Tuesday, July 31, 2007

We're sorry. We have been negligent in writing to/for all of you, both here and through e-mails.

Keeping time with friends and family, anticipating moving to Chicago tomorrow/the day after. Hoping that a month (with God's mercy - hopefully less) of unemployment will offer us some down time to get in contact with each of you once again, both here and individually.

Here are a couple pictures of our time with my family, minus pictures of the many times we have gone kayaking down the Chippewa (camera + kayak = bad business) plus ones of our entire family + bride & groom. Welcome Shaun.

P.S. Sorry some of them are sideways... just think of this as a levator scapulae exercise.

The first week we were home we spent time up at our parent's cabin visiting family & relaxing... except during our walk down Ludington Beach where we fought six miles (although dad swears 10) against this fierce and tenacious wind, which, by the way, was trying to take up the lice's job and make rat nests in our hair.

For those of you who know my dad: after 34 years with Kroger, he has decided to retire and has been officially off Kroger payroll since late-June. When all of us girls + hubs. were home we decided to thrown him a small little retirement breakfast. Tonight when we were looking through photos and talking about his surprise he shared, "I got a little choked up." How grateful we all are for him.

Two hours following dad's retirement party we threw a surprise graduation party for Allison. Upon arriving home she shared that two things she would like were a pair of tweezers (for who knows what) and a head lamp (for delivering babies in the dark). Jake, having a soft spot in his heart for both Al & flashlights delivered and surprised Allison with her first baby catching light.

Our family (from L to R) Allison, Sarah & Gil, Mom & Dad, Shaun & Mary + Us.

Shaun's wedding day surprise for Mary = yes, you know it, you're looking at it. Wow is right.

This is only a 3rd (or maybe less) of what was made for this celebration. Don't worry though, Jake is taking good care of the left-overs. Has anyone ever made Aussie Bites? Worthy recipe.

Again, we look forward to hearing each of your voices and/or reading your voice over mail and/or e-mail. We also simply would like to thank our parents for all that they have given us over this past month. Thank you for the lunch money, letting us borrow your cars, time spent in the pool and floating down the river, pizza and most of all for the love you extended to us during this time of transitions. We appreciate you all.

love us

P.S. We also became god-parents again this last week for Amelia Rene. Pictures are on another computer and therefore, will have to wait for another day... how beautiful new birth, both physically and spiritually, is.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Following The Wind

Jess and I just spent a great few days with her family on the West coast of Northern Michigan. One evening we sat down on the shore watching the rather strong wind wreak havoc on the dune flora and coastal trees. It was sunset and while the clouds turned brilliant shades of pastel, the waters faded to deep charcoal blues and greens. I think both of us sat immobile, perhaps transfixed, but definitely deep in thought. I have no idea what Jess was thinking, but I was contemplating a very old question.

Where is the wind going? Where has it been?

That question has been asked countless ways by poets, philosophers, children, scientists, etc. They are searching for beauty, meaning, understanding, and general knowledge. I ask because I feel like this whole past year, and slightly more, Jess and I have been following trails of soft clues blowing in the wind. From meeting one another to getting married; from driving around the US to see loved ones and our great natural abundance to traveling over 4 continents and 8 countries; from working with the destitute in deplorable situations to celebrating with friends in lush paradise-like situations, through all of this Jess and I had no solid plans or itineraries, we just sniffed out the clues from the air, tried to follow the spirit of our hearts, and do life the best we could in our circumstances.

Well, here we are, at the threshold of the one year anniversary of our marriage trying to feel out the wind once again. The three weeks we have had since returning to the US have been, in part, relaxing, but mostly challenging. It is a difficult thing to take eyes and hearts trained for what life is like in Morocco, India, and Thailand, and throw them right back into the US. There are going to be set-backs, heartaches, and probably some headaches. Pile on top of that the need to make decision about the coming year or two and the stress will quite literally make you feel crazy sometimes.

But all that aside, listening, sniffing, and feeling the best we could, Jess and I have reached a decision about our coming year. We have canceled our return tickets to Thailand where I had a good job offer waiting. We decided for the long-term visions and dreams that we have, that was not a good step for us at this time. We have instead decided to move back to the old neighborhood where Jessica lived for a year during her time in Chicago with the inner city ministry organization, Mission Year.

We have an apartment and we are getting my (amazing) old Civic back from the friend who used it for the year we were gone. We are gathering our better clothes, rewriting our resumes, and are headed to Chicago with a purpose. We don't just want Chicago because it is kind of close to home or has good job opportunities or fun stuff to do on the weekends. That stuff is fine, but one thing that this year has shown us is the dire need to be very intentional about our time and efforts.

We are choosing to live in a "bad" part of town because the kids that Jessica knew 3 years ago are still there, they never got to leave. We want to go back, to be with them, and to meet more. We will be living with a wonderful old woman who is now pretty much a shut-in.

Well, we now know where the wind has come from. We can see where we have been together and how we got there. The trick is you just never know where the wind is going. We are doing our best to follow. Right now that is leading us to Chicago.

Jess and I plan on continuing to post here on dirtytoes, so stay tuned. I am sure we will have plenty to write about in coming weeks and months. As for those stories I promised you last post, they are coming too.


Monday, July 09, 2007


There are a number of amazing happenings that Jess and I just never had the chance to write about on this public domain. Sometimes that was due to a lack of computer, a lack of internet, or just a lack of proper motivation. Some time over the next couple of weeks we hope to begin looking through our photos from this past year, recalling stories, and posting them for everyone to read. But until then...

Enjoy our travel map. You can see the key in the upper left-hand corner, but basically red lines designate travel done by airplane, yellow lines show train travel, green lines are personal automobile, and blue is travel done by public bus.

Click to enlarge the map.

P.S. I forgot to draw our last flight from LA to Chicago, and I don't really feel like finishing it now. Just imagine a nice red arc from southern CA to Lake Michigan, and it will all be complete.

P.P.S. Notice how little of the world we actually were in. Pretty humbling.

P.P.P.S. There is lavender massage oil awaiting us upstairs. Gotta go.

Friday, July 06, 2007

One of the many "dichotomies" which I have recently struggled with throughout this past year is large commercial "christian" (not capitalized and in quotes for a reason) music. How honoring it is to Christ to sell millions of albums of music which should be free for ALL the nations to hear regardless of income, language or ethnicity? How much money is spent on christian albums that might better be used for alternative givings? How much time and energies go into preparing, conducting and attending christian music concerts that is stealing time away from us which would be better spent loving our neighbors?

Although I understand that there can and often are a number of most wonderful experiences to come from commercially mass-produced music, I am not quite sure I support it anymore as an industry. I don't know. The reasons are a bit too much to discuss right now BUT the reason I wanted to bring this up at this moment is because at this time I am completely going against what I am coming to believe and suggesting that you kindly watch this video.

During such a time as this...

Thank you Robin.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Note from Dad:

After reading our most recent entry I received this e-mail from my dad and thought it served well as a reminder of how Wal-Mart affects some of our neighbors:

"Jessie Wessie (that's what he calls me),

Mom was showing me your blog, which was nice, but if you do not know it I will tell you we boycott walmart unless we are desperate. He (Wal-Mart) took a third of my business away from the store when he opened up the new one in back of my store, about 30 people lost their jobs at kroger and over a hundred at the meijers. Just to make you smarter,I will give you these facts. He is the worlds largest employer, in which the average employee makes $14,000 a year,and the poverty level in the usa is at $19,000. You have no insurance if you work their unless you have at least 4 years of employment and then you must pay a portion.I will lecture you when you come home.

Love ya Dad"

His facts are correct, and so is his heart. Wal-Mart creates poverty.

I understand the benefits of Wal-Mart as well though. In fact it was just this past week when I spent some time with Grandma in Chicago that she shared that she loves the newly opened Wal-Mart. It is a perfect fit for her limited income and in one trip she can get everything she needs vs. trasping around the city all day to gather what is on her list.

Great, another dichotomy of life to work through.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Ads, TVs, Cereals & Shampoos

I'm sure that you can chalk this one up to cultural shock, but I'm going to pretend that it's not and attribute my thoughts (sorry Rene, I can't stop this whole thinking pattern I have established) to my attempts to make sense of things and learning to establish new ways of living.

It all started with the opening of the Sunday Morning paper and encountering the specific and familiar smell of ad's. Sunday morning ad's. I remember as a kid my sister's and I would sit outside on our screened in porch facing the old barn/garage and clip coupons for my mom from these ad's. Ad's for lunch meat, cheese, dressings, shampoos & soaps, detergent & toothpaste. So many coupons. So many ads from Kroger to Meijer, Target to Wal-Mart, Best Buy to Staples. So many ads for so much stuff.

My friend Erin wrote on her blog recently about her introduction back home (Australia) and the shock of walking through the isle's of a local supermarket and being given such a large selection of mayonnaise. Like Erin, I have been overwhelmed with the mass number of selections available for anything I could ever possibly want and/or need.

In search of a GPS for a friend living overseas we found our way to the electronics section of Wal-Mart yesterday to ask if they sold any hand-held simple GPS units. As we made our way toward the back of the store I was overcome with the number of DVDs for sale, radios to choose from & CDs released. What really stuck me though was the number of TVs. I think I was immune to this circus of parading images surrounding me every time I went shopping before. But for some reason, now it's different. No wonder we're now in an age of limited attention spans. TVs of all shapes, sizes, depths and pixels are available everywhere and scream from up above (at least in Wal-Mart) for my attention. Without even noticing I found myself standing still, eyes pasted until Jake came back from talking with a customer assistant and told me they only sold car GPS units (yes, they are of coarse completely different items - like Cheerios are to Toasted Oats!) and we left.

Speaking of cereals, as we were heading out of Target (still looking for those darn hand held GPSs) I made the mistake of carrying myself down the cereal isle (crap - was that Target of Wal-Mart, I can't remember), and I do mean "carry" because that's exactly what Jake had to do to me as I became overwhelmed with the vast number of selections available for our favorite (well, my favorite) breakfast meal. Strawberry Mini-Wheats! Who knew? I couldn't help but long for the days in India where porridge was our morning cereal selection and bananas were the only topping available. Sure, Jake and I both dreamed at times of sprinkling blueberries on our porridge, but we were always grateful and deeply enjoyed the bananas. Really, how many selections of cereal are necessary and how uncomfortable and/or angry would I get if "they" (whoever "they" are) decided that only 20 particular cereals were necessary and stopped producing the rest? I hate to say it, but if they decided to discontinue the production of Bran Flakes, I think I would be angry. That's sad to me.

(note: I just took a break to make-out with my lovely husband, it was delightful.)

So I just got a hair cut (thank you mother-in-law) for the first time this year. It's short once again and so light. So with new sensitivity towards my hair, as we were walking down the isle (of where, I have no clue - there are running together in my mind now) I noticed the brand new bottles for both Suave and Herbal Essence shampoos! There so beautiful & sleak, colorful & catching, I was a sucker. Not only for the new look for the the vast selections of smells and hair type specific shampoos available. Flat, curly, blonde, brown (did you know they have a shampoo out for only brunettes?), cucumber-melon, strawberry, spit-end, dry, oily - it's all there. In India, for the average citizen, there are a few selections of shampoos to choose from. Most in single use packets, few in bottles. But at the most, a selection of 5-8 would be average to choose from. And still I wonder the same of shampoos as I do of cereals. Is this all really necessary? If not, how disappointed would I be if they discontinued the cheap Lavender Suave I like and decided to only sell the $5.00 a bottle fancy Vidal Sassoon?

Ads, TVs, Cereals & Shampoos. I'm really being challenged since coming back to the States how much of what began to be second nature to me is really necessary in life. How much is luxury? How much is needed to truly live and love others through Christ? I'll attempt my best to taper down on these entries, I promise. In the meantime though, thank you for living through this transition with us. We appreciate it/you.