I am now that Smiling Older Woman…a Trip Down Memory Lane

bf27b06ad4a46fb25491ee45e3336efdIt had already been 45 minutes of waiting in the lab office waiting room and there was still no sign that I would be called back anytime soon. You had the usual suspects in the room: the pregnant woman, the elderly couples, the poor sick babies and the professional men and women who were staring endlessly at their phones. Today, for some reason, I decided to keep my phone in my purse and just observe.

Going on about an hour into the wait, in walks a mother and her two little girls.  The older one was probably 3 years old and was wearing those little shoes that light up every time you take a step. The younger one was around a year old, and was being carried in a car seat carrier by her mother. The mom put the baby on the floor close to me and told her older one to sit on the chair next to me. The little girl looked at me hesitantly at first, but then gave me a big smile and sat down.  That was the only time she looked at me.

The rest of the time, she spent entertaining her little sister by playing peek-a-boo, making silly faces and just walking around and around and around the babies carrier.  Inside the carrier, the baby was having an absolute ball – giggling and laughing at everything her big sister was doing. She even giggled when her big sister was just standing next to her! Funny how this one small family next to me in a medical waiting room allowed me to travel back about 12 years to when our little girls were that age.

I can’t remember a specific event when the three of us were somewhere and our older one would do the exact same thing with her younger sister, but I know it happened ALL the time…at doctors offices, the grocery store, the bank – pretty much everywhere.  And I always remember an older woman smiling at me when it would happen.  I would always politely smile back but would always wonder why?  Were my kids that entertaining?  Did she feel sorry for me?  Was she smiling because she knew something I didn’t?  I never really understood…until today.  Today was different.  Today, I was that older woman smiling.  Today, for the first time, I understood why…

I closed my eyes and just listened.  All of a sudden, I could see the silliness coming from our older daughter and the giggles coming from our younger one….the memory, the vision of them as little girls and the feeling of happiness was absolutely and completely overwhelming.  It made me smile.  Unfortunately, my little trip down memory lane didn’t last long and soon I was back to reality.  I heard my name being repeated over and over again.  I was back in the waiting room and they were calling for me to get my blood drawn.

Before heading back, I looked at the mom and smiled.  She smiled back at me politely.  I wanted so badly to explain to her why I was smiling.  I wanted to tell her that now my girls, instead of wearing shoes that light up and sitting in car seat carriers are asking for Doc Martins and counting down the days to their drivers permit.  I wanted to tell her that I had just experienced the most amazing trip down memory lane because of her little girls.  I wanted to explain to her the fact that I had been there, like her, politely smiling back at the older woman asking that same question…why are you smiling?!?  But I didn’t.  I just smiled.  And she politely smiled back.

Circle of life.  I guess that’s what we call it.  I know one day in about 10 years, she too will be that older woman who has had a brief chance to travel down memory lane, even if just for a few minutes before having to come back to reality again.  But even those few minutes are a real gift and something all of us mothers and fathers will cherish and smile about forever…

Until Next Time…Namaste!

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Bishaan Lubbuudah – Water is life: My week in Ethiopia with Water1st, International

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Carrying Water for a local family in Dawo Kara, Ethiopia

Atsedu made it look so easy; light-footed and charging up the hill with 40-pounds of water strapped to her back.  We could barely keep up and our water cans were only filled half-way.  The guide kept telling her she needed to slow down for us and she would just turn around and smile…

This past February, I joined Water1st International for their 2014 Water Tour and was able to experience first-hand, what women and girls in rural Ethiopia have to do every day, multiple-times a day, to get water for their families.  Not only were they carrying about 40 pounds of water on their backs, but the water source they were using was a muddy, bug-filled pit about a mile downhill from the village where they live.   Although I’ve seen pictures over and over again, it truly was an eye-opening experience to see it all first-hand, and reinforced for me the reason I continue to support the efforts to end the Walk for Water.

The problem: Every day, 200 million women and girls carry every drop of water their families use. 100 million children, mostly girls, receive no education because they are carrying water.  

Filling Jerry Cans with water from the current water source in Dawo Kara, Ethiopia

Filling Jerry Cans with water from the current water source in Dawo Kara, Ethiopia

We drew quite a crowd as we kneeled down on the wet, muddy rock to fill our jerry cans with water.  Nineteen foreigners trying to scoop as clean as water as we could get by pushing away bugs and trying to keep the mud at the bottom of the pit.  The women and the girls at the water source didn’t yet know that we were there with a team of people who will soon be bringing clean water to water points close to their home.  For me, I was shocked to see how many girls were down at the water source filling water.  It was the middle of the day, and I would have expected them to be in school.  But instead, they were filling jerry cans which weigh between 25 and 40 pounds; which they would soon strap on their back and walk up hill, a minimum of a mile, to bring the water back to their homes.

The problem: 2.5 billion people worldwide do not have access to clean water and a simple toilet. 5 million people, mostly children under the age of 5, die from water-related illnesses every day. 

Atsedu and her Family after hearing the news that they will soon have a water point close to their home

Atsedu and her Family after hearing the news that they will soon have a water point close to their home

After filling our cans, we asked the women if we could bring the water to their homes.  They were thrilled and agreed immediately.  The family I visited had 7 children but 2 had passed away as babies; one of diarrhea related illness, the other she was unsure but the baby had been ill.  The mother, Atsedu carries water up a very steep hill a minimum of 3 times a day; but usually 5 times.  Her daughter, who is 10 years old, also helps carry water for the family.  Because she spends so much time carrying water, she is unable to attend school on a regular basis.  She is often needed at home to help her mother carry water.  I’m sure you can imagine the family’s reaction when we shared the news that their community would soon start a project that would allow them to have access to clean water close to their homes.  As one of the women in our group stated, “It was like they had just won the lottery!”

The solution:  Build sustainable projects by implementing a comprehensive, integrated approach

A poster display of a project which has been successfully up and running for 2 years now

A poster display of a project which has been successfully up and running for 2 years now

During our visit, we were able to spend time with Water1st’s local partner, Water Action, an Ethiopian-based Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), that implements high-quality and sustainable water and sanitation projects.  I chose Water1st International as the organization I support after spending some time researching several charities who are working to bring clean water to the poor.  For me, their approach to supporting and building sustainable projects with local partners made the most sense.

All of the projects implemented by Water Action and Water1st integrate water, toilets and hygiene education to provide maximum health benefits.  In the area they are currently working; the Dawo Woreda (similar to a county) within the Oromia region, they build piped water systems with a clean and protected water source.  This is either a deep well or a capped spring which is then distributed to public water points.  Local community members are trained in key hygiene practices, such as frequent hand washing, and these individuals go house-to-house sharing the information they have learned and encourage their neighbors to adopt the new practices. Another major goal is to convince 80-100% of households to build pit latrines to further reduce the spread of diseases.

The Solution: Community Empowerment

Meeting with the head of the Water Committee in Kelecho Gerbi, Ehiopia

Meeting with the head of the Water Committee in Kelecho Gerbi, Ehiopia

One thing I learned while I was in Ethiopia was the importance of community involvement in building sustainable water systems.  Because the projects revolve around empowering communities to solve their water supply and sanitation problems on their own, the projects implemented by Water1st and Water Action are still working today, several years after implementation. The approach with the community involves the creation of a water committee which consists of members of the community.  The water committee is involved with the planning, development and maintenance of the projects, as well as community education around proper hygiene.

Once the project is implemented, Individual households pay a small fee for the water which is used to help maintain and support the project into the future.  One of the most encouraging things I heard as we met with the head of the water committee at Kelecho Gerbi is that households are starting to ask about installing a water tap at their home.  This is a community who has had water points that have been up and running for 2 years now, and the community has been able to experience first-hand the impact of having a source of clean water near their homes.  It was very exciting to hear that more and more households are willing and able to pay the extra money to do this!

Our welcoming committee as we drove into Gonbisa Kussaye, Ethopia for the inauguration of a new project

Our welcoming committee as we drove into Gonbisa Kussaye, Ethopia for the inauguration of a new project

We ended our trip by attending a water inauguration ceremony for the community of Gonbisa Kussaye, one of the projects funded by Water1st supporters. Words can’t express the feeling that was in the air. Happiness, appreciation, gratitude. It was more than that.  When we arrived in the village, we were greeted by the entire community:  the men rode up in horses adorned in flower garlands, the women singing traditional Ethiopian songs, and the kids walking alongside us holding signs and yelling, “Bishaan Labbuudah” which means, “Water is Life.”

Ribbon cutting ceremony at a water point in Gonbisa Kussaye, Ethopia

Ribbon cutting ceremony at a water point in Gonbisa Kussaye, Ethopia

The energy in the air was electric; and knowing that we were participating in an event that would help save, transform, and uplift lives…the feeling was truly overwhelming.

Water continues to flow at projects implemented by Water1st and Water Action

Water continues to flow at projects implemented by Water1st and Water Action

It was hard to come back to “reality” after spending a week out in the beautiful countryside of Ethiopia.  But what I’ve brought with me is an even greater appreciation for what women and girls are doing every day of their lives, and what they are doing as a write this article….carrying every drop of water their families need on their backs.  It’s truly hard for us to comprehend  this fact.  I’ve also brought back with me a greater resolve to help the organizations who are building these projects to finally help end this walk for water and provide all humans around the globe access to a basic human right:  Access to clean water…and to life! 

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The Ethiopia Water Tour 2014 group ready to carry water for families in Dawo Kara, Ethiopia

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Caffeine Free and Junk Food Free, but don’t touch my wine!

It’s the last weekend of the month and I’m doing a reflection on how I’ve done on my Pre-Fall Detox Program. Today, I’m looking back at my goal to start eating healthy again and I’m excited to say that I’ve actually done pretty well. I have quit drinking coffee and only drink one cup of white tea in the morning. Even that, I have skipped a day here and there with no headache. I’ve also done a much better job of planning meals and eating healthy over the past month. I’ve said good-bye to junk food and frozen pizzas and have re-introduced our nightly family dinner routine, at least most nights of the week.

When I actually sit down to think about it, it’s really not that hard as long as you do some prep work over the weekend. For instance, I found this great site that shows you how to make super-soft chickpeas. I prepped a bowl full of these so we can throw them in salads or grind them into a quick hummus. I also found a really easy recipe for a green sauce in my new favorite cookbook (more on that in another post) that I have been using on everything from grilled chicken to turkey burgers to stir-fry tofu. I also marinate a few chicken breasts and mix-up a batch of turkey and lamb for burgers or kabobs so I don’t have to worry about it when I get home from work. By just doing a little bit of prep, dinner is already half-way done!

So back to the reflection on my healthy eating goal. I am going to give myself a gold star for this goal. I’m officially caffeine free and junk food free! Oh, and that goal I had set to drink less wine? Yeah…that’s not happening!! Ok, maybe I should give myself a silver star instead…

Until Next Time…Namaste!

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Maybe Laughter truly is the best medicine

It’s been one of those days… You know the ones:  Wake up late, forget your computer at home, meetings all day with no time for even a bathroom break.  But it’s more than that.  It’s those days when there is just something in the air.  Something saying, “watch out…it’s going to be one of THOSE days!”  Well – today was one of THOSE days and on my drive home, all I felt like doing was wallowing in my stress.  But instead, I laughed, and laughed and laughed again.  Why?

On my way to work this morning, I was listening to NPR and they had a story on Phyllis Diller.  Remember her?  The funny “old” lady we used to watch on TV when we were little?Well, she passed away last night at the ripe old age of 95.  She actually had quite a story; one which I never knew. She got into comedy out of necessity – homeless with 7 kids for nearly 4 years.  I never would have guessed it.  She was also one of the very first female comedians, blazing the way for many of the women comedians we listen to today.

But the one thing out of the entire story that I listened to that stuck with me was the fact that comedians, in general, have mostly lived to over 90 years old.  Bob Hope, George Burns, Milton Berle, and now Phyllis herself.  Makes you wonder…maybe laughter is the best medicine!

So on my way home, after a very stressful day, I turned on the comedy station and laughed my way home.  Not sure if one day of laughing will let me live to 90, but it sure did make one of THOSE days just a little better in the end!

Until next time…Namaste!

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Hello Blog…Oh how I’ve missed you!

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It’s the middle of August and the kids have been back to school for 2 weeks now.  Even after all of these years, it’s seems odd that school starts in August when it’s still over 110 degrees most days.  But that’s not what I’m here to talk about.  I’m here to talk about my “Pre-Fall Detox” program – or at least, that’s what I’m calling it.  It’s not a real detox where you starve yourself or drink juices all day long, but a clear your head, get rid of junk and bring back things you love to do detox.  So what exactly does that mean?

First, it means clearing clutter.  Lots of clutter.  Since July, the whole family has been on a mass clutter clearing mission – donating and throwing out things we no longer need.  That has been in progress for a while now, but I’ve also started clearing out my mental clutter.  Worries that I have been holding on to, guilt that I’ve been holding on to, and also some frustrations that I’ve been holding on to – all gone…*POOF*

It also means eating better. The lazy days of summer hit hard this year and I ended up throwing my healthy eating habits right out the window.  I’ve been stuck in a cooking rut and if I see one more frozen pizza or taco shell, I swear, I will scream!  So I’ve started menu planning, cooking and eating healthy again – at least most of the days.  Finally, it means letting go of things and activities I no longer enjoy doing so I can bring back the things and activities I do enjoy.  I’ve started doing yoga again, I’ve started reading again, and I’ve also bought some really fun, casual clothes that I can’t wait to wear…once our state becomes habitable again (see note above about the 110+ temps!)

So as I am going through this Detox program, I’ve realized one of the things I’ve missed the most is blogging.  I actually love to blog and I find that I don’t make enough time to do it.  I have so many posts that I’ve written but haven’t published, and so many posts that I’ve been writing in my head, but just never get around to typing it up.  So this year, as part of my pre-Fall detox, I’m going to try to make it a point to blog more.  I know, I know, I’ve said it before and I never did it, but that’s ok; it’s the intention that matters.  Plus, I can’t say I’ve had a successful detox if I don’t let go of the guilt – right?

So this is my first of hopefully a slew of “back to blogging” posts that I hope to write over the next few months.  And if for some reason, I don’t, at least you all will have a back to blogging post to look forward to next year during my pre-Spring detox program!

Until next time…Namaste!

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Yes, I have a plan! Sort of…

I have a plan...to live without a plan!

In real life, I’m a product manager for a software company.  That means, I’m a planner by force, not by choice.  I have a plan for the features I wish to add to my product lines, I have a plan for the release of my product, I have a plan for how to market my product…plans, plans, plans for everything.

So why is it that I don’t have a plan for my non-work life?  Maybe it’s because I’m forced to plan for 8 hours of my day, or maybe because I really don’t enjoy planning, but whatever it is right now, I don’t have a plan.  Well sort of…

I do have a general life plan with my husband.  We have planned how we want to raise our kids, we have planned our general goals for our family and we have planned what we want to do when we retire.  But what I don’t have is a plan for this year.  I don’t have a plan for next month.  I don’t even have a plan for tomorrow.  That might seem odd for a 40-something woman, but I am actually finding it quite liberating.

Without a set plan, I am less stressed.  Without a set plan, I am free to say yes to something that sounds fun.  Without a set plan, I live in the moment without worrying about what happened yesterday or what will happen tomorrow.

So if you are a planner, why don’t you try it?  Throw your plans out the door and just do what you feel like doing for a while, not what you had planned.  Actually, if you are lucky…what you had planned would be the same as what you feel like doing, but I would bet in most cases it isn’t.  So try it for a month…a day…an hour and see what it feels like. I think you will enjoy it!

So how long will I be able to continue a non-planned life?  I’m really not sure, but if I plan it right, I should be able to live “plan-free” for a VERY long time. And to me, that sounds like a perfect plan!

Until next time…Namaste!

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Look up and see what you are missing…

In the fast paced world that we live in, it is so easy to get caught up with our to do lists, our commitments, and our need to reply instantaneously to every email, FB, and Twitter notification we receive.  But if you take a minute to look up, it is hard to miss the beauty around us. Today, I am thankful that I looked up to see what I was missing…

Until Next Time…Namaste!

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