Time for New Beginnings

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Time for New Beginnings. . . . . . . . . . . Taylor Addison, Blue Mountain Arts, 1989 

This is a time for reflection as well as celebration.
As you look back on the past year and all that has taken place in your life,
Remember each experience for the good that has come of it and for the knowledge you have gained.
Remember the efforts you have made and the goals you have reached.
Remember the love you have shared and the happiness you have brought.
Remember the laughter, the joy, the hard work, and the tears.
And as you reflect on the past year, also be thinking of the new one to come.
Because most importantly, this is a time of new beginnings and the celebration of life.

Year End 2015

Hello friends,

It is almost Christmas and I hope you've been enjoying yourself so far.

This will be my last post until after Christmas as I will be spending the intervening days with family and friends.

As I close out the year and reflect back on things, I realize I didn't get to do many of the things that were on my 'to do' list.  This year was also the first year in some time that I did not write out my goals for the year and post them on my blog. I  posted my goals for several straight years and then reviewed them in a post at the end of each year.  But last year I felt I wanted to have a more leisurely year.   I did have a leisurely year in the sense that I did not pressure myself to "perform" but my goodness the year was absolutely non-stop busy and I had some "hits" and "misses" in terms of progress.

Probably the biggest thing I did not get around to doing this year was to travel to Kenya.  There are a number of good reasons for  delaying my trip which I won't go into. I still hope that I will travel there soonest but am not quite sure when. The delays were out of my control but I believe there is a reason and a season for everything and I am certain that when I do get to Kenya I will enjoy my trip immensely.

Since I did not get a chance to travel to Kenya it was a highlight for me to host the Kenyan Boys Choir to dinner one Autumn night while they were on tour in Canada. Meeting these fine young men gave me a chance to learn about their hopes and dreams and their achievements thus far.  It gave me such a thrill to know that Kenya's future is in very good hands with such fine young men as these.  They had a long tour in North America and returned home in middle of this month. Right at this moment they are at Diani beach on Kenyan's beautiful coast. They will be giving their final performance of the year on December 24th, 2015 before returning to Nairobi to spend the rest of their holidays with family and friends.

Beyond not travelling to Kenya, I didn't get to undertake a number of personal tasks (unnamed) and I did not get a number of craft projects done or books read.  All of this is okay as they items are really targets to keep me moving forward rather than firm goals that must be accomplished.  In terms of reading, I've manged to complete 35 of  the 45 books I planned to read. I'm currently on my 36th book called Girl in the Woods but doubt I will read another 9 books before the end of the year.

In terms of craft work, I still haven't finished my African hexagon flower crochet blanket.  But I did manage to get some sewing done for my mother (2 dresses, 2 tops, 2 skirts 3 full length slips) and finish 20 knitted dishcloths.  The dishcloths I've been using are getting rather old and it was time for some new ones. The dishcloths are also great little gifts at Christmas and for birthdays.  One new craft or hobby I learned this year was  making bar soap.  This was a long standing wish which was finally achieved even though it wasn't planned.  After taking my workshop 3 weeks ago, I was finally able to pick up my 2 bars of soap yesterday. I look forward to using them in the New Year.

In the Spring and Summer I managed to put in the garden once again.  I hosted my niece for her annual visit and celebrated my nephew's graduation from the Bachelor of Arts Program before seeing him off for his much anticipated European vacation.

In the heat of the summer I was a tourist in my city and attended the Bloedel Conservatory and the Van Dusen Gardens which was a real delight.  The end of summer saw me preparing a small birthday dinner for my mother.  Of course visiting my mom several times throughout the year is always on my agenda and it takes considerable time, effort and energy to prepare for each trip.  There is always sewing and multiple shopping expeditions in advance to make sure she has everything she requires until the next time I can pay her a visit. Christmas holidays and sometimes her birthday,  are the times of year when spend an extra day or two visiting her rather than making a day trip.  On these special occasions we can have a nicer visit.

In the Autumn I had the pleasure of enjoying several cultural events after a long period of hiatus from attending any. I got to a performance of contemporary ballet and a couple events with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.  I will round out the year by attending my first (and likely only) performance of "The Nutcracker".  This year I enrolled in a short class in Spanish which I enjoyed very much.   I hope to continue with the language lessons when I have more time on my hands.

This year I had a huge project which occupied much of my time. I helped a friend build a house and do it on a budget. Actually the project wasn't to build a house from scratch but to renovate it, adding a bedroom, 2 bathrooms, a kitchen.  I would say this project met with some success but the house isn't quite complete. There are still closets to be built in the bedrooms and the kitchen cupboards need to be finished as well.  My part in the matter was helping find materials and suggesting things such as indoor and outdoor paints, tiles, bathroom fixtures and faucets. My advice was only partially accepted.  I guess that is understandable since the house is not mine! I hope my friend enjoys the house for years to come.  I found it fun to be involved in the project and it was all a learning experience for me.

Autumn arrived & I thoroughly enjoyed the wonderful weather & photo opportunities.

Autumn of 2015 also saw me spending a bit of time enjoying our beautiful Autumn foliage and taking a lot of photos.  I also got around to cleaning out some clutter and trying to find ways to better contain my "stuff".  I purchased a few helpful aids like these trolleys on wheels (in the photo).   I admit that I didn't get the bathroom sorted yet.  I got distracted with other things.  This will be a carryover project to the new year.

The rest of the year  was busy with trying to keep on top of my health challenges and get some much needed dental work done.  I had plenty of  to-ing and fro-ing to the laboratory for tests, various eye specialist appointments, some much needed dental work (which continues) and my first colonoscopy. I continue to spend a lot of time trying to eat right and get healthier. It is a never ending task with some setbacks and a few  successes.  I don't want to dwell on any of it right now as this post is already too long.  I just want to say am grateful for the small successes I have had and hope to have more in the year to come.

For those of you who read me on a regular basis, you will know that my heart is in missions work in Kenya.  There is always tremendous opportunity to help others and I've been heavily invested in ministry to communities there as well as to individuals.

There were several missions to feed the hungry in the Pokot territories in Kenya. I've written about those initiatives on this blog from time to time.  Some of the photos below are from my earlier posts about these missions trips.

Opportunities to minister to individuals were also very present in 2015.  There was one young man who had TB and diabetes was near death.  We got him into a hospital where he received good care and convalesced for several weeks.  He had to be quarantined due to the TB but since he has been out he has  been rehabilitated to the point where he now has a job. He is also on medication to control his diabetes. This is very costly for a villager.  But I am hoping that the cost will be significantly reduced in the New Year due to a Kenyan government health initiative to make medicines more affordable for the poor.

I assisted one young man to get out of jail and get some medical helps. Even though he had a job he started abusing substances and was in great  need of intervention.  This is a very sad story because the young man is very bright but has issues stemming from childhood traumas which he has yet to deal with and accept.  His single mother works so hard to support the family.  It is hard to say what will become of him.  I am hopeful that the medical help and counseling he received will go some way toward helping him change his direction in life and get on a good path.

Then there were the two women who required hospitalization when they were about to give birth.  In a very sad turn of events, one of the women lost her child and ended up in hospital for a long time because we did not have the funds to clear her bill.  Some of my readers were able to assist with the hospital bill but in the end the family had to sell their cow in order to fully clear the bill and be released.

Another of the women was from west Pokot area needed urgent medical attention due to fistula (complications from female genital mutilation). We were able to get the woman the help she needed and back home again despite several twists and turns which including the highway to her home being washed away due to El Niño rains. Both of these woman are now home in their respective villages and doing as well as can be expected.

Who could forget baby Fidelis and her need to get to Canada for surgery?  Baby Fidelis and her mother had a rocky start getting to Canada due to a man who allegedly misappropriated money raised for the baby's travel needs.  Fortunately, the President of the nation and several high level government officials heard of the baby's plight and intervened. The baby underwent successful surgery last month after months of preparation at the children's hospital in Toronto. Baby Fidelis and her mom will be returning to Kenya very soon.  If I am able to get some new photos showing what she looks like after healing, I will share them in a future post.

The help required in Kenya isn't always medical and food related. though food and medical needs are my personal priorities especially where widows and orphans are concerned.  A close runner up is education and training because that can enable people to become self-sufficient.  Two young men needed assistance this year:  one to get vocal training lessons to further his already popular career as a singer. Finding a vocal coach isn't as straight forward as it sounds. First there is the high cost involved.  Then there are the issues of  time and distance issues so technology is a huge factor in enabling lessons to be taken from afar.  This poses cost and access issues for the student in Kenya.  I did manage to find one Los Angeles option which we are now trying for several months to evaluate effectiveness. What the young man needs is professional feedback and he should be able to get some through a process of video exchange.  Another young man is a student in his final year at a university in Nairobi. Once he finishes his Bachelor's degree he hopes to continue his studies in Canada.

Japheth (Left) at his recent ordination.
Last, but not least, there is the woman who lost her husband about 2 weeks ago and left totally adrift both financially and emotionally. With limited resources, we managed to build her a house and buy seeds for a garden, take the family of mother and 3 children to the big city of Nakuru for medical check up, get medicine for the baby who had tonsillitis, buy maize, beans and flour for the family to have food until the mother can make a few shillings.

The poor child baby was crying a lot due to a lot of swelling in the neck. He also had difficult to talk and needed soft food so we bought some milk and bread for the baby to eat while recovering from tonsillitis with medicine.  Thankfully one pastor friend, named Japheth, provided my friend, and this family a place to lodge when they unexpectedly had to stay overnight in the city while waiting for the doctor to examine the baby. .  Japheth may also have contributed to the doctor bill because the overnight stay in hospital was not expected and would have meant a much higher bill.  Last, but not least, the mother and her 3 children moved into their new home on Monday about 10 kilometres from where they were living in a rented home.  We needed to hire transportation to move them and their few belongings.
Here is a long shot of the house. The corn field to the left  of the house belongs to neighbours.

We didn't have enough funds to purchase any chickens for eggs, material for a chicken coop or goats.  The mother would have preferred goats to chickens so her baby and 2 other children could have fresh milk to drink.  It would also have been nice to buy some blankets and a few mattress or two so the family doesn't have to sleep on the dirt floor.   It has been cold and raining in many parts of Kenya due El Niño.  It is difficult to keep warm when there is no heating in the homes. See here for some photos of what it looks like when it rains.

In the end we built the family a wooden home instead of a tin home because a tin home can be quite cold when it rains.  The wood is treated to prevent rot and termite destruction (they get a lot of termites in Kenya) and sits on concrete (not a basement) perimeter.  I though the builders did a good job of building this modest house.

Close up of the house. We bought a lock to safeguard the premises.

You can see that the area where the new house is situated has a lot of forest and is on a hillside.  You can also see some of the trees in the front and back of the house which have been cut down to make way for the building.  To the far right of the photo you will see the newly turned garden.

There may be others of you who would like a chance to help this mother as she isn't quite set up yet. 
Outstanding needs include:

-  more beans, maize, cooking oil, flour, drinking water
-  1-2 goats 
-  2-4 chickens
-  materials for chicken coop
-  feed for chickens
-  mattresses & blankets
-  school needs (uniforms, shoes, books) 
-  paraffin or solar lamp (light source).  

You can reach me at kerichojoy[at]gmail[cot]com


Let me take this time to wish each of you a very

Merry Christmas

I pray for peace, joy and love in your life over the season and for all your loved ones too. God bless. xox

Short News & Merry Christmas Wishes

Hi friends, I hope you are all enjoying the last few days before Christmas.  I have been very busy and a few things have kept me occupied.

I need a fair bit of medical and dental work and I've been trying to get some of it out of the way before the New Year with limited success.  Friday I went through a colonoscopy.  It is my first one and I'm hoping I don't have to do many of these in future.  I'll have to wait and see what the doctor says about it all in the New Year.

I was very anxious about undergoing the procedure.  I didn't feel I could properly prepare for it because I had only a short time from getting the information to undergoing the actual procedure.  I had eaten a lot of  beans, nuts and corn earlier in the week.  All of these foods must not be eaten for 7 days in advance.  At least these are the guidelines prepared by the cancer agency where I live.  I not only felt rushed but I also felt anxious about possible pain or other complications.  But the nurses at the hospital tried to reassure me that I needed to just relax about it all and that it wasn't too late to stop eating the foods on the "no list".

After getting friends to pray, I felt more settled and went ahead with everything.  I thought my anxiety would only increase if I put it over to the New Year. I found the hardest part of this was not eating for about 40 hours. It ended up being such a long time because my procedure was rather late on Friday afternoon.  However I managed it and and everything went very smoothly from start to finish.

I was awake and watched everything on screen. It was very interesting and the doctor cut out 3 polyps.  I do not remember the doctor giving me any sedative though he says he did. In any case, though I did experience some discomfort, it was not so uncomfortable that I needed heavy sedation. Some of the patients in the recovery room afterward were like zombies and some were very ill from the medicine. I've been in that state myself after surgeries and so that is something else I was worried about.  Fortunately I didn't have to experience it.

The polyps will be sent to the lab for examination.  But at my age polyps are common and the doctor says they "are not cancerous". That was music to my ears. When I asked him how he could tell he said it was the appearance. I am just glad the procedure is now over. If I have to undergo it again, I will know what to expect and do next time.

The other thing that kept me busy this week was preparing and sending Christmas cards and a few parcels. I've been doing this over the past three weeks and I always find once I get started, I want to send out more and more.  I'm now out of time for sending anything more through the post.  Fortunately I sent out everything I wanted to and now I just have to deal with the cards and parcels that will be given in person next week. 

I've also been very busy liaising with people in Kenya who are helping and assisting the family in Kenya that I wrote about here.  I will write a longer post about what we've done in a few days and let you know the outcomes for these precious ones.

Right now in the final lead up to Christmas, I'm just taking things easy; resting, wrapping gifts, enjoying snack foods and doing a few errands. The small tree, lights, wreaths, bells and baubles all went up late last weekend. I will be preparing Christmas dinner as always but because I didn't know exactly which days I would be away this year (much dependent on the mountainous road conditions), I am only dining with a family member or two.  But it is all very easygoing and spontaneous. We may have Christmas dinner before Christmas Day or after Boxing Day. It is all organized around visiting my mom on Christmas Day and spending a night with her to make sure we have a good visit.

Sending you my very best wishes for a lovely Christmas with loved ones and friends.

Tis The Season

Hello everyone,

I hope you are all having a wonderful Christmas season so far.

Personally I am trying to keep everything very low key this year. I have only just put up the Christmas decorations last night. I've decorated my mantle and put a wreath up in my living room window as well as some red jingle bells on my entry door.

I've opted to use a miniature tree with lights and red baubles on my table top rather than put up a large tree this year.   But first I have to finish altering some nightgowns for my mother for Christmas presents as I use the dining room table for sewing. I should finish sewing on Monday.  Then I will decorate my miniature white tree. Right now I'm using up every corner of my floor space in the front rooms for my arts and crafts supplies and other necessary furnishings so I don't have a space to put up my larger tree.  I don't mind not having a larger tree to decorate because I find it a tad too much work for me.  Especially since December is always a very busy month and I'm not even  home on Christmas Day on any year.

In this season where "tis the season to be jolly", we celebrate friends and family and often that means giving them gifts that they've either requested or we think they will like or appreciate.  It makes most of us feel good to give a gift from out hearts to those we love. Truth be told, many people receiving the gifts do not really need them but it has become a tradition to give gifts at this time of year. I'm all for the giving of material gifts to loved ones so long as it is within reason and one doesn't rack up a lot of debt to do it.

I would much rather give practical helps and gifts to those I know truly need it and to many I do not know, especially the widows and the orphans.  This year I am wondering if any of you would like to give a gift to those you do not know? People who live on the other side of the world in a small town called Mauche in the East African country of Kenya.

This is a sad tale of a young woman, now a widow and single mother whose husband succumbed to the ravages of HIV last week.

Besides leaving his wife, he left behind three children behind ages 1 1/2 years old, 6 years and 8 years old.  They have nothing. No home, no money, no way to get food.

It is a case of the father and the mother having to live separately for some time due to the need to find any work they could find. After a long separation the man went elsewhere for what he might ordinarily get from his wife.  He suffered the consequence, got ill and died.

He died a bitter man and it is a real shame that he was unable to get the right help or he might still be alive today.

My friends and I have been trying to determine how we can help the destitute family left behind.  I don't have a lot to really help them in the best way possible.  But we have come up with a plan and if I can get the help of a few of my readers, it would go a long way toward putting this family on it's feet to becoming self-sufficient.

Like many people in Kenya the mother has family land. Currently she lives in rented housing located about 10 km from her land.  She won't be able to pay the rent when next it comes due.

We plan to buy materials (materials required are wood, nails, iron sheets and labour) to build a tin shack on her property.  We also hope to provide some funds to buy seeds and fertilizer, possibly a chicken and a rooster so that baby chicks can be produced, raised and sold for income.  We cannot afford a cow for this family and especially the children to have milk.

My friend was thinking to borrow a cow but that isn't likely realistic since most people in the village also need the milk from any cows they might own (many people do not own a cow because they are expensive).  But it would be good to buy a diary goat or two to provide the milk and goats are much cheaper (about $100 Canadian or $70 US).  It is also necessary to buy wood and wire to make a chicken coop for the chicken and rooster and seeds for the garden. They also need some food to eat until the seeds can take root and produce a harvest and two of the children need to go to school.

Right now it is raining.  A lot. 

These ladies in the photo are the neighbours. The houses in the background are a better grade of housing than what we can afford to build.  It would take 4 times the funds I've sent for such a house.  We simply cannot afford that and need to get this family into temporary housing as soon as possible.

My friend has to travel from a village several hours away to help this woman and to oversee the plans to help her so the funds I send are properly expended and workers do not take advantage of her.  He can't stay more than a night each time.  There is no bus or transport to this area and the cost of return travel is very expensive on a boda boda taxi (motorcycle taxi) at 3000 shillings ($42 Canadian or $30 US). It will take 2, ideally 3 trips, to oversee the work and buy whatever needs to be purchased.

The motorbike cyclist had a very difficult time to get back up the hill and return home.

Neighbours condoling over tea.
Just think of trying to keep warm with no real sweaters or blankets. There is no indoor heating in such homes.

In order to make a simple drink of tea you must make a fire in a pit like the one in the photo below. It is a lengthy process.

I  will end the pictures and story here. 
I would not ask for your help if I could do it all on my own.

But I fall short of being able to get this family on their feet by myself.
Any amount you can offer would be a huge help!

Only you know what you can do.  If you can do something,
kindly let me know or simply send a donation 
to kerichojoy[at]gmail[dot]com

If you have any questions, you can write me at the same address or
you can complete the contact form to the right of my blog post and I will respond as soon as possible.

Thanks so much.
Merry Christmas.

Christmas Tree Emoji (Twitter Version)

A Good Start to December

Hi there,

Since I wrote my last post about frigid temperatures here things have warmed up considerably. That's because it started raining again.  I think the rain started on Monday but on Tuesday it came down heavily.

I took in a workshop on soap making. Something I've always wanted to learn. My mother and I both always liked nice soaps. Perhaps she, more than I. In later years when I developed more skin issues, I became even more interested in soaps and what is in them. If you want to purchase a nice bar of soap like olive oil or scented soaps like lavender, they can cost a fortune per bar.

I can always remember hearing my mom talk about wanting to learn how to make soap. Although she had an interest, she never did get around to it. I suppose she was too busy being a mom and taking active interest and care in the extended family. However, mom did transfer her interest to me.  She even gave me a small book with the instructions which I've had now for a few years.  Besides being too busy to try making bar soap however, I also wanted to take a class and learn how to handle the ingredient of lye which goes into the soap.

I finally had a chance to do just that earlier this week.

This first batch of soap was made with essential oil but no colour.

The second batch of soap is made with cocoa colour and essential oils.

It takes 3 weeks to cure the soap and use it. The instructor will do that for us and we will all pick up a bar before Christmas.

It's always fun to learn new things. the best part was talking to other like minded people. The second best part is that I now have more know how. The workshop was free and we will all get a bar or two of soap when they are ready.  I am more than pleased with the benefits.

Before you get started on soap making there is an investment to be made in buying the "tools of the trade" as in any other hobby or undertaking.
I haven't calculated the full costs but some of these costs would be eliminated if you can make your own mold with materials on hand or use recycled materials such as the tofu cartons (you see on the tables) which can also be used as soap molds.
I know a place where I can get all the materials measured out for the two batches (as in the photos above) and it will cost $38 dollars Canadian (excluding the molds and other tools like immersion blender, whisk etc.).
This would make about 17 large bars of soap per mold. If you want them for smaller baths soaps you can cut them and get about 34 soaps per mold. Altogether you will have 34 larger bars of soap or 68 smaller bars for $38 (Canadian).

So as you can see it is much less expensive than purchasing a ready made bar of soap in the store and you can make them according to your colour and scent preference.

I'm glad I took this workshop.
Maybe next year I will make soaps for gifts 
(birthdays or Christmas).
First I need to collect all the tools of the trade. The instructor told us she used the same pots and equipment for soap making as she does for cooking but I prefer to keep them separate and will likely buy them all second hand.

I didn't take photos of the sky since last Sunday. 
We have had some nice bright days and now some cloudy ones.

I've decided to post the sunny photos and save the gray skies for another day.

Amazon was advertising for Black Friday.

These two photos (one above and one below) were taken in downtown Nairobi, Kenya earlier this week.
You can see it looks cloudy there and they are getting El Niño rains.

When I am about running errands, I will often take a coffee break and read a good book. Even if I only read a few pages.

Good coffee. The young lady barista gave me this treat for free because she liked my giraffe change purse from Kenya.

I'm reading "Moonstone" as recommended by one of the bloggers I read but I haven' t had much time this month to finish it.

Now that cooler weather is here, I find it harder to eat a lot of salads.  My body needs heavier sustenance and warmer foods at this time of year. so to make sure I get my greens, I try drink a smoothie on the days I don't get a salad. Home made smoothies often consist of a green vegetable (kale, spinach, romaine or a combination of them), a piece of fruit (half a banana, small apple or frozen or fresh berry medley), water, flax seeds or whey protein and water and blend well before drinking.

I make a green smooth at night when I haven't had time for a salad.

I've been keeping very busy as I'm sure most of you are.
I may not be posting as often but will post when I have something to share.
Some of you remember that I was thinking of attending the Salute to Vienna, Vancouver Symphony Program on January 1st.  Instead I've decided to attend my first Nutcracker Ballet.
I've wanted to see it for long so will finally check it off my list of things I'd like to do.

Please enjoy each and every day of this holiday season.
Have a safe and happy December where ever you are, and whatever you are doing.

If you are alone you can still enjoy the season by yourself or by inviting others to share with you.
Stay safe.

Joining with Skywatch Friday this week.

On My Walk Today

 Hi friends, I've had a busy few days despite the rainy and stormy weather we've been having.  I had to run out and do errands on Fr...