For the love of home

With 2016 coming to an end, I started putting together a photobook of daily pictures.  I take one photo each day, write a bit about it, and at the end of the year, I compile all of these into a hardback book.  Last week, I read through these entries and I couldn't believe all we've done and everywhere we have been in 2016.  We've traveled so much and I've continued my work with a breastfeeding child, doing my best to balance motherhood with my workload.  To be honest, it's been an absolutely exhausting year and I don't say that with a sense of martyred pride.  Being so busy, I've discovered, is simply stupid.  After reading through everything, I gave myself a lot of grace.  It's been one thing after another - a lot of sickness, a lot of travel, several heavy issues we've had to deal with in our community, lots of work done through it all, and lots of relationships made and built.

Through it all, I've been ever more grateful for our home.  It is my stabilizer, my place of peace.  I find myself revived when I'm able to spend a day at home with Leo or just a few hours.  Admittedly, I too often spend this time worried that I'm not doing what I need to get done, but sometimes I am able to just sit back to be fully present and those are the moments that bring me the most joy.  Here is a compilation of photos I've taken at home this year, mostly with Leo and mostly with him wearing few to no clothes.  My favorite time is the end of the day when the setting sun brings slanting shadows and a glowing light, as if it's asking me to pay attention.

We will end this week with a staff retreat and next week we travel to the U.S. once again for the holidays.  Although I look forward to being with loved ones and investing in many activities that bring us a sense of purpose, I think this time especially, I will miss our own home.

My DIY ordeal/adventure

The difference between an adventure and an ordeal is attitude.
— Bob Bitchin

Not long after we moved into our home, I attempted to get a cow skin rug and a cow skull as decor pieces.  This was not supposed to be a DIY project, but it certainly turned out to be one.  This post is probably not a helpful one if you're looking to DIY your own cow hide, but it is the story of an ordeal that, with a little humor, turned into an adventure and a couple of impromptu DIY projects that turned out to be "good enough."

It all started by taking Eric's cousin on a photo "safari" in Kampala, along the railroad tracks.  I had never explored the area and thought it would be a great excuse to take pictures of whatever could be there.  Soon, we ran into a flock of the very ugly maribu storks, known to be Kampala's trash eaters, and I wondered what brought them to this place.  After looking around a bit, we were pointed to the maribu storks' attraction - Kampala's slaughterhouse. 

Well, one thing led to another, as they often do, and soon I was promised that the next morning I could come by and pickup a cow skin and skull.  I thought it was a deal.  I thought my entryway would look great with a cow skin rug and I would surely find a cool place to hang a skull with the long, dramatic Ankole horns.  I thought I would swing by and pick up these items, shiny and neat and ready to adorn my home.

To make a long story short, there was nothing shiny or neat about my cow skin and skull the next morning.  I was told to follow my new butcher friend as we weaved our way through the various sections of the slaughterhouse and I was handed my very fresh, very raw pieces, right off the cow.  The skull had eyes, a tongue, and skin, all of which I convinced them to remove, and the hide had fat and blood still dripping from it.  It wasn't long before I was sitting on a boda boda, weaving through Kampala's streets while holding an enormous cow head, it horns straddling me, baffled at what just happened and clueless as to what to do with these fresh cow parts.

Picking out my own cow hide


The skin is in the yellow bag on the back and the cow skull...well...there it is.


When I reached home, I stared at my newly-purchased goods, wondering what I just got myself into.

Step one: Change my clothes, which were now covered in blood
Step two: Google

The first thing I discovered was I would have to act fast with the cow hide, or it would start rotting within a few hours.  At the very least, I needed to stretch the skin, cut off the fat, and pour salt all over it, so I lugged it around my yard, attempting to hang it, but it was so wet and heavy, I couldn't manage alone.  An hour or so later, I finally called the guy who sold it to me and asked him to come do the work.  Meanwhile, my method for cleaning up the skull simply involved letting my dogs have their way with it.


My attempt at hanging and stretching the hide.  Fail.


The stretched hide on our porch, with salt all over it.

The skull, after the dogs ate off the good stuff.

After a couple of days, we put the skull in an old latrine in our back yard, hoping the ground critters would do the rest of the work to clean it up.  It lay there, largely forgotten about, for about 2 years.

The next week, the hide was dry. It was hard and a little crisp - certainly not the nice tanned hide I had wanted, but it still looked nice in our entryway, so I called it good enough.

Just last week, we pulled the cow skull out from its forgotten hideaway and cleaned the dirt off with a brush, soap, and water.  It is by no means shiny and polished, but when placed beside our hippo skull and two impala skulls, it adds some intrigue to our home.  Again, I will settle for "good enough."

The day I picked up my animal parts turned out to be one of the more absurd days of my life in Uganda.  It definitely did not go as planned, but it did provide me the opportunity to learn something new and practice my pioneer woman skills.  I suppose I can now look back on the ordeal, laugh at myself, and call it an adventure.

The Great Purge

I've spent nearly 5 months away from our house, a place where we have put so much of our own effort and creativity, so it is great to be back in my own space.  But just minutes after wheeling our suitcases inside, I looked around my home and thought, "Why do I have all of this?"

Even with the lack of sleep from travel and having a newborn plus all there is to do with getting back to life in Uganda, I have an unavoidable itch to purge my home.  In the precious moments of free time I can find since I've been back, I go through one section of my home at a time and decide what goes and what stays. It's interesting to watch my own thoughts as I try to justify each decision and it makes me realize why I've acquired so much in the first place.  I've realized how much I can be attached to things, to stuff and how much mental energy each thing takes from me.  I realize that I hang on to something just because...

someone gave it to me
I bought it during one of our travels
I got it for a deal
it was expensive
I took/wore it to a particular event
it could be used sometime in the future
it was made ethically/locally/with natural sources
I made it

But having all of this stuff really isn't improving our lives, so I'm slowly attempting to purge my things down to what we really love or need.  As I take one step at a time to simplify my life, this time simplification means cutting down on material things.

What makes you keep something unnecessarily? Do you have any sources of inspiration to share in regards to simplifying our lives on a material level?

One home for another

Home has become a loosely defined term for me in the last several years as I spend time between Uganda and Indiana. Any time I leave one place, I say I'm going home to the other. I know there will be much I'll miss while I'm gone, but I also know I'm able to be present at the home where I'm headed. There is always a give and take when I have 2 families, 2 communities, and 2 lives on different sides of the world.

Today we leave Indiana to re-enter our lives in Uganda. In the early days of Leo's life I sat with him by the pond where I spent so many childhood summers and whispered to him that he could always call this place home, no matter where our family lives. Indiana has always given me roots and I hope it gives my son the same sense of belonging.

This time it is particularly hard to tear myself away and say goodbye. I've spent a few months here, the longest period of time since high school. l brought my son into the world here and received an outpouring of love and support from my family and community. It's been a time of healing in many ways and the thought of leaving lets me know I'm going on with my life, this time as a mother, and I step into it all feeling a little shaky and unsure of myself.

But my in-laws and friends anxiously await our arrival at our other home in Uganda and I know we will receive an equal amount of love and support from that community. Although goodbyes and transitions are never easy, I'm beyond grateful we have 2 homes immersed in 2 loving communities to embrace us and delight with us in this new addition to our family. 

Here are some scenes around my Indiana  home.

My Hoosier Home

My family has been farming in our county since the mid-1800's and I will always feel so deeply rooted to this place no matter where I live.  Change happens slowly in small towns, but when you need a comfortable place to call home, you'll always be grateful for the familiarity and love it brings.

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