Tag Archives: friends

Bee in a Cocoon

On the day we left Bolivia I got a tattoo of a queen bee on my arm. It was the third in a series of images I had placed on my arm with indelible ink over the course of one year. My first tattoo is a black lace butterfly. The middle one is a dragonfly. My bee is on top. I imagine there will come a day when the sleeve is complete with hexagonal honeycomb, a beetle or two, and leafy filigree. For now, I am content with my winged trinity.

Fourteen months after the acquisition of the bee, I find myself on my college campus listening to an entomologist give a lively lecture about bees. Dr. Roe doubles as my Anatomy and Physiology professor. She does a fine job teaching about the human body, but her passion for insects is quite evident. The discourse came about as an initiative of the garden group. Permission was granted by one of the leading Sisters of College of Saint Mary for us to run a beehive on campus starting next Spring. This will be a thrill!

Did you know that bees undergo metamorphosis in a cocoon? I didn’t. This fascinates me. Cocoons have been a reoccurring theme in my life over the last few years. I leaned in to study the images on the slide as she explained the three week transformation of egg, to larva, to pupa, to fully formed bee. The egg is laid by the queen. It hatches and is fed by nurse bees. As a larva it grows and fills up it’s six-sided cradle. Then the bees come along and cap the capsule, sealing the larva inside. What happens before the fully formed bee breaks out of this cocoon astounds me.

Did you know that inside its cocoon the bee becomes liquefied? All the cells, organs, and features that allowed that larva to eat and grow break down. “Gradually the pro-pupa becomes little more than a bag containing a nutrient rich soup,” according to this video demonstration of the process: Bee metamorphosis: remarkable internal changes. Do you grasp the sheer absurdity of this fact? The construct of a wriggling little structure becomes liquid. 

Then comes the reconfiguration. In that tiny, dark, soupy cocoon, the liquid swishes around to reconfigure and reshape into a pupa. It grows legs and hair. It’s brain and DNA formulate to give the little creature an instruction manual and purpose of life. The pigmentation of yellows, browns, and golds appear from that milky goo. It’s eyes bulge. Fragile wings grow which will allow that bee to survive and soar.

My eyes welled with tears. I am in a cocoon stage of life. This liquefied stage of a bee’s life spoke to me. In this darkness, safely capped off by my community, it’s okay if I melt. It’s okay, for this time, to submit to the reconfiguration process. It’s okay to feel like I am drowning for a little bit… because that will pass. My life is getting reorganized. I will emerge from this cocoon, resplendent and ready to fly.

For now, I need to be in a cocoon like a bee in a cocoon. 


One Week Ago We Didn’t Even Have Tickets

Can you believe that? One week ago we didn’t even have plane tickets for our family to travel to the U.S.A.. Now, we are here, have a great place to stay while we find a place of our own, and OWN a 7 passenger van (which is a whole story for a separate, dedicated blog post). A small army has been working to gather stuff for our new home. My sister and brother-in-law collected from tons of people: some beds, bedding, dressers, towels, toiletries, some groceries, coats, hats, scarves, toys, games, some kitchen items, laundry soap, a laundry basket, Target gift cards, and a coffee maker. Thanks to the collaborative efforts of a friend who set up a facebook page to organize people, a few churches helping out, and many people networking, we feel very loved and cared for.

My parents, one of my brothers, and one of my sisters met us at the airport. There were hugs, happy tears, and lots of loud. It was great! They helped us get into the house of my brother-in-law’s father, who happens to be away on a golfing vacation and graciously opened his vacant home for us to stay in for free. WOW! I am so grateful for the generosity from someone I have never even met.

Before dawn Friday morning dear, dear friends came and collected us from the missionary housing where we were staying in Cochabamba. We said tearful goodbyes and started the 36 hour journey back to the city where both DaRonn and I were born and raised. The kids are amazing travelers! There were lots of talks about our move down to Bolivia way back in 2001. We compared, contrasted, and reminisced.

Ahead of us now in the coming days are: finding a house, filling it, and settling in. Please pray for us, as I know you already have been. Things seem to be falling into place. I am so grateful.

The kids have said some amusing things these first few days. The laughter has been helpful to break up the fatigue and tension.

— — — — — —

Me: Tyler, when you go to the bathroom you can put your toilet paper in the toilet and flush it down.

Tyler: [look of utter disgust] That is so gross!

Me: Yep, your pee, your poop, and the paper all together.

Timothy: [from the other room, singing loudly] We will all go together when we go down!

Cultural orientation – – – in Bolivia the plumbing systems are different and the used toilet paper is thrown into the trash can beside the toilet. Here in the U.S. the used paper is flushed.

— — — — — —

Can I go drink from the water fountain! (Five children RUN through the airport to quench their thirst.)

— — — — — —

Look, a mailbox! Oh look, there’s another one!

— — — — — —

These houses are so beautiful! (In one of the more simple parts of town.)

— — — — — —

There are SO MANY  [you name it on the shelves in the stores]  to choose from!

— — — — — —

This pizza is SO GOOD!

— — — — — —

It is SO COLD! (The locals are in lightweight shirts and no jackets. We are in layers, coats, hats, and scarves.)

— — — — — —

You can drink the water from the faucet. WHAT? Yes, from the faucet.

— — — — — —

Timothy on day 2: I still feel weird drinking water from the faucet. I mean, it tastes fine, but I am thinking in my head the whole time, “I am drinking bugs!”

— — — — — —

on the wall of the house we are staying at
on the wall of the house where we are staying


Bravery, a Derivative

My Teen Girls in Uyuni

I really don’t feel strong or brave. Most days I jolt awake as the rush of nervous acid pours into my stomach. The aftereffects of the daily emotional roller coaster ride make me nauseated. The regrets choke. Thus, I have determined that bravery is not an emotion, it is a derivative.

As I share my story with a low voice, tears in my eyes, so many people tell me I am strong, that I am brave. They see me. They see the circumstances. Then they affirm strength??? I really don’t feel it. Oh boy do I wish I did!

I wince at their words, doubt trumps dauntlessness. I bury myself in my notebook. My hand trembles as I make it pull the jumbled words onto paper. My thoughts slow and calm comes as I think about bravery.

Forged in the fires of truth unhindered, time, and surrender comes forth words to define bravery. Definitions help me maintain realistic expectations of myself, and others.

> Bravery is not a stoic face to mask authenticity. Nuh uh.

> Bravery is not a bully who lashes out in fear. Nope.

> Bravery is not an ungodly holler from a maniac who runs reckless to sure defeat. Sorry Sparta, you can keep that crap.

Bravery: Life lived with strength derived from the assurance that 1. I am the beloved of God, 2. God loves everyone, and 3. His love in me enables me to love well.

So when my teenagers come to me distraught and fraught with emotions I can rely on the strength in me derived from the love infusion from my Father God. Then I can attempt to listen with empathy. I can speak, if I need to. Or shut up. I trust that God can love them well when my resources fail. I choose to engage, rather than cower and hide (which is my default mode, by the way).

So when the days topple on top of each other and mash with the piles to-do lists, and I breathe too quick, and my brain begins to spin like the tilt-a-whirl, I can stop the scared screamy sounds in my mind. I see the lips of my friends who tell me I am strong. Yes, I am strong, because this tangible weakness draws me to the source of my bravery. My bravery is a derivative of the assurance I am loved.

So when terrible scenarios of what-if replay on loop in the darkest corner of my heart I can crawl to that place and face the fears. In the past I have shut that part of me away as “bad” and “sinful” and “faithless”. With weak limbs and scraped hands I can do the next thing. Just do the next thing. And the next thing might be a simple flip of a switch on a plastic flashlight to shine a shaft of bravery on the damp, creepy parts of my soul. A simple task made nearly insurmountable by the paralyzed state created by my imaginations of what will be revealed. But my bravery is not brazen or foolish. True brave strength is surrender to Love. Love knows me. Love accepts me. Love sits beside that awful terribleness, and waits with me for the light.

So what do I do when I just do not feel so strong or brave? I cry. I fuss. I complain. I moan. And when I get that all over with I return to the assurance part of my definition. I can rest when I have been assured. Sometimes this blessed assurance comes from those around me. Sometimes the assurance comes from a song whispered in the recesses of my throat, sang with raspy tones. Other times gritty, holy stories or chunks of scripture assure me.

One prayer from the book of Ephesians has brought encouragement.

14 When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, 15 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. 16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.”  –  Ephesians 3:14 – 21

Love and Peace.



Birth Stories – 8 – Jalynne

bunny birth stories logoThe induction was scheduled. Romon and Melinda graciously agreed to allow me to be present for the labor and delivery. I consider this one of the highest honors I have had in my entire life, alongside the honor of birthing our own five children.

The labor pains began slowly then progressively strengthened throughout the day. Morning turned to afternoon. Afternoon turned to evening. Evening became night. The blessed mother began pushing with the contractions, which came rapidly on their own.

The father and I stood at the doorway of the delivery room since we were not allowed to enter. We called out encouragement to the strong mama as she worked with her body to birth their daughter. Melinda remained calm and focused. She did so well!

At one point in the pushing a male nurse mounted the table and crouched over Melinda’s shoulders. He bore down on the belly pushing down on the top of the bulge near the ribs in the direction of the cervix working with a contraction to progress labor. I am curious if this is a modern midwife practice. They seemed pleased with the results.

After 40 minutes of pushing she began with very intense pushing. This intense phase lasted the last 20 minutes of the day. Jalynne was born just a hair before midnight. The first words out of the mama’s mouth after she was born were, “I miss her.” When the baby was out the doctor flipped her purple form around like pizza dough as he unwrapped the cord from her neck. The maneuvers were so quick and skilled I was shocked as I watched the doubly wrapped rope-like cord come away from the baby’s neck. It was an awful and awesome 5 seconds watching him untangle her.

Then she cried. She was born strong and flailed around batting at the nurses and doctor and her papa. I was so very happy for this precious family!

– March 2011

…click the pics to see ’em better


EDIT: Addition from the mother…

I remember a pink chair. Feeling like it was impossible to push any more. “There is her head”. Absolutely don’t remember the anesthesiologist jumping over top of me and pushing on my belly. That is a memory I have only because ya’ll told me it happened. Hearing utensils fly all over the place cause Jalynne went wild for a second. And thats about it until a midnight argument with a nurse and Romon about… I’m not really sure. One sweet memory I do have was holding Jalynne on my chest for the first time. So fun to go back and think about that time.


A Season of Transience

Alejandra and me at the beachVacationing with friends… “hasta luego”

We came back from Chile by bus, my friend, her two boys, and me. The end of my week of vacationing with them started their three weeks of winter break from school. They wanted to be with their family in Bolivia for that time. My friend and I saw each other at church, did a double date with our husbands to eat sushi, and found a time to gab some coffee together. I will see her at church one more time tomorrow then they are going back to Chile. I don’t know the next time I will see her. I will miss her very much.


DSC02015Making memories… sweet remembrance

Today at the House of Dreams we celebrated a birthday. One of our Dreamers who had been adopted to a couple in Spain a few years ago came back for a visit. He happened to have his birthday during their trip. His sweet mom, with the quick Spanish lisp, brought a cake and goodies to share with the children. I cannot believe he is five now! He has his same happy baby face as when we first knew him as an infant, but now with a strong, chunky body. Such a wonderful story of redemption. What a great joy to be included in his new memories.


Laura, Denise, me and Beth... way back whenThe revolving door… missionaries come and go

When missionaries leave Bolivia one never quite knows what the relationship will look like after the teary goodbyes at the airport. You try with Skype and other Internet based means to stay in touch, but things change. What a rare treat it was, then, to receive a dear friend in my house this morning. She is back for a brief time after a three year absence. They lived in Bolivia about half a decade. We were so close. Along with a handful of close friends around my table over warm drinks we caught up. It was surreal that she stepped from Texas and was sitting in my home.


DSC04709Home improvements… changes that work

At our home we have done some decorating and repairs. It’s refreshing being in a more comfortable home. We also increased the chores our kids were doing to help on the upkeep. This increase of responsibility came from the necessity of the three week vacation we gave our maid. The industrious spirit and general morale in our family bumped up a few notches. I like it very much! Improved work ethics was something we really needed around here. I am so glad for this change.


jayber crow by wendell berryFiction that spills into reality… can we see a theme developing?

Coming of age stories in books and movies endear me to the characters like no other genre. I told DaRonn, my husband, yesterday, “I am at that point in the book that I am not ready to say goodbye to these people yet. I have grown to like them very much and I am not ready for the story to end.” That was four chapters away from the final page. This afternoon I bid farewell to Jayber Crow, the narrator and main character of this autobiographical style fiction novel. Good thing I always have more than one book going at a time.


Shall this season continue all through our Southern winter? I welcome it’s stay.

I wonder, too, what other changes are occurring that I am not yet aware of.

Have you known seasons of transience in your life? Are you in one now? How’s it going?




Whilst in Chile…

My dearest Bolivian friend, Alejandra, moved to Chile with her husband and their three kids last year. I told her I would visit her. So for my 37th birthday present I made the day long bus ride from Cochabamba to Iquique to spend just over a week with her and her family. I am really having a wonderful time. So glad I have an understanding and supportive husband to allow me to do this. So glad my kids are big enough to handle things around the house in my absence.

- in Chile with Ale -
– in Chile with Ale –


Whilst we go to the beach, the mall, the plaza, the docks, the restaurants, and para-sailing (fingers crossed it works out to do this) the online world carries on. A while back I wrote an article for A Life Overseas and it got published today. Check it out if you want to. Oh, and I am posting all myvacation photos and blurbs on facebook, instagram, and twitter if you want to find me in those places. Thanks!

Link to article: “My Kid Can Cuss in Two Languages” In which I say:

It’s only fair to blame Bolivia for this child’s special knack, right? The romantic tongue of this Latin people makes allowances for explicit descriptions and colorful expletives. I should expect complete cultural assimilation from my children, right? Oh that blessed blame game… like those songs that never end, they just go on and on my friend…

My kid can cuss in two languages. Not an ideal bumper sticker. Although, it could be plastered right next to the one about honor roll. My kid is on the honor roll, too. Somehow that balance doesn’t soothe me, though.



How has the U.S. changed in the last 6 years?

kids may 2007

The last time my kids were in the States…

  • It was 2007
  • There were 4 of them, now there are 5
  • They were: 8 months, 6 yrs, 8 yrs, and 10 yrs old
  • This time they’re: 5 yrs, 6 yrs, 11 yrs, 13 yrs and turning 15 yrs while we are there
  • We stayed for 6 weeks, this time we are doubling that

The short stay cities this time around are: Fort Dodge, Iowa; Colorado Springs, Colorado; Omaha, Nebraska; and Atlanta, Georgia.

We will be spending a month in Wichita, Kansas and a month in Saint Joseph, Missouri. The other cities will be spread out over the entirety of the three months we will be in the States. DaRonn will be with us the first 10 days and the last 10 days of travel. The rest of the time he will be back in Bolivia while the kids and I will be in the States.

Things they are looking forward to…

  • Snow
  • Fun food
  • Going to a mall
  • Airplanes
  • Going to other fun places
  • And, more than anything, spending time with family

Things I am looking forward to…

  • Spending time with family and friends
  • Showing my kids wonderful things
  • Driving
  • Wandering through libraries and book stores
  • Taking my kids to quality performances in the theater
  • Soft pretzels with mustard
  • Jogging in the lowlands

Things I need to prepare my kids for…

  • Flushing their toilet paper instead of depositing it into the waste basket beside the toilet
  • Drinking water from some of the taps
  • Airplane and Greyhound etiquette
  • Car seats for the little ones and seat belt for the big ones
  • Doing home school lessons with me
  • Not kissing people to greet them
  • Questions from strangers about: Bolivia, adoption, missionary stuff, race, and a million unknowns… graciousness in the face of curiosity
  • Speaking Spanish on demand

It’s gonna be good! We leave Bolivia the last week of January and will be back after 12 weeks, at the end of April.

kids oct 2012


Culture Collection “The Share Button”

I collect culture. Like a child on a schoolyard my pockets bulge with interesting pieces of earth. The little stone I will show you today is hard, like my head at times, and looks oddly like a little button. It’s hard to learn, because it is not based on facts, figures, and findings. It is hard to assimilate to because of how it clashes with my own culture.


On most of the social media sites an option exists permitting you share things with your friends. With a few quick clicks they can see a funny photo or an awesome video. You can re-post links, too. For the creatives a quick share takes the form of a pin. Like a certain phrase on someone’s wall? Share it to your own wall and you are ‘cool like that’. I’ve used these easy share options on many occasions.

The expected response from your viewers is relatively low. You know you have x number of people connected to you with so-and-so social media site. Certain ‘shares’ will earn comments, likes, hearts, thumbs ups, or whatever cute little icon that site happens to use. We expect some to respond, but not everyone. Why would we share it if we didn’t?

Bolivians have built in share buttons, but in real life.

This morning a member of our church came to over to my table. The breakfast for the new members was winding down. This long-time member began talking to me. She clicked the share button. But my response was not optional, as it would have been online. I knew I needed to engage in this conversation. She talked for quite some time about what the church had taught her and how happy she was. Then she said something that sent me into alert mode.

“Now I would like to give you some feedback about something that I have noticed about our church.”

My United States brain, highly trained in the importance of efficiency and productivity heard the word feedback and went into analysis mode. While she spoke I began evaluating my actions in the area she was addressing. I began mentally building the vocabulary to help her see my side. She said, “Feedback” and I heard, “Something needs to change.” She gave examples and details about her point of view on this topic. She even said she had brought people to the church as visitors and because of this specific line of teaching in the church the visitors told her they didn’t want to return to the church. I got a few edgy words in edgewise. I could feel my pulse racing and my defensive shield going up. This wasn’t the first time a member of the congregation had spoken about the way we do things in the church.

So I asked her straight out, “What change would you like to see in the church?”

Her face crinkled up in confusion before saying, “Nothing.”

In exasperation at the sheer length of this conversation and the unbelievable notion that she didn’t expect change I rephrased the question, “You have been sitting here explaining your point of view on this line of teaching and the negative effects that it has evidently had on your friends and you are not expecting us to change anything?”

She said, “Look me in the eyes. I am telling you the truth. I don’t want the church to change anything. I just wanted to share with you my point of view. Nothing more. I really like to talk and share what I think. I just wanted to share.”

My teeth bit down on the tip of my tongue behind my pursed lips. All I wanted to say, but didn’t, was, “Then why would you waste my time with this long discourse? Why would you jeopardize the time I could have used to talk to the new members? Why would you share a differing point of view if you didn’t expect me to change something?

I apologized. What more could I do? She said her piece. Apparently that is all she wanted to do. Maybe she expected me to do some sharing with her, I really didn’t want to at that moment. So we wrapped up with thank yous, I appreciate yous, God bless yous, pats on the shoulders, forced smiles, and kisses on the cheeks.

Every so often culture shock still gets me. If the organizers of the event were not already putting away chairs and clearing tables I might have talked with her longer. I might have shared, too.

  • I need to learn to let people share
  • I need to try to train my brain to recognize when the speaker expects change and when they just need an ear to listen.
  • I still find it hard to believe that she didn’t expect me to ‘fix’ something based on her ‘feedback’.
  • I still think the purpose of presenting a conflicting opinion is to convince the other person to see it your way, and maybe even convert that person to your way of thinking.
  • Even though she doesn’t expect me to change in this certain area, I still need to change.
  • I need to change the way I converse with Bolivians.

Beyond altering my responses, and lowering my defenses, I need to go further and find my own share button. I might have to trick myself. As one who comes from a culture capitalizing on the value of time I will need to place a specific goal on my ability to share. Instead of seeing it as a waste of time to just talk and not expect more than to be heard, I can look at it as building credibility. When I become skilled at sharing for the sake of sharing I will be viewed more as an insider. They will more readily believe me. Then, when I do feel like it is my place to help them make changes that would improve their lives and the lives of others around them, I will be heard more clearly.

Questions rolling around in my mind that you might like to respond to:

Can this culture clash be turned into a culture meld?

What do you think?

How can I find my share button?

Is there a way to turn off the analysis mode?

When you share a difference of opinion what do you expect from your listeners?

You Have My Permission

When you see me having fun,

            you have my permission to have fun too.

When you hear of my success,

            you have my permission to be successful too.

When you perceive me to be happy, well liked, and confident,

            you have my permission to be happy, well liked, and confident too.

When the photos, blurbs, and videos display us enjoying life,

            you have my permission to publish all the wonders of your life too.

When you feel on the back of your neck the breath of that jealous, skulking, critical ‘older brother‘ grumbling about how it just ain’t right and just who do they think they are anyway?

           you have my permission to ignore him and join the party.

You have my permission to like yourself.

You have my permission to express yourself.

You have my permission to be your wonderful, amazing, unique, powerful, creative, and altogether desirable self,

            in all your glory that is YOU.

[Try reading this aloud. Listen to yourself. Let others hear you, too.]


Two weeks of winter break approached. He was yelling from the window as the bus pulled up to our house.

“Mama I have an idea! I have an idea!”

He couldn’t wait to get out of the vehicle before he spilled out the plan. “You get a paper. You write down your phone number on it. I give it to Alejandro. He gives it to his mom. And then he comes to my house to play!” With just one day left before the break he couldn’t have had better timing. We drafted the note and he stuck it into his bag for delivery the next day.

The much needed break started. Each day brought the same question, “Did Alejandro’s mom call?” Each day brought the same shake of the head and slump of the shoulders. A week went by with nothing.

Then this afternoon an unidentified number showed up on my phone. Alejandro’s mom called! She told me they had been on vacation but wondered if the boys could get together. Yes! I was so happy for Tyler. After I hung up I told him that his plan had worked. He climbed up in my lap and hugged my neck saying thank you over and over.

Putting my son in school this year was a hard decision. I had home schooled the older three until they could at least read English well. Yet at the time they all three could speak Spanish and English fluently. This was not the case with Tyler. We never made it a goal to make him speak Spanish. And the year before we were working hard to help Kaitlynn learn English. So now Tyler was five and could understand very little Spanish and speak much less. That settled it in my mind. He needed to do kindergarten immersed in Spanish. So all five of my kids are in school this year. Such a big change for me after having a kid in the home for nearly 14 years straight.

Kindergarten here is called Kinder. Looking at the word in English your mind probably pronounces the word as the comparative for the base kind. In Spanish the i says ees. The d is a soft th. The e is an ay. In other words, a completely different word. My hope, though, is that during Tyler’s time in Kinder he does indeed become a kinder person.

Becoming a bilingual person will help him to love the people of Bolivia. It will allow him to embrace the culture as his own rather than struggle to adapt to it as his parents have. His heart will become endeared to the land of his birth. I am pleased that he is finally learning to speak Spanish.

And who is his favorite friend at school? A Spanish speaking little five year old boy named Alejandro. And he is in our home right now! Oh, this is so good! To hear Spanish bubbling out of my son’s lips from the other room makes me so happy. They are building with legos, playing with transformers and bionicles, and running around the house in their imaginary worlds.

Every so often Tyler will ask me how to say something in Spanish and then he will repeat it a hundred different times as he flies away to play again. “Silla… silla… silla…” The best learning happens when you don’t even notice it, right? The trick is getting yourself in the right places to pick up what you want to know. It helps to follow through on those great ideas, too.