Do not Weep

For the record, my mom died on December 6th a few minutes passed 4PM. I’ve announced it in many other places and I realized that I’d not talked about it in my own private (public) space.

Her breathing pattern changed and my sister and sister-in-law noticed. One left to find the hospice nurse and the other to find her husband. I just kept participating in the conversation about I don’t know what. I knew, we all knew, when we heard the nurse say into her phone ‘I have to go. I have a death’.

I am sometimes left wanting because we weren’t all sitting around her holding her hand, though I think my Dad was, waiting for that ‘special’ moment that put her into the next world. This grand moment – the moment she so deserved after all of her suffering – was not apparent to me. As I reflect on it though, I am confident that it was grand for her and that’s what I care about. There are enough accounts of that most beautiful ‘death’ experience.

She said she wasn’t ready to go. It makes me sad to think about that. But that she went into the loving arms of family members who went before her gives me great comfort.

The services were attended by so many of the people who loved her that there weren’t enough seats in the funeral home. A steady stream of people who knew her from Knoll International, where she worked for more than 30 years and Relay for Life, where she volunteered for more than 15 introduced themselves one after another. She was dearly loved.

Here are a few photos that are special because of their significance in her last moments and how we attempted to honor her.

Our Thanksgiving dinner that we often refer to as ‘her Christmas’. She had such a wonderful time and told us all that it was her best Thanksgiving ever.

Who knew my mom was a fisherman. This picture was in a bag of old pictures of me that my mom gave me when I first returned in June. I had wondered how it came to be in my bag and I had just days before her death put it aside to include on a DVD we were in the process of making. When we were creating the picture board for her services, I'd intended to include it but had forgotten it. Independently, my brother who had taken her fishing, had pulled his home apart looking for this very picture. When he described it to me, I said ‘I know the picture’ and I went home and brought it the funeral home– this is the kind of coincidence that keeps me going.

My sisters and I went through my mom's closet and amongst other things, chose a scarf that we liked (OK, I took 2). The remaining scarves were set aside to give to the other women in our family. My sister Rhoda, came up with the idea to wrap up each scarf with a note and give them as gifts at our traditional holiday gathering. It was the most beautiful and touching moment of the evening. This is the type of thing that she does consistently for her family and it is something that I admire and treasure about her.

'Love is being able to be in the same space with something'

What I've been wondering about lately is how I can feel so good at the very same time that I feel so bad. I don't ever remember this being so true for me as it is in this very moment (and I mean this very moment. I stopped what I was doing in order to begin writing this).

I don't have to tell you why my heart hurts, right? You know why I'm here. At the same time, I feel really good about what my time here is doing for me. I am reconnecting with my mom and my family; I'm building a work life that gives me joy, pays my bills and allows me the type of flexibility that makes me happy; and always on the top of my list, making new friends.

And so when I heard the statement today 'Love is being able to be in the same space with something' it all came together. It's exactly what I'd been questioning in this week of good fortune. I don't have to deny my hurt and sadness or push it aside. It gets to live right alongside of my happiness and gratitude for all that this recent change in my life is giving me. Happy Birthday to me!

Congratulations to Sandy and Ron

I want to tell you about my dear and close friend, Sandy. She and her now husband, together 18 years, were married last Saturday in their home community in Oxford, MD. Why do I mention it? Because I so admire them as a couple that I wanted to share it.

According to the Hendricks Institute there are three types of relationships: toxic, where people are more sick with their partner than they are normally (very few in this category); learning, where partners learn from each other (most fall into this category); and celebratory, where the partners love each other in a most whole and beautiful way that is characterized mostly by their co-creation.  I not only strive to be in this category (one day), but I LOVE it when I see it. And I see it, whenever I see Sandy and Ron.

What makes Sandy an extraordinary individual is what I imagine makes her an extraordinary partner. She is a true creator: focused on expansion always. She is an unstoppable force; is the most intelligent woman I know (except for my mom of course);  knows how to get her point across in the most fluent, kind and caring way; and expresses dissatisfaction as an opportunity for change, without blame and criticism and honoring where you are.  She laughs contagiously and loves to play (maybe why we get along so well).  I really don't think I've ever met anyone quite like her.

I've learned a lot about life and keeping love in my heart from Sandy. Congratulations Sandy and Ron. I love you both.  This is your e-card by the way.....
Hi Everyone,

On November 12th I'm participating in a local 5K run/walk, organized by my sister-in-law Doris, to benefit Relay for Life of the American Cancer Society.  I am walking as part of a group sponsorship, organized by my sister Rhoda, for Gloria Bobyak, aka 'my mom'.

We'll have a banner and T-shirts along with our very own, very cool logo (above), designed by my other sister-in-law Greta (are you seeing a pattern with the sisters?).   If you participate in the sponsorship, you too get your name on the T-shirt along with the very cool logo and my gratitude.

What you probably don't know is that my mom has raised money for the Relay for Life for more than 15 years and has chaired the local event as recently as last year.  That's why this year's Macoby Run Run proceeds are going there.

If you would like to be a part of 'Walking for Gloria', you may do so by sending a donation check to me by next Friday, October 29th.  We need it by then to get the order to the printer.  Remember to include your mailing address so that I can mail you the t-shirt.

Well, no time to put it off so if you're going to do it, do it now!  Here's the information:

Check made payable to:  Macoby Run Run

Mail to:
Kris Hettrick
513 Pottstown Avenue
Pennsburg, PA  18073

 "That was easy!"  Where's that easy button?  Good night, my friends (it's my bedtime here).

Transforming the Inner Critic

As you know, I've been struggling with my blog's purpose since I'm no longer in Guatemala.  And, as I write this, my inner critic chimes in with "nobody wants to hear what you have to say" (actually I believe that I am blessed/plagued? with two inner critics who sing to me in tandem chorus like children singing  "row, row, row your boat").

Hmh...I think not!

Well, I've been doing some research on how to tame this little bugger and I've learned a new tip.  Besides talking back to the inner critic, which I do quite successfully at times, (( i.e. tell him/her/them to STOP; ignore them; correct them with evidence of the opposite of what they say (last month, there were more than 300 views on my blog. Yes, I realize that a real blogger has several thousand but the point is, Somebody cares)); there's an additional tactic that will replace that inner troublemaker with an inner creator.

Turn the criticism into a more positive and thoughtful question because using your mind to answer the question that inner voice is asking is the road to your negative downfall.

These are the questions that I am asking myself:

  • I wonder how I can re-purpose my blog and what I could write about that people would care to read
  • I wonder what type of freelance work I will do and how quickly I will begin doing it
  • I wonder what I will learn next
  • I wonder how I can give more to the world
  • I wonder who will walk with me 

And as my mind engages these questions, I tend to the details of goal setting and action taking.  I am excited about the new ideas my mind, in full consultation with her boss, my heart, will come up with.  In the meantime, any tips, ideas and suggestions about the above questions are encouraged and welcome!

P.S.  I wonder how long it will take for at least one person to sign up for email updates so that I can see that number go up (hint: it's on the right hand side of the blog).  My critic chorus has been having a field day with that one.

Sorry - no photos today!  I have no pictures of my insides and I don't think you'd want to see them anyway.

How and what I've been doing this summer

Most of you who read this are my close friends and so you're already aware of my recent struggles.  I'm kind of tired of talking and thinking about those.  Alot of you though say things like, "OK, I see what's happening with your mom but 'how are you doing'?"

Hmhhh......How am I doing?  I think I can say that I'm finally at peace after some very strong initial resistance (it's been pointed out to me that I often resist at first - a whole other topic).

Right now I feel like I usually feel when I initiate a change as opposed to how I feel when one is thrust upon me.   Generally, when fear or discomfort would surface, I would say to myself , "just think of all the great people that you'll meet and the wonderful things that you'll encounter".  It's been my approach to most of the major changes in my life.  I wasn´t thinking that way when I first arrived but I think I am now.

So what has sustained me and gotten me to this point?  The single biggest thing that has helped has been my family and of course my friends (that´s you!)  My brother Randy offered me his truck and made my life so much easier as I searched for transportation.  He and his wife Doris have also invited me to dinner regularly.   My sister Joanna has offered me her apartment to use when I just need a change of surroundings or want to spend time working with no distractions.

When I needed to be in the presence of people whom I love and who accept me for me, tears and all, and who stand ready to listen and infuse me with their loving energy, I´ve traveled to Baltimore, Chicago, Charlotte, Ashville and Richmond.  It seems like a long way to go but I don't think so.  There is nothing like the company of friends.

And then there's been good ole alone time on the Perkiomen Trail, located a short drive from my home, a trail that goes on forever, or at least to Philadelphia, and along which the Umani creek flows.    If you were here right now, you'd hear the water from the creek in the background (OK, maybe not as I'm typing this but you would if you were here while I was speaking about it into my iphone).  Sitting on a rock, I've contemplated, meditated, cried, became energized and reflected on how to move from what was going on in my life before to what's going on in my life now, resolving as much in my heart as possible in order to be open to what's here in front of me today.

So now I have a car, health insurance, family and recent interactions with most of you.  The last piece of business, besides finding a place of my own, is finding a source of income.  I'm working on that!

Well, that's what I've been doing.  Here are a few random pics - just a few.  Do not stop here.  Make sure you make it to the bottom of the page.

One of my meditation spots off the Perkioment Trail

On the trail:

I say 'hi' to the horses each time I pass them.. Yesterday, one outside of the barn galloped to the fence to greet me. I felt a little intimidated.

This was just this past weekend.  I woke up at 5:30am to this little guy grabbing my nose and cheeks and staring me in the face.  No wonder, he fell asleep at the table during lunch.

Here we are later that day (after naps) at a garlic and cheese festival held at a local Ski Resort, Bear Creek. I woke up that day with both of these little precious' but it was RJ who slept next to me.  I imagine if it had been Simone, she would have been tickling me instead of grabbing my face and checking me out.

This just in - the cancer markers which were at over 300 when she began treatment are down to 79!  This isn't good news - this is out of this world fantastic news.  I'm sure she'll tell you all about it in her blogpost.


It is said that we are shaped by our earliest experiences. This came to light for me years ago as I was writing a bio for a masters degree program that I chose not to pursue. I was meditating on my young years and I realized that my childhood memory of falling 17 feet from my bedroom window shaped how I deal with my failures and other difficult times.

For those of you who don't know the story, I opened my bedroom window, in a fit of the anger of a five year old in the middle of a temper tantrum, and leaned against the screen in the process. Out I fell to the ground below. I got up (no, this was not my idea nor my mother's) and walked to the car in order to go to the hospital. The message, I realized decades later, is that 'no matter how far you fall, you get up and walk'.

And so just this past week, I was talking with my mom about strong ankles. Don't ask me how we got there. Wait, I think we got there as part of a conversation about the Rheumatic Fever that she had as a young girl. That debilitating illness caused weakness in her ankles and, as you might imagine, she spent some time tripping over her feet. My grandmother, in her motherly way, drew my mom's attention to her frequent tripping.

And so how did she deal with that? She taught herself how to walk. She walked the halls of her small house over and over, carefully and deliberately, picking up her feet so that she could walk without tripping. She pointed out how some of us become motivated and encouraged to correct themselves in the midst of criticism and how others of us become discouraged. I think we know where she falls.

As I am here in my home town dealing with the intrusive presence of her cancer, I am reminded of more and more of my early experiences. And while I can confidently say that no matter what happens, I will get up and walk, I can't say that I won't trip. Not to worry - I've already begun practicing. Thanks, Mom!

This is my mom's 1st grade picture - can you just see the determination?

Here she is again at 8.

Strong and steady at 15. I think she must have been practicing for a while by now.

Prom night. Look at those muscles. Her nickname? Mighty Mouse!

p.s. If you would like to track my mom's progress through her illness, you can register on In the meantime, I'm thrilled to tell you that she responded to her first round of chemo and the cancer indicators went down.

To borrow my sister Joanna's phrase: Cancer:0 Mom:1

What to do with KrisforKids

Some of you know. I have just moved back to Pennsylvania after learning that my mom has been diagnosed with cancer. I came to Guatemala to do work that was important and I leave Guatemala to do what's most important -- be with my mom and my family.

May I go on a selfish tangent here? I am still in shock and never once did it cross my mind that she would live anything other than an illness free life (OK, maybe a cold) until she was at least 90 which is when my grandmother passed. I know this is not logical thinking but it was my thinking.

And so, now I wonder what to do with KrisforKids. I started KrisforKids as you know when I came to work here in Guatemala. Very quickly, it become more than about my work with Ninos del Lago and later From Houses to Homes. I shared with you stories about my home, my roommates, people I met, the kids in the park and the devastating destruction of Agatha. It was the journal of my life in this small country that grabbed my heart, exasperated me, tested me, left me lonely, made me laugh, cry and scream and inspired me. And without warning or preparation, I say good bye.

But this is life and we don't get to choose what's presented to us. We create what we can and respond to the rest. I think I'd like to continue writing and may need a new name for the blog. Can you help me? I'm not feeling terribly creative at the moment.

Before I leave you, I'd like to share a few photos of my last months in Guatemala, characterized by my work with the health clinic; weekend visits to Santa Cruz, a Lake Atitlan village; hikes to El Ato; and of course my little kid friends from the park.

Children in a small village El Hato. My friend Dave and I used to hike here on our way to 'Earth Lodge', an eco-lodge, hostel type of place just an hour's walk from Antigua:

A typical view of local women with their wares on their heads

The kids came to the my home one day this year to swim in the condominium's pool:

I spent many weekends in Santa Cruz, a small village on Lake Atitlan this year. Here's a picture of the beautiful place that was often my home while there; friends Dave and Liz at a restaurant on the Lake and a view from our hike to that restaurant:

And it was at this Lake, where I learned the news about my mom.

The best team in Guatemala. These are the people who are continuing their work in the health clinic that I managed up until just a few days ago. I miss them already.

This year many of my pictures came from my friend Dave of the interest of giving credit where credit is due, it is no different with the above photos. The only picture I've taken is the one of the health clinic team.

Accepting Patients

The day has finally arrived and Clinicas Medicas San Jose accepted its first patients on Monday april 11th, 2011. As way of background, I had begun working with From Houses to Homes last September with the intention of managing the health clinic that was being built. 7 months later we've opened our doors.

The mission of Clinicas Medicas San Jose is to provide health care services to the clients of De Casas a Hogares (From Houses to Homes), the community of Pastores, Guatemala, and the children and families in the Cambiando Vidas School Project, by helping individuals achieve their highest levels of health through outpatient care, preventative care and health education, while respecting their cultural traditions.

The week before opening, a "from houses to homes" family member came down with pneumonia. He had seen a couple of doctors who referred him to the local hospital which refused him based on the idea that he only needed medicine and not a hospital. I was nervous after hearing that 'he could die', especially because we weren't ready to recieve him. He arrived Monday afternoon on our first day, saw our general medical practitioner who examined him; gave him a nebulizing treatment, where medications are inhaled; and prescribed some additional medications which he was able to pick up in our pharmacy. How's that for a first day? I haven't seen him since but I understand that he was OK and that it was true - he didn't need a hospital, just a doctor who had what it took to give him the care that he needed.

Our patient count continues to go up from 8 on our first day to 30 on our 7th. I believe the word is getting out and we are now struggling with 'who' and 'how much' to charge. Our 'from houses to homes' families are very poor. There are also some families in the Pastores community who are poor and some who have a small ability to pay. For now, we're not charging our families in our two projects - From Houses to Homes and the Cambiando Vidas schools and we're charging a very small amount to those in the community of pastores.

I'm of the opinion that all should pay a small amount so that there is a commitment on their part to taking care of their health and there is value associated with it. But my reasoning breaks down when I think that it could keep them from coming. Certainly I don't want to charge for well care because it's historically the case here where people go to the doctors only when they are sick. This is one of the things that we're trying to change.

These are some of the questions that we ask ourselves and will be answering over the coming days. Any opinions?

I'd also like to share with you a few pictures from our dedication ceremony on the 11th. Unfortunately they're on shutterfly so you have to click under an ugly black box to get to them. The one on the terrace is me with the clinic team - just in case you were wondering.

Click here to view these pictures larger

Everyday Things

It's been awhile; there's not been much in the way of exciting adventures but lots in the way of daily living. As my time here continues, I do everyday things like attend weddings, spend time in the park with the kids and work with De Casas a Hogares preparing the clinic for our opening and supporting the efforts to strengthen the communities we serve.

At a wedding with friends Emily and Ann.
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Alicia - the biggest smile I've seen on her face since I've known her
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A day in the park with the kids- discussing our next trip to the Pool.
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Could not take her eyes off the camera
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Rebecca - you must recognize her by now!
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De Casas a Hogares (From Houses to Homes) gives away 500 bags of food to their families.
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De Casas a Hogares (From Houses to Homes) gives away 500 bags of food to their families.
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De Casas a Hogares (From Houses to Homes) gives away 500 bags of food to their families.
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De Casas a Hogares (From Houses to Homes) gives away 500 bags of food to their families.
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Thanks to the man behind the camera DaveAdair

Vamos a la piscina - Can we go to the pool?

This year I spent my first Christmas in Guatemala.  The tradition here is to eat tamales and drink punch at midnight Christmas eve and send up lots of fireworks.  Actually here there are fireworks for just about every occasion.  A loud bang outside your door at 5am?  Oh, it's just somebody's birthday. That's a separate story though and this is about the holidays that have already passed and are quickly being replaced by the new days that life keeps putting in front of us.  Can you tell I'm realizing that I'm a little behind in keeping in touch?

Anyway, since I was here I asked the kids what they wanted to do to celebrate Christmas.  I knew that eating tamales and drinking punch was not what they would have in mind and after vetoing a second trip to the zoo, we settled on a trip to the pool.  Yes, we can swim here in December but it's not the type of warm that's good for drenching your full body in water and standing around.  But you know how it is with kids -- they don't mind a little cold when there's a chance for fun. 

None of them can swim and we did try to teach them a trick or two but it's a bit tough when someone is holding you around your neck and can't get the idea of how to be horizontal in the water.   The boys were convinced they could swim as they walked on the bottom of the pool with their faces in the water and their arms moving about.  I wish I had a picture of that.  They had the first part right though in that they could hold their breath with their noses submerged.  We had a nice splash fest, which is a requirement when you swim with children, followed by a meal of fried chicken at Pollo Campero and a quick romp in their playground.

And so now as I walk through the park, children who I have never seen before come up to me and call me by name as if we are old friends and say 'Vamos a la piscina'?  Try to say 'no' to that.  Unfortunately, for now I have to but maybe there's a way to expand the group to include more kids.  Vamos a ver (we'll see).

Special thanks again to Joe Collins who paid for the food and Catherine who swam with us and made sure there were eyes on all seven kids at all times.