Thursday, May 28, 2009

When A Woman Lies

When A Woman Lies

One day, a seamstress was sewing while sitting close to a river, when suddenly her thimble fell - right into the river. When she cried out, the Lord appeared and asked, "My dear child, why are you crying?" The seamstress replied that her thimble had fallen into the water and that she needed to help her husband in making a living for their family. The Lord dipped His hand into the water and pulled up a golden thimble set with sapphires.

"Is this your thimble?" the Lord asked. The seamstress replied, "No." The Lord dipped into the river and pulled out a golden thimble studded with rubies. "Is this your thimble?" the Lord asked. Again, the seamstress replied, "No."

The Lord reached down again and came up with a leather thimble. "Is this your thimble?" the Lord asked. The seamstress replied, "Yes." The Lord was pleased with the woman's honesty and gave her all three thimbles to keep, and the seamstress went home happy.

Some years later, the seamstress was walking with her husband along the riverbank, and her husband suddenly fell into the river and disappeared under the water. When she cried out, the Lord again appeared and asked her, "Why are you crying?" "Oh, Lord, my husband has fallen into the river."

The Lord went down into the water and came up with George Clooney. Is this your husband?" the Lord asked.

"Yes!" cried the seamstress. The Lord was furious. "You lied! That is an untruth!"

The seamstress replied, "Oh, forgive me, my Lord. It is a misunderstanding. You see, if I had said "no" to George Clooney, you would have come up with Brad Pitt. Then if said "no" to Brad Pitt, you would have come up with my husband. Had I then said "yes", you would have given me all three. Lord, I'm not in the best of health and would not be able to take care of all three husbands, so THAT'S why I said "yes" to George Clooney."

And so the Lord let her keep him.

The moral of this story is:

Whenever a woman lies, it's for a good and honorable reason, and in the best interest of others.

That's our story and we're sticking to it.

Monday, May 25, 2009

How Your Brain Works When It's Terrified

So, Tuesday night I get to do a presentation....

It's entitled, "Responses to a Disaster - Or, How Your Brain Works When It's Terrified."

This should be a lot of fun, because it incorporates 3 of my favorite things: psychology, teaching and disasters. Put them all together - and you get me, teaching about the psychological responses in a disaster situation.

Life doesn't get much better than that.

So - what will I be talking about? Basically, the 3 phases that the average person goes through when confronted by a disaster (such as fire, flood, airline crash, tornado, etc).

The first phase will be denial. It's the typical, "This can't be happening to me" phase. Denial = inaction. Inaction = death. So, it is important that a person QUICKLY moves on from this phase and accept the fact that yes, indeed, this IS happening - and you'd better deal with it - quick!

The second phase is deliberation...this is when a person realizes they must do something to respond - but just what should they do? They will evaluate, gather information, and try to remember everything they were ever taught back in grade school on how to respond. Again - they must deliberate quickly - as seconds may mean the difference between life and death.

The final phase is action. Hopefully, they make the right decision.

There's a lot more to the presentation, of course - I'll be showing some facts and figures from some famous disasters, such as Sept. 11, 2001, as well as the Miracle on the Hudson...who did things right, who didn't do things right....

I hope it goes well - but in any case, it was fun researching.... !


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Red Cross Racing

Red Cross Racing Kicks Off Season Two

We are proud to announce that for the second year in a row, the Red Cross is encouraging loyal NASCAR fans to donate blood through the Red Cross by joining Red Cross Racing.

NASCAR driver Greg Biffle has signed on again as a Red Cross spokesperson this racing season to raise awareness about the ongoing need for blood donations. Biffle, a Red Cross blood donor and member of the National Celebrity Cabinet, will help get the word out to the 75 million passionate NASCAR fans across the country about the importance of blood donations.

Nearly 22,500 blood donations came in through this program in 2008, and we hope to reach even more NASCAR fans during the 2009 season. This year, the program is offering participants new and exciting rewards for blood donation activities in an effort to increase the number of donors and the number of times they donate.

Fans can join the program by visiting the updated Web site at, where registrants can start accruing points and exchanging them for NASCAR-themed prizes, such as limited edition die-cast cars.

I encourage everyone to register at and show your support this season by cheering on Greg Biffle at the National Sprint Cup Series race this Sunday in Charlotte, N.C. Thanks to a generous donation from 3M, Biffle will wear the Red Cross fire suit and drive the No.16 3M Ford Fusion with the full Red Cross paint scheme.

Make a difference today - give blood!


Thursday Thank You: Mission Trips

It's Thursday - another opportunity to say "thank you".

I just returned from a mission trip to Galveston. I want to say thank you for mission trips - I want to say thank you for the people who organize them, and the people who go on them. It takes a special type of person to participate in mission trips. They're not always easy - you're away from the comforts of your own home, often in a strange culture, where your health and safety may be at risk. You're often sleeping in an uncomfortable bed, listening to strange and scary noises at night. You're often eating bizarre food - and your body reacts strongly against these strange foods. You're often tired, and confused, and hungry - longing for your own bed, your own language, your own family.

But mission trips are life-changing. You go with the intention of helping others, and you come back home with the feeling of being helped. You find out who you really are - you learn all about the people of the world - and you learn about your own spirituality. I often feel closer to God when I'm on a mission trip. I guess it's because I am learning about different cultures and different people - all created by Him. I come home with a new appreciation of the many blessings that I have here in my own home.

I have learned many things on mission trips. I have learned how to be patient. I have learned to be flexible. I have learned to focus on others, and not myself. I have learned to focus on Him and the wonders of this Earth that we live in.

I love mission trips. So, thanks, God - for "nudging" me back in 2004 to go on my first one. May they never end.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

10 on Tuesday: Things to Do in the Summer

Summer is almost here - yay! - and so I thought I'd make a list of 10 things that I love to do in the summer, in no particular order:

1. Sleeping with the windows open and listening to the crickets outside.

2. Going to see a Royals baseball game at the "K".

3. Taking the kids to the zoo...I love the elephants.

4. Sitting outside at night while there's a breeze, listening to the kids playing and laughing.

5. Mowing the grass - I love the sight and smell of a fresh-mowed lawn.

6. Weeding my flower garden.

7. Going to Starlight Theater on Friday nights - we've had season tickets for years.

8. Going on vacation - anywhere, anytime.

9. Taking the dog for a walk around the neighborhood and admiring everyone else's flowers and fresh-cut grass.

10. Wearing shorts and t-shirts and tank tops....woo hoo!

Let's see what I can accomplish this summer...what are YOUR favorite things to do when the weather turns warm?


Monday, May 18, 2009

Grace in Small Things 7:365

1. Having the joy and privilege of being the Brownie leader for 8 wonderful, amazing, awesome, young ladies.

2. Completing a successful mission trip in a place that is in need of God's grace and love.

3. Bonding with fellow mission trip participants - sharing stories, laughs, and good times, while doing good work and God's work the whole time. Completing relational ministry while on said mission trip with the people you are serving - sharing God's love and grace and support.

4. Coming home from successful mission trips to a family who understands your need for 'getting out there' and making a difference and embraces you and loves you for it anyway.

5. Unpacking and getting all the laundry done after said trip. I love nothing more knowing that all laundry is done. And folded. And put away. Life is good.


Galveston: May 15

Events of Friday, May 15, 2009

Location: Galveston

Our last day here at Crockett United Methodist sad. Gina, Anne and Sherri must drive back to Houston this morning to catch a flight...Don and Judy are packing up their truck to go visit & stay with friends. I, not wanting to spend the night at Crockett UMC all by myself (well, along with a few hundred Texas-sized cockroaches...shudder), decide to book a room at the San Luis Hotel.

We get up, pack, and then do a thorough cleaning of our living quarters....the bedrooms and bathrooms are scrubbed, dusted, and swept. The place is gleaming - we are so proud.

We load up our prospective vehicles, and take a last-day group shot.

It is now time to say good-bye. The week has been good - we've had excellent food, very good sleeping quarters, and beyond excellent company. We'll all meet back up home in Kansas City. The girls take off for the airport; Don & Judy hit the road; and I get in my little car to go visit some friends on Galveston.

My first stop is to visit Miss Linda. I met Miss Linda way back last September, when I drove the food truck with the American Red Cross shortly after Hurricane Ike. Miss Linda has been unable to shake her drug habit, and supports it by offering her services to the men of the island. Last September, I would make a point to talk with her each day and minister to her - telling her how much she was loved by God and by myself - something she found very surprising. Here's a photo of Miss Linda last September:

When I see her today, I am shocked by her appearance, as she has lost even more weight and does not look well. Her spirits are down - very down - as she will soon be living on the streets. We talk about other ways of supporting herself - and she thinks that just maybe she can possibly apply as a nursing assistant. We pray - take a picture - and then it is time for me to leave.

I drive a few blocks over and visit Miss Delores - an elderly woman I had met last September. I am shocked by her appearance, as well - she doesn't look good, either. She seems to have aged 10 years in the last 8 months, and I am concerned by the depression I hear coming from her voice. She says it has been a struggle to "bounce" back after Ike - and she feels that she is just too old to keep going. We sit and talk and we pray - and I try to encourage her to keep going. I only have a picture of her from last September - I felt it would be too intrusive to take a photo of this visit, as I can sense she is not feeling good. So - here is a photo of her from last September:

These visits have left me feeling very down...when I come back home, it is very easy to put these people out of your minds and forget their hardships and their struggles. We aren't reminded every single day of Ike - and of everything that they lost. These people face it every day - and it has become very hard for them.

I drive around the island for awhile, sorting and processing my thoughts...stopping every so often to take a photo of more houses along the way. Some houses are going up on stilts, preparing for the next storm surge that is sure to come one day:

Some houses sit vacant, full of debris - feeling unloved by the owners who have abandoned them:

The trees on the island are pretty much dead - killed by the salt water that invaded their root systems. It's sad, as some of these trees were over 100 years old.

And yet - in the midst of this devastation and ugliness - there is beauty. An old cemetery has the most beautiful flowers springing up from the earth.

My son, when he was 5, described cemeteries as places where you "plant people for heaven." After seeing this, I would have to agree.

I finally head to the San Luis Resort, where I am delighted to find out my room is ready. I am in Room 1625, which is the penthouse floor - on the very top.

The views from my room are incredible - I can see for miles and miles....

I change quickly into my bathing suit and head to the pool, where I spend most of the day reading, relaxing, and taking in the sights and sounds.

I enjoy a nice lunch of fresh veggies - don't these look delicious??!! And they were, too!

About 2:30, I begin to realize that I am burnt to a crisp - uh oh - time to go back to the room, where I lay down and take a nap. It was wonderful.

After waking up, showering, and dressing, I head over to Johnny's house, where I take Christina and DeeDee out for a shopping trip. I want to make sure DeeDee has everything she needs for summer school - so we have a delightful evening of picking out clothes and accessories for DeeDee - I LOVE shopping -and especially when it's for someone else!

It was time to say goodnight and goodbye to this wonderful and amazing family, who have been my rock of support every time that I've been in Galveston. Tears....hugs....more tears....and then I promise to come back and I head back to the hotel, where I snuggle into bed and head off to sleep.


Galveston: May 14

Events of Thursday, May 14, 2009

Location: Galveston

Our 1/2 day off yesterday was much needed - but today, it's back to work. Our goal is to finish all of the Pergo flooring in the house, as well as all of the quarter-round trim, and paint. After we leave today, our hope is that the next team only has to install the kitchen counter top and appliances, and the house will be just about ready for Mr. Castro.

We get to the house and settle into our routines - Don & Judy finish up the quarter-rounds, while the 4 of us girls work on the flooring.

The Ipod is playing, and it's fun to stop every so often to take a break and have some fun. Anne & Sherri pose for a picture - not realizing that I have the video turned on you watch this video - watch Anne's face, when the "light bulb" comes on and she realizes she's being videotaped. What a hoot!

At some point in the afternoon, I step out the front door to throw something in the debris pile, when I hear a commotion going on in the front yard. There is a gentleman being held down by 2 men - my first thought was, "Oh, this man must be hurt - and he needs help." Being the good Samaritan that I am, I start walking over to see what I can do - when it dawns on me that the voices I hear are raised in anger....Hmmm....let's reassess this situation. Are the 2 guys mugging the man on the ground? What is going on? As I stop and listen, I realize that the 2 men are accusing the man on the ground of stealing something - and they've pinned him to the ground until he confesses.... I run back into the house and inform the rest of the team and tell Gina to call 911 - tell them there's a disturbance at the house. The police arrive within 10 minutes - 2 squad cars, as well as a motorcycle cop - and we all watch from the windows of the house as this unfolds in front of us. All we could figure out was, the guy on the ground had been at a Marshall's store up the street and had suddenly began running as fast as he could. The 2 other guys saw him take off and assumed he was stealing something, so they gave chase. They didn't find anything on him, but they went back to search the alley to see if he had thrown something out during the chase. They ended up taking the guy into the station for more questioning. Such was our excitement Thursday afternoon!

Around 4:00 pm, all was done in the house - our part anyway - and we cleaned and packed up, admiring our work. Okay, we're not experts, but I think it looked pretty damn good when it was all said and done.

After heading back to the church, we quickly all cleaned up so we could go out to dinner. Tonight, we dined at Gaido's. Oh. My. God.

Gaido's has been in business since 1911...when visitors would arrive by boat just for the experience of dining here. It was voted in the the top 25 restaurants in the United States for seafood, and it won the 5-diamond award for excellence back in 1993. After Hurricane Ike, Gaido's had a "free lunch" for first responders - set up right outside on the sidewalk. Pretty cool.

I had the famous Wade Watkins Shrimp Bisque - which is one of their signature dishes - and I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Never before did I seriously think about licking a bowl clean - but that is how good this soup was. For my entree, I had the salmon prepared "Michael" style - encrusted in parmesan cheese - along with au gratin potatoes. Again, this was excellent. I was getting so full that several times, I would have to lay my fork down, rest, and then resume eating. I really wanted to finish, but the portion was so large there was just no way.

Tonight was church night. Four members of our group went back to Crockett Place UMC (our home away from home) for services there, while Sherri and myself went to Island Church. I had attended Island Church one Sunday last November - and had such a wonderful time with my friends, the Rodriguezes, that I wanted to return. The pastor at Island Church, Rusty, is an avid surfer, so the church has a unique way of welcoming visitors:

The music was awesome and the message that night was a study of Proverbs 15. I really enjoyed the message, and it is always enriching for me to experience difference religious services. We sat with Johnny and Christina, and then took a photo after church.

After church, we rushed up to our favorite nightly hangout, Ben & Jerry's, and got there at 8:59 pm. They were already CLOSED! What?! No ice cream tonight?! That's just not right - how will we survive??!! We left, in a state of ice-cream withdrawal. It wasn't pretty.

Back to Crockett where we all began packing - some of the group is going home on Friday, while I will be checking into a hotel for one night to extend my trip.


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Galveston: May 13

Events of Wednesday, May 13

Location: Galveston

Another beautiful day in Galveston. This morning we wake up juuuuuust right....the A/C temperature is finally right on, and sleep is good. Today, our plan is to work a half-day and then take a break and do some sightseeing - or relaxing - whatever sounds good. This is not unusual to do on a VIM trip - the constant heat & humidity at the work site can be very draining - and besides - we need to "invest" in the local economy, right?!

So, we get to work - today, we will be installing the Pergo floor in the kitchen. This is a little more tricky, as there are numerous corners, turns, and what-have-yous that we have to cut around. Not easy.

At one point, we somehow get ourselves boxed up in a corner. Or, as I like to say, "How many Methodists can you put in one foot of floor space?"

We have the Ipod cranked up on the speakers, and then Judy's song, "Hey Jude" comes on - and she is dancing in the streets. (Not really - she's dancing in the kitchen. Close enough.)

About lunch time, it's time to quit work for the day. Don & Judy head downtown to the Strand area for some antique shopping. The rest of us head to McAllister's Deli for a quick bite of lunch, and then it's off to the beach.

Now, all week, there's been a red flag warning at the beach - the waves are very high, and very strong. Today, however, we notice an additional flag besides the red flag: an orange triangle. What does that mean? We look at each other - shrug - and then go lay our towels down. Oh well - we'll figure it out later...can't be bad, right?

The sky is somewhat overcast, which is okay - we can deal with that. But...what is hard to deal with is the constant sandstorm that is blowing across the beach. And I do mean CONSTANTLY. Sand is getting in our eyes, it is getting in our mouths when we try to speak - and it gets in my camera, messing up the mechanisms. What the heck??!! This is really annoying....does it always do this in Galveston?! At one point, we all get up and go into the ocean to catch the waves; when we come back, our towels are all but buried in the sand - due to the sandstorm still blowing.

It is only THEN that Anne and Gina decide to walk down to the lifeguard station and see what the "orange triangle" means...guess what? It means that either the air or water is "hazardous".... Who knew?! In our case, we were betting on the air quality being hazardous that day - thanks to feeling like we're in a desert sandstorm all afternoon blowing on us! Next time, we'll know. A little late today.

Around 4:00 pm, we're parched - thanks to all of the sand that we've now ingested - and walk across the street to Landry's Steakhouse - who just coincidentally has a bar along Seawall Blvd and it is just coincidentally the beginning of Happy Hour. (Hey - we're allowed - we're not working today!) All I have to say about this afternoon is that, dang - those apple martinis were HUGE! They really DO do everything bigger in Texas! They even have a sign in downtown Galveston that is a tribute to HUGE martinis. (!)

They were also very, very delicious. And strong.

After a few rounds (I lost count) of drinks, and one marriage proposal by a patron in the bar (I had to say no), we walk back to the car - and I take a self-portrait along the beach for posterity's sake. And I have to say - I look pretty good, all things considered. Hey - I'm still standing...which is a good thing.

For dinner that night, we meet up with Johnny, Christina and DeeDee at the Saltgrass Steakhouse. Dinner was very, very good. A photo of Christina and Johnny:

And a photo of DeeDee and me (taken by me!):

Friday is Don's birthday, but we surprise him tonight with a cake and candle and sing to him. I don't know if he's happy or embarrassed or both:

I am glad that the group has had an opportunity to meet some of the "local" Galvestonians - and hear their story. It also gives the group a chance to ask questions - and they sure did! After dinner, it was time to say goodbye to the Rodriguez family and head back home - for bed. Tomorrow is another working day.


Galveston: May 12

Events of Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Location: Galveston

Up again early to get ready for another work day. We are so paranoid about freezing ourselves out again with the A/C that we (unknowingly) turn it up too high - so this morning, we all wake up sweating. Groan. We'll figure out the temperature before this week is over, I can only hope.

Lunches are made and packed in our cooler and it's off to work. It's nice that our work site is all of 5 minutes from our sleeping quarters - Galveston is small enough that it really doesn't have a "rush hour" and doesn't have the traffic problems that a big city has.

Today we learn how to install a Pergo floor. A Pergo floor is a laminate floor that is installed by laying down a pad, and then placing the sheets of laminate down and connecting each with a tongue-and-groove. We began in the living room.

We all settle into our "jobs" - or areas of expertise - and Gina and I take on the measuring and cutting role. Which involves use of a saw. Several saws, actually. For smaller cuts, we use the Miter Box Saw.

For larger cuts, we use the table saw. Or, should I say Gina used the table saw - I would just watch.

Anne places the floor in the tongue-and-groove after we've cut it, and Sherri S. is "Hammer Lady" - she takes the rubber mallet and gives it a good whack to knock it into place. Don and Judy work in the bedrooms, installing the quarter-round trip along the baseboards. We've got our music playing on the Ipod speakers, we're jamming, and life is good.

After another brief break for lunch (at the beach - where else?!), we work until 4:30 pm when we finish the living room. Success!

We head back to Crockett, clean up, and then head to Casey's for dinner. Casey's is where I ate several times when I was in Galveston last September after Ike - it was one of the few restaurants open for business. You can't miss it - it's along Seawall Blvd and it has a giant shrimp on the roof.

Now here is where the fun begins. We have a little waitress who is from China - she doesn't speak much English - and so ordering is quite the adventure. I recommend the Crabcake Salad - I had it before when I was here - and Gina takes me up on it. say that Gina enjoyed her salad is a bit of an understatement. The sounds of pleasure - the sighs of delight - that Gina made while eating that salad - were something else.

We were cracking up before dinner was over - Judy is almost crying.

After dinner, it was time to walk off the meal - and so we crossed Seawall and went down on the beach and along a pier. It was very windy - my hair was looking just a little windblown before it was all over!

After walking along the pier, we stopped for a bite of ice cream at Ben & Jerry's. We became quite the regulars there all week. While savoring our ice cream, we had quite the discussion about the proposed dike that will be built around Galveston. Don't even ask.

We then drove around the island to sightsee: over to the bay side, where we saw all of the boats in the harbor; down to the Strand area; and then down Broadway. We then went to Johnny & Christina's house - the family I met last September during Ike. They're a little surprised to see us there - but considering that 6 people (5 of which are complete strangers) show up on their doorstep unannounced, I think they handled it rather well.

It was now getting dark - time to head back to Crockett and settle in. We actually manage to get the thermostat just right tonight. Sleep will be good.


Galveston: May 11

Events of Monday, May 11, 2009

Location: Galveston

Sleep does not come well Sunday night - we are sleeping in bunk beds, and I can't shake the vertigo. Not to mention - my bunk bed creaks and groans every time I shift the slightest bit in bed. Not only does this keep me awake - I can't help but think I'm keeping everyone else awake in the room. And - we had cranked the A/C Sunday night to cool down the building, and forgot to turn it back up - hence, we wake up, shivering in our beds because it is 59 degrees in the room. Really.

We thaw and crawl out of bed - hit the showers - and make some sandwiches for lunch. Our intention is to take our lunch to the beach each day for a picnic.

At 8:00 am, we meet Alan Miller, our construction supervisor for the week. He gives us all a brief orientation of the storm, and the situation in Galveston, and we are then sent to our project. We are working in a little house at the corner of Victory and 49th Street - a Mr. Castro's house.

Our first assignment today is to paint all trim, baseboards, and door frames in the house.

We then break for lunch and head up to Seawall, where we find a great spot to set up our picnic. We throw some blankets down, but Don wants to sit in a chair. This is really looking now like we are part of "Don's Harem" - I think he really gets a kick out of this.

After lunch - back to work. This will be the routine pretty much all week. After working (and sweating - it's HOT!) until 4:30, we head back to the blessed A/C of our rooms and take a shower. Dinner is at The Spot, an excellent little bar & grill along Seawall.

The Spot is one of the more popular places to eat in Galveston - with a unique history all its own:

In 1998 here lay a vacant lot and there lay three vacant houses and herein lay a great idea. The land was prime yet undeveloped and the houses were set to be demolished so the local community college could expand their parking lot. Our founders set out to save these houses by picking them up, bringing them here, and building a restaurant incorporating them. After many months of hard work their dreams became reality and The Spot was born May 1998. It was originally named The Village at Mile Zero hence the name written on the curb as you enter the parking lot through our main entrance and the tile design set in the concrete as you walk in the doors by the handicap ramp. The story is that if you are to measure from the tile design to the first mile marker on Interstate 45, this is exactly one mile. Therefore, we are mile zero. Many say this is the end, however we like to think of it as the beginning. We changed our name to The Spot prior to opening yet after the work on the curbs and tile had been completed. In May 2002, The Spot was purchased by local resident and B.O.I. (Born on Island) Dennis Byrd. This was his first and only job in the restaurant business and he began here when we originally opened. He worked his way up from cashier to cook, dishwasher to delivery boy, learned the ropes of the restaurant business and accomplished his dream of opening his own restaurant by purchasing the only restaurant he ever worked in. You’ll still see him here today taking your order, cooking your food, or giving stuffed animals to crying babies. Please relax, enjoy the wonderful view, excellent food and allow us to impress you.

We bless our food, and a guy sitting a table over shouts out, "Are you all Christians??!!! That's AWESOME!" He then asks where we're from. We say, "Kansas City." He shouts, "That's AWESOME!" He then tells us (and everyone else within hearing distance) that we are from the "Bible Belt" and hence we have more Christians than anywhere else in the country. He then tells that the least amount of Christians are in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston. Hmmm...who knew? He was definitely a character. After telling us once again that we are "AWESOME!", he leaves and we can begin to eat. Our food is very good - especially the coconut shrimp. Yum.

After we all sample what everyone else is eating, we are sufficiently stuffed. And tired. So - back to Crockett, where we hang out for a while, talking, and then it is time to turn in.

Reflections: A good, hard day of work - and good company. The team has definitely come together and bonded. All is well.