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The New “New”

May 23, 2011

Hi friends!

Sorry for the lack of new content on the blog lately, folks. If we haven’t completely lost your interest–not only due to our lack of new material on the blog, but also because we don’t even live in an exotic foreign country anymore!–then, I’d love to update you on what we’ve been doing for the last month or so.

We moved to DC!

As covered in the last post, Alison got a sweet job at GlobalGiving (itself, a SWEET organization!). She’s rocking their social media and all-things-marketing beyond that.  She works with a great group of people, and they are working hard to do some real GOOD in the world.  If you haven’t yet, you should check out their website. 

We made the move out here on April 18th–packed up a little shipping container thingy (which will be delivered next week) and fit the rest of our stuff in our Honda Civic–driving two long days across the country to get to DC.  Ryan and the Meeses were kind enough to let us crash at their place for a week and a half.

The first full day we were here, we were out looking for an apartment in the district.  What a downer that was! I drove while Alison worked both iPhones–one with a map to navigate and one with apartment listings on Craigslist.  We went all over town, getting a feel for the different neighborhoods and trying to find something in our price-range.  We didn’t get very far. Everything was tiny or in a basement with no light. One place had the utility closet for the house upstairs in the middle of the “bedroom.”  After day one, we were convinced that we were likely going to have to lower our expectations.  DC was already feeling overwhelming, and we’d been here less than 24 hours.

The next day, it was more of the same–looking for basements and row home apartments to rent. We also looked at these run-down apartment buildings in Adams Morgan. After looking at one, Alison said, “If we have to live here, I think I’d cry!” In the afternoon, things started to look up. We decided to venture out toward the Northwest border of DC, and found some cool places along Connecticut Ave.–by the zoo, close to metros and shopping, etc. and we started to see that there actually were places we could get excited about.  We had one last stop for the evening at a “row-home-turned-apartments” apartment in the Logan Circle area. When we got there, we realized that it was an open house, and there were about 5 other couples there. Alison immediately fell in love with the place. And, it was in our price range. We had to jump on the opportunity since there were at least three other interested renters. We took a short walk around the block with our friend Trevor (who was a HUGE help–and will be our new neighbor!) to get a feel for the neighborhood.  We gave it some thought, and decided that this was the place! We wrote a check for a deposit and drove back to Virginia that night ecstatic.

The only drawback was that the apartment wouldn’t be ready until June 1st. We found the place on April 22nd! What were we going to do for the month of May!? Thank you Craigslist! We posted a “sublet wanted” ad online and found a great apartment just across the river from DC in Arlington, VA.  We were able to save some cash on rent for the month, and due to the apartment’s proximity to DC bike trails and Metro (subway) lines, have only filled our car up with gas once in a month! Our roommate, Christine, is awesome, and we even share an East Africa connection! She’s been gone quite a bit, so we’ve mostly had run of the place.

I’ve been applying for a ton of jobs, and I’m going to try and start meeting with more people in person in the coming week(s). I’ve been loving riding my bike on the trails, and in the past three weeks, I’ve put about 180 miles on it.  I’ve even found a couple of places to place handball! (More on my new-found love for this great game in a later post.)

Alison showing off her new bike

All in all, things are going well. Alison is settling in at work, and I’m trying to handle the logistics of moving twice in six weeks. I’m still working to find something on the job front, but have also enjoyed the time to exercise and eat well (I cook almost every meal these days).

Honestly, though, we couldn’t be more excited about moving in to our own place (finally!) on June 1st. It has been nine months of living at least partially out of suitcases and in someone else’s house. It’s been even longer (40 months!) since we’ve used our own cutlerly, dishes, appliances, furniture, and all the wonderful gifts we got for our wedding five years ago. All that arrives on the 1st, and we finally move in to a place of our own.

It’s been a long road getting here–and the journey continues. Our lives have been constantly changing for so long, at times I think the concept of “new” has gotten old. DC is the new “new”, and hopefully, before long, we start to feel like we’re getting this new life figured out.

-The District of Carl-umbians (registered trademark 2011 James Whitney Rawlings)

Working for Good

March 28, 2011
work for good

After a year of winter, I am excited to proclaim that spring has arrived for the Carlmans!  In true “when it rains it pours” fashion, Joel and I recently (finally) had a few organizations express interest in us.  We spent a week interviewing in Washington D.C. and in Boston, and we’ve now come to a decision: I have accepted the position of “UnMarketing Manager” at the GlobalGiving Foundation in Washington, D.C.!

The GlobalGiving Foundation is an online development marketplace that connects people who have world-changing ideas to others who can support them.  You can go to and provide medical supplies for a hospital in rural Ecuador or provide shelter for a girl who has been rescued from sex-trafficking in India. Whatever you’re passionate about – there’s probably a grassroots project on GlobalGiving that you can support.  (Here’s how it works.)

GlobalGiving was founded by two former World Bank executives who wanted to create a a new, higher-impact way for individuals and organizations to direct their philanthropy to their choice of high-quality, trackable projects in the U.S. and around the world.  GlobalGiving projects are in more than 100 countries, and they support a variety of issues ranging from Japan’s disaster relief to education and health care to economic development and the environment.  GlobalGiving also helps businesses focus on philanthropy.  They are the first thing you seen on the homepage this week, and they are also the brains behind the Pepsi Refresh project.

My role (in my own words) will be to manage the organization’s marketing and communications efforts (especially their social media engagement) to help shape and grow the GlobalGiving brand as a main player in the field of Web 2.0-driven international development (Sound familiar?). The term “UnMarkteing” comes from a book about using social media to create real relationships that drive interaction and engagement rather than using Facebook to just make noise about your brand.  See the actual UnMarketing Manager job description here (click on the link on the bottom of the page that says “yes I understand this position has been filled…”)

I’m incredibly inspired to have found an organization that values my experience and shares my interest in merging the core ideas of monitoring and evaluation with communication.  (I think this job matches up pretty well with my ‘dream job’ I described a year ago.)  I hope that our communications will eventually include transparent feedback from project beneficiaries and that we will tell stories that illuminate the complexity of the development process, inviting donors to take a deeper look at the impacts of their philanthropy.

It was a fun application process – see an article here about my future boss and his creative take on the candidate search.  I’m excited to work with a team of inspiring people who are passionate about facilitating real, measurable social change – and telling great stories!

So here we go!  We’re moving to DC in a few weeks, and I’ll start at the beginning of May!  Joel is excited and extremely  supportive (more about that to come) – and we’re both looking forward to having our own place to live in a new city.  I cannot express how grateful we are to all of you who have supported us and encouraged us along this road; we absolutely know that we would not have held out for great without the truly life-sustaining support of our family and friends.  This is your victory, too!

So now – do you know anyone in D.C. who might want to be our friend?

Just for fun, here’s part of my application – (check out  a project on first so that it makes sense!)


this, my line extended into empty space…

February 9, 2011

this, my line extended into empty space where resides no hurry or guilty task
so jealous as to steal the acreage of the unadulterated minute.
not in the clanging–or even forging–made useful, but in the silence.
the knowing that we are pas pour longtemps et donc tout à fait capable.

here I hear at last the pulsing heart within me, begging from beginning to end the indecision–
shock the weary system and fold a stable love over all beneath.

a trickle starts, but from tomorrow, which can and might and hopeful shall
release the present from its prison and to past condemn the shackled heart.

A Year of Winter

January 7, 2011

Moving from the Southern Hemisphere to the North this past September meant that we endured Cape Town’s rainy season just long enough to miss the beautiful spring, and we arrived back in the USA just in time to usher in more cold.  Granted, mother nature did cheat and give us a few days of extra Indian summer in Denver this past October, a feat for which we were immensely grateful.  For the most part, however, Joel and I have been living amidst bare trees and cloudy days since May.  We are now in our ninth month of fall and winter.

There is a lot to love about winter.  I think we all enjoy the ethos of hibernation – looking inward for a season and focusing on what’s really important.  Stripping off what’s external, amidst the stark whiteness we can find clarity.  We are reminded about what’s at our core.  We linger there for a period, and then we look forward to rebirth and new growth that comes with the spring.

Unfortunately, spring for us has been a long time coming.  Our lives seem to have mirrored the unnatural holding pattern that we find our physical bodies dwelling in.  All this during what we hoped would be a time of transition and new birth; we envisioned moving home and spending a month or two with family and then beginning our careers in international development.  Instead, we’ve been living out of suitcases and circling for months, not knowing when spring will come and we can land in some stability.

It’s difficult to make commitments, take responsibilities, or pursue new endeavors when you don’t know which city you’ll be living in next week.  I  always seem to think that any of us can endure a hardship for a season – a long-distance relationship, a crazy month at work, a battle against an infection. You dig deep, give it all you’ve got, and hold out in anticipation of the release.  It gets harder, however, when you can’t gauge your distance to the destination.  You don’t know whether your current resources are going to have to sustain you for one month or six; you can put off maintenance  for a few months –  but can you really go another year without it and still avoid a breakdown?

Our own resource tanks are running low.  But we never hit empty.  It has occurred to me this week that this season, while  it has seemed like an uphill battle, has also been a privilege.  I have had the opportunity to truly rely on God’s grace and provision unlike ever before.  We entered into this journey fortified by our community in South Africa; their faith sustained us for several months.  When my courage began to waiver, I was regularly encouraged and supported by friends and family back in our country – individuals who may not have even known that they have acted as God’s provision for this season.  Phonecalls, emails, home-cooked meals, and laughter have truly kept us going, through my dad’s cancer surgery, through job applications and important interviews.

You’re really forced to learn to receive when you aren’t able to immediately return the favor.   If I ever believed that I deserved grace, I now can confidently say that the favor we have received in this season has been unmerited.  I have been sustained by goodness in the form of generous people.  A Zimbabwean refugee friend sent me a message yesterday saying that she was spending the next 15 days to pray and fast for us – “don’t lose hope,” she said, “this year is the year of changes from glory to the higher level.”  This is a friend who knows what it is like to go hungry out of need rather than choice. She has felt the pain of moving away from her children in order that she might provide for them enough to eat porridge and pay their school fees.  This friend lives in rented room of a shack, and she is constantly a victim of  ethnic violence and injustice.  And yet her heart aches for me – me, sitting right now in my family’s heated home, helping myself to the fridge.  She cares for me because my vocational dreams are yet unfulfilled.  Who am I to be anything but grateful?

It really comes down to a simple question – do I believe that God is who He says He is?  If so, then I must daily give up the temptation of anxiety for the release of faith.  I want to work. I want to contribute.  I want to promote change. I know that God knows this, and I believe He wants me to work for His purpose.  So I wait.  And I focus on being thankful for unmerited grace.  I know that Spring will eventually come.

Merry Christmas from the Carlmans!

December 26, 2010

We wish everyone a wonderful Christmas and great new year! Please check back soon in 2011 for more thoughts and updates on this site!

Win/Win. Two sites you’ve got to check out.

December 6, 2010

I’m delighted to tell you about two amazing women, a contest I won, and a great gift idea for the holidays.

This story starts with my Pi Beta Phi “Big Sis,” Alisha Sanvicens.  I met Alisha at Pepperdine in 2001 and I think we connected on a level of “I’m not totally sure about this sorority thing, but I’ll commit in the name of building relationships.”  Alisha was a few years older than I,  and she was an artistic and spiritual inspiration to me.

Fast forward a few years, Alisha and I lost touch after college as we both moved to different parts of the globe to pursue issues of social justice and international development.  But just this past month, we both found ourselves in Seattle and we re-connected over coffee after serendipitous visits to the Seattle Art Museum.  Alisha has moved back to the USA, and is doing her best to pursue life to the full in America. Here’s a bit from her blog,

I’m all about breeding abundant life not only for myself, but for my neighbors in Seattle and around the world. When I lived in London I worked in international development, so the poor are always with me.  When I attended college in Malibu, where the parking lot could be mistaken for a BMW dealership, I learned that the rich aren’t out of the woodwork either.

So I want life to the fullest for myself, my friends, hungry children in Malawi, Americans swimming in debt, trafficked women in Cambodia, overwhelmed mums everywhere, refugees, lonely privileged middle-classers and prostitutes down the street on Aurora Avenue. The needs are different but great, but the source of life is greater.

In June I returned to my hometown of Seattle after 8 years living the expat dream in Japan, England and New Zealand. When I’m not being sucked into the blog-o-vortex, I’m doing all manner of things: writing and editing for non-profits, helping foreign nannies settle into the US, working on a memoir about life in England and enjoying time with my husband of five years, Dan.

If you’re anything like me, then you will love Alisha’s honest, contemplative writing and yummy photographs. It’s definitely worth adding Seattleite Imagery to your bookmarks tab or blogroll so you can check in when you’re in need of inspiration.

As the story continues, Alisha recently hosted a contest on her blog.  She told her readers about a family she knows who is working through the lengthy and expensive process of international adoption.  Alisha had this to say:

International adoption is a very complex issue, and I won’t pretend to know all or even much about it. I don’t think anybody should go into adoption with a savior complex or without the willingness to acknowledge the difficulties that arise when a child is plucked from her culture.

But, I also feel strongly that being willing to adopt, domestically and internationally, can be a beautiful, life-giving journey.

My friends Jessi and Andrew are taking the first steps of that long, expensive journey at the moment. They are two of the most good-hearted, loving people I know. Currently they are in the process of looking to adopt a special needs child from China. They don’t want their adoption process to stop there though, bringing a child over and then forgetting about the surrounding issues. Jessi says in a recent blog post:

We also long to do more to help change the reason so many kids need adopting in the first place. Acknowledging with solemn and grateful hearts that our child coming home from China creates a deeper response in us to our child’s birth country, to our child’s first family if not literally then by helping others like them who could not, for various reasons, keep their own child. The heartbreaking truth is that adoption begins with loss. But all is not lost. Hope springs from rocky places, love can grow from unexpected sources.

Financially, this is going to take a small miracle, but Jess is doing her bit to raise money by selling her vintage-inspired jewelry on-line.

Alisha’s blog giveaway invited people to visit Jessi’s online jewelry store,  the Wild Poppy Shoppe, to support the family’s journey through international adoption.

The blog readers were invited to pick out their favorite item, and to leave a comment on the blog. Alisha then drew a name out of a hat, and (after the first winner never claimed her prize,) my name was drawn, and I won! I got to chose any item from Jessi’s fantastic shoppe.

I LOVE the artwork that Jessi creates, and excited to be a proud owner of this awesome necklace from the Wild Poppy Shoppe! It is the “Orange Spice and Olive Green Beaded Necklace.”

Jessi has tons of other beautiful jewelry on her site.  Some of the pieces feature  beads that are hand-made in Uganda and sold to support an orphanage in Kamapala.

I’m happy to shamelessly support both of these women’s websites, and to promote Jessi’s beautiful creations as great gift ideas for the holidays.  I know that every organization is asking for you to support their cause with your “extra” holiday dollars. This is one little company that has a beautiful mission AND makes great gifts for the women on your list.  A real win/win – right?

I’ll leave you with some eye candy here in case you need more convincing.


Happy Shopping! And a special thanks to Alisha who continues to build bridges and bring light and life to whomever she encounters.  America is proud to have you back, friend!

having landed, we spent hours…

December 4, 2010

It’s been a while since I’ve generated any real original creative content. So I’m trying out this new watercolor-esque, scroll-like…. thing. Of poetry. That I wrote.

Is it weird to have book reviews, essays on development, life updates, and poetry on the same website?It’s all a bit incongruous, but so are we.


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