Sunday, December 30, 2012

Holidays in Romania

What a busy week! I arrived in Romania on Thursday afternoon and have been enjoying seeing all the kids and staff members again.

We helped one of the transition graduates and one of the current transition boys celebrate their birthdays.
Happy birthday, Florin and Sunny!
 I've had so much fun just being here with the other half of my heart. I feel like all the relationships I have with everyone are growing deeper each time I come. There is nothing better than having a gaggle of children run up to you yelling your name, grabbing your hand, pulling you in 5 directions at once, climbing on you, laying on you, jumping in your lap, kissing you on the cheek, hiding in your scarf, playing with your hair, joking with you, "whining" to you, laughing with you...

I don't know what I'm going to do in a week when I have to leave.

Saturday, December 22, 2012


Holiday preparations are well under way! Today is the start of Christmas week festivities with our annual "Christmas Eve" celebration. We moved it this year from Christmas Eve to the weekend before Christmas to accommodate more people. Personally I'm a little relieved. I've been working like crazy this week to get some internship hours in before I leave for the holidays. That means that nothing besides Christmas shopping has been accomplished. Case in point: I still need to finish packing for my trip to Romania which happens in 4 days.
The only thing that's been packed are supplies for the kids. Too bad I also need clothes to wear. However, having the Christmas Eve celebration today means more time before Christmas to get packing and wrapping done.

In my defense I have finished some laundry and made brownies for this afternoon. I still have some work stuff to finish before I can actually leave the country but I've been working on it slowly and steadily...for the most part.
Through this doorway lies the workspace of doom. Enter if you dare...
Last night I did a little paperwork and then started one of the few Christmas presents I decided to make this year. I almost didn't make any gifts at all but then my grandmother requested some dishcloths and I thought that might be kind of nice. And then I thought my other grandmother might like some slippers so I'll be making those later this weekend.
Still life: Cat with Dishcloth in Early Morning Sun
The big question is: can I finish this dishcloth before 12:30 p.m. when we leave for the party? Does it matter that it is now 11:15 and I'm not dressed or have any gifts wrapped? What if I throw in the fact that I need to fold laundry? How about adding in the fact that I'm blogging instead of knitting?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Tis the Season

This weekend has been full of seasonal happenings.

Friday I ran hither and yon while prepping for a Christmas party given by the agency that I intern with. I was out early in the morning to visit clients, then to the office, then out for the party, back to the office, and, finally, back out for several hours to visit clients again.

I thought about wearing my newly finished Christmas socks and my clear clogs to the party but the dress was semi-professional so I decided against it.
Saturday I went shopping for Christmas presents. I hadn't done any shopping until then. I managed to get all but 3 presents (and 2 are small and easy to obtain). I had planned to finish some paperwork for work/internship but I took a nap instead. Much better choice.

Sunday we went out to dinner at Mary Mac's Tea Room in Atlanta for my aunt's birthday.
The food was good but I spent the night having one of those moments where I thought my dinner might be trying to kill me. I don't know if it was the shear volume of food (though I've done worse in recent memory), the richness of it, or if there was something that didn't agree with me. Whatever it was it caused me to go to bed at 9:45 and sleep until 8:15 this morning. Nearly 11 hours of sleep. Except for the hour between 2:30 and 3:30 when I woke from a dream concerned that I had to be at work at 8:15 in the morning (I don't) and that I'd double booked clients (I didn't). I then stayed awake trying to find a position where my stomach didn't feel like it was being wrung out and contemplating whether I should all the CDC and report a possible food poisoning or not. I'm feeling a bit better this morning but still not 100%.

This week I've got to get paperwork for tax-exempt status submitted to the IRS for the Eastern European and Russian Orphanages Project and also finish that paperwork for my internship that I keep putting off. Oh, yeah, and finish getting/making Christmas gifts.

Sunday, December 16, 2012


I really don't want to write this post. But in light of everything that happened in Connecticut I feel I need to.

This is sort of like 9/11 for me. It's like I woke up in the middle of a bad nightmare and I want it to go away. I had a very hard time after 9/11. Something about the lingering afterwards. No closure and just uncertainty.


Life does go on. I know that sounds really harsh and it's not meant that way. But we have to go ahead with life and vow to make it a little better because of a tragedy and not worse.

It's very hard for me to be on social media right now. Every post is like a poke at an open wound. For me, personally, I need to not pick at it. I need to let the wound close over. I know what happened. I have the details I want. I don't need a replay of it every. single. hour. And I really don't think there are too many people who do need that.

I feel that one of the curses of social media is that suddenly everything is in our faces all the time. It's knowledge over share. I'm guilty of it too. No one needs to know that I ate muffins for breakfast or had a crappy day or went on a date. But we put it out there and suddenly everyone is in every detail of everyone's lives. When I was in high school we called that "drama." And it wasn't a good thing.

I'm not saying that we should do away with social media or that I will be deleting my Facebook and Twitter accounts. But I think we make things complicated for ourselves by continuing to use social media in a reckless attempt to engage with people. The argument now is going to be over gun control and everyone is going to have an opinion. Here's the problem: everyone is going to find evidence to support their chosen position. And, no matter what position you take, it won't bring back those 20 children or the 30+ from Virginia Tech or the ones from Columbine or any of the others. There is no easy solution. We need to stop looking for one. We need to stop arguing over which side is right and which side is wrong. Why don't we all start promoting love and peace and Jesus instead? Then it shouldn't matter whether you own a gun or not.

There are sick people in this world and most of them aren't even going to make it on t.v. As a child and adolescent mental health counselor I see the sickness. I have heard stories that would make you vomit. Stories that would make you say, "To hell with gun control, I'd kill that guy for what he did!" But it doesn't change that in the wake of everything are hurting children who have no innocence to stand on. So instead of arguing over who gets a gun and who doesn't why don't we remember the children who have been left behind in this tragedy? And, while we're at it, why not remember all the children around the world who have no running water, no shoes, no health care, no food, no clean water, no vaccinations, no parents, no hope? If we don't remember them then while we're standing still their lives will continue to move forward on a much more tragic trajectory.

P.S. I realize this is rambling from one thing to the next but I guess that's kind of how I'm feeling right now. Trying to piece it all together. This posting is my attempt to process, as best I can, some of my emotions. If you're like me and it's all a little much, check out this posting to help restore your faith in life: 26 Moments That Restored Our Faith In Humanity This Year

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Closing in on 2013

Another weekend down and 2013 is closing in. I can't believe this year is almost up! I've decided to do Crazy Aunt Purl's Totally Do-Able 12 Month Plan for 2013. It seems easy enough and I like to have some sort of game plan for the coming year.

This weekend was very chill. Grad school is finishing up this Friday and my final paper is under peer review so there wasn't much I needed to work on. Saturday I went to the Gladiator's hockey game across town with my mom and some of the kids she tutors on Wednesday. It was a reward for one of the boys for making A's and B's this semester.
Love a good hockey game!
Gandolf was at the game to promote the Hobbit which comes out next week.
Today was church, napping, dinner, working out, and knitting. A week or so ago I tried my hand at crocheting. I was thinking of making a blanket. I didn't get very far.
Nearly 2 rows of crochet.
Tonight I ripped out the crochet because I came to my senses and realized I was never going to have the patience to finish an entire crochet blanket. I decided to make a blanket square instead.
Patterns for washcloths (I'm using them for blanket squares).
Just a few hours of work.
Needless to say I'm much more successful with knitting than crochet. It only took me a few hours to finish the first square.

I'm also working on a pair of socks for myself. I think they look very Christmas-y so I'm hoping to have them finished by the end of the year.
My own hand-dyed sock yarn!
The weather has been very mild up to this point. There were a few days where it got close to freezing but then it's been in the 60's since then. That means that wool sock wearing is probably not going to happen until after the 1st of the new year. It usually gets coldest here in Georgia in January and February.

This next week is shaping up to be very busy. I've picked up 7 new clients plus taken on most of the initial assessments coming in to the office. My schedule is so full! Praying that it stays that way for the next few weeks though. I'd rather it be a little crazy and busy before Christmas than to come home to it after I get back from Romania.

Sunday, December 2, 2012


Just finished up a very busy weekend! Friday after work I went to an event at my brother and sister-in-law's church called Beyond Fair Trade. The event helps women in impoverished nations earn a living by selling handmade jewelry, bags, aprons, Christmas ornaments, and much more. I picked up a little owl keychain for myself and a Christmas gift for my best friend (which I'm not putting up a picture of because it's a secret).

Saturday I was at my aunt and uncle's helping my littlest cousin, Bennett, celebrate his 1st birthday. I've always been very close to my cousins and with twin uncles who are only 7 years older than me I feel like their boys are more my nephews than cousins. That only makes our bond even more special.
Today (Sunday) was a little odd for me. For the first time in a long while I missed church even though I was in town. That was because we had our annual Stewart Family Christmas Party/Reunion. My second cousin once removed (I think that's the relationship...we share a great grandparent in common but are from different generations...anyways, it's complicated), Will, sold some handmade wooden crosses to help me raise money for my trip to Romania. He ended up making $360! And some of my other relatives are coming together to help get supplies for my trip. They were able to give me some of them today. I got 13 pairs of gloves and 24 tubes of travel toothpaste! It was such a day of blessings!
Some of the gloves and toothpaste that I got.
I had really planned to work on some paperwork for my internship this weekend but it's just so hard when you have full days like the last ones have been. I'm a little sad that tomorrow is Monday. It was just starting to feel like a vacation!

P.S. Can ya'll send good thoughts/prayers for my computer. It's been running super slow lately and taking a long time to load things. I'm getting the spin-y rainbow beach ball a lot. I know this is an odd thing to ask for but I depend upon my computer A LOT. Especially because of grad school. And right now I don't have the money for an external hard drive or new computer. If this one can just hold out for a few more months then (hopefully) I will have a paying job at that point and can work towards a new laptop. This one has been faithful to me for a long time and I desperately need it to hold out just a little longer. Thanks everyone!

Saturday, December 1, 2012


Happy 1st day of December! This is the time that we celebrate the closing of another year and the starting of another one. A time when we reflect on our purpose. I love the feeling of being around family and friends at this time of year as well as the promise that right around the corner is another year to accomplish our calling. I like thinking back on the year and thinking ahead to the next. In some ways this is a tough time of the year. I miss my boys in Romania a lot during this time because I want them to experience the fun that families have together. It pains me to know that they will spend Christmas and New Years at the orphanage instead of being shuffled from relative's house to relative's house and back again. That they won't get to rip open presents on Christmas Day or eat until they bust. I do find comfort in the fact that I will be seeing them again in just 25 more days!
It is also a very exciting time of the year. In just a few short weeks I will be completing all my coursework for my graduate degree in clinical and counseling psychology! Then, just after the 1st part of January I will finish my internship and be officially finished with my degree! Graduation should come shortly thereafter though I don't think I'll get the chance to fly to California for the actual ceremony (because my school is online the actual graduation ceremonies take place in various locations around the country).

This is also the time of the year when I get really into knitting. I'd been so busy over the last few weeks with my internship that I hadn't gotten much knitting done. I was getting stressed and missing it though so I'm trying to make more time for my hobby. I was able to finish a blanket that I'd been working on over the last several months.
It's made from scraps of yarn held together and is a pattern from the Big Book of Quick Knit Afghans. It turned out really large and I love the way that the colors worked together. Basically I put all my scraps into big totes, closed my eyes, and grabbed out a ball when I needed a new one. I've already started a new afghan from this book (even though I need to finish weaving in the ends of the afghan that I just did). And I'm working on some socks for myself.

My final goal for the last month of 2012 is to think about my diet and exercise. Since moving about 6 months ago my exercise habits have been the best they ever have. I just want to tweak a few things as far as eating. I eat better now (fast food or restaurant food less than 4 times a month, hardly any prepackaged or pre-made foods) but I want to eat healthier (more fruits and veggies, less red meat, etc.). Oh, and add a few more supplements to my regimen. Just little things and nothing major.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Blessed Among Women, Parts 2 and 3

So, earlier this week I shared about how my really awesome friend David was moved to help me with some fundraising for my next trip to Romania. Well, there is more to the awesomeness. Part of which actually comes before the part with David.

One Monday about a week ago I got an email from a girl named Marissa who had been coming to my small group at church. Through a sequence of unusual events Marissa had learned that I had a small non-profit and wanted to help out. At first I was blown away because she was volunteering to work on this part time without pay. I have to admit for about a week I kept waiting for her to call and say that she had reconsidered. Last Saturday before I went to the Romanian church for services (and got my huge surprise) I met with Marissa to talk about the Eastern European and Russian Orphanages Project and how she might be able to help. Not only was Marissa totally serious about helping she was enthusiastic and ready to go! This was a blessing I have been wanting and thinking, "One day..." about for awhile now but to have her approach me was totally unexpected! I'm so pumped to have her on board and think she will be a great addition to the team.

The final part of the Weekend O' Blessings came on Sunday when I went to my crafting group at the church. Many of the ladies have been incredibly supportive of my work, especially our women's ministry leader, Debbie. On Sunday night she was a blessing by providing another donation to my Romania trip! Thanks to all those who donated I'm about $1500 away from having my total trip covered!

Last weekend was just a little reminder that in the midst of a lot of craziness and life God is still listening to my prayers...even the ones I haven't yet dared to pray.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Blessed Among Women, Part 1

When Mary went to visit her sister-in-law Elizabeth to announce that she was giving birth to the Savior of the world, Elizabeth called out, "Blessed are you among women!" (Luke, chapter 1) This past year has given me so many opportunities to feel as though I'm "blessed among women" as well. Please note: I'm in no way comparing myself to the mother of Jesus...just that I can understand that feeling of being truly, TRULY blessed. One such instance of blessing happened this weekend.

I started going to a local Romanian church about 6 or 8 months ago. My friend Dan and his cousin, Ramona, went there and invited me. I have such a heart for the country and people of Romania that I was looking for any connection here in the States to the place I travel to just twice a year. Slowly I've started to meet people and make friends. One of those people that I have met and begun to know is named David. A week or so ago David and I had the chance to chat at Dan's going away party (he moved to Arizona). As is typical if you talk to me for more than 20 seconds the topic turned to my work with orphans and, specifically, my work in Romania. Fast forward a few days and I get an email from Jodi, the trip coordinator for Heart to Heart International. They need me to get $1400 in a week so they can order my airline ticket. I hit Twitter and Facebook letting people know the need. One of the people who sees my message is David. He called me this past Saturday afternoon and asked if I would be willing to get up after the church service that night and talk a little about my work in Romania. I agreed and, despite the fact that I get very nervous and shaky when speaking in front of people, I managed to say a little something about why I love Romania and why I miss my boys so much. I told everyone about the Heart to Heart website and said they could find me on Facebook or talk to me in person if they wanted to hear me prattle on some more. Then I sat down and tried to stop sweating (did I mention I get nervous speaking in front of people?) and tried not to think about how much I probably sounded like a drunk idiot. Then David announced that some of the people from the church had something for me and he handed me an envelope. These lovely Romanians, who barely know me from Eve, who are all young adults and probably have something better to spend their money on like iPhones and car payments, had raised over half the money towards my plane ticket. Of course I started crying. And then people just started handing me checks and asking for the website and telling me what an inspiration I am. I'm not even joking. I seriously left in a state of shock. Just ask my friend Albert. He tried to talk to me later that night and I probably sounded high because I was trying to just process everything.

Here's the amazing thing. This was one of only 3 things that happened that was awesome this weekend. I'm saving the other 2 for another day because you might get awesome overload. The bottom line is that I'm not someone who's Mary Superchurchgoer. I don't have a hotline to God. In fact, I manage to muck up on a regular basis. I'm emotional and cry too much about stuff that doesn't matter and I worry about having a good hair day and my nail polish chipping. It's stupid really (see previous post on being a bonehead). The thing is that I'm just trying to do what God called me to do. And, for me, He said to go and care for the orphans and vulnerable children of Eastern Europe and Russia. To be a voice for them. To wrap arms around them when no one else will. To fight for them because they can't fight for themselves. To love them. It's simple really. And then I just trust that some day, some how, I'll get to the exact place where God wants me. He's the one who throws open the doors and makes straight the path. It's not like I said, "Ok, David, I'm going to tell you an awesome story about how amazing I am for working with orphans and you're going to go out and raise all kinds of money for me." Pretty much I just talked about the passion God placed on my heart and how I'm trying to follow where He leads. It's not easy, living a life like this. Sometimes you end up living in your parent's house with graduate school debt, a cat who sneezes in your face during the night, and no real sense of where the next 6 months will lead you. But it's so fulfilling. Contradiction, right? Because that's just how God is. And I don't want it any other way.

Sunday, October 21, 2012


Sometimes I'm so dumb.

Sometimes I spend so much time focusing on all the ways I've messed up I forget how much God has redeemed me.

Sometimes I focus on what I want and forget that I'm not supposed to be in the drivers seat any more.

Sometimes I get disappointed because things don't work out my way and I forget that God's way is always much, much, MUCH better.

Sometimes I forget that last point a lot.

Like, A LOT, a lot.

This has been a HUGE issue for me this week. I've struggled with coming to grips that I may not finish school when *I* wanted to. I've had a hard time dealing with perceived (possibly not even real) rejection. I've played over scenes in my mind where I feel I've acted like a dolt and analyzed everything I said and did a thousand times. Then I spend hours beating myself up (figuratively) over it.


I struggle so much with this idea that I can truly accomplish what God has called me to without intervening and interfering with His plans. If they are HIS plans shouldn't I bet letting HIM carry them out? I guess in some ways I'm still trying to figure out my part. But that's the whole crux of the situation isn't it? Isn't it always about the journey, the shaping, the molding, the changing that results in the beautiful end product?

So, that's my closing thoughts on this past week. It's been an interesting one complete with a roller coaster of emotions. I feel as though I'm slowly moving into a new stage of my life but I have no idea what it looks like. I have no idea where I'll be in 6 months or how I'll be making a living or even if I'll be earning money doing it. I have no idea who will be walking this journey with me or if I will be going it alone. It's scary and exciting and crazy all at once. And I can't wait to jump in.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Personal Update

So, this month has seemed to be pretty much all about fundraising and raising funds and getting funding. At first I was going to end the giveaway this week but I've decided to extend it until the end of the month. Then we can do a fun little Halloween night drawing for prizes! Also, can I say how excited I am about Halloween? I love the fall. I love how it marks the start of the holiday season and how there's a change in the temperature. I'm really looking forward to a pumpkin carving/bonfire/s'mores night with friends next week. We're also planning a corn maze/petting zoo/corn box/hayride/ more s'mores day in early November. Maybe I'll work some hiking in the North Georgia mountains in before Thanksgiving too. Now is the best time to go while the leaves are changing color.

Today is my one of the few days that I have off where I can actually get some things accomplished around the house. Right now that means filling out 501(c)3 paperwork and reading articles for school. I'm working on my integrated project for school which is basically a doctoral thesis without conducting the actual study. That means about 30-40 articles for the lit. review alone. Good thing I like the topic (for anyone interested I'm researching Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder in children adopted from Eastern Europe and Russia and how that contributes to parental stress and attachment).

Everything with school, internship, and charity seem to be kind of just creeping along at a somewhat consistent pace. Of course I would like to fast track everything but I've been trying to rein myself in, especially over the last couple of days. I realized that if I keep up the stress and worry then I'll just end up having a melt down (never pretty).

Other things of dad is getting a new car, I busted my hand on the door frame last night when I literally jumped out of bed at the sound of the outdoor cat fighting with another cat or maybe a opossum at 3:45 in the morning, and I'm still knitting. Evidence:
Socks for charity.

Big puffy multicolored blanket of awesome. Also for charity.
I went to see Looper a couple of weeks ago with my brother and sister-in-law. Highly recommend the movie. Also, we went to the rich people's movie theater so the seats were these big leather recliners. Seriously. It was awesome.
I can never watch movies in a regular theater again.
 Oh, and I made an apple crumble. It was the best thing I've made in a long time. I ate it every day for breakfast for a week.
It's ok to be jealous.
It's been kind of fun talking about random stuff in life. Maybe I should that more often...

P.S. Don't forget to enter the giveaway! I'm doing the drawing on Halloween night.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Thank You From Sliven, Bulgaria

No, I'm not in Sliven, Bulgaria. But I wanted to send out thank yous on behalf of the orphaned and abandoned children there. They may never know the many individuals who made it possible for them to have pajamas and socks this winter but I do and I want to say a huge "THANKS!" to the people who have come together and donated:

Beth, Ash, and Will M.
Laura A.
Barbara C.
Derek C.
Jessica S.
Loriann F.
Melissa G.

These 9 people have helped us cover nearly 80% of the shipping cost of the pajamas and socks.

I decided to pull a few pictures from the Special Helping School's Facebook page so you could see first hand the kids who will be enjoying the donations.

If you are still interested in helping, every penny you donate to our giveaway will go to helping orphans, specifically the ones at the Special Helping School. And you can win some incredible stuff! All the items except for the iPod Nano are handmade in Romania, another Eastern European country with many orphans in need of help. Check out the goodies below and, if possible, share this giveaway with friends. There are only a few more days to enter!


If you cannot see the donation button above please email me at to find out how to enter. You can also send a Paypal donation to to enter the giveaway.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Upping the Ante

As you may already be aware, the Eastern European and Russian Orphanages Project is trying to raise some money towards a large shipment of pajamas and socks. These necessities were sent to the Special Helping School in Sliven, Bulgaria as part of our partnership with the Linda McDonald Foundation. All 100 sets of pajamas and 100 pairs of socks were graciously donated by the Molnar family of North Carolina.

We've had our Paypal widget up for awhile now but it's time to up the ante. We're turning this into a giveaway.

To enter all you have to do is donate using the button above (if you are using a smartphone you will have to log on using a computer to see the widget, sorry) or you can email me at and I can get you the info on how to donate*.

For every $5 you donate your name will go into the drawing 1 time. So, $5=1 entry, $20=4 entries, $50=10 entries, and so on.

What can you win? Glad you asked...
Two people will be entered to win a miniature incense burner and candle. They measure about 2 inches in real life and are from Romania.

One person will be entered to win a hand painted egg from Romania. This is a real egg and is incredibly decorated.

One lucky winner will get a hand carved, hand painted mini wooden plate (about 2.5" across). Again, all the way from Romania.

Another lucky person will get a BEAUTIFUL hand carved wooden box. 100% Romanian craftsmanship.

Next we have some hand blown Romanian glass ornaments. There's a simple glass bulb, a teal colored heart, and a small water bulb (you put water in it and stick it in a plant to automatically water it just the right amount). These will go to three separate winners.

The final "grand prize" isn't from Romania but I think it's pretty nice. It's a brand new iPod Nano.

Yeah, brand new. The little green tabs are there to prove that I haven't even taken the protective film off of it. These typically retail for about $125. And I'm giving it away.

Please consider donating, please share the word with your friends, please put a widget on your own website. This is all about helping orphans and vulnerable children.

I may not be able to save all the children but I will continue to try and ease their sorrow with gifts, as best I can. - Roger Dean Kiser 

*Any monies raised above and beyond the $575 total will go towards my next trip to Romania where I will be working with orphans.