Saturday, December 20, 2008

My family!!!

I am the luckiest girl in the world. I know I might be kind of partial but I have the greatest family.

My brothers are funny, kind, and willing to give me (and have given me) anything I need. They've given up their home, their car, their time, their money, their children, and their love for me more times that I could ever remember. I want to thank you, my dear brothers, for your love. You all mean the world to me and I want you to know how much I love you.

My brother's wives are even better than my brothers. I know those boys wouldn't be half of who they are if it weren't for the three of you. Thank you for always caring about me and the drama in my life. I wish I lived closer to you. I love you.

My sister's husbands deserve medals for having to put up with the extension of their wife (that would be me). They had no idea when they married my sister's that I came with the package. They have taken such good care of me and have come to my aid over and over again. One time I mentioned to Rick that something was wrong with my bike. Two minutes later he was outside fixing the problem. I'm not even sure I asked him to look at it. He just did it. As an old single woman it sure is nice having Rick and Jake around whenever I need to be rescued. Thank you for taking care of me and for allowing me to be such a big part of your family.

My Dad (sure is hard to write this with all the tears blurring my vision) is the world's greatest Dad. He is my voice of reason. When I need good sound advice I call my Pops. He keeps me sane and has the ability to help me see that everything is going to work out. We went to lunch the other day and I realized that I truly am my father's daughter and for that I am very grateful. He is a good man and has taught me how to live a good life. Thank you for everything Pops, I love you.

My mom, although her presence is greatly missed, I feel like she has never left my side.

My nieces and nephews are the sunshine of my life, all thirteen of you. I wish there was some way for me to show you how much you mean to me. You bring me more joy than you could ever know. Your smiles, your laughs, your sweet little voices and really deep voices, your hugs and kisses, your constant desire to play, your never ending love has made my life so full. Thank you for your unconditional love. Thank you for your resilience. Thank you for lighting up every time you see me. I miss you the most when I am in Africa. I miss you the most when I'm anywhere but with you. I love you and always look forward to any opportunity I have to be in your presence.

My sisters...well...let's just say I will never be able to repay them for all they've given me. They are incredible examples to me. They are what I want to be like when I grow up. I couldn't live this life without them. They truly are my right and left arms. Their selflessness amazes me. They know every little tiny detail about my entire life and never complain when I'm sharing it with them. They are the official removers of DDD. They are the first phone call I ever make. They are my security. They know me better than anyone and their love never stops. I have shared the happiest and hardest times of my life with them. I don't know how I was so blessed to have two of God's greatest masterpieces as my sisters. Heid and Steph, you'll never know how much you mean to me but I'll spend the rest of my life trying to show you. I love you!!!

To my dear sweet family, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas. I wish there were better words to use to thank you for what you have all given me. Bette Midler says it best, you truly are the wind beneath my wings :) I love you all!!!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Time for a new post!

The thing is, I'm just not a very good picture taker. I would love to be better at documenting my life but I'd rather just live the moment than worry about remembering it. This inability to be a good photographer has led to the lack of postings on my blog. Nobody wants to read a blog without pictures. So I've come up with a few fun pictures to help create a new post. Mostly, I should be writing a paper right now about teacher directed vs student centered teaching practices. Would you rather blog or right a paper about that? Seriously!

Morning commute:

The other morning I stopped to take a picture of my morning commute to work (please refer to the above paragraph whenever you feel the desire to critique my photos).


There's nothing like watching the sunrise, looking past a bird refuge, with the silhouette of Mt Hood. It almost makes going to work everyone morning worth it.

Birthdays:

We've had fun celebrating Abbie and Jaxon's birthdays. Any excuse to have a party. We made Graham Cracker Castles for Abbie's birthday. Nothing better than graham crackers with frosting and lots and lots of candy.

Trip to Utah:

No pics of this but it was sure a fun trip. Thanks again Miriam for making it happen. I sure love being with those brother's of mine and their sweet little children. Can't wait to see you again at Christmas.

Halloween:

I love Halloween with the nieces and nephews. A friend of mine said it best when he said, "Halloween is much better when you have kids." Amen to that. We trick-or-treated for almost three hours, all five adults and six children. Sage was a die hard. Abbie was intense. Connor was content. Emily was just along for the ride. Jaxon didn't have a choice. Holly just needed a sucker in her mouth at all times. Rick pushed the stroller. Heidi smiled and tried to make everyone happy even if we never found the full size candy bars that we were promised. Stephanie had a nice butt in those foxy pants. I made sure everyone got candy. And finally Jake...you haven't experienced trick or treating until you've done it with Jake. He DOESN'T MESS AROUND. If there's a door to be knocked he'll knock it. He takes Jaxon by the hand and runs to every door on the street. He is the most driven trick or treater I have ever met. He brings a whole new dimension to the activity and I love it! Thanks for making it so fun.

Creativity is not a gift I was blessed with. The only reason I continue to move to different states and different schools is so that I don't have to come up with another Halloween costume. Hence the reason why I have to move to Africa next year. The Zambians will love it. This year I dressed up as...

(These are the only two roommates I've had while I've been in Oregon. Aren't they just adorable?)

St Helens:

I've been wanting to hike St Helens ever since I moved to Oregon. I finally had the opportunity at the end of September. The whole weekend was a blast. I laughed the entire way down (going up was a different story). The girls were served breakfast in bed because it was too cold to get out of our sleeping bags. It's nice to be spoiled every once in a while. There's nothing like the feeling you get after summiting a mountain.


Sunday, September 21, 2008

End of Summer Fun

After I got back from Africa I made a list of all the things I needed to get done in the near future. I've managed to cross a few things off the list but every time I look at it I see the word...BLOG! So I started this blog about the women in Africa over a month ago and I just can't seem to complete it. It's hard to explain how incredible these women are so I've decided to continue to postpone the women of Africa post and move on to something not as heavy. Here's a little recap into the post-Africa, pre-job life of Heather Raddatz.

The adjustment from Zambia to America was a little more difficult this year than it has been in years past. I spent the rest of my summer with my family trying my best to feel comfortable in my American skin.

The first fun event was Stephanie's play. My sisters are amazing. Stephanie has performed on a number of occasions and I have been fortunate enough to attend most of these events. I know I may be biased but my sister has, hands down, the most incredible voice of anyone I've ever heard. It is such a delight to listen to her sing. She performed as Nephi's wife in the play "With Mine Own Hand." It was fabulous.

(Stephanie thinks the blue headband in the picture below is too big. I totally disagree.)
Second big adventure was a trip to Crater Lake with my pops, Steph, and her two adorable children. It was a quick two day trip and well worth the drive and all the exciting drama.


The following weekend was Hood to Coast. I should be writing a whole blog about H2C adventures. Let's just say I was on the greatest team of all time. (For those of you who read this blog and were on my team from last year, please disregard that last statement.) There's just something about being in a suburban rather than a car that makes the whole Hood to Coast experience much more pleasant.
(Please take note that I am the only one without a medal. Apparently, the slowest person on the team is not rewarded with such an honor.)
(I love this picture of tiny Heidi in front of these big burly men. It makes her look so tough.)


After Hood to Coast I had the great pleasure of watching my sister's kids while she and her husband celebrated their tenth anniversary kayaking on the Puget Sound. That might sound fun except for the fact that it was freezing cold the whole time they were there. They should have stayed home and played with us. We had much more fun.

Took a trip to the OMSI for free (anything for free is fantastic).


Played at the castle park. Okay, let's be honest, I sat on the bench and yelled at the kids to keep their eye on Holly so she didn't fall and crack her head open. But look everyone is smiling, almost.
Then we went bowling. This picture is classic. Depicts our time at the bowling alley perfectly. I sure do love these kids. They are just a bundle of joy. Sure wish my siblings would go away more often. There's nothing more fun than playing mom for the weekend. Love it.
I also visited with a dear family from my mission. Sure love those Spradlin's, they've always treated me like gold.


And after all that...school started...and...the fun stopped.
Okay, not really. The fun continues but I don't have any more pictures to prove it. We did have a wonderful b-day party for Heidi, went on a fun camping trip with the fam, and I've had a blast playing with all my wonderful Oregon friends. Life is good!!!
And finally, one of the greatest battle wounds of all time. Isn't it a beauty? Wish I could make the picture a little bigger and some how make it look like there's a lot more blood gushing down my leg. Sigh...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

What do you do when you're hungry?

I miss my kids in Africa. I feel compelled to write more stories about them. I'm not sure why but the feeling just won't go away. I talked to a few of the kids this morning and it almost felt like I was right there with them. I got to talk with Dala for the first time in over a year. It was such a treat.

Here's a few pics of Dala.

I want to share a little story about one of the boys at the orphanage. His name is Choolwe and he comes from a sibling group of five. Dala is his older brother, Lwendo is his younger brother, and his sisters are Nchimunya and Mwiza. Choolwe's father passed away when he was very young and he was abandoned by his mother who was unfit to care for so many children after their father's death. He has a lot of depth and has related some incredible dreams about his father.
Choolwe is the comedian of the bunch. One evening he put these sassy little shoes on and walked all over the house. It was hilarious. Love this kid.

On the way to school one day the kids were asking me a bunch of questions that all started with, "In America, do you have (fill in the blank)?" I almost felt guilty telling them about how much we do have. Their eyes got real big when I would tell them stories of America. Then Choolwe says, "Auntie Heather, what do you do when you're hungry?" What an odd question to ask. It caught me off guard because, honestly, I couldn't remember the last time I felt hunger. I told him that my stomach growls a lot but he wasn't satisfied with that answer. Again he asked, "but what do you do when you're hungry?" At this point I'm racking my brain trying to remember the last time I felt hunger and fast Sunday's came to mind. We had a little conversation about fast Sunday and not eating and that seemed to appease him for the moment.
We walked in silence for a bit as I pondered his question. Then I asked Choolwe what he did when he was hungry. His response was profound and as usual with these incredible children taught me a powerful lesson. He said, "I PRAY." I've thought a lot about those two words. This sweet little boy knows more about what it feels to be hungry than I will ever come close to feeling. He and his siblings have suffered a great deal and what does he do when life is hard?...he turns to God. Choolwe goes directly to the source that will bring him the peace and comfort he is searching for. I have found that here in America I have so many distractions that keep me from turning to God first. I take every detour there is to take and then when I have exhausted all my resources I turn to God and the peace that I have been searching for comes instantly. Then why do I waste so much time getting there? Who knows? But I'm trying to do better and I'm grateful for a wonderful boy who taught me how easy it is to turn to God FIRST in times of need.
Choolwe is the best dancer of all the kids at the orphange. This video doesn't do it justice but here's a little peek at his talent. He's the one with the green chatenge.

video
One more funny thing about this wonderful child. He is the official bum smeller at the house. Whenever anyone puffs (passes gas) all the kids wave their hand in front of their nose and say "bad air". Then Choolwe goes around and smells everyones bums to find out the source. Once the person is discovered everyone in the room says "bad manners" to the offender and we all laugh. Fortunately, I was never caught by the bum smeller.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Women of Zambia...or should I say My Sista's

I almost don't feel worthy to write this next post. How will I ever come close to describing how wonderful the women of Zambia are?

When I talk about the people of Africa I speak often of the depth of their souls. These women have been blessed with spirits that can soothe, uplift, love, and bless the lives of many, mine especially. The stories of their lives deserve more than a few sentences in this blog but it certainly is a start.

MABLE and MIRIAM

I can't describe the feelings that I have for these beautiful women. They truly are my sista's. This summer was the first time I met them. They were sitting on the blocks sorting through beans for dinner. I walked up to them, sat down, and starting sorting with them. Their english is very poor so we mostly just laughed. We sat there for about fifteen minutes and I immediately felt an unexplainable bond. How can I have so much love for these women who I just met and I can't even speak with? I told them I loved them and then I had to go.

A few weeks later we went back to the New Land and I was so excited to see my sister's again. Unfortunately, they had gone to town and wouldn't be back until later that afternoon. A few hours later I saw them come walking up the road. When they saw me they immediately started chanting "Nikokonda, Nikokonda". We embraced and then proceeded to have an afternoon that was a tender mercy from the Lord. We laughed, loved, sang, danced, and laughed some more. My heart has never been so full. It's moments like these that remind me of why I will always return to Zambia.

KATHERINE and HELGA



These are the women that I lived with over the summer. They are so good to me. They took such good care of me while I stayed at the CRC. They let me use their super clean bathroom which was a great blessing because the other bathrooms are SCARY!!!

The picture above shows a typical day at the farm. Just chillin' outside watching the kids, making baskets out of corn husks, laughing, and chatting about who knows what. They taught me over and over about the importance of finding joy in the simple things. They also taught how important it is to take time to just be.

The other day I talked to Katherine who said to me, "You are my sunshine!" Heid and I decided that we're going to start telling people that they are our sunshine. Why not? It certainly made me happy.




FAITH and FAGNESS




Faith taught me the importance of gratitude. We threw a baby shower for her the second summer I was there. After we opened gifts and played games she stood in the middle of the circle and proceeded to thank us all for everything we had done for her. Faith is beautiful, soft spoken, and kind.
Fagness never stops working. She was my laundry salvation. I would start my wash in hopes that Fagness would take over and she eventually would. She never complains about anything. She taught me about the importance of turning to the Lord for everything. She told us about a time in her life where there wasn't enough food for her and her family. They would ration and only end up eating every three days. During the times when she wasn't eating she would turn to the Lord and lean on him for help and support. A remarkable woman with incredible wisdom and strength.
SAMPA, IRENE, and MAVIS



If it weren't for Sampa I would be skinny. She fixes the best meals for us every night. Mavis is the seamstress and Irene does all the house work.
CHARITY and JOSEPHINE


Sunday, August 10, 2008

Their stories to tell.

"How was Africa?"

The question that haunts me.

My reply, "It was wonderful. It's my favorite place in the world."

And with that response I quickly turn the conversation away from me. The reason...when I really stop to think about that question my heart grows heavy. There's a weight upon me that I either try to ignore or wait to share at the appropriate time and place. Is blogging the appropriate time or place to help lift the burden? To ease the troubled heart? And whose heart am I trying to ease? My own? The children of Zambia? The women of Africa? The sorrow and suffering of human kind?

My head has a hard time grasping it all but I feel in my heart that "their" stories need to be told. I want the people of America to know their brothers and sisters across the world. I want them to feel of their goodness and love. Most importantly, I want them to know, as do the Zambians, the love of God for all His children.

The first story I'd like to share is that of my sweet boy Evans.
Well I actually have two boys, Dala and Evans, but Dala's story is to tender for my heart to handle at this time. I will save his story for another time. Here are some pictures of both my boys.

I met Evans in the summer of '06 and I instantly fell in love with his beautiful smile and his outgoing, loving personality.

I had the privilege of being with him again in the summer of '07 where I received one of the greatest blessings of my life. It came when Evans was turning me into a Zambian by placing black soot all over my face.
As he was preparing the face paint he said to me, "Auntie Heather, Auntie Heather, I need to tell you something." I, of course, was eager to hear what he had to say. The words that came from his mouth have changed my life. He said, "You love me like my mommy did." At which point I broke down and gave Evans the biggest hug. No one but my Heavenly Father could ever know what hearing those words meant to me. I too, like Evans, have lost my mother and have yearned for the love of a mother. I have also yearned for the desire to mother. I realized that Heavenly Father has not denied me that opportunity, as a matter of fact, he has given me more opportunities to mother than most women have. I know how it feels to be a mother. I truly love Evans as is he were my own son, which is why his is the first story to tell.
.
He was born sixteen years ago. He was the youngest in a family of 8 children. He has no memory of his father and his mother died when he was five. He went to live with his brother who was unable to take care of him. At the age of 8 or 9 he went looking for a job to help buy food hor himself and his brother he was staying with. He found a job herding cattle in the bush. His stories of this time in the bush with the cattle were frightening and it made me wish for children's rights in Africa. His job as a cattle herder ended when thieves came and stole some of the cows. When the owner's found out they took Evans to the police to report him for losing the cattle. At which point the police told the owner that he should not be hiring children and the case was dismissed.
.
After this Evans went to live with another brother who was also unable to take care of his needs. Mothers without Borders learned about Evans when it was discovered that he was living in a chicken coop with his brother and his brother's girlfriend. What??? A chicken coop? He was found at the age of 12 and was promptly brought to the CRC (the orphanage) where he lived and was well taken care of for the next four years.
.
In April of this year he was reintegrated back into a home with his brother. The circumstances are not ideal and have been the result of many tears on my part, but he has a couch to sleep on in a tiny little house, food to eat for most meals, rabbits to love and care for, a great attitude, and still that beautiful smile.
.
The first picture below is of the new cage he built for his rabbits. He was so proud of his cage. I spoke with him a few nights ago and he now has 11 rabbits to play with. Pretty soon he's going to need a bigger cage. The last picture is of his brother, sis-in-law, and nephew in front of their home. Please take note of the sugar cane in our hands, a must in Zambia.



Here are some pics of me and Evans with Auntie Heidi. Heidi fell in love with Evans the minute she met him and almost in the same instant realized the need to support Evans in school so he can receive a real education. We've decided that for now the best place to send him is to a boarding school in Zambia. We're hoping that he'll start at his new school in January. I am so grateful for my sweet sister and for her ability to see things that I'm to blind to see. It was such a blessing having her in Africa with me.

Here's a funny video of the boys practicing their drumming on a Sunday afternoon with lollipops in their mouth. Evans is the drummer with the brown hoodie on.
video

There is so much more to tell about this sweet little boy but will end the story for now. I will forever be grateful for my Evans. He is one of the greatest blessings of my life. He will be a part of me and my family forever. Thank you Evans for your incredible example and love. You truly are a child of God.