Inspiring Mom Hashmareen Griffin

Imagine growing up on a small tropical island, an island full of hillsides and tea plants as far as the eye can see. Imagine tropical flowers to fill your senses and mango and guava trees to climb and play in. Imagine you could run barefoot all day long while monkeys watched you soak up every ounce of childhood at its finest. That was the life of Hashmareen Griffin.

Hashmareen was born in Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, located off the southeast shore of India. The area where she is from is predominantly a Buddhist nation. Only 2% are born again Christians. Her Grandfather was saved at an Assembly of God missions church as a young boy. Hashmareen reflects on the story that transpired before she was even born. She has a deep sense of gratitude knowing that those missionaries obedience to spread the Gospel is what has changed her life as her grandfather went on to raise three generations of Christians to serve the Lord. 

When Hasmareen was a little girl her father managed multiple tea estates and they lived on the estates.

The cool tropical climate there was perfect for tea, which is part of the reason Sri Lanka is the second largest tea manufacturer in the entire world. Hashmareen remembers her days on the tea farm fondly. As a tomboy, she was always running around outside with her curly hair untamed and knobby knees covered in scrapes and bruises. She loved the animals that shared the land with them which including the native birds and monkeys as well as goats and chickens which were a part of the farm. Hashmareen loved playing outdoors but she knew she had to come inside at sunset. Her father told the children stories of a witch that would come out at night and turn the sky red. When you saw the blue sky begin to turn yellow then orange, and red you knew it was time to get back in the house. In third grade Hashmareen and her little sister were sent to boarding school two hours away. She doesn’t look back at those days with as much wonder and delight as the years she spent at home, but she made many friends and she was always well cared for by the three widows that ran the school. When Hashmareen was 10 years old Sri Lanka was going through a lot of political issues and it was becoming dangerous to live there so her family immigrated to Seattle Washington. 

They landed in the states on December 23, 1983. Hashmareen had no idea what to expect of their new home but through it all she trusted her parents. America was so different than what she was used to. The air felt cold and dry. She went from a tropical paradise to a city that felt dark and gloomy. Her nostrils physically hurt breathing this new piney air. Once they settled in she started to become acclimated. She enjoyed school. The people in America were all very welcoming and her favorite part of all was SPORTS! She loved that her new school had so many organized sports. This was the chance for Hashmareen’s athleticism to shine, especially in volleyball.

A couple of years later when Hashmareen was in middle school she was walking around the mall with her mom when out of the blue she was approached by an internationally renowned modeling agency out of New York. Hashmareen was offered the chance to travel to New York and have them represent her. This was a lot for a young teen to even process. Hashmareen describes herself at the time as “Not at all comfortable in my skin. I was dark and underweight with knobby knees and big, puffy, frizzy hair. People called me giraffe! I wasn’t insecure because my focus was all about sports but I certainly NEVER thought of myself as beautiful”. In the meantime, her mom was excited thinking maybe someone could get this girl to finally act like a girl, but she also wasn’t ready for her baby to be carted off to New York!

After some discussion, it was determined that Hashmareen would stay local and gain some modeling experience in the Seattle area.  So she started working in the Northwest fashion circuit after school and on the weekends.  During the summers Hashmareen would travel to other states and cities to work for different department stores and fashion houses.  Upon graduating high school she received an Associates in business but the fashion world was calling her in a big way.  She was even personally invited by Oscar de la Renta and Badgley Mischka to come and work for them in New York! It was like living in a dream.  At that time she decided she was ready to travel full time and so Hashmareen had the opportunity to work Internationally in New York, Miami, LA, Milan, London, and Australia.  She was modeling for top designers walking the runways of major fashion houses. Hashmareen modeled from 1986-2002 which really shows how much the favor of God was on her life as most modeling careers do not last that long. She was also a pioneer for women of color and diverse ethnicities to be featured as serious models on the runway and in print. When Hashmareen began modeling almost all of her modeling peers were the classic “all American look” which included almost no minorities.

Hashmareen’s look was such a unique niche that she created a demand for it. When she traveled an agency would scramble to find a replacement for what was considered an exotic look.

Hashmareen says of that period of life:

“Throughout this 20-year career I got to model everything from Taco Bell uniforms to 2 million dollar Versace dresses where security would walk me down the runway and back.  I loved every minute of it!

I have done some covers, appeared in some commercials and TV spots.  I had the opportunity to shoot a pilot talk show for Warner Brothers and Dick Clark that we are currently talking about redoing for a possible new show.

What I remember the most during this season in my life is that the Lord protected me from all the dark realities of this industry.  He kept me pure, drug free, alcohol free and party free.  I have some of the most amazing memories of witnessing to designers, models, hair stylist, and makeup artists.  They all knew who I was and who I was in Christ.  I guess you could say I was “salt and light” in the world.”

Hashmareen has a different platform these days but one that is equally as valuable. She has been married to evangelist Allen Griffin for 21 years and they have two handsome teenage boys who are both honor students and not surprisingly they both LOVE sports.

Besides being a busy mother who teaches, counsels, negotiates, and leads these two very strong godly young men, she is also the vice president of a nonprofit called Excellerate. Excellerate is a program founded by Allen and Hashmareen which helps teens in the foster care system that are coming of age.  Allen and Hashmareen have always had a burden and a calling to help the fatherless. Through many years of being involved with helping foster and adopted children they noticed a missing demographic. The older children in the foster care system were slipping through the cracks unnoticed and when God placed a vision in their hearts to do something about it the answer was YES! The statistics are astounding.  60% of these teens have been bounced around from home to home, have been returned by their adoptive parents, have faced some of the most horrific stories you can think of and have never found a forever family.  They are at high risk to be trafficked, commit suicide, end up in jail and repeat the same cycles their parents have experienced. Excellerate was designed to help these kids transition into adulthood successfully by offering them a faith based 16 week life skills program.  They learn about social skills, financial responsibility, professionalism, and their spiritual walk with God.  Upon successful completion of the class they are gifted a used car so they can get to work, college, and church.  Most of all they are connected to a community by introducing them to people that care about them.  Since Excellerate’s inception they have had close to 200 students go through the classes and graduate and they’ve been able to donate over 160 cars to these young people!

They are currently planting 5 new locations around the country and God is doing amazing things through the ministry.

There are so many incredible testimonies and breakthroughs that could fill pages about all that is happening with Excellerate. You can find more information at If you have a church or an organization interested in hearing more about the program you can contact Excellearate about coming to your area. Or maybe you would like to make a donation or sponsor an individual. We can make a difference! God cares about these teens and whether it’s prayer, volunteering, giving, or spreading the word, chains can be broken and lives can be transformed forever! Feel free to reach out if you have any questions at all.


I personally want to thank Hashmareen Griffin for taking the time out to share her incredible testimony. From the tea farm in Sri Lanka, to the runways of New York, to helping teens in Florida in a life-changing way, Hashmareen truly is an inspiration.

By | April 30th, 2019|Uncategorized|2 Comments

Our Family Alarm clocks

For the most part this world has two types of people. There are morning people and then there are the rest of us.

When I was growing up my mom would go around the house singing and turning lights on first thing in the morning. She would sing “You’ve gotta get up this morning” to the tune of “First Call” (the military bugle wake up call). I never wanted to wake up so my mom would eventually fling off the covers and threaten to dump water on my head. She never went through with this for me, but my oldest brother did push her to the limit a time or two and got a preshower shower.

People like me don’t want to wake up in the morning. This morning my oldest son, Z, was in my bedroom announcing the time and I knew I had to wake up but as I tried to pry one eyelid open a great force was causing my eyes to roll back into my head.

Lucky for me Z is the epitome of responsible. When he was almost 8 years old he wanted his own alarm clock. So I picked one up from the thrift store for a buck. I guess there is never a guarantee with used electronics but 4 years later it still works like a charm so we have definitely gotten our money’s worth out this retro piece of equipment. Since then Z has always gotten up on his own. Z likes to be on time, if I were honest I would add that he is obnoxious about it, but I am sure it will serve him well in life.

Child number two is not a morning person but after getting jealous of her brother’s super rad Radio Shack CD alarm clock she started putting in requests. The only problem is that she is deaf and although her cochlear implants allow her to hear she does not wear them at night. So for Christmas SJ got a deaf alarm clock.

This Sonic Boom alarm clock is from Amazon has a vibration option which has made it very popular in the deaf community, but hearing people use it too. I would recommend this alarm clock for anyone that is an extremely heavy sleeper because it does get LOUD when it is on the buzz setting.

For the vibration setting, it has a little round piece that is connected to the alarm clock by a long chord and you slip that part under your pillow. It will then vibrate at the time it is set for. This has worked well for SJ. I could also see it as an option for maybe roommates that have different schedules and don’t want to wake each other up. You can select between buzz, vibrate, or both.

J and I use what I am guessing is the most common alarm clock in the 21st century which is the cell phone. At night we plug our phones in next to our bed. I’ve wanted to replace this routine because I have read studies that have proven that we sleep better without our devices next to us all night long. The evidence for this is really compelling, but since we don’t have a landline part of me feels a little apprehensive about keeping my phone in another room in case there was ever an emergency. For the record, I do keep my phone on Do Not Disturb but I have it set to allow calls that are from people in my speed dial or if someone were to call twice in a row.

The truth is there is probably no emergency that I would need to be available for immediately and if there were something that I would regret not knowing right away then J has his phone in our room and all my closest loved ones have his number too. So I guess I am just making excuses. Maybe I’ll invest in a tubular high tech alarm like Z has in his room. I’ll have to keep you all posted on that.


So Radio Shack, Sonic Boom, and smartphones- those are our family’s alarm clocks. What do you use to wake up in the morning?

By | April 15th, 2019|Uncategorized|3 Comments

No More Babies

I haven’t been very secretive about the fact that we are done having babies, but I think for me it is just now sinking in. Elle was born when Ezie was 3 years and one month old and they are the furthest apart in age out of all four of our kids. That makes this a record! I would normally have another baby in my arms by now. For 12 years I was pregnant, breastfeeding, or changing diapers. Over a decade of raising babies.

Now I am raising CHILDREN and I have to admit I feel a little like a fish out of water.

I recently sold all of my cloth diapers and ergo carrier online and it was another level of closure for me.

We still own an umbrella stroller and a five point harness car seat, but other than that we have no baby items left at all! When I see young moms juggling a toddler and an infant it’s like an out of body experience because I feel like I am looking at myself except that’s not me anymore and if that’s not me who am I?

It’s a transition stage and I am adjusting. Part of me is ready to trade in my stay at home mom title but I can’t. I still have 3 1/2 years before Elle is in 1st grade which is when full-day school starts in our district. That feels like a lifetime away but then I feel guilty for even thinking about the future because I don’t want to neglect Elle and the time that I have with her at home.

Then there is the whole thing about getting older in general. I am now closer to 40 than I am to 30. My mom just turned 60 and I bragged on Instagram how she has aged so gracefully and has never been embarrassed or shy about her age. She has been through too much to take the years for granted. I want to follow that model, but this new stage of life is unknown and a little intimidating. I will be what our society calls “middle age” at the same time half of my kids are in middle school. Talk about a train wreck of awkwardness. Our whole house is going to be changing and adjusting and trying to figure out how to do life in our new bodies. I’m already dealing with the early stages for myself and so are my tweens! Just when I thought I had this mom thing somewhat down they flipped the script. I went from pacifiers and ABCs to deodorant and the birds and bees.

Not to mention this little side hustle and passion of mine (Messy Mom) is all about being a mom.  I will always be a mom but will I always be a mommy blogger? And I have always been cautious about what I share publicly about our family but now it’s even more delicate.

I know most mothers of littles are tired and looking forward to the land of no more diapers, no more pressure to fill out baby books, no more guilty time-out looks. I’m finally at that stage that I have admired from a distance for so long and here I am whining more than a two-year-old about how hard I have it. Allow me to backpedal here. It’s really not that bad. It’s true that the baby years are precious priceless times that I will cherish forever and ever and ever and when Google photos compiles a movie for me called “they grow up so fast” I am pretty much guaranteed to cry. I honestly don’t yearn for it though. I have zero regrets about our decision (which is pretty permanent if you know what I mean).

There is so much I enjoy about the elementary age. I love having kids that I can watch Shark Tank with and talk about margins and valuations. I love that we can go camping together without diapers or spit up.

We don’t go to the movies often but it is really cool that we can all 6 enjoy going to the theater together. For so many years if we did go to the movies one of us ended up taking a screaming baby or toddler out of the theater and missing half of it. Now if we go out to see a full length film as a family we can all have fun!

I only have one little one left that can’t get themselves up and ready in the morning. My oldest can even start the van for me (it gets cold in Ohio and I don’t have a fancy remote car starter).

When J and I had the opportunity to go to a retreat at the beginning of the year I could travel and not have a baby in my belly or at my breast. I am not saying that those things aren’t beautiful but I don’t think I need to explain why this evolution from codependence to independence is really freeing and rewarding albeit bittersweet.

So that’s where I am at. This is my heart on my sleeve and I am sure you understand because I don’t care what stage you are in we are all just figuring it out.

By | April 3rd, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

My First Three Months Shopping at Aldi

This year we are jumping BACK on the Dave Ramsey wagon and trying to get out of debt. We even earned our Financial Peace University certificate. I am already a naturally frugal person so it’s been difficult to find ways to save even more money. I have heard all about Aldi and how it can cut your bill in half- yadda yadda yadda. The problem for me was that it was a little further than the Walmart that I go to for my pickup orders and a lot further than the Kroger that is conveniently located 3 miles from my house. Aldi is 11 miles away (Yes, I am a baby when it comes to driving.).

So I went to Facebook to see if my friends could convince me to take the plunge.

I got 130 comments and for me, that’s a lot. 99% of these comments were positive. The general consensus was that Aldi is amazing but don’t forget to bring a quarter and your own shopping bags.

That settled it. At the beginning of January I tried Aldi for the first time. I’ll admit that the first two or three visits I was still getting used to the setup, but after doing a very thorough comparison to my previous receipts and budget it didn’t take long for me to realize that Aldi is worth the trip! Here is what I have learned so far-

1. Almost everything is cheaper

I’ll admit it. I am pretty obsessive when it comes to price comparison down to the price per unit. If the product tastes/works decent for us, the lowest cost per unit wins. After taking scrupulous notes and calculations between Kroger, Walmart, and Aldi, Aldi was by far the best deal. Yes, this includes sales. Olive oil spray, eggs, rice cauliflower, salami, zucchini, bell peppers- these items all cost a dollar or two less at Aldi!

And depending on sales you can find fruits, berries, and vegetables at prices lower than I’ve ever seen anywhere else. There are a few items that were the same price at either Aldi or Walmart (like baking powder) and some that were only a few cents cheaper (like 10 cents less for oatmeal). There is one random food item that I buy that costs slightly more at Aldi and that is sliced Colby jack cheese. It wasn’t by a lot but since I am still going to Walmart for some stuff anyway I go ahead buy the sliced cheese at Walmart.

2. I do NOT like their paper products

My original goal was to shop exclusively at Aldi and see how much I saved but I was so disappointed in the toilet paper I had to flush that idea. I can’t buy Cottonelle at Aldi so that went on my list of things to buy at Walmart. I use Walmart’s online grocery pickup and the minimum order is $30. For our size family though just the toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning products, bath and dental products etc. can easily add up to $30. Plus there are a few food and drink items that I still get from Walmart so it all works out.

3. I like the people 

While getting to park and have your car loaded is the best way to shop in my opinion, I have been impressed with the customer service at Aldi. Not only that but the people that shop at my Aldi are really nice too. It’s like we know that we are all weirdos shopping at this quirky store with less amenities. It’s like being a part of whole new cult  community. Everyone knows you work swiftly while loading your groceries and on numerous occasions I’ve seen men helping older women, or women helping moms that have babies with them. It’s really sweet. I kid you not I teared up once. I’ve also seen people let someone go through first if they only have a handful. And everyone knows if you are walking up to get a cart you can bypass the whole system by handing off your quarter to the person returning theirs. I don’t want to get overly deep about grocery shopping but what I’ve observed (here in the burbs) is that when you have to do more (like bring your bags or bag your own groceries) you see people working together and helping more. I’m sure that’s not true everywhere, but I am happy to report that has been my experience.

4. I save $50 a Week

For those that know Dave Ramsey’s FPU program there are two kinds of people- the nerd and the free spirit. When it comes to finances, I am the NERD! We use the Every Dollar app so I am not making up these numbers when I say we save $50 week or $200 a month on groceries by going to Aldi. I can track our monthly grocery bill from 2018 to March of 2019. I used to spend around $700 a month and now it’s down to $500!!! That includes toiletries, cleaning products, and over the counter medicine. Not only have I saved $600 so far but our pantry is more stocked than it was before. We have an extra refrigerator in the basement where I can keep some of the stockpile. I am confident that if there is a zombie apocalypse we could shut ourselves in the house and live for quite some time.

5. I can cut out Kroger

Most of the people I know that shop Aldi have another grocery store or two where they shop depending on their personal needs and preferences. I am fine with hitting up two stores, especially since one is online shopping, but I really didn’t want to juggle three. The problem is there were some products we consumed that we could only get at Kroger. We loved the Kroger Private select brand of coffee, and their soda water, and the meat is really good too! Now this is all just personal preference but I was determined to find substitutions for all of these things and I did. The only other kind of soda water my husband approved of was Mango Bubly. It actually costs more than what we were purchasing before, but as a busy mother of four I could not justify making an extra trip to Kroger to save a couple bucks so we are sticking with the higher priced soda water.

This also means I have to say goodbye to fuel points. At Kroger you earn 1 point for every dollar you spend. Every one hundred points is 10 cents off per gallon at a Kroger gas station, which is nice! I love racking up those points and paying rock bottom prices at the pump. When I did the math though it still wasn’t worth it. The maximum amount of fuel points allowed per customer is 1,000. So even if I did spend that much (which I don’t) it would be a dollar off per gallon. So on a twenty-gallon tank that would be a maximum discount of $20 per month. That’s a great deal, but since I save about 10 times that shopping elsewhere I guess I can get by without a discount.

Will I be committed to Aldi forever? It’s hard to say, but for right now I am grateful to have it in my life!

By | March 28th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

SJ’s Hearing Anniversary

When someone receives the cochlear implant surgery they don’t hear anything until they get activated. This happens once the incision heals and they go to an audiologist for the external parts (the processor that goes over your ear). What the surgery does is implant the internal parts in the head but these parts are useless without the external processor and even the processor is useless without the mapping. A mapping is when an audiologist turns the device on and customizes the settings for each individual. This is maintained periodically as sometimes mappings can change.

So when a deaf person hears for the first time by way of a cochlear implant that day is often referred to as their hearing birthday. It’s not the surgery day, but the activation day and it’s special.

We don’t actually celebrate SJ’s hearing birthday. I’m not against it but SJ’s path to hearing took a lot longer than we expected. She had her first surgery for her right ear on November 5th 2012.

Her activation day was right before Thanksgiving. We were eager to see her respond to sound and anxious for her to say her first words. We had our video camera in hand ready to capture the life-changing moment, but were left disappointed when she didn’t seem to really enjoy this new world of sound. Even worse, she didn’t seem to react at all.

In the office that day we were given a giant case full of all the pieces and instructions that went along with SJ’s new hearing device and we were sent on our way. SJ immediately rejected the idea of keeping that magnet on her head so for the car ride home I just held the processor in my hand and SJ was more than content to ride along in silence in the backseat. As J left the parking lot I started crying looking down at this “medical miracle” in my hand knowing that I was holding something worth thousands and thousands of dollars. I was so overwhelmed. What if it got lost or broken? How am I supposed to be qualified to deal with this?  Why doesn’t she want to wear it? At that point I had so much to learn about the difference between reusable and disposable batteries, how to adjust the magnet strength, locking and unlocking, using the dryer etc. It felt like too much.

“What am I supposed to do with this thing?” I mustered out through my tears. I wanted a practical solution at that moment because I didn’t have anywhere to put the processor other than back in the giant case which was in the trunk. I was also asking a deeper question: What am I supposed to do with this thing… over the next few years and for the rest of her life. As doubts and fears swirled through my mind I felt the weight of the world on me wondering if my daughter would ever be able to hear and speak and if not would it be my fault? J was dealing with the pressure in his own way and basically responded in a short tone that implied that we needed to suck it up because if we fail everything falls apart. A fight erupted between us and for a moment I was glad that SJ wasn’t able to hear.

I thought about all the videos I had seen online of deaf kids and adults hearing for the first time and it was always so magical. Here we were in an emotional minefield that was anything but magical.

After that, all the questions poured in through social media, texts and people in person. Everyone wanted to hear about the big moment where SJ could finally hear for the first time. I managed to put a positive spin on it, explaining how it wasn’t this instant transition but something we would see her respond to gradually. I left out all the crying and fighting and how our two-year-old pretty much hated the entire process.

We still had hope though. We knew that the cochlear implants themselves were only a part of the puzzle and that SJ needed teachers, therapists, and a team that would allow her to decode all these new sounds and learn to piece together her own words. That’s when we sought out Ohio Valley Voices, one of the greatest schools in the nation that helps deaf children speak. She started at the beginning of 2013 and had cochlear implant surgery on her left ear a few weeks later.

While I loved the school I was still anxious for her first words because her third birthday came and went and we had yet to really see much progress. Then one of the most gut-wrenching moments of the whole journey happened when some of the directors sat down with me to inform me that they didn’t think SJ could really hear. What!? I said. She just had a majorly invasive and wildly expensive surgery which by the way eliminates any residual hearing she did have. It’s supposed to be worth it because you gain the ability to hear with a cochlear implant, but even if she was profoundly deaf at least she could hear fireworks or loud music. Now she was down to NOTHING! We put it ALL on the line and I was being told she still couldn’t hear! They could see potential and effort on SJ’s part but something just wasn’t right. This news terrified me. The woman at the school explained that SJ could hear some really loud deliberate sounds like a chip bag being crinkled next to her ear. That’s reassuring I thought, If she is super hungry maybe she will be able to hear if someone has chips nearby. In all seriousness though, my heart plummeted at that moment.

The woman seeing the concern on my face reassured me that there was hope. She said “We think she could hear if she just had the right mapping. We recommend requesting that her audiologist turn up the volume on her devices.” Okay, I thought and I caught my breath a little. That sounds simple enough. We can do that. The problem was SJ’s audiologist was self-proclaimed “conservative” with mapping and didn’t want to overwhelm SJ with too much sound. I mentioned this to the school and they sent an email to our audiologist explaing why this was critical and recommended we get her ENT/surgeon in on it as well, which I did. Even then she barely changed anything.

After this very discouraging failed attempt, the director of Ohio Valley Voices had a special meeting with me and with an urgency she explained how the ideal window of speech and language was closing for SJ. I started to panic again. I felt like I was failing my daughter and had no clue what to do now. That’s when I was told that the audiologist at Ohio Valley Voices was going to take on SJ’s case pro bono (because we lived out of state at the time and our insurance wouldn’t cover it). This was a huge deal and showed that we were at the right school. They had a genuine concern for our daughter and would do whatever it takes to help her. They knew that we were living in my brother’s basement with an income below poverty level and they stepped in to help anyway. I wasn’t there when they remapped SJ but the results afterward were evident. I tear up just thinking about it. Between roadblocks with hearing aids,  insurance, and doctors it felt like it was never going to happen but as soon as I opened the door to see SJ after this mapping I could tell that she HEARD the door then she heard me say her name! So many times I went in to pick her up from the nursery at church and I always said her name before she saw me in hopes that she would turn and run toward me, but she never did. For so long I wondered if she would ever hear music, or animal noises, or the words “I love you” then all at once March 12, 2013 she finally did.

Some sounds scared her a little bit and she did (and still does) like to take occasional hearing breaks, but it’s been an incredible journey. She said her first word shortly after that mapping too. She said “up” because she wanted to go upstairs. I asked her to say it again wondering if I heard it right and she said “Up” and she pointed to the stairs with her little finger in the air. I couldn’t hold back the tears of joy. We waited over three years for her first word and it finally happened. It was a dream come true. And that is the story of how SJ heard for the first time.

Fast forward to 2019.

Spring break was this week so SJ and my niece got to do an overnight with my mom. While there, the girls started to explore some of her makeup and jewelry. The idea popped in their heads that maybe they could get their ears pierced. My mom called and asked for my permission assuming I would shut the idea down because I am such a planner. Except I thought it sounded fun. Why not get your ears pierced on a whim with your cousin?

While I was still on the phone my mom turned to the girls and said “She said yes”. Immediate high pitch screaming erupted!

It was so cute. SJ’s ears have been such a focus because of her deafness. They’ve been sliced, stitched, examined through MRI and now she literally has flashing lights on them. I find it interesting that here we are 6 years after her hearing for the first time and her ears were the focus again, except this time it was for a different reason.

This time it is all about her being a girl wanting to have earrings like her grandma. This time was so typical and sometimes the typical is extraordinary!


The photos are of the girls day out. They went shopping, had donuts, pained pottery and got their ears pierced. The text is what SJ sent me from my mom’s phone. I love how she spells pierced, P-E-A-R-S.

By | March 23rd, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Should Children See Birth?

My birth plan always included a photographer but did NOT include having my children in the room.

I didn’t think I would be able to focus if my other kids were around. Except I’ve come to realize that plans hardly ever go as planned. There was a photographer but no children present at my first three births and for my last birth all three of my children were there and there was no photographer. That’s another story. The most common reaction I get when people find out my kids were there to witness the birth of their little sister is “Were they traumatized?” The answer is- No. They were not. Neither was my husband and neither was I. My oldest son who was 9 at the time said: “I was happy, but I was scared, but I was excited”.

There are some things that make us uncomfortable as parents and we don’t want to talk to our kids about these things. When we come into this earth and when we leave this earth are two big taboo topics. I don’t think it has to be that way. These transitions are a part of every single person’s life. We are all born and we all die.

“For everything, there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die.” Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

Most of us know the Bible verse or the Byrds’ song or both.
Is it appropriate to talk about or expose our children to these heavy and graphic truths though? I think it can be.

These moments of life and death are sacred and they need to be handled delicately but as parents it is our job to lead our children.

I am not trying to convince any expectant or future mothers to have all of their children with them while they are in labor. I didn’t want to have my kids there during childbirth. I am wondering though if the stigma or the fear of being traumatized is warranted?  When it comes to birth, our level of fear or even disgust will be projected onto our children. I think even the tiniest of tots are prepared to understand the miracle of childbirth. The younger they have information the more comfortable they will be. Children that grow up on farms have a far greater understanding of sex, babies, and death than the urban child because they are exposed to it. A couple of the resources we used to help educate our children are the books “Baby on the Way” and “The Talk

Baby on the Way is for younger children and it’s all about what happens when mommy is pregnant and what to expect. I wrote a post about it called “Baby on the Way

The Talk is for tweens and it’s about exactly what it sounds like. Instead of your classic birds and the bees talk it takes a biblical and straightforward look at bodies, sex, and conception. If you are waiting until the teen years to approach the subject you are probably too late. The Talk helps navigate this tricky terrain by giving seven lessons geared toward elementary-age children that explain sexuality at a level they can understand. The book encourages parents to keep the dialogue ongoing and not just that one time talk. It has diagrams and gives websites and other resources beyond the book. My husband J and I have gone through this book with both of our older kids when they were around age 8.

The other day J was watching old home movies and videos on the AppleTV with the kids while I was out. He told me that there were pictures of our daughter SJ’s birth in the slides and I didn’t bat an eye. Then he told me about how she burst into tears when she saw them. “Oh no!” I said. I might be a hippie home birth mama but even I had wondered if maybe she was *gasp* traumatized seeing photos of herself as an infant entering this world in a tub.

Then J interrupted my concerns as he shared that they were actually tears of joy. She was moved in a deeply emotional way at the sight of birth. I asked her about it later and she talked about how it made her happy. I have never seen her cry tears of joy before. This isn’t a typical reaction for her at all.

Her response is what got me thinking about how we as a society have made giving birth such an awkward and uncomfortable topic around children. Some of that is inevitable because it is sacred and intimate. On the other hand, it’s miraculous and natural and I think kids can grasp a lot more than we give them credit for. Again, I am not implying that everyone needs to bring their kids with them to witness birth or hospice care. Although I support a parents decision either way in those situations. My hope is that maybe, just MAYBE, we can change the conversation and normalize some of these delicate topics.   Your children are probably going to meet you at your comfort level so I say let’s take the trauma out of a typical healthy birth.

By | March 6th, 2019|Uncategorized|2 Comments

What is a Reverse Mortgage?

Today’s post is a sponsored post from All Reverse helping you Ease Your Financial Fears with a Reverse Mortgage.



When you are entering retirement, you may have some fears about the changes that will take place in your life, including the change in income you are likely to experience. Finding a way to ease your financial fears is essential if you want to enjoy your golden years. One possible way to do that is by taking out a reverse mortgage on your home, but you need to understand what that means before you do so.

Reverse Mortgage Versus Traditional Loan Repayment Periods

The repayment period, or loan duration, is how long you have to pay back a loan. A traditional mortgage has a set repayment period, such as five or 10 years. Typically, the total you owe and the loan duration are used to calculate the size of your ongoing scheduled payments. However, when you get a loan from a reverse mortgage lender, there is no specified loan repayment period. The loan simply requires you to live in the home to which the reverse mortgage applies. For as long as you stay there, the loan remains active. There are no specific scheduled payments, which means there is also no way to accidentally miss payments.

Reverse Mortgage Borrowing Calculations and Regulations

When determining your eligibility for a reverse loan, one issue that is considered is the current market value of your home. That value is determined by multiple factors, such as whether you already have an existing home mortgage and how old your home is. A loan issued by a large bank, such as a Wells Fargo reverse mortgage and a reverse loan issued by a government agency each require a reverse mortgage calculator to determine what you can borrow based on those factors. Government caps on borrowing amounts are also factored in.

Government regulations also play a role in the calculations that determine the amount you can borrow with a reverse mortgage. The government does not allow you to borrow exactly what your home is worth. Caps are in place to prevent bad deals for borrowers and lenders. You must adhere to those regulations, which is another reason a reverse mortgage calculator is necessary.

How You Can Borrow with a Reverse Mortgage

There are many ways you can borrow with a reverse mortgage. You have to choose the complete terms of your loan when talking to your reverse mortgage lender. For example, if you have concerns about paying your monthly bills, you can request monthly installments of set amounts until the home equity you can borrow runs out. Alternatively, you may decide a line of credit better suits your needs. You can also select one large payment if you have an unexpected expense to cover.

What You Need to Do to Qualify for a Reverse Mortgage

To qualify for a reverse mortgage, you must be at least 62 years of age. If your spouse signs the loan agreement, he or she must also meet that requirement. The home itself must also qualify. You cannot take out a reverse mortgage on a vacation home for example. If the home consists of several apartments it may qualify. However, you must reside in one of those apartments permanently. Other requirements to get a reverse mortgage may include undergoing a credit check and using reverse mortgage funds to pay off an existing standard mortgage if you have one.

Reverse Mortgage Repayment or Failure to Repay

You do not have to pay your full reverse mortgage balance back as long as you stay in your home, except under certain extenuating circumstances. For example, the loan can be called in if you fail to pay property taxes. However, when you leave the home you must pay back what you owe quickly. Typically, you have a few months to do so. Failure to pay gives the lender permission to allow the sale of the home. Remaining funds are given to you if there is a positive balance after the loan is paid.

By | March 3rd, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Inspiring Mom Lula Gibbs

Lula Gibbs greeted me with a friendly smile before I began the interview and I went ahead and asked right away how she wanted her ethnicity described in the story. She cocked her head slightly and I continued “Well, since we are discussing race in this feature I was wondering if you preferred, African American or Black or woman of color…” She crinkled her nose a little bit at my last suggestion and sat up straight as she replied “Black.” She said it with confidence and certainty, then added “Proud black woman”. When I sat down to hear Lula’s story I knew there was no way I would be able to really understand the weight of it or to deliver it in its entirety, but I was determined to do my best.

Lula’s story begins in the 1940s in the deep south. Her family were sharecroppers in Alabama. Her days consisted of working in the fields. They would tirelessly pick cotton, peas, okra and sugar cane. Then they would give it to the landowners leaving only a small portion to keep as payment for their labor. Their shack was on the plantation. They had newspapers hanging all over the interior as a form of wallpaper. They used kerosene lamps. There are no photographs of Lula’s childhood because cameras and film development were far too expensive for them, but this photo from the inside of a sharecropper cabin at the Scott Plantation Settlement in Arkansas looks exactly like what Lula described.

When Lula was a child the only break she had from the tasks of tending the fields was when it was her turn to go to school. She rotated which day she could go between her 3 sisters. One girl would take one day to go to school and the other three worked in the fields with their mother.

Eventually they escaped the life of sharecropping and moved to Montgomery Alabama and her mother became a maid which was one of the only jobs available to African American women at that time. Lula was 12 years old when they moved and this was her first opportunity to go to school regularly.  She remembers starting her day with walking over to her friend’s house to wait for the cheese wagon (that was what the girls called the big yellow school bus and it always made them laugh). She rode on the bus for an hour passing several prestigious all white schools along the way before finally arriving at a tiny dilapidated wooden building. This was her stop. This was the school for black children.

Lula ended up dropping out of school when she was a freshman. She met her husband Nathaniel and they got married in 1955 when she was only 14 years old and became pregnant soon after. Unfortunately, the child passed away at birth. While Lula did become pregnant again with their son and they did raise seven beautiful children over the next several years they would aslo have to suffer the loss of two other infants.

This heartbreak along with being a teenage mother made the struggle of life before the civil rights movement even harder. Lula talked about how difficult it was to rebel against injustice as a young mother. She couldn’t boycott the bus because she didn’t ride the bus. She rarely left the house. When she did, discrimination and segregation were all she saw. She had to go to a special window on the side of a building when she needed to make a purchase. She couldn’t be caught anywhere near white restaurants, white elevators, white drinking fountains, white post offices, and the list went on. 

Lula was living in a world where she and her family weren’t valued and despite the whispers of an uprising all she saw was hatred and shame directed at her and her community. They were tired of waiting for change. Tired of being mistreated. The talk amongst the relatives was that there were factory jobs and maybe something closer to equality up north. So the Gibbs became a part of the great migration. They joined the millions of other blacks seeking a better way of life in the north and Lula and her family moved to Indiana in 1965. It wasn’t perfect but a lot had changed since her days on the plantation. Lula got a job working at GM. Her children went to good schools and no longer had to live a life of segregation. She could see hope for the future and knew that God had a beautiful plan for her family. One by one she watched her children graduate. They started to get married, get jobs, or go to college or the military.

In 1996 Lula became a widow. Nathaniel never got to see some of the incredible accomplishments of their grandchildren, and great-grandchildren some of which have become teachers and nurses while others have served in the military.


Lula Gibbs beams as she talks about all that her children have achieved. She is still very close to all seven of them. She gets daily visits from her sons who help with the house and vehicle maintenance. Even though some of them have spread out in proximity she still talks to her daughters every day sometimes more than once a day!

She has been an encouragement and an example to so many people to walk in the truth and the light of God’s word. Her perseverance has had a ripple effect that will continue on long after God calls her home.

Lula’s life these days is very quiet and peaceful. She loves her family, her church, and the casino. You might be surprised by the Casino part but she did explain that she only goes Tuesdays and has a certain amount that she spends each time if the budget allows and that’s it. After everything she has been through (and believe me there are volumes more than what I’ve shared here) this is a very calm place of contentment for Lula. Lula carries this demeanor of someone who is completely comfortable with who they are and that’s a rare thing. Now I understand why she would describe herself as a proud black woman.


It was such an honor hearing about Lula Gibb’s life.

As I sat there thinking about her education compared to mine, I reflected on what she said about the fields, and the bus ride, and the condition of her all black school. The first seven years of my education were at a private school. After that my dad’s job relocated us to various cities but my parents always found a house in neighborhoods with the best school districts. I learned about civil rights and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at these schools, but I know that all of my history classes combined could never compare to all that I had discovered and taken in while listening to Lula recount her experiences in her own words with her own voice. Lula Gibbs is one of the most inpiring moms I have ever met and I talk to a lot! Her story is a gift. Lula herself is a gift.

By | February 26th, 2019|Uncategorized|3 Comments

Facebook Vacuum Networking from the Comfort of Home

I have had the same ol’ Bissel vacuum cleaner since 2013 and it sucks. No really, it did literally suck, but it wasn’t ideal. The hose would sometimes pop off of the attachment. The chord wasn’t very long and it took vacuum bags which are a hassle. It had served it’s purpose well, but I was ready to move on.
So at Christmas I told J I wanted a new vacuum cleaner.

I knew I had multiple friends on Facebook ask for vacuum recommendations and I thought I saw an overwhelming vote for the Shark vacuum. The only problem was I couldn’t remember the details. Thankfully Facebook now lets you search through your feed!

I remember in the old days of Facebook my sister in law and I would dream of a social media search bar.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just search for who shared that post?

I wish there was a way to search Facebook to remember who posted that funny story! Ugh.

We imagined a world where you didn’t have to scroll all day long trying to find a post when you couldn’t remember exactly who posted it. Then a couple years ago our cries were heard when Facebook introduced the search FYI.

Anyway, this was the perfect opportunity for me to search Facebook to find out who was already discussing vacuum options.

Sure enough, I found several conversations from friends asking “What is the best vacuum that won’t break the bank?” and I read through each of the comments. Various models of the shark vacuum were being given rave reviews from housewives just like me. I saw people with hardwood floors and carpet pledging their loyalty to the Shark vacuum which made it win hands down in the popularity contest.

So J and I went to Amazon (another modern-day convenience that I will forever be grateful for) and found a deal on a refurbished one. We were even able to add on an extended warranty for very little.

The vacuum showed up on our doorstep a few days later and it has revolutionized my cleaning experience. I’ll admit next time I will definitely go cordless and I wish I would have this time, but it’s still a giant step forward from what I was using.

Now it was time to get rid of the old vacuum. So I posted it to Facebook market place which I love and use to sell stuff quite a bit actually. I had a teacher friend who wanted it for her classroom and was able to pick up from my doorstep. Just like that, out with the old and in with the new. I owe much of these creature comforts to Facebook of all things. Who knew.

By | February 21st, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

How Sophie Met Edouard

Sophie and Edouard are from the Democratic Republic of Congo in the heart of Africa. They grew up in the same area but their parents and grandparents were not from the same village so their cultures and upbringing were very different.

When Sophie met Edouard she knew there was something special about him but she kept her feelings to herself at first. It wouldn’t have been appropriate to pursue him then anyway since they met in the most unlikely of ways. The first time they ever saw each other was at a funeral! They had a mutual friend who lost his mom and so they actually met each other at the burial ceremony. The Lord works in mysterious ways.

As they talked in a large group Sophie connected with Edouard and hoped that maybe he felt the same thing she did. Afterwards there were more opportunities to hang out and over time there was no doubt that they were falling in love. Once their feelings were out in the open it wasn’t long before they knew that they wanted to share the rest of their lives together as one.

In previous generations not long ago the Congolese people were married through the families arrangements but now they can marry for love and at 21 years old Edouard and Sophie were in love! Marriage was on the horizon.

There are lots of varied customs in Africa when it comes to the marriage engagement but for Sophie’s culture when the couple is ready to get married the young man has to come and ask the bride’s father for his daughter’s hand in marriage much like the tradition in the US but a little different. Sophie explains “In my culture, the young man has to come ask the hand to her father and he doesn’t come alone. He is always with his father or uncle and some members of his family. After that comes the “customary marriage ” when the man and all his family members, friends and community brings all the things he had been asked for. Then the lady’s family prepare a special meal for the other family. Generally, it is a big party before the civil and religious wedding”

So it was a family affair when Edouard asked Sophie’s father for his blessing. Edouard made a special occasion out of the proposal and of course Sophie said YES!

After the blessing was granted and the engagement was official all the women in the family began to plan the traditional customary meal. Except there was one little problem.

Sophie doesn’t like to kill hens.

This might seem like a strange conundrum to have if you are in America, but for the Congolese bride, it mattered. Sophie said

“In our culture, it’s so important to know how to cook and do special meals before we get married. For instance when you receive a very important person for dinner, you have to kill and cook a hen to show respect. So we learn it at home.

I can do it because I used to do it for my father but I was not always comfortable with it and my mom knew that I never wanted to do that. When I was killing the chicken myself I was not able to eat it! If it was someone else then I could eat.”

Thankfully Sophie had family members including her mother who stepped in to kill the chicken for Edouard’s family and it all worked out. 

On May 6th, 2017 when Sophie was just 22 years old she walked down the aisle and married the love of her life.

They had the civil and religious wedding on the same day with a huge party afterward. 

“The wedding was great! Lots of joy! Lots of music, and singing, and dancing” Sophie shares the occasion with fond memories.

The treasured photos show just how beautiful and festive the ceremony was.

Sophie who has been blessed with the voice of an angel was a part of the church choir and she was the children’s choir leader.

All of the people who had been impacted by Edouard and Sophie’s ministry showed up to participate and support the lovely couple. It was a day they will remember forever.

Only two month after the wedding Sophie and Eudard moved to the US. It was a big shock at first. There have been so many changes and adjustments since they came to the states only 7 months ago but God has been faithful. They have a precious baby boy that brings so much joy and happiness to their lives.

Edouard is studying at a local university and they have great expectations for the future because they know that God has a plan and it goes above and beyond anything they can ask or imagine. 


This love story is a part of the How We Met Series. For more testimonies like this one check out the rest of the series here on

By | February 15th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments