Sunday, December 25, 2011

My New Arm

Around seven months ago I decided to add some more art.

I had been thinking about starting a sleeve for over a year.  I searched online portfolios of local tattoo artists and knew it was time to start when I found Cash Scott, who now co-owns Chapter One Tattoo.

Ending last month, twenty hours of needle buzzing later, I have a completed sleeve that I love every aspect of.  I think Cash did a great job of combining the previous work on my forearm into the new scene.  Woven into the tattoo are many little images that make it special to me.

So yes, when I'm old and wrinkled, it won't look quite as beautiful as it does now. But I'm pretty sure none of my friend's arms are going to look that awesome either at that point, so I'm not too worried :)

Photos by the lovely Rose Barnes

Monday, October 17, 2011

Home Sweet Home

I'm finally entirely moved in!  It took 5 months but I've found all the nooks to stack and store my things, hang up my pictures and feel like it's all put together and cozy.

It has been so nice being surrounded by family and friends that are willing to help! So thanks to all of you who spent time helping me.  My parents have been especially great, I'm so thankful to be living near them again and able to take advantage of all the help they've been willing to give!

I love my neighborhood. North Park is known for great art, music, restaurants and bars.  And hipsters.  I really enjoy being in the middle of everything right outside my front door.  And I'm just a mile north of Balboa Park.

I've had so much fun planning  how I wanted my place laid out and decorated. And with the help of Craig's List, ebay and garage sales, I'm really happy how it turned out!

My kitchen.  Maybe one day the oven will get more use. Maybe not!

Dining room with one of my favorite things, the chandelier!  And the Lailu painting shrine.

I think the Coachella print goes nicely in the bathroom. pink.

All my favorite people.

Hops-a-lot bedroom lighting.

A little Rome in the art corner.

The 'Sky Lounge' on the rooftop for barbecues.

So I'm here and happy. And I'm going to let myself live in the fantasy that I will never ever have to do the whole moving process again!!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

China 2011!

My third trip to China just came to an end. This time I’d already read my tour books,  practiced my homemade language flash-cards, knew how many tissue and wet wipes I’d need to bring, and remembered to stock up on pao pao. (bubbles!)  Even so, there was a lot of getting turned around in streets of hutongs, and the phrase I ended up using the most was Wo ting bu dong - “I don’t understand!”

The first part of my trip was spent in Beijing, and my favorite little hostel, The Red Lantern.

We had our own shower this time, woo hoo!  Ryan and Misha were my travel buddies. Ryan, my close friend since we were around 5 years old, was really the spark that ignited my trip getting planned this summer. After learning about Bring Me Hope she jumped onboard with passion and was ready to go, even though I wasn’t ready to commit to plans until I knew more about where Ruby was going to physically be at in the adoption process.  Ryan apparently had God’s ideas in mind because everything fell into place for her to go, and also me, and also Misha, Ruby’s future 16 year old sister from Texas. I was excited to get to show them around the little I know of China, and see them get to experience some of the wonders of this country. 

 We went to the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, and of course my personal favorite, Pearl Market. :)  I am very proud of myself for returning to America with ONE suitcase even though I came with two!  However, Rose reminded me that I gave her a bunch of stuff to bring home in her suitcase…

A favorite part of Beijing for me is just walking the streets and watching everything around you. Old men playing checkers on the sidewalk.  People in that squatting position as they wait for the bus.  A baby running around with split pants.  A grandma riding in the back of a metal bike/wagon-mobile with an umbrella to protect herself from the sun.  Traffic that looks like it was just poured out of a saucepan and pointed in every direction.  Street food that looks so tempting, even though you know it would turn on you in a couple of hours. It’s just amazing to stand still and have all of that moving around you while you watch.

Another favorite part of my visit to Beijing was getting to hang out with Ruth and Dennis!!! I miss them a lot and it was such a blessing to have them with us. Ruth took a long overnight train to spend a couple days with us, and Dennis had to take a bus several hours to get to the city. It means a lot to know your friends are willing to travel to spend time with you :)  They took us out to my favorite meal of the trip. We were looking for hotpot for me, but couldn't find anything good wandering through the alleys in our hutong. We came across this hole in the wall, where Dennis & Ruth ordered us up every delicious dish I could imagine. We did end up with like three extra plates of dumplings, but the beauty of that is the entire meal for 5 people cost about $14 USD. I love China!

Of course the best part of the trip was that everything lined up to get to spend a week at camp with Ruby, who I’ve been dying to hug for a year and 4 months now. I can’t believe it’s that long since I was there last, but the skype visits have helped it seem like not much time had passed between visits. 

We arrived in XinZheng a couple days before Bring Me Hope camp started.
We stayed at SIAS University, which has expanded into a beautiful campus. Nice dorm rooms, showers and AC! With temperatures up to 103 and 100% humidity, it feels like you’re being baked alive in this city. Here we met up with the rest of our possey—my sister Rose, cousin JR and his friend Jacob, my friend Jasmine, and her cousin Xian.

Then monday morning came. I was able take the 2 hour ride with the people that were picking the kids up from their home. When I got there and first saw Ruby we were both scrambling to get a hug. The bus ride back with her in my lap was awesome.

I was also blessed with another sweet kid in my family group, little Winnie. She is 6 years old, and has muscular dystrophy. She struggles just to speak or keep her head upright, but her sweet and hilarious personality came out quickly.  My translator was amazing, a college student named Sherry. I'm so thankful God blessed me with someone who jumps in there and works, because it was a challenging week.
The first couple days of camp are a hard adjustment.  Looking around at my friends I saw a lot of children with severe special needs. It's overwhelming at first and you can easily feel like you're teetering on the edge of a breakdown.  Many of the kids can't walk.  Some kids can't speak and you need to figure out what it is they need.  There are many bathroom accidents, dirty diapers, wet pants sticking to your own body that's already wet with sweat from the heat and carrying kids up and down stairs and across the campus.  There's kids that need to be fed and you can't fit the time in to feed yourself.  Water that needs to be picked up and remembered so you and your kids don't get dehydrated. Each morning I made sure my backpack contained all our water bottles, a cliff bar incase lunch didn't happen, coloring books and activities, spare diapers, toilet tissue, and handwipes. Missing any of those things would send your day in the wrong direction!!

After you get the routine down, life becomes much more enjoyable.  My family of four was fun to be with, so it didn't really matter if we were late because of extra bathroom breaks, or didn't quite make it up the stairs for a particular activity.  My favorite moments were one day just sitting in my room with the girls, coloring and blowing bubbles. Just relaxing together like a family would.

I'm so thankful for my close group that came with us this summer. Rose, Ryan, Misha, Jasmine, Xian, John Russell and Jacob all made me days a little bit brighter.  And seeing the relationships they formed with their kids was inspiring.

One of the most special parts of the trip was getting to share with Ruby about her new family, and watching her meet them on skype as her mom, dad, brothers and sisters. To see a child that I love realize that they now have what their broken heart desires most of joy for her future is overflowing, and I'm so blessed that I'm going to be a part of it. 

When camp ended, I was happy that it wasn't the end of our time with the children. Ryan, Misha and I were able to go spend 3 days with the children where Ruby lives.  Playing on the playground, watching Snow White in Chinese, coloring, and sticking on fake tattoos :)

Leaving was hard. Going back, half way around the world where it sucks cause you can't just pick them up and comfort them.  It was easier knowing that Ruby will be here soon. 

And I'm praying more kids will be following.  

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Moved out!

On a ridiculously hot Labor Day in 2007 Melissa and I moved to the house in Pacific Beach.  Later Melissa and David swapped out the position of Sarah's roommate, and with him being married I am moving out and on.  3.5 years is the longest I've lived somewhere since high school.  Grandma and Grandad say it looks just like their cape cod they had in Florida back in the 50's.
Despite the old plumbing and disgusting brown carpet that I'm convinced has been there since the 70's, I have loved living here. The backyard was perfect for LaiLu, laying out in the sun, swimming in our plastic baby pool, and smoking cigars around my fire pit.

Living right near the ocean has been beautiful.  There have been many bike rides down the palm tree-lined Garnett for a margarita or Taco Tuesday. I even had one awesome ride pulling Lailu behind my bike in one of those kid pullers, customized for her by my dad. There was a lot of shopping at the Buffalo exchange, and  also the 5 billion costumes shops that appear out of no where when Halloween comes. Jogging at the bay actually became something to look forward to in the mornings. Though it didn't inspire LaiLu in the same way.

Last weekend I packed up and moved out.  I have to say that I will miss the water, but I'm looking forward to a social atmosphere that's more my style than the frat boy-filled bars of PB.  I pretty much knew that after the first time Melissa and I attempted to go out one night in PB.  Over dressed and confused why everyone was 8-10 years younger than us, we watched as a bouncer ejected a patron out onto the sidewalk where he melted onto the ground and started puking into the palm tree. Good times. The rest of the night consisted of us being repeatedly asked where we went to school.

So good-bye to Pacific Beach and my cute little house.  

Friday, February 25, 2011

David & Sianne!

My little brother is married!

David and my beloved new sister Sianne were married last weekend, February 19, 2011. 
My sister Rose and I were honored to be asked by Sianne to be in their bridal party.  Their wedding day was exceptionally enjoyable and stunningly beautiful. 

I've been blessed this last year, watching my roommate David as his wedding plans came together.  He proposed on New Year's day of 2010, and there has never been a doubt in my mind as to whether he and Sianne's future together was a part of God's will.  Seeing David's loyalty to her develop into something unshakable has been an impressive thing to witness.  I've admired so much how they've intentionally taken steps to deeply know each other and their relationship, and prepare themselves for their future together.
One of my favorite parts was seeing the love they showed to their friends and family during the rehearsal dinner and throughout the events of the wedding.  They value relationships dearly, and I know that they will share their lives with me for decades to come.  I'm excited for that!

Their photographer has posted a blog with some of the BEAUTIFUL pictures he took from that day:

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Here's a little video I put together using my iphone:

So this will probably be long...three weeks of these experiences will make it hard to be brief! So thanks if you read this :)

For the past 2-3 years I've been hoping to take a trip to Uganda with my church, who normally sends several teams each summer.  Since seeing the documentary "Invisible Children" I wanted to work with the kids who were orphaned or turned into child soldiers by the rebels who shed innocent blood throughout Uganda.  For over 20 years villagers lived in fear until some peace finally came to the country around five years ago.
So four months ago this trip became a real option, and God provided above and beyond what I'd expected to make it possible for me to go.  The trip was eye opening with new experiences and realizations.

It was hot, but not nearly the heat of hell that I was expecting, being right on the equator and at the start of their hottest season.  The mosquitoes were a little annoying, but mosquito nets and being on malaria medication kept me from contracting it, which is more than I can say for two of the Ugandan staff members while we were there!

My team of five lovely ladies stayed at the Children of the Nations (COTN) guest house in Lira, complete with our own 24 hour gate guard.

We took a bumpy ride each day to the COTN Children's Village, which came into being in 2006.  People drive like crazy over there, zooming down pot-holed dirt roads through the bush.  Little children would step out of our way into the brush with watering cans on their heads as they head back home through the village.  The younger kids would run from their huts and follow our van, smiling, waving and yelling "Mo-no! Mo-no!" which means whitey, apparently.

Walking through different villages, I saw a level of poverty and despair that I haven't seen in any other country.  As a child I remember seeing the children in Ethiopia on TV.  They'd have flies all over them, distended bellies and vacant eyes.  Those kids also live in Uganda.  Starving, dirty, often parentless.  There are so many children orphaned by AIDS and the attacks of the Lord's Resistance Army who are now being cared for by their barely-older siblings.

At the COTN Children's Village, 58 kids have been rescued from their poverty and given and home and people to care for and love them.  Many of these children's stories are so tragic, as well as the stories of the staff who are now caring for them.

One of my teammates and I took on sponsoring a three year old name Beatrice who has just recently become a part of the Children's Village.  She is adorable.  She came to the village only a month before I met her.

 Another three year old there actually still lives in the regular village, but comes every day to be cared for in the COTN village.  Her father is dead, and mother is dying of AIDS.  When she arrived a month before, she was so covered with sores and flies that the staff could hardly hold her.  Now she's a new and healthy child, probably the most tenacious one I met.  Even when she was covered in sores, she told the staff that she was going to get better. "I was born beautiful," she said.  I don't know where she got her fighter personality, but she needs it.  I visited the hut next to where she lives at night with her mother.  There I saw two children that struck me the most on this trip.  They are her neighbors, just a step in life ahead of where she was.  They are maybe one and two years old, both parents were dead from AIDS.  They were dirty, there were flies and sores, and their eyes were lifeless.  Their older sister sister was caring for them.  How does she find food for them, when she does?  How long will they last?  Our 3 year old was similar to these two a month ago.

Two of my favorite kids in the Children's Village are Monica and Pasca.  They're both four, adorable, and a little sassy.  When you see these kids singing, dancing, and playing with you, you can't tell what they have already been through.  Their lives have joy now.

Currently there are kids age 3 to18 living in the COTN Children's Village.  I've made a couple relationships with  the older ones that I plan to maintain.  Some of them are harder to get through to, understandably so.  I still don't know most of their stories.  Some were being kept at the Internal Displacement Camp in Barlonyo, a village an hour from Lira.  Seven years ago the rebels overtook the camp guards and slaughtered their parents, along with a large portion of the weak and defenseless inhabitants.  Some have HIV, which could have been a result of the rebels' violent behavior as well.

But amidst all the horror of their pasts, you do see true joy and hope in the kids' faces.  The recovery seems impossible and amazing.  Seeing their faith in God and the way they pray to him and worship him as their father is inspiring and revolutionary.  And COTN's hope is that these children will be transformed and raise a new nation.  They plan to expand and create more complexes like the current one, as well as reach out to help care for specific children in the surrounding villages through the Village Partnership Program.
The need you see is overwhelming and heart breaking.  I wonder if this can possibly turn around.  But as one of the Ugandan COTN staff said to us the other day, the first step is believing that God is capable, and big enough to change it.  Then you act, and you pray for Uganda.