Day at the Beach

As a reward for those who took part in the service project, and as some exercise and relaxation, we took the junior youth to the dog beach at Half Moon Bay.

The kids loved watching Eli swimming in the ocean.  Luckily there were fewer kids today, but also fewer adults to help out.  We brought 12 to the beach and had a picnic lunch.  Eli was so tired at the end of the day he fell asleep in the car ride home.

Eli tired after swimming at the beach

Afterwards we came home and watched The Avengers and Kevin and I fell asleep early.  What an exhausting weekend.  I hope that these experiences help the process of building community and unity with everyone.  It is such a small subsection, but maybe in a few years these youth will be working with several times what we are able to do now.


If Life Gives You Lemons… Sell Them!

Today was the day of our service project.  Unfortunately it was so crazy that I didn’t get any pictures of the actual project as it was occurring.  We had about 30 junior youth from the neighborhood come out to help plant some lavender and evergreen bushes.  The other groups of kids divided into different areas of the neighborhood and sold lemonade, jamaica and lemon-bars.  We raised about $76! Which covered the costs of the plants and new soil for the ground.  Pictures of the gardening project will be added to a later post.

It was a very interesting experience.  First of all, we had 3 adults helping – not including Kevin and myself.  It probably would have been good to have 1 more, but those extra 3 were very important to the success of it.  They helped make sure that the JY were constantly engaged with their work and helped them get what they needed.  Kevin was in charge of the gardening portion, and it was some heavy lifting for him, let alone the junior youth.  After 2 hours, they were only able to put in two plants.  Hopefully the soil was changed over enough so that the plants will live forever.  Past gardening projects had poorer results, though they were able to actually plant more at the time.

Most of my time was spent going from group to group making sure everything they needed was there, whether it was more ice or more lemon bars.  We ended up moving everyone away from one area because there was no one walking by where they were.  At one point I had to go to the store to buy more soil.  At the end everyone came back for lunch and to relax.  Several of the boys hosed themselves down because they were so sweaty.

Later in the evening, a friend who used to serve with us in this area but has since moved to China came back to visit.  Armando now works as a 4th grade teacher in a Baha’i inspired school in Macau.  Though people mostly speak Cantonese there, he has elected to study Mandarin since has wants to some day move to mainland China.  He practiced his Chinese with her and we learned about some of the efforts in Macau.

JYG and The Fruits of the Garden

This weekend there will be a mini-servie project in the neighborhood.  For the last several weeks we have been prepping for it.  We have gone through a few different streets asking for people’s lemons.  We have made that lemon juice into lemonade and lemon bars.  This morning some of the junior youth girls came over to help make the lemon bars.

Afterwards I went over to the Santa Inez apartments just to help build my friendships with the kids there.  There was a new boy there who spends most of his time with his father in Hayward, but visits his mother here in San Mateo.  I spent some time talking with his grandmother, and she expressed her concern that he spent time with people who were good influences.  We planned to go to my house to play with the dogs, and he wanted to come, but usually his mother told him to stay behind (to be careful who he spends his time with).  This time I talked to her and she said he could come along if she went as well.   So the mother, grandmother, little brother and Alex all came along to play with the dogs – plus the other kids from the JYG.  It was really fun, and it was very refreshing to see a mother who wants to ensure that her children are around good influences.


At the same time as all this, we’re hosting a new dog at Chez-Trotter!  His name is Dizzy and he is a Bichon.  This family is paying us to watch him, but really he is such a treat to have around I feel blessed to get to watch him.


We also harvested our first fruit from the vegetable garden the junior youth helped plant.  It was huge and very watery.  Photographic evidence.  Tomorrow is the junior youth group service project!

Amelia is here!

When I study abroad in China, I met the most loving family there.  They were Chinese Nationals, but had lived in Canada and the US for several years.  The mother, Lijun, took me into her home and let me spend weekends there.  This helped me adjust to life in China.  It was so nice having a comfortable home there with a loving family around me.

Fast-forward six years, and Lijun’s oldest daughter is coming to university in North America.  She starts at an art school in September, and she is here in California for the next month.  She came with us to Feast tonight and also helped out with the children’s class this afternoon.

Amelia is really focused on developing human resources to help advance the Cause of Baha’u’llah.  She has taken many of the Ruhi sequence and has practice with teaching Children’s Classes and Animating Junior Youth Groups back in China.  Of course the experience of each core activity is unique whereever you are, it is the same process the world over.  When she starts school in Toronto, I really think she’ll learn a lot about community development there.  Toronto is one of the fastest growing centers of Junior Youth Groups in North America.

In the children’s class today we learned about having hope.
“Be thou ever hopeful, for the bounties of God never cease to flow upon man.” – `Abdu’l-Bahá
We  colored, played outside and had a dance contest.  This group really likes to dance!

Santa Inez Apartments

About a year ago, some people who were serving with us in San Mateo spoke to an apartment manager of a large complex in our neighborhood.  The junior youth spiritual Empowerment Program was explained to her, as well as the entire vision of working with children through adults in a community advancing movement that everyone can be part of.  She was very interested, but for some reason everyone was too busy to put it to action.

A lot of the friends who spoke to her before no longer serve as much in San Mateo, so when she got in touch with us and told us a group of junior youth was ready to start getting together, Kevin and I -and Sarv and Aaron, got ourselves together for this group.

It’s a really really fantastic group of young people.  They range in ages from 10-14.


The group has met 4 times now, and this is the first week we are meeting multiple times.  It is such a wonderful group of junior youth.  Especially when it comes to the reading exercises.  They are precocious and too advanced for Breezes academically.  However, they are able to delve into the topics discussed in a very sophisticated manner.  In the chapter about talents, everyone had insight into how talents shape their spare-time but then how their spare-time must then shape their talents.

We made a craft project out of our talent list that they will hang up in their room to remind them of different acttivities they enjoy.  When bored or when they need a reminder of how great they are when they put their mind  to it.

Observance of the Martyrdom of the Báb

Yesterday was the Observance of the Martyrdom of the Báb.  A day in which Baha’is are encouraged to abstain from work and spend the day in prayerful meditation and commemoration.  In light of this I said the Tablet of Visitation 5 times in morning because that was the number for the Báb.  I also hosted a small observance for the community in our backyard where we read from The Dawnbreakers the story of His martyrdom, read the Tablet of Visitation again and read some prayers for teaching.

I think that light of this special spirituality flooding our home, I had a very special moment with some of the Junior Youth girls.  They came over because they were bored, so I put them to work to make signs for the lemonade sale coming up this weekend.

While they were coloring, one of them remarked that she felt bad she had never prayed for the passing of her grandmother.  We started talking about people we know who have passed away, and that it is important to say prayers for them so that they can spiritually progress. Then we each read a unique prayer for the departed from the prayerbooks.  Each of us talked about who we were praying for so that we could each focus our thoughts on that individual.

It was such a wonderful moment.  It was one of the first times I saw junior youth take ownership of prayers on their own.  I believe the Concourse on High was with us then as well and it was such a beautiful moment.


Impromptu Barbecue

Today for children’s class we had a barbecue and were able to get rid of a lot of leftovers from the 4th of July.  We had 20 kids over, ages 4-14.

Today, like the 4th, was very challenging.  I see many characteristics in these children that are dear and wonderful, and I see the progress of humanity in them.  I also see things that are very concerning.

One issue is with my dear Lupita.  She is 3 years old and has three older siblings, plus lives around a large cohort of other children.  With me she is the most lovely little girl ever.  But then with others, I constantly hear that she showing her middle finger at the other children or saying bad words to them.  She obviously learns this from the other kids, and I don’t get mad at her.  But how can we teach her if she is being bombarded with this all the time?

Another issue is the fact that the kids are basically greedy.  They complain about the lack of their favorite brand of soda or that there isn’t enough juice.  The older boys horde everything for themselves and leave the little kids with nothing.  Kevin and I would like to teach them about being thankful in practice, and not just in the children’s class.  Yet when there are 20 over at once, it is difficult to reflect on their behavior and then I am just more eager for them to leave then to have that conversation.

These are habits we have been seeing for a long time, so I pray for the wisdom on how to teach better habits when it comes up right away.

These are just some thoughts and working with children…

Junior Youth Service Project

In the past I have mostly focused on children’s classes in the neighborhood and in the cluster.  However, due to a change in the community, I have started working with more junior youth.  This summer the group planned a service project to put in a garden in the neighborhood that was just dirt before.

To raise money for this project, the junior youth had the idea to sell lemonade.  And instead of buying powder from the store, we thought it would be best to take from the thousands of lemons in our neighborhood.  Last week the youth went around with a paper and clipboards and walked down three different streets looking for houses with lemons.  They asked the owners of the house if we could have the lemons to raise money for a gardening project nearby.  Everyone was happy to help, and happy to get rid of their lemons which often just fall to the earth and rot before they get eaten.  Today we went around in two groups with ladders and boxes and picked over 200 lemons.

After the junior youth went home, Kevin and I proceeded to juice all of them (we didn’t want any to go bad, and it was a lot of work that only 2 people should do).  From that we got just under 2.5 gallons of lemon juice.

Making A Living

We both decided that the growth of the core activities, and of our relationships with our neighborhood was a very important aspect of living in this neighborhood.  Kevin has so many wonderful qualities, including being an amazing programmer and leader in his field.  Because his work takes him out of the neighborhood more than he likes, we agreed that it would be best for me to work from home so that I can build these relationships everyday.

This allows me to run a paper-company from my home (as well as several other random means of income).  Initially the desire for the paper company was to work with mothers of small children who could not otherwise find work.  I still aspire to do this, but I found doing that very difficult for several reasons.  One reason was that my Spanish around crafting topics was not strong enough to correctly teach them and give them expectations.  This left me with more work than initial, and no income from the products they created, just costs.  Another was that we wanted to work with women who were already involved in a lot of community building exercises with us.  The spiritual and material dimensions of existence are connected, mutually reinforcing, and indeed reflected in one another.  The point of this was so that they saw the purpose of making money as to improve their families and their communities, instead of just themselves.  Of course I think that most women think this way in general, so this just requires more work on my part to engage women more often.  But since I am so new at running a business myself, I need to get my bearings before any large projects with more women can start.

Until then, the kids from the neighborhood are learning a lot of craft skills when they come-over.  Since they speak English, instructing them is actually a lot easier and the work I get is much higher because of this improved communication.  Perhaps over time they can begin working with other women.  I can’t wait to see how this little business evolves.

Transforming Land

Nature is the material world. When we look upon it, we see that it is dark and imperfect. For instance, if we allow a piece of land to remain in its natural condition, we will find it covered with thorns and thistles; useless weeds and wild vegetation will flourish upon it, and it will become like a jungle. The trees will be fruitless, lacking beauty and symmetry; wild animals, noxious insects and reptiles will abound in its dark recesses. This is the incompleteness and imperfection of the world of nature. To change these conditions, we must clear the ground and cultivate it so that flowers may grow instead of thorns and weeds – that is to say, we must illumine the dark world of nature.
Abdu’l-Baha – Promulgation of Universal Peace*, pages 308-309

Kevin and I grew up in rather urban settings with a disinterest in agriculture.  Moving into this house though has given both of us an appreciation for growing food and beauty from the land.  We also really love getting the kids from the neighborhood to learn about growing stuff with us.

We have created for ourselves a mini orchard of many fruits, including cherry, apple, asian pear, peach & white peach, pluot, plum, blackberry, raspberry, avocado, and almond.  We have grapes growing over a pergola and two mini veggie gardens where we have squash, tomatoes and peas.  We have this large grassy area though.

I have long been against it, but Kevin says it makes sense if kids come over to play.  The problem with that is that we don’t want kids to come over and play a lot of games, lest they break a window.  This isn’t a bigdeal since we go to the park with the kids all the time, which helps living two blocks away from 2 different parks.  Gradually Kevin has been learning how annoying grass in California is and what potential we have.

And then we saw this.

Our hope is to have vegetable gardens like this in that grassy area of our yard by this time next year.  Here’s hoping!