Sunday, May 8, 2016

A touch of mom-time, thanks to modern tech.

Me and my Mama, before e-mail was even a thing.
Around the time that I lost my mother to the evil that is cancer, about 2 and a half years ago, I stopped being able to function on a simple level. It was like motor skills...I'd lost my fine motor but could still haul myself through the gross movements...anyway, I kept myself and my family going but some of the finer points of being functional were all but absent. 

Like dealing with email. 

I used to have a pristine inbox that was never overrun. If I had 45 unread messages I felt so far behind it wasn't even funny; and I paid each bill the moment it hit my screen, replied to each message as soon as I was able... I remember seeing a friend's inbox screen once and she had over 300 unread messages and my heart sank for seemed like an impossibility to function with that many unread, unaddressed conversations in there. 

But after we said goodbye to my mother, I just...couldn't. Mortified, I watched as my inbox filled up with the messages I was usually able to filter and delete or address with relative ease in no time. They began to pile up. Pretty soon the number was in the hundreds, and I thought, I can deal with this once I'm through this fog, it is ok. 

The number rose. I still tried to grab the relevant ones where I could and not loose anything important in the hubub, but even that is a skill that took time to figure out. Meanwhile, the number kept rising.

Once my inbox had over 1,000 unread messages, I admitted that it was a part of grief. 

Once the fifth digit entered the picture, I reconfigured my inbox in order to cope with the influx. This had the dual purpose of making it easier to find those important messages in the mess as well as hiding so many of the unaddressed messages in side categories; "promotions", "social", "forums"...and the number suddenly only reflected the number in that particular category and gave me a false sense of "it's not thaaat bad..." even though each category was in the thousands, at least. 

I decided that my mother's day gift to myself this year was going to be reclaiming control of my inbox. A seemingly silly little thing that has massive psychological implications for me personally...I was going to reclaim control over this small part of my life that is such a big, important tool in my daily operations. 

Occasionally, I'd stop and think; I have to get this under control!! but I could never work fast enough to get ahead. I even considered abandoning the account and starting fresh; but that was never a smart idea and even in the midst of my overwhelm I knew it. 

The numbers just kept rising. And I just kept mitigating the disaster. Rise and deal. Rise, and deal. 

Yesterday, though, for whatever reason, I started to clean it out. The total number of unaddressed messages had risen into the six figure range by this point...yes, we are in fact talking about hundreds of thousands of unaddressed messages dating back two and a half was horrifying. (...and made me mentally apologize to my friend for having silently judged her mere hundreds...) 

This time, however, I discovered that Google had added a bulk selection option...a new feature that I hadn't encountered before...and for whatever reason, it gave me the shove I needed to be able to dig myself out from all of that. All the store promotions, all the facebook notifications, all the homeschooling listserve messages I never quite got too...gone, in an instant. And suddenly, I had the motivation. Search, select, delete, search, weed out the relevant bits, toss out the rest... 

So I spent all weekend on this project. Search, keep the few that I need, dump the rest...over and over and over, for two days. I took breaks to enjoy my family, James made Jiaozi and the kids helped him make a big chicken dinner...I sat with the cats and I deleted and addressed and deleted and addressed...and I did it. After two days of ruthless culling, I have finally whittled down my inbox to a mere 19 messages. Most of those are articles that James has shared with me over the years that I'd still like to read, a couple are from friends that need to be responded to, and one is there to remind me to vote in the current elections for the actor's union.That much, I can handle. 

So maybe the kids forgot it was mother's day this year until James stopped a fight by reminding them about it (and then they all piled onto my back with giggly vigor), and maybe I spent my whole mother's day in front of the screen while the kids rode bikes and scooters outside, and maybe we didn't prepare for our impending trip as we probably should have, but gosh darnit....last night I dreamed so vividly of my mom being around again, and it was so wonderful to see her, and spend time with her...and today I have that memory, and I have my inbox back. 

 And really, that's the main reason I care...because I know my mom would be proud of me for doing that. As much as I know she loved me unconditionally, I also know that I never met her standards for housekeeping or organizing my even though this is a kind of silly, stupid way to spend the holiday, for me, ignoring the holiday almost entirely and getting this major task accomplished was the perfect way to kinda spend it with my mom. 

Thanks for helping me clean up that mess, mama. I miss you so much, and I love you more than I can ever say. 

Happy mother's day. 

PS-don't worry about me not celebrating for myself...We are taking the kids on a special vacation after their uncle's wedding next week...there will be more festivities than we can handle, and I'll get my major fix of kid magic and smiles in there. I'm ok sitting this one out.

Plus, the 4H club project this week was to make mama wellness tea as gifts, so I had that, and our kiddos got completely smitten with the world of the vitamix, so they got us one as a combined mothers and fathers day gift. There will be ALL THE SMOOTHIES. I'd make one for you right now if I could. 

I hope you know how much these kids love you. They talk about you all the time, and often cry because they miss you.  And they each have things they hold sacred because they remind them of you...and they take pride when they realize that something about their being is akin to you. 

You may be gone physically, but you are so, so, SO not forgotten, but are loved and included every damn day. 

I miss you. 
and love you.  
and will take the chain from off that door, anytime. 
 Katie Rose

Monday, April 25, 2016

Elliniko Van Update!!!

Thank you to absolutely everyone who saw our call to action  and helped however you could, whether it was a monetary donation or simply helping to spread the word...Today I received this very very happy update from the members of Allied Aid.

You guys, I love you all.  As I said on TheFaceBook:  I am SO PROUD of you amazing and wonderful people; who dove into this head on...and triumphed hardcore.

These folks restore my hope for the future...

Love, Respect, Solidarity.

Look for the Helpers: Enter Hassan

I need to give out a special shout-out to Hassan.

Hassan helps me fit my friend Krystal's beloved carrier onto a refugee mama & her super spunky little baby Photo credit: Keli Hiatt Anderson
Look for the helpers, yes, but the helpers are not always people coming in from the outside.

Hassan was living in a tent at the port while we were there...He is a Yazidi man traveling with a group including his sister, who unfortunately, learned during our stay that she had lost 95% of her sight, and the only chance of saving her from complete vision loss was an operation that she'll never be able to get as a refugee...their whole family is incredibly kind and strong, from what I can tell.  Hassan, though, was more or less willingly adopted by our group and was indispensable in his role as our translator, since he speaks fluent English, Arabic, and Kurdish.  He is also just a genuinely nice guy, and fun to be around...He was game for pretty much anything we threw at him.  In addition to just walking around helping us to translate, he was out there helping us to fit carriers, helping us with heavy lifting, walking from gate to gate to gate with us...he even came with us to the Elliniko warehouse and worked all day sorting aid.

Hassan and Lily being their cute selves while walking between gates at the port
Can we just take a moment to let that sink in?  This man who is living with his legally blind sister in a tent outside of a warehouse building in a busy port, stuck in transit with no idea what was going to become of any of them, in a time when they had little food, next to no resources, and most people didn't have enough warm go from that situation to walk into Elliniko and see miles and miles of aid stacked up and boxed in this abandoned stadium, just sitting hard that must be, to see the aid so many of his fellow travelers desperately needed sitting in a warehouse, sorted, ready to go, and yet untouched?  But, Hassan is a helper. and a doer.  And he didn't say one word about it but he rolled up his sleeves and dug in.  He sorted and stacked and worked right along side of all the volunteers, and at the end of the day, he want back home, to his tent on the road at the port.

a testament to how fast we were trying to work here, but notice the blue blur at the top left?  That's our guy, makin' it work. Photo credit: Cristal Munoz Logothetis
Hassan is a hero in my book.

Much love and good wishes for you and your family, Hassan...and of course, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

In sickness...

Holed up for most of this week nurturing my sick kiddos as best as I can, I am overwhelmed with how unbelievably lucky I am to have the simple luxury of caring for my babies in a safe, warm, dry, spacious environment...for metal bowls to collect their vomit, which can be easily flushed away...for the blankets and fireplace and cozy places to keep them comfortable as the fight within their bodies rage; for the washing machine that lets me quickly and easily decontaminate our linens; for the fresh clean water I can give them to drink at will and use to clean the filth away from them; for the physical space we have to keep one child's illness from directly infecting the others...

Watching your children suffer through a stomach bug is never ever fun or easy, but this time around, I am a little more grateful...if they have to suffer from this illness, I am so glad that they are safe within our cluttered up middle class rented home full of family and food and comfort...

Tent city at gate E2 at the Port. Photo credit Keli Hiatt Anderson
Can you imagine what it must be like for the families in the camps? In the port? How horrible and hard would it be to have a little one fall ill while your whole family was living in a too small tent, your few belongings mixed up with the meager supply of blankets kept for warmth. No emesis basins, no quick clean of soiled easy access to a bathroom to east the intestinal soft comfort to ease the burden even a tiny bit.

Can you imagine? Can you believe that there are thousands of people out there, right now, dealing with this level of squalor? 

It boggles the mind.

Photo I took of a tent at Idomeni refugee camp at the Macedonian border. 
And reminds me to be epically grateful.

And to kiss my sweethearts and keep them close and to count my many many blessings at every chance I get.

It isn't something I think I will ever be able to take for granted.

Much love
In solidarity,

My thankfully not-sick kiddos.  I am so unspeakably lucky, and can't ever take that for granted.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

SPECIAL GUEST POST BY: Keli Hiatt Anderson

I am delighted to welcome my friend and fellow teammate Keli Hiatt Anderson to the blog. Keli is a phenomenal photographer who managed to snag some stunning photographs between carrier fittings and other aid duties. Keli was hit hard by the conditions we were faced with and shattered by the uncanny similarity between these children and her own four babies safely at home in Utah. I am honored to be re-sharing her original blog post here in its full unaltered form with permission from



Many of you know I recently returned from a trip to Greece. I was there with a group called Carry the Future ( and we worked at the port in Piraeus, Greece outfitting refugee families with soft-structured baby carriers. The goal is to make sure baby is safe, warm and close to mom or dad during their long journey to asylum. It also frees up their hands to carry their belongings or hold the hand of another child on the journey. When we arrived, we were prepared to meet ferries full of refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. But with the recent EU-Turkey agreement, and many borders closed, fewer refugees were coming off ferries. So they were forced into makeshift camps at terminals at gates E1, E 1.5 or E2. So that’s where we met them. We wandered the camps looking for parents to outfit with baby carriers. We knew that even though they weren’t moving anywhere at the moment, that (hopefully) they would be moving soon.
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We arrived in Athens in the afternoon. We had hundreds of pounds of baby carriers that we had checked and were having quite the time getting them from baggage claim to where our van would eventually meet us. We (my awesome teammates Kate Ruck, Kat Stroot and Sarah Gostenik) squished into the van (that had wifi!) and made our way to Piraeus. I should probably mention that we almost didn’t make our flight to Zurich because of all those pounds of baby carriers, but that’s a story for another day! So, we made it to the Piraeus Dream and met up with Cristal Logothetis, Carry the Future founder, Ann Cummings and Lily Kimbel. We rested for a bit, then went downstairs to acquaint ourselves with all of the baby carriers so we would know how to fit them.
So we were ready to meet our first ferry. I personally had some major butterflies. I had never worked with a few of the carriers and was having some major anxiety about it. But you learn by doing and so we set out to Gate E7. We met up with Rita Continakis (Carry the Future force in Greece) and her team and readied ourselves. The ferry arrived but no refugees came out. We found out that refugees on the ship had to stay the night. So Rita talked our way onto the ferry. We met several families and fitted them. A dad asked me if I knew where a doctor was. His baby had a fever and he was very concerned. I told him I didn’t know. That was one of the hardest things for me while I served my time there. Not being able to help in that way. Not having all the information. Not being a doctor, gosh darn it! I wanted to help them with so many things! But I could only do what I was there for. Fit carriers, hand out gloves and socks, and give hugs. So I did.
[Athens Team 6 with Rita’s Team]
The next morning we were ready. We prepared ourselves to meet a few more ferries at the port. No carriers to fit so we wandered around E2 and found some awesome families.  (For some reason I remember this first day really well. All the other days seemed to blend together.)
This was the first carrier I fit on my own. This sweet momma wanted us to fit her a little higher since she’s pregnant. She has 4 sweet little girls. One of the daughters was barefoot so I gave her some socks. After I fit the momma, I noticed she, too, was barefoot.
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More first (full) day photos…
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I wanted to make sure that I was able to give out the carrier that I brought along and wore with Ella. We were walking back to our hotel and we met a family and asked if they wanted a carrier. Mom said yes and so I fitted her with Ella’s. I told her that I wore it with my baby (using all sorts of sign language since we don’t speak the same language) and she smiled. I think she understood. I’m so glad it will help her carry her sweet boy. I hope she loves it and it helps on her journey.
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The rest of the days… (Seriously, I couldn’t tell you which day was which. I do know that we started out one of the days with this awesome pic below…)
[From left to right: Kate Ruck, Kat Stroot, Sarah Gostenik, Cristal Logothetis, Ann Cummings, Me, Lily Kimbel]
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These sweet kids at E1. They have my heart. We showed up and they immediately wanted to play and hug. I was amazed at how much they are like my own children. I imagine they have similar hopes and dreams. They were happy and beautiful little people. Whenever we came, they never wanted us to leave. So we sang songs with them and played games with them. We taught them words, and they taught us words. They tried to feed us (half-eaten) food. They have big hearts. My heart hopes they can find their way to a home where they can not only have a good life, but shoot for their dreams. They deserve it. Just like my kids do.
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More port photos…
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The days were long, yet short. We worked a lot! None of us got very much sleep. We spent our days either at the port distributing carriers, helping in the Emergency Supply Room at E2, or at the warehouse at Elliniko helping there. At the warehouse we met Fadi who is an amazing individual. He pretty much runs the warehouse. The warehouse is actually an abandoned venue from the Olympics and it’s full of donations from around the world. Fadi and his team organize everything and then he fills up his eight-person van and takes it to the port for distribution. He is unemployed and essentially works full time as a volunteer. He rents his van for 800 Euro a month. Some of my awesome teammates are sponsoring a campaign to buy Fadi a van. If you’d like to help Fadi get his van, click here.
There is so much more. I have over a thousand photos. This is just a drop in the bucket. But I wanted to share a little bit of my experience. I have so many stories, but this will have to do for now.
Some final thoughts…
I am home but I’m having a hard time adjusting. The jetlag was brutal but it’s not really that. Things are a little surreal. I’m having a hard time getting back into life, the daily grind. I feel like I left a little bit of my heart in Greece, with those sweet families. I hope the politics changes soon. That borders are opened and these families I met (that I wanted to take home with me!) are able to find a permanent place to call home. I pray for them. That things will change and they can make it to Northern Europe and create wonderful lives for themselves.
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