match madness

I was a little slow in catching on to what Leo was saying to the group of mothers and babies gathered at the Missions Ministries team center. Oh that I had studied harder in high school Spanish class! But here is part of the word they were saying to you (and all other donors to the work of Babies of Juarez).


It was overwhelming to actually witness (for the first time) the distribution process of the diapers and formula gathered or purchased from Babies of Juarez donations. So let me step back and illustrate what led up to it.

OK, so it might seem a little odd to start with an empty trailer, but there’s no way to show the many interior and garage spaces at the Anderson home that fill with donated and purchased diapers and formula between their trips across the Mexican border.

Here the faithful loading crew—plus Dusty, the presumed photographer—poses for my sake, since at this point Mauri and I were settled in our El Paso motel room.

Sage and Brynn are now old enough to ask why we add this “staging” step to the process of unloading the trailers. Quinn has answered the same question for the past 13 years: “We do it for the donors!”

Once the official photo is taken, we take everything back to the building dedicated to supplies.

Here the boxes are opened and shelved according to diaper size or formula type.

Every two weeks mothers and their babies line up at the entrance where Leonel checks his spreadsheet to see if any adjustments need to be made.

Supplies are pulled from storage.

Leonel’s spreadsheet recognizes names of all the mamas and babies and any specifics relating to their needs.

We mostly watched from the sidelines but stepped in where we saw a place to help.

Everything is laid out by diaper size. While this is accomplished, Pastor Martin shares the gospel with the waiting mothers.

Distribution was Susy’s “operation” until Leonel took over, but she remains fully interested and involved. (The soy formula pyramid was Sage’s design, eventually moved to the shelves.)

Once everything is in place, the moms line up according to diaper size. Here’s when they say gracias, knowing only that God through some generous Americans provided this help for them.

Leonel, himself a young daddy, lets his care show as he gives each mama her portion.

This chubby-cheeked boy is the image I hope you’ll keep in your heart as you receive our appreciation for your part in our matching-gift campaigns (Dorothy’s and Legacy). Please remember, our donations (and the volunteer efforts of many) are responsible for reducing the infant mortality rate in this area of Mexico from 25% to zero!

Speaking of chubby cheeks…

In 2016, Quinn named precious baby Amy the “poster child” for Babies of Juarez after learning she and all her siblings were raised on supplies provided through donations.

And just a few days ago, I got to meet this same girl who came to our food outreach with her mom and siblings.

Here she is, the bright-eyed and beautiful poster child — and so very healthy!

Cassidy was so happy to see everyone again!

On that happy note let me say a BIG thank you to those who participated in our “match madness” this year. All told, we gave $4,286, every penny of which went or will go toward the purchase of diapers and formula. Just in case you didn’t get around to donating, there’s still $3,221 waiting to be matched. Go to the “get involved” page on the Babies of Juarez website and be included in this good work. Be sure to designate your gift “Match Madness” so it can be doubled.

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Posted in in the neighborhood, nostalgia | Leave a comment

a tenth home for the holidays

It’s hard to assimilate this year’s Thanksgiving build. Going into it I thought, as I often do, I’d go light this year on the pictures, then pick a few favorites to report here. After all, you who follow this blog have already taxed your scrolling finger through nine similar posts. What could this tenth post possibly add to your imaginings of this “thing we do” every year?

For starters, we’ve never dealt with pouring rain in El Paso!

The Ratays weren’t able to join our team this year, but they shopped as usual to provide household furnishings and decor and extras for two houses. They rented a truck, hauled it down to El Paso, transferred it to Mexico-bound trailers, then flew back to Phoenix.

We were a small but mighty team, similar in size to our first Thanksgiving in Juarez. That year Sage (orange jacket) traveled in utero! Erin noted that Brynn (pink jacket), now six years old, is the same age Cassidy (red hood) was on our first build.

The rain did not let up as three vans pulling three trailers crossed the border and headed toward the Missions Ministries team center. Some rooms needed to be reassigned to accommodate the unusual flooding there. Many (most? all?) of us wondered what we’d find at the job site the following morning, as more rain was predicted.

But even without a rainbow, God stopped the rain and we had perfect weather to accomplish the task at hand.

Please take a moment to admire the perfectly poured foundation, the work of Lencho.

Let’s give a round of applause to this faithful work crew we’ve grown to love! Leo, with his wife, Susy, heads up the Mexican side of the ministry. Leonel is their son. More lovable people you will never meet. Juan Carlos and his family visited Quinn and Dusty in Arizona last summer; Juan Carlos was baptized at their church.

Time to get down to business!

Sarah, on the left, and her husband, Colton, serve year round as ministry team leaders with Missions Ministries. They give up Thanksgiving with their own families to be part of our family every year.

Oh, look—it’s me! I take pictures more than hammer nails but make sure I do enough work to legitimately say I helped build a house. Dusty caught me pulling my camera (a.k.a. phone) out of my back pocket.

Here they are—the family whose home we built together. Mundo, Karem, and Ennis are so precious!

Part way through the morning Karem carried out food from a neighboring house—gorditas, oatmeal, and the following day sandwiches—to serve us! Their income comes from selling food at a local food cart!

My niece Krista and Leo.

Raising the first wall—a group undertaking.

Interior walls added for stability (meaning we can let go now).

The roof framing goes on next.

And the insulation team gets to work.

Cassidy entertains her younger cousins when there’s no more work for them to do.

Cutting windows takes no small amount of muscle and endurance!

The Macy men (and others) stood ready to caulk, insert, and trim them.

No caption needed!

The Anderson family team tackles the front windows: newlyweds Bailey and Sarah; Sarah’s brother, Seth; and Papa (grandpa) Neil. Sometimes it takes a village.

But once work at the job site is complete for the day, and we’ve filled our bellies with more delicious authentic Mexican food, we can finally unload the trailers because—look! Blue skies!

Sage helps sort and stage the diapers and formula collected or purchased from donations to Babies of Juarez. I’ll write a separate post about this (especially but not exclusively for the donors to the matching-gift campaign we ran in October).

Once the contents of the trailers were unloaded and sorted, we headed for Pastor Fransisco’s church to hold a food outreach.

I admit to significant joy in watching my grandchildren enter into this sharing opportunity. The impact it makes on them is immeasurable, the positive effect it will have on their adult lives profound.

Cassidy, for example, has been part of these house-building expeditions for 13 of her 16 years of life—no fewer than five a year. Here she greets a family she grew to love as she helped build a home for them a few years ago.

And here Sage uses her Spanish (she’s been learning it in school and at home for four years now) to help these women make attractive tissue-paper flowers to add color to their homes.

Here, grandson Bailey (a Spanish major) counts off a sack race for these boys.

You’re wondering about that mustache, aren’t you?

He’d been inside earlier, where Jonathan carefully peeled and placed each one.

When Dusty was nearby, he’d snap a picture so the boys could have a look.

My slap bracelets were a hit with both boys and girls!

Stickers and coloring. Something for everyone, inside and . . .

…outside. John made sure even the littlest guy made a basket.

And Quinn made sure the latecomers (and comers for seconds) got enough to eat.

“What craft did you bring, Dusty?” The answer is always “holding babies.”

To celebrate our 10th anniversary, the Missions Ministries staff invited all ten of the families to come to the team center for dinner. They even provided transportation!

Six of the ten families came and enjoyed games and conversation, thanks to the presence of two interpreters.

That’s what made it possible to set up photos with each family and those of us who worked on their house. This is our 2011 family—Jasmine and her three children.

Here we are in 2011! A sudden rainstorm washed away our fresh paint.

Fidencio, now 13 years old, makes some progress toward standing and maybe walking, with the help of a new walker and Sarah’s expertise as an occupational therapist.

We posed with all six families, but I share only one more comparison.

Here we are in 2017 with Karina, Luis, their boys Miguel and Javier, and their new home.

It’s always a treat to arrive at the job site the following morning and see what color we’ll paint the house.

Everyone jumps in, the brave ones taking the high parts.

There’s “high” work inside too that also requires bravery!

Daddy/daughter mud work. What could be better?

Don’t forget the baño!

Final step before moving in!

We do our best without the Ratays to direct us in their vision for decor and placement.

Here’s where we express blessings for Mundo, Karem, and Ennis, give a signed Spanish Bible, and pray for them in their new home.

But something happened in our blessings—Ennis had something special to give Bailey, now a coach for the Ottawa University Arizona football team! Ennis, a high school senior, was named MVP after a winning season for his school team and gifted his prized jersey to demonstrate his appreciation.

Pastor Francisco hands over the keys!

Finally, it’s time to go inside!

Karem squeals with delight!

Ennis discovers his desk and computer!

They are overwhelmed and just a cute as they come!

No words!

After lunch the team visits Bienvenida a Casa, a safe place for children at risk, overseen by Pastor Francisco and his wife, Eloisa.

With God’s direction and help, Eloisa manages to look after a flock of children.

Apparently we take off our shoes to use the slide.

Our next stop is a visit to a new-to-us orphanage to drop off food from Midwest Food Bank in Gilbert, AZ. Quinn’s non-profit “Blessing for Life” allows her to shop for their needs and haul it to Mexico. Victor, the man who oversees this orphanage, spends much time praying—and God always meets the need. Always!

Krista explains the three-legged race—in Spanish, of course.

After dinner we attend the Friday night church service. Sarah, fluent Spanish speaker, interpreted the whole service. We’ve dubbed her “Goodness and Mercy” because when Pastor Francisco preached on Psalm 23, he asked her to follow him across and around the platform while he illustrated how “Goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life….”

A rousing game of foosball to end the day.

This is our granddaughter Esther, daughter to Leo and Susy. We’ve watched her grow up over the past ten years, and she invited us to come down for her graduation from high school in July.

Here she is (the next morning before we headed out) with all four of her U.S.A. grandparents.

We loaded up and headed toward El Paso, where we said goodbyes to most of our team. Mauri and I pace ourselves, staying over a night before the drive back to Phoenix, and arriving in time for evening church at Redemption Gateway.

Waiting a few days to fly home was easier on the checkbook and gave us a little more time with the Andersons. Cassidy led the student council Christmas decorating committee and we got to watch her in action.

I even got asked to make bows for the wrapped empty boxes.

We watched her in action on the basketball court.

A lopsided win is still a win!

Marissa, a junior at Grand Canyon University and employee at the Apple Store, missed out on our Thanksgiving trip because when you work in retail during the holidays you aren’t given a lot of choice. But here she is a long drive from school to cheer for her sister.

Quinn cooked a delicious dinner for us, but these cookies were devoured by the Gilbert Christian student council as they decorated the school for the Christmas holidays.

No need to feel sorry for us! We learned about Crumbl Cookies, a short drive from the Andersons’ home in Queen Creek.

We were kind and saved a few “crumbs” for Cassidy when she got home.

There’s no better finish to this story than a sweet look at a good man loving on a good dog. Having a few extra “chill” days before returning to our full December calendars felt luxurious and gave us time to process our remarkable and memorable days in Juarez.

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Posted in family matters, grandkids, nostalgia, travels | 2 Comments

advent calendar

I was the first “customer” to arrive this morning at the advent calendar-making event sponsored by my church and hosted by the Breithaupt family who live and work up on beautiful Chehalem Mountain. You can see the preparations for a fire and the oldest of five children who roam this wonderful property on a daily basis.

Inside the shop their dad, hidden behind the far pole, hangs more lights for the benefit of us woodworkers.

Here’s a better look at Chris Breithaupt, professional woodcrafter who loves to share this space as a means to build community. Since I’m the only one there, I got individual instruction for the task at hand.

Ooooooh! You pictured the kind of calendar we hang on our walls and are wondering what on earth we’re doing!

Well, it starts here. Tracing—a skill I started to develop as a six-year-old cutting out paperdolls! Little did I know I’d one day trace a stencil on wood that I’d cut out with …

… a scroll saw!

I was a rookie when I started and a rookie when I finished. But I did get a little better at turning corners with each piece.

Drilling the holes was a snap!

By this time others had joined the saw party.

Father/son work together.

I’m not the only one taking pictures!

Theresa is the mom of the afore-mentioned five children, the newest one still too teeny tiny to roam (as mentioned above).

And the baby’s older brother.

Some pictures need no caption or explanation; they tell a story all their own.

This could win a contest, though. Pretty cute, eh?

Here’s the grand sum of my morning’s efforts. I was provided a nifty box, some straw, a candle, and a brass holder that fits the drilled holes. The latter is spendy, so I’ll be ordering the rest on my own nickel.

Doesn’t look much like a calendar, you say? I promise we’ll get to that. But first…

… the original scene PLUS lots of children and mommies!

Kids who do what kids do when presented with a pile of fallen leaves!

Sometimes I wouldn’t mind being that six-year-old again.

Once home, I set up the advent calendar. I decided not to blur it in order to disguise my flawed cutting. Who knows if I’ll ever have another opportunity to use a scroll saw, but for this one project I feel accomplished!

My favorite piece was hidden in the other picture, so indulge my pride just this once (though I can see I need to do a little more sanding).

Here’s the example we were shown in advance. And the sound you hear is me swallowing my pride.

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anniversary photoshoot

For fun, Mauri and I scheduled a photoshoot with our professional-photographer Macys, John and Erin, to commemorate twenty-five years of marriage. The designated day was cold and windy, but the sun setting on the autumn leaves provided a perfect backdrop for our “shoot” at Champoeg State Park.

Mauri carried his guitar for part of it so we could recreate a shot from our wedding rehearsal picnic, an especially bright highlight from our life together.

Here we are at Pinery Park in Wyoming, Michigan. (In 2013, I visited this location and remembered stories from that day in 1994.)

But this is the photo we came closest to recreating.

Yep, lots of changes in 25 years! Except for the old faithful Martin guitar.

And since we were right there at Champoeg, where we took (with a timer) this picture for our second recording, “Everybody Has a Song,” we thought we’d do another recreation.

This was my #1 choice of all the pics.

Want to see some of the others? OK, if you insist.

this one’s for the Carlson side of the family

Of course we need a shot with our cracker-jack photographer John (Erin edits).

Yahoo, PhotoMacy! You do great work!

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Posted in in the neighborhood, nostalgia, series / match-ups | 2 Comments

grandkid roundup

That title doesn’t make any sense, given the distance that separates our grandtribe. My cyber fix is to post pictures of all the darlings in this one place. Also, I love posting the Halloween costumes. So here goes:

In a sense, these two players are in costume, though uniform fits the actuality. Coach Bailey Anderson seems quite happy with the team’s 8-0 standing so far.

And here’s his lovely wife, Sarah.

Marissa could have helped me out here by eating an apple instead so I could reference it to say she works at the Apple Store when not in class at Grand Canyon University.

Cassidy sits across from her mama in a Costa Rica cafe, debriefing their two weeks of Spanish immersion classes.

Oscar is ten now, in the 5th grade. Besides being a champion watermelon eater, he is quite a sketch artist, following his dad’s lead.

Sage (age 8, grade 3) and Brynn (age 6, grade 1) lead a full life of school, hiking, camping, taking care of chickens, playing together, soccer, assembling Lego creations, and on it goes.

Will (age 7, grade 2) and Lincoln (age 4 -very soon, grade preschool) — These guys also live a full life of school, camping (their parents just bought a really cool new camper/trailer), biking, soccer, piano lessons, playing games, and on it goes.

Declan (age 4, preschool) spends most of his time keeping tabs on his rambunctious sisters, helps his dad make pizzas, travels hither and yon with his parents, body builds at CrossFit with his mom, school, and on it goes.

Avery (age 2) is the family daredevil with some kind of death wish. Beth takes her to gymnastics classes to give her some skills in her field of interest. Meanwhile, the ER remains on alert.

Emery (age 2) picks up new words easily and entertains us (on videos) by lip syncing every song. She does gymnastics with her sister, and all three Carlson kids enjoy working out at CrossFit with their mama.

And now for the 2019 Halloween costumes!

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she knows

A year and some months ago I traveled to Puerto Rico to help with the Carlson kiddos while their daddy worked.

It was a blast and a total departure from anything considered normal for me. Not that my normal life isn’t also a blast.

The whole family is in Puerto Rico again, enjoying the tropics while Daddy works—with the help of their other grandma (Mimi) this time. A text came in today from Beth: “We wanted you to know you are here in spirit. We got these match-ups for you. ❤️”

She knows my love language!

April 2018

October 2019

April 2018

October 2019

There’s no shortage of adventure for this family!

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blended-family advantage

I recently recalled a conversation with Quinn from long, long ago when she told me she’d been at the mall with her high-school friend. They had just passed a group of girls when she leaned in to tell Quinn: “I think one of them was my cousin.” Turns out Quinn’s dear friend has so many cousins she hadn’t yet met all of them!

Growing up with cousins was/is a life blessing for me. I had eight first cousins altogether and am grateful my parents were intentional about visiting their siblings regularly enough for me to know them well. The same was true for Paul, who benefitted even more because he was an only child. Close friendships with his cousins filled that void for him.

My “PWC family of origin” folder holds lots of evidence of this.

You’re catching on to why I titled this post the “blended-family advantage.” Add together my original cousins, Paul’s cousins, Mauri’s cousins, and Margaret-Roses’s cousins and I might have as many (or more) cousins as Quinn’s high-school friend! Blessed!

In June (you might recall) Mauri and I enjoyed time with Macy cousins in Central Oregon and this weekend we got to join a small gathering of M-R’s Williams cousins at our favorite spot on the Oregon Coast—Harbor Villa.

Mauri had a “leading” commitment Saturday morning and another one this morning, so, given the two-hour travel time each way, we had only a few short hours to catch up.

Ah—I spy a non-cousin, to us, at least. Brother Daryl, a.k.a. DK!

Flashback! The cousins sitting around these tables resurrected the scene of our Nill family reunion in 1998, so I’m helplessly “required” to share these matchups.

OK, back to real time. After-dinner conversation led cousin Kathy to pull out some nostalgic pictures of her own, a magic word for me.

There was this one! The “extra” little is Laura Jane, DK and Julene’s daughter.

The cutie on the left is cousin Becky and Dwaine’s Marcia. And then . . .

. . . this showed up! I can’t be sure, but I think I grinned all the way home.

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