Today, for the first time in three months, I feel like I can breathe. Thanks to the American holiday, Thanksgiving, I get a four-day weekend. I finally feel like I have time to stop and be still. Time to rest, relax, let my thoughts explore without the distraction of responsibilities, to sit and just be. I have time to write.



It’s been a long time since I’ve written (something complete and coherent enough to share). And the more time I let pass, the harder it gets to figure out where to pick up and start sharing again. I’ve spent more time than you would guess trying to decide where I should begin. Do I start with the present? Should I go back and pick up where I left off? Do I need to fill in some blanks; do they have to be in order? You get the idea…

As easy as it would be to just start from where I am, I’m not going to leave these past couple of months a big blank. They are important. They have been full- full of challenge, adventure, struggle, frustration, joy, learning, and growing. There are a lot of things I want to share, and some things that I would rather not share but probably need to. So will try to fill in the blanks over the next few weeks.


In preschool this past week, we decided to make cards to mail to a boy their (my student’s) age, across the world. I told them about this boy, shared some photos and asked them what they would like to say to our new friend. I thought the idea was simple enough, and for some it was. With the ages and language abilities in my class spanning a large scale, we had quite the variety of, “letters,” at the end of the day. Some students with more basic English skills and vague comprehension had no problem rattling off whatever English words came to mind, and were proud to say word after unrelated word as I smiled and nodded, writing down each one…. a good lesson in confidence if nothing else.

As other students were a little more hesitant to answer, I realized that leaving this project so open ended actually made it harder for them, not easier. They sat and thought about the idea of sending words to this boy across the world. With a little prompting they decided to tell their age, what they like to do, and things they are learning in school. My one native English speaker seemed to have the most difficult time with this project. As a student that always has something to say and loves watching me write down every word she says, she seemed stumped by this letter writing. When it was her turn to tell me what she would like to write, she began with, “thank you,” followed by a jumble of big words that didn’t make much sense together, and after struggling through a mess of words, she finally decided on, “I love you.” (Love is always a great solution).

The more students understood the project, the more they struggled to find words, despite their higher English level and larger vocabulary. I think this is because they got stuck on the idea of writing a card. They had a preconceived idea of what a card should be and what it should say. I didn’t teach them what I card should say, because I wanted to leave it up to them to decide. All under the age 5, these kids already had their own idea of what they thought a card should or shouldn’t say.


All of that to say…that’s how I feel about writing now. The possibilities are endless, which makes it hard to choose a direction/topic to stay focused on. But even more challenging is writing passed my preconceived notions of what I should say. I have an idea of how I think a blog should look, of what kinds of things should be shared on a blog, especially one belonging to a girl volunteering as a teacher in Africa. But I don’t fit a mold. The pieces of my life don’t always match up or make sense from the outside. My thoughts aren’t neat and organized, and if I am real with you…my blog isn’t going to be either.

Last Christmas I received a small handcrafted leather notebook… simply and beautifully detailed with pages of handmade paper. I brought this notebook to Rwanda with me, and it sits on my shelf by my bed, where it can be easily seen and admired. But guess what? Until today, all but two pages were still blank. I love journals, but I don’t know that I have ever completely filled one. How silly is that, this beautiful notebook has sat on my shelf, unused for almost one year. And for what other reason other than my fear of not filling it with something worthy. I’ve always imagined what journals should be filled with, and I was afraid to fill mine with the wrong things, insignificant things. Yet that’s what gives it value…it’s content, not it’s cover. Imagine if I lived my life like that…sitting in my room all day because I was afraid to mess it up, or not live it good enough. I would rather live a messy life filled with beauty and chaos than to sit observing others and call it living.

So here’s to living messy, writing messy, and sharing all of it. Not just the part that looks nice or how I think it should.




  1. This is such a wonderful and encouraging blog! You’re exactly right in saying it is better to live a messy and chaotic life rather than sit on the sidelines. I admire the example you provide me of what it looks like to dive in and truly live! Similar to how your kiddos were not exactly sure what to say, I’m not sure what else to say. I think I’ll follow the lead of the litter girl and end with this: I love you.

  2. This is Lacy from Mom’s ipad. Mary you are a wonderful writer, and I love the way you so beautifully put to words your thoughts and life. You are wise beyond your years. This was an inspiring and challenging post to me. I can relate to the unfilled journals and wanting to wait until I have the “perfect” or “right” thing, often leaving them blank. Great thoughts. Love that you are such a sweet teacher for those kids. Love the correlation between your kids and your writing/blog. Thank you for sharing. I love you friend and sister!

  3. Mary Clayton, when did you get big enough and old enough to be on the other side of the world teaching preschoolers?! I know you’ve had some adventures in the past few years…just can’t seem to reconcile this Mary Clayton with the small girl we used to see every Thanksgiving!

    I know your mom and dad are so proud of you, as they should be! You’re doing an amazing thing at your young age…learning to live and think for yourself, and to experience life to the fullest.

    I love what you say about the question of what to write. I have those thoughts so many times…if I write what I’m thinking, it isn’t always pretty, or organized, or maybe even worth reading. But it is real, and that probably makes up for a lot of other things that are lacking. I think that’s one of the best things about blogging…it gives you a chance to be real and to say just what you want, without anyone else editing.

    And just think, when you’re done with your travels there, you can put all your posts together and presto, you have a book! Looking forward to reading more! So proud of you! ~ Sheila Gibson

  4. Mary,
    They say variety is the spice of life, your descriptions of your life today and the kids you share it with are a delightful. This is a glimpse into a world I can just barely imagine. Your spice cabinet must be full! You are to be envied….Give ’em all a good Colorado hug and have fun…You all deserve.
    Patty & Scott

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