Death by Annual Report

I have spent nearly the entire day trying desperately to complete the annual report for an organization I have officially been employed by for nearly 5 months.  I have been looking forward to the opportunity.  I cannot imagine a better way for a newbie to learn more, than to read the reports from every program in operation.
It is a good way to learn.  More than I originally planned.
The program it is created in baffles me.  Gathering all of the information baffles me.
Baffled.  That’s me!
It’s a perfect time to choose the Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project as our Mother Flippin’ Cause for the month of March.  Please read my latest guest post “Feel At Home”over at Ourselves, Reinvented
We will learn together….

Keenly Aware

My children get on my nerves. When we are running late and I tell them to get in the car, they always find a stick, line of ants or snow pile that needs some attention right then. My two year old hates to have his diaper changed and tries to kick me in the throat for my need to protect him from diaper rash. My middle child clings when I most need him to let go. My oldest has my independent streak and it drives me bonkers.

And don’t get me started on the fighting!

My heart aches for them. I now work a forty hour work week and the ache in my heart is not figurative.

I miss them.

I have not made the transition easy on myself…or them. I have a tendency to be hyper focused and therefore a bit of a workaholic. I am supposed to work from home two days a week and I have not been able to do so consistently. I am also not good with waking up early. My husband has been taking the children to school which narrows my time with them even more. Add to all of that my other interests…

I am one guilty momma.

I never intended to be a working mother. It snuck up and bit me like the bullet that hit Forest Gump in the ass with our family business. It was an invoice here and a phone call there. Eventually, I was working all of the time and parenting/wife-ing in between. I suppose you could flip that over and it would mean the same thing.

During my quick on the job training as a self employed business owner I began to peek into the non profit world. First working to advocate as a member of the Genocide Intervention Network. Eventually, I joined the Board of the Michigan Darfur Coalition. I tossed around the idea of applying for a fellowship or going back to school for a degree in some sort of third world country development. Every time the ideas surfaced, a reason to delay covered them and pushed them under.

I love my job. (blah, blah, blah…here she goes again…)

However, I did look my husband in the eye and ask him if I was a selfish, horrible mother. To which he wisely said no and then recommended that I wake up early to spend more time with the children in the mornings.

My job has made me keenly aware of how precious my time with my children is. How my eldest wants me to watch his boring as hell video game just because. I notice how my middle is willing to dance with me in the kitchen any time I ask. I hang on the newly formed words of my two year old which tonight included an unreasonable amount of requests for more bacon. (as if it’s possible to request too much bacon)

Guilt is such a powerless feeling whereas awareness allows action and decisiveness. After a little introspection, I find that I am not one guilty momma but I am mother who is now keenly aware of what her priorities are.

My first priority is to ease that ache in my heart because my little darlings are carrying it too.

5 Reasons I Am An Entrepreneur

In September, I told you that I did something completely unlike me.  I, the entrepreneur, went and got a day job.  I have now been working for the Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project for two and a half months.  I love my new job.  The founder and director of the organization is a good leader and I know I am going to learn a lot from him.  As a business owner turned employee, I was a little concerned about how I would handle having a boss.  

So far I have enjoyed my new rank and file.  However, I am still every much an entrepreneur at heart.  I have five reasons that explain why.  

1.  I act like I own the place. I show up early and I leave late.  Not because it’s required.  I do it because I love this organization and want to treat it like it’s mine.  I celebrate when we make a new contact that could provide us with more support.  I am disappointed when things don’t work out.  I take our mission very seriously.

2. I am a workaholic.  It’s true.  If I don’t physically leave my desk for lunch you can bet my sandwhich I am working through it.  I don’t take coffee breaks.  I have accepted a few texts during the day but I don’t take calls.  I am working.  This is not so much something I’ve learned but something confirmed.  I have always been a bit hyper focused.  

3. I like sharing the buck.  Don’t get me wrong.  I make plenty of decisions in my new position as Executive Assistant.  I rarely make them alone without approval.  I have enough decision making power to feel like an entrepreneur.  There is also enough oversight so that I am never left hanging out to dry.  It’s a comforting switch.

4. It’s always career day.  I still enjoy taking my children to work with me.  Last Friday, I was selling baskets while Jackson was giving a presentation at Sycamore Elementary School.  My children participated in the scholastic book fair activities and played in the gym.  It was exhausting but I can’t help feeling like they are learning so much when they are with me.  They know that the money we raise goes to orphans and grandmothers.  I hope that my occupation will guide them down a similar path when they have the opportunity.

5. Connections make the world go around. I have spent hours learning.  I will probably spend many more hours learning.  I have yet to have the opportunity to use the connections I have built in the community to benefit this organization.  I hope that I will be able to put the good word on the streets.  
On November 21st, there will be a Holiday Gift Shopping Event at Perspective2 in Old Town Lansing from 2-6pm.  I will be there selling Grandmother Baskets, Phil Denny will be performing his signature smooth jazz and it’s all being put on by my friend Harriet from Funky Diva Promotions. There will be great food and wonderful products for you to purchase just in time for the holidays!
I know what your thinking…
How could I not attend something being put on by a company called Funky Diva Promotions?

Stop by and see me!  I will give you a big hug and introduce you to our organization…Oh I mean the organization.  I told you.  I act like I own the place.

I look forward to seeing you,


Nouveau Riche

If you are a friend of mine and are unfortunate enough to have accepted my virtual friend request on Facebook then you know one thing very well.

I love my new job.

I could shout if from the roof top.

I love my job! I love my boss! I love the orphans we serve!

I apologize for the redundancy in my posts lately.

I was nearly pushed into tears yesterday alternately by inspiration and sadness.  Jackson, the Executive Director of the Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project, who shall thus forth be called by his name in my blog posts, hates to be referred to as a boss.  For the record, the organization employs over 35 people in two countries, and so he most definitely is the boss but I’m not gonna split hairs.

He asked me to prepare a presentation bag that he can always use and expect to be organized for events where a power point presentation is required.  In the process of cleaning out random city brochures, broken rubber bands and cd’s of Ugandan music, he asked me to be sure a #2 pencil was in the bag for his pencil presentation.

Eerrr….the record screeched to a halt.

What is the pencil presentation? I asked with a hint of laughter in my voice.  I was kind of expecting a cheesy professorial teaching tool like the one in the chain mail where the professor fills the jar with rocks, pebbles, sand and beer….or something.

That is not the story I got.

Jackson’s father used to cut a single pencil into five separate pieces so that all of the Kaguri children could attend school.  Even today, if a child comes to school and his family is too poor to purchase a pencil for him, he is sent home.  If they have a little bit of a pencil, even an inch worth, they can stay.  My tears were very near the surface.  I told him that made me want to cry.  He said it was okay too. 

I think I will wait.  I am sure that this is not the last time my heart will be broken at the poverty of the people we serve in southwestern Uganda. 

Instead, I went back to work. I am learning about the non-profit world from the inside this time.  I have spent my week organizing events, travel plans and marketing the different aspects of the organization. 

Put this little photo op together.

I am still completely over the moon that I could possible earn money doing what I feel is my calling is the perfect job for me. 

I got my first paycheck the other day.  I know!  A real one.  Like, with my name on it and everything.

You know what excited me the most about that paycheck?

The fact that I could now become a Loyal Friend of Nyaka by making monthly donations to the organization.

Do you know what else?

I have re-upped with Compassion International to sponsor a child in Thailand. 

My heart swells at the idea that I can serve the poor in my occupation, with a portion of my wages as commanded by God and support my family.  I honestly feel like a member of the nouveau riche.   

On a lighter note….

Just in case you were going to chalk me up as a self righteous goody-goody….

Is that redundant?

I have also joined  Yep. it is the equivalent of the shoe of the month club. I pay $40 a month for a new pair of shoes or opt out and pay nothing.  There are also no shipping and handling charges. When you sign up they give you a fashion quiz that determines the selection they offer you in your personal showroom.

I just got these little gems.

I know what your thinking…A completely practical choice. :)

Oh and your first purchase is 20% OFF!

Of course, if I can rope you in too, I get free stuff. 

Seriously though, this is just a weak attempt to show you I am still a sucker for good old American consumerism.  It’s just secondary to my philanthropic tendencies.  If I could choose for you, I would go for what’s behind doors number 1 & 2.  It will satisfy your soul. 
I feel like the shoes are a little gift to myself…but now I am wondering if the closet in my mansion in heaven will have something better if I give them up.

Now that may be worth pondering.

All my love,



I think I may be ready to dish.

Are you listening….

I have a new job.  It is a perfect job.

I have worked with my husband on our family business for nearly 10 years.  We started very small and now we are much bigger.  I love our family business.  It brings me great pride to look at what we have created.  I have learned so many lessons during it’s development.

During six of those years I have felt a pull towards the non-profit sector.  If that is a surprise to you, this must be your first day reading my blog.

Welcome to my planet.

I have organized volunteers, fundraised and advocated in my “spare” time.  Opportunities have presented themselves in the past to go back to school or attempt a fellowship but I have always declined.  We need money to live people! I love service but I also like feeding my children.  So I have continued to work on our business with the intent of riding off into the sunset when we….

You see.  There is never a stopping point.  

A couple of months ago I was notified that a position was available working within an organization that I respected.  I shrugged it off as an impossibility.  The concept nagged at me.  So, I inquired.  The job description made me feel a bit under qualified in one area.  Education.  Did I mention I never quite finished college…:)

I applied anyway.

As of Monday, I am the Executive Assistant at the Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project. 

Go ahead…..WOOOO HOOOO!!!

Okay, maybe you don’t know to celebrate.

I will get to get up every morning and work for an organization actively improving the lives of an entire community in Uganda.  The main office is located in Okemos. Just in case you were picturing a mass export of Toroks. 

I will get to raise money to support the education of orphans and loosen the grip of poverty on their future.  I will get to work with people who are dedicated to this vision.  I will get to do what I have always dreamed of…..and get paid for it! 

Some of the children I work for *squeal*

I know…What?!

I will be riding off into the sunset and our family business will be fine.  We are working out details and I still own it with my husband.  I will be leaving the day to day operations.  As a family, we have decided that this Project is where I am supposed to be.  Everything else is negotiable.  It is still difficult to leave.  It hurts my heart.  I love our business. 

This is not really the whole story.  Someday maybe I will give you a full plate.  

Today, just know that I am excited to be following a new path.  I’m nervous and the route to this destination has not been clear, comfortable or without booby traps.  I’m here though.  Thank God.

I can’t wait to see what happens next!!!