it’s really just about the people.

Tomorrow begins another school year…early meetings and trainings kick off in the morning…the rest of the staff return next week…then the students arrive following Labor Day.  I could be feeling anxious or stressed with the end of summer and the return to full weeks of work…OR I could be feeling at ease, ready for routine and excited to get back at it.  Well…truth is, I feel a little bit of both. Naturally.  Yet when I really stop and think about it, I am simply happy to have had a little vacation time…and so very grateful for the people in my life that make it all worthwhile!

My final weekend of summer was filled with sweet connections…there were dinners and drinks with friends on a patio in the city…two coffee dates with cousins…a jog/walk around a lake with a pal and her dog…an afternoon matinee with my hubby…breakfast downtown with friends visiting from NoDak…yoga and a glass of wine with my cousin/flowergirl…phone calls and texts with my sis and my girlie.

So many sweet conversations about things in life that really matter.  The work, the meetings, the planning – those things matter too, but REALLY it is just about the people. In all I do, I savor the moments spent with others…sharing life together.

So as another school year begins, I will seek connections…with colleagues, with students.  I will keep working at the balancing act of leaving work at work, so that I can enjoy the time spent with family and friends.

I will listen more…laugh more…love more.

Here’s to another great year ahead!

boys being boys

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” -Leo Buscaglia

kozefò 5k 2014 by the numbers

The 3rd annual Kozefò 5K is wrapped up for another year.  Check out results from last year HERE and from our first ever 5K HERE. Each year I am incredibly humbled by the kindness and generosity of others, as they come on out to support the work we are doing in Haiti. We had family, friends, a big crew from the the Sartell area, Woodbury Community Church members, Saint Paul Public School employees, and our returning adult male winner that just came to run a 5K and support a good cause.  The money raised from this event goes directly into the general funds for running our Primary School in Port au Prince and the jewelry sales profit goes to the artisans at The Apparent Project. Huge shout out to Doreen for taking the lead as 5K Coordinator, to Scott for running the registration and t-shirt sales, Ann for keeping the finances in order, Jim for running the sound system and coordinating crossing guards, Liz for selling the jewelry and Eric Ramsdall with the Woodbury Police Department for their support. We had folks setting up and posting route signs, there were crossing-guards, a registration team and a crew running the water stop. This event could not happen without all of these fantastic volunteers! Thank you, thank you thank you!

**And a special bonus is that the 5K was won by a native Haitian!  JP Schlecht crossed the finish line first this year!!

total Runners-Walkers registered: 167

total volunteers (a little overlap, as some volunteers also ran or walked): 52

money raised: $5540

5K Senior High Girls

5K Runners:walkers waiting

5K Opening speech

5K Runners Start

5K Coordinator Doreen and Volunteers

5K Apparent Project Jewelry Sales

5K Top Youth

5K Kozefò Sisters

family vacation

Sitting out on the back porch on vacation with this view right now…ahhhhhh…

back porch

There is something special about getting away from the routines and chaos of daily life to relax and reflect a bit. And to do that with my family is an even sweeter gift.  We roadtripped with our girlie and her fiance…10+ hours of bonding in a car, sharing snacks, telling stories, napping…good stuff.  Then met up with my parents, my little sis and her fam for even more familial togetherness.  We have seen shows, ridden the duck boat, dined out, cooked in, shopped…there have been late night conversations and early morning jogs.  Often in the busyness of life, my sis and I share “status of the fam” updates on voicemail for each other, filled with brief overviews of what and where everyone happens to be. So, now that the 12 of us our sharing this sweet vacation home, I can provide the “status” here…currently we have 2 nappers, a tv watcher, a reader,  7 at the pool and me.

Instagram and Facebook have been overflowing with great pics this summer of families doing life together…reunions, travels, sports, picnics, bbq action and more…I’ve been quick to add my own adventures, as a way to capture the moments I wish to save as memories.  This summer we celebrated my parents’ 70th birthdays! Gosh…70 years of memories and no social media to store all of those “instants” from their past…there are polaroids, photos and even a few reels of slides maybe, but nothing as instant as uploading from their phones during their childhood or early days of parenting and grandparenting. So, they share stories…and demonstrate the fine art of “memory making” by living in the moment – being willing to plop on a Krispy Kreme hat for late night donuts…learning how to text and use facebook…making the early morning coffee to share on the porch…throwing a baseball around with a grandson…and SO.MUCH.MORE.  My sis and I, plus our hubbies and kiddos are blessed to have parents that still hold hands and patiently support one another in all they do…who have demonstrated what it means to live life well.

Thanks Mom and Dad for sharing your vacation time with all of us! Thanks for showing us the value of family. Happy Happy 70th Birthdays to you both!

Family Collage

reflections: Kozefò Team Trip 2014.

IMG_0252It is just a little over a month ago that we traveled as a team to Port au Prince…and yet it already seems like a lifetime ago. So much was shared in such a short time – with the full range of emotions flooding our minds.  At the time, it was difficult to share many details, as we were simply living in the moment, savoring each interaction with each other and with the students and staff. Upon returning home, life picks up right where it left off…work demands, family needs…laundry, dishes and well…just life! So now, as I pause and reflect back, it is clear that God is orchestrating this entire adventure.  This was my 7th trip and with each one, I learn how little I know…my eyes are opened to something new each time.  I never really know what will be up next…and yet I wait…and I trust.

Here is what I do currently know.

All 46 current students are sponsored.

Generous donors are stepping up to provide daily meals and plenty of water for all of the students.

The rent of our building has been covered for the next 6 months.

The staff we have in place are amazing – God-loving, caring, passionate, creative individuals that keep things running.

Textbooks and uniforms are being ordered.

A classroom on the rooftop will allow us to open the door to 15-20 more students in the fall.

Another young student has joined us on-site full time, given circumstances that were keeping him from his full potential.

The Apparent Project and Heartline Ministries are organizations doing great things in Haiti and we will continue to support and promote their work.  (Haitian-made jewelry will be available for sale at the 5K…and the Heartline Guesthouse provided an awesome safe haven for us each night during our stay!)

Kozefò Board Members, family and friends are sharing their time and talents to keep this school operating.

I am completely humbled by it all. Take a peek into our adventures on this video (thanks to Graphic Design Intern Laura!) Consider joining us at the annual 5K happening August 9th! [Free t-shirts included if you sign up today!]  Contact me if you would be interested in sponsoring one of our new students – updates coming in September.  Thank you ALL for your continued support and encouragement.

wanting more.

Does the desire to want more ever end? It is summer in Minnesota , the glorious few weeks we get with beautiful weather to be outdoors…I am wishing that I could have joined my pals for a walk last night…or a weekend up north at Melinda’s cabin…or at a ballpark or soccer field to watch my nephews…or floating on the pontoon at my parents (in fact they both celebrated their monumental 70th b’days this summer and I was not able to join them.) So many places I wish I were.  So many things I wish I were doing. I want to sit on a backyard patio, or around a campfire, or lounge on a floatie in the middle of a lake.  I want to read books for fun-to watch late night TV-to sleep for 8+ hours.

The past couple of weeks have been a whirlwind, with work projects, grad school, Kozefò planning/processing.  My brain is overflowing. I am exhausted. There are moments when all I want to do is quit it all…move to a remote location and relax in a hammock by the beach.

But no, I will persevere.  I will write the 8 papers, create the 3 presentations, map out a professional development plan, draft non-profit by-laws, check and respond to email, load the dishwasher, fill my vehicle with gas….

Because that is what we do.  We keep moving.  One day at a time. One project at a time. We survive. My adorable little sunroom office space cannot hold me…I have moved to the family table with all of my piles…

life at the moment

In the midst of it all, there have been little moments of wonder and fun.  My dear bride-to-be daughter came home for a week of vacation. [A super sweet gift, since the hubby is in NoDak, taking care of the parentals.] We have squeezed in wedding-planning conversations, dress shopping, and dinner dates. Such a refreshing change of pace to discuss menu options, flowers, and wedding attire…as opposed to the issues of budgets, conciliation, and maltreatment.

dessert and dress shopping

So really, when all is said and done, life is a constant balancing act…of doing what needs to be done and doing what we choose to do.  I may always want more, but such is life. Ultimately, we will never be fully satisfied until heaven. So I continue, to keep on keeping on.  Hope your summer days are filled with more of what you WANT to do and LESS of what you have to do.

98% happy.

Gosh, what would that look like?  98% happy? Not really even sure that I can plop a percentage onto my happiness level.  Could you?  Do you think that most people we meet are in the 90+ range? Probably not.  What does happiness really even mean? How do we achieve it…how do we savor it?  Here in the good ol’ US of A, I believe that happiness is often equated with success or leisure or freedom or maybe even nice weather! (Especially in the north country where we are sure giddy about the warmer days.)

And yet, this sweet student in Haiti, dictating her letter to her School Sponsor in Creole to an interpreter, who then translated  it to English for our interns to record, expressed her happiness at 98%…

98 percent happy

[Hello, Thank You! I love you a lot. I am happy that people are visiting me. I am happy 98% (the 2% is that I can't see you!) I also like to swim and play with my doll.  I am very excited for the doll!  This has been unforgettable, so thank you!]

I want to be 98% happy.  I want to enjoy the people that are in my life.  I want to view my life moments as unforgettable.

Instead, I often find myself living anxiously, wondering what needs to be done next…doubting…or fretting…over very silly things.  There seems to be this pressure to always do more, be more…and yet life would be a bit more peaceful if I simply slowed down long enough to enjoy the moment…to relax enough to show up to work in sneakers and a baseball cap occasionally…to let the homework assignment wait and simply watch a movie with my husband. (Yep!  Did BOTH of those things today.)

When we visited our school in Haiti last month, we had the opportunity to share letters from sponsors to students…and for them to return a few words back to their sponsors. The interactions were sweet and humbling…building relationships with these students is my MOST FAVORITE part of this work in Port au Prince…so to extend those sweet relationships between students and sponsors fills my heart with 99+% happiness!

sponsor letters

Take a peek at sweet Ruth Lasseur and her mama…this is the young lady that Bob and I sponsor, followed by her gracious letter to us…

Lasseur Ruth and Mother

 

responsible

[Dear Sara & Bob, I am happy & I will work harder to satisfy you more.  I would like to see you face to face to thank you for everything you do.  At home I look cooking especially when my mom is sick.  I also like doing housework.  At school I listen carefully to the teacher when she explains to be successful & when I grow up I will be responsible of my family. I would like to thank you for the support.]

Seek a little glimmer of happiness in your day…or put a little happiness in someone else’s!  These chicks sure filled my heart a bit today.  (For those of you sponsoring students, keep an eye on your mailboxes…letters are going out this week!)

the more I learn, the more I need to know.

bible verseIt is funny how life works.  The more that I dig deeper into something,  learning, pausing to question…I discover that I really know so very little.  If someone would have told me three years ago that I would be supporting the work of a primary school in Port au Prince, I would have said “Me? Seriously? What do I know about running a school in Haiti?” And yet. Here I am, muddling through the process of paying the bills (via wire transfers, a detail-oriented treasurer, Facebook Messages and Google Translate,) discussing class configurations and staffing decisions with an orphanage director, coordinating fundraisers to pay for rent, salaries, textbooks, uniforms, food and water…who knew?  And with each discovery and plan, comes additional questions and wonderings…should we be accredited? how do we get accredited? where can I buy a water jug dispenser and how much will it cost? what will be the transition for our students needing the next level of instruction? and on and on and on…

The same can be said for my professional life here in the US.  I have been teaching and leading for quite some time…just beginning my 25th year.  You’d think I’d have it figured out by now.  But no!  I have knowledge, experience and insight in quite a few aspects of learning…but I have even more concerns and inquiries now, then I did when I first began with 32 bright-eyed first and second graders in a bilingual classroom in Southern Cal.

And so, I dig a little deeper…reading, listening, studying and trying to improve my craft. Realizing that life is just one mighty long journey of learning and growing.

Well, it is time to do a little homework for class tomorrow…another day to work the brain cells…another day to realize how many additional things I really do not know…another day to add more books/articles/research to my reading list.  Good thing, there is time for evening walks along the Charles River and seafood dinners with pals!

class

river walk