April 26, 2016

Reading in 2016

These first few months of 2016 have started off wonderfully for finding great reads.  As I mentioned in a previous post, 2015 was a tough reading year for me.  I was constantly reading disappointing books, trying to work my way through each one, but not really enjoying them.  However, in the past few months I have found myself staying up late just to read one more chapter, getting up early to start a new book and encouraging Estela to “read on her own” so that I can read something other than a board book.  I thought I would share some of my favorite books so far this year.  Happy Reading!

  • Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert – I have been on an Elizabeth Gilbert role lately.  I still haven’t got to her newest book, Big Magic, but I am hoping that will happen soon.  In Committed, Gilbert shares about her journey of and love marriage to her Brazilian husband, amidst the challenges of visas and immigration statuses. 
  • Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff – This was President Obama’s favorite book last year.  As I read through the first half, I often wondered why.  However, the second half changed it all.  This is a very clever novel on marriage and relationships. 
  • Mudbound by Hillary Jordan – My new book loving sister-in-law recommended this to me and wow, what a powerful read.  This novel takes place in the Mississippi Delta during the late 1940’s and discusses themes of prejudice, slavery and black and white relations.
  • The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Condo – I read this book in one day and since then started to “clean up” my life.  While Kevin has not appreciated everything I have donated, gifted, sold or thrown away, life is feeling more free and less complicated.
  • Grounded by Diana Butler Bass – Kevin and I have read this book together over the past few months.  Butler Bass documents why religion is on the decline in America and why people are leaving traditional religious practices.  This books offers a fresh way to interact with our faith through embracing God everywhere in the world around us – in the soil, the water, the sky, in our homes and neighborhoods and in the global commons.  Kevin and I read the water chapter by the ocean, something I will always remember.
  • Scary Close by Donald Miller – Donald Miller was an significant writer for me over ten years ago, but I had not kept up with his books over the past few years.  However after this book arrived on my kindle from the library, I could not put it down.  I have not reflected on my own life, my relationships, my marriage nor my parenting through a book like this in some time.  I have already sent e-mails to family and friends telling them to pick it up.  I highly recommend this read, but be ready to reflect and engage.   
  • Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling – A very much appreciated and hilarious book, especially after some of the more serious books listed above.  In her second book, Kaling shares funny, thoughtful essays on her life that are guaranteed to make you laugh out loud.
  • Freedom by Jonathan Franzen – After falling in love with Jonathan Franzen’s writing, Kevin bought this book for me and give it to me for my 28th birthday.  I read the first 50 pages and did not keep going.  Kevin has always been disappointed with me, so I decided to give it a try again and I am so glad I did.  Franzen’s writing is so descriptive, every line has been well crafted and thought out.  Warning: Do not read Franzen’s most recent release, Purity.  It was excruciating to try and get through that 600 page book.

April 18, 2016

The True Cost

Ask the question: who made your clothes?


Recently, Kevin and I, along with Estela, took some time to watch the documentary The True Cost, which is a new documentary that asks the question, who pays the price for our clothing?  It is a question that I have often wrestled with, especially after moving to Nicaragua and meeting many individuals who earn their income by working in sweatshops.  In fact, one of my closest friend’s, Mayela used to work in a sweatshop.  In 2012, I wrote more about that here.  I have gone to several workshops and presentations where I have learned more about the sweatshop industry in Nicaragua.  Yet still when I am back in the United States, I find it way too easy to sift through the racks of clothes at Old Navy, H & M and Target.  I have made some changes, trying to buy more clothing second-hand or allowing myself to spend more money to buy clothes that are fair trade.  But I will be the first to admit that I still have some work to do.


Here are a few new facts that I learned about fast fashion from the documentary:

  • 1 in 6 people in the world work in the clothing industry.
  • In the 1960’s, 95% of the U.S populations clothing was produced in the U.S, now only 3% is produced in the U.S.
  • While the majority of goods have increased in price, the price of clothing has deflated in the past twenty years due to fast fashion.  This comes with a human cost.
  • The average American disposes 82 pounds of textile waste each year.










Our choice as the customer, what we choose to purchase and what we choose to throw away, has a direct impact on other people’s lives.  We must remember that every item that we wear has been touched by human hands.  Our choices on our clothing have an everyday impact on the environment, on people’s physical and mental health, on family structure and relationships, on community health, on worker’s rights and ultimately who lives and who dies.

I once again need to ask myself the hard question.  What is this product worth?  It certainly is not worth the fate of another individual.  I highly recommend that you watch this film and take time to consider how your choices are impacting our brothers and sisters around the world.

For more on this documentary and ideas of how to make changes in your clothing consumption, check out this podcast of Rob Bell interviewing Andrew Morgan, the producer of The True Cost.


Feeling stuck about where to start? 

Here are some ideas for fair trade places to shop: List of 35 Companies Who Are Making Fairtrade Clothing

Does thrift store shopping overwhelm you?  Me too.  I recently placed an order at ThredUp.

April 11, 2016

We Have Got the Best

We seriously have the best community and support system that one could ask for.  We are so grateful to our friends and family who have been so supportive to us during our time living in Nicaragua.  While it has not been easy to be far away, while at times it can be lonely, we are so grateful for each and every day here.  Over the last couple of months, we were thrilled to welcome friends and family into our home and into our lives.

Our first visit started on the New Year when Kevin’s parents came to Nicaragua for two weeks.  We loved seeing Nicaragua through their eyes, eating all of the delicious foods that we have come to love and exploring the variety of landscapes that this country boasts.

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A few days later, my dad’s childhood friend and my second dad, Dave Foy, came to visit us.  We spent a long weekend together enjoying the seashore, colonial town of Granada and cigars of EstelĂ­.  Dave was a welcomed visitor, very interested in learning about the politics, economics and culture of Nicaragua.


Shortly after, my childhood friend Erin, her husband and in the womb baby, chose to ignore the Zika outbreak and instead enjoyed a week here in the Pacific part of Nicaragua.  We spent days together learning about the history of Managua, hanging out on Calle Calzada in Granada and soaking up the sun near the shores of Tola.  We were so grateful for their visit.

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In February, our great friends Eric and Nikki and their kiddos Matigan and Wyatt took their first international trip to Nicaragua.  They spent two weeks here with us, really getting to know what life is like for us here.  We spent time in Managua trying to avoid the heat, but making up for it with fresh white pineapple and cold smoothies.  We headed north to Matagalpa and explored and hiked through coffee farms, which is a common interest of Eric and Kevin.  We also spent a weekend on the beaches of San Juan del Sur and Rivas.  This visit was a very special one.


During Semana Santa, our friends Andrew and Lynda and their little one came down to visit their family and also spent a few days with us.  Andrew and Kevin went to high school together and we all attended Dordt together.  We enjoyed hanging with this great couple and meeting Miss Sullivan.

To top it off, my mom and sister came down to Nicaragua on a last-minute trip.  We had planned to go to Cuba over Kevin’s spring break, but are still unable to travel outside of the country due to Estela’s (long) adoption process.  So instead, they graced us with a visit here.  It was Tia Shawna’s first time meeting Estela and we can all tell that they are going to be the best of friends.

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Again, we are grateful for our community of people that support us and cheer us on.  We only hope to do the same for you!

April 4, 2016



Since the beginning of the new year everyone around the world has become familiar with a four letter word that not many of us had heard before: Zika. In Nicaragua, the first cases were reported in January and the numbers continue to rise as the ministry of health (MINSA) is doing everything they can to control the mosquito population. Cassie recently shared a photo of a fumigation that takes place regularly in our neighborhood.  Recently, I (Kevin) had the opportunity to engage in a lively debate with a group of Nicaraguans about the virus and what it says about our world. I wanted to share some of their talking points with you, the reader. I do so for two different reasons. The first being that I think it is helpful for our global community to create a broader perspective which includes voices which may not normally be given a space to be heard in our fearful news climate. Secondly, it appears that Zika, like other diseases such as West Nile has already lost its appeal, and I think it is good for us to ask ourselves why.

In general, Nicaragua is a news loving country. Newspapers are delivered and sold at stop lights, the country has two 24/7 news stations dedicated to the 6 million people who live here and talk radio and neighborly conversation concerning local and global events are a part of the culture. It must also be noted, that due to many of the ways that the USA has involved itself in the country, many Nicaraguans look to receive global news from places like Britain, Cuba, Canada, Russia and the rest of Latin America.

Back to Zika. Throughout this lengthy conversation I was often spoken to as though I represented my home culture and all that it consists of, the good and the bad. I was blamed for not obtaining a cure due to the fact that I would not profit from such a drug/vaccine. I was blamed for not caring about the poor. I was accused of treating the developing world as a tool to gain wealth as though I headed up a large multinational conglomerate. I was asked to find a cure for the disease along with a cure for AIDS, malaria and all the other horrible and painful ailments that affect our world. During the conversation I was able to obtain and understand the following major points of the conversation as it relates to the theories and horrors of Zika:

  1. First off, it is really not about Zika, at-least not in our context. Instead, it is about microcephaly and the ways in which large populations in Brazil are suffering from the effects of microcephaly and the fear that is felt from this horrible defect which is developed during gestation.
  2. A large majority of Nicaraguans believe that the high cases of microcephaly which are claimed to be associated with the recent outbreak in Brazil were and are being caused by a subsidiary of Monsanto called Sumitomo.
  3. Zika may not be the actual reason for the breakout of microcephaly, but instead, the outbreak is being used as a way for a large corporation to avoid taking responsibility for this outbreak of microcephaly.

I left the conversation feeling somewhat shocked and a little frustrated. I had little knowledge of what my Nicaraguan friends referring to. I therefore took it upon myself to piece together the puzzle that they had laid at my feet. Below I have provided links to various sources that I have found helpful. At this point, I am unsure of what to believe, I only hope that we find ourselves in a world that is being constantly being made more just.

The original article which was published in relation to a report presented by Latin American doctors:


An analysis of the Secondnexus article:


The WHO fact sheet as it relates to Zika:


A brief, but seemingly concise history of the Zika Virus:


The CBC weighs in: