Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Merry Christmas Eve Eve

Jovie getting down to U2's "Mysterious Ways"

The Freedom Firm Christmas party

The girls doing a dance at the party that they had been working on for months

Merry, Merry Christmas Eve Eve to you!  Just a wee note from the Palm Six to wish you all a Merry Christmas.  I just ate two popcorn balls in the last ten minutes.  My mom sent them to me; I mean our whole family.  Confession (mom, don’t read this next part) in the last week the kids have each had two popcorn balls.  I have one or two each day.  I hid them from the kids. I love popcorn balls.  My mom sent other treats, so they have had plenty of Grandma’s homemade goodness.  Just not in the popcorn ball category.  If you haven’t had a popcorn ball this season, run, run to your supermarket and get the ingredients now.

Tarrah and the Freedom Firm aftercare crew baking for the Christmas party

We have been in the full Christmas swing around here.  I think this year I will remember Christmas by all the baking.  I think it’s been my coping mechanism a bit.  I tried my hand at fudge this year.  It never set.  So, now, it’s fudge syrup for ice cream.  We also tried our hand at caramels.  They got brick hard.  Now, they are caramel syrup for ice cream.  Saufferer family (my maiden name), if you are reading this, don’t eat all the fudge and caramels at Christmas.  Maybe you could pack up a bit of a Ziploc and send it with my mom when she comes in a few weeks...  If you do eat it all, could you make some more? 

There is a bit of shindig here tomorrow, for a Christmas Eve lunch.  Appetizers, soup, bread, and yummy treats. I hope it’s a real barn burner.  Can you have barn burners for Christmas Eve?  Who even knows where the term barn burner came from?  Anyway, I did put away the Star Wars light sabers and Nerf guns tonight.  I remember last year’s Christmas party, there was a bit of deal with them.  You don’t want to deal with a weapons deal on Christmas Eve, that’s my motto.

Okay, so our mystery picture from the last blog got an overwhelming nod towards the overflowing yeast.  I guess it wasn’t so mysterious.  Or maybe you guys are incredibly smart when it comes to mystery pictures.  Let’s go with the latter.

Love to you all and Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Burning Plastic and Rank Garbage

James and Ani ready for a formal event at Hebron. 

If anyone can guess what this is a picture of, we will be very impressed indeed!

I was just warmly sitting by a roaring fire and my keen sense of smell picked up a burning plastic smell.  Like a bird dog, I put my nose to the ground and was off.  After 10 minutes, I could only place the smell somewhere around the fire, but nothing more specific.  So, in an attempt to guard against anything more hazardous happening, we put water on the fire.  That was 10 minutes ago.  “Jayson, does it still smell in the living room?” Jayson, “Little bit, not as bad.”  Good, we are making progress.  I was having a bit of a salty tooth and went to go scavenge the kitchen for a salt lick (a bit of deer humor, forgive me).  All I could find was stale rice crackers and the smell of intense garbage.  Bummer.  Burning plastic and rank garbage, pretty much paradise island here in the Palm household.

Well, we definitely had a great fill of cuteness this last week at our kid’s Christmas play at school.  For the last six weeks, our kids have been belting out a song, “Babushka, Babushka, open wide your eyes and you will see...Babushka, Babushka, baby Jesus came for you and me!”  At all hours of the day, this song was heard.  Even Jovie got it down.  Ani was an angel, James, an Italian pizza delivery man, and Sydney was a tree.  I don’t mean to play favorites here, but Sydney definitely was the most memorable of the three.  Come on, a four-year-old in a Christmas play is nothing but fantastic.  By the fourth and final performance I am pretty sure I saw her eyes roll up in her head and almost fall asleep on stage out of sheer exhaustion.  Click here for a taste.

The Hebron Christmas Program

Sydney on day 2, still smiling.

Sydney on day 4, definitely done.

I need to give a shout out for my favorite Christmas CD of the year.  Andrew Peterson’s “Behold the Lamb” has heightened our celebration.  If you like your music with a little folk and a lot of great lyrics, check it out. 

The kids start their holiday this Thursday morning.  They will be off until the first week in February.  Being that we live in an international community, these are the answers I got when asking people how they are spending their holiday:  Australia, Thailand, Kathmandu, North India tour, Scotland, the States, England, Ireland and Everest Base Camp.  Whew!

Some cool Freedom Firm news from Jayson. At Freedom Firm we’ve wanted to raise awareness in India about the problem of sex trafficking, but the tyranny of the urgent has pushed this aside regularly. Our amazing Finance Manager, however, lined up a school for us to do a presentation. Last Friday I had the privilege of seeing Vijaya, one of our rescued girls, share her story openly in front of 160 teenage girls at this school. Their response was overwhelming. The girls flocked to Vijaya afterward to talk to her and thank her. Several shared feedback, telling their stories of how they’ve been mistreated and not feeling like they’ve had a voice. At the very least we hope to help schools recognize the struggles of their students, but more than that we hope to find ways that these girls can get the help they truly need.  

It's a bit hard to see, but that's Vijaya on the stage speaking to the girls. Even harder to see is Jayson sitting to the left of the podium. 

Okay folks, it’s good night for now from the Palm house.  Sleep tight.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Weather Outside is Frightful

 Jovie's first ride on daddy's bike. 

Decorating for Christmas

“The weather outside is frightful... ya ta da da da...” There was a reprieve in the rain a few days ago, but “it doesn’t show signs of stopping...” It’s official, and I am sorry to say it, but I have now been colder here in INDIA than any weather in frigid Minnesota. It doesn’t make sense. We are inches away from the equator, but I am telling you, I have been wearing four layers all day, inside, with wool socks and a hat on. I am not sure with what to do all my coldness. I am also sorry that I keep on leading with weather reports. I really can’t help it.

Okay, moving on to more exciting events, our current (electricity) flow into the house. Totally more exciting, right? So, I will try to shorten this fascinating story to a swallowable amount. For the last six months, our plug to our washing machine has been melting. We have probably gotten it fixed four times. Two weeks ago, we came home to a smell of burning and our plug to the geyser (pronounced “geezer”, the hot water heater) that is hooked up to the water in the bathroom had started melting. So, we could only plug it in for 20 minutes at a time or it would start smoking. I know, I know people, the Palms are usually a hazard waiting to happen, but this multiplied it tons. Early this week, the plug quit altogether. So, we called the electrician to come and fix it, and he came out and fixed the plugs, and he also said the current coming into the house wasn’t coming in properly. (Hang on folks, I’m almost done.) So, the EB guy came today. I have no idea what EB stands for, it’s the electricity people, maybe it stands for Electrical Board. Anyway, so this wee olderish man knocked on my back door today, asked me if my current was bad, and then proceeded to wrap a rope - like for sailing kind of a rope - around his waist, and then put a wide, elastic looking like hair band around his feet, and started shimmying up our electric pole. Just like that. About five minutes later, he came down and said it was all fixed. I asked him what the problem was and he said it was rusty. Rusty? That’s it? Rusty? I was looking for a paramount problem. In fact, I have been blaming myself for using too much electricity. I thought maybe the house wasn’t designed to run a washing machine at the same time as a refrigerator and geyser. But it was rust, an age old problem in the world of metal.

I hope your Thanksgivings were all grand. Ours was scrumptialicious. I ate so much of Bec’s Harvest Stuffing that it totally gave me a carb hangover the next day. We had Thanksgiving number one on the Friday before t-giving and Thanksgiving number two on the Saturday afternoon after t-giving. I was very thankful to have two groups of people to celebrate with.

Within the last week Freedom Firm has rescued 19 girls, and as I write this as they are doing another raid. All so exciting. So thankful.

The Second Thanksgiving

The First Thanksgiving

I was asked to go into James’ class last week and talk about Christmas in America. I was a bit stumped at first. Not knowing really where to go with it, the previous week another mom came in and talked about an Australian Christmas. She talked about having a candlelight service on the beach, because its summer during Christmas in Australia. So, I talked about snow, and how the tradition of snow was a part of my memory of celebrating Jesus’ birth. I know, geographically speaking, it would be different all over the States, but I showed them where Minnesota is on the map and had them all say Minnesota. I taught them how to make snowflakes from folding paper and cutting little bits out and then unfolding it. I showed them how to do it and they thought I was so magical. And then I read them a story about snow and then we frosted sugar cookies. It was so fun. And it helped the missing of a Minnesota Christmas.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


None of the following photos fit anywhere in the blog itself, but they are part of our last few weeks.

Sydney squeezing into Jovie's pjs.

Cross country at Hebron is a big deal. All three Palm kiddos participated.

James was a panther at his friend Samuel's birthday party.

James in the bath...getting off the black "washable" Crayola marker wasn't so easy.

The following pics are all of the Hebron event where everyone is supposed to come dressed up in "past" or "future" costumes.

It’s raining right now. Been raining for the last 12 1/2 years. Not really, but feels like it. That’s my weather report from Ootacamund, India. Weather Girl, signing out.

Did you know that if you Google “Peter Pan” and “Robin Hood”, their cartoon images come out practically the same? James and I were arguing over if the figurine he wanted to bring to school was Robin Hood or Peter Pan. I was sure it was Peter Pan and he was sure that it was Robin Hood. We were both right. Google it. It’s very weird. I have been thinking about it ever since. Riveting Story Girl, signing out.

There were no fireworks last week with Jayson being gone. It was the tail end of Diwali, the festival of lights, so there actually were fireworks, but none in our own home. Other than the let down of not having a good story to pass on, it was actually so good to not feel anxious with Jayson leaving, no drama. In his last 3-4 trips, drama. Now it’s easy peasy lemon squeezy folks. Progress people. Progress Girl, signing out. (Are we all having fun with my new “signing out” mantra?)

There was a group in from North Carolina last week. They were here to do an intensive workshop with Ruhamah, the micro-enterprise that the rescued girls work for. They brought buckets of supplies, ideas, energy, and encouragement. At the end of their week they had a jewelry/card party and invited friends of Freedom Firm and other townies. They sold loads. It was great to see how proud and accomplished the girls looked as they watched the general public “ooh” and “ahh” over their work, seeing some real-life reward for their efforts and hard work. I am so thankful that this team came and used the creative gifts that they have been given, then giving those talents to the girls. Thank you Grace Church team!

Another fun note was that on the team was a good friend of Jayson’s from his university days, Devon. She also took pictures at our wedding. And during our wedding weekend, I spent all of two seconds chatting with her. So, her and I had great time of connecting and it was such a treat to spend time with someone who has a history with our family.

(Now a bit from Jayson) Before visiting the Pune office last week, I knew there were some rough patches that needed to be smoothed out, and I was looking forward to walking through this with the team there. And that’s what we did. My favorite conversation was a team building exercise with the director and the head of aftercare. They are two incredible leaders who approach leadership from two very different perspectives. This can either be an asset or a barrier, and we started the conversation about how it can regularly be a benefit to the office. I also had the surprise privilege of being around after the Investigations Team returned late one evening with undercover footage of a minor girl they had found that evening in a brothel. The next morning I was able to sit and listen as the team strategized about how best to rescue her. To be completely honest, it was thrilling to be a fly on the wall in those moments!

Okay people, we are celebrating Thanksgiving this Friday. A little early, but celebrating it to the core! I am going to attach my yum-a-dum-dum Oatmeal Pecan Pie recipe. I will stick my neck out there and say that you may have just a wee bit better Thanksgiving if you partake in this scrumpalicious pie. Note: I am not a pecan pie lover, really I am not. So, I dare you to make it and see if it brings tears to your eyes. Obnoxious Oatmeal Pecan Pie Maker Girl, signing out.



1/2 (15-ounce) package refrigerated pie dough (such as Pillsbury)

Cooking spray

1 cup packed dark brown sugar

1 cup light corn syrup

2/3 cup regular oats

1/2 cup chopped pecans

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

2 large egg whites, lightly beaten


Preheat oven to 325°.

Roll dough into an 11-inch circle. Fit into a 9-inch pie plate coated with cooking spray. Fold edges under; flute.

Combine brown sugar and remaining ingredients, stirring well with a whisk. Pour into prepared crust. Bake at 325° for 50 minutes or until center is set. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Taken from

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Typical "Ooh,ooh, ahh, ahh" Sound

A great day swimming at Jungle Retreat with four other families... and cows... and goats.

This morning as the kids and I were walking up the path to school, a family of monkeys walked across the path, they said good morning and invited us over for tea... hmm, just kidding. Instead, they screeched at us. Did the typical “ooh-ooh, ahh-ahh” sound. They are so cliché. I did wait, though, until the family behind us caught up to us, and walked with them. I do not have any energy to look tough in front of my kids when it comes to monkeys. Later in my morning, two birds flew into the house, sat on one of the tops of our windows and then proceeded to poop... on my floor. And then they flew back out. I wasn’t quite sure what to do with both experiences. Are the animals planning to have some sort of siege on us? This is what I have been thinking about today.

This weekend we pulled off the Sisters Conference. Around 275 students, staff and speakers were able to come. We held it at a local boarding school, St. Hilda’s. It was such a fun weekend. Lots of energy from the girls, and diverse and applicable topics were discussed. One of my favorite sessions was about love and arranged marriages and being single. Two women each represented the “love”, “arranged” marriages and being single. A lot of the girls present will be in arranged marriages in a few years, and very little is usually talked about in the way of what to expect. One of the panelists didn’t meet her husband until the day she got married. Whoa Nellie I say, whoa Nellie. They all talked candidly about some of the more sensitive issues surrounding the topic and I felt really grateful to be able to listen to their stories. I especially loved the fact that regardless if they were single or not, or how they got to their wedding day, they all had joys and they all had pain. It brought the gap a little closer.

I was kind of waiting all weekend for something major to happen in the way of catastrophe. And nothing really did. The closest thing we came to was on Saturday night after a BBQ, bonfire and karaoke, we had packed all the students up to go home and a few of the staff had been sitting around with a cup of tea for about half an hour. And the husband of one of the volunteers came in the room and said, “Do you know that there are a bunch of girls in the forest?” Umm, no, we didn’t know that. Bec jumped up to see who they were, and yes, they had been sitting in the forest for 40 minutes waiting for their bus. We sorted it all out pretty quickly, but good grief.

I am really delighted to be a part of the whole process of putting on this conference. Like I said before, and it was said time and time again by Indian nationals this weekend, that conferences like these do not happen for teenage girls here. And being the main detail person was kind of big deal for me. There were other people definitely helping in the details, but I was kind of the buck stops here. Which, to be perfectly honest, is a bit scary because at the end of the day sometimes I don’t have patience for the nitty-gritty details. But, being the buck stops, as far as details, is pretty great in India. The expectations are more relaxed, which is just, well, more relaxing.

So, what’s on the horizon this week for us? Well, there is a group coming from the States to put on a week-long workshop for the aftercare girls. I have enjoyed helping them get prepared to come and look forward to meeting them on Saturday. They are also bringing pecans so I can make an oatmeal- pecan pie for Thanksgiving. I humbly admit that my oatmeal-pecan pie is the best in the whole wide world. Jayson has a trip up to Pune soon. He will be doing some staff development and strategic planning. I also need to organize my kid’s closets. I humbly admit that I cannot keep their closets - or mine for that matter - clean for 24 hours. But this week, they will look tidy... for about 24 hours.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Just outside our window on the taxi ride to Bangalore.

Good evening. I am yawning uncontrollably right now. I wonder if you all yawned when you read that. Kind of like when you see someone yawning, and then you automatically yawn. Wouldn’t it be great if I passed on a yawn half a world away? Okay, maybe not amazing. But noteworthy. If you yawned, could you post it in the comments? My research is sure to be pretty scientific. Okay, now that I have almost spent a whole paragraph on yawning, I will try to make a lively transition. To waken us all up.

This past weekend, I went up to Pune with Bec and seven students from St. Hilda’s School and Hebron. We met her sister Debbie there, who currently lives in Pune. We wanted to take a crew of girls there to partner with the Sisters conference that is coming up in a week and a half. The goal of the trip was to broaden the knowledge base of the students on different social issues (HIV/AIDS, training centers for homeless youth, trafficking, meeting with the police commissioner, etcetera). The girls either interviewed staff or interacted with people at the different sites. They will take these experiences and be the “main speakers” for the social justice session during the conference. I went up on Saturday and came home Monday night. The rest of the crew is staying until Friday.

The girls on the balcony of the boarding school where we stayed.

The seven girls represented five different countries.

The lab at the HIV/AIDS clinic we visited.

Training stations for youth wanting to get jobs at car factories.

Let me tell you some of the more memorable moments... Interacting with students for the first time in probably four years (for those of you that don’t know, I was involved in youth work for about a decade, up until I had Sydney). That was such a big part of my life before. We had some meaningful conversations, as well as some good laughs. Another memorable time was going to my first movie in India. That was so fun. Also, I was opening my car door and didn’t look to the left and silly me knows that two wheelers can go between the sidewalk and the car... but I did not check and totally rammed the door into a passing scooter, not injuring the guys, but definitely tipping them over. Can you believe it? I tipped them over. Let me tell you how awful I felt. And so embarrassed. Moving on, my face is getting red just thinking about it... It was really incredible watching the students, in a very mature way, interview adults and engage in the social issues at hand (good eye contact, quite articulate, good non-verbals).

So, let me share with you another story of my travels. I flew from Pune to Bangalore Monday night. Then, I was to catch a 10:15 p.m. overnight bus to Ooty, getting in early Tuesday morning. Now, I could tell you that I was all breezy about going to the Bangalore bus stand at 10 o’clock at night and catching a bus. But then, I would be lying. I definitely had to put my big girl pants on and just do it. The fare was $8 U.S. dollars, comparatively to a car which is about $75. So, I got a bus from the airport to the bus stand, no problem. Found the platform that my bus was to come to, no problem. The bus didn’t come until 11:30, no problem. Bus came, gave the ticket to the driver, my ticket was for the next night, problem. No more seats left on the bus, problem. At this moment, I could have tried to pull myself together and talk rationally to these kind men. But I didn’t, I cried. I couldn’t help myself, people. In the big spectrum of life, not a big deal. But I was tired and overwhelmed and I simply just let it go. So, the driver was a bit startled by my reaction, looked at me as if my water just broke and I was going into labor and what in the world was he going to do with me. He told me that he did have a seat for me, but it was the seat that they usually don’t give to passengers. I didn’t care. Give it to me! But I needed to pay 400 rupees, and I freakin’ didn’t have it. I had 300 rupees though. No go. At this time everyone was getting anxious to get going. The driver told me to go to the office and get my ticket refunded, he said he would wait. I felt suspicious of that fact, but I went for it anyway. I flew up there and in a very broken conversation tried to tell the ticket guy my issue. Within moments, there were probably a dozen men surrounding me, giving me advice, all with very little English. After a time, they finally figured out what I needed, gave me a refund, and I flew back down to the platform. There was no bus going to Ooty in sight. So, in a bewildered and very loony way, just started yelling “OOTY BUS, OOTY BUS, OOTY BUS,” very loudly. And one of the traffic people heard me and told me to follow him and we ran after the bus, finally got to the moving door, tapped on it, and showed him that I had the money. I am pretty sure that he thought I was a serious nut case. But I got on the bus and found my seat. My seat was in the very back, in the middle of a block of five seats, and I think the reason they never sell that one to anyone is that the reclining feature of this particular seat never locks. So on every speed-bump, slow-down, speed-up, or curvy-curve, the seats moves up and down. It’s pretty much a constant roller coaster. But I didn’t really care my friends, because I was on my “OOTY BUS.”

The bus station...pre-meltdown.

****You may be wondering how the ticket mishap happened and why I didn’t catch it. Well there is no clear reason, just that between the four people that were handling the ticket, the dates got switched somewhere. It really doesn’t matter. And I never know the date of the month, so I am complete loser in that category.