Worthiness – Is it worth the cost?

“Too many people overvalue what they are not and undervalue what they are.” Malcolm S. Forbes

Worthy. It’s a word we don’t use often in common everyday conversations. Is it because we don’t have a reason, or because it’s not something we feel. Almost a taboo to discuss. We might think it a little rude to ask someone, “What’s it worth to you?” or “How much is it worth?”. People typically only talk about worth in terms relative to things, not ourselves.

Isn’t that often the case, though? Generally, we can only feel comfortable discussing things or actions, but we have a hard time talking about the things that make us intrinsically human. Talking about our spirit is a bit trickier. Discuss the condition of our mind? No, just no. A bigger challenge is to talk about our own worth! No one ever says, “So, whatdya think you’re worth?”, do they? Of course, we would never respond with dollar amounts, or specifics, or even abstracts. Is there a right answer? A wrong answer?

“A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval.” Mark Twain

Today, I am asking myself that very question. What am I worth? Can it be enough to just say I am worthy? If I say it over and over, but can’t believe it, it’s a powerless statement. Being empowered is a big deal to me, so if I can’t put the power behind it, I need to delve deeper.
I set out to put words to my “worth”. Maybe it will resonate with some of you.

Defining it

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines worth as:
1. a. Monetary value.
b. The equivalent of a specified amount or figure.
2. The value of something measured by its qualities or by the esteem in which it held
3. a. Moral or personal value
b. Merit, excellence

So, if worth is the value placed on one’s self, as in definition 1, how can we determine it? Does a dollar amount suffice?

A quick search on the internet reveals that the human body is worth about $120,000USD on the black market. Body parts on the “red market”, or the place where one can legally sell their living parts could be worth much more over the lifespan, up to several million dollars, if selling blood, a kidney, bone marrow, even hair, ovum, semen, and so on.

Everyone knows our worth is not determined by the value placed on our body parts…don’t they?
A super model can make upwards of $30,000,000USD from print ads to catwalks to other related interests. A not-so-super model can make a few thousand per year, barely enough to independently support her/himself. A professional, award winning athlete can make $100,000,000 or more between sports and endorsement contracts. A non-award winner will be lucky to have mention in the weekly small town newspaper sports section in a score roundup.

Maybe definitions 2 and 3 are more applicable. Then, if I am measured by my qualities, what are they? Have I determined what qualities will make me valuable?

How amazing it is to me that I have gone much of my life determining what qualities in clothing, shoes, cars, homes, music and jobs make them worth my money or time, but I have not put much effort into determining what makes me valuable, or of worth.

Maybe we consider what we’re looking for in a spouse or partner – some of us may have even made a list of what we find attractive or want in a mate. What qualities make your friends valuable? That’s not so hard to answer. Perhaps my friend is funny, smart, has common interests, or is non-judgmental. All of those are great qualities.

The truth is, we don’t consider the qualities that make us worthy of our time, because we are afraid. What if I don’t measure up to my own standards? What if I am a failure and everyone but me knows it? All of the “what if’s” are killing us! We have driven ourselves into the ground, over-burdened ourselves with “what if” and used that as our excuse to not take a real look at what being worthy really means!

The Truth

“Just because people throw it out and don’t have any use for it, doesn’t mean it’s garbage.” Andy Warhol

So, then is it really about the body? No, and it’s not about the qualities, either. It’s all a big lie. We’ve been duped.

Our worth isn’t determined by our body image. It isn’t even determined by our ability to throw a ball, how fast we run, our smile, our niceness, our charm.

Maybe you didn’t know it, but by being born, having a spirit and mind, you are priceless. How this could logically be proven wrong? Thoughts cannot be seen by another, feelings cannot be felt by anyone else in the same manner. Fingerprints are unique, and so is the mind. Hair has its own unique growth pattern, and so do hearts.

A Masterpiece

The fact is, you were born priceless. There are some caveats, though. A masterpiece can be priceless because of its beauty and uniqueness, but if left in the rain, it will deteriorate and lose its priceless condition. In like, if no one can ever see the masterpiece, it cannot be priceless, for it is unknown and its beauty becomes irrelevant and unappreciated.

You and I are a masterpieces. If we leave ourselves open to bad conditions, we can deteriorate and become in need of serious repair. A priceless portrait with chipped paint must be attended to. If no one ever experiences our beauty and uniqueness, it is as if we don’t exist, and our priceless status becomes null. Where is the value in an undiscovered masterpiece? Who can appreciate the unseen and unknown?

My point is, we must live our lives as if we are masterpieces – the most beautiful piece of art imaginable – on display at the most important gallery in the existence! We must live as though we know that we are priceless and stop considering our worth and value. Let us attend to protecting and enhancing the things which have made us priceless.

We must ensure that we live a life that reflects that priceless distinction. Make sure that your paint – the color of your character and personality – isn’t chipped and in need of repair. If it is, repair it! Contribute to the world – the gallery – and protect the condition of the place where you are displayed. A masterpiece doesn’t detract from its surrounding, it enhances them. At the same time, why not display your masterpiece in a place that is in good condition, that highlights the contribution of beauty you bring to the world.

“The diamond does not need to prove its worth. It is, in fact, the person who must teach him/herself to recognize the worth of real diamonds. A person must study this in school. A diamond does not go to school to learn how to prove its worth. It is a person who must recognize the worth of a diamond. Dear diamonds everywhere, stop trying to go to school. The worthy will recognize your worth.” C. JoyBell C.

Other people may judge your “worthiness”, but the truth is that they don’t appreciate your beauty. Just go and be. Maintain your condition, do the upkeep. Contribute to your surroundings. Make your life a masterpiece and those who recognize your beauty will know that you are priceless – keep them around! They are contributing to the gallery of our world, too. Let those who can’t see that your true value go their own way. They are likely in need of some repair. That’s okay. Just don’t let their disrepair chip away at your paint!
Make your life a masterpiece! You were born for it!

Gratitude and the Golden Globes?

Cosmo in Budapest...

Cosmo in Budapest…

Gratitude is at the heart of my family. I use every opportunity to teach and model it for my children. It’s a struggle that I have mentioned on more than one occasion. It is especially difficult to teach gratitude to children who didn’t have a reason to be grateful in their early lives. Add in the sometimes challenged thinking of a child with foetal alcohol exposure, and the struggle is very real! This is true for 6 of my 8 children.

I am committed to modeling gratitude myself. Opportunities to find others displaying gratitude or appreciation are often difficult to find. The news media gives us stories about people who had a need and are thankful to have it met. It can be found on blogs and such, also. All of those are the real deal and I am always happy to share these with the Clan.

We didn’t watch the Golden Globe awards live yesterday due to our location and time difference. We did find some video clips today on Youtube and other media sites. Sadly, we were left with a dampened affection for the show, some of our favorite actors and the awards ceremonies in general.

At this point you are thinking, “Oh, she’s a Trump supporter and didn’t like to hear bad things said about him”, or similar notion. You couldn’t be more wrong! I didn’t disagree with the things said. Then, where is the problem? I’ll tell you…

One of the most loved parts of the day is sitting around the table and sharing the best part of our day and what we are grateful for...every day!

One of the most loved parts of the day is sitting around the table and sharing the best part of our day and what we are grateful for…every day!

I look forward to this time of year for the awards ceremonies. What better place to hear “thank you” and acknowledgements than from a group of talented and amazing people who entertain us. They are larger than (real) life, right? Everyone enjoys their craft, not only through the stage and cinema, but through their expressions of appreciation for the people, us regular folks. We spend our time and money to be entertained by their considerable artistic abilities. The extravagance of their dress adds to the occasion as they adorn themselves to show how important it is to receive the honor of being recognized for their creativity and talent.

Meryl Streep, Hugh Laurie and the others who used the precious time they were given to accept or present awards and show their gratitude and acknowledge those who have given them the opportunity to be who they are, were disappointments. I don’t have to disagree with their statements to not like the delivery. Gone was the gratitude and humility and in their place were egos run amok.

Before anyone says, “But what they said was true!”, I will be clear, I don’t disagree, but that is NOT the point. Truth can be leveled in appropriate places at appropriate times to an appropriate audience. This wasn’t the place, time or audience. This was the time for these people to say, “I know you have seen me and my work, but now I see YOU. I honor you, I respect you and I am grateful to you”, to the public, their audiences, and, in this case,the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Meryl Streep thanked none of her audience or associates. Hugh Laurie did thank his associates and the HFPA, but didn’t bother to acknowledge his audience. Apparently, we just weren’t important enough as mere observers. If that’s not the case, are they not-so-subtly conveying the idea that we, the people, loyal fans, don’t really have anything to do with their successes and achievements? Is the HFPA responsible for that?

The other argument is that the Golden Globes aren’t presented or awarded by the public audience. Then why televise it? WHy the commercial sponsors? There’s no need to involve us at all, if that should be the case.

The Golden Globes were brought by the HFPA. To quote from the their website:

The mission of the HFPA is:

To establish favorable relations and cultural ties between foreign countries and the United States of America by the dissemination of information concerning the American culture and traditions as depicted in motion pictures and television through news media in various foreign countries;

To recognize outstanding achievements by conferring annual Awards of Merit, (Golden Globe® Awards), serving as a constant incentive within the entertainment industry, both domestic and foreign, and to focus wide public attention upon the best in motion pictures and television;

To contribute to other nonprofit organizations connected with the entertainment industry and involved in educational, cultural, and humanitarian activities;

To promote interest in the study of the arts, including the development of talent in the entertainment field through scholarships given to major learning institutions.” The intentions are all good. However, a line was crossed, and even erased in favor of unleashed egos and forgotten purposes.

If a celebrity wants to proclaim their opinions, there are places, times and audiences that are appropriate. Make use personal social media, mediums that are meant to give insight into that persons’ life. Really, their opportunities are abundant in comparison to the average person. If a celebrity (or anyone) feels so strongly about an issue, own it, live it and proclaim it. It was not necessary to steal the smile from a child’s face or the warmth in their heart by not allowing them to see the example of gratitude, humility, graciousness, appreciation, acknowledgement and joy that should have been conveyed by these famous people but was neglected in favour of an agenda that wasn’t intended for this venue.

This hasn’t changed my continued efforts to teach these virtues to my children. We as a family are less inclined to watch awards ceremonies for the same reasons that we have in the past…

Artists in their habitat... Seamus and The Fox Because we have better things to do!

Artists in their habitat…
Seamus and The Fox
Because we have better things to do!

“Me time” vs Feeding the soul…

Sometimes people ask me how get “me” time, being a single parent and travelling so often.
The truth is, I don’t really believe in “me time”. It seems an awful lot like self-gratification – like saying, “I’ll be a good parent if I give myself the gift of a vacay from my family”. I don’t believe a parent has to be in the company of their child 100% of the time. As a matter of fact, as my children grow older, they have less need of my constant presence, and it’s satisfying to think that I am raising kids who are self-sufficient!
I DO often engage in the feeding of my soul. The difference, I think, is the focus, or intention. “Me time” is focusing on the “me” or ego, while feeding the soul is the intention of putting energy into building a healthy self. Aren’t they the same? I don’t think so.
Feeding of the soul encourages emotional, spiritual and mental growth, so that I have more to give and can be a better receiver. It makes me healthy. I pray, meditate, use affirmations and visualizing, reading / researching aspects or traditions of spirituality, take long walks, watch encouraging or motivational programs, and so on. It isn’t always about relaxation, but it doesn’t necessarily include a lot of wild adventure or glamour, either.
If I was engaging in “me time”, gauging from the way many people do, it could look a lot like escapism. That’s not me and doesn’t represent my lifestyle choices, or benefit my family. I don’t need to escape from my kids and I don’t want to vacation without my fam – they’re the coolest people I know!
Perspective and intention are really important and can lay the foundation for a healthy outlook on life…

Our Albanian TV docu-interview…

In the studio of Vila 24, an Albanian morning program, with the show host, Androniki Kolkata, and our friend, Sonila Myftaraj.

In the studio of Vila 24, an Albanian morning program, with the show host, Androniki Kolkata, and our friend, Sonila Myftaraj.

An Albanian morning news program, Vila 24 on Channel 24, expressed interest in our family and over the course of two days last week filmed this 24 minute docu-interview.
We enjoyed the opportunity to discuss travel, volunteerism, worldschooling, foster care, and adoption and we were so glad to participate!
The intro and questions are in Albanian, of course, but our responses are in English with light voice-over Albanian translation, so the meat of it is understandable.
I hope you enjoy!

Second day of filming with journalist and friend, Elda Lamja.

Second day of filming with journalist and friend, Elda Lamja.

A little idea o’ mine

We were taking some pics , when this "wild, crazed wolf attacked"...ahhh, the power of words!

We were taking some pics , when this “wild, crazed wolf attacked”…ahhh, the power of words!

There are some really big words being used these days, and I don’t mean largewithalotofletters big. These words have a really big and powerful meanings and intentions behind them. For example, “bigot” is used more often than ketchup on fries. My social media feed is filled with accusations of hate, bigotry, stupidity, ignorance, misogyny, racism, radical, extremism, fundamentalist…the stories of heroes and love, intelligence, miracles, unity and selflessness are becoming fewer and fewer.

What does it all mean and how do I explain it all to my children? I have a lot of ideas and I’m going to share them (you knew that was coming, right?!). Maybe I will sound too “feel-goody” or maybe too simplistic, but I’m going to have a go at it…and I’m not very politically correct, so you can be assured that I won’t say anything because the masses tell me it’s the popular idea!

There is a very simple strategy behind my philosophy of life – I am free to think and believe anything I want and live according to those beliefs and my ideas surrounding my choices, as long as I don’t allow these to infringe on the liberties of others. My moral obligation is to allow others the same, and when my rights (or those of people I feel affinity for), are in jeopardy, I take action. That normally doesn’t entail name calling or misinterpreted use of words, no matter how popular they may be. If I do succumb to name calling, misuse of words, or fall into less than stellar behaviour, I take responsibility and do what needs to be done to repair it. Otherwise, I fight a good, fair, morally and ethically responsible, and legal fight to reverse whatever injustice has been rendered.

As to the use of all of these big words, I have taught my children to use a dictionary whenever someone begins spouting their political, religious, or whatever doctrine is popular for the day. They can then decide for themselves is making proper use of the words. If they are evaluate their statements and decide the benefits of the statements. If not, move on and do not give that person any serious attention. If a person wants to be taken seriously, they will at least use language that represents their ideas properly, not popularly.

Really, this is a very simple, practical position to take, no matter the topic. After all, a bigot is a person who is “utterly intolerant of any differing creed, belief, belief, or opinion” Dictionary.com, and not a person who just disagrees and / or shares their opinion (so check that this isn’t you and not the person being accused!)… and a misogynist is a one who “hates, dislikes, mistrusts or mistrusts women and not someone who disagrees or shares their opinion” Dictionary.com, unless that is actually the idea that is stated… a racist is someone who believes that “one’s own racial group is superior, or that another racial group is inferior to the others” Dictionary.com, not someone who simply disagrees or shares their opinion, unless that is the actual statement shared.

You’re WHAT?

Birthday dining in Montengro

Birthday dining in Montengro

I have alluded to it and never publicly acknowledged it. Not that anyone should really care in this day and age – everyone is entitled to their preferences, right? Even so, I am ready to step up and own it. I don’t even know when, or how, I really knew…it was just a sort of “aha” moment, when I thought, “this is what I am.”. I’ll tell the story…

When we arrived in Stockholm, Sweden, I struggled to find decent healthy food for a reasonable price. There are no reasonable food prices in Stockholm. Everyone was hungry all of the time. I felt like I was hunting for food everyday and no matter how much I bought, it wasn’t enough. We stayed in an apart-hostel and the kitchen was nice, but minuscule.

Then, we moved on to Poland. I loved Warsaw, but we weren’t long for there. Soon, we arrived in Krakow and another apart-hostel and tiny kitchen. It was here we fell In love kebabs. Food, glorious food! They were cheap and easy and we really couldn’t cook meat in the apartment, as there was no real cooking utensils for that (unless we wanted to boil it, and I didn’t!)

On to Budapest, and what a wonderful time! We loved the castles and inexpensive food choices – and the KITCHEN! We stayed in an Airbnb with a real kitchen! Good times we had, but something was amiss – everyone was growing increasingly dissatisfied. Complaints of aching and intestinal discomfort. Headaches and wild cravings for constant sugary things that we rarely ever indulged in. This didn’t happen at the amazing vegan restaurant we loved to eat at, though and a seed was planted…

We traveled to Serbia and beyond to Montenegro with that tiny seed ever so slowly sprouting…

Awaiting our meat...

Awaiting our meat…

When we arrived in Greece, the meat and french fry filled gyros were not only amazingly delicious, but wonderfully cheap, too – we could feed the whole family an abundance for under $20! But then, after a few gyro fueled heartburn blazes, the novelty wore off. We were left all craving still more meat, or so we thought, but more meat wasn’t the answer – we still were feeling less than our best, or even our okay-est.

We discussed it amongst ourselves. It was a practicality thing to begin with – meat is too hard to cook in tiny places lacking the means to cook it in the way we prefer and we didn’t always like the local options in several of our stays (That would NOT include Poland and Greece! A kebab or a gyro are amazing and wonderful, divinely inspired foods!). After a while, we found that we were using less and less meat and even when we thought we wanted it, it was disappointing and tasteless, and didn’t make (some of) us feel well. When we ate foods rich in fruits and veg, which we love, we felt so much better. Able to wake up in the morning, better and clearer thinking. Of course, it wasn’t just meat doing that – it was the sort of tourist-eating-new-foods that added to our problems, with processed foods and foods that we were unaccustomed to.

Then, it evolved into “part-time” vegetarianism ( I know! I have heard it said that there is no part time allowed – the reality is that, statistically, most people fit into the 80/20% group – 80% of food is vegetarian and 20% of intake is some form of animal products, albeit sometimes without knowing it). We would remain meat-free at home, but be free choice when eating out or at the homes of others. That idea didn’t last long…

Vegetarian Caveman stew

Vegetarian Caveman stew

So, after all of this time (about 4 months of avoiding it) we are ready to come out. We are no longer meat eaters. Not everyone is in the same circle. With 8 people, we have varying degrees of who likes/wants/does what. Everyone is almost completely processed sugar-free, with the exception being an occasional coffee, a birthday celebration or the local bakery bread that a few of the kids like. There are a few lacto-ovo vegetarians, one gluten-free vegetarian, a few that prefer eating vegetarian food but don’t want to fully commit when they smell bacon cooking or chicken roasting (which is fine!), and one gluten-free mostly raw vegan – that’s me. I have some serious health issues to overcome and this is what is helping me right now. I am eating about 90% raw-vegan, but include an occasional egg or mayo for protein and fat once in a while.

Mixed veg over rice and sheep's yogurt sauce (not pictured) all prepped in our tiny little Greek apartment!

Mixed veg over rice and sheep’s yogurt sauce (not pictured) all prepped in our tiny little Greek apartment!

Are we committed? Three of us are, but not as a lifestyle. Not all of the kids are sure they want to make this a lifelong plan, but really appreciate the bennies right now. We will not become religious about a meatless diet. This wasn’t a choice based on ethics. We raised ethical meat and dairy ourselves and I am not opposed to meat as food. This is a health and practicality issue. Travel and meat prep has been challenging and unsatisfying. Meat and meat products just don’t fit our lives right now and we need the health and vitality we have gained more than food worries, expenses, wild cravings and such.

What happened to your plans?

Just before we left Baja, Mexico for Europe March 2016

Just before we left Baja, Mexico for Europe March 2016

When we left the US for this journey through Europe, we had planned things in a different way than what has actually occurred. We had planned that this was a Great Gratitude Tour, a mission to work with refugees and those in need and record their stories. To work in camps where we could at the very least offer compassion, hope and comfort. To find gratitude, it’s meaning and live accordingly.

Not all of those have been accomplished in manner in which we set out. I was feeling really low about this, too, because I knew that a lot of people likely feel really disappointed in us for not being successful. Then I lined out all of those plans and examined them.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts” – Winston Churchill

There have been many roadblocks to our well laid plans. Many of the contacts that we had have left their positions or been unable to work with us as planned. There have been many occasions where we sought information on where we could be helped, but met with resistance or rejection because of our nationality (a post for “Being an American isn’t always a positive in other countries” may or may not manifest.), family size and even because of being a single female parent. These are not the reasons our plans were not successful.

When first arrived in Stockholm, Sweden March 2016

When first arrived in Stockholm, Sweden March 2016

That is not to say we haven’t been of service – we have. Just in different ways than we envisioned, or what might be commonly known as “service”. Sometimes our service has been in small, seemingly unimportant ways. Those have actually been the most rewarding of times. Helping people with their daily tasks because of age or infirmity, despite language barriers, is an amazing thing. Especially, when many people view Americans in a less than positive light because of the political climate in their country or the US.

When we left one place, an elderly man who sold popcorn missed us because we smiled and said “hello” to him in his own language every day. He had never had that happen and it changed his views about Americans and young people in general. That is just an everyday attitude, to smile and say hello to someone, but it can change lives little by little.

When we have the opportunity to have a “sketching party” at the riverside or a pretty little forest area and a crowd draws to see what the strange foreigners are doing, it gives an opportunity to interact with people and be friendly and prove that my little so-thought-of “underlings” are now known-to-be “wonderlings” because they have overcome their own challenges to engage with people in a real and intimate way. Something not thought likely in times past.

When we met a Syrian family of refugees who have lost so much and were able to talk, hear their story, offer encouragement and compassion and continue our relationship beyond the place we met, it was not how I envisioned it – it was more!

I had to rethink my ideas of successful. Were our plans successful? No. Those plans were not, for a variety of reasons. However, offering unconditional love and support, friendly gestures, helping people with their daily life to maintain their independence, those little things have made our journey a success, just not how we thought it would be. The success hasn’t come from the doing, it has come from the learning and growing. I am experiencing things that I never thought I could – the emotions, the motivations, the love for life, the new perspective.

“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” – Albert Schweizer

I have learned to be at peace no matter the chaos that storms my way. There have been some things that have arisen that I did not think I could deal with, much less live through, even a few months ago. I have found a strength, a will, a desire so powerful, to live a life so full of energy, faith, love and hope, that I could never believed that I am the same person I was a year ago! If anyone sets in this lifestyle as weak and dainty, they should know they won’t remain that way for long!

We haven’t abandoned our original plans, either. Those have evolved in to an even bigger, more defined state of being as the Bohemian Habitat, to become more than just the Great Gratitude Tour. The tour has been, and is, our education, our experience and our trial by fire. When this is done and we move forward with the Bohemian Habitat as our full time endeavor (yes, I will write about that and explain it later), we will have this Great Gratitude Tour as the success that propels is into a new kind of living and awareness, to make more successes possible.

Our time has not been wasted or a loss. I could not even imagine this experience a few years ago, or even a year ago, much less believed that our little clan could accomplish what we have! My children are learning and growing and becoming complete and balanced people. They are kind and thoughtful and creative. And brave, so very brave. For all of this, I am grateful. We are all grateful for the lessons learned, the people we have come to know and love, the places we have visited and fallen in love with, even the challenges we have faced and are facing. So today, I will call The Great Gratitude Tour a success.

How we came to Europe…

I am currently in Budapest, Hungary, writing this long overdue post.

WHAT?? I know! How did this happen? I will tell you. It is a long story and I have found myself in want of time and words to explain. I have the time now and have made it my goal to be ever more mindful of updating this blog.
In March, we had the opportunity to spend a month on the beach in Baja, Mexico. It was idyllic. The weather was wonderful and we met the most amazing people. I had many experiences and felt a continues calling to full time service and continued travel, specifically to work with refugees and displaced persons. I started researching what that could and would mean and the children were very excited and had more ideas to add to the plan. Things evolved quickly!

The decision was made - going to Europe!

The decision was made – going to Europe!

We were blessed with finding airline tickets for under $85 per person to Stockholm, Sweden and the call to act upon purchasing them. Because the tickets were specially priced for specific dates, we had only 3 weeks to prepare to leave! Our goal was to minimize our lives and live with only what we could individually carry in our backpacks. Another post on downsizing needs to be written regarding minimalist living and how to prep 8 people for long term independent travel!

We realized that we were unable to take our ever faithful and loyal service dog and family member, Mattie Ross, with us. The challenges of transporting her and obtaining the necessary documents for her was difficult enough, without the consideration of the transportation. We were blessed to meet a wonderful man, Doug, and his son Oliver, who fell in love with our girl and gave her a home and new life. I miss her terribly, but have no regrets , as she is so happy and well cared for by one of my dearest friends. God intervened and brought Doug into our lives and I am ever grateful for him!

Doug, Jacquelyn and Mattie Ross

Doug, Jacquelyn and Mattie Ross

We left for Stockholm on April 21, arrived the next day and learned what jet lag really is! For two days, I was almost non-functioning. The tiredness and body aches were unbelievable! Never has anything like that ever happened in my travels in Latin America! As my grandmother would say, “Lawd, have mercy!” .

On the plane to Stockholm, Sweden

On the plane to Stockholm, Sweden

Stockholm is all that an organization-loving nut job like me could hope for! It was clean, well designed, a bin for everything – except it was wildly expensive and people very reluctant to engage on any level. After 2 days, we wanted to leave! With few exceptions, we found the overall energy to be very negative. We were scheduled to be there for 5 days.

Something happened to our family while we were in Stockholm. We were overwhelmed by negativity. It was like a cancer, with everyone on edge, arguing and yelling constantly. None of the activities we tried to engage in were fun, the children were angry constantly, and it was just an overall unpleasant experience. I do not blame it on Stockholm, of course, but something happened that shifted the excitement and exuberance of our family to anger and hatefulness.

Finding some love in Warsaw, Poland

Finding some love in Warsaw, Poland

Our intentions in Stockholm were to understand the refugee situation in Sweden up close and personal. It didn’t happen. My inquiries were ignored or swept aside and I could not locate any information on refugee camps. So I left disheartened and with no more knowledge than I had before I arrived.

When we arrived in Warsaw, Poland on Easter Sunday, there was a definite, immediate shift. Attitudes lightened and my family was once more a likeable bunch with smiles and happiness and a sense of excitement.

We loved Warsaw! Arriving on Easter Sunday was a bit of a mistake – there was nowhere to buy food! Every shop, store and restaurant was closed. We were hungry by late afternoon, but through the kindness of strangers walking down the street, we were directed to McDonalds. I have no love for fast food, but was never so happy to find a McD’s in my life!
Warsaw was what we loved – It was inexpensive, people were much more amiable, museums were free or almost and so much to see! I really wanted to stay, but was encouraged to move to Krakow, where we would find it less expensive yet. I also had some direction that I would find contacts who were familiar with Ukrainian refugees in Poland. I left excited that things were coming together.

We left after only two days for Krakow, Poland by bus. Krakow was lovely and had such a history about it. We visited the Schindler Factory museum and many other sites, including Wawel Castle, museums and the Jewish Quarter. We stayed for a week and, while enjoying it in many ways our stay there did not add to our knowledge of the refugee crisis as hoped and intended.

We arrived in Budapest, Hungary and have now been here for a week. It is a beautiful city, the public transportation system is wonderful and inexpensive and the CASTLES! I love the castles! It is less expensive for us as a family than Poland. Food is moderately priced, and with an Aldi’s Grocery around the corner from our apartment, we have fared extremely well.

Castle hopping in Budapest!

Castle hopping in Budapest!

Some of my children are experiencing some challenges in different ways than ever and unexpectedly so – two of my children are struggling with some issues that are having an effect on their opportunities to learn and grow. I know that teens express themselves differently and struggles are common amongst teenagers, but these things are little bit outside the norm and are likely relative to Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, which may be at the center of many challenges my children face. I will address these things in more detail and often, as this is everyday life for us.

Tomorrow, we leave for Belgrade, Serbia by train. We will be there for several days. I am still hopeful that, as we get closer to the areas affected most by the influx of refugees, we will be able to engage more and find more information relative to our intentions than we have so far. My next post will continue on about our intentions in more detail.
We appreciate the continued prayers for success and direction, as well as health and safety!
Blessings to all~ THE CAVEMAN CLAN

The Great Global Gratitude Tour

We came up with the informal name, The Great Global Gratitude Tour, last year. We were thinking of it in different terms than we do now. Why? Our perspective and goals changed…drastically!
Our focus was on ourselves and how we could visit all of the places we wanted to visit and learn how to be grateful (a real struggle for my kids who experienced neglect and abandonment, as well as foster care, but that’s another post coming soon), all the while homeschooling/unschooling, all in a rather la-di-da fashion. Our goal was to cram the experiences into our lives while we could to have something to write about, talk about, and thinking that we would really be living the life!

Reporting for duty...

Reporting for duty…

Now, everything has shifted. While we studied and prepared to meet our goals in various ways, some things became apparent. The more we studied our Bibles and prayed together as a family and individually, the more we felt a longing to really serve, not ourselves, but God. That may sound a little hokey, but it’s real! We could envision doing many of the same things, but our intentions changed.
I think (hope, have faith!) that instead of trying to teach my children (especially the ones who were labeled as “broken”) how to feel gratitude, love, mercy, gratitude, gentleness, attachment (all of those emotions that are supposed to just magically appear to those raised in conventional families), I can let them experience how to just be those things. By allowing them to be present, by seeing that they can touch lives in a very real way through joyfully giving of themselves, they will experience so much more than I can ever teach them.
Well, can’t we just do all that without without travelling the world? Yes, but we can also experience our world, educate along the way and open our lives to so many more opportunities and experiences this way.
Also, I have considered that as a single parent of a large bunch, I didn’t want my life with my kids to be limited to just one location, or the usual daily grind! We are an unconventional family just by our very existence, so we may as well go forth and challenge all of the usual conventions!
I have some posts in the works about some of the challenges that my kids have overcome, single parenthood, finances, and more, so look for them soon!

The next steps…

We will be saying goodbye to Alamos, Sonora, Mexico on February 5, 2016! We have enjoyed so many things about our stay here, particularly the peaceful atmosphere that has allowed to us to grow, learn and prepare for the next steps of our adventure.
Which leads me to…we have decided, as a family, to make our travels a full time service mission for the next year. Everywhere we go, we commit to an act, or acts, of service. If that means feeding people, painting buildings, or just providing support for someone in need, then that’s what we will do.
Are we missionaries? Yes, but not necessarily in a traditional sense. Our calling is to serve others in whatever capacity we are needed and live/travel simply. We will carefully follow God’s directions and set aside our wants in favor of His plans.
Are we going to proselytize? Not really! Our calling is to let our lives preach, to share the love of Christ through our actions and share the Word, verbally, when it will be most appropriate and accepted. In other words, we aren’t setting out to convert the world, but rather to bring hope, compassion, love and our abilities to those in need. Ultimately, I believe God plans to accomplish a greater work in us rather than us accomplishing anything great!
We plan to live very simply, travel by land (in the Beast, our big van) for now, with planes, trains, buses and boats when needed, find accommodations by camping, couchsurfing, housesitting, and the occasional hotel/motel/cabin, while leaving as small an eco-footprint as possible. Clearly, we haven’t given up on fossil fuels, as you can see by our choices in transportation, but we are going to endeavor to keep it “clean & green” whenever possible, and post about our successes and failures.
We are currently continuing to downsize and reorganize, so that we have only what we can carry in our backpacks, our camping gear and immediate necessities. Some innovative (I hope!) organizational/travel items and compact electronics are being shipped to us, so be on the lookout for reviews. We will review our accommodations, food, travel gear, electronics, transportation, and anything else that comes up.
From here, we travel to Tucson, Arizona and on to San Diego, CA to visit, gather up some much needed supplies (these kids are growing out of their clothes!) and reconnoiter for a few days. Then, we will re-enter Mexico at Tijuana and continue down the Baja Peninsula, camping much of the way. We expect to have a few weeks of semi-R&R this way, while still serving all the while. After that, we will be spending some time, possibly a few months, travelling the southern states in the US. When the details are worked out for the next leg of the journey, I will post about our longer term time/travel line.
If you have any suggestions or questions, feel free to ask!