More Than a Survivor

Her worn and wrinkled hands held a small newspaper clipping. Quivering slightly, she pushed it toward me. Did you see this? This lady is 102 years old, she just finished her final test, she’s received a doctorate.
The lady she was referring to was studying to become a doctor in Nazi Germany. After completing all but the final exam she was forced to leave school. Her father was a Jew.
This was my chance. I had been hoping it would come up in conversation sometime, but I didn't want to pry. Her past was a painful one.
How old where you when the war started?  She got that far away look in her eyes, she was remembering. In a German accent, one that gets thicker when she's emotional, her story began to unravel. 
I was just 13, still in school. My mother and sister and I lived in a small city. When the war started soldiers invaded our school taking over the second story - I never really finished school because of that, because of the chaos. Eventually I was forced to work in an ammunition factory. We were sheltered, we didn't really understand what was going on, we didn't know. 
I could see the pain in her eyes, I could hear it as her voice rose and fell, cracking. 
Our home was bombed. It was a miracle I didn't die, if not from the bombings, then from the parasites and tapeworms and hunger. Oh the hunger. 
I listened intently, asking a few questions here and there, but mostly listening. 
When I wrote my list of 23 things to accomplish before I turn 24, she was the elderly lady I was hoping to get to know. Every other week I clean for her, and over the years she has begun to open up to me more and more. I treasure those Thursday mornings where we chat and she shows me the latest watercolor painting she's working on, or insists I take a second of her famous chocolate brownies, because 'you work so hard, you'll just burn it off anyway'.
You know she wrote a memoir? You should ask to read it, her husband Tom casually mentioned when she left the room. 
Our conversation continues as I ask her when she moved to the States. She tells me about marrying her first husband. How she loved him, and how her and Tom's first wife were best friends. She tells me how tragedy struck, and her husband died, and how years later her best friend, Tom's wife, passed away too. When she mentions that her and Tom have been married for 16 years, Tom laughs and says, feels like only yesterdayThat's not what you said yesterday, she retorts.
Tom begins to pick on her for being a stubborn German, and suddenly it dawns on him that I am most likely a stubborn German too. He's out numbered.
I feel honored. She trusts me enough to share even the ugly and painful parts of her past with me. But I also feel so inspired by her courage and joy. She has been through hell. She's seen war and famine and the inhumanity of it all. She's grieved the loss of her dearest, and she's opened her heart up to love again. She pursues her passion through painting and is successful doing so. But most of all, she radiates love and reflects Christ. 
She is my friend Hannelore, and I have so much to learn from her.


Gifted Fairly

Fairly Gifted | sarahesh.com
I am a gift giving procrastinator. (Just ask my friend Lyndsi who just received a birthday present... five months too late.)
It's not because I don't like giving gifts, I do. It's not because I have the item on hand but keep forgetting to actually give it to the recipient, I don't. More often than not, it's because suddenly it is the day of the occasion - and even though I thought about it two weeks ago, because I didn't write it down, I completely forgot. I call it mom-brain, but that's a lame excuse and I realize it. I'm left scrambling, not sure what to get the person. 
There are a few people in my life, my friend Patty, my aunt Joyce, and others, who are gift giving rockstars. Whenever they hand you a beautifully wrapped package you know it's going to be good. But then there's me, someone who throws around ideas for the longest time, unsure if that is really what the person would like... 
So, to help those up us out who aren't rocking the gift giving department, I've put together a little cheat sheet.
P.S. The items that are bold +italicized are items I own and love. 

What about you: Are you a gift-giving rockstar or do you often find yourself unsure as well?



Currently | sarahesh.com
Reading: Like crazy.
No, that's not the title of the book, I've just been reading non-stop lately. I thought that over the summer it would slow down, like it always does when there is a lot of other things going on. But then my sister introduced me to an app called Overdrive that allows you to connect with your library system. You can check out e-books, or place holds, all on your smart phone. I've been using it for books-on-audio, which means that while mowing the lawn or cleaning homes or working in my garden I'm still able to 'read'. 
My goal for the year was to read 12 books, and I'm already at 34. (And with this app, the list will only keep growing!) I have a few titles I'm excited to review, and a few I'm not so excited about yet have to review. But since there's more than one book to review, it'll happen in another post. 
Loving: This and this and this. All fair trade, of course. 
Dreaming: According to my facebook status this morning, quite well, thanks for asking. :)  
"You know all of those sleep training books, like Baby Wise and Sleep Solutions, the ones you read late at night while 9 months pregnant because you yourself can't sleep and you might as well learn to be the perfect mother? 
Well, I think all of that effort finally paid off. Last night was the first in almost 2 years that I didn't see 1 am or 2 am or 4 am or all of the above. 
I don't know that it has been working for Carson, but I think I might be sleep trained." 
Wishing: For another lavender iced coffee. Don't judge it until you've tried it.
Thinking About: A conversation I had the other day with a friend... 
We were sitting out on the deck, sipping cool drinks and soaking up the sunshine while our boys were playing together. As we were chatting we both admitted that we are learning that there is importance in getting out of the house and socializing, even if the laundry isn't caught up, even if the house hasn't been cleaned, even if the yard still needs mowed. Our to-do lists will never be completely crossed off. This is especially true as moms of little men, little men who create messes and laundry like its nobodies business.  It's wash, rinse, repeat, a vicious cycle that never ends. I feel like my type-A personality is relearning this every week. Get out of the messy house, wearing whatever you have that is clean. Even though the grass is tall and thick, still, get out. Make play dates and memories, the work will always be there... but the little men, before we know it they'll be learning to do their own laundry or be heading off to college or dating that cute little girl they loved to pick on as kids. Yes, get out. 
Listening: To the calm after a mid-morning rain shower combined with the calm during naptime. Lovely. 
Watching: This video. I love Story of this Life.
Trying: To refashion a couple of Punjabi's I picked up in India a few years ago.  I recently saw one worn as a tunic with leggings and a sweater. It was beautiful, and immediately I felt inspired to wear mine again, I just need to hem them shorter and sew them in a bit.

What are you currently up to?

He was the Best Dog Ever

He was the Best Dog Ever | sarahesh.com
We had a pretty rough week over here. Our dog, Rambo, has been sick for the past month. We had taken him to the vet and after a few days of antibiotics he seemed to be slowly recovering. His energy still wasn't back to its normal level, but he seemed happy and content. He was eating and drinking again, and even though we weren't back to running together, he was always so excited to join Carson and I on walks. But last Monday he took a turn for the worse. Every thing he ate came back up, and eventually he quit eating altogether. He was severely dehydrated and no matter how hard we tried to coax him, he wouldn't drink.
I took him to the vet again, and from what the blood work showed, his kidneys were failing. We had to make that hard decision. Sometimes loving means letting go; but letting go was not easy.
When I married Herm I knew that the dog was going to be a part of my life, I can't say that I was super excited about the idea at first. I made it known that Rambo was Herm's dog, and under no circumstances was he to be in MY house. I couldn't handle finding dog hair here and there... but even in that cold winter of our first year of marriage, my heart began to soften. On days that I wasn't at work I would let Rambo hang out in the foyer, and just before Herm came home I would take him out to his box in the garage. It was our little secret.
He was the Best Dog | sarahesh.com
Rambo almost always tagged along with us; if we were heading to PA for the weekend, he'd go along. If we were going out for just the day, he was with us.
The summer I was pregnant with Carson Herm was working out of town quite often. I would go along with him when I could. One week in particular we were down in PA. Herm would leave for work early in the morning, and I would have most of the day to relax and spend time with my in-laws. I was running as often as I could, trying hard to stay fit and active throughout my pregnancy. I got up early one morning, and dressed for my run. After grabbing the leash and a few other things I headed out to get Rambo. But when I reached the shed where he was tied, he was no where to be found. He managed to slip the chain and headed off on a run without me. In desperation I walked through the wooded area for a while calling for him. Finally I decided to start on the run, bringing the leash along with me. Surely I would find him. I ran the block, all 7 miles of it, only to return to the place we were staying to find Rambo laying in the shade on the deck, eager to see me. I chewed him out for making a woman who was 20 weeks pregnant run 7 miles without her dog; he gave me sloppy kisses and begged to go on a run.
 Just before hunting season Herm and Rambo were often out in the woods together, spending many hours scouting out spots for tree stands and looking for deer rubs. They loved time together like that. Every evening when Herm would get home from work, he'd throw Frisbee with Rambo. And every night he'd go tuck him into his bed out in the garage.
He was the Best Dog | sarahesh.com
Carson adored Rambo. In fact, "Bambo" was his first word. He spent countless hours out on the deck or in the yard playing with him, climbing over him, tugging at his ears or pulling on his tail. They shared ice cream cones and table scraps - Carson would try to slyly slip unwanted bits of food, veggies and such, things he didn't want to eat, to Rambo -- and when Carson thought I wasn't looking, he'd be drinking out of Rambo's water dish. Rambo took in all in stride, his was so gentle and watchful of Carson. Even after Rambo was sick, he still hung out with Carson, putting up with his toddler antics. Just last week I glanced out the window to see Carson curled up next to Rambo and, get this, chewing on this puppy-claws. 

I could go on and on with stories. Stories about how he peed on my basil plant pretty regularly, but it wasn't until near the end of the harvesting season that I discovered it. Stories about how he chewed through who knows how many leashes and ruined shoes left on the deck overnight. I would get so frustrated with him at times. But he was a loyal friend, a faithful running buddy. Just like Carson thinks the bank drive-thru is all about free suckers, Rambo thought the bank was a doggy-treat vending machine because the tellers were always sending something out for him. 
I know he was just a pet, but he was our pet. And now that he is gone our house seems quiet, our family small. Carson keeps calling for "Bambo", wanting to play Frisbee or tug on his tail. He doesn't understand that Rambo won't be coming back home. And Herm and I, we are taking it just as hard. 
He was a good dog, the best dog. And we miss him sorely.


WORN: Fair Trade Fashion

Even though I do consider myself somewhat of a minimalist, with a capsule-ish wardrobe ('ish' because I don't switch out clothes season by season, but instead try to buy versatile pieces that can be worn in almost any season) I love fashion.  
So while my closet is minimal, it is filled with items I love and wear regularly. I tend to be conservative with trends, wearing mostly basics, then dressing outfits up through accessories.
And this, my friends, is where fair trade products come in.
I love the way a statement necklace or beautifully patterned scarf can add interest and texture to an outfit. A tee shirt and comfy pair of jeans can be taken from boring to classy simply by adding one of those two options.
Accessories tend to lend themselves well to causal or dressy outfits, so I find that I get a lot of use out of all of the items I own. This really is the whole point of a capsule wardrobe.
The pieces are unique; they are great conversation starters. I've gotten stopped many times by complete strangers while out running errands, asking where I got my beautiful bag or necklace or earrings.
But even more than the gorgeous items, I love the stories of hope and redemption found for so many through fair trade. You see, fair trade means that the artisans who work tirelessly to create these products are earning a living wage. It means that parents can afford to send their children to school, dressed in crisp uniforms with bellies full. It means that instead of selling her body, the girl on the streets of Cambodia might have another option, one that is dignified, one she can be proud of. Fair trade is about women empowering women. (Men, you all are able to get in on this too, I just liked the way that line sounded.) Instead of handouts and charity, you are enabling someone somewhere to earn a living and feel accomplished and good about what they do through your purchase. In a way when you buy and wear fair traded items you are spreading the Gospel, and you look good doing it!
To me, it is completely worth the extra cost. Sure, you might be paying a bit more for a necklace than you would for one at say, H+M or Old Navy, but if you would research those companies (and, unfortunately, many others) a bit, it wouldn't take you long to realize that there really is a high cost to cheap fashion.  Fair trade isn't necessarily cheap, but in the grand scheme of things it is priceless.
You've probably figured this out by now, but I am passionate about fair trade and the ethical treatment of others. This is why I was so excited to team up with Fair Trade Friday, a ministry of Mercy House Kenya, for the summer, and share with everyone about their mission and ministry. 
There will be more posts similar to this one over the course of June and July. I will share about a few of my favorite organizations and ways that you can get involved... AND I will be hosting a giveaway for a gorgeous tote made from handwoven and hand-printed canvas and genuine leather, crafted in the foothills of the Himalayas. So stay tuned, you don't want to miss it!
Now it's your turn to share: What are some ways you like to make a difference in the lives of others? Or how has someone made a difference in your life?


Not His Mama's Shortcake

Not His Mama's Shortcake | sarahesh.com
He is going to be so excited, I thought to myself, as I lifted the shortcake biscuits from the cookie sheets, placing them onto a serving platter. Local strawberries were finally available, and it seemed as though shortcake was all Herm ever talked about. And while baking certainly wasn't how I preferred to spend my precious day off from work, I knew the look of pure delight on the face of my beloved as he took his first bite of shortcake, topped with crushed berries and whipped cream, would make the sacrifice of my time completely worth it in the end.
I dutifully served supper, although I no longer remember what I had made, then brought the tasty surprise out to the deck. What is this? He asked me, unsure. Babe, don't be silly, I retorted, it's only what you talk about every waking minute. He still looked quite confused, leaving me confused as well. It's shortcake Babe. You know, you eat it with strawberries and whipped cream. I love shortcake, and this isn't shortcake, he replied, this looks like biscuits. 
I quickly grew defensive, yanking the box of Bisquick from the trashcan - giving away the secret, these were not made from scratch, leaving me as a failure of a Mennonite woman - as I hastily found the recipe on the back titled "Old-fashion Shortcake".  See, I pointed, see, right here, it's SHORTCAKE!
Maybe so, but it's not my mom's shortcake.  
Another summer came and went, and I did not attempt shortcake again, his mom's or mine.  But last week we were invited to my parents for a dinner of salmon and roasted asparagus, and I was providing dessert. I had several boxes of fresh strawberries from Pennsylvania and all of the ingredients on hand for shortcake, so I thought it was probably time to brave the waters again, and attempt his mom's shortcake.
However, instead of calling Herm's mom for the recipe, I consulted my ever faithful cookbook, Pinterest. I began typing Amish Shortcake Recipe, thinking that help narrow down the results. The first recipe to appear looked promising, it was baked in a square baking dish, certainly not the biscuits I had made two summers ago. This is it, I thought.
After I had made the cake, I took a picture of it and sent it to Herm. He never replied to the text, but when he arrived home he said no, it didn't look like his mom's, but he would still give it a try.
We enjoyed the meal thoroughly, as we always do when my mom is cooking. And on the ride home that night the words Herm said to me were worth recording, never to be forgotten. He said, Babe, I think maybe that should be your shortcake recipe. My mom can have hers, and you can have yours, they're both so good.
(Don't tell anyone, but I've made this recipe three times in one week. First for my family, then to serve when two friends came over for coffee and dessert out on our deck, and finally to go with a meal I made for our weekend guests. And I'm pretty certain it'll be made almost weekly throughout strawberry season.)
This, my friends, it the recipe:

Sarah's Strawberry Shortcake


For the Shortcake:
  • 2 cups flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
For the Streusel:
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 3 tablespoons butter, softened


1. Make crumbs with the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and butter. Add the milk and egg to the crumbs, mixing well until just combined. Spread the mixture into a buttered 8x8 cake pan. Set aside.
2. Make the topping by mixing the sugar, flour and butter. This mixture will be crumbly. Spread over batter in cake pan. Bake the cake at 350 for 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
3. Serve warm with fresh strawberries and whipped cream or milk.


Baby Chatter + the Breastfed Monkey

(aka Carsonisms)
This series is to record the funny things my Little Man says or does so these moments are not forgotten. But it is twofold; my hope is that the stories will brighten your day too, whether you are a parent or not. Enjoy!

     In an attempt at slowly weaning Carson from breastfeeding, I began limited nursing to naptime and bedtime. He soon caught on to this and began begging to go night-night at all times of the day. Usually by 8:30 pm he is tugging at my hand, trying to pull me to his room, while rapidly blowing kisses at Herm. One night in particular he wasn't very tired and was feeling playful. After he had finished nursing, he decided that his stuffed sock monkey on the bed next to him needed a turn. He pressed the monkey up to me and began making slurping sounds, laughing. Apparently his monkey was still hungry, because he clasped the monkey-hands and signed 'more' before pushing the monkey back in for seconds. 
     The past few weeks have been very intense. Carson was working on a few new teeth, and along with that he was running a really high fever, had a runny nose, and pretty bad diaper rash. He wasn't sleeping well at night or at naptime. Needless to say, we were both miserable and exhausted. On what was the worse day of this whole ordeal, I had rocked my screamed child for two hours in an attempt to comfort him before he finally went down for an afternoon nap. And that evening at bedtime, it was the same thing all over again. He didn't want to be held, but he didn't want to be down. He didn't know what he wanted. In total frustration, I placed my face in my palms, trying hard not to burst into hot tears myself. Still screaming, Carson pulled my hand away from my face, said 'boo', chuckled at his joke, and continued on in a fit of tears.
     Carson was getting antsy at the graveside service for my cousin and her baby. He had done well at the viewing and funeral service, but he couldn't take much more, he was ready to run.  I let him down and he ran over to a little girl about his age and tried to grab her hand. She pulled away from him, so he picked a dandelion and handed it to her. As she timidly reached out for the flower, he swiftly pulled it back, turned around, and walked the other way. I guess they were both playing hard-to-get.
What stories of childish ‘isms’ do you have to share?  Comment below!


Nineteen + Twenty

I've taken the liberty of editing the list a bit. After all, I am the one wrote it, so I should be allowed to change it throughout the year as I see fit, right?
Nineteen + Twenty | sarahesh.com
The changes aren't big; instead of exploring downtown Rochester (because really, where is downtown Rochester?) I decided to explore Ithaca, with its quaint West Coast vibe and organic/vegan option for everything. I love that hippie town, and folks that write it off just because it's different than any other town in the North East are, in my opinion, missing out on a lot of charm and beauty.

I also decided that, yes, thrift shopping is my kind of hunting. I really have no desire to kill a cute and cuddly animal. And with its 42 second-hand shops, and a beautifully detailed map of where each one is located and what they sell, Ithaca is a thrifter's paradise.
Which brings us to this past Saturday...
Kate and I decided to go explore the Farmer's Marketand visit a few thrift shops as well.
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I had never been to the market, but had heard from multiple sources that it is one of the best in the area. And let me tell you, it's a beauty! This is pretty early in the growing season; considering that, I felt like there was a nice variety of fruits and vegetables, along with fresh flowers, herbs, pastries, beautiful handcrafted products and so much more. If you ever get the chance, please visit. Farm fresh eggs were selling for $3 for half a dozen, so if you raise chickens, you might consider becoming a vendor. (Mom, just thought I'd throw that out there.)
After walking through the market, we stopped at Gimme! Coffee before headed over to Mama Goosemy favorite kids clothing consignment. I found a jacket, some shorts, and, get this, BABY Birkenstocks! there for Carson, and with the store credit I had from selling some newborn clothes a while ago, I was able to get those items for about $2.
Nineteen + Twenty | sarahesh.com
Next was Salvation Army, where I scored an $8 Radio Flyer trike for Carson. I had been searching for a riding toy of some sort for months. I wanted something for Carson to play with on the deck. But everything I had found up until that point was either cheap plastic or bright pink. He was thrilled about the trike, and rode it through the entire store, ringing the bell as he went along.
Nineteen + Twenty | sarahesh.com
We stopped at several more places. I think Kate found a few items, but I didn't.
I know I've mentioned it before, but I really don't enjoy shopping, mainly because I'm frugal stingy and hate spending money. But if I know what I am purchasing is something that's been on my shopping list (yes, I create a list even when thrifting, and usually stick with it), and if I know it's good quality for a good price, I actually enjoy it.
I also feel like I killed two birds with one stone, since I was able to cross two items off the list today. (And killing two birds would also count as hunting, right Herm?)
I still can't get over those baby Birkenstocks! They are quite possibly my best thrifting score to-date. So tell me, what has been your best thrifting find?