Tag Archives: elim

‘excessable christmas’ book orders

Wow! I’ve had lots of questions about how to order my self-published book. If you would like to order one, please go to http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/1124341, or shoot me an email that you want one, as I have ordered some extras.  Here’s the book info:

ISBN: yeah, not so much.  Self published and I’m not famous… yet.

Price: blurb.com $26.95 + shipping.  From me, $26.00 and I’ll pay for the shipping. **All book proceeds go to Casa Hogar Elim**

Softcover: 120 full color pages (like I would ever do black and white)

Language: English, I think.

Book Dimensions: Square, I like squares, 7″ x 7″

Thanks to all of my friends for your encouragement on this crazy little blog project.  It has inspired me to follow my four year old dream of writing a book, to hopefully get published by someone other than me.  The research begins NOW and you can check out the details at trashsociety.com or become a fan on Facebook at facebook.com/trashsociety.


7 days until Christmas…

I was sad yesterday afternoon as I watched the large group of people leaving for Mexico.  I so very much wanted to go with them.  They are bringing Christmas gifts to the children at Casa Hogar Elim, an annual thing started last year by Jeff Harrell.  We collect shoe boxes, fill them up with small age-appropriate toys and sugar-free candy, then wrap them up.  Now these gifts aren’t just for a boy, age 6, or a girl, age 10, there’s a package for each individual child with their name on it.  We can’t put bows on these boxes, as they would be crushed under the weight of all the supplies in the cars and vans.

There are so many people from our church that want to go to Casa Hogar, they don’t even need to advertise the trips.  If you’ve been there, you’re a walking billboard for CHE.  The Thanksgiving trip even had a waiting list this year.  The ‘regulars’ have gone so many times, they can’t even tell you how many trips they’ve made.  We love these kids, and for those of us whom visit often, these kids are our extended family.

You know the old saying, ‘you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family?’    I beg to differ.  I was thinking last night about family and friends, and all of the funny ways God placed them in my life.  God clearly has a sense of humor!

I moved into my house three years ago, although my kids didn’t start attending the local school until two years ago.  We live at the end of the street, walking distance from the elementary school.  I noticed a house that had some fun yard decor, more specifically, ‘little skeleton girl’.  She was out for Halloween, dressed in her hippie costume, but she stayed out for other holidays.  What!?  Could this be?  Could I really have a soul sister on my street?

I was intrigued.  Why did I think this was my soul sister?  I have a full size mannequin named Darla.  You can learn more about her on Facebook at facebook.com/luvplasticpeople.  Anyway, I wanted to meet little skeleton girl’s mom.  I did, and her name is Patty.

Patty loves to volunteer her time for great causes, so we cross paths quite a bit, not only walking down the street, but many other places.  Patty was at Victoria Gardens with me when I met Flo, the ghost of Christmas future.  I can’t wait to go to Casa Hogar with Patty!  I live in a great neighborhood, as it’s filled with fun, caring people like Patty.

As I said in yesterday’s post, I was an only child until my teen years.  I really don’t remember ever bugging my parents about wanting a baby brother or sister.  I don’t know if that’s because I didn’t want one or because I knew it was a horrible idea for my parents to have anymore children.  I guess God knew I needed some siblings, but decided to bring them in under different circumstances.  At the age of 14, I got a step brother, two step sisters, and soon after, a half brother.

The funny thing about this is my sister Jo.  We are not blood related at all, yet we are just alike.  Our beliefs, our personalities, our creativity… and the list goes on.  The more perplexing thing here is our kids.  My son Joe and her son Isaac, again, no genetic relation, not only look alike, but act alike.  Jo lives in Wisconsin, so we don’t get to see each other too often.  We were on vacation in Florida several years ago, Joe and Isaac both ‘sitting’ on their heads on the sofa watching TV.  Jo says, “Look, Isaac taught Joe to do that.”  I replied, “What?  Joe’s been doing that for months.”  Both kids had been doing this separately for months.  And just for the record, they look alike right-side up too.

This next one isn’t as much humor funny as it is implausible funny.  Let me just start by saying it’s an extremely rare occasion when I can find anything good to say about my ex-husband.  The aftermath of an interaction with him frequently results in misery and relational mass destruction.

Dawn and Genna live near Kansas City, so we don’t get to see them very often.  Genna is my step-daughter and Dawn is her mother.  The boys and I took our family vacation up there this past summer and we had a blast!  Okay, I know what you’re thinking.  You probably think it’s odd that we’re friends, so this next statement will really throw you.  We consider ourselves family.  Yes, family.  You may not be able to choose your genetic family, but through love and friendship, you do choose your ‘preferred’ family.  One of the definitions of family is “a group of people who are generally not blood relations but who share common attitudes, interests, or goals…”   Yes, that’s us.  I’ve realized one thing this Christmas, one very big positive thing to say about the boys dad.  Without him, I would not have my boys, nor would I have Dawn and Genna.  As you can tell by the photo, they are obviously ‘related’, as they are a bunch of little camera junkies!  Genna is a very talented photographer and is doing an internship right now.  The boys like to make funny YouTube videos, a couple that have gone small-time viral.

God has brought many other people into my life in unexpected ways, from church and Facebook to a lady at church who accidentally door dinged my beat-up car.  I’ll take 100 of those kind of door dings!  Oh, wait, I have 100 door dings, but only one has a great story behind it.

So what does all of this have to do with Christmas?  This is the time of year when many people experience strong feelings of loneliness, seemingly endless despair and high levels of stress.  I’m no different, but as these feelings arise, I have this faint awareness of hope.  I appreciate my friends and family, realizing I don’t tell them that nearly enough.  I also appreciate you for taking the time to read my 25 days of Christmas blog.  🙂


15 days until Christmas…

I was listening to talk radio on my way to work yesterday.  It was so incredibly cold I didn’t want to let go of my warm coffee mug to steer the car, much less turn on the radio.  The news guy was reporting on the experiences of the fake mall Santas this year, disclosing the newest Christmas lists they’re receiving.  Many of the kids sitting on Santa’s lap are not asking for the typical toys and electronics, they’re asking for basic necessities.  “Mommy really needs a job” or “Could we just have our house back?”  Some others are asking for food and clothing.  You know the economy is bad when kids are happy to get socks and underwear for Christmas.

Santa Claus.  The historical Saint and the modern day icon of commercialized Christmas.  Who is Santa?  Santa has many roots in history spanning the globe, roots also ranging from Christianity to paganism.  The early Christian Santa was Saint Nicholas.  He was a Saint that gave generous gifts to the poor, especially to daughters of poor parents so they did not have to become prostitutes.  I could go on for days here about the history of Santa, but he did have his start as a good guy that helped people.

 

Honestly, I’ve always struggled with the whole Santa thing.  I did not want my kids believing that some overweight guy in a furry red suit is going to give them anything they want for Christmas.  Their dad said that was wrong and I was awful for even thinking it.  Choose your battles, right?  I chose not to fight this one.

My earliest recollection of Santa is asking my parents if Santa was real.  I was in kindergarten, five or six years old, and already wondering how one guy could go around the planet in one night, bringing lots of stuff to kids.  And don’t get me started on the flying reindeer and sleigh.  I suppose my over-analyzing of everything started at an early age.  My parents told me the truth and quickly proceeded to tell me that my knowledge was a secret.  I wasn’t very good at keeping secrets back then.  Even with my secret knowledge, Santa continued to bring me lots of toys and stuff, and much more than he brought anyone else.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I’m not a Scrooge, and if anyone understands fantasy and imagination, it’s me.  Christmas is a magical time for little ones, filled with excitement and fun, that is, in our American culture.  What does the whole idea of Santa say to our children?  We tell our kids at the dinner table that there are starving kids in other countries and they had better eat everything on their plate, and yet if they behave, Santa will bring them everything they want at the end of the year.  I simply can’t feel good about this.  If Santa has enough resources to give us anything we want, then why doesn’t he help out with poverty?

My kids learned the truth very early this year.  Santa is not real, it’s your parents giving you the Christmas stuff.  Now my boys are very close in age, but polar opposites.  Cole sees everything in black and white, whereas Joe’s world is all delightful shades of gray.  When they learned of this news, my youngest Joe, pretended to not listen and carefully responded, not committing to this concept.  Maybe if he doesn’t accept it, then he’ll still get all the presents.  Cole, on the other hand, was extremely upset.  He said, “So, let me get this straight.  You’ve been lying to me this whole time?”  We had at least a half hour talk about why evil parents lie to their children about Santa.

After this very long and depressing conversation, I decided to take this opportunity to teach my kids about Santa.  Not the look-alike mall Santa, but the conceptual Santa.  It’s time to go from believing in Santa to being Santa.  Helping people in need is being Santa.  When my kids see Santa, the look-alikes or the flat wood cutouts in the neighbors yard, I want them to think of doing a random act of kindness or helping impoverished people.

Here’s the daily photo collection, yes, a collection of Santas.  I have to highlight one of these.

I like this one a lot because I took this photograph in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico… in May.  Santa must be hot in his winter clothing, but he still looks happy to be there.  If we think of Santa in a new way, then he is not just a Christmas figure, but a visual representation of goodwill, unity and inspiration.  I think the people in Mexico understand this concept already and we can learn a lot from them, as we always do on our trips to Casa Hogar Elim.

The rest of the photos?  I think they speak for themselves.  Oh, and remember, the ‘dead Santas’ were featured a few days ago.

Okay, I probably shouldn’t include this photo since I was people watching and secretly snapped this, but I just can’t help myself.  What was she thinking when she got dressed this morning?

Merry Christmas and enjoy it with a new vision.  No, I don’t mean this last photograph that is burned into your brain, I mean get outside yourself and your comfort zone.  Help others, not only this Christmas, but all year round.


17 days until Christmas…

It was clear to me this morning at 5:30am what I needed to write about, a new and unexpected Christmas cheer.  Yesterday’s schedule was filled with ‘tinselectomy‘ opportunities and I had an expectation of how each of them would play out.  I was so off base, but it made me understand how I and other people are experiencing a transformation to humble altruism.

Amy had a wonderful idea, to feed the guys in downtown Frisco, the men that are desperately looking for any available work to feed their families.  They stand outside the Exxon, rain or shine, and I know that because it was raining yesterday.  Amy posted this lunch idea on Facebook last week.  Nancy saw it, and loved the idea so much, she planned to do this.  It ended up that all three of us got together and prepared 30 lunches to take to these guys.

Our everyday beaten paths lead us down Main street regularly, enough to know that we would have enough lunches, but not enough to know if these guys would be outside in the very cold rain.   As we approached, they were there, all of them, scanning the passing cars with a hopeful look that someone would have a paid task for them.  As I drove into the parking lot, I didn’t even come to a stop before there were at least 12 men swarming around the car.  We had to wait for them to step away from the doors so we could get out to give them the lunch bags we had prepared.

As we passed out the lunch sacks, all of them were very polite and said “gracias”, Amy and I responded with “de nada”, one of the ten Spanish words we know.  Then Nancy starts having a conversation with them in Spanish.  Who knew?  Oh, she is SO going to Casa Hogar Elim soon!  Nancy was asking if they had any friends that were out on jobs or if anyone was inside, because we would leave lunches for them.  They were so happy to get the lunches and so polite, we had to persuade them to take extras or take some for their friends.  Most of them were well into their sandwiches before we drove out of the parking lot.

As it turns out, we had 5 lunch bags left over.  We drove over to the laundromat to see if there were any people over there that needed lunch.  We gave away a couple more, and as we walking out the door, we ran into another lady.  Nancy asked her if she would like a lunch.  She asked “¿Cuánto dinero?”  Of course, Nancy said it was free and explained what we were doing.  The conversation slowly transitioned from Spanish to English.  We only spoke with her briefly, but we got a chance to talk about church.  She is another one of those people I would have loved to have sat down and talked with.  I think at some point I’m going to go to the laundromat and do my laundry so I will have that opportunity.

Another Facebook thing, Jody (not me), who posted on the PTCC wall that she wanted to donate her hair to Pantene, a place making free wigs for women going through cancer treatments, got her hair cut yesterday.  Since I had done Locks of Love a while back, I wanted to go with her for support.  She was looking for other people to do this with her, and I would do this again, but my hair will have to grow for a long time before I have enough.  I was there while she got her hair cut.  She had the same look on her face that I did.  the ‘oh, crap, I’m really doing this’ look, with the undertone of ‘this is a great cause and so worth it’ look.  This is such an awesome thing to do.  If you’re interested in donating your hair, I will come support you too!  Steve Hodges is our resident expert on hair donation if you need someone to do it.

Finally, I had a photo shoot in downtown Dallas last night.  My expectation?  It’s downtown Dallas and surely I will run into some impoverished or homeless people.  I went down there with some envelopes with money in them, inside the envelopes, a message that God loves them.  I typically don’t like to give cash, because if they do have a drug problem or something like that, I don’t want to enable them.  I realized I have changed my view on that a little bit.  Even though I still believe the statement I just made, I also don’t want to be judgmental.  The cash might help someone get a much needed meal or get them closer to a shelter.  It’s been on my heart to start a program in Dallas, much like the Chicago Shares program, a voucher-based way to give, redeemable only for food and toiletries.

As it turns out, we ran into no impoverished or homeless people, but it did turn out to be a fun evening of photography and hanging out with some of my crazy friends.  If you think this picture is weird, then you probably don’t want to join our photography group.  If you like it, we do go out and play with our cameras on a regular basis.

My reality?  I was somewhat disappointed that I didn’t run into anyone I could help.  The disappointment was based on the knowledge that there are so many people that need help and I had a way to help, but no opportunity to do so.

The unexpected Christmas cheer, or we’ll call it another piece of the Christmas spirit, is encouragement.  I feel like God is leading me to get outside myself.  That’s not the easiest thing for me to do, or for anyone to do.  Well, maybe Mama Lupita, and we can all learn a lot from her.  I could blog all day long about this, but I have to go to work.  I do have one closing thought.  As I was walking home from taking my kids to school this morning, in the 24 degrees of bitter cold, I couldn’t help but think of all the homeless people that are out in this awful cold, all the people I didn’t run into last night.  I can’t even comprehend not having a warm house to go to or not having any other options than to be out in the piercing arctic cold.  I take my house for granted, but I walked into it this morning with a whole new appreciation.  How do I find these people in need and how can I help them?  I hope to answer that within my 25 days of Christmas blogging.


25 days until Christmas…

Only 24 more shopping days until Christmas!  Oh wait, maybe they’re actually going to open stores on Christmas now.  I feel awful for the retail workers.  Not only is this a crazy time of year for them, but they didn’t even get to enjoy Thanksgiving.  I know this, because I worked in retail for several years.  Doorbusters have been around for many years now, but as everything we do at Christmas, it has reached the point of ridiculousness.  If we can’t open earlier than the store down the street, than we’ll open the day before… Thanksgiving.

Let me just say I am all about getting a good deal.  Why can’t these stores just all give good prices and run some regular sales instead of creating mass chaos?  The stores are controlling people.  The stores decide when we shop, how we shop and what we buy.  And if Black Friday isn’t enough, we now have Cyber Monday.  UPS, get ready.

My 24 days left will be spent avoiding stores.  The few gifts I am buying were purchased at a local discount, hole-in-the-wall store.  Yes, they do still exist, but they aren’t easy to find.  I also made my one online purchase, the one gift my kids are getting besides their passports this year.  The gift was $19.95.  The rest of the money we would spend on Christmas?   It’s going to Casa Hogar Elim in Mexico, to the Sons of Lwala in Kenya and to some local compassion ministries in Frisco, Texas.  Have a tinselectomy!  I did.

Elizabeth and I found a new form of holiday entertainment, well, probably more like a hobby.  We went Santa shooting last weekend.  No, not with a gun silly, a camera.  We will be doing this throughout the ‘season’ and will share some photos with you!

This is our first find, and quite honestly, the most funny and somewhat disturbing.  I like to call ‘The Symmetrical Hazy Plastic People Nativity Scene with Flying Peanuts’.  Yes, because inflatables aren’t weird enough just sitting on the ground, let’s bungee it across the walkway so Charlie Brown and Snoopy can hoover over baby Jesus and hit people in the head if they come visit us.

If this is your house, and you’re reading my blog, just know that I also do some weird Christmas things, so don’t be offended.  We’re just having a little fun.  I use flamingos in my yard and I have a full size mannequin named Darla.

More Christmas fun tomorrow…


the storm

There were some really nice thunderstorms rolling into Nuevo
Laredo.  Yep, you guessed it, I had
to break out the camera.  I got
some great lightening shots.  God
put on an amazing show!

 

I had a few people ask, “How do you do that?”  It’s simple, really.  Place your camera on a tripod, place
the shutter in ‘bulb’ mode and be prepared to take a lot of photos.  You have to take into consideration the
light pollution that is in your area.
A one to two minute exposure is all I could do.  Then, just wait for God to shoot a lightening
bolt for you.  J

 

So to get the three photos below, I had to take about 20-25
photos.  The storms were pretty
active so I didn’t have to wait long.


light painting with the kids

I love it when I can share art with kids!  I am in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico at Casa Hogar Elim orphanage.  Last time I was here, we did photography light painting with the kids.  This time, I brought lots of flashlights for the kids to use, and with a supply of color gels to color the flashlights.

Not familiar with light painting?  Simple, and yet most cool process.  If you have an SLR, place it on a tripod and set the shutter on ‘bulb’.  Hold the shutter button down and have people ‘paint’ with the flashlights.  Anything that has light on it will show up in your photo.

The kids down here love to light paint.  When we break out the camera and flashlights, they know exactly what we’re doing.  They get so excited and like to see the photos right after we take them.  With that being said, I have to hold on tight to the camera because the stampede of children will come after every photo.  The excitement on their faces is awesome and it’s wonderful to watch them come up with creative ideas for the next shot.

Enough words.
Photos below.  J



crossing the border

I’m listening to the song Give Me Your Eyes by Brandon Heath
on the radio driving through Nuevo Laredo, Mexico.  That song is so touching and really about what I want to
accomplish in blogging about this trip.

This is my second trip down here, but before my first time,
I had heard so many stories about Casa Hogar Elim.  Anyone that had a story would say. “…you can’t put it into
words, you have to go down there to experience it.”

The best way I know how to communicate what an amazing
experience it is and how blessed I feel by being around these children is to
show photos and write a little bit about each one of them.

We are on our way to Laredo, TX to pick up a few pallets of
food donated to CHE.  They have a
storage facility there to accept and store donations.  It is quite a process to get the food across the border and
to hopefully not get taxed on it.

I’m writing this as we are in a caravan of four vehicles
going to Laredo.  JD just got
pulled over by the local police for speeding.  Anytime we see flashing lights down here, it’s a little
scary.  (that didn’t stop me from
taking a photo… will post as soon as I can download it from my camera)  Looks like it’s just a standard
speeding ticket thing.  The police
were not fans of all of us pulling over, so two vehicles left to cross the
border.  Still waiting to hear from
JD.


JESUS is everywhere

Wow.  I have thousands of stories from just 5 days.  Where to start…

Not only did we spend a lot of time at Casa Hogar Elim, many of us wandered out into the surrounding areas.  We went into “las colonias”, the local neighborhoods surrounding CHE, the middle school, a few stores and into the city.  I noticed a lot of graffiti on walls, but was surprised about the theme of it.  At first I thought it might be a random thing, but as I continued to look around, I saw the name Jesus a lot.  Now my first thought is that some guy named Jesus (he-sus) has way too much spray paint and he gets around.  Also, my lack of Spanish means I’m probably posting photos with no telling what on them, however these people worship Jesus all the time and He is in the forefront of their lives.
And as Sloan said in an earlier post, they love to know our names.  Not only do they want to know our names, but they write them down, like in this photo.  “Jesus te ama” is Jesus loves you.  This is one of many pieces of paper like this.

This other photo is of a chalkboard in one of the classrooms.  The kids love chalk!  Shortly after we arrived, the concrete was covered with chalk art, much of which had crosses, hearts and Jesus.  I haven’t even gotten to those photos yet.  They are absolutely beautiful.

All of this reminds me of a saying that is on my bathroom floor.  (Yes, I’m aware that is not normal and my bathroom floor is a whole other experience, but later…)  It says, “In America you’re seldom in a position where you NEED God.  It’s something that we need to experience – where we’re in a position where we have to actually TRUST God.”
I’ve been back a few days now and it’s difficult not to think about the experience of this trip every single minute.  I went down there to serve them, but that worked the other way around.  I think it was Elizabeth who had a Facebook update of being forever changed.  I don’t see how anyone could go there and not be forever changed.
Jody Wissing

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