Living, Learning & Loving La Vida Nueva

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Ruby Red

She's the dog of many nicknames.  She looks especially lovely in her new red faux collar.  She had a pretty blue one she managed to get off and lose so now she's in a dog-harness-for-a-much-smaller-pup-made-collar.  Buying her another real collar is on my get-while-down list.  I'm thinking red is her color.

I just wanted to give a little update on where we stand with the Bring Ruby Home fund.  Thanks to everyone who has participated thus far, whether it be with art work purchases, donations or sponsoring Caleb to read, read, read!  With purchases, outstanding sponsorships, and a few commissioned projects for the girls, we believe we have about half of the needed funds already!  I'm so happy and relieved.  Really love that girl!

The girls are busy with a few more painting and drawing commissions.  After they complete those, they will be busy painting/drawing more things to sell and open to accepting more special orders.  See my previous post for a selection of work they have completed in the past.  Even Lollee is getting in on the painting, so be on the lookout for some Lollee-originals coming up soon!  Caleb has logged 7 hours of his reading so far and they are tracking it on a chart.  He is so excited!

Thanks for following along!


Monday, April 9, 2018

B(ring) Around the Ruby

Thanks for all the Ruby love from my last post!  I told her she's not going to have to fight for her life at the cattle post.  I also told her she's gonna love being an American!  She was so excited!  She was wiggling and wagging her tail!  Or maybe that was because I was scratching behind her ears and waving a bone in front of her face.... But, Kyle did giggle joyfully when I told him Ruby is coming with.... and Caleb did look like a ghost from sheer shock and thrill when he found out, so there's that.

To begin the FUNdraising, my siblings have already been busy planning out what kinds of things they can do to make money!  Naturally, the girls gravitate towards drawing and painting, as they have natural talent in that department.  So Maggie is offering hand painted landscapes and hand painted decorative rocks!  Holly is keen to pencil sketch your pet or house.  Below are some examples of art work the girls have previously done.

Hand-painted by Maggie ~ Available for $15 

Hand Painted by Maggie ~ SOLD

Hand Painted by Maggie ~ SOLD

Hand Painted by Maggie ~ SOLD

Dual Color Sketch by Holly ~ $40/pet

Color Sketch by Holly ~ $40

Colored Pencil Sketch by Holly ~ $40

Small Hand Painted (acyclic & sealed) Rock ~ $7

Large Hand Painted (acrylic & sealed) Rock ~ $15

Small ($7)/Medium ($10) Hand Painted Rocks 

Small Hand Painted Rocks (acrylic & sealed) ~ $7

Small Hand Painted Rocks (acrylic & sealed) ~ $7

Pencil Home Sketch ~ $45

Medium Painted Rock (acrylic & sealed) ~ $10

Painted Rock Village (Three Houses, two cars, acrylic & sealed) ~ 25

Caleb has a wood burner.  He and Holly are teaming up to create things like the ornaments and plaques below.  I have just taken a few photos from Google, but he can do any kind of simple design.  Clemson paws, Gamecock birds, Georgia bulldogs, state outlines, etc.  Let me know what you want!

Large Welcome Sign ~ $15

Medium Kitchen Decoration ~ $10 

Wooden Ornaments w/ various designs ~ $7 each

If you are interested in making a purchase, please contact me on FB or leave a comment on the blog.  Any shipping required will be exact cost.  Thanks for your support and for helping bring Ruby to America!


Thursday, April 5, 2018

Operation Nationalize Ruby

Meet Ruby.

Watching me through the kitchen window. 

Previously known as Roofie, she was the pet of our former teammates and named by their youngest child.  After she came to us, a slight adjustment was made to Ruby.  She didn't seem to mind, and gladly comes when she's called.  She came to us by accident for a brief stay last June.  Her owner, a friend and teammate of ours, found himself with a broken down car near our house and had no way of transporting her.  He requested that we care for her until he could get his car fixed and remove her from our yard.  When he saw how much the kids were enjoying having her around, he offered for us to keep her until we left Lesotho.  We gladly agreed.

So, Ruby has been in our care for nearly the past year.  And during that time, we have grown to love her.  She is sweet, gentle, protective, calm, quiet, loving and devoted.  Everyone who meets her comments on what a great pup she is.  She has been adored by all the mission teams which come through Mokhotlong.  A few times, I was afraid they might allow her to leave with them "unnoticed" when they went on their way.

Post Jog Snuggles

Nearly everyday, she and I go out for a jog around town.  Last year, I ran into (no pun intended) some trouble while I was out alone in Mokhotlong.  Thus keeping Ruby for the remainder of our time in Lesotho was a delightful option for us.  She makes for great protection.  She's gentle, but she's intimidating and having her with me makes me feel more at ease.  My children love her and she follows them around to the neighbors' as they play.  Whenever we go away, Sadie calls out the window to her, "Bye, Ruby!  Sorry! We'll be back!"  Kyle may or may not be overfeeding her, thus the daily cardio requirement.

You can see Ruby patrolling in the background.

Why am I saying all this?  Because she's a doll.  She's an absolute joy and easily the best behaved dog I've ever known.  And the thought of leaving her in a few months was a lot to handle.  Her owner, Caleb, is one of the AIM guys working with the shepherds and she was to be his herd dog.  Herd dogs live rough lives, despite Caleb's obvious commitment to trying to be as good to her as possible.  The other dogs at the cattle posts are vicious and I know she would have to adapt and conform to survive.  Plus, knowing my kids are already struggling with the reality of moving, being able to take their friend Ruby along didn't seem like such a bad idea.  So, after discussing with Jono, I approached her owner, our friend, to ask if he'd be comfortable with us pursuing her transatlantic relocation with us in September.  He agreed.  When my brother, Caleb, was here late last year, he fell in love with her.  He has been wanting a dog for a very long time and I knew she'd make a great pet for him.  I then talked to my dad to see if he was agreeable with the plan of bringing her to be Caleb's pet.  He agreed.  Now that all parties are in agreement, I have contacted a pet shipping company and will get the ball rolling to make Ruby an American!

She loves to touch.  She isn't happy if we aren't touching.  Who cares about tan lines?

Shipping a pet is unfortunately pretty pricey.  Nevertheless, with a percentage committed by a generous donor, as well as initiative on the part of my siblings, we believe it is attainable.  Be on the lookout for fundraising from Holly, Maggie and Caleb!  They are overjoyed at the opportunity to have a one-of-a-kind dog and eager to make it happen!  They plan to do things like paintings, pet drawings, sewing and baking to help raise the funds.  I will post as soon as they determine their first endeavor.

I'm excited! Moving a big dog will undoubtedly be a hassle, but I believe it's worth it.  Plus, a dog is a man's best friend, right?  Or in this case, a mom and a brother.  :)


Friday, January 12, 2018

Opportunity and Success

There is a young girl who visits me occasionally.  I first met her at the river one day while I was chatting on the phone and she was doing laundry.  She comes to me for English vocabulary help.  She’s fluent in English, but wants to broaden her vocabulary base.  She wants to be a poet or an actress.  She brings me things she’s read, elaborate poetry or Bible texts, so I can help explain the difficult words to her. Finding synonyms for difficult words which aren’t also difficult is difficult.  This afternoon, she walked into my kitchen.  I was expecting someone else so it surprised me to see her standing there.  She came to tell me she had failed 10th grade math and wouldn’t be able to continue her studies.  She wanted to know if I knew anyone she could work for or what she could do.  She was afraid to go home because her grandfather was coming to beat her.  That is the only punishment here.  It’s harsh.  High school isn’t free, so if a pupil struggles, it is seen as a waste of money.  I felt so deflated when she said she wouldn’t be continuing her school.  There isn’t much opportunity for young people here, but without a high school education, there is even less.  I took her to my neighbor who is a teacher at a different school.  She suggested she discuss with her teachers and see if she could do tutoring to make up her 10th grade math and then continue on with her schooling next year.

It made me think.  I grew up in a society where children are asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  Everything is a possibility.  Opportunity is available.  Success is achievable.  You want to be a brain surgeon?  Go for it!  Study hard and apply yourself.  You want to be an actress?  Get involved in a local playhouse and chase your dreams.  You want to be an electrician?  There is no shortage of opportunity or job availability!  Your profession will always be useful.  Learn at a college or study under a skilled electrician.  That isn’t the way it is here, or in most places in the world.  I grew up believing I could be whatever I wanted to be.  I still believe that!  Someday, when I’m old and I’ve raised my kids and have more free time, I’d like to open a small cafe.  There isn’t a thing in me that makes me believe I couldn’t do it!  But here, when I hear, “I want to be an actress” or “I want to be a pilot”, I think, “There is no way.” I’m not trying to be pessimistic!  I want to be optimistic!  I want to believe that the opportunity is there.  But I know better.  The funding isn't there for schooling.  The jobs aren’t there to be filled.  There is only an up hill climb for anyone in Lesotho who wants to be something out of the ordinary.  So I encourage her, study hard.  Try to go to university in South Africa.  Try to build your credentials and maybe, just maybe, you’ll get a break.  But in my heart, I feel the truth.  It’s so unlikely, it’s nearly impossible.  I pray she can finish high school and I pray, with God’s grace and lots of determination, she will have the future she dreams of having.  And I pray her parents and grandparents are easy on her, because she’s obviously a brilliant student who probably just spends too much time on English and not enough time on math.

In other Mokhotlong news…..

I found sweet potatoes in South Africa a couple weeks ago.  It’s a rare find.  I’ve only ever found them once before.  I snatched two bags and have been dreaming of what all I wanted to do with them.  I found this recipe for chocolate sweet potato cake in one of my go-to Taste of Home cookbooks and decided to give it a try.  I followed the recipe with a few simple adjustments.  Firstly, 2 cups of sugar is ridiculous.  I cut it in half and judging by the batter, it’s plenty sweet!  Recipes almost always call for way more sugar than necessary.  Then, 2 cups of pecans.  Seriously?  Have you priced pecans lately?  No.  No way.  I don’t use 2 cups of pecans in a month and I’m certainly not dumping that many in a cake.  I buy pecans fresh from the health food store in South Africa at the cheapest price around and they are still painfully expensive.  So, I just grabbed a handful of those cherished nuts and chopped them up well before tossing them in.  Then to add some more texture and yum due to the lack of pecans, I added a handful of chocolate chips.  Obviously.  I will split it up and take it to my neighbors for safe keeping, since I can’t be held accountable for what would happen to this chocolate sweet potato cake should it all remain in my home.

Dinner tonight is ribs, which come from my favorite butchery.  I’ve become such a butchery snob.  They are cheaper than the grocery stores here, and the meat is so fresh and customizable.  I always get just what I want.  I’m using some of the barbecue sauce my mom brought because I have enough to take a bath in, and because it’s amazing and tastes like home. Thanks, Selena!  I rubbed the ribs with Fat Jake's, a spice blend a friend makes.  It's so good!  I’m making these potatoes because cream cheese improves everything and fresh carrots because we bought them along the road-side this week and they are beautiful.  I know ya’ll think we are really suffering up here, eating unidentifiable food and never having a treat.  Sorry not sorry for shattering the image of poor, unfortunate, sacrificing missionaries.  It’s not such a bad existence, I promise.  You should try it!

Off I go to wake Sadie from her nap because she’s sleeping too long and I want to sleep tonight.  Hope you all have your Christmas decorations down.  I believe today is the deadline.  Mine are all down, it took me about 5 minutes.  


Saturday, January 6, 2018

Wife Life

I started the day earlier than I would’ve liked.  It is Saturday after all.  But Sadie didn’t seem to remember that as she came crawling into my bed for “milkies”.  I still need to wean her. I still don’t know how.  I was already in the kitchen getting ready to start breakfast by 7:45.  In my opinion, that’s too early for a Saturday morning unless something very exciting is about to happen. Today nothing exciting happened.

Before I could get going on breakfast, there was a knock at my door.  The lady who comes occasionally to hand wash things that don’t go in my washing machine was here.  For five years, I’ve had people asking me regularly for work. There are countless requests to nanny my children.  There are many offers by passersby to do my laundry as I hang it out on the line.  Many request to weed my garden.  I’ve had people come to the door, stop me in town, ask me quietly as I pass them along the road.  I’ve turned down so many people for “piece jobs”, as they are called here, and it is hard.  It is hard to know whom to help and how to help.  I couldn’t possibly employ all the people who come by asking for work.  I usually turn them away saying I don’t have any work to be done (which is true, I do it :) ).  Truly, what would I give all these people to do and what would I do if I had all my jobs covered?  But sometime last year, this little lady came to my door.  She had a baby on her back.  She asked for R12 (less than $1) to buy paraffin, which is used here for cooking.  She asked if I had any laundry that needed doing.  I prefer to wash things in my machine.  Maybe it’s my culture or the way I was raised, but I think they are good and clean that way and they feel softer than when they are hand washed.  But some things don’t fit in my machine or don’t belong in my machine.  Rugs and coats are two major ones.  So for whatever reason, when this lady came by, I offered her a few things to wash.  She did such a thorough job, I told her to come back any Saturday and I would find her something to wash.  She doesn’t speak a word of English and my Sesotho is atrocious.  I usually have to get Detay or Joy to translate for me so we can communicate.  So, she comes by every so often (amazingly not every Saturday….) and I always find a rug or two for her to wash.  Today she washed my two biggest rugs.  I paid her generously, by Mokhotlong’s standards, but to me it’s still hard to stomach someone working for as little as they do here. 

This morning I cleaned the entire house.  I spend my days sweeping.  Africa produces a lot of dirt.  Children produce a lot of dirt.  Even so, every week or sometimes less, the house needs a thorough going over, from top to bottom.  I love a clean, neat, sweet-smelling house.  It’s like a visual sigh of relief.  I love clean, wind-dried sheets and can’t wait to go to bed tonight.  I also love clean kids which means this every night.

During the girls’ afternoon rest/nap time, I went for a jog.  Ruby needs the exercise and so do I.  I enjoy the fresh air and sunshine.  It’s a great time to just clear my head.  I pass by lots of kids and they make me smile.  The little girl in the picture below (can you spot her?) is so spunky.  She’s so thin, she looks like she could blow away in the strong midday winds.  But she’s full of herself and she swings her tiny hips and jabbers to herself as she walks past me.  I see her regularly.  Everyone asks for my dog.  She isn’t actually mine…. She’s on long-term loan from a friend.  I appreciate her for her companionship and protection. For some reason, even though Basotho are terrified of her, they all want her.  Then when I say I’m not giving her up, they ask for her puppies.  You should see the confusion on their faces as I tell them she won’t be having any puppies…. A very foreign concept here.

Sadie Kate and I did yoga before dinner.  I am not any kind of yoga fanatic, but I started doing some short videos a couple months back.  I’m still suffering mightily with my aching head and neck and thought maybe I could stretch out some tension.  I am using Yoga by Adriene videos which a friend downloaded for me.  The jury is still out on if it’s helping or not, but I continue trying regardless.  At least I have a cute yoga buddy.

For dinner, I pulled this recipe to try out of my favorite cookbook — Taste of Home Country Cooking.  I like the older ones because they use a lot of “from scratch” ingredients, which I need in Mokhotlong.  There’s no canned soup, ready-made biscuits, jars of enchilada sauce, bottles of teriyaki sauce, etc etc.  I had some ground pork I wanted to use and decided on this recipe.  Because I didn’t have “pork sausage”, I added a bit of salt, paprika, sage and garlic to my ground pork.  Everything else I kept the same.  It was seriously so easy and so good!  I served it over rice with stir fry on the side.  When I make it again, I will reduce the sugar some because it was pretty sweet with the ketchup and brown sugar.  But otherwise, it got two enthusiastic thumbs up from my clan.  Give it a whirl!

The rugs are dry now and back in place.  The big one spent the afternoon on top of Rocky so as to keep it good and clean while it dried.  Thankfully there weren’t any bird droppings on it when we pulled it down tonight.  Ellee’s rug had horrible grease stains from where she spilled a bottle of baby oil on it some time back.  I’ve washed it since then, but the stains remained.  This morning I treated it with Shout and Dawn dish soap (my two prized American cleaning supplies) before the lady took it to the river to wash it.  I wish I had a before picture!  It came out so beautifully, I can’t believe it!

Overall, a productive Saturday for Mrs. St.Clair.  I’m tired, but it’s a good tired.  I am hopeful that 2018 is going to be a great year!  At least with a clean house and yummy leftovers, I know tomorrow is going to be a great day.  Off to bed I go.


Friday, December 1, 2017

December First Musings

Fresh flowers from my yard

A lot of November was spent with people.  I love people.  We've been busy, in and out of Mokhotlong, and I feel like December is going to seem quiet in comparison.  After the World Race team departed, we had a tough situation arise which you can read about here.  It hurts to see people you love hurting.  But we also felt refreshed after our extended time with the team.  It's always worth it to pour into others and God is faithful to supply what you need even when you feel as though you have nothing to offer.

My parents and brother came and went and we had a wonderful time together.  Highlights were a totally unexpected snow dump, a hike up the mountain, jogging with my dad around Mokhotlong, skipping rocks on the river, tons of dish washing parties, hosting a Thanksgiving feast, horseback riding, a shopping trip with my mom and playing at the beach.  It is always such a special treat to have family around.

While we were with the World Race team in Johannesburg, some of the girls asked me what I miss about home.  Immediately the word "fall" came out of my mouth.  I love fall.  It's my favorite season.  I love everything about it, but especially the smells it brings.  It's tough every year to go through October and November as it warms up in the Southern Hemisphere and there are blossoms on the trees, rather than crackling colorful leaves.  I miss candles.  Candles aren't really a thing here.  Before we moved to Africa, I used to light a candle every night after dinner.  So a couple of my friends from the team went out that afternoon and bought me a Cinnamon Stick Yankee Candle while at the mall.  Yankee Candles are imported here and as if they aren't expensive in the US, they are even more so here.  I have seen them here at the fancy malls in the big cities, but have never splurged on one.  These two ladies got me one and brought it to me after I was half asleep that night.  They came in and handed me a heavy bag and it didn't register in my mind at that moment what it was.  It dawned on me a little while later.  I had to force myself to light it today.  I just want to save it because it's so special, I don't want to waste it!  This evening it is cool and rainy.  The perfect time to light a candle.  So I did, and I love it!  Thanks, Emma and Millie, for ministering to my fall-sick heart.

Before we took my family back to the airport, we threw leftover Thanksgiving dinner in the freezer.  I decided to try to jazz it up a bit this afternoon to turn it into a nice dinner.  I sort of used this recipe, although I did a ton of altering due to my limited resources.  I made my own cream of chicken soup mixture and subbed carrots for celery.  I also added French fried onions to the top because why not?  It was seriously delicious.  Highly recommend.

Decorating for Christmas takes me no more than ten minutes, as you can see by the state of our tiny tree.  Don't tell my kids that it's not normal.  They are super excited and are already begging to open their gifts.  I like our little tree.  It adds such a nice glow to the living room.

I hope all you lovely people are gearing up for a beautiful season celebrating Emmanuel, God with us.  May the miracle of His birth not be lost on us!