This year would be a big one,
Besides being able to rent a car without the extra fee,
I was pretty sure this year would be like the past few.
I really don’t get my age.
I’m still 9,
the age I was when my mom was diagnosed with Stage IV ovarian cancer,
my wishes for a pony or a pool filled with ice cream
became prayers for healing,
head tucked under my pillow, whispering night after night,
“Please let Mommy live.”
When my 13th birthday came
I resisted so much the idea of being a teenager that
I insisted I was turning “thirt-kid.”
Because teenagers were scary
and into loud music and alcohol and sneaking out of the house late at night,
-at least that’s what they seemed like in the movies-
and all I wanted to do was be with my parents,
because now Mom was really sick
and I would rather snuggle in bed next to her ten-thousand times more than I wanted to go to a party, or to the mall.
Legally, 18 is the year you become an adult.
I think adulthood first knocked when I was 13,
when my mom died.
And by the time 18 arrived,
I would become what the average 64-year-old American experiences –
the loss of both parents.
People call me an old soul.
And that I am.
I have quite a few friends in their 60s, 70s, 80s – even a few in their 90s.
We have more similar experiences compared to most people my age.
So I told 25,
“I’m pretty sure you can’t catch me by surprise.”
< I think God might have laughed then >
In my 25th year,
God took my life dictionary and painted over
the pages of my identity that I had written in permanent marker.
In the space after 25,
He wrote about Strength,
how to spread my wings and
to fly across oceans and mountain ranges and deserts
to accept and enjoy being held and hugged by people who’ve known me since birth, and people who only met me the day before
to be called a sister and daughter for the first time in a long while.
In year 25
I have learned
more than I ever knew I could.
These words and the photos that follow,
of course they will fail to tell the full story.
If I could open up my chest, reach in and grab my heart so you could feel what I’ve lived this past year –and these last 25 years- I would.
But for now,
this will have to do.
Thank you for being on this journey with me.
Thank you for loving me and encouraging me, no matter where I go and what I do.
Thank you for making 25
the most real year of all.
This is Waffle Tuesday, a newly minted -syruped, actually- tradition at the These Numbers Have Faces office. This year, I quickly learned that my co-workers are some of the most kind and gracious souls who make work not work at all.
Continuing with “work not-work,” this May I traveled to one of the most beautiful places in the world: Rwanda. I knew who I was when I went to Rwanda, but after two weeks, a more true part of my soul came alive. I believe I left Rwanda a better person.
I may look emotional here, because I am. This was Day One of my time in Rwanda, and one of the many joyful moments of meeting the These Numbers Have Faces scholars I work with. There was so much hugging and rejoicing, I thought my arms were going to fall off. Truthfully, I’d be proud if they did.
If you know one thing about my job, it’s that I’m in love with it – and that I have the honor of helping share the stories of my heroes. My Journey of Family this year was inspired by Iranzi (right), after he told me of the love he has for his aunt and uncle (center) who, after his parents were killed, cared for him as if he were their son.
In this Journey of Family, I gained new soul sisters: Jessica and Jackie.
Just my brothers -Iranzi, Eric, Claude- and I on the Rwanda national soccer pitch. No big deal.
After visiting the homes of our scholars in Rwanda, we had the chance to show them our homes when four of them had summer internships in the U.S.! We went bowling, drank beet juice (because it’s me here), and rode a bike surrey around the waterfront. Portland never looked so good.
I packed up my things -all the books and bowls and spoons- hugged my Portland family, and spread my wings.
What a Welcome it was. In a place where I can barely speak the language, I couldn’t feel more natural and at home. When I first visited České Budejovice in 2012, I had no idea how important this place would become to me. I may not be Czech by blood, but believe me, my heart is forever bound with these incredibly gracious, loving people.
We danced. We laughed. We might have learned some English, too. I didn’t get the chance to go to summer camp growing up, so you can bet my excitement is through the roof being part of English Camp all these years later.
Me, myself and I went venturing from the north of Italy all the way south. Actually, I couldn’t have been father from alone. Each day God reminded me that His plan is far better than what I could ever dream on my own. This photo? I had no clue I was going there that day. Yup.
Four years after studying abroad in Florence, Italy, I was reunited with my host family. I was pretty sure I couldn’t love them more. I was wrong.
My dad and George were fraternity brothers in college. When my parents got married and had me, they named George and his wife Sally as my godparents. I’m not sure they realized how significant that choice would be. But it was. Now, George and Sally are the closest sense of parents I know. Not only have they opened their arms to me as if I were their own daughter, they have also become my partners in crime, and closet Polish enthusiasts.
This year brought many moments of reflection, including this one in Gdansk. The more I travel, the more I realize we are all the same – people who desire to be loved, and to love, in return.
Those suitcases I packed? I eventually unpacked, hung up all the clothes and put those socks in the sock drawer. From the Czech Republic, to Italy, to Florida, the homes I’ve stayed in this year have been more than houses – they’re family.
In Florida, I’m known as Giant Taylor. Don’t worry. I gave that name to myself. To my god-nephews, I am a giant! I hope I never get tired of chasing these goobers around. And I hope they never get tired of me, either.
It’s no secret: I’m a morning person. And happily so. Mornings are when I greet the Creator and His Creation. If all I did for the rest of my life was sing prayers of thanksgiving to God, I think that would be the best way I could ever live.