Archive for the ‘Window On The World’ Category

I shared my Canon calamity with you the other day. Allie mentioned in comments that Canon has a customer loyalty program that might give me an upgrade for a hundred bucks or so. I called the number today and sure enough, there are several upgrade options, including this Canon Powershot (8 megapixels, 10x zoom) for $125. Sweet, huh?

While doing some reading about the specs, I got to wondering about the specs on my broken camera. And then I dug out the notes I took at the photography session taught by the awesome MeRa Koh. If you like taking pictures, be sure to check out her recap of her BlogHer lecture. Even if all you do is sigh over the gorgeous photos, it’s worth it, I promise.

I spent much of the lecture wishing I had a camera that would allow me to tweak all the things she was explaining: things like shutter speed and ISO. As far as I knew, my camera was pretty much just an automatic, with some extra presets for closeups, etc. Well, this evening when I was reading up on cameras, I was inspired to take a closer look at my own.

Turns out the only thing broken on the camera is the flash. Also turns out it possesses manual settings that will allow me to tweak the shutter speed, ISO, AND the aperture. [[slapping head]] How silly am I? Here’s one instance where my aversion to reading the directions really made me miss out.

People. This camera, even without the flash, is way better than I thought it was. Certainly it is not an SLR. And, yes, it’s a little inconvenient that I’ll have to pull out my smaller camera when I want to take a flash picture. But I never really like the harsh light my flash throws on people anyway. And now that I can adjust my shutter speed….well, it opens up a whole new world.

Check out this picture of Eldest at the computer. She’s next to a tall window, but the picture was taken just before sunset and there were no lights on yet in the house. Plus I shot this at a shutter speed of 1/320, which is fairly standard for an outdoor photo on a bright day. Not much of a picture is it? And that’s even AFTER I lightened it a couple clicks with my photo editor. No way around it, this shot needed a lot more light.

So I set my shutter speed much, much slower- moved it all the way to 1/10 of a second– and took the picture again. Isn’t the difference incredible? That shutter speed allowed the natural light enough time to pour into the camera, letting her face be illuminated by a lovely light. She says her expression is not the best, but I think she looks wonderful. And I am just tickled to realize that even while broken, my camera is full of possibility. In fact, this lack of a flash might help me get really good at making the most of the natural light.

Of course, in really low light taking pictures of my kids who wiggle more, I’ll have to think of some ways to keep them still so they won’t blur every shot. Maybe coffee cans and cement?

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Here are the final business cards (I think) that I have from Blogher. If I met you and forgot to mention it, please feel free to mention it to me and I will add you.

Malena is a freelance reporter and also has a personal blog at African.Dance.Drum.Life. I had a great time chatting with her. She was especially interested in the ways that y’all have banded together with me to make a difference at least for a small village in Ethiopia.

Rlee has a website that features her art.

MJ Tam is the editor of www.momviews.net, a parenting and shopping advice website.

Ann Glamore of My Tiny Kingdom was another of the first people I met at the conference. She is elegant and delightful in person.

misspriss.org was one of several moms juggling a baby at a conference. Her little guy is just adorable!

Whitney and Heather (rookiemoms.com) are two young moms who wrote The Rookie Mom’s Handbook, which is a book full of activities and information for moms bogged down in the early days of motherhood.

Apronstringsflutter.com and Metropolitan Mama were two of the bloggers I hung out with over dinner on Saturday evening. We had a lot of fun!

Georgia of iambossy.com has some good pictures of the Saturday evening Blogher party. Think progressive dinner/cattle drive/day-after-Thanksgiving-shopping-crowd. Yeah, that about covers it.

Bonggamom and I were both fortunate enough to go on Saturday’s photo walk through CHinatown with Karen of Chookoloonks. (You can see all the photowalk pictures here and mine here)

If you’d like a lot of details about the Blogher weekend, be sure to check out coolmomsrule.blogspot.com. She has written a bunch of posts about it all.

Jessica at bernthis.com and I (along with Shannon) had a good discussion over lunch on Friday about the extreme difficulty of parenting. (Can I have an Amen?)

Jean from stimeyland.blogspot.com is another blogger I got to meet. She gave away a fun version of her business card– it was a luggage tag with her blog name on it. Very fun.

I met Debra of Messy Life at the very crowded Typepad party on Saturday. She is actually a psychologist and we had a good talk about adoption and the issues families sometimes face when getting kids settled into their new families.

Bobita of bloomingyaya.com wrote a sweet post about the emotions surrounding mom taking off for the weekend

I can’t forget to mention Tara of lijit.com. Lijit is a new search tool that sorts google results by how useful they have been to other people, instead of just by the number of keywords a webpage is (sometimes misleadingly) stuffed with. lijit bases its listings on things like how long viewers remain on a searched page, how much they click within that website, and how many recent hits that website has gotten. I plan to investigate this site more soon. Tara was really nice to talk with. She also blogs at I Quit For Lijit

Dawn of becauseisaidso.com was a speaker on one of the panels I attended, but at this moment I cannot remember which one. (Can’t be because I am writing this post at 2am, can it?

Headless Mom
has been faithfully commenting here for quite awhile and I am glad to have finally met her in person!

Biggie of Lunch In A Box writes a blog about the fun bento-style lunches she packs for her child each day. This one is sooooo fun!

I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to meet Karen of chookooloonks in person. She was one of the first ‘celebrities’ who commented on my blog in the early days, and even though I hadn’t commented on her blog in a few months (silly me, I thought she shut it down, actually) she remembered about my family which made me feel all warm and fuzzy towards her. Besides, that girl can take pictures! Oh, my!

A site that she also blogs on is shuttersisters.com. It is a gorgeous, informative photography blog. Check it out. Also from shutter sisters is Tracey who also writes Mother May I . She is a lovely warm-hearted person, who was very quick to hook me up with a soul sister of mine, Jen Lemen.

Jen went to Africa awhile back, and came back home with a new perspective on the world. Jen understood when I talked passionately about the needs there, and she was thrilled to hear what all my readers had contributed to getting food to people who need it. I was able to meet her friend, Odette, as well. Check out her blog for all that backstory.

Now I am utterly exhausted, but if I did forget to mention meeting anyone or if any of the links are bad, let me know! This was a great weekend and one I hope to be able to do again next year!

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Support AHOPE

You may have heard of AHOPE, a home in Ethiopia for HIV+ orphans, some of whom are now being adopted by American families. With the current huge hikes in food prices in Ethiopia, AHOPE is struggling to provide for the kids. Read this post if you’d like to support the kids by buying a t-shirt or just making a direct donation to AHOPE.

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Here’s the latest from my mom in Ethiopia.

It’s hard to describe our Sunday afternoon experience. We had been invited to lunch with a lovely Ethiopian lady named “Light.” Petite, charming, and polite to a fault, Light works at the “Mossy Foot” clinic in what I would describe as a social worker position. She spoke very good English and was so happy to have us come to her home. We walked with her on a hilly, potholed road (accompanied by many children) to her modest one-room apartment.

Her apartment is perhaps 8 by 12 feet with no windows, only a front door. A curtain divides her “bedroom” from the living room, which has a low table surrounded by several chairs. She seats the 6 visitors very graciously, insisting that “the parents” have the 2 most comfortable chairs; the 2 teenagers sit on low wooden stools. Everything for the meal has been prepared, and we are blessed to eat delicious Ethiopian food, Ethiopian style. Injera is the pancake-like food that accompanies Ethiopian meals, and is utilized for bringing the food from plate to mouth. No silverware at all! You just tear off a piece of injera and pick up your food with it. Those who are accustomed to eat in this manner use only one hand. I wish I could remember the names of the various dishes we enjoyed. Sophie would know. There was a cabbage dish, tomatoes with onions in a dressing, an egg dish, and something spicy that looked like refried beans.

Light has no stove in her house; she cooks on a charcoal grill just outside her front door. Also no running water; she had purchased bottled water, which she served to us in small glasses. The high point of the afternoon was the “coffee ceremony” which followed the meal. Green coffee beans were given to Kara and McKenzie, with the request that they sort through them. They picked out little stray things and blew off the “chaff.” Light then washed the beans, back and forth from hand to hand. When the charcoal grill was ready, she placed the green coffee beans on a metal concave dish over the grill. The beans needed constant stirring, and gradually turned a deep brown-black color and began to smell like rich coffee. At the end she added whole cloves. When roasted to her satisfaction, she produced the coffee grinder, which was a piece of hard wood about 6 inches in diameter with the core hollowed out to make a deep well. The grinder part (hammer) was a solid metal rod about an inch in diameter, maybe 15 inches long. In went the roasted coffee beans, and Tanden began the grinding process. Soon Light took over, and attacked it with such vigor that we were worried she would hurt her hand. She assured us with a smile that she never had yet!

While water was heating over the charcoal, she spooned ground, roasted coffee into a stone pot, then poured the boiling water into the coffee pot where it steeped for a few minutes. The small cups in which she served us coffee were the size of espresso cups. She put a teaspoon of sugar in each cup before she poured in the coffee. Grounds that came out when she poured settled into the bottoms of our cups. I don’t like coffee, but this was wonderful. Ron usually drinks his coffee very weak, and this was strong, but he said it was the best strong coffee he’d ever had. It really tastes nothing like regular American coffee. She served it with popcorn, an Ethiopian tradition. When it was time to leave, she gave each of us the typical Ethiopian hello or goodbye greeting, which is a right handshake followed by touching of right shoulders and a pat on the back with the left hand. Those who are friends rather than just acquaintances kiss cheeks: one cheek, the other, then back to the first. The goodbye ritual was observed at the doorway of her house, and then again when she parted with us partway home. Whew!!

This evening we had soup supper with the same people we worshipped with this morning, plus the new crew of 8 or 9 young people from the Netherlands. After our meal, which was served in a lovely gazebo-like outdoor building with a grass roof, a young Dutchman produced a guitar and we sang choruses for a while.

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This weekend while I am away at Blogher, I am sharing several letters we’ve gotten recently from family on a medical mission trip to Ethiopia. Here is an update from my mom. If you were part of the feeding project on my blog a few weeks ago, be sure to read all the way to the end. You will be amazed at what is being accomplished with your gift.

Today we went to see Dr. Mary at her clinic. The sick folks and their families had all gathered in a clearing where Dr. Mary and Dr. Ruth were making their way from one to the next. The doctors held clipboards with many small pieces of paper on which they were making notations, one paper scrap for each patient. People were removing articles of clothing as needed for an exam in front of the whole village. No one seemed to mind or think the lack of privacy was strange.

The temporal thermometer (complete with handy pack) that we had brought from Idaho was being used with much gratitude – thank you, kind donors! We observed the scene with much interest, noting that there was no opportunity for the doctors to wash their hands between patients and wondering about those little pieces of paper. [The people] looked undernourished and we were told that most of them never eat meat and are very anemic. The beautiful, smiling children were everywhere, and no one left even after their turn with the doctor was complete. I stayed to help Dr. Mary at the clinic. She wanted me to give the shots, which was an easy job. What an experience – I’m so glad I stayed.

I found out that the little scraps of paper told what medication needed to be dispensed to each patient. Dr. Mary moved inside the building with her helpers, and through a window she dispensed drugs that had been pre-assembled in little paper packets or tiny plastic bags. Each person was required to pay a small amount, usually less than 10 birr ($1.00) and each was given verbal instructions about when to take his or her medication. Some were taken out of the package and placed directly into the hand of the patient to be swallowed immediately. This was to prevent selling of the medication to someone else. One person had no money, so no medication was given.

Partway through the process, Dr. Mary looked at me with a twinkle and said, “Don’t tell JCAHO how I do this – I don’t think they’d like it!” Sigh – if only the rest of us could do a fraction of the good that woman does…. When all the medication was dispensed, she packed her supplies into tackle boxes and large plastic bins with locks, and her helpers loaded them into her vehicle. She kept a sharp eye out, saying that “things have a way of growing legs.”

On the trip home, we got acquainted. She used to be an ER physician in Chicago; she has 2 children, one of whom is a missionary in Chad, and 2 grandchildren; she has attention deficit disorder that makes her a social misfit in the US; she wants to work in Ethiopia the rest of her life. She said her worst nightmare is having to go back to the United States! Her husband is dedicated to service in Ethiopia as well.

They are both the plainest looking people in the world, quite thin and somewhat haggard in appearance. Recently she has been suffering from unresolved abdominal pain, for which she will go for a medical workup to Kenya for a week. This weekend she plans to use the money donated by daughter Mary’s blog readers to bring a half ton of corn to the poorest of the poor up in the mountains. If it doesn’t rain too much, and make the roads impassable. She has a local helper who knows the people and determines who is most needy. Wow! Please pray for her mission and her health.

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This weekend while I am at Blogher, I’ll be sharing some more letters from my family in Ethiopia. This letter was written a few days ago by my sister Sophie.

Ethiopia has a way of sucking people in. Since I was in 7th grade, I’ve known that I would work in Africa. I didn’t know what I would do, but I still knew I would be here. After I spent a summer here, I knew that I was hooked. I’ll never be able to stay away. I even took a $20K/year pay cut so that my schedule would allow me to come. And apparently it’s not only me. Kara [fellow mission worker] was asked today if she would like to stay in Ethiopia and run a home for orphans and widows. Ron wants to build a house here so that he can live here for a month at a time. What is it about this place? Is it the beauty? Is it the poverty? Is it the food? Is it the pace of life? Is it the amazing amount of opportunity to make a real, tangible difference in lives?

Stephne [doctor’s wife who runs an orphanage] has a theory. She says that Africa has a very raw spirituality to it. In America, we gloss over our spirituality by going to church and doing all those good Christian things. We are not often reminded that “our battle is not against flesh and blood.” Here, the battle between good and evil is very evident, and raging around us. I am surrounded by just as many muslim mosques as Christian churches. The call to prayer is broadcast across the community on loudspeakers 5 times every day. People are constantly in positions of reverence.

Nearly every day, I learn of a “coincidence” that cannot be anything other than a work of or message from God. The sheer hopelessness in the lives of these people demands that they hold onto something. Their faith is the only thing that keeps them going. While in America, we can go for days/weeks/months without giving God a second thought. Here, that’s not an option.

Although I’m looking forward to coming home, I’m falling more and more in love with this place and these people. There is so much to be done. You can make a difference in lives here like is nearly impossible in America. God’s working on all of us. I’m excited to discover what He has in store for us! Love, Sophie

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I thought you all might like to read the letter I got today from my mother, an OB nurse who is on a medical mission trip working to train nurses at a rural hospital in Soddo, Ethiopia.

Today I started class with all 5 of my nurses. We were reviewing yesterday’s lesson when the door opened and in walked some students. I’m not sure if they were student midwives or student nurses. So we moved around and found space for them. That scenario repeated itself 2 more times. The small room was filled with people, half of whom were standing! I was surrounded with students before, behind, and all around me! While I was happy to share the info with anyone interested, it did make it a little harder to teach my original five. I gave up on using my new Doppler to listen to [nurse] Alemtsehay’s baby – we barely had room to breathe. When I dismissed the class, my original 5 remained in their seats as if they were waiting for something more. Then Alemtsehay asked if I would listen to her baby – of course! We all enjoyed hearing that little baby with our lovely new instrument.

Today we viewed a power point presentation about standard precautions for infection control. It’s hard for them to practice what I preach when there are not sinks in each room and no hand sanitizer is available. Gloves are scarce. Providing the right resources for that does not seem difficult, but having them available on an ongoing basis is a whole different story. Plus then we would need to educate patients and families about things like hand washing, and who will do that on an ongoing basis? Then I taught more about assessment standards for labor, postpartum, and newborns. I learned that vital signs are not performed on newborns! So there are quite a few written protocols and standards of care that I want to introduce and teach. On September 1st, Dr. Sharon from UK (OB doc) will be arriving for a 1-2 year stay; she will be able to assure that improvements keep on.

This paragraph for OB readers only: Births here happen on delivery tables with stirrups! You’d think they’d be squatters, but – NO! So when I talked about positions for labor and birth, they were shaking their heads and saying, “The table is too small.” I told them about our American expression of thinking outside the box, which made them smile. So we talked about how to think outside the box related to delivery positions: in the bed instead of delivery table, on hands and knees, pushing in a supported squat, side lying. I said they could put a clean sheet on the floor and achieve any position. One nurse asked me to show how, so I demonstrated a supported squat (which, I’m sure the Ethiopians can do much easier than I can) and hands and knees. They watched me with wide eyes – I still wonder what they were thinking about this strange forenge (foreign) nurse….

When I left the OB unit today, a patient had arrived in early labor. So Addis (the midwife) suggested I come back in a few hours and attend my first Ethiopian birth – alright!! However, when I went back Sara told me, “No contractions” and “She is ambulating.” So I’m still waiting. Maybe she isn’t really in labor.

I cooked the pumpkin and Whubitu mashed it today, so it’s ready for all kinds of yummy recipes! Pumpkin soup, anyone? It’s actually very tasty. This evening a whole group of us are planning to walk into Soddo for authentic Ethiopian “fasting food” – not sure what that is. You’ll find out in my next installment. Ron thinks he’d rather have pizza!

Yesterday I walked to the local orphanage with Sophie and Kara. The volunteer director, Stephne, is the wife of a Soddo Christian Hospital doctor, and she’s in charge of 2 other orphanages as well.

We snuggled Samuel, who is now thriving after being in Sophie [Mary’s sister]’s care for some days and nights prior to our arrival. Stephne is an energetic, amazing Christian woman who knows how to get things done. She has a vision of helping would-be orphans stay with their mothers by creating a community for widows with children. It would include a school for the children and a skills-training program for the mothers. After 1 or 2 years, they would become self-sufficient and move into the community, where they would then provide support and training for other women in their situation. The government has already granted land for the project. When I meet people like Stephne, I feel as if I’ve had a pretty narrow vision during all these years of living in my happy little Idaho world. Ron is already trying to figure out how we can come back here a month out of every year. He’d like to build a house here that could house missionary families 11 months of the year, and then we could occupy it for one month – you know, like a vacation home! J

Well, you never know, dreams do come true sometimes!

To those of you who contributed to the blanket fund, my mom gave that money to a woman who will be making blankets for the new babies for their families to take home as well as pajamas for the little children who are at the Soddo Hospital. This has been a pressing need of the hospital for quite awhile, and they are thrilled that the children will have blankets and pajamas.

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Bio-fuel means less food for the starving

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My parents left for Ethiopia this morning, loaded down with all sorts of supplies for the hospital AND $1800 and a new ‘forehead swipe’ thermometer for Dr. Mary, thanks to y’all!!   They will be arriving in Ethiopia on Saturday and will be there until August 4th.  I know my folks would appreciate prayers for safety and health and that they will use their time in the best way possible while they are there!   Thank you so much for your part in their mission.

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Some of you were wondering what food prices are like in Ethiopia right now. Teff, the grain used to make Ethiopian flatbread is horribly expensive right now. It used to be about $30 USD for 220 lbs. Now it is $110 for 220 lb. Bananas are 50 cents US for 2.2 lbs. Lentils are $1.40 US for 2.2 lbs.

Then to put it into perspective, Sophie says her housekeeper makes about 30 cents per hour. Some men working near her house building a wall make about $1.50 a day. And the people with jobs are the lucky ones.

The food drive is up to $265.45. You have until midnight to donate so I’ll have time to get the money to my folks before they leave on Thursday.

One other thing that Dr. Mary needs is a good reliable tympanic thermometer. She’d really like to have one with sturdy enough covers that she could use one for several patients before throwing the cover away. If you would like to meet this need of hers, you can paypal me the money and designate it for the thermometer. It would also be helpful if someone could recommend a good reliable brand of thermometer.

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