Carrots are the New Roses

It’s Valentine’s Day, and I’m sharing a story of friendship. Really, though, I’m telling you that carrots are the new roses, and I want to give 250 South African orphans and vulnerable children a garden. A garden! Of course, I can’t do it on my own. But Valentine’s Day is just the day for acknowledging that I am not alone, and you are not alone, and those children? Not alone. Not forgotten. Join me?


When I first met Lisa-Jo, she was an attorney at a powerful Chicago law firm and I was a PhD candidate at an elite university. We were both pursuing Big Plans, and we were both very far from home. Though, admittedly, Lisa-Jo’s family in South Africa were just a wee bit farther away than my own in Texas.

Recently, she and I talked about those long ago young women and what they would think of our current lives. We agreed they would be horrified.

Which is only one more reason why I’m glad I don’t have final control over my life. Left to my own devices, I would never even have discovered my dreams, let alone seen them realized.


(photos courtesy of Lisa-Jo Baker)

(photos courtesy of Lisa-Jo Baker)


Back then Lisa-Jo was determined never to be a mother. I was desperate for kids but couldn’t get pregnant. We got to know one another in a church small group for young married couples. Over the course of only a few weeks, most of those couples, two by two, announced unexpected pregnancies. Lisa-Jo and I became like storm-tossed survivors clinging to the same life preserver.

I will always be grateful for the wreck of those days, for the way unhappiness tossed us together. And I will always be grateful for the many ways in which Lisa-Jo held on to me, and to our friendship, despite the travels and adventures, the heartaches and the joys to come.

Today, she is not an attorney and I am not a professor, and when we spend time together, there are seven children tugging at our elbows. I don’t think either one of us will ever stop feeling surprised at the way things have turned out. I know we will never stop being grateful.

In fact, surprise and gratitude are at the heart of Lisa-Jo’s new book. You can pre-order a copy of Surprised by Motherhood: Everything I Never Expected about Being a Mom, and I highly recommend that you do. I am lucky enough to have read an early copy, and it is a powerful story, beautifully told.

It is a memoir of motherhood, and there is a lot of pink on the cover, but I hope that many men will find this book as well. Lisa-Jo’s is a story that speaks especially to mothers, but, like all good stories, it is for everyone.

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Today is Valentine’s Day, and I can’t think of a better way to mark that holiday on this blog than by telling you about the great big love flash mob being organized by my friend Lisa-Jo. Thanks to her vision and hard work, you and I have the opportunity to send – not roses – but an entire garden. And we get to send that garden to a community in South Africa eager to plant and cultivate and harvest.

We want to give a garden to the orphans and vulnerable children of the Maubane Community Center. The cost is $5000. We want to do this in one day.

It’s happening here.


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