A Culture Shock

I know, I know... What happened to my blog, right? It'll take time but I'll explain. To the people who follow my blog and ACTUALLY read this, thank you!!! It's incredibly encouraging to know that my friends and family care enough to stay posted.

Let's start the week before I left for Africa.

Tuesday morning my mom drove me into work. We stopped at McDonald's first so I could have my incredibly coveted SAUSAGE BISCUIT!!! Nom nom nom. You have to understand, my mom finds the smell of that immensely delectable biscuit absolutely revolting. For her it was an act of true love. So, I ate it fast with the window rolled down while she made dramatic gagging noises. The love of a mother :P. When we rolled up to the YDI doors she insisted on walking me inside to put my lunch away. I saw her begin to tear up as I walked her back to the car. This was bigger than, "my baby is going to Africa without me!" This was a serious reflection on everything we'd been through this past year, the past five years, even my life! My mom is more than my mom. She's the best friend I'll ever have. The only person I trust with my life. She's sacrificed everything for me, even given up her dreams to give me everything. I'll never know anyone like her ever again. After many tears and, "one last hug" about five times, she drove away. That weekend Jazz was graduating and we both agreed that was something she couldn't miss. I wouldn't be able to go and make it home on time so I'd pack and prepare for Africa on my own. No biggy, right?

I had NO IDEA.

After packing and unpacking and packing and unpacking...etcetera...I completed my rough draft packing job. A few days before we left I had a few well-organized people double check my luggage before I was satisfied. Pretty much every time I've traveled ANYWHERE my mom has always been there to "just make sure" I'm ready. I'd always found that to be IMMENSELY annoying but when it came time I really wished she was there to be so inconvenient! I know she's going to read this and say "I TOLD YOU SO". Yeah, she did.

Before I knew it, Tuesday night was present-tense and I was terrified. I didn't feel prepared AT ALL. My list was complete, my bags packed, money and important papers all where they were supposed to be. But I didn't feel prepared at all! I thought that maybe going to bed early would get rid of the pre-travel jitters but to no avail. Alas, I didn't get to sleep until five AM! That NEVER happens to me. Ever. I love to sleep.

Wednesday morning I was running back and forth across the village saying goodbye to so-and-so and grabbing last minute stuff. The hardest goodbye was probably Janelle's. She had stayed up WAY past bedtime listening to me ramble on and on nervously. Janelle is the closest thing I've ever had to a little sister. I hadn't seen our similarities until recently but she had always referred to me as her 'big sister'. I think that (given all the things her family has been through recently) even though I'm so far away we're closer than ever. I finally squished into the back of Marlene's truck and set off on my way to the Nashville airport.

Like the predictably careful mother she is, my mom called every half hour for updates. I finally called her for the last time in Chicago. We had six hours to wait until our plane would take us to Turkey. A ten and a half hour flight later we were in Turkey! I'm sure most of you have seen my vlogs and if not...SHAME ON YOU. So, I'm just gonna fast-forward to getting to the house.

I'm not really one to get carsick, in fact I NEVER get carsick but the driving experience from Nairobi to Nakuru (which is roughly the distance from Selmer to Nashville) definitely made me carsick. I'd never been on roads so bumpy in my life, and I hope never to again. Potholes are common, frequent, and most of them are at least a couple feet deep. Bleh.

The first few days were pretty busy with shopping for everything we needed and over the following week I learned some things that might help the next person traveling to a foreign country.

1) If the plug doesn't look like it's gonna fit, don't try it anyway.

2) When in the shower, never use your WET hand to switch the hot water flip.

3) NEVER go in the living room at night IF the lights have been turned off.


A. Don't leave your shoes in the living room for Ms. Yash to use for her exterminating excursions.

B. If the former is inevitable, DO NOT inspect the bottom of your shoe the following day.

5) Don't fall asleep in a van with a metal pole in front of you. CLANG!

6) Don't feed the monkeys.

7) Never sit under a tree full of monkeys.

I'll explain rule number two. The shower here works like a normal shower, only that there's only cold water and in order to get any hot water you have to flip a switch and leave it for thirty seconds before it serves scalding hot water. My first shower resulted in a swift shock and scream.

That's pretty much all I have time for now! I'll blog some more later but right now I got to go pack...to leave! I know, I'm an awful blogger :P

I love you all and miss you SO much! I'll be home the 21st, so text or call me when I get back!

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He Always Will

Hey everybody! Since there's a lot of ground to cover (I've been an awful blogger :P) I'm just going to put it all out there. Sorry if it comes out a little blunt.

First thing, my father called. Perfect timing, right? No. For those of you reading who don't know, about two or three months ago I began looking for my father. He has a long criminal record (all theft or fraud) and therefore wasn't incredibly difficult to find. My mother soon came in contact with his parole officer who promised to pass along my message of interest in meeting him and our number. That was quite a while ago. Everything is different and therefore EVERYTHING about this is inconvenient. Eek. Through corresponding with his wife (oh yeah, he has a family) I found out they have two boys named Tristan Cole and Billy Drake, who are six and five. OK. This is way too much to process. Maybe I'll say more on that later. So, maybe sometime soon I'll buck up the courage to go meet him. I can't say I'm entirely sure I want to before I go to Africa but I think it's probably wise so please keep this in your prayers.

Now, for the good stuff! Mom has settled in well here at home, especially since we had a hospital bed, mini fridge, and multiple rails installed for safety. On a regular basis she had a nurse and physical therapist visit for check-ups and rehabilitating exercises but they are all done and she is doing much better. All of these things have been crucial to her recovery. Being the spunky person that she is, it was hard to get used to the fact that even a small amount of activity could exhaust her. So, trips to Wal-Mart and such for prescriptions take their toll. She has made the most of this opportunity to improve on her head dress collection and now has a large variety of scarves, headbands, hair flowers and such. I can't say I'm at all put put out about these things covering one wall of our bathroom either!!! She knows how to share...

Almost six weeks ago mom started radiation therapy. This can definitely make those who are treated tired, cranky, and sometimes leave a sunburn-like feeling. She has had treatment every day Monday-Friday in Jackson for six weeks and experienced all of these symptoms. It is entirely due to our amazing friends and family that she can make it to Jackson so often. Thank you! The hardest part of the treatment was hair-loss. I've always envied my mom's hair (red hair has way too many superstitions linked to it, like "all redheads are heartless" WWHHAATTT!!!) so embracing the bob, then the crop cut look was a little difficult. especially since I knew how much she didn't want it to go. Almost the entire top half of her hair had fallen out when she got the second haircut. I know it's just hair, but then again, it's not. My mom cracks jokes all the time about her hair or 'the stars in my head' and sometimes I just wish I could be laughing because I think it's funny. But I'm not. I laugh because if I don't I'll cry.

In the beginning it seemed like the worse my mother got, the worse I became inside. I felt shallow and empty all the time. It wasn't helpful to have people tell me "God has a plan". Inside I was screaming back, "AND I DON'T CARE!!!" I can understand if you think that made me a very selfish and narrow-minded person, because that's exactly what I was at the moment, but what could make someone think I wanted to be part of God's agenda? More than anything in the world I needed someone to tell me, "He's going to get you through this. He loves you both and He will always be by your side"

Somehow, long ago when I thought my life was already hard and was constantly turning to God for what I now see as petty struggles, I was convinced that my faith could get me through anything. That I would always know God was there for me. Life got harder and I didn't. I grew calloused and angry and I didn't see it that way at all. Having someone tell me that He was with me even though I was rejecting any connection with Him was far more helpful a thought than any confirmation that I was part of 'the big picture'. I needed Him to be personal and help me through the rough day-to-day stuff that we would have coming for a long time. Guess what people? HE DID! He did, and He always will. It took far too long for me to realize this, and the results weren't immediate (what is :P) but in the end it was true.

Back to Mom. A few weeks ago we went to the opera! I would especially like to thank Becky, without whom we wouldn't have gone. Just before her surgery my mother found out that Locks of Love had a special offer of trading opera tickets for hair. Since we had missed our opportunity to go to the opera while in Kansas City she thought this was a perfect opportunity. So, she cut her hair. Afterwards we were having a difficult time getting the ponytail to Memphis. Becky apparently heard about our dilemma, cut her hair, and sent us the tickets. On receiving the tickets with Becky's little note Mom promptly teared up. Becky had truly acted out of love and we'll never forget it. The sacrifice didn't stop there! We then had to figure out how we would get to Memphis and back and the last thing she wanted was to let me drive to Memphis and back late at night. Jim and Nora just happened to be going on the same night as us but also had plans to go van shopping earlier in the day. Only minutes after I explained our situation I received a message from them stating they had cancelled the van plans and fully intended to take us out to dinner before the show! Again, amazing love.

I don't even know how to begin thanking the village for everything they've done for us. My mom has said before how grateful she is for God's grace in this situation. Her cancer could have surfaced years ago but that wouldn't have been the time or place she needed. She believes it showed up when it did because God made sure we would be taken care of, and that's exactly what happened. I know He hasn't done that for everybody, I've seen a lot of sad and lonely people with cancer over the past couple months, but I thank God He did it for us. I have so much to be grateful for.

I apologize for not blogging sooner and more frequently! I'll try much harder to blog more. The next big adventure in my life... AFRICA!

To be continued...

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Hospital Pictures

Mommy gettin her marshmallow-head bandage off.

Almost getting it off!!!
After the surgery.

Yvonne and I went out a few days ago and bought about twelve new scarves.

She looks FaBuLoUs don't you think?

Me and Jazz at the hospital..yes, we're feeling a little spastic...

She's so cute when she's asleep!

First day out of ICU.

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Did You Know That I Love The Stars?

It's true. I love the stars and anything about them. Much to my roommate's chagrin I cover my wall or ceiling with glow in the dark stars and hang all kinds of star related pieces of art on my walls. Every day I wear the silver necklace my mother gave me with an enscripted star charm and every art project I did my sophmore year was star themed. There's something so completely eternal and ethereal about the stars.

Here is what you might not know. My mother, my wonderful, beautiful, graceful, and faithful mother, has recently been diagnosed with brain cancer. More specifically, Astrocytoma.

  • Astrocytomas arise from small, star shaped cells called astrocytes. They may grow anywhere in the brain or spinal cord. In adults, astrocytomas most often arise in the cerebrum. In children, they occur in the brain stem, the cerebrum, and the cerebellum.

I don't care to list details, so for anyone who wants to, here is the link to astrocytoma. In the article the different grades of the disease are listed. My mother has grade two astrocytoma. In two to four weeks she'll start radiation therapy. It's no picnic but I thank God every day it isn't chemo.

  • http/://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/astrocytoma

Looking at these results had two effects on me. The first was a silent giggle. My friends would have understood why I was slightly delighted with this form of cancer, though my present company of solemn relatives definitely wouldn't have understood.

The second, complete numbness. When I say numb I mean the feeling that I still have often. Nothing excites me. Nothing makes me smile or cry. I can't feel. Somehow I became empty inside, as though in order to preserve my sanity my brain shut off emotion. It comes and goes and I almost like life better when it comes. I swore to myself that even though my family is infamous for uncontrollable emotion I wouldn't cry. At least not when anyone could see. The last thing my family needed was one more weeping woman. I wouldn't do it. It didn't matter though. No matter how hard I tried to mask it, she always saw straight through. A few days after the surgery my mom pulled me aside. "You're my brave girl. My good, brave girl and I love you but you have to swear t me that you'll let it all go. This will eat at your soul, Chloe. Promise me you'll freak out and throw your tantrum and cry when you're alone. You're a good girl for being strong but I know what you're doing." I don't think I'll ever know why she is as intuitive as she is.

When I came to hospital, straight from my flight from California, my mother was surrounded by friends, glowing and smiling. it wasn't until much later that she told me why she was so happy. A doctor (if I ever met him I'd probably say something I'd regret) suggested that the strange mass they had found in her brain while doing an MRI was possibly Melanoma that spread to her brain. Melanoma in the brain normally leaves the subject with four to twelve months to live. "I began to go into hysteria, begging God," she said, "My argument was a good one too. I told Him that four to twelve months wasn't nearly enough time for a graduation, a passage, a marriage, and grandchildren. Definitely not enough. I'd be sewing from dawn 'til dusk! Can you imagine? And then there's the whole deal of getting you married off so young... It Just wasn't enough time!"

That, my friends, is who my mother is. From the moment she even thought she was sick she did everything in her power to keep me from finding out anything was wrong. When that proved futile (secrets don't survive long in our habitat) her never failing concern for leaving me was all she talked about. "I'm not afraid to die. The only thing I could ever be afraid of is leaving and losing you." That is my mother. Incredible and unfailing love.

Quite honestly I wouldn't be blogging if it weren't for my mom. Despite everything that's come her way she has constantly insisted that I carry on with everything I've ever done. Every meeting, gathering, blog post, travel plans and anything else I might have been doing if nothing had happened. That's who she is. Her and my life have taken a mind-blowing turn and she will continue to carry on with her head held high. For her, I must try to do the same.

I am quite aware of her limit. She knows I am. I live life from one event to the next and I constantly manage my time so it would only be natural for me to question her limit. "Time is so far outside God that it doesn't even matter, baby. It's not real and it can never measure how much time I have with you. You know how real stars are heavy and pull everything toward them? This is just like that. It'll take everything from you if you let it. It'll suck it all away. Don't let it and don't let go."

Please forgive me for writing such a scattered blog but that's how my brain is right now. I'm sure as the weeks progress I'll warm up.

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Almost Over

Dear Friends,

Our guests are finally here! After three days of driving they finally came to stay for a total ten days, though I only get to be with them for one :(! All of the boys were in a great flutter to get to them first, piling on one after another to squeeze them. After our dinner of taco salad (poor Papa Shammah, he's had taco salad at the last three houses for dinner! Eek :P) they all got settled and went to bed early. I, due to lack of space and the fact I'm only going to be here for one more day, moved out to the couch. Bleh. I did get a pleasant surprise (in blessed ignorance) when I found out the couch was a pull-out and I actually got the queen size bed! Not the slumber party I had planned...my back is paying for that 'blessed ignorance' now! I think tonight I'll sleep straight on the couch.

I can't believe I've already been here for two weeks! And then...I can. It seems like I was just beginning to get in the swing of things, to really get close to David and Ari, and now it's time to go home. On the other side I miss everyone so much. I don't think I'll ever take having people my age around for granted...EVER AGAIN! I've never actually been homesick before,ever, until now. I guess it's because I've never been this far from home! Don't ask me what I'm going to do in Africa...

AFRICA! I finally have the set dates to announce for when I will be in Africa...drum roll please...a little more suspense so you'll actually miss me...and more ellipsis just to be annoying... The dates are June 15th - July 20th! I am incredibly thrilled and blessed to be going on a trip like this (though I have to admit, after all the begging and bribing I did to get six weeks vs four, I am a little jealous!). I don't think it was until the dates were set that I realized just how scared I am. I would never, ever, EVER think of backing out but I can't help but come up with the worse case scenarios. I mean, look at what I did my first day in California! Think of all the things I could do in a completely different country! Eek. I could definitely use all of your prayers.

For some time now I have been begging all greater powers that be to let my layover during our flight be in Paris, France. I mean, Noah Pavao got his layover in Paris AND ON HIS BIRTHDAY! He's not the one who's been studying French for THREE YEARS. Hmph. SoOoOoO, I was almost positive I would get the same, but, alas, our layover will be in Istanbul, Turkey! Wow! That's...awesome, on so many levels (except the one I put France on..one day...one day)!

Tomorrow I leave at the crack of dawn, 4:30 AM, though David so pleasantly reminded me that 4:3o is before the crack of dawn. Thanks David. I'll have him know that he's the one paying for my early departure, since he's driving. Oh, sure I'm a morning person (from hours 10 AM on and only if I had decent sleep the night before). Muahahaha. I have a total of eight hours flight time, with a two hour layover in San Antonio, then a three hour drive home from Nashville so I should be back at around 8 PM. Can't wait to be home!!! Love you all so much, though that almost matches how much I am going to miss all my favorite little boys. :'(

All my love,


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More Pics!


All the best boys.

Ari's front yard is FULL of these huge shamrocks. Happy St. Patrick's!

Me and the CUTEST baby EVER!

Helpin' me cook dinner!

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A Real Family

Amis les plus chers!

My dearest friends,

Today Ariel came home! After consistent questioning through breakfast, school, lunch, and chores of, "Now? Is she getting here now?" David and I finally piled all the boys into the van and took off for the airport. Even as we sat below the escalator (where she was bound to come down) they were all incredibly antsy in their seats! When she appeared the boys dove for the baby, who giggled and squealed in response. It was really good to see Ari home, though she's a Hartle girl through and through so she threw herself into tasks rather than taking a nap when I asked her to :P. I stood a little away from them so I could get pictures of the happy moment. Watching them all so happy to be together again was one of the sweetest things I've ever seen.

Best of all, now that Ari is home I get RIVER!!!! Oh yes, he deserves MANY exclamation marks, hehe. AND I have the full advantage of being the only person around him who he isn't related to. I think I'm going to like this! David and Ariel are definitely what I would describe as a real family. Things get messy, grumpy, goofy, and sometimes altogether exhausting but all the time they care for one another and love each other immensely.

I never actually finished wrapping up the grand events that took place before Ari came home so I'll finish up now. Like I said, getting into routine wasn't that hard but Saturday proved to be the challenge by far. Around dinner time on Saturday I started feeling pretty whoozy and tired. David had offered to take me and the boys to the skate park but they ended up going without me once I felt so tired. My eyelids felt like lead and eating looked like a punishment. Once I set out dinner I decided to take a nap. "Just for a little bit", I told myself.

Do you know that strange feeling you get when you lay down and it's just about to get dark? There's still enough light to call it day but it's slipping. Then, you wake up maybe only an hour or two later and the sky looks like one big blue and purple bruise. You suddenly feel like you've slept the whole day away. This feeling was much worse. I woke up, so sure that no time at all had passed when bright, glaring numbers, '2:30 AM', flashed on my phone screen. I realized that all my limbs hurt and my nerves were acting as though I had slept with my finger in a socket. I knew this couldn't be good.

The next morning I told David and was soon sent back to bed. What was I going to do if I got the kids sick? Wouldn't that be grand! Come all this way to take care of them and then, figuratively, lay them on their death beds. Yee-haw. I had no idea what I was in for. For those of you who don't know, Ariel is a devoted health advocate and David proved she had trained him THOROUGHLY. I was made to drink a tall glass of water every hour (hydration is not my forte), take a list of herbs that could cleanse a small country, and drink some vitamin concoction that was so sour I was sure my face would turn inside-out. Then there was debating whether or not food was a necessity ( I won, of course ;) Oh yes, I was going to get better. If the strict regiment of oral punishment wouldn't do it, I would at least have to pretend I was better!

David and the boys left later that day for a meeting and, I admit, it wasn't until they were gone that I realized everything he had done that day. David had done all the cooking, cleaning, house control, and managed to make time for my needs as well. Not once had he made me feel as though I had put them at any inconvenience. I believe that's when I realized why David and Ari were so perfect for what they're doing here in California. No matter what trouble gets in their way, they take it in stride and continue to be kind and considerate. That's such a big part of what God wants us to do with our lives and they're a great example. This family is becoming more and more dear to me, which will only make it all the harder when I have to leave them!

Please keep Ari and David in your prayers, also the little boys love getting letters from home if you can spare the time. Ah, news! Abba, Amma, Shammah, and Channah are all expected to be here Monday night! I'm sure we're going to have a BLAST!

All my love,

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