did he curse where God placed him? What would he have done if Jesus had walked up to this particular village, to this particular shore, to this particular man, and offered to make him a fisher of men? Would he have gone? Would I?

We head toward a wall of rock, tuck in close to it and follow along its battered edge. There's a point jutting out from the rocks that we'll have to go around... and when we do...

Our very own personal paradise awaits. 

How many places like this exist in the world where only a couple of men know how to access it? 

The fisherman drops us off, but one man and one boat stays with us. The rest of the crew disappears back around the rocks and into the ocean. For several hours we play. Amber has done this before, she packed peanut butter and Haitian bread and water. I rub layer upon layer of sunscreen on my arms and face and still burn.

I listen as laughter comes easily today. 

These kids deserve to laugh more. They deserve to experience childhood. The girls currently in the Avery House are 18 to 20 years old and yet I watched their eyes fill huge with wonder and fear as we traveled out to sea. I watched them play as if they were still seven or eight years old. They giggle and tease and pout and stomp their feet. Little children trapped inside adult bodies because things happened to them that they didn't deserve. They deserve experiences like this and I want to find ways to give them more. 

Soon the other boat returns. Bodies are dried off. Backpacks zipped. For some reason the ride back is more solemn. Leaving paradise is always hard. Yet I am so thankful for this opportunity. I  think of my 8-year old's earlier words: I can't believe this is my life! So much had to be broken before I could experience this. So much brokenness in all those people gathered that day on the pristine isolated beach in the middle of the Caribbean. 

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  Jeremiah 29:11

I have heard it said that the best growth comes through persevering through trials, not escaping them. And that when we learn perseverance, we find surprising joy. Joy was definitely felt that day. 

It was at the end of the journey that I learned what else had been happening while I slathered on sunscreen. After the fisherman dropped us off on the beach, he took to the sea. Using the nets he makes himself, he caught what God provided. 

He then took the fish back to his home where his wife and some other village women had been busy cooking. They were to prepare a feast for us: rice, fresh fish, chicken, pikliz (spicy coleslaw), fish sauce and chicken sauce -- a dinner fit for royalty!

The fisherman opened his home to us. We sat under a recently constructed gazebo with a metal roof on what looked like his finest furniture waiting underneath. We ate too much and laughed too loud, agreeing that this was, hands down, the best day ever for all of us.

When Amber met the fisherman she didn't know what God had planned. It turns out that first trip the fisherman offered, the one where he said he could take them to a clean beach, led to a new business venture. For $10 American dollars, you can enjoy a private boat taking you to a private, secluded beach, followed up by dinner. Not too shabby of a deal for ten bucks. 

It's these interactions that solidify why God wanted us to partner with Amber for the Avery House. Her willingness to meet people where they are, really listen and trust what God has planned makes her unlike anyone I have ever met before. Her talent to take the already there skills and bring them to the forefront of a person's life in a way that creates self-worth, income and dignity is unparalleled. 

Her unconditional love for the people of Haiti is what will bring change to the people of Haiti... one person at a time. And it's this same love that will change the lives of the girls at the Avery House. 

Monday, April 16, 2018

The House that God Built

  1. 1.
    occurring or done in an instant or instantly.

  2. synonyms: immediate, instant, on-the-spot

Photo found on Avery's iPod after her death.

The thing is, she died so sudden.

I didn't have the chance to plead with God, to make all the irrational promises. If he would just let her be okay.... I would start taking better care of my health. I would be nicer to the neighbor that drove me crazy. I would always let someone else go in front of me at Walmart no matter how long the line was. I wouldn't complain. Ever. I would volunteer at the Homeless Shelter. I would clean up after pigs. I would clip the toenails of the elderly. I would do anything and everything He would ask me to do....

There is a box on her death certificate that captures the amount of time between the initial injury and the time of death. It reads "seconds." I wish it read "instantaneous" because she deserves a clever word like that.

Fast forward five years.... definitely taking MUCH longer than "in an instant".... but....

The Avery House has officially opened!

The Avery House, Port de Paix, Haiti

Inside the front hall. I sobbed. Those are Avery's Shoes.

I cannot thank everyone enough. You fell in love with a girl most of you had never met and you believed in her mission to take care of the children of Haiti. You paid attention to God tugging on your heart strings. You showered Avery's memory with prayer, with encouragement and with support. You wouldn't let me give up and crawl back into bed. You opened your hearts and your pocketbooks and I will never be able to find the words to adequately tell you how my heart appreciates and truly loves every single one of you. 

We decided to open a home for at-risk girls. The first three girls who currently reside in the home have lived the majority of their lives in large orphanages. They have families - as do the majority of children living in these types of facilities throughout Haiti. Statistical reports refer to them as "poverty orphans." 

As young children they couldn't understand why they were being abandoned by the only family they had ever known. They spent their formative years in an institution that focused on survival - food, clothing, education. Relationships and emotional health never even hit the radar. That's what happens when you have 100 kids and very few staff members. They survived until they were asked to leave.

By all accounts, these first three children are now considered adults. We have an 18-year old in the 8th grade, another 18-year old in the 10th grade and a 20 year old in the 9th grade. 

Go ahead and think for a second what the lives of 18 - 20 year old girls look like when they're asked to leave the facility they've been safely housed in for the majority of their lives. When they have little to no relationship with the families they came from. When they're education is far from over. When they have no business skills and no way to support themselves. When the gates of the orphanage opens and a man offers to help.... 

So we opened Avery's home to them. 

There are some ground rules to living here. 

You must continue with school. Education is important.

You must engage in an extracurricular activity. God gave you interests and talents. Let's explore them.

You must participate in cooking and cleaning. You'll need to care for your family some day.

You must give back to your community. (This is the one I'm probably most excited about.) You are now in a position where you have the ability to improve the community you live in. Volunteer to cook a meal and give it to someone less fortunate than you. Organize a club for the neighborhood kids. Tutor a street kid in reading or writing. I am so excited to see what the girls come up with. I am so excited for them to see first hand the power their love and compassion wields. 

Some things happen in an instant. Others take a lifetime. May this house serve the lifetimes of countless girls in need of love, encouragement and family. 

The One in which I take my Father for his Covid Vaccine

I got a voicemail the other day from the hospital saying ‘since you’re the contact on record we just want you to know your Dad can get a Cov...