Preparing for Peru: What I’m Changing from Ecuador


It’s weird – this preparing for Peru. I knew it would feel rushed – having just gotten back from Ecuador a little under 2 months ago, but this feels nothing like what I expected. It’s already so different from Ecuador – so, so different. I have done so much less preparing – both physically and mentally. I actually haven’t even purchased my plane ticket to Miami yet. And yet, there is a peace about this trip that I didn’t have with either Ecuador visit. There’s this prevailing calm that assures me it will all work out in the end.

Part of that calm, a small part probably because let’s face it – the biggest part of the calm is completely God, is coming from the fact that after each trip I learn so much…and I continually tweak my traveling, and in that way, each trip gets easier. Peru is no different. This time, I’ll be:

  • taking 1 checked bag (not 2)
  • Visiting 1 child on fun day (not 3)
  • Possibly booking a flight with a layover instead of a direct flight to MIA – we’ll see, not totally sure on this one
  • bringing more family/home visit gifts (I wish I had taken more “hostess” gifts to Ecuador, but I just didn’t have the room)
  • buying actual headphones for the plane – my ears can only take so much of the earbuds.
  • carrying a digital scale for luggage on the return trip
  • taking my letters from Helen Angela to look at with Helen Angela
  • packing with a color scheme in mind – this worked so well last time!
  • pre-loading audio book after audio book for the plane – 7ish hour flights are ugh.
  • taking my phone battery booster – because audiobooks
  • writing to my Helen Angela while I’m waiting to meet her – because this is my tradition and I love it.
  • packing peanut butter just incase

When I sat down this past weekend and started my packing I had a small panic moment thinking I wasn’t going to be able to fit everything in a single checked bag – but that fear is unfounded. Even after packing everything I’d planned on putting in my checked bag, I have 7 pounds of room available – which means I can move some of the items from my carryon to the checked bag and still be fine.  I cannot imagine how light it will feel to travel with a single checked bag – again, from here it’s feeling like a calm sigh.

I’m continually amazed at how each of these Compassion trips have been exactly what I needed, when I needed it – and I know Peru will follow that pattern, and, I’m really looking forward to immersing myself again.


Spring Fling Mini Quilt

Just before I left for Ecuador, I finished up this pretty little quilt for another one of the mini-quilt swaps I signed up for through instagram. This time, the theme was Spring, and my partner had requested bright, non-pink colors. It took me a while to decide on a pattern, but once I did, it all came together in a matter of hours.SpringFlingMini_ - 1

I started by searching my pinterest board for mini-quilt inspiration. When I came across this pin, I knew I had the winner. Using Lori Holt’s book Quilty Fun, I followed the instructions for her tulip row and modified it to include 5 tulips instead of 11 – the perfect size for a mini-quilt. a From there, I searched through my stashed fabric for bright, spring colors that did not include pink – which was harder than I thought it would be. I settled on a couple of yellows, oranges, greens, and purples. SpringFlingMini_ - 2

I backed the quilt with a minimal daisy-like printed fabric that also screamed spring w/out being overly pink, and added my “label” written at the bottom of the bright oragne binding. For the quilting, I thought it would be fun to try out a raindrop pattern that’s been floating around in my head for a few weeks.  All in all, I absolutely love how it turned out – and completely wanted to keep it for myself…which, I have learned, is the sign of a project well-done.

SpringFlingMini_ - 3What fun projects have you been working on lately? I’ve got a couple more quilts/quilting projects I’ll be sharing in the next few weeks as I prep for Peru – some new ideas and some old. I can’t wait to share them all with you. And I’d love it if you link to your own projects and let me see what goodies you’ve been crafting.

Ecuador Days 1 & 2: Elevation Changes, Church Celebrations, & the Equator

Once again I find that I have no idea how to begin this post – or even the words to use to describe the amazing experience that was Ecuador. I know I left part of my heart in South America, and in all honesty, most days the trips I took there feel more like a weird, wonderful dream than reality. I got to see my sponsored children again. I got to speak with them, hear their own voices, give them hugs, and show them love in person. I held their hands in mine – and once again utterly left my heart with them.

There’s no way I could convey the full range of emotions felt from this trip in a single post – so, just as I did with my last trip, I’m attempting to share in a series, breaking it down day-by-day or story-by-story; but bear with me, these words are hard to write and even harder to share…


[Long post alert – consider yourself warned]

Day 1: Travel from Northeast Arkansas to Central Ecuador, 2630 miles. 

I’ll be honest, Day 1 is a total blur. I went to sleep around 9pm only to wake up at 1am to get ready to make a 1.5hr drive to the airport to catch a 5:44am flight from Memphis, TN, to Miami, FL. I juggled 4 bags that were packed to the absolute limit – in fact, I was mentally preparing to pay the $200 over-weight fee because I had packed them so full.

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I got to the airport at 3ish, it might have been closer to 3:15…I really don’t remember. I do remember that I had to wait in the lobby for a bit because the bag-check didn’t open until 4am – so that was fun. But, once it was open, I was in for my first blessing – underweight bags! Between the two checked bags I had 5 whole pounds to spare. 5 pounds! I’m telling you, that’s a miracle. I had those bags soooo full of gifts for my kids and the kids of other sponsors. But God is good – and he makes room (and weight) where there is none.

Ecuador2015Day1&2_ - 3So, groggily, I boarded that first flight – and got to see the sunrise from above the clouds, which, by the way, is always the best. I’m totally not a morning person – AT ALL, but man, a sunrise above the clouds is just hard to beat – because it means I’m traveling, and traveling is always worth it. If I could only make a living out of visiting my Compassion kids and traveling to new places (without having to give up so much in order to accomplish it) …. but I digress. 

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I remember 2 things main things about Miami: It was hot (especially since I was wearing like 3 layers of clothing – no room in the suitcases, remember) and I was starving. My TSA precheck didn’t show up on my ticket from MIA to Quito, so I ended up having to go through the long security line which took about a half-hour. By the time I made it to my gate it was around 9am. I’d already been awake 8 hours and hadn’t eaten before I left the house because I didn’t want to get sick on the plane – it takes a while for me to really be able to eat breakfast and I always get a bit queasy in the mornings – especially on early flights. So I waited until I got re-checked and found the right gate before I got any food. Fortunately, there were several restaurants around my gate, and I found the most amazing ham and cheese empanadas. Seriously, they were so good! After breakfast I began the long waiting game until my friend Deb (who was also going on this trip) arrived in Miami – around noon.Ecuador2015Day1&2_ - 4

I met up with Deb for lunch, and then we joined the rest of the Compassion group for the 4 hour flight to Quito. All in all, there were 32 of us on this trip. I got an aisle seat on the flight (yay!) and was again pleasantly surprised when the middle seat ended up being vacant, the in-flight movie was “The Theory of Everything,” and the lady in the window seat was the sweetest little abuela who only spoke Spanish. The cool part is, I actually carried on a conversation (all be it limited) with her! She told me that she was headed home from visiting her daughter and grandchildren in St. Louis, that they were sad to see her leave, and that she only gets to see them about once a year. I told her we were lucky to have just the two of us in a row, and that I lived somewhat close to St. Louis. We didn’t talk much, but man – it was really awesome to be able to understand even just a small amount of what she was telling me. I cannot wait until I’m more fluent. Being bilingual is going to be amazing.

Once we landed, went through immigration and then customs, we still had about an hour bus ride to the hotel. One of the other ladies on the tour got herself a luggage cart to navigate customs, and she was super nice and got me one, too – which was amazing because I was starting to feel the altitude lugging the 4 bags around. For just $2 each ($5 in MIA), the carts were a welcomed relief. I was actually a bit worried about the altitude – especially when I started to feel it so bad just by moving my suitcases from baggage claim to the customs line; so the fact that she offered to get me a cart was so incredibly nice of her and a huge help to me. After getting through customs and loading our bags on the bus, we headed to the hotel.

It was around 11pm before we made it to the hotel for the night. Fortunately, the plan was to spend two nights in Quito before leaving for Otavalo, so I didn’t have to re-pack my bags. Also, there was a pretty fantastic bathtub in my room – which I made good use of. I slept so good. So, so, so good. It’s amazing how well you can sleep after being up a solid 24 hours.

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The next morning I woke up to the most amazing view ever – seriously, do you see that mountain? For a girl who comes from flat – F-L-A-T – flat 250ft above sea level Mississippi Delta flat – the mountains of Ecuador amaze me every time. In the daylight, seeing them again made me feel like I was home. Like a part of me that I didn’t know was wandering was finally home. And I thought, Yes. This is right. I am here and I am home. 

We ate breakfast at the hotel and then boarded the bus to go to EC148 for morning worship. Let me just say, if you want to truly feel God in a worship service, it’s hard to beat a worship service in a developing country – in a language not your own – when you feel the praise in your spirit because your soul understands what your ears do not.

We fully participated in the worship service – an entire hour of standing praise and worship (where I both felt God and felt the altitude). This was the worst day for altitude, and I did end up taking an Excedrin migraine in order to prevent the horrible headache I could feel coming my way. All in all though my altitude sickness this time was considerably less than last time – I drank a ton more water – and people take it from me – that helped so much!

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Anyway, back to the worship service – which was fantastic. I actually understood about 40% of the songs, and more than that if they used the projector and I could read what they were singing – and then, then I started to be able to hear it, too. My ears adjusted to the speed and my mind caught up and it was so great. I knew what they were singing – on both an outward and inward level. I knew as a believer and I knew as a student of the Spanish language. Want to talk about powerful – when those worlds collided – I have no words. I was just exactly where I was supposed to be in the exact right moment. I will never forget that feeling.

After worship service, we followed all the children to a local park for children’s church. The church is renovating their property to make more classrooms, but currently uses the park for Sunday morning children’s church. Ecuador2015Day1&2_ - 8

For children’s church, the universal appeal of puppets became apparent very quickly. The lesson, on obedience, was part of a series of lessons the church had been presenting over the past several weeks. The key verse was Ephesians 6:1, “Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” There was even a fun little song to go with it talking about how we should listen to our parents, teachers, and leaders.
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After the puppet show, we had some unplanned time to play with the kids – which was one of my favorite parts of the trip. Karen, pictured below, sought me out during the lesson and stuck pretty close during the play time. She was the sweetest little girl and let me practice some of my limited Spanish. I cannot stress what a difference it made to be able to somewhat communicate with the locals on this trip – language is such a blessing that we take for granted every single day. In 2013, playing with the kids was fun, but also frustrating because of the language barrier. Being able to break that barrier, even in the tiniest of ways, was so great. Sitting there with Karen, I learned that she did not have a sponsor – and felt the need to ask her project about it. Turns out, Karen isn’t in the program. She’s a local girl that attends the church service, but her family is blessed and her income level is too high to qualify for sponsorship. (Which, as it happens, is just like the last shy, sweet girl in a white dress I met during a church service in Ecuador – there may be a pattern developing here…)
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From the church we headed to the northern part of Quito, to visit the iconic Virgin Angel and have lunch a Pim’s – a fantastic restaurant that overlooks all of Old Town and the north side of the city. The views were amazing, and food delicious. Our drink options were soda or water – and it was fun to see that while they didn’t know what “orange soda” was, they quickly recognized “Fanta” – and by the way, glass-bottled Fanta at 9,350 above sea level is sooooo good. I’m not a huge soda drinker, but man, I could have a bottle of that a day…. so long as it came with the view 😉Ecuador2015Day1&2_ - 11Ecuador2015Day1&2_ - 13Ecuador2015Day1&2_ - 12

After lunch, we drove to the other side of Quito to visit the equator. Unlike my trip in 2013, this time we saw a different equator tourist attraction. This one was smaller, and seemed more like a Route 66 side-of-the road type attraction. It was interesting though – it had more of a local history feel to it. They had built a traditional hut on site, had several artifacts, preserved anacondas and giant spiders, and a mural of how to shrink heads. Did I mention it was an interesting place? The tour guide also demonstrated the Coriolis effect which was awesome – and made for some great videos. Also, I totally got sunburned – leave it to me to forget the sunscreen on the day we actually visit the equator. Ecuador2015Day1&2_ - 14
Finally, we ended the day back at our hotel with a very nice meal in one of the banquet rooms. They served traditional potato soup (which if you like potato soup, was delicious) and very pretty desserts that were chocolate and some sort of fruit – they were yellow, but not lemon. Anyway, after supper, I went back to my hotel room and rearranged my bags – we were leaving for Otavalo the next day and had the option to leave some of our bags in Quito at the hotel. Since most of my bags were actually gifts – and I wouldn’t be needing any of them in Otavalo, I was able to leave everything but a single rolling carryon, and that was so nice. Having to just juggle a single bag made my logistics so much easier – I had seriously dreaded lugging the gifts around all week. Now, not only was my luggage lighter, but so was my spirit. This was such an excellent start to the trip.

After typing all of this, it’s a bit hard to believe we did so much in one day. Also, I’m once again amazed at how much you can forget in just a few short weeks. I had to ask fellow travelers where we ate for supper because I truly could not remember – which is so crazy to me. Anyway, I’m hoping to share a day of the trip each week, so check back next Tuesday for more 🙂


Rainbow Mini Quilt

Several months ago, after, I had finished my first Schnitzel and Boo mini quilt, and had tons of rainbow half-square triangles leftover, I came across a rainbow themed mini quilt swap on instagram. I knew it would be the perfect project to use up all those stray HSTs, and immediately signed up to participate. Before I even had a partner assigned, I laid out the triangles in diamonds of cool vs warm colors, and created a large accent diamond in the upper left corner. All in all I think the quilt top itself took me just over a couple of hours to complete. IMG_1122
Which means that my entire quilt probably took 4-5 hours? But I’m a procrastinator and didn’t quilt/bind it until the very last minute – and I’m pretty sure it hit the mail a day or two later than it should have. This quilt was made completely with fabric from my stash – which makes me smile. I’ve actually done much better than I thought I would when it comes to purchasing fabric this year. Other than notions and specialty weight fabric (like the canvas used for the duffel bags) I’ve stayed away from the fabric stores. Slowly but surely I’m making a dent in this stash and cleaning out some room to breathe.


To quilt this one, I stuck to a large diamond pattern. And, funny thing, the top turned out to be the exact size of a fat quarter – so that’s what I backed it with. I really love how it all turned out, and am so glad that my partner loved it, too.


Right now, I’m finishing up several more swaps (I got a little swap happy back in January and signed up for a TON) – so I’m sure I’ll be sharing more mini-quilts soon. But until then, have you participated in a quilt/craft swap? I’d love to see your project!


Look at that Smile!

Almost exactly two years ago I wrote a post about my Compassion International Child, Helen Angela, and her Almost Smile Photo – a photo that I was so happy to get because it was the first time I had seen her remotely happy. Always a serious photo taker, Helen Angela comes off as stern and no-nonsense, which is the opposite of how her letters portray her. In fact, the contrast is so great that I’d already made up my mind to somehow get a smiling photo of her in June when I travel to Peru to meet her…. but then, I got the most amazing gift in the mail:


Look at that smile! That big, beautiful, full on smile! Tucked away in a thank-you letter (telling me what she was able to get with her birthday money I sent –  the clothes she’s wearing) was this wonderful surprise. I cannot even begin to describe how happy this makes me. In my 10ish years of sponsoring her, this is the first real smile photo I have. 10 years!

I whole-heartedly believe this photo is a direct result of the increased amount of letters I’ve been sending her. I’ve noticed a warmth in her letters, and now I see the physical proof. It’s just one more reminder of why writing is so important.

And now, I can’t wait to meet this beautiful young woman with the smile that brings me so much joy. So, thank you, Helen Angela. Thank you for your wonderful letters and infectious happiness. Here’s to hoping I get many more smiling photos!



Today I am returning to work from my wonderful trip with Compassion International last week. Words still escape me – the expierence was, once again, amazing – and hopefully I’ll be able to share many moments with you all soon. Until then, enjoy your Tuesday!


“But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.” ~Mark 10:14

Questions for My Sponsored Kids

If all goes to plan, in just a few short hours I’ll be hugging my sponsored kids and dining with them at the hotel. I am beyond giddy! When I traveled with Compassion International to meet my two Ecuadorian sponsored children, Josué & Emily, in 2013, I had no idea what to expect. No idea how I would react or what I would see. And so, when I returned, I ended up having a long list of questions I wished I had asked my kids while I was with them. I first shared this list back in May of 2014, but I thought it would be fitting to re-share and review it, today. This time, I’ll be ready. I’ll be prepared to delve deeper into their everyday – and hopefully, I’ll gain a better understanding of their family and their lives.


Back in 2013, they, our group leaders, did tell us to be thinking of questions to ask our kids – they warned us that we would get caught up in the moment and forget what we wanted to know if we didn’t write it down. They did tell us, and I did ignore them. I couldn’t think of anything in particular that I wanted to know – I just wanted to know my kids. I just wanted to see them, hug them, and tell them I love them. I didn’t have anything to ask them. I am, by nature, a quiet person, an extremely introverted person. Small talk tires me – it was enough, in those few moments, to simply hold my kids. To just be there with them – to be completely there. To breathe in the air and know that this moment will never happen again.

And so, like they warned me, I forgot anything I wanted to ask. I stumbled over the small talk- amazed at simply being there. I had no idea what to say or what was appropriate to ask. Fortunately, I was blessed with an amazing translator who kept the conversation going as me and my kids are all quiet, reserved souls – and there were so many new people. Only when I had said my “bye-for-nows” did I realize there was so much that I didn’t ask.  So much more that I wanted to know.

Below are the questions I forgot – the ones that I’m now including in my letters, but wished I had included in my face-to-face conversation. Some of them don’t seem like much, but they are gold to me. Let me encourage you, if you are ever taking a trip to meet your sponsored child, take a notebook with you. Write down your questions for them, and their answers to you. Write down all the names of all the people you meet. Write everything down. Memories are frail and fleeting when it comes to small details – notebooks, pen, paper, cameras – invaluable.

Things I wish I had asked both Emily & Josué:

  1. How are your father & siblings?
  2. What did you do when you found out I was coming to visit you?
  3. What kind of “extras” do you like to get with the letters? (do you still like stickers? Do you like the paper planes better? What makes you most excited to open the letters?)
  4. Which letter is your favorite, and why?
  5. What size clothes do you wear?
  6. Exactly how tall are you?
  7. What is your shoe size?
  8. What is your home like?
  9. What does an average day for you look like?
  10. What is the hardest part of your day?
  11. How many kids in your project get regular letters from their sponsors?
  12. Do any of your friends/siblings not get letters?
  13. How old is your Compassion Project?
  14. How long have your tutors been working with Compassion?

Things I wish I had asked for Emily specifically:

  1. What is your favorite part of the Compassion Program?
  2. What kind of lessons does your mother teach for Sunday School? Does she have a favorite lesson?
  3. Has your father found stable work? Did he get his teach accreditation?
  4. Does your mother still work with Compassion at the Project? What does she do there?

Things I wish I had asked for Josué specifically:

  1. How did you get started with your baseball team?
  2. Tell me more about the service projects you and your friends do for your neighborhood.
  3. Who is your best friend, what do you like most about them?
  4. Of all of your baked goods, what have you been most proud to make?

What would you ask your sponsored child, if you could ask them anything?