left to right-Warren, Amelia, Vera, Gia, Olivia and Natalie (not pictured Claire, Sophie, Stewart and Aliyah)
I recently hosted a special book club at my house for kids between the ages of 9 and 13 (except me, but we won’t talk about that). It was special because the book we read was HER OWN TWO FEET: A RWANDAN GIRL’S BRAVE FIGHT TO WALK. It was a major thrill to see our book in real reader’s hands!! But this wasn’t just for thrills. I had assigned these kids an important task.
Aliyah reading HER OWN TWO FEET: A RWANDAN GIRL’S BRAVE FIGHT TO WALK
I asked each kid to come up with questions for Rebeka and videoed them, so I can show Rebeka when I’m in Rwanda.
On June 19th I fly to Rwanda. In addition to answering her reader’s questions, Rebeka will also give a tour of her school and her home and introduce her family and friends. A little backstory: to have questions about the book we needed readers, and we wanted young ones. In what I can only call a miracle, within 24 hours of hatching the idea I had ten ready and willing kids, and my publisher was able to get me a few more advanced reader copies (thank you Scholastic!). A months later, my readers brought their unique perspectives and curiosity and notes to my dining room table. (I had a few who came early or late or couldn’t make it to our meeting, so I got their questions separately.)
starting on left side of table-Warren, Natalie, Gia, Meredith, Vera, Amelia, and Olivia (not pictured Claire, Sophie, Stewart and Aliyah)
Of course we had snacks, as every proper book club should. In addition to cupcakes with sprinkles, we had some treats reminiscent of Rwanda: guacamole (avocados in Rwanda are amazing!!), mangoes and orange Fanta.
Vera is touching Rebeka’s shoe as other readers look on and snacks wait to be consumed.
The kids got to see Rebeka’s shoe. They touched the black rubber sole made from tires, the same shoe that once supported the calloused top of Rebeka’s foot. It was sweet to see how Rebeka became a little more real to them. The goal is to bring a little of Rebeka to every school visit or book party, even if she can’t be there in person. I am so grateful to all of my readers, and I can’t wait to show people our video next fall! Stay tuned for Book Club Part Two (my time with Rebeka in Rwanda) and Book Club Part Three (when I share Rebeka’s responses with our readers).
left to right, top to bottom: Olivia, Amelia, Gia, Natalie, Aliyah, Vera, Warren, Sophie and Stewart (Claire not pictured)
And here’s Claire! (with my sister, nope that isn’t me :-))
Benji, Nate, Meredith and Alayna at Dayglow concert, BYX Island Party
I had no idea six months ago that I would travel with Alayna and Benji to see Nate play guitar and sing on stage, in a band, in front of hundreds of people.
Dayglow playing at BYX Island Party
Or that I would leave a beach with green sand on the big island of Hawaii to ride on the back of a rickety pickup truck with my sister-in-law and eleven strangers.
And I had no idea, after I signed my contract with Scholastic, what was in store for me. Following are just a few of the surprises I never anticipated.
I’m taking myself more seriously. I always felt like once I had that contract in hand, there would be this giant shift from unpublished to published, from writer to author. That did happen, but I didn’t realize that feeling would continue to grow. There’s something about updating my website, ordering bookmarks and writing my first proposal for a conference, that adds another layer of legitimacy on top of the book contract. It also adds a lot of fun, excitement and gratification.
I am stretched. It takes a different kind of writing muscle and a new level of confidence to write a proposal for the NCSS conference and a two-minute pitch for librarians I’ll meet at the Speed Dating Meet and Greet at TLA. My writing minutes, minutes that were once solely on my work in progress, are sometimes going towards marketing and promotional copy and school visit presentations. Honestly, I’m discovering that HER OWN TWO FEET is still a work in progress, just as much as the new manuscript I gave to my agent recently. The writing I do on its behalf now may be just as important as the writing that happened when crafting the story.
I am getting to know the story better. As I write proposals and librarian pitches, this story that Rebeka and I worked on for over a year, and pitched, and sold, is becoming even more clear to me. I recently heard Kate DiCamillo say, “I usually don’t find out what (my) book is about until I start to go out and talk to readers” (heard on the excellent podcast, The Yarn, #81). I am finding I know more about myself, and this book, as I try to explain it to others. I’m certain I will learn even more once it’s officially released and kids start reading it.
Meredith talking to a group of writer from the Badgerdog Living Well Workshop
I am humbled. I have so many generous published friends who have offered to go to lunch or grab coffee or hop on the phone and answer my questions. They are looking out for me. They read my ARC. They give me tips and share their own experiences and tell cautionary tales and they don’t have to. They are busy people who speak at schools and conferences and work under tight deadlines and have a wide network of people to keep up with, and yet they take time to talk to me. Totally humbled and gobsmacked.
Meredith Davis and Kathi Appelt
I see more of Rebeka! I’ve gotten pictures and videos I never would have gotten if our book wasn’t being published. There was the moment she first saw the cover.
Jeri Brock shows Rebeka the ARC
The moment she saw the president of her country, Paul Kagame, holding our book with her beautiful smile front and center on the cover.
Rebeka holding phone with picture of Meredith and President Paul Kagame
And there was an impromptu early morning phone call to say “hi” as she filmed a short video for Scholastic. Such a thrill!
All of this makes me look forward to the next six months before the book comes out with great anticipation. I don’t know what I’ll learn, or where I’ll find myself, but I can’t wait to find out!
Rebeka and I know a little about waiting. We waited for the day she would come to America. We waited for her feet to heal from surgeries. And five years later, we waited for a book contract. Now we are excited to give the world a peek at the result of our hard work and waiting-the cover for our debut middle grade book HER OWN TWO FEET: A RWANDAN GIRL’S BRAVE FIGHT TO WALK by Meredith Davis and Rebeka Uwitonze!
One of the best parts about waiting is feeling anticipation build. We’ll have to wait a little longer to hold the book in our hands, to read the story of Rebeka’s childhood growing up in Rwanda, her time in America, and her return to her life back in Rwanda, walking on her turned-straight-feet. The book features over seventy photographs and twenty-five chapters chronicling Rebeka’s story. We can’t wait to share it with you! It will be published by Scholastic, and released October 1.
The design team at Scholastic did a fantastic job designing this eye-catching cover. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways:
The cover incorporates the bright yellow, blue and green colors of the Rwandan flag, colors that pop off the shelf, catching the eye and demanding attention.
Rebeka is front and center, sporting her famous smile, while wearing two casts filled with signatures. It shows her tenacious spirit, a girl who plays hard despite hardship.
The title, which was decided after many weeks of brainstorming with Scholastic and my agent, captures Rebeka’s independence as well as the literal meaning that this book is all about how she learns to walk on her own two feet.
Our names, right at the top. I could not be more excited to be partnering with Rebeka to tell her story. It is an honor and a privilege.
That headband. Rebeka loved wearing them as her shaved hair grew out, and that big, bright daisy makes me almost as happy as seeing Rebeka’s beautiful smile.
Each time someone shares the news about HER OWN TWO FEET, they become part of Rebeka’s story, spreading her message of resilience and hope even farther. We invite you to partner with us! Share this post to build anticipation, and when the big day comes on October 1, 2019, we hope you will celebrate with us again!
You’ll notice a different look to this blog, which has been incorporated into my new website in anticipation of the publication of HER OWN TWO FEET on October 1, 2019. It’s the same place-just remodeled.
We took a trip to Antarctica during Christmas break going the only way tourists can – via cruise ship. We booked with Quark Expeditions and boarded the Ocean Adventurer with 120 other passengers, a great number. Not too big, but plenty of interesting and well-traveled people to meet. Our family spread out in two cabins on the second deck, one with three beds and one with two. Benji got the top bunk, even though he’s now bigger than Alayna. Old habits die hard.
Each of our rooms had one tiny porthole that framed our view of icebergs, islands, and lots and lots of water.
One afternoon we got an announcement that there were humpback whales off the bow. We all raced up the stairs and down the narrow walkways to the front of the ship. There was, indeed, a humpback whale. There were lots of them.
I found a spot at the rail and admired their shiny black backs cresting out of the water as they ambled along beside us. I heard a gasp from port side and rushed over to hear people on the deck below yelling, “he’s going under the boat!” Back I ran to the right and sure enough, I could see the whole shape of the giant humpback as he passed from beneath. It was so close I could see the bright white of the side fins, and marvel at the size of the blowhole. I could fit inside that blowhole if I fell. I held on tight.
The whales stayed with us for quite a while. When we got an announcement to go to our cabins and bundle up so we could go out among them in the zodiacs, I was afraid they would leave before we were ready. It takes a while to get 120 passengers loaded into their parkas and hats and gloves and then onto the little black inflatable boats. We raced back to our cabins to add waterproof pants to our long underwear and fleece pant layers, and find all the little bits of winter gear. Clay got his camera, including the waterproof bag he rigged with a Ziploc, just in case.
The passengers were divided into five groups, and our group would be last to depart. I glanced out the porthole and noticed a guide in a zodiac floating just outside our room. He was scanning the horizon, and he looked disappointed. I was sure the whales were gone, but then he looked down and started pointing and yelling. A giant black humpback head come up right next to the guide’s zodiac.
Clay and I both freaked and ran out of the room with no parka or hat or gloves. The ship decks were almost entirely empty, everyone in their rooms getting ready for the excursion. There were five or six zodiacs in the water, empty except for guides. They were waiting for passengers to be loaded, and the humpback was curiously going from boat to boat. He was so close the guides could reach out and touch him. At one point he spouted out of his blowhole and coated one of them in mist.
I was jumping and cheering each time the whale came up to them, as if I was at a sporting event and my team was winning.
Eventually, the Shackleton Zodiac Group was called to board. We got into our boat and found another curious whale. He poked out his head to take a look at us, and splashed the water with his giant back tail fin.
He came so close we could see the white barnacles clinging to his back and his white side fin stretched out impossibly long towards us, revealing its massive size. If his side fin was that long, his body was three times longer!
He was so close we could smell his fishy smell and hear the breath exhale from his blowhole. I had no idea when I saw the whale come up under the guide’s boat that we would have the same experience. Even if that’s all I’d seen, that whale encounter framed through the porthole in our room, I’d still be writing this post. It was that cool, and then it was that much cooler.
I’ll share a few more Antarctica stories in future posts, and more news about the publication process for HER OWN TWO FEET. This is going to be an exciting year, and we started it off well as we said goodbye to 2018 under the bright Antarctica sky, the sun still shining at midnight.
Amazon and other booksellers link to this page instead of the book page for Her Own Two Feet. If you’re looking for more information on Rebeka and our book, click here.
Alayna is in her last semester at Texas A&M, preparing to graduate in May, 2018. It wasn’t easy re-integrating back into life in College Station after spending a semester in Grenoble, France.
It wasn’t just the language and culture shock. It was the fact that most of her friends graduated last spring and life was going to look really different. She had one friend who remained, and a room in that friend’s apartment where she could put her mattress on the floor, and live out of cardboard boxes for a few months. I think we all figured she would grit her teeth and endure but hey, you only get one last-semester-of-college in life, and Alayna has never been one to pass up a chance at a new adventure.
she flies through the air with the greatest of ease . . .
in Rwanda, she’s always ready to engage with strangers who become friends
Last summer when she interned at Explore Austin she began to rock climb at a nearby climbing gym. What started out as a hobby turned into an obsession. Upon her return to College Station, she tried out for the Texas A&M competitive climbing team, the Craggies, and made it! For Spring Break she went climbing with friends in Arkansas.
climbing in Arkansas
Since then she has competed in several competitions and most recently qualified for nationals in speed climbing!
She is officially hooked. She makes multiple trips a week to Katy where they have a regulation speed-climbing wall where she can practice for nationals. She inhales climbing documentaries, and is asking for climbing gear for a graduation present. I am so proud of her for taking on this last semester with gusto, and re-inventing her life in College Station with this new passion. She’s met new friends, and she’s earned some gnarly callouses.
I know about re-inventing. I’ve been re-inventing my Rebeka book for almost a year now, revising and revising again. I’ve built up some tough callouses, taking constructive criticism and cutting some “darlings” to get to the heart of the story. My most recent revision was coming up with a new title when my agent wasn’t entirely happy with the first two. I had sent an email to a friend in Rwanda, asking her if the phrase “seize every opportunity and make the most of it,” was common in Rwanda. Something like “Carpe Diem,” or “seize the day.”
Rebekkah in Rwanda, who gave me “chance comes once”
She responded that in Rwanda they say Amahirwe aza rimwe, which means “chance comes once.” The phrase captures perfectly the tension in Rebeka’s life. Many times she was given opportunities where saying “yes” wasn’t easy. At age five, she stayed alone at a clinic for eight months to receive treatments for her feet. She left family and friends and all that was familiar to come to America where she endured painful surgeries and challenging physical therapy. And when she returned to Rwanda, Rebeka left her family yet again to attend a prestigious boarding school located several hours away by car.
Rebeka’s bed at boarding school the year she returned
They were all tough “yes’s” to once-in-a-lifetime chances. These two girls impress the heck out of me. They suck the marrow out of life, pushing themselves as they pursue new opportunities and continue saying “yes” to life’s adventures. I am forever grateful for the time they got to spend together.
Chance comes once. Sometimes we get only one chance to take advantage of an opportunity, and these two girls embrace their chances with gusto. I did the same when I took the chance to tell Rebeka’s story, now titled CHANCE COMES ONCE: BASED ON THE TRUE STORY OF A RWANDAN GIRL’S JOURNEY, and I’m so glad I said yes.
I introduced baby #1 in June 2017. Baby #2 came to our family in September of 2017. She was much different than baby #1, partly because she wasn’t a baby. She was a thirteen-month-old bundle of energy and destruction and yes, cuteness. The cheeks, the chunky thighs, the poofy pom-pom ponytail that sprouted from the top of her head in a fountain of black curls, were so very different from any of our biological kids or foster baby #1.
She came as an emergency placement in the wee hours of a Friday morning and we knew very little about what she ate, when she slept, or whether or not she had a lovey (she didn’t arrive with one). As the caseworker went over paperwork she sat in my lap, rested her cheek against my chest, and was content to be held.
It was soon apparent that we had received a child with no operating instructions. She had arrived with only the clothes on her back and a blanket supplied by CPS, a can of formula, and some diapers. We discovered baby #2 loved bananas. And screaming. And opening all drawers and cabinets, and pulling all books from bookshelves and dumping the dog’s food and water and yanking blinds and smacking dogs and picking up anything and everything that wasn’t a toy and putting it in her mouth. Clay and I spent hours following her around and trying to toddler-proof what we thought was a pretty safe house.
We knew she was exhausted, and most likely afraid, bewildered, and anxious. So was I. She clung to me and I tried to keep my composure and not break down into tears. Our sweet, quiet home had turned into a disaster zone. Over the next few days it became apparent that while baby #2 was awake, one of us was one hundred percent on duty.
But Baby #2 had no interest in books.
Baby #2 had no interest in stuffed animals except to body slam them to the ground and chew on their noses.
Baby #2 had no interest in sitting still. She crawled or cruised from place to place, stopping only long enough to throw or hit or somehow destroy whatever was in her path.
she loved pulling everything out of cabinets
Those were the first two days. Hour by hour we began to figure baby #2 out. Clay thought music might help distract her and calm her so he told Alexa to play some jazz. Baby #2’s hand shot up like a conductor and she began to beat perfect time with the rhythm, shaking her hips and shimmying her shoulders. We had made our first breakthrough!
We decided a warm bottle right before bedtime might help her sleep through the night and lo and behold, she slept over twelve hours. We learned that sometimes she just needed to wail in her crib for a while to wind down. We’d give her a few minutes and she’d roll right over and sleep twelve hours. She grew to tolerate, and then love, her bath. She started reaching for Clay, and allowing me to the leave the room without breaking down.
We got baby #2 at an exciting time in her development. She went from cruising along furniture to letting go and taking her first independent steps.
She went from saying one word (“gog”, everything was “gog,” from the dogs to her cup to Clay), to ba (bottle?), guh-gog (same as gog?), cuh-cuh-cuh (cracker?), and mama. Oh, that one was hard. I was not her mama, but when she was sad she would cry “mama” and reach out for me. And I would take her. Because for a time, hour by hour, I realized I was the mama, in all it’s scary, frustrating, rewarding glory.
She was placed with another family a few weeks after we received her. I sent her onward with a few operating instructions, notes about what she liked to eat, when she slept, and the small victories of learning not to pull the dog’s nose hair.
I have to admit we were a bit shell-shocked, being thrust back into the toddler years, and not just any toddler years but the life and times of a distraught little girl who had been through too much in her short life. It took a Vulfpek concert with Nate and some of his buddies . . .
A big bag of Larry the Cable Guy Cheeseburger Tater Chips at the airport . . .
And a trip to visit Alayna, who spent her fall semester abroad in Grenoble, France, plus a giant pot of melted cheese . . .
to fully recover. What did I learn from this whole experience? Baby #2 reminded me I’m never really in control of my life. She reminded me to delight in small victories like discovering jazz and watching first steps. She reminded me I am flawed. I still have a lot of growing to do, just like baby #2. I am grateful for the reminder, humbled by the experience, and fully re-integrated into “normal” life. Until the next phone call . . .
In July of 2017 I made my first solo trip to Rwanda to do interviews for my most recent project, based on the true story of Rebeka Uwitonze. I had been to Rwanda four times previously, with family and sometimes teams, but traveling alone for the specific purpose of interviewing Rebeka, her family, and others who know her brought a new level of intimacy and understanding. It was a privilege, and I learned all sorts of things I never knew. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Augustine, who made room in his busy schedule to translate for me and shuttle me around. We dug up old files and found treasure.
Augustine was my translator and general “make it happen” man
left is Rebeka’s sponsorship photo, right is Rebeka when she returned from US
Rebeka’s two youngest sisters have grown big enough to wear the clothes Rebeka once wore in Austin.
left to right: nephew, Ooweetayka (sp?), Medi and me
Rebeka’s parents were gracious and invited me into their home two days in a row to tell me the story of Rebeka, starting with her birth.
I got to see beyond the living room where we usually sit to the bedroom Rebeka shares with her sister, and the small dirt yard out back where goats and a cow hang out and maize dries in the sun on a blanket. I heard for the first time that Medi, Rebeka’s younger sister, was the first to go to school, before ANLM moved into the community, when the family only had enough money for one tuition. She would come home with chalk and teach Rebeka what she was learning by drawing letters and numbers on the concrete floor of their home. I saw the learning continuing with chalk letters on their back fence, scrawled by her little sisters.
I met some of Rebeka’s friends who went running to find Rebeka when we arrived at her boarding school. She had no idea I was coming!
left to right: Grace, Rebeka, Sharon and me
I had to break the news that it was just me visiting this time, and then I got to ask her a question that made a lump rise up in my throat. I couldn’t wait to tell her about writing her story, but what would she think? Would she want to tell it with me? Because I wasn’t going to tell it unless both our names were on the cover, side by side. It is truly her story. I just wanted to help her write it.
She said yes! She is excited to share her story and she answered my questions patiently. One of the things I have been curious about since she left in 2013 is how she described America to people back home. When I asked, she didn’t say anything about the fireplace that turned on with a press of a button, or the trampoline, or the grocery store filled with food. “I tell them about the ocean,” she said.
“What do you tell them about the ocean?” I asked her.
“I tell them it’s very big.”
Clay holding Rebeka in ocean-California-Sprint Break 2013
The ocean is a great image, a great metaphor, for Rebeka’s time in America. It was big, from the surgeries to all her new experiences, including her first glimpse of the big blue ocean in California. Writing this book about Rebeka has been a little like wading out into the ocean. I’ve been knee-deep in facts, there have been some waves of uncertainty, but on the horizon is a big old story I can’t wait to share.
We are not allowed to share names or identifiable pictures of the foster children we care for, aren’t allowed to share details about their backgrounds. What I can share is how these tiny bundles of flesh shape and change my family and me personally. How they make us slow down, realign priorities, and inspire us to be better people.
Without further ado, I’d love to introduce you to Baby #1.
After a lot of prayer and discussion, Clay and I decided we would only foster babies, taking in children ages 0-6 months. We could have these children anywhere from one day to two years, and we weren’t ready to care for children over two. Let’s be honest, I don’t know if we are ready to care for children of any age that aren’t our own. How do you prepare for potential brokenness coming through the door? How do you prepare for the unknown? This will be an exercise in letting go on many levels.
We were officially licensed to foster babies on Friday, May 12, 2017. We were told we may not get a call for months – not many babies in the system recently. That was fine. We were busy with the end of year senior activities, thesis week and graduation, plus Alayna was coming home to intern and Benji needed to practice driving . . . basically, we were busy. There was a crib in our exercise room/library, and a bouncy seat and foldable bassinet shoved behind a chair in our bedroom, but they had blended into the tapestry of graduation gifts and laundry. Fostering a baby had been pushed to the far corners of my mind, something to be dealt with in the summer, once school was out.
We got a call Monday, May 15th. That’s right, three days after getting our license. I was sitting in a senior’s thesis presentation when I saw our caseworker’s name pop up on my watch. I hit “ignore” and tried to keep listening, but it was impossible. I figured it was most likely a problem with paperwork or something, but the possibility lingered that it could be something more. Indeed, I discovered after listening to her message and then a quick phone call, that there was a baby who needed a home. It happened fast, as it often does. By that evening, Baby #1 was in our home. We were told it was respite, we’d have her no longer than two weeks.
We stepped into the unknown with equal doses of fear and excitement. We had to borrow a car seat. We had to google how much a twelve-week-old baby eats, and how often, but none of our ignorance mattered once I saw her. I swooned as she was lifted from her car seat. She came out in the classic little baby pose, her arms bent by her head, elbows to ears, her legs folded up and her diaper-padded booty sticking out. She had the most darling elf ears you ever did see. They stuck out from her head like little sonars, perfect dishes of pink flesh. She examined the world around her with wide eyes. I could already tell she was exceptionally observant and intelligent.
She was passed from friend to friend in our community those first few days, she was loved well by strangers and marveled at by our family as we hovered over her. But eventually, it got real. When babies are tired, why do they cry? Why can’t they just go to sleep? Apparently, lots of parents have the very same question. They congregate online, everyone asking the same desperate question, bastions of disillusioned parents. She woke up around midnight, again around 4AM, and then she was up for good by 6. Even splitting the shifts between Clay and Alayna and me, it was rough. During the day, she was happy in the same spot for about fifteen minutes and then she wanted moving, or holding, or maybe she wanted to sway and bounce, or we tried going outside, a stroller ride, a car ride.
Babies require a great deal of attention. I knew this, we were ready to give this, and yet no matter how willing you are, it is still exhausting. We began to wonder if we would be “one and done,” as in one baby, and call it quits. We were only kind of joking. Don’t get me wrong. We loved her, oh how we loved her. We took dozens of pictures and videos I wish I could post. We lost our minds when she rolled over, tummy to back, for the first time. We laughed uncontrollably, giddy and in love, when she had her first belly laugh. Clay discovered Baby loved rasberries. He made a fool of himself and got the biggest smiles out of her.
Once a week we took Baby to see her biological mom. We gradually learned, from various sources, a little more about Baby’s history. We were asked if we would be willing to have Baby for longer if things didn’t work out. It could be a year, maybe two, if right were terminated and she was adopted. We said yes. We went there. We went beyond babysitters to something more, and then we got a call. It was Wednesday, June 7th, a little more than three weeks after Baby came to live with us. The woman was from CPS.
“Can I pick her up this afternoon?” she asked. I put her on speaker so Clay could hear because I was certain I hadn’t heard right. “The judge has granted kinship care,” the woman said. “I can be there in a couple hours.”
My stomach dropped. My heart flipped. Major organs rearranged. While Baby napped peacefully in our exercise room/library/nursery, Clay and I cried on the couch. We got it all out. Then we woke up Baby so we could hold her, and play with her, and feed her one more time. We packed bags, did laundry, washed bottles, and by 5PM, she was gone. Whisked into a stranger’s car, gone to live with her aunt.
By the next afternoon, all the baby stuff had been packed up and put in the attic. Our house was quiet. We slept all night. We got all those things on our lists done. And we scrolled through all those pictures and videos of Baby. We did it. We brought her in, loved her well for as long as she was with us, and we let go. She made us slow down, and it was good. She made us be patient, and it was good. She reminded us that we aren’t really in control, that it’s okay to let go of calendars and to-do lists, and it was very good.
I want to say we are ready for the next call, whenever that call may come. Maybe months. Maybe tomorrow. But I don’t know if you can ever really be ready for the unexpected. You can just be willing to step into the unknown. The world of fostering is a strange new world, but we’re willing to keep stepping for now. Towards Baby #2, and beyond.
Although my last post was from August 2014, that doesn’t mean nothing has happened in the past two and three quarter years. Alayna has weathered the college years with great success and looks forward to studying abroad this fall in France and graduating from A&M next spring.
Nate just graduated high school and is taking twelve hours this summer and another full load in the fall at ACC with the hope of transferring into UT in January. His playlist is diverse, his friends are plentiful, and he makes a mean omelet.
Photo credit: Courtney Cope www.courtneycopemedia.com
Benji has grown, he is no longer a tiny little guy but taller than both Alayna and me. He’s into acting, and soccer, and friends, and he’ll be driving a stick shift by the end of the summer.
Photo credit: Courtney Cope www.courtneycopemedia.com
Clay still works at LiveAnew, plays some golf, and is currently growing extremely hot habanero peppers at a rapid rate. He is my biggest fan and my best friend, we recently celebrated 24 years of marriage and adventuring together.
I am still writing stories for children, and for the last few years I’ve also had the opportunity to be part of the Austin Stone Story Team. I’ve learned how to interview and I’ve worked with some amazing editors. It’s been awesome to see my stories come full circle as they make their way into the world.
There will be some particularly interesting “stories in the street” in the coming months and years. It seems adventures come in cycles for the Davis family. In 2007-08 we traveled around the world for nine and a half months. In 2012 we hosted Rebeka from Rwanda for almost a year while she had surgeries on her feet.
When Rebeka returned home we started asking ourselves what our next adventure would be. I don’t mean to say that we do these things for the sake of having an adventure, but it’s what ends up happening when we say yes to big things. It took a while for the path to materialize, but here we are in 2017, our path strewn with diapers and pacifiers alongside diplomas and driving permits. The Davises are stepping into foster care, willing to take a baby for a day or a year, maybe two. It is a world just as foreign and strange as Morocco or Vietnam. A world of plastic, vibrating bassinets and tiny tubes used to suck boogers from teeny noses (I refuse), a world of massive paperwork and massive heartache, a world that is broken and filled with everyday heroes. I hope to tell you about some of them here. These are the kinds of stories where real names can’t be shared, and pictures can’t be posted. I hope I can do them justice.
I’m also traveling to Rwanda solo in June 23rd to interview Rebeka and her family for a book I’m working on. There are many adventures ahead, and many in the rearview mirror. Stay tuned for more stories in the street.
I want to quote the whole thing, my highlighter will run out of ink before I finish it, but here’s just a taste: “Drink your wine. Laugh from your gut. Burden your moments with thankfulness. Be as empty as you can be when that clock winds down. Spend your life. And if time is a river, may you leave a wake.” (p.117)
These words struck a chord with me. They reminded me of Benji’s shoes. See, our kids wear uniforms to school, and at the beginning of the year they get nice, new shoes. Regulation brown shoes like these:
Benji’s 2014-15 school shoes.
As we were getting ready for school this year, I discovered Benji’s old pair of shoes from last year.
Benji’s 2013-14 shoes
Benji’s 2013-14 shoes.
Benji lived a lot of good life in those shoes. He played a lot of gaga ball, chased friends, hurried to class, and wore a path to school and home again. He spent some life, and he left a few wakes. I loved finding those shoes. And I loved finding this shoe.
The shoe Rebeka wore when she arrived in the US, summer 2012.
Talk about a shoe representing a life. I shadowboxed one and sent it with Alayna to college, and kept one for ourselves. Rebeka’s is a life filled with struggle and fight and victory, and we got to see some of it unfold on our own home soil.The shoe looks tiny because it only needed to fit the top of Rebeka’s foot, contorted and curled. The shoe represents such a big story, on a grand scale. Ten-year-old Rwandan girl travels to Texas to live with a family she’s never met and undergo painful surgery, unsure how long she’ll be here or if the surgeries will work. She learned how to speak English, how to read, how to turn on a light switch and a water faucet. That’s drama. But there’s drama in Benji’s old Sperry’s, too. Much to be thankful for in both of their stories. Here’s one more quote from Death by Living.
“Imagine sticking your finger on your pulse and thanking God every time He gave you another blood-driving, brain-powering thump. We should. And we shouldn’t, because if we did, we would never do anything else with our living; we wouldn’t have the time to look at or savor any of the other of our impossibillions of gifts.” (p. 108)
“Impossibillions.” It doesn’t matter what’s going on in our lives, whether life is good or life is hard, we have much to be thankful for. We take breaths, “pie smells like pie and hangnails heal and honeycrisp apples are real and dogs wag their tails and awe perpetually awaits us in the sky.” (p. 108) I framed Rebeka’s shoe, but I wonder if I should have framed Benji’s shoe, too. To remind myself that time is always passing, life is always being lived, no matter how “blog-worthy” it is, and it should be appreciated even if it can’t be held. Benji bought another pair of new shoes this summer, lacrosse shoes.
They hold all the hope and promise of a wild, passionate time of his life as a new season begins. These particular shoes are made for running, playing, and stating to the world, “I am Benji, hear my turquoise roar.” And by the end of the season, may they be ragged and worn through, soaked with sweat and striving and learning and living well.
I love sharing stories like Rebeka’s in Her Own Two Feet. That’s what this blog is all about. My stories. Other people’s stories. Writing stories for children. Once upon a time I told the story of our family traveling around the world for nine and a half months. You can find those here at Faces in the Street.