Friday, January 30, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

I just got home from seeing "Slumdog Millionaire."

All I can say is, "wow."

The movie was very powerful...intense...and gripping. It really resonated with me, and left me sitting, stunned, when the credits rolled. Several people in the theater applauded. Although the story in itself is a work of fiction, the backdrop that the movie is set against, is not. The images of the slums of India - and the children, digging and surviving in the dumps, was almost too much for me to bear.

This movie received numerous Academy Award nominations - and I say, they are much deserved. If you have not seen this movie yet - I recommend it. Highly. Be prepared to be moved.


Is That You Calling, God?

I received an interesting phone call this week.

It was the Chairman of Disaster Services of our local chapter of the American Red Cross. It seems he is stepping down, and they are looking for a replacement for his position. They are going to split the position - into two "co-chairmen". One co-chairman will be over "Operations" - and the other co-chairman will be over "Readiness and Preparedness."

They have already found their co-chair of Operations...guess who they want for co-chair of Readiness & Preparedness? Hence the phone call.

I'm torn....I'm really torn. As much as it sounds right up my alley, I am not sure about the time commitment....would my bosses be okay with my frequent mission trip traveling? I don't know...I am going in on Tuesday to sit down the current Chairman, and this will certainly be a question I will bring up. I go on quite a few trips each year - and I just don't know if they will be okay with that. According to the job description that came yesterday in the mail, I need to attend two monthly meetings - what if I'm out of town??!

Lately, I have been feeling called with assisting people in preparing for disasters - I finished a book recently on surviving disasters, and it struck a chord with me. It was one of the most profound books I had ever read - and I learned so much. I also thought, "Why isn't this stuff being taught to everyone??!" I had already been in discussion with people at my church on possibly teaching some classes on surviving disasters...and being prepared...and then this phone call came., is this a God-thing? Is He putting this opportunity in front of me? Is this a path I am supposed to take? I don't know...I just don't know....

I'll be thinking and praying on this in the next few days....I guess we'll see where the Lord is taking me.

Be sure to do YOUR part today to save the world - listen for God's call,as it may be something very different than you've been doing before...


Thursday, January 29, 2009

Grab Your Neighbor - Or Else!

Blogging has taken a back seat this week to life. That sometimes happens....but I will try to get back in the habit of writing and recording thoughts.

This Sunday, I will be having our first "kick-off" meeting for the 2009 trip to Guatemala. The dates are set: July 3 - 12, 2009. The project is set: building stoves in Pampojila. Now, all we have to do is set the group. Once I have my group in place, the cultural education begins.

One of the things we discuss in "Guatemala University" is transportation. I absolutely LOVE the transportation in Guatemala. We travel one of two ways: walking and the pick-up truck. Within the village of where we sleep and eat, we walk. Everywhere. We walk to go shopping; we walk to go get ice cream; we walk to the lake for photos. We use the two feet that God gave us - and we put them to use, walking. I LOVE this. Everyone walks in San Lucas. As we're walking, we pass other villagers and other volunteers in the village - and a nod of greeting, as well as a "Buenos dias" is shared. I feel so included - so a part of the village - that sometimes I go out for a walk just for the sake of walking. And talking.

Walking is a way of life for the average Guatemalan living in the small villages. It's a matter of survival - as they walk to get firewood for their fires, they walk to sell their goods at the local market, and they walk to purchase their corn to grind into tortillas for their evening meal. When I come back to the States, and I climb back into my little sports car to toot around town - I always experience a sense of loss....I'm missing that walking. I'm missing the fellowship. I'm missing the scenery. (And yes, missing the exercise!)

The other means of transportation that we employ is the "pick-up." This is what we use to travel up into the mountains when we go to work each day. We take one or two pick-ups - and squeeze as many Gringos in the back as we can. I think one year we set a record - we had 25 people standing/sitting/squatting in the back. Standing, sitting, balancing, pushing, holding on - it's all part of the fun. Personally, I like to STAND in the back- not sit - as the views and scenery are incredible. You just have to learn a couple of things:

1. Keep your mouth closed, so you don't swallow any of the bugs (seriously - this has happened to me, and it wasn't pretty.)
2. Deodorant and mouthwash in the morning are a must. That's just common courtesy for your fellow passengers.
3. If someone shouts, "Duck" - duck your head as low as possible so you don't get tree-whipped by a passing branch. This has happened to me, as well - and it hurts. And it can leave a mark.
4. While turning corners, it's okay to grab your neighbor for dear life and hold on so you don't get thrown out of the truck. It's okay, because they'll be grabbing you, too. Just be careful what you grab when grabbing your neighbor....although if you didn't know them very well before this trip - you'll be practically family before the trip is over. Especially when you've grabbed them all week. I'm just sayin'.....
5. While you're buzzing down the bumpy roads at a fast clip, be prepared to hear the joyous shouts of children, screaming "Hola! Hola!" and the incredulous shout of "Gringos!!!" Just shout a friendly "Hola!" back and it's all cool. It's just all part of being in the "Gringo Parade" that the Guatemalan children so enjoy.
6. When hitting "tumulos" (speed bumps), again - grab onto a neighbor - or you'll go flying out of the truck. And, whatever you do, HOLD ON! Seriously. And hold on to your loved ones - so they don't go airborne.

Holding on is very important...because now that I've covered the rules for the passengers, the following are the rules for the driver. And now you'll understand why it's so important to grab and hold on:

1. If another motor vehicle is in front of you, you are required to pass it. It does not matter that you are both traveling at twice the posted speed limit as it is, you must pass. It does not matter if there is oncoming traffic, you must pass.

2. If you are confronted by oncoming passing vehicles on your side of the road and there is a paved shoulder, you are required to pull onto the shoulder to make way for passing vehicles. If there is no paved shoulder, then all involved are required to somehow work things out without rancor or worries.

3. Two-lane paved roads have either a solid painted line down the middle, or a line of dashes. The line of dashes indicates that you must pass immediately. The solid line means pass with caution.

4. Three-lane paved roads have no painted lines, and provide excellent passing opportunities. Use care when weaving through oncoming traffic.

5. Posted speed limits are suggested speeds for old ladies, but they do have the force of law for police cars. If you find yourself behind a police car traveling at the speed limit, pass it.

6. The driver of any passenger vehicle smaller than a minibus who allows himself to be passed by a chicken bus will receive a written warning for the first offense, and will have his driver's license suspended for a period of six months for each subsequent offense.

7. Slow down for stop signs – it is not necessary to stop.

8. Speed limits in urban zones are determined by the space between speed bumps. After passing a speed bump, you are required to proceed to the next speed bump with the pedal to the metal. Drivers failing to put the pedal to the metal may be subject to a fine for obstructing traffic

9. Vehicles equipped with functioning radios are required to pump up the volume.

10. Pedestrians are considered excellent target practice opportunities.

So, there you have it. You may think I'm just joshing with these rules - but if you've ever been in Guatemala - you know I only speak the truth.

So, I'll be getting ready for the upcoming meeting regarding the mission trip. Be sure to do YOUR part today to save the world - one action at a time, one day at a time.


Saturday, January 24, 2009

Ike, Ike Baby

Whew, I'm beat.

I drug myself out of bed on this frosty, morning early and headed downtown to an American Red Cross class. Today's class was an 8-hour session entitled, "Frontline Disaster Supervision." I needed this class to "promote" to supervisor while out on national assignments. The class had about 25 people - including a guy all the way from Indiana! - and two instructors. A lot of the class was just plain ol' common sense - so at times, I was a little exasperated, because I felt like we weren't moving fast enough.

I struggle with patience sometimes. It's hard...I want to move at warp speed all of the time, and it's difficult for me to slow down. I want everyone else around me to move at the same pace. I was blessed with children that were either born moving pretty quickly, or adapted pretty quickly to my pace - I'm not sure which happened first.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand. The Red Cross is short of volunteers right now...I joined after Katrina, so I am known as a "Katrina Baby" in Red Cross parlance. After any major disaster, the volunteer numbers temporarily swell. After Ike, I worked with a lot of brand new volunteers who will be forever known as "Ike Babies." That's how you identify to other volunteers how long you've been a member - you tie it to the nearest disaster of when you signed up.

There is a lot of training involved to get to the point where you're ready to go out on national disasters. Besides CPR and First Aid, there's a lot of classes dealing with working with the clients, and classes on how to do paperwork. Classes on driving the truck, classes on sheltering, classes on handling food...even classes on how to teach classes!

I always tell my friends - DON'T wait for a national disaster to sign up. Sign up now - and begin your training. That way, you'll be ready when the next disaster happens. You'll have all of your training completed - and you'll be ready to go. Don't be a "Baby" - sign up NOW. Contact your nearest American Red Cross chapter and fill out a volunteer application.

Be sure to do YOUR part today to save the world - one day at a time, one action at a time.


Friday, January 23, 2009

Back Row Broads of Jamaica

It all started on the back row of a bus.

Four women. Four different backgrounds. Four very different personalities.

It began at the airport after arriving on a mission trip in Jamaica. The 25-passenger bus pulls up, and I got on first - and courteously moved to the very back of the bus to take a seat, by the window on the driver's side. I am the storyteller of the group - and perhaps the instigator. I don't like to think of myself as the instigator, but it is the role I take on.

Kerri then came on the bus, and took the seat by the window on the passenger's side. Kerri is the free-spirited extrovert of the group. Kerri is up for anything.

Kristen came in next - our youngest member, our quietest member - but has a secret "wild" side, and so she fit right in. She took the seat by me.

And then Lisa joined our group - sitting by Kerri. Lisa is the glue that holds our group together - she is the "mom" with the good, practical advice - and the solutions to any problems we may have.

Our group was now set - and what a group it became.

The rest of the week, these seats became OUR seats - and our stories, humor and laughter became unique to our own group - which became known as the "Back Row Broads of Jamaica."

Out of friendship, pacts were formed - including challenges to complete things on our own "Bucket Lists." The craziest challenge? Skinny-dipping in the ocean. Hmmmm....would we do this???

Our opportunity came later in the week, while swimming at Dunn's River Falls...however, when it came to the actual moment, the challenge changed quickly from "skinny-dipping" to "APPEARING to be skinny-dipping." One word can make a big difference. The photo you see above is the challenge where we are APPEARING to be skinny-dipping. Trust me. Appearances can be deceiving.

So, even though we couldn't quite complete the initial challenge - man, did we have fun on the modified challenge! I don't know that I have laughed that hard for so long in a long time. We are cracking up in this photo - too many "buoyancy jokes" happening. Some of us are buoyant - some of us aren't so much.

The trip ended - but not our friendship. Just last night, Lisa came in from across the state, and we had a reunion dinner. We drank Jamaican Breezes (duh), and laughed, reminisced, and made future plans to get together. What other things can we cross off our Bucket Lists? How many more laughs and stories can we share?

Friendships are incredible - be sure to do YOUR part today to save the world, one bucket list at a time, one day at a time. Call up an old friend and get together - go skinny dipping - or appear to go skinny dipping - but do something fun. Life is just too short.

Irie, to my Back Row Broads of Jamaica. Until next time.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Duck! Duck! (Not Goose)

Today I am very busy. So, with apologies, as well as credit, to my son, I am going to reproduce an essay he wrote for a class project. The essay is a reflection on his FIRST trip to Guatemala - in 2007 - and is quite remarkable in it's observations and conclusions. He sums up a 'first-timer's vist' very well! Brad returned to Guatemala in 2008, and will probably go back, year after year, just like me. He got the "Guatemala Bug" - just like his Mom! Enjoy.

Forever Changed and Forever Drawn
by Brad

Reflections of a 2007 Mission Trip to Guatemala – written for a class project

“Duck!” The shout was repeated amongst the fifteen people crammed into the back of a pick-up truck, and we all reflexively bent our knees, allowing the branch of the latest tree to soar harmlessly over our heads. The truck, meanwhile, continued its bouncy ascent up the narrow, winding, jungle track. I took a deep breath of the moist, foggy air. Rain drops from the wet branches frequently landed on my head, or fell harmlessly past to splash into the many puddles along the muddy track. Being in the highlands of Guatemala in the rainy season is in many respects similar to being underwater.

I didn’t want to come here. I liked my American conveniences. Showers, for one. Personal automobiles for all – or, if one had to resort to public transportation, at least it was a decent bus or subway. I liked being in a country where I could drink the water without essentially proclaiming “Open house!” to any and all intestinal parasites in the area. Nonetheless, Mom was adamant. It’d be a valuable learning experience, she said. I could practice the Spanish I’d been learning for the past four years. Besides, I’d love the people, living in dozens of small villages around Lake Atitlán, a massive lake formed in the crater of an even more massive, (fortunately) extinct volcano.

One village in particular was our destination. San Andreas, a small community of six hundred people, survived Hurricane Stan in 2005 only to be wiped out immediately after by one of the numerous mudslides to sweep through the region in the storm’s aftermath. In the intervening years, the survivors had struggled to re-establish their lives. They managed to negotiate with the government for a small plot of land, halfway up the slopes of Volcan Tolimán, one of the numerous volcanoes that overlook the lake, and were able to secure prefabricated government housing for most of the residents. My family was going to be part of a mission group, led by my mother, come to build a school to educate the dozens of children of the town.

And so, over my protests (and those of my younger brother), we packed everything it would take to survive in a Third World country for ten days – shampoo, soap, clothes, iPod, essentials only – and winged our way south. My first impression, upon leaving the airport, was how large all the cars were. Most vehicles that only came to head height in America were several feet above the heads of the nearest people, here. Then I realized with a jolt that most vehicles did indeed only come to head height – of Americans. The average Guatemalan stands only about 5’ tall.

My first bit of culture shock now past, the group, fifteen gringos strong, piled into the two vans – luxury transport, I was later to learn – and began the three hour drive to Lake Atitlán.

The first hour of which was spent getting out of Guatemala City.

Longtime residents of the country informed me that the Central American republic has a system of traffic laws fit to rival that of any European nation. During our ride through the capital, I attempted to deduce them. I managed several loose rules: Stop lights are not used, only stop signs. Stop signs are mere suggestions – rather, the accepted practice is to lean on your horn as you approach the intersection and pray the other fellow blinks first. Speed limits are mere guidelines. Lanes are not necessary, only a gap that it is possible to fit your vehicle through. If your mirrors can also fit through this gap, this is considered a happy bonus.

With these happy safeguards of our security, we soon arrived safe and snug at the mission building in San Lucas Tolimán, the headquarters for all volunteer groups around Lake Atitlán. The mission is a massive old Spanish church, run by Father Greg Schafer. Father Greg, as he is known, has been serving in Guatemala for nearly half a century. I couldn’t imagine how anyone could spend so long a time in this impoverished nation, when I first arrived.

The next day, I was even more certain that, while I wished the villagers every bit of luck with their reconstruction, Guatemala was not the place for me. For example, the showerhead was situated only 5’6” off the floor. While this provides a comfortable head room for a Guatemalan, I stand 6’0” tall. A minor inconvenience, save for one crucial fact – in Guatemala, hot water is provided by the simple expedient of running the pipes through an electric heater just before coming out of the showerhead. This delightful contraption was situated in approximately the same space my head was to occupy. Thus, each shower was an adventure in avoiding electrocution. I had barely been in the country 24 hours and I was ready to return home on the very next plane.

That was before I met the people of San Andreas. The fifteen of us scrambled into the back of a pick-up truck, clinging to the rails that had been precariously welded on for that very purpose, and set off into the jungle. We wound through narrow, muddy tracks, wide enough only for our truck – people driving the other way frantically reversing to let us pass. We emerged from the jungle in an artificial clearing, full of prefabricated houses stretching along the mountain’s slopes. Children were all eager to greet the gringos, shouting friendly Holas! until we waved or shouted back.

I met a boy, Jirme. He was about five, and was always eager to see me each day. We would talk about our respective families, often with him sitting on my shoulders on our frequent walks around the village, waving to everyone we met, Jirme delightedly guiding my path.

I met a young man, Gregorio. Gregorio daily aided us in our work on the school. He was about 19, and the meager pay he received from the village for this work he was saving to study, to become an architect. We talked while we worked, about schools in our two countries, our plans for the future. We swapped hats – my SeaWorld hat for his battered old Miami Dolphins cap.

I met a middle aged woman. She was the mother of one of the elementary school-aged girls that watched us work every day. I went along with another group member to visit her home, as a translator. She showed us her dirt-floored kitchen, filled with dirty plates and flies, the only furniture besides the stove an extremely battered cupboard and a few old crates serving as a table. She showed us her concrete-floored home, with a living room and two bedrooms, and the most cherished possession in the house: A set of photographs of her entire family, enshrined in the center of the living room wall, so that it was impossible to enter either bedroom without seeing it. She reminded me of nothing so much as the celebrities on MTV’s show, Cribs, only she was far, far prouder of her palace than any of those stars could ever be.

And so it was that nine days later, I was once more in the rattling pick-up truck, winding its way through the rain and the mud, ducking the jungle trees, up the mountain to reach San Andreas one last time. The school had been finished the previous day, and now we were on our way to a day not of work, but of celebration with the villagers.

The entire community had turned out. There were banners decorating the concrete block walls, food set out on tables all throughout the one room interior (none of it actually edible for us gringos, sadly, unless we wanted to play host to a horde of intestinal parasites). There was even a marimba band of the local men, and so naturally we danced.

It was here that I met my last Guatemalan, an old woman. As a slow dance began, and the various couples in our group began making their way onto the floor, I suddenly saw the woman, in her 70s at least, gazing longingly at the dancers. Seized by a sudden impulse, and propelled by a treacherous push from my brother, I found myself slowly waltzing with her.

I assumed I would be doing her a favor – and that she’d soon grow tired of all this movement and once more retire to her place on the sidelines. Unfortunately, I forgot that the economies of many countries, including that of Guatemala, are driven by the working power of little old ladies. And so for the next hour or so we danced together through whatever the band gave us, me trying desperately to keep up with her increasingly impassioned movements. I glimpsed, then, the passion that animates even the oldest of Guatemala’s people, their love of life and joy amidst all their poverty.

Guatemala changed me. Before, I had placed all my happiness in material goods. That was before I met Jirme, the happiest person I’ve met, and he only owned a pair of dirty shorts and an old Atlanta Braves T-shirt. Before, I never really thought of my future plans. That was before I met Gregorio, who worked every day so that he could follow his dream of being an architect, and providing for his family. Before, I believed that to be comfortable and proud you needed comforts and fine things. That was before I met the schoolgirl’s mother, a queen in her small domain, proud of all that she had accomplished. And most of all I learned that true riches lie not in goods but in people, when I danced with the villagers of San Andreas that last day. In Guatemala, 18 families control 90% of the land. This fact we were told again and again during our stay there. However, by the end of the trip, I knew who the truly wealthy in that country were.

There is a legend, amongst the Maya of Lake Atitlán, that whoever drinks or even touches the waters of the lake will forever be drawn back to it. If that is true, then indeed a spell has been cast over me. For now, my heart will forever be drawn back to Guatemala, that country of contrasts, and the people of San Andreas.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Here's to You, President Obama

What a historic day. What an extraordinary day.

Inauguration Day. Although it comes up every four years, today really has a different feel to it. The crowd is bigger, the crowd is younger - and the excitement just leaps out from the television and grabs me as I sit here, in my own house, watching history unfold. And that excitement has spread across the ocean worldwide. Amazing.

I have to admit - I am an Obama fan. I first noticed him when he gave a speech for John Kerry at the Democratic Convention back in 2004.... I thought then that here was an outstanding speaker; he seemed to really have a feel of engaging with his audience, and his words were mesmerizing. As I followed his career - seeing him on "Oprah", seeing him speak at other events, and then reading his books - I became more and more entranced with this young man who really seemed to have it all together - along with some good old common sense. What this country so needs. When Obama announced his candidacy, I remember thinking, "Hooray!"

I like to think of myself as a Liberal Democrat - but my DH says I'm actually a Conservative Republican, if I really thought about it. So, ultimately, I must be a Confused Mess. I follow politics, certainly - but I like to do it quietly. When the election ended, I was more happy that it was finally over - all of the negativity - than anything else.

Now that President Obama is in charge, what else does our country need, besides common sense? Our country needs change...and it needs hope...and it needs to start taking steps to becoming the grand old country that we used to be. Our reputation is in tatters, our economy is in the tank...President Obama (wow - that sounds good!) will have some major challenges in front of him. He will need all of the prayers and support that people can give him.

Here's to President Obama - I KNOW he'll be making a difference in this world, one day at a time, one action at a time. Let him be an example for all of us - we CAN and WILL be the change.


Monday, January 19, 2009

Galveston, Oh Galveston

So, tonight is our quarterly Dream Team meeting at church.

Dream Team is what we have in lieu of an Administrative Council meeting - or all of those other committee/council meetings, that never seem to get anything accomplished.

A Dream Team meeting invites every person in the church to come and share their dreams. You bring your dream to the group and you answer three basic questions:

1. Does your dream meet the mission of the church? (To connect people to Jesus Christ)
2. Who will take the lead on your dream?
3. How will your dream be financed?

If you can satisfactorily answer all 3 questions, your dream now has permission to grow and become a reality. Very simple. And very effective.

I'm taking a new dream tonight.

My dream is to lead a VIM (Volunteers in Mission) trip to Galveston this summer.

I spent 2 weeks in Galveston, with the American Red Cross, right after Hurricane Ike barreled through - leaving 75% of the island drowning in sea water. The island is STILL recovering - 4 months later - and will need a lot of assistance in the next few years. The damage I saw in Galveston equaled the damage in New Orleans after Katrina - and yet, they didn't get the press or the notoriety that "The Big Easy" got. I hold two things responsible for that - first, the economy basically tanked right after Ike hit - and second, the Presidential election...these two things, for all intents and purposes, shoved Galveston right off the front page, and out of the minds of many people.

I hope to change Galveston has never left my mind.

I want to take a group of volunteers - up to 25 - and head to Galveston to help in the re-construction efforts going on there. We'll sleep on the floors of churches, if we have to...we'll shower with someone's garden hose, if needed...but I just feel called to be there. Somehow. Some way.

So - I will take my dream tonight to Dream Team. Does it meet the mission? Most definitely. Who will lead it? Well, it's my dream, so I guess it would be me. And how will it be financed? Every man for himself - but it shouldn't be too costly. $200 for the week, perhaps? We'll keep costs minimal.

Are you feeling called to do something this year? To go somewhere to make a difference? To volunteer somewhere to change a life? If you're being called, nudged - or even pushed - don't ignore it. Listen to the call...acknowledge the nudge...go with the push. Go where God is calling you.

Be sure to do YOUR part today to save the world - one action at a time, one day at a time.


The Football Gods Hate Me!


The Football gods are SO against me this year.

It's not enough that the Kansas City Chiefs, my hometown team, had their worst record in like, forever.

Oh no.

I watch the playoffs yesterday. First game up - the NFC championship game, Cardinals vs Eagles. I root for the Eagles because that's where my aunt & uncle & other dear-loved ones live. Eagles lose.

So, next game up is the AFC championship game, Steelers vs Ravens. I root for the Ravens because the Steelers have been in the Super Bowl, like, a million times. Enough already - spread it around. Ravens lose.

So, I was 0-for-2 yesterday.

The Super Bowl will have the Cardinals vs Steelers. I will probably have to root for the Cardinals, which is just going to kill me to root for an NFC team - but c'mon, Steelers - you've got enough victories. Let's have a team that hasn't won before win!

I so love football. This time of year has me getting anxious, because I know that I've only got 2 more games left - the Super Bowl, and then the Pro Bowl. And then, I have to go MONTHS (until August) for more football. That is MAJOR withdrawal for a super fanatic such as myself. That's just not right.

And I realize baseball is just around the corner - spring training will begin any day now. And I like baseball - I really do. When I was a little wee one, I had (laughable) dreams of becoming the first woman to play major league baseball. Obviously, that dream didn't pan out. But - I loved baseball way back when. Every year, for my birthday, I begged and pleaded to go to a Kansas City Royals game. I dreamt of Cookie Rojas, Fred Patek, Lou Piniella - all of our superstars back then. And I went to a World Series game in 1980 when the Royals played Philadelphia (we lost). And I cheered and celebrated when the Royals won the World Series in 1985 - against St Louis - even better.

But, baseball took a back seat when I "discovered" the joy of football in college. Now, football reigns - and baseball is sometimes like watching paint dry. Just not the same.

So, you know where I'll be on Sunday, Feb. 1. Glued to the TV screen. My dream is to finally GO to a Super Bowl one of these days. Maybe it will happen. Who knows.

But in the meantime, I'd better get back in the good graces of the football gods so that the Cardinals will win.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

I'm Obsessed with Food

So, last night was bitterly cold. Coldest it's been all year. No desire to put layers and layers of clothing on and go outside. So, Hubby and I hunker down to watch the boob tube.

We first watched several episodes of "Man vs Food" on the Travel Channel. I don't know why we enjoy watching this show, because some of the episodes can make you sick. When you see a man attempting to eat a 72 oz. steak in one hour - or an 11 lb pizza in an hour - it can do funny things to your own stomach. I guess it's like rubbernecking an accident on the side of the road - one of those, "Thank God it's not me!" moment. The picture above is the sandwich that he attempted to eat last night. I think he was successful. Barf.

After we were thoroughly nauseated by watching "Man vs Food", we turned the channel over to Bravo to watch one of our favorites, "Top Chef". Hubby and I have been faithful followers of this show for several years now - watching the different challenges each week...How the contestants respond to the challenge and the pressure is always interesting. I love to watch what creations they concoct - and I always wish I could, like, reach into the TV and sample what they're cooking - especially when it has bacon. Yummo. When Hubby and I go out to eat now, we pretend we're the judges on Top Chef and we do our own little critique of the food being served to us. It's amusing.

And now today, as I sit here, blogging - I find myself watching "Rachel Ray". I never watch Rachel Ray...I'm not sure why the tube is even on....but I watch as she whips her 30-minute meal like it's as easy as slicing a piece of bread.

But that got me thinking...I must be obsessed with FOOD!!! WTH??! Maybe when it's beyond cold outside, you gravitate towards things that make you warm - and that would be food. I guess I really do love food. Don't you? Don't you love trying new things? I tried so many new things in Jamaica - and most were actually pretty good. Some weren't so good. But, at least I tried.

I am probably not changing the world or anything by obsessing about food - except when you think about people who don't have enough. A lot of local churches have food pantries that REALLY need your help this time of year. Take a few cans of food to your local church - or go online and make a donation to Harvesters. Feed the hungry today - somehow, somewhere. If you're in line at the drive thu today at McDonald's - pay for the order behind you. Do a random act of kindness involving food.

So - be sure to do YOUR part today to save the world - feed someone - one action at a time, one day at a time.

And now I'm going to go whip up some culinary delight in the kitchen for breakfast....HA!


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

My Spanish is "Muy Mal"

I am still "decompressing" from the mission trip last week to Jamaica. It was a good trip - no one got really sick, no one was injured, and our work went well. More importantly, we developed the relationships needed between each other, as well as the native Jamaican people - which is what connecting people to Jesus Christ is all about.

It was a different trip for me, in that I could speak English. You don't know how important that is for me....because you see, I am HORRIBLE at Spanish. Just horrible.

On my first trip to Guatemala in 2004, I spoke NO Spanish...well, not quite true. I could say "please" and "thank-you" - but that was about it. Wait - I knew the word "caliente" meant "hot", and I picked up from listening to others on that trip that "Soy" meant "I am". So, in front of a group of 20 pre-teen Guatemalan girls one day, I thought I would show off my "smartness" and said, "Soy caliente." It WAS hot out that day, for goodness sake!

You should have seen the looks on those girls' faces...I knew in a second that I had obviously said something taboo! They all begin to giggle and blush. I found out much later that you should not say "soy caliente" to indicate you're hot - temperature wise - but only if you're trot, that is. Oops. Who knew.

I came back from that trip, determined to learn the language so I could communicate more with the people. I signed up at a local community college, and by the next summer, had 10 hours of Spanish under my belt. I'm feeling pretty confident.

I've learned to not feel confident. That's what gets me into trouble every time. Here are just a few mistakes I've made:

1. I was trying to compliment a family with regards to their very large pig. I wanted to say, "You have a very fat pig." Well, it somehow came out as, "You are a fat pig". Imagine the look on the woman's face when I said that. Oops.

2. I was trying to tell a waiter in a restaurant that my friend wasn't hungry, which in Spanish, would be similar to, "She doesn't have hunger." Well, the words "hunger" and "man" in Spanish are VERY, I guess I ended up saying, "She doesn't have a man." Oops - imagine my embarrassment. The waiter looked like he was ready to volunteer and step up to help my friend out, poor thing.

I've had a few other mistakes...but I don't let it stop me from at least attempting to use my Spanish on trips. I tell people to just have fun with it - what's the worst that can happen?

Well - I guess the woman's husband could have shot me for calling his wife a fat pig...and I guess my girlfriend could have ended up with a Guatemalan boyfriend - I don't think her husband would have appreciated perhaps you SHOULD be careful with what you say! My son says I speak "Caveman Spanish" - maybe I should just grunt on my next trip?!

Be sure to do YOUR part today to save the world - one day at a time, one action at a time. Learn a new language so you can communicate with others - but take it from me - be careful!



Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Oh No! I've Succumbed! I'm on Facebook!

Okay, so I'm 46 years old - middle-aged, as my title suggests. (Assuming I live to be 92). In all of this time, I have been a holdout from Facebook. I was rather secretly proud of this fact - I felt like a rebel, of sorts. And that's always my goal - to be a rebel and to NOT follow the crowd. So, I was a Facebook Holdout.

Not any more.

I get home from Jamaica Sunday night, and Hubby immediately tells me that he's now on Facebook, and he's all excited about it, and how I should join up too, so we can "be friends." WTH??! I think it's pretty surreal when you join on online social network so you can "be friends" with your husband. How weird is that??

So, last night, I'm sitting here, TRYING to get this blog up to date (we didn't have internet in Jamaica, so I had to copy from my journal into the blog), and Hubby sits down beside me to show me the wonders and joys of Facebook.

So, I'm now on Facebook. And I have 14 friends already. Yet, I feel very socially inadequate with only 14, somehow, I'm not worthy. I want hundreds and hundreds of friends! I must find more friends! How pathetic to only have 14!!! Something must be wrong with me!!!

Now, not only do I have this inordinate need to find more friends, I feel like I must add photos, and quotes, and information - it's become a compulsion today to spend hours on Facebook. I can see where this can get addicting.

So, I must go now - I, um...have some more friends to track down. And more photos to post. Is this changing the world?? I don't think so - so I'm feeling twinges of guilt sitting here, typing away on Facebook.

But - Hubby is my first friend. If that counts for anything.


Monday, January 12, 2009

Home Sweet Home

It was time to come home yesterday from Jamaica.

Coming home is a good thing. "Home" is such an awesome word - and all it conveys. Think of all the expressions that we have with "home" in it - "Home is where the heart is", "Home sweet home", "There's no place like home", etc.

For me, home is where my family is...where my pets are...where I feel most comfortable...where I can relax and recharge...where I can just be me...where I can read or type or surf or craft or clean or cook or whatever else I want to do to have fun...and most importantly, where I can love. Our home is full of love - and that's a good thing.

I like my home to be "homey". I want people to feel comfortable when they're in my home - where they can feel the love, and the laughter, and the fun. I don't like stuffy homes, or formal homes, or homes where you're afraid to breathe because you don't want to break something.

I love home. I am so glad to be home.

Another great expression - "Welcome home".

Be sure to do YOUR part today to save the world - be sure your home is spreading the love and the joy. One action at a time, one day at a time.


Jackfruit & Bamboo Poles

Events of Saturday, January 10th, 2009

Location: Jamaica

Did not sleep all night. Seriously. No sleep. At all. Even with 50 mg of Benadryl in my system. What's with that??!!

Since my construction project is done, I'm back to assisting the cook. We will walk to the vegetable market today to find the fixin's for tonight's dinner. The market reminds me very much of the market in Guatemala - lots and lots of people, lots and lots of food, and lots and lots of confusion. Mass confusion. We stop at various stalls to bargain and dicker for the best price.

After veggies, it's time to get the meat. We walk down to the ocean's edge to the fish market. I am sensitive to odors, and the smell of fresh, dead fish about knocks me over. And the sight of the fish - all around - is enough for me to swear off fish forever. We are searching for lobster - but no luck. No one has fresh lobster this morning. A local diver offers to go dive for lobster that day - he tells us to come back at 2:00 p.m. to see if he's successful. We then walk to the baker's to pick up Coco Bread - yummo. It is different to have to walk to several different places - rather than just walking into one giant supermarket to get it all. I enjoy learning all aspects of this culture.

For lunch today, we have jackfruit. I think it tastes similar to a cross between a pineapple and a banana. It's a little rubbery, but I like it.

After lunch, we close the clinic for the last time and then head to do a raft trip on the Martha Brae River. This is a 3-mile, guided raft ride on a raft constructed of bamboo. There's 2 people per raft, along with your guide. We had David, a character who loved to tell stories and show us all of the natural beauty around us. We would pull the raft up to the shore and sniff allspice, or look at ackee, or touch a "sensitive" plant, which folds up in itself when touched. The ride lasted about 90 minutes - very relaxing, very nice to end our last day in Jamaica.

I even get a chance to "drive" the raft with the bamboo pole.

All good things come to an end, and unfortunately, Saturday night was spent packing. (By the way - we didn't get fresh lobster - but our diving friend happened to have some frozen lobster - good enough. We put it in a bisque.) Packing to go back home is always hard. I have mixed feelings. On one hand, I miss my family and my pets and my house and the comforts of home. On the other hand, I love the sunshine of Jamaica, and I have met some amazing people on this trip. I enjoyed getting to know our guides, John and George, who took such good care of us. I enjoyed talking with Miss Ruth, our fabulous cook, who introduced us to many different foods. I enjoyed Fernando, our driver, who regaled us with history and stories as he drove us around the island.

I liked the local "craftsmen", Roy & Dandy, who would try to get us to buy their "handcarved" items each day. We had Patrick, the ice-cream man, who rode around on a bike, with a cooler on his handlebars, and tooted his horn to attract our attention. We had Moses, an older gentleman, who would come to the dorm every morning to tell us that he had watched over us the night before to give us good blessings. We had Miss Patsy, who works with the children of the ghetto of Jamaica, who gave me a gift of Jamaican-colored flip flops on my last day. And, of course, I had Ms. Dimple & Pastry, who kept me entertained all week and showered me with love and hugs and kisses. It's always hard to say good-bye on these trips, not knowing if you'll see the people again.

Upon reflection, the trip was a good one. I learned many things about a culture I didn't know much about before. I saw aspects of it that the average "cruise ship tourist" doesn't see - the good, the bad, and the ugly. I tasted many new dishes; I saw many new sights; and I learned how to do new things. I enjoyed getting to know the 18 other people on this trip - some from my own church family, and some of the medical people. We shared many laughs and stories along the way.

Mission trips are a funny thing - you always go out with the intention of helping and serving others - and yet you come away with the feeling of being helped, and of being served. You come back with a HUGE appreciation of your own blessings - and a deeper appreciation of this beautiful world that God has created, and all of the beautiful people he has put in it. Mission trips can be life changing in so many ways.

Be sure to do YOUR part today to save the world - one action at a time, one day at a time. Sign up for a mission trip and see how YOUR life changes.


A Woman on a Ladder??!!

Events of Friday, January 9, 2009

Location: Jamaica

Back to work today. We are still working on Ms. Dimple's little shop. We arrive at her house and surprise! She has now added two more puppies to her family! Pastry has siblings to play with! The 2 new puppies are nameless, so I suggest "Puddin'" and "Punch". Ms. Dimple loves the names, and decides that's the way it's going to be. However, throughout the rest of the day, she can never remember "Punch" and keeps calling him "Champagne." Close enough.

We are painting the shop today - which requires climbing up on a step ladder. Anne, another member of the group, and I decide to take turns climbing up on the ladder - to give each other a break from the sun. A photo of Anne is below. While we were up on the ladder, several men would come walking down the street, and then stop, in shock, to watch us. Several of them exclaimed, "A woman on a ladder???!!!!" One said, "You'd never find a Jamaican woman on a ladder!" Apparently, we were becoming a sight-seeing attraction, as more and more Jamaicans came down the street to see the rare sight of a woman on a ladder. And white women, at that. Who knew.

We finished up all of our work around 4:00 pm - Ms. Dimples is overjoyed. I get cleaned up and come back over for a photo of the two of us.

Dinner involved a walk down the street to a restaurant, "The Supreme." Imagine 19 white people walking single file down the street - we were literally a parade. One woman asked us as we walked by, "Did you all decide to go for a walk at the same time?" Apparently, we did.

Dinner was a 2-hour affair. 30 minutes to get a menu. 30 minutes to get our orders. And another 30 minutes to get our food. Remember - we're in Jamaica, mon. No problem, mon. Time has no meaning while in Jamaica. After now accepting the fact that I just can't handle the spiciness of jerk chicken, I settle for chicken fried rice. I love the irony of eating Chinese food while in Jamaica. My chicken fried rice was listed for $500 on the menu. Prices are always a shock - you forget for a second you have to divide everything by 80 - to get the "true" U.S. dollar rate. I drink Ting. I haven't mentioned before that Jamaica has caused me to become a Ting addict. It's a citrus-based, grapefruit tasting soda pop - reminds me of Fresca. I love Ting. I wish I could buy Ting here in Missouri. Sigh. Guess I'll just have to go back to Jamaica soon and get more Ting.

We parade back down the street, two hours later, our stomachs happier, and our pocketbooks lighter. Life is good in Jamaica.


Who Are the Jerks at a Jerk Center?

Events of Thursday, January 8, 2009

Location: Jamaica

Today will be our day off. Lack of sleep, and heat, adds up - we need a break today.

No water at all in shower - I use a small cup to pour water from the bathroom sink to shower in. Joy.

Our first stop is a drive to Ochos Rios. We stop along the way to take scenic pictures and visit historic sites (Columbus Park, Queen's Highway). Queen's Highway is so named because in 1953, Queen Elizabeth visited Jamaica and dedicated the new highway. Makes sense.

I make the mistake of wandering into a jewelry shop in Ochos. They offer me "fruit" punch...yowza. The punch burns my esophagus all the way down - I didn't realize "fruit" was synonymous with "rum" in Jamaican. It is almost 100% rum - not much punch. The only "punch" is what it does to my senses - the next thing I know, I am offered a seat in the jewelry shop and being shown sapphires. Yikes. I eventually leave the jewelry shop, my credit card a little heavier, my bling a little brighter. DH will be thrilled to see what he bought me while I was in Jamaica. Do you think they know what they're doing when they ply the tourists with "fruit" punch in jewelry shops???!!! They're not stupid.

We leave the shopping area and head to a Jerk Center for lunch. I look around to see who they consider the "jerks", but only see tourists. Hmmm....I think the Jamaicans are telling us something. Anyway, we sit down to have some Jerk chicken - but yowza - it it too spicy for me. Loaded with habanero pepper sauce - so I settle for french fries and "festival" bread for lunch. I will never be a true Jamaican if I can't handle Jerk chicken....sigh.

After lunch, we head to Dunn's River Falls to do some climbing. Funny story here. DH and I visited Jamaica in 2005, while on a cruise - and decided to climb the Falls. We were with a LARGE group from the ship, and had a guide. The guide puts us in a long line and tells us we must hold hands and form one long chain while climbing. He plucks me out of the line, and puts me at the very front - right behind him. I have the guide in front of me, and DH right behind me. I swell up with pride, assuming that he has put me at the "lead" due to my natural leadership skills. At the end of the climb, which was amazing, I ask the guide, "So, did you put me at the front because I'm an amazing leader?" He said, "No - I put you at the front beside me because you looked the most scared." So much for appearing brave!

Since I've climbed it once, I opt out this time - and assume the role of "official photographer". I do get in the water along the way, and enjoy the fun with the group.

After heading back to the dorm, we enjoy a delicious dinner of pumpkin soup and conch chowder. I am really loving that conch. Afterwards, I attempt to get the OU/Florida National Championship game on TV - but our TV is not dependable, and alas - no football game. Darn.

All in all, a nice relaxing day.


Pastry Kisses

Events of Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Location: Jamaica

I am now moved from medical mission to construction mission work - much more up my alley. We are to rebuild Ms. Dimple's little shop across the street. Her shop is being eaten up by termites - the wood is rotten, the paint is peeling - and we will rebuild.

Several of us visit the local hardware store to purchase some wood and other tools. We measure, cut, and screw - all the while in the hot Jamaican sun. Ms. Dimple has a puppy, Pastry, who decides to adopt us and visits us quite often while we work. If I could smuggle this puppy home in my suitcase, I would. She is a joy.

Ms. Dimple's shop is right by the street - behind a long, concrete fence. The fence is looking in pretty sad shape, as well - so a decision is made to repaint the fence, as we repaint the shop. I decide to have a little "fun" and write some graffiti on the fence before we paint it:

Okay, fun is over - I must now get to work and paint the fence. The fence is about 60 yards long - it takes work. In the sun. I look a little hot and sweaty in this photo:

Short entry today - the sun was VERY hot, there was no shade, and by 4:00 p.m., I have hit the wall. I am covered with sweat, sawdust, and dog kisses (Pastry loves me). I drag myself back to the dorm and attempt to take a shower.

Our showers have been interesting all week. On a good day, we get a trickle of water to shower in. No joke. A trickle. It's warm - but it certainly takes awhile to get shampoo out of your hair. On a bad day, you get nothing. Nada. Zip. Not even a drop. It's a little disconcerting to turn on a shower and have it be dry. On those days, you squeeze your head under the bathroom sink to wash up. This is certainly fun.

But today, God is with me, and I have a trickle - and I keep it cold, on purpose, to cool my body down. It really is hot.

Heat has drained me - no energy. After dinner, which is a true Jamaican dish of spaghetti & meatballs (ha), it is time for bed.


Cleopatra Is Alive in Jamaica

Events of Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Location: Jamaica

I slept great. 50 mg of Benadryl is WONDERFUL! I am oblivious to goats, roosters, dogs, and people. Life is good.

Today, I will spend the first half of the day assisting the cook in the dorm. My first assignment - to go with George, one of our 2 local guides, to the local market to find butter. Sounds easy, right? Here in the States, we'd jump in our automobile and drive to the nearest Price Chopper or HyVee. Well, they do things differently in Falmouth, Jamaica. We don't have a car, so George gets his "pushcart" and we walk to the local market.

George's pushcart is a unique contraption. He is not alone in owning one - I notice dozens of these all around the streets of town. George insists that I sit on the pushcart while he pushes me through the streets of town. Mind you, there are automobiles whizzing by us as we roll down the street. However, the looks I get from some of the Jamaicans are priceless. I realize that I must look like a white Cleopatra, on her barge, rolling through the streets of town. I want to get off the pushcart, but George will not allow it. He feels I am safer on the cart where he can see me...I can't get into trouble this way. He knows me well.

Anyway, we visit the first supermarket (I use the term loosely - it is the size of my bedroom) - and no butter. Darn. Roll on down to the 2nd supermarket - same story. No butter. This is pretty strange for me - I'm not used to not being able to find something as simple as butter. The things we take for granted in the States. It is not until the 3rd store that we have success and find butter. Our search for a stick of butter has taken 45 minutes.

Lunch consists of a Juici Patty. No trip to Jamaica can be complete without sampling a Juici Patty. This is the McDonald's of Jamaica - but they don't serve hamburgers...they serve a "hot pocket" stuffed with beef, chicken or veggies cooked in a sauce. The franchise has been around for over 25 years - and the line is long to partake of these interesting delicacies. I find the crust to be amazingly tasty and flaky - but the beef is a little spicy for me. I don't know that I will eat another patty. Oh well. I tried. I'll stick with the goat.

After lunch, I am back working in the clinic. Today, I get to work in "intake". My job: I bring the patient into the room, take their chart, ask them why they're here, document what they say, take their height & weight, and document that, as well. There is a nurse in intake, as well, who then takes blood pressures and sticks their fingers for the blood sugar testing. The nurse decides I need to learn to do these things, as well - and so I get to do my first finger stick. My first one is a little nerve-wracking, but by the end of the day, I'm sticking fingers like there's no tomorrow. I also learn how to do blood pressures. On my first successful blood pressure reading, there are high fives all around with me and the patients. They celebrate my success along with me - I'm feeling like a real nurse.

Gee - yesterday, I mastered pharmacy. Today, I mastered nursing. Tomorrow, I think I should tackle brain surgery. Ha.

For dinner, another new food to sample: ackee. Ackee is the national fruit of Jamaica - and is delicious. We mixed it up with codfish - I would eat this again! I can tell I'm not going to lose any weight on this mission trip, darn it.

After dinner, we have an adventure planned. We load up on a boat and head out to the "Luminous Lagoon". The Luminous Lagoon is one of Jamaica's natural wonders - it's home to microscopic organisms that emit a phosphorescent light when the water is disturbed. It's very dark when we arrive at the lagoon. When we jumped into the water, we saw an eerie light illuminating the swimmers as well as the waters below. We're literally glowing in the dark! The water was very cold, but the effects were outstanding!
(Image from

After a brisk swim in the ocean, it doesn't feel as hot tonight when I sleep. I take another 50 mg of Benadryl - I can get used to this stuff. Sleep.


The Sugar and The Pressure

Events of Monday, January 5, 2009

Location: Jamaica

This is not a vacation trip - this is a work trip. So, no sleeping in for us. Up at 6:00 am, breakfast at 7:00 a.m. Walk to the clinic at 8:00 a.m.

The Falmouth Clinic is only open when mission teams come to town. It averages about 22 weeks a year of being open. The visit to the clinic costs a Jamaican $300 (One U.S. dollar = 80 Jamaican dollars). Medications are free. The most common complains are diabetes (known as "The Sugar" in Jamaica) and high blood pressure ("The Pressure"). We will see an average of 55 or so patients per day - working from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., with a half hour each day for lunch.

Due to the limited amount of patients we see each day, people are lined up in a long line before we even arrive. They want to get their spot early, hoping to be one of the first 55 patients each day. They will often wait hours before we could get to them. They would sit on the porch outside, singing gospel songs while waiting. Pretty amazing.

We did "porch education" with the patients - sitting and talking with patients waiting in line about diabetes, hypertension, HIV, and "Papaya" treatment for worms. (Take the seeds from a papaya - grind them - mix with orange juice - take one treatment a week for 2 weeks).

I spent this first day assisting the pharmacists in the pharmacy. I got to cut pills, count pills, bag pills, and then label them. It was fast-paced, hectic, and very educational for a "non-medical" person such as myself.

The day goes very fast - one patient after another goes through the clinic for treatment. Eventually, it is 5:00 p.m. and time to walk back to the dorm for dinner of delicious fresh red snapper, prepared by our own chef, Jerry. Someone has made brownies and charitably offers me the spoon to lick - there is a God.

My feelings of this first day of work in Jamaica are mixed. Although I feel we are helping people, I sometimes feel we are putting band-aids on gaping wounds. Some of these people obviously need more care than we can provide; I can't help feeling frustrated that we can't be doing more for them.

Bed time doesn't come any time too soon for me. Because I have not slept very much now for several days, I take 50 mg of Benadryl (hey, I'm practically a pharmacist now, right??!). I pray for sleep.

Be sure to do YOUR part today to save the world, one action at a time, one day at a time.

Irie. (which is Jamaican for, "Everything's good...everything's cool.)

Stewed Goat & Roasted Pig Tails

Events of Sunday, January 4, 2009

Location: Jamaica

Day #2 in Jamaica. Sleep was so-so - due to weird noises out the window and roosters who can't tell time. If this keeps up, there's going to be one less rooster in Jamaica before this trip is over.

This morning is church. We drive up into the mountains of Jamaica to "Frazerville United Methodist Church", a beautiful, small church with lots of hospitality. The service lasts about 90 minutes - 70 minutes consisting of singing gospel songs. We can't sing very well, but we sure have fun watching the Jamaicans sing. Very unique. A photo of the church:

The people of the church are very happy to have 19 "white people" visiting them from America. They welcome us with open arms and make us feel right at home, even having us participate in the service. I get to go up front and read one of the Bible scriptures. Some things I notice: older brothers and sisters are the primary caretakers during the services of the younger children...I don't see that much back in the States. Also, that EVERY woman of the church has on a beautiful hat. Again, don't see this much back home - except for Easter Sunday. I like it. A photo of one of the ladies with her hat:

After church, we head back to the dorms and throw off our Sunday clothes and put on beach clothes - woo hoo! We drive back to Montego Bay and visit Doctors Cave Beach - considered one of the best beaches in Montego Bay. this is heaven. To be sitting on a warm, Caribbean beach in January! We all soak up the sunshine and relax.

At some point, unfortunately, it's time to leave the beach and head to dinner. We go to a restaurant called "The Pelican." Now it's time to be adventurous. We each order something different and then share. Our appetizer consists of conch chowder - delicious! We sample stewed goat (pretty good), roasted pig tail (pretty good), and roasted ox tail (delicious!). We also try callalou - a mixture of spinach, peas, and carrots. Yummo. I am thinkin' I'm going to like food in Jamaica!

Time to head back and get ready for work tomorrow. Rachel and I stuff our "Giant Red Ant Protector" under our door - we're getting to be pros at this - and then head to bed.

Be sure to do YOUR part today to save the world - one day at a time, one action at a time.

Peace, mon.

Attack of the Giant Ants

Events of Saturday, January 3, 2009

Location: Jamaica

Okay, so I don't wake up at 2:15 a.m. as planned. I've learned that nothing goes as planned. Flexibility is my middle name. After the drama of the night before, I decide to indulge myself and sleep in until 2:45 a.m. Woo hoo.

Alarm goes off - we leave the house by 3:15 a.m. to head to airport. Flight to Atlanta goes very smooth - but Atlanta has fog. We come down for our landing, and can't see anything. Five feet from the ground (no exaggeration) the fog clears and we land. Yikes. Scary.

Arrive in Montego Bay around 12:30 p.m. Now, remember - we're on a medical mission. We will be working in a clinic. We've brought medications with us. Lots and lots of medications. 19 suitcases full of medications. Now, imagine if you're a customs agent in Jamaica and 19 suitcases full of drugs arrive at the airport. We sit in customs for 2 hours while they go through every suitcase. I guess I don't blame them. But two hours??!

We get the all-clear to go, and we drive through Montego Bay to Falmouth, Jamaica - halfway between MoBay and Ochos Rios. Arrive at our dorm - get settled. We then walk down to the clinic and begin unpacking all of our drugs and supplies. As we walk through the village, we hear shouts of, "Doctor, doctor!" as people see us. Here's a photo of the sign at the clinic:

After dinner, which consisted of BBQ chicken, red beans & rice, and fresh tomatoes & cucumbers, we go back upstairs to our rooms to crash.

And then the fun begins.

I share a room with Rachel. We are talking, and notice a giant red ant walk in under the door to join us in our room. Uh, no - this isn't a room for three - sorry - so we send the ant to ant heaven. But then, another ant comes in under the door. And then another one - and another one (you're getting the picture here). YUCK! We're not talking little ants here, folks - these are monster ants that belong in Hollywood, starring in their own freakin' movie. Rachel and I are not amused - actually, we're rather freaked out by this, and can't keep up with this invasion. So - we take an extra blanket and stuff it under the crack of our door. Ant problem solved. You have to be creative when in Jamaica on a mission trip.

Now, to bed. Our room faces the street - and my bed is right below the open window. I lay down and begin to hear Jamaican village sounds - baby goats, roosters (why the h*!! can't roosters tell time??!!), barking dogs, people talking & laughing, loud reggae music - sounds I am not used to hearing in my nice, insulated suburban home. Takes a long time to get past the strange sounds, but eventually, sleep comes.

So - I'm hear in Jamaica, trying to do my part to save the world. Be sure to do YOUR part today to save the world - one action at a time, one day at a time.


Emergency Room Prayers

Events of Friday, January 2, 2009

So...I have a wake-up call scheduled for 2:15 a.m. Saturday morning. Have to catch a 5:45 a.m. flight to Jamaica.

Here's the plan:

1. Have everything packed by 6:00 p.m. Friday night.
2. Nice, quiet dinner at 6:00 p.m.
3. Happily indulge in a Tylenol PM at 7:00 p.m.
4. Be sound asleep, dreaming of warm, Jamaican waters, by 8:00 p.m.

What actually happened:

1. Almost everything packed by 6:00 p.m. Friday night.
2. Hubby comes home at 6:00 p.m. - complaining of bad tummy ache. No dinner for me or him, as I fuss over him.
3. Hubby announces he must go to the emergency room at 7:00 p.m.
4. Sit in E.R. room for 4 hours - waiting for doctor, waiting for nurse, waiting for radiologist. Appendicitis? Gallstone?
5. Pray, pray, pray that Hubby will be all right - all thoughts of Jamaica are gone.
6. Find out at 11:30 p.m. that Hubby has a hernia - but can go home and consult with surgeon next week.
7. Discharged at 11:45 p.m.
8. Bed at 12:15 a.m.

After the emotional highs and lows for the evening, and worry about Hubby, I really didn't want to proceed with the mission trip to Jamaica. However, Hubby was insistent that I go - the doctor was able to manually "push" the hernia back in and Hubby was in no pain. So - I finished packing as fast as possible, set alarm for EARLY Saturday, and said a prayer of thanks that Hubby was going to be okay. Blessed sleep.

I will try to do MY part tomorrow to save the world - by going on this mission trip. One action at a time, one day at a time. My first action will be to try to get some sleep.


Friday, January 2, 2009

Wake Up Call at 2:15 a.m.??!!

Today is a crazy day.

I have a 5:40 a.m. flight tomorrow to Jamaica for mission trip. Who the HECK books a flight at 5:45 a.m.???!!! By the way - I live a good 45 minutes away from our airport. So...considering this is an international flight - which means I must check in 2 hours prior - that means leaving the house at 2:45 a.m. I need a minimum of 30 minutes to get ready before leaving - so a wake-up call at 2:15 a.m. is needed. Holy heck!!!!

It will be 8 days in Jamaica, working alongside doctors and nurses at a medical clinic in Falmouth, Jamaica. Do I have a medical background? Well, I worked at a hospital here in town for 20 years - but in the offices, not in the clinical side. I am not sure what my role will be on this trip, but I have enough experience with mission trips, that I go with a servant attitude and I have flexibility, flexibility, flexibility tattoo'd on my head. (Joking, of course)

I won't have my laptop on this trip. So, I will be (gasp) writing things down manually in a journal, and will then come home and "catch up" with my blogging. I hope to have some cool stories and awesome photos.

In the meantime, today will be spent with packing, laundry, and last-minute shopping... and then, God willing, going to bed super early to catch some shut-eye before 2:15 a.m. arrives!

Be sure to do YOUR part today to change the world - one action at a time, one day at a time.


Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Year in Review

Happy New Year~ 2009!

Did you make resolutions for the year? I have no trouble making resolutions - it's the keeping that I have trouble with. Regardless of what resolutions I made/didn't make - and kept/didn't keep - I think last year was pretty good. A look back at the year in review:

Started off new year with a big blow-out at the Hyatt. Spent the night and had a late brunch at oldest Daughter's house. Month was pretty typical - work 4 days a week, started a kickboxing class 2 days a week, and spent many days at dentist or orthodontist with kiddies. Trips included a trip to St. Louis for a visitation, and to Rolla, MO for a mission trip orientation. Entertainment: took kiddies to Harlem Globetrotters on Jan. 5. Front row seats - too funny.

Super Bowl party on Feb. 3 - Go Giants! Woo hoo! Not much different this month - work, orthodontist, exercise class...boy, the life of a soccer mom sounds dull, huh? Busy with Saturday basketball games, as well. Volunteered in concession stand for basketball, as well as Red Cross DAT hours. Brownie meetings twice a month. No trips out of town until the end of the month - the 29th....

Hawaii! Left Feb. 29th for 3-week mission trip to Hawaii. Spent most time on Big Island at Camp Mekokiko, a Methodist camp. Worked on landscaping around the camp. Some sightseeting - Mauna Kea, Volcano National Park, Akaka Falls, and then Honolulu, and Pearl Harbor. Home on March 18th. Easter on March 23rd - dinner at brother's house. Celebrated our 9-year anniversary on March 26.

Month spent doing usual - baseball games for Son (who made school team), orthodontist for 2 of the kiddies, and volunteering with Red Cross, as well as Habitat for Humanity this month. New venture - begin Tae Kwan Do classes, along with 9-year old Daughter, 3 times a week. Goal is to earn black belt before I'm 50.

A tornado hits North Kansas City on May 2nd. Spend Saturday and Sunday with the Red Cross, assisting disaster victims in NKC. First day is spent doing disaster assessment. 2nd day is spent handing out food. Lots of damage. Last month of school for kiddies. Must get oldest Son ready for graduation on May 16th. See Watoto Children's Choir perform on 11th. See "Wicked" at Music Hall on 20th. More orthodontist appointments - will it ever end???!!!

New Orleans mission trip June 15 - 22nd. Had fun doing the Matthew 28 Project with Terri. Celebrated my birthday in New Orleans with a fancy dinner at Emeril's. Yum yum. Get back and have a week to prepare to lead team down to Guatemala. Leave for Guatemala on June 27th.

Spend 1st week of July in Guatemala. July 4th is spent working at school in San Andres, with a packed picnic lunch of fried chicken and watermelon. Best July 4th ever, everyone agrees. Very good trip - good group of people. Get home on 6th. Spend next week unpacking and doing laundry and then packing for vacation. Leave for Lost Creek Ranch (in Jackson Hole) on July 19th. Spend one week there, hiking, horseback riding, and tracking wildlife. Another amazing trip. Go to Yellowstone for another couple of days - stay at Lake Yellowstone Hotel. Beautiful. Arrive home on 30th.

Time to get ready for school - geez, the summer has been short! Daughter turns 9 on 12th. Move Oldest Son into the dorm at Truman State University on 16th. 1st day of school for other kiddies is 19th. I see doctor on 20th for chronic stomach pain. More orthodontist and dentist appointments for kiddies; trying to get them in before school starts. Hurricane Gustav is heading for Gulf Coast; I am deployed on 28th for Baton Rouge with American Red Cross.

Gustav hits Louisiana on Labor Day - Monday, Sept. 1. I ride it out in a concrete shelter; I decide I don't like hurricanes much. Spend another two weeks after the storm, working in Alexandria, LA. Work at kitchen, delivering food and supplies to people and shelters. Come home on 13th. Last day of work as the Missions Director at Woods Chapel United Methodist Church is Sept 18th - I am now officially "retired". Hurricane Ike hits Texas on 13th. I leave for Texas on Sept 21 - drive to Dallas, then deployed to Port Arthur for one week. On Sept. 29th, reassigned to Galveston.

Work in Galveston until the 8th - time to come home. Meet amazing people in Galveston - residents and fellow Red Cross volunteers. Unpack; do laundry; get back involved with Tae Kwan Do and Brownie meetings. Thanks & kudos to everyone who filled in for me while I was gone. Our family wins "Trunk or Treat" contest at church with "Happy Hulaween" Hawaiian theme!

Take Hubby and Daughter to Galveston for a short trip in early November; want to check on residents to see how they are doing after Ike. Island is slowly recovering - it will take much time and much work. Back to orthodontist and dentist appointments. More volunteering at Daughter's school, church and Red Cross.

Dear Grandma passes away on Dec 1. Very sad - but expected. She was 96. Have family in from out of town for the services. Get ready for holidays; shopping & decorating & wrapping & baking begins. Our house wins "Grand Prize" in neighborhood decorating contest for Christmas; Hubby is very proud. Our house is not quite "The Griswolds" - but very close. Begin blogging - how fun! Family party on 20th; Rockettes on 21st; and Jeff Dunham on 27th. Resume testing with physician in regards to stomach - have EGD on 2nd; CAT scan on 11th; and MRI on 22nd. Latest news: lesions on liver & pancreas are benign; gallbladder looks suspicious. Will be seeing doctor on Jan 15 after return from Jamaica.

Wow - there you have it - a year in review. More for my remembrance than anything else. In retrospect, a lot of time just "being a mom" - which is what I do best! Would I change any of it? Well - not really...I would wish for fewer disasters, but that ain't up to me!

I hope you have a great New Years. Make the best of your time this year - it really does fly!

Be sure to do YOUR part today to change the world - one action at a time, one day at a time.