Tag Archives: celebration

Celebrate the Socks


We sat in the minivan, in the darkened garage. The whole way home from school I just let her cry. I tried to understand her through the sobs. She didn’t fit it. She said awkward things. She felt overwhelmed that she was expected to know basic U.S. highschooler things like patriotism and social nuances. She vented. I let her.

When the quiet came and the breathing slowed I waited. There are absolutely no words to heal the hurt of culture clash. This wasn’t the fist time we cried together, it wouldn’t be the last. I looked at her, and a thought came to me.

“When you are getting ready in the morning, are all your clothes suddenly on all at once?” I asked. She looked back at me, confusion was added to the facial expression of the misery of displacement. When she didn’t answer, I probed further, “Like, do you pop out of bed and then all of a sudden your shirt is on, your jeans are on, and your converse are laced up and ready to go?” She shook her head, still wondering where I was going with this seemingly irrelevant line of reasoning.

“Here’s the thing, babe, you don’t expect to wake up all put together. We can’t expect ourselves to be all of a sudden all put together in this new culture. When we get dressed we do it one piece at a time. The shirt. The jeans. Etc. We can’t even put both socks on at the same time. We put one sock on. Then the other.” I took a break from the analogy to remind her of the things she had been able to learn and enjoy in this culture. Simple things, that took effort at first, but were now the new normal. Drinking water from the tap. How things work with family close. Getting to know a few people. Then I made my point.

“Celebrate the socks,” I told her, “Celebrate each little part of learning to live in this new life.”

Now, when our heads start to droop from the tiresome transitional woes, we look down and let our socks remind us of the small accomplishments along the way. We remind ourselves to celebrate those socks on our feet. Poco a poco, as we say in Spanish, little by little. We’ll get all the way dressed, eventually. But for this moment we can be pleased that there are socks on our feet.


Note: This conversation took place a while back, in the Fall of 2015. There have since been many opportunities to Celebrate the Socks.


Tangible Validation


A few years back I purchased five large photo albums. That Christmas we gave Raimy, Timothy, Gabrielle, and Tyler their own album, each with 100+ photos of: them, their friends, our family, photos they had taken, and fun memories. 02

This is a page from Timothy’s. Simple. Personal. They loved them! They frequently peruse their pics. 03

We were in the process of adoption so I knew our fifth child was coming. This is what Kaitlynn’s book looked like at the time. Blank. Begging to be filled.04

A couple months later Kaitlynn came home! Her empty album sat on the shelf next to the ones belonging to her siblings. She would look at their pictures with them. Time passed. The electronic folders began to fill up. One day Kaitlynn asked me where her pictures were. I told her I hadn’t made them yet, but we looked at them on the computer. So she found a way to fill her book and began making her own pictures to put in the album.05

This birthday I finally got the book for Kaitlynn made! 100+ pictures from her life of her family, her friends, and momentous occasions. It includes one pic from before her life at the orphanage, various from her time with the Tias, and the rest are from her three and a half years as a Washington. 06

I think she might have known the secret. 07

She was so excited! Since she received the gift on Monday I have seen her many times sitting down and looking through the snapshots. She asks about names and places. And she says with a huge smile on her face, “Remember that time…” as she tells me her memories. She holds in her hands tangible validation. I am so happy to be able to give her this gift.

DaRonn uploaded the album in electronic version on facebook if you would like to see what is in her book.


Eternal Spring

Cochabamba, Bolivia proudly carries the illustrious title: City of Eternal Spring. Here in Bolivia we know how to celebrate important days. Today was the doozy of a day!

September 21st in Bolivia is:

  1. The Day of Love
  2. The Day of the Student
  3. The Day of the Doctor
  4. The Day of the Photographer
  5. The First Day of Spring
  6. The International Day of Peace


So if you are a peaceful doctor who is studying and happen to be taking a photo of the person you love in the city of eternal spring, you have celebrated this day to the utmost perfection.

Friday the kids had parties in the parks with their classmates, instead of regular instruction. Today on the streets people sold all kinds of lovely cards and fun, cute gifts. The shops and restaurants are all decorated with flowers and spring colors.

The celebrations don’t stop. Monday my kids are in a parade to remember the founding of the city of Tiquipaya, where our school is. Gabrielle is playing the tambourine in the marching band. Then they have the day free from classes on Tuesday, the actual anniversary of Tiquipaya. Do we know how to party, or what?

Though I am only an amateur photographer I wanted to finish this blog post by sharing some pics from my trip to La Paz to visit my friends, the Bakers. They were super hospitable and kind. I had a great time!

la paz 07 la paz 08 la paz 09 la paz 13 la paz 15



Adoption Postpartum Pounds

I had more “postpartum poundage” after the adoption than I did with any of my four pregnancies. The stressful gestation lasting a year and a half, then not being able to nurse after her “delivery” created some issues I postponed. Other emotional situations took the forefront of my energies. Adopting a child (she was 2 at the time) brings myriad challenges to the whole family. My health was last on the list throughout the whole adoption and stayed there for a year and a half after she came to our family.

My wake up call came when I was privileged to be at my sister’s wedding in September of 2011. I saw the photos. I didn’t recognize myself. Usually I am the one behind the camera and don’t often see many photos of myself. These surprised me. Then my sister and mother and I went on a shopping trip. It had been so long since I had bought new clothes for myself that I didn’t know what size I wore. I was surprised, again, when the tags on the things that fit me read 14.

The time had come to make some changes. I know about myself that I operate well where the rules are clearly stated and enforced. I find security in lists of rules. Yes, I am the one who takes the time to read the whole list of rules for a new game before beginning – and I enjoy it! In the past I have been able to accomplish what I set out to do by giving myself rules. So I began to make a mental list of rules to begin changing my lifestyle so I might create a healthier me. I added to the list as my knowledge grew.

That was two years ago that I began to make the changes. Last week the result of following my own rules allowed me to exceed my original goal and gave me hope for more success to come. With the knowledge that my goal has been reached I decided to write down the list of rules. This is the first time I had thought about putting them down on paper. Turns out there were 31 rules!

I share to encourage – – that you may rejoice with me! I hope in my heart of hearts that you reject any condemnation that would try to get on you. I understand fully that we are all walking our own paths and every person is dealing with their own battles. Please be free to be who you are and be happy. Be encouraged. And celebrated with me.

As you will see on the list one of my rules was to start talking about healthy lifestyles with others. I knew this would help me to add rules to the list. I believe wholeheartedly in the power of a creative community. Whether you knew it or not you may have helped me to formulate my list of rules. Thank you for that! So maybe as you are reading you can grab a few ideas for your own life. You are free to use any part of my list that suits your lifestyle.

In the order I thought of them as I started to compile the list in written form a few days ago:

  1. Do the exercise you like to do where you like to do it (for me this is jogging out of doors)
  2. No eating after 7:00 pm
  3. No snacking – only eat at breakfast, lunch, and supper
  4. Exercise 3x a week, better if it is 4x
  5. Cut down on sugar and desserts (a few times I restricted myself for a full month from all non-natural forms of sugar)
  6. Smaller portions
  7. No second helpings
  8. Leave a bite or two on the plate
  9. Drink tea throughout the day and evening when the hunger hits and it’s not yet mealtime
  10. Have a size goal (my original goal was to fit a size 10, but since I am a size 8 now I think I could make it to a size 6)
  11. No scales (I know I am not motivated in that fashion)
  12. Wear stylish clothes that fit well every day – not only to go out
  13. Do hair and make-up every day
  14. Regular visits to the beauty salon to get mani-pedis and get my hair done
  15. No potatoes (they are my weakness :)  )
  16. Cut down on carbs
  17. Share meals when we eat out
  18. Don’t eat in bed
  19. “Cheat” every once in a while
  20. Initiate conversations about health, weight, etc., to get ideas and to hear success stories
  21. Exercise with a friend (my dear Beth has been my jogging buddy for over a year now – we did the “Couch to 5K” together, yeah!)
  22. Look at yourself in the mirror and really look
  23. Good posture
  24. Good support clothing (never underestimate the power of spanx and a well fitting bra)
  25. Cool jogging shoes, work out clothes, and accessories
  26. Aim for lifestyle changes and not quick fixes
  27. Minimal candy
  28. Share celebrations of accomplishments along the way with friends
  29. Face the emotional connection to food (stress, boredom, and depression are my top triggers for unnecessary eating)
  30. Public exercise accomplishments on facebook (this helps for encouragement and accountability)
  31. Hope (I kept the vision posted)

the me i see

This little artwork I did on a box flap in 2001. It’s hung on my peg board with all my precious bobbles ever since. I see a me: free, confident, and healthy of soul, body, and mind.

Now for the obligatory before and after pic. I had a hard time finding a quality before pic, but I think these are suitable.

before and now

Quite a difference in two years, right?


Take and Drink

grandma's coffee mugShe handed me the steamy mug. Black. Folgers. I curled my pre-teen fingers around the ceramic and brought it to my lips. The dark, hot liquid bit my tongue with a delicious bitter addiction. I became my grandma’s only coffee convert. I sat before her, thrilled at the daring maturity in this ingested brew.

We called the mothers of our parents: skinny grandma and fat grandma. Our parents most likely reprimanded the crap out of our butts for calling them this. If there was any punishment from dear old mom and dad, I think it came after they snickered and blushed.

One at a time my grandma, the one who gave my my first cup of coffee, would have us over to her house for overnights. I thought it was because she couldn’t handle all five of us at once. With age came the wisdom to understand she was trying to make us each feel special. I felt special alright, I was her favorite, after all. At least it felt that way. And I always felt guilty when I came back from an overnight loaded down with gifts thinking my brothers and sisters missed out. Funny, I don’t recall them coming home with gifts, but they probably did.

When she died I didn’t go to the funeral. I felt guilty about that, too. My sweet little sister made sure I got something special from her house. She sent me one of my grandma’s coffee mugs. I pretend it’s the very one that carries the stains from my first sip. It feels like the one. She had a set of four of the same, so the chances are high. The mug seems so much tinier now.

She would pour both of us a cup and we would play anagrams or scrabble at her kitchen table. For the longest time I didn’t know you could add cream and sugar. She served it black so that’s the way I drank it. I felt so grown up. The play acting of a schoolgirl, wishing she was big.

Three kids ran around, one still in diapers, my three kids, the day I looked in the mirror and saw an adult. Some moments freeze in time and mark you with their scar. That’s one of mine. At 25 years old I stood brushing my long hair in our master bathroom. I had never had a master bathroom before. Adjacent sprawled the king size bed. The breeze blew into our master bedroom through the hammock on the balcony. We lived in Santa Cruz, Bolivia then. That’s the day I saw a grown woman looking back at me in the mirror.

The years are squishing together now in my late thirties. I associate occurrences with current character. Just as the coffee handed across the table turned me into a coffee drinker, unplanned happenings have shaped me. I see them more clearly. I can see what has given me strength. I see where I get my resolve from. I know when my parenting has taken sure turns. I can see what has made me the kind of wife I am. For better or for worse.

The mystery of the cup that Christ handed to his disciples at the last supper comes to mind. They had no notion about the implications of taking that cup and drinking as Jesus told them to do. Their maturity in their walk with God could be compared to my feelings as a girl playing at being grown up. They knew more awaited them, and drinking from that cup was part of the beginning. Yet they sat across from their friend, so very far away from the end of all they would see and live. When I stare at my grandmother’s mug I remember the times before I grew up. I wonder if the apostles had spells of nostalgia when they stared at the rudimentary cups of wine spread at their tables years after Christ ascended.

The special feeling of knowing more lies ahead sits across my own table now. More frequently I feel as though I am the one saying to those around me, “Take and drink.” Drink life. Drink it all in. Taste the bitter bite. Swallow the warm goodness. Drink.

Even as age has become more tangible, I hope that I never lose the thirst for new. I want to see the world in new ways. I want to be able to love people in a new way of unforced grace like I have never known before. I crave a fresh breeze through my grown up life. I imagine that life still has a few more first cups to offer…


Kings Day – Día de Reyes

As I was walking in my neighborhood this morning I passed a dumpster. Actually, I passed a number of overflowing dumpsters. It seems the sanitation department is getting a few kinks worked out. Anyway, as I walked by I saw a man and a small child scavenging. This is a pretty common experience. The Bolivian people pride themselves on resourcefulness. A sector of society survives on recycled items they find in refuse. So, seeing them picking through the trash didn’t look out of the ordinary to me. Then the little girl spoke to me.

As she swiped the back of her hand across her nose smearing yellow mucus almost over to her ear she revealed a sparkling smile. She looked me in the eye. After a small cough she reached down to grab something off of the street and proclaimed with all the joy of Christmas morning, “Look! Another toy!” She hugged the soiled piece of broken plastic to her chest and ran over to stack it with the other trinkets she was collecting. She ran back into the filth and lifted up some shiny tinsel to decide if it was worth keeping. She couldn’t have been older than four.

Look! Another toy!

Día de Reyes, or Kings Day, is January 6th in Bolivia. It is the same day as Epiphany, which is the day after the Twelfth Day of Christmas. The festivities include parties for children, the traditional hot cocoa, and en exchange of gifts. Only recently in history have the Bolivian people began to exchange gifts on Christmas. Kings Day is in remembrance of the visitation of the Wise Men, or Magi. In Spanish Magi is translated Magos, which also happens to be the same word used for magician. You might say that this is a magical time in Bolivia.

This little girl sure found some magic to make her holiday a little brighter.


Gotcha Day No. 2

Two years ago today we brought Kaitlynn home. Here’s a collection of monthly pictures since that special day. Yeah!

(Click the pics to enlarge.)

I think someday Kaitlynn will want to read this online chronicle.

When she does that I want her to know that I am very glad we adopted her.

I want her to know that she belongs in our family.

I want her to know she is worthy of love.

I want her to know that she is my daughter, forever without fail.

I want her to know she matters, her thoughts matter, her wishes matter, and her life matters.

I want her to know I want the best for her.

I want her to know that I believe with all my heart that God placed her with me, on purpose.

I want her to feel at home in her own skin.

I want her to feel like a Washington.

I want her to feel happy about who she is, where she came from, and where she is going.

I love you Kaitlynn Glory Washington.

Destinies Diverted

The Day of the Child in Bolivia comes every April 12th. Children receive special treatment and gifts. Schools throw parties. Parents take their kids out for some fun around town. My kiddos love this part of the Bolivian culture.

My thoughts turn to the children we care for at The House of Dreams. Even though the nation has a day dedicated to celebrating youth, hundreds of thousands of little ones live and work on the streets. It was the daily encounter with the reality of their existence that stirred my husband’s heart to do something. We couldn’t sit by and do nothing knowing the hardships of the innocent.

Children start very young helping their parents sell goods at a stand. Others work in the fields on farms. These working children are the lucky ones. You see the tragedy of barefoot kids sent out into the street to juggle, clean windshields, or just beg as the cars whiz by. The coins they earn are taken back to their families. A deeper look at the reality reveals that children are made to perform unspeakable acts to support the ones who bore them. Oftentimes the kids get hooked on huffing glue to escape their difficult  lives.

One of the girls who used to live at The House of Dreams was removed from a dangerous home situation. Her mother allowed an abusive boyfriend to stay in their tiny house. When her daughter was taken from her she realized how bad she had let things become. The law in Bolivia prefers that children remain with blood relatives whenever possible. The mother began the legal process to recover her daughter. It took years of meeting specific requirements outlined by the government officials before they would consider returning her daughter to her arms. She had to kick the guy out. She had to prove she could financially support herself and her daughter. She had to file all the proper documents. She had to pass various home inspections. All the while it represented good intentions that she visited her daughter as often as she could at The House of Dreams. Finally the day came that mother and daughter were reunited.

Not long after this happy reunion I was walking through the park near the orphanage and I came upon this mother and daughter. We greeted each other with the traditional kiss on the cheek. The mama explained that they were headed to her work place. That her bosses were gracious enough to let her bring her daughter to her job and teach her how to be a maid too. Her daughter was six at the time.

Both of them looked so happy. The mother had worked so hard to get her daughter back. She values family. She also values work and wants to instill this ethic in her daughter’s life. Any job is a privilege. So they work together. She was quick to add that her daughter only comes to her job with her after school. I hope that it works out for both of them.

The Dreamers, as we call them, find varied destinies around the world. Most who are adopted to families abroad will live prosperous lives. Those who are adopted by Bolivian families will live well in their birth culture. What about those who never get adopted? Those who will grow up as Lifetime Dreamers?

I hope we diverted their destinies. I hope none of them will turn to a life on the streets begging to support an addiction. I hope none of the girls sell their bodies. I hope none of the boys think they have to settle for poverty. I hope that they will pursue as much education as possible. I hope they learn to work and earn a good wage. I hope they dream of having a family of their own.

On this Día del Niño my thoughts turn to their futures when they will no longer be children. What a humbling honor that we can have a part in helping these kids find a new hope and a new life.

One of our girls was rescued from being sold at the border in a child trafficking scam.

One of our boys was found on the floor of a public restroom.

One sibling group was removed from a physically abusive situation.

One of our girls and one of our boys were scooped up during a raid of people living on the streets downtown where a murder took place.

One sibling group hopes to be reunited with their older sisters when they grow up since their parents abandoned all of them when they were much younger.

What would have been their destinies? This question pushes me to work for their well being. This question gives me hope for the well being of Bolivia.


Has your life been marked by change in the course of your destiny? I would love to hear about it. Have you been involved in changing the life of another person? Why not leave a comment and tell us the story.


To follow more stories from The House of Dreams visit our blog: http://houseofdreamsorphanage.wordpress.com/ We update it every couple of days.

To help us change the destinies of the Dreamers why not visit the sponsorship page: http://houseofdreamsorphanage.wordpress.com/sponsor-a-dreamer/  Thanks!

Rebirthday Photos and Video

March 28, 1985 … my rebirthday … 27 years ago.

March 28, 1996 … our engagement day … 16 years ago.

DaRonn traveled this year so I chose to spend this special morning on the top of a tall hill in our city. Since Cochabamba technically forms part of the Andes mountain range I could stretch it and say I spent the morning on a mountain top.

The morning mist lingered after a rainy night. Birds, my only companions, hunted moths and chirped an echoing chorus. Breath made visible by the low temps puffed out of my lungs in bursts as I trekked the stairs up to the statue of Christ.

The day’s breaking came slow. Traffic noise from the streets crept along like a trickle of water along a creek bed that would soon become a stream. From the southeast ridge a voice carried a song. I follow the source and laid eyes on the squatters tarp. The folk rhythm, unhindered and pure, conjured visions of a time before concrete and wires tangled the basin in it’s modernity.


The stunning creation rejuvenated me as I communed with Our Creator.

Faces came to mind as I prayed while surveying the cityscape.

As the sun rose the people did too. A group from a boys preparatory school raced to the top. A father pointed out his small children landmarks below. A business man meandered with a coffee in hand. A photographer crouched down for a good angle of a stray dog yawning awake. Friends walked linked at the elbow. Boys kicked a soccer ball around and laughed loud.

I felt my nose start to burn as the clouds dispersed. I smile at the populous and then wandered down the steps to my truck. My thoughts turned back to daily tasks. Lunch to be made. Homework to oversee. Chores to be done. I left with a heart grateful for a morning at “Cristo de la Concordia”.