Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Joy In My Arms (revisited)

(Audrey at Barking Mad is sponsoring a giveaway for a $300 gift card to Target. She is asking us to write about joy and what brings us joy. I guess I'm cheating a bit by revisiting this post from Sept. 2, 2008. I hope it counts. I don't know why, but I've lost my sense of joy. It'll come back. I hope it's soon.)

Where do you feel your joy?

Joy is my favorite word, not because it's such a pretty word, but because it is the representation of a beautiful experience. American Heritage Dictionary (via dictionary.com) defines it this way:

1. Intense and especially ecstatic or exultant happiness.
2. The expression or manifestation of such feeling.

It's not just a feeling of happiness, joy moves way beyond that. It's almost a visceral emotional experience. I find joy in the smallest snippets of my day. In my work with students, I find that many of them have never experienced the feeling of joy and have great difficulty identifying an emotion as such.

In the middle of July, I brought three dear friends to experience my home state of Maine. I love Maine. Although it has some not-so-pretty parts, most of Maine is breathtakingly beautiful. I was ecstatically happy to bring people I love to the state I love. They recognized and saw beauty even in the simplest of things. My heart danced with delight. All through the week, I would stretch my arms in the air and say, "I'm so happy." Eventually, that turned into, "I have joy in my arms!" They all laughed and said, "You have joy where? "In my arms! In my arms! I have joy in my arms!" And I did. From the shoulder to the elbow. Joy, joy, joy. In my arms. Joy in my arms.

Don't ask me why I had joy in my arms, I just did. I had it in the region of my heart, too, but I noticed a tingly, delightful feeling in my arms. I'm getting it right now as I think of it. My children bring me joy, my spousal unit brings me joy, a beautiful sunset brings me joy, seeing a flower I've planted bloom brings me joy. Little children who delight with abandon bring me joy. Not just happiness, but joy. Joy, joy, joy in my arms.

So, I ask again, where do you feel your joy? And what brings it to you?

Saturday, October 31, 2009


I have absolutely nothing to say, but I wanted to post just because it has been so long since I have. I seem to have lost my voice for a time. I feel stuck. I want to move on something, but I don't know what that is.

So, anyway. Happy fall. Happy Halloween. I hope all is well with you.


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

New Year's Eve

I am a happy camper. I am a happy camper. I am happy, happy, happy!

I just booked five flights to Munich.

Jim and I are taking the kids to Germany to show them all the spots I visited on my trek to walk in the steps of my father during WWII.

I can't wait to show them the door

and have one of these with them.

And maybe they'll get to meet these guys.


at their table reserved ("stammtisch") at 3 pm (ab 15 Uhr)...

and see the real Cinderella's castle, otherwise known as Neuschwanstein

...and meet the Night Watchman ...

...and walk the streets that (I swear!) Shrek must have walked in Rothenburg ob de Tauber

Ich bin excited!!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

My Girl Got A Job!

This roller coast called "Life" can really s-u-c-k (I hate that word) sometimes. The prospects for teaching positions in our area of Indiana have been few to none this summer. That does not bode well for all those graduates excited to put their long-sought skills to practice. Needless to say, it's been a disappointing summer for Jordan. Interviews for two positions did not bear fruit for Jordan. So, her plan was to be a substitute and keep her serving job for the year. Last week, she sent out about 31 resumes---to all schools in the South Bend school corporation. Come Friday, she gets invited to interview for a paraprofessional position (fancy name for teacher's aide). Not what she was hoping for, but a foot in the door of education nonetheless. So she psyched herself up for the challenge and waited for the interview on Monday afternoon. Just after she jumps out of the shower, she gets a call from the principal she was to meet with. It seems that "the PERFECT candidate" walked in the door that morning and was hired on the spot. Enter the word "That sucks". A roller coast of emotions ensued. Being in the middle of 400 sixth graders in the cafeteria did not allow me to be a very compassionate and present ear. My stomach and heart hurt for my girl.

Two hours later, I get this text---"I got a job!" I am so confused, so I call. It seems the teacher she student taught with talked to a principal in South Bend who had a part-time position open. He calls her yesterday and she goes right in to see what he has to say and is offered the job on the spot. It's only a 40% position, but It. Is. A. Teaching. Job. Halleluia, praise Jesus, Glory be to God!! Yippee-ai-cai-yay!!! She gets a real contract, gets on the ladder for seniority and will be one of the first in line next year for any positions that come open.

So when does she start? Last night! She attended the open house and met the kiddoes She is job-sharing with another teacher and will teach math and Social Studies to ENL 2nd graders. Today was her first day. She's thrilled.

So am I. She's worked hard to get to this point.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Shame, shame, shame, shame, shame, shame, shame, shame, shame, shame, shame, shame, shame!

Get the message? No? I'll explain.

I've been privy to several conversations lately that make me want to wag my finger at Christians. First of all, there seems to be a lot of finger waggin' and downright condemnation by so-called Christians who are leaving nasty, accusatory comments on different blogs that I read. They want to give failing report cards to people they don't know. They want to tell them how wrong a Christian the bloggers are and how, if they lived their lives the "right" way (according to themselves) they'd be better off. How would you like to get this in your comment box:

Havent you never heard the saying let go and let God? Well you need to do that. I bet if someone were to go and pick through your past wed find all sorts of things that werent very positive and I bet its because you insist on controlling your own life and not letting God control it. You have huge satanic influences in your life and thats why you make yourself sick. its Gods way of trying to get the evil out of you. Almost every person who has an eating disorder has some sort of issue and needs to let go and let God. You should probably get down on your knees and thank God for the blessings you do have and give your life back over to him. Atone for your sins and ask Jesus back into your heart. I bet things will be right as rain in no time.
This was in the "In" box of one of my favorite bloggers. What do you think of this? Does that make you want to jump on the Christian bandwagon? What do you mean it makes you want to run in the other direction? Does this make you feel like Jesus could be your Homeboy? Do you feel the love? Nah, me neither.

You have huge satanic influences in your life and thats why you make yourself sick.

Now, isn't that the kind of thing that makes you want to change your life? Isn't that just the greatest thing to have someone say to you? Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside (insert eye roll here). Does it make you want to say, "Hey, thanks. That was just what I needed?"

its Gods way of trying to get the evil out of you.

Oh. My. God.

Yup, that's the way to bring people to Jesus.

Somebody please tell me what kind of stupid this is. Please.

I just don't get it. Did they miss the part in the Good Book about the Great Commandment? You know, the one about loving God with all your heart and all your mind and all your strength and loving your neighbor as yourself? Just sayin'. This comment doesn't speak love. It speaks condemnation. And what good will that do? No good. Do they think this is helping the cause? IT DOES THE OPPOSITE. Shame, shame, shame on them.

The other thing that has cropped up around me lately is the comment about Christian churches being unfriendly places. Several people have mentioned around me lately that when they have visited certain Christian churches for the first time, they have not felt welcomed. Yikes, this drives me crazy! How hard is it to extend a hand in greeting? Don't give me the excuse that you are shy. A visitor has much more to lose and may feel much more trepidation. Hosting people at church is just like hosting people at your home. When you have new visitors, do you wait for them to introduce themselves to you? Do you wait for them to come to you? Do you expect them to make you feel good and comfortable in your own home. NO, you don't! A good host welcomes his or her guests. A good host makes them feel comfortable. A good host goes out of his or her way to ease the discomfort or fear of a guest.

Excuse me, I just feel like growling.

Snap out of it, friends! Help the cause! Be kind, be loving, be welcoming, be patient, instill hope, spread joy, share goodness, be faithful, exude patience, exhibit self-control, demonstrate gentleness. Those are the fruits of the spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 (New International Version)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

What's Your Favorite?

Audrey at Barking Mad is asking readers to write a post about our favorite charity/humanitarian organization/non profit group and why it's so near and dear to our hearts. I have been giving this some thought and several ideas have easily come to the forefront. My favorites would be Horizon Ministries, Habitat for Humanity, and any organization that works to feed people because there are just so many hungry people in this world, literally and figuratively.

I would say that my first favorite humanitarian group would be my church, Horizon Ministries. I don't say this because my husband is the pastor. I say this because of our Four Areas of Focus: intimacy with God; fellowship with insiders; influence with outsiders; and extending hope to the poor. I also say this because we really mean it. We choose to be very outward-focused, be it locally or globally. For a little church (very little, about 50-60 people at this time), we pack a lot of punch in our community. For example, we are spearheading a free car wash this Saturday. It was Jim's idea, but we have invited other local churches to participate. The purpose is to show that for the sake of others, we need to give something up (time, money, bits of ourselves, etc). We are to do this for those in the church, outside the church and even for those who don't love God.

One of my favorite things that we did for three years was called 5K. It was based on Jesus' feeding of the 5000. Every Thursday, the back of our '88 Suburban was loaded up with about 60 pizzas (from both local pizzarias, just to be fair) and coolers full of pop. When the lunch bell rang, high school kids would come out to get a free lunch. Jim stressed to all those involved that we were not to mention our church, we were not to evangelize, we were not to mention God. What we were to do was build connections and to let the kids know that they mattered. The kids could eat as much as they wanted until the food was gone. The only rule was that they start out with two pieces of pizza and one can of pop to help ensure that anyone who came could get served. The high school principal at the time was very cynical when Jim mentioned the idea to him. "Jim", he said, "Everyone is just going to think you're weird". Jim's response was to say, "Look, I'm not asking for your approval. I'm just giving you a heads-up in case cafeteria sales are effected". The principal said, rather condescendingly, "Cafeteria sales will not be effected". The first week, we served about 50 kids. The second week, we served about 110 kids. The third week and every week after for the next three years, we served about 200 kids. Cafeteria sales were effected and the cafeteria ladies almost got the principal's head on a platter. Once it was realized, the cafeteria adjusted the amount of food they prepared on Thursdays and everyone was happy.

We do other missions in the community and in other countries like the Philippines and the Dominican Republic. We are always finding ways to feed people. We are always extending our hands out to others. We do it Sunday through Saturday, not just the days we attend worship. Jim stresses that it should be a way of life, not a day out of your week. I know, I know. This is what Christians are supposed to do. We just really try to live it. You know, Christians are often the worst advertisement for the cause because they frequently don't walk their talk. Jim encourages us to make our walk and talk congruent and not scare people away with condemnation.

Our little church began 10 1/2 years ago, as a phoenix emerging from the flames (a story for another day). We often joke about being the church on the Island of Misfit Toys. And we seem to be---Jim says we are all just a bunch of knuckleheads, ahem, his favorite term of endearment. Because Jim is willing to think outside the box and take risks, he has been ridiculed, ostracized, and condemned in this tiny little town. Although, it has been very pain-filled, Jim just kept repeating, "Time and truth walk hand-in-hand". And you know what? It has. It's still not easy, but it's easier. Jim's willingness to face the obstacles and the arrows and to persevere despite it all just makes me love him all the more.

Monday, July 27, 2009


Too much.

Too much to do.

Too much to think about.

Too much to move---from basement to bedroom to living room to dining room to walls to bathrooms to Jordan's room to Indianapolis for Dylan.

Too few days left before school begins again with no time to prepare.

Too many thoughts floating through my mind to form into words to write down here.

Too many people in crisis, my heart aches for them and my inability to help freezes me.

Too far away from home to begin moving forward.

Too much self-imposed pressure to blog. I've realized I'm not a true blogger. I make a better blog-reader.

Too much desire to connect, with limited opportunity to do so.

Too many irons in the fire.

Just too much.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Generation Gap

Clella and I drove to Maine yesterday. Seems like Clella travels with us a lot, eh? I get to see extended family. She gets an unexpected trip to see her daughter.

At McDonald's along route 90 in eastern New York:

Clella to young male cashier: "I'd like a black coffee".

Young cashier with puzzled look walks over to coffee pot and pauses. He walks back to Clella and says, "We don't have black coffee".

Young female cashier says to boy, "That means she doesn't want cream or sugar, stupid".

Chagrined cashier gets her a black coffee.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


I can't believe I haven't posted in over a month. What a wild ride the last month has been! Since I returned from the DR, we have been knee-deep in all the details of the renovation which is entering (yippee-yai-ky-ay!) the final phase. We are only about two weeks away from moving out of the never-sees-light basement and into our new digs. It's been a long haul since Christmas. Our daughter moved home in the midst of all that. The poor kid is sleeping on an Aero mattress on the floor, surrounded by mountains of furniture, boxes and miscellany. She says she has nightmares.

On top of all that, Jim and I have taken on the task of co-teaching a six-week intensive graduate level course on multicultural counseling. We were last minute fill-ins because they couldn't find anyone to teach the class during the summer session. This is the last class many of the students in the counseling program have to take, so they were feeling a bit desperate (that is NOT to indicate why they finally agreed to take us on, mind you!). To prep last minute for the class, create the syllabus, determine projects and grading scale, etc., has required that we eat, breathe, sleep this class.

It has been an interesting class so far. All the reading and preparation has helped me reconnect with many of the multicultural experiences I've encountered in my life. The memories are good. As we get to know the students, I am surprised, yet not surprised, by the limited experiences many adults have of other cultural experiences, be they related to race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion or social class. I'm an extrovert and I seek out new and varied experiences. These become love/hate experiences for me. I hate the discomfort and fear that accompanies the newness of an experience, but I love both at the same time. It is invigorating to get through the challenge and grow as a result. It is hard to comprehend that others do not do the same. For others, the idea of this can be debilitating. I have also enjoyed the self-reflection teaching this class prompts in me. I am forced to look at my own limitations and biases and work through them.

It has been a joy to co-teach this class with Jim. In all of ours years together, serving churches, leading youth ministries and such, we have never really co-led anything together before last fall. In the fall, we co-led Dave Ramsey's "Financial Peace University" class. That was a lot of fun. Teaching the multicultural counseling class is even better because we are having some great and challenging conversations as a result and just enjoying each other.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Los Patos #1

June 11, 2009

Greetings from Los Patos! We arrived on Monday afternoon, ate black beans and rice and then headed to the river for a refreshing dip. The river water is nippy, but nice. The water comes down from the mountains, winds around a bend and then feeds into the sea. It is the local supply for drinking/cooking water, the local watering hole and, for those who need it, a bathtub. I would say that most of the people in the town need it for a bathtub. They also use the river water to fill up large buckets in order to have water to flush their toilets.

Our first morning here, Arelis and I got up at 6am and walked about a half mile down the beach to the place where the river meets the sea to bathe. As we prepped for the day, Arelis was telling me how she, her mom and dad and eight siblings would walk down the mountain each day. Then she proceeded to show me how she would splash and frolic around in the water. It was comical to watch her as she did this.

I wish I'd brought my camera along for the walk. The early morning provided many beautiful moments to capture. The pictures on the blog are from another morning and the morning wasn't quite as lovely. We walked past as the pescaderos (fishermen) were prepping the boats for the day. Later as we drove to Barahona, we saw boats scattered about the sparkling water. Quite picturesque. We also walked past a pig and a burro grazing and a rooster strutting and chickens doing their chicken thing. The river, in the early morning light peeking behind a cloud, was just breathtaking.

I can see how happy Arelis is to be back here. She does not get here often. She has only been here three times in the last seven years. I've been lucky enough to have been on two of those trips. Many of her brothers still live here. Her father, who is 83, is still here. Her grandmother is still here. Cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and old friends still make their homes in typical Dominican wooden shacks. We went to Grandpa's Mountain yesterday. On the way up, we stopped to see Arelis' abuela (grandmother). She was walking to her house when we arrived. At 121 years of age, she walks hunched over now, a wirey little thing. She was wearing a green bandana on her head, a square of white cloth with frayed edges tied around her shoulders and a little nightgown. Underneath her nightgown, I caught a glimpse of the roughly done hand-stitching of the homemade white sheath she wore beneath. It would not surprise me in the least if she stitched it herself. She lives in a wooden house painted pink. Ten years ago, she was still living on her own up on the mountain in a little shack with no running water or any other amenities. Water would still have to be carried up the mountain. Cooking would have been over an open fire. Talk about a tough old bird! I should be so lucky to be in as good a shape when I'm my seventies.

The trip up Grandpa's Mountain was a delight. The whole mountain is owned by Job's (Hobe's) grandpa. Two of his sons tend to the land now. One son, René, is building a new home not quite midway up. Homes are now built of cinder block. Sometimes they are given a stucco finish, sometimes the gray blocks are left exposed. He will have two bedrooms, a bath, living room, and kitchen. All the rooms are small. When you picture these rooms, you cannot picture them as typical to our rooms. The kitchen will have a small gas stove and maybe a sink. Counter space is a rarity. There will be no refrigerator because there is no electricity. Food that needs to be kept cold is not commonly stored and people tend to buy what they need on a daily basis.

We spent several hours on the mountain. Arelis and Pedrito took a hike higher up. We all hiked around the shack where Arelis lived as a child. We gathered mangoes, limes and bananas to take back to the house. We drank fresh coconut milk and ate the white flesh of the coconut meat inside. These are not the brown coconuts and hardened coconut we find in the grocery stores in the states. These are the green coconuts taken straight from the tree. They use a machete to slice off the top to make a hole the size of a silver dollar. You drink the milk from that. Then you slice open the whole coconut to reach the meat inside. A piece of the green shell is shaved from the side and this is used to scrape the meat from the coconut so you can eat it. It's like an all-inclusive take-out wrapped up in one neat little package. Just bring your own machete!

René is 57 years old and is long and lean. He is in amazing shape from the hard work he does daily and was quite tickled when I told him that Job and Jairo were getting fat back in the states. He laughed when I asked him to make a muscle pose for a picture.

Every time I come here, I am reminded of how cushy I have it at home and how much I take for granted every single day. These people here have so much less than we have, yet many are thriving and are happy. Still, there are many who go hungry.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Crazy Gringa

June , 2009

...Rumor has it that there is crazy gringa with silver hair running loose in Santiago. Reports say that she has been spotted in a variety of places and is suspected of being the responsible party for near accidents and severe cases of whiplash. She is also suspected of accosting strangers in supermarkets...

Yesterday, Arelis, her daughter Yohaira and I went to the supermercado (supermarket) to pick up a few items. Arelis also had to exchange the money I am using to bring food to families in Barahona/Los Patos. As we passed a Dominican man, I glanced at his t-shirt. I was so excited that I stopped him and started pointing at his chest. He looked at me like I was a little off my rocker (no comments!). “Mi universidad! Mi universidad!” The man looked at me again. I repeated, “Mi universidad!”to which he responded, “Bingo!” We all laughed. You have to understand---as a Maine transplant living in the midwest, it is a rare occasion anyone has ever heard of the University of Maine let alone wear the t-shirt. Ball State, Indiana University, Notre Dame, Purdue, yes. UMO, no. So you can imagine my excitement (just try, will you?) to see a little Dominican wearing a t-shirt from my alma mater. Moments later, I had regrets for not getting his picture. Dang. Just as I had that thought, I saw him a few aisles over. “Arelis! Un momento! Un photo!” I chased after him, gripping my purchases and my camera. I tapped him on the shoulder and he turned around. “Señor, por favor! Tengo un photo?” as I pointed again at his chest. “Que?” he asked. I repeated my question while pointing at his chest. Then in Spanish he asked me if I wanted his phone number. “No! No!” I pointed again. With a shrug of his shoulders, he said yes and I grabbed my camera and quickly took his picture. As I said “gracias”, he touched his cheek to mine and said, “De nada.“No problema.” As I walked away, I saw four teenage girls looking at what had just taken place. I repeated while circling my finger toward my chest, “Mi universidad.” They just laughed at/with me. When I caught up with Arelis and Yohaira at the bread counter, they were just shaking their head and laughing.

My hair color and white skin seems to be causing a bit of a stir as well. Of that, I am 100% innocent. I'm just made that way, you know. I don't just seem to stand out in the barrio, but everywhere I go in the city, too. I'm kind of getting used to the stares and the double-takes. It's rather comical to see the expressions on people's faces when they catch sight of me. Arelis just giggles. The other day, a Haitian man walked by the house carrying a bowl of avocados on his head. “Aguacate! Aguacate!”he shouted as he walked down the street. Arelis called him back to buy some. When Arelis finished making her purchase, He was still staring at me. “Okay! Vamos!” she had to tell him. He let me take his picture before he left. He was back the next day, shouting in Spanish through the gate, “Does the Americana want to buy some avocados today?” Arelis told me to just say no, thank you. He seemed very disappointed, almost put out. I'll tell you, though. I've never had avocados that tasted better than here. Arelis says the ones in Los Patos are even better and much bigger. She makes the size of a gourd with her hands.

While I laugh and joke about my hair and white skin, I am saddened at times about what it means. Yesterday, I accompanied Arelis to an end of year celebration at her school. One of her co-workers, a beautiful cafe-au-lait woman started talking to me about my skin. Basically, she was telling me that she wishes her skin was white and that white is better. I just told her that God made her beautiful already. There are many Dominicans here who think the same way she does. I experienced the same thing on a mission trip to the Philippines five years ago. Everywhere I went, the children would constantly touch my skin and talk about how their skin was ugly because it was brown and mine was beautiful because it is white. Man, I hate that. There were even billboards advertising products to whiten skin. The condition of the human heart is delicate and we wound ourselves even more. We are all miracles and beautiful in all our shapes, sizes and skin color. When will we accept ourselves and one another?

I keep saying that I want an adventure. Little moments like these fit the bill.

Friday, June 5, 2009

A View From the Peanut Galerìa

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Here I sit, peering down from the galerìa, or balcony of our home-away-from home at Pedrito and Arelis house in Hato Mayor outside Santiago, Dominican Republic. Pedrito just left on his motocicleta and Arelis is at work for a while longer. My girl left for home this morning. I hope she makes it through customs okay. I pray her flight is smooth and she arrives home safe and sound. The recent loss of a plane carrying 200+ people over the ocean does nothing to ease my worries. Gotta have faith.

So here I am. Alone for two weeks with my friends who speak no English. Me who barely understands Spanish. Barely. I wanted to go on an adventure and here I am. I'm very curious as to what this adventure will bring me. My adventures will be limited to what I can do with my friends as I will not be left alone except for brief moments like this. Pedrito is very protective. I'm amazed that he let me walk around the corner alone to use the internet this morning. Usually, he goes with us and waits. I feel as if I need to rush because it can't be much fun for him. He is a good and generous host. It is my only contact with the technological world and I need it like I need water and food. There is a TV in the kitchen, but it has only been on one time in a week and that was to entertain a 4 yr old boy who can't sit still. World news has been fleeting. With limited time on the internet, I forget to check out news websites. It is strangely discomforting and comforting at the same time. A throwback to simpler times.

Things will get much simpler still next week when we head to the other side of the country to a more remote area, Los Patos. I love Los Patos. That is a story in itself. I am looking forward to seeing Arelis grandmother again. She will be 121 years old this year. No lie. She was born in 1888!

I am scarfing cookies like no tomorrow. Cookies are my downfall and I bought a package at the supermercado last night when Jordan and I went to stock up on vanilla (the best anywhere! Makes for a great and cheap gift). Anyway, I love cookies and was having a bit of withdrawal. Arelis is a good cook and has filled my belly with typical Dominican food---red beans and white rice, plantains, yucca, lachosa, mango, pineapple, mangoo! Mangoo is a dish made of mashed plantains. Yucca is like a potato only a bit denser and the flavor is different. Hard to describe, but it is yummy. She also makes delicious juices with fresh limes and oranges and melons. Chinola juice is my favorite. Chinola is the real name for Passion Fruit. LOVE it You cannot get anything in the states that tastes like it. I know, I've tried. No

comparison. We have also eaten a lot of fried salami and queso frito (fried cheese—it's the best!). My little mum always said food tastes best when you don't have to cook it yourself. Maybe so, but Arelis cooks with a lot of love, too. That adds to the flavor.

Electricity is iffy. Sometimes we have it. Sometimes we don't. There are two or three car batteries hooked up outside the kitchen that serves the electric for the downstairs. Three more feed the supply for the newly constructed upstairs Warm showers are infrequent. With the warmth and humidity, I find I welcome the cold showers anyway. Last night, we sat in the dark talking by candlelight. Arelis cooks on a gas stove, so that is not a problem. Dominican coffee is deliciously rich and strong. We use a lot of milk and sugar. I can buy Santo Domingo coffee here by the pound for about $2 and it is a real pound, not 12 oz like at home. I usually stock up when I'm here. I hope I can fill all the orders I have from home! I bought a coffee pot like Arelis has, but my coffee still doesn't taste like hers. Maybe I'll get another lesson while I'm here.

I was stung by a wasp on Saturday. We were almost in a car accident on Tuesday. On Tuesday night, we rode a carriage around the city's monument. The monument was once erected by the dictator to honor himself. It now honors the heroes and heroines of the revolution which overthrew the government maybe twenty-five years ago. It's a beautiful and massive structure. Yesterday, we ventured to Jarabacoa (ha-rah-bah-co-ah) and ate beef and pork grilled over a fire from a little street vendor.

I know, I was nervous about it, but I figure if Arelis can eat it, so can I. No indigestion yet. Jordan bought shoes. Go figure.

Ah, Pedrito is back and Arelis just arrived home from the preschool where she teaches. Their friend, Cesar, has arrived as well. Time to go.

Maybe tomorrow I can tell you about the police captain who visits to insure the safety of the guests (me).

Adios, Amigas y Amigos!


Monday, June 1, 2009

Peek-a-Boob! I see you! (or how one little breast brought two worlds together...)

Peek-a-Boob! I see you!(or how one little breast brought two worlds together...)

I am sitting in the mission house of Hato Mayor in the Dominican Republic. It's early morning and I'm listening to life in the barrio awaken as I lay in bed. Life in the street is getting busy. Cars rumble along. A rooster crows nearby again and again. I'm on a two-fold purpose for this trip. First, my daughter, Jordan, is with me. This is her gift for graduating from college (yippee! At last!) The second purpose is to continue building the connection between our church and the little church we helped complete two years ago. We have just returned from a four-day stay in Puerta Plata at an all-inclusive resort and are now staying with our Dominican family, Pedrito and Arelis Marmolejos (mar-mo-lay-hos).

Our stay in the barrio is subject for other posts. For now, I just want to write about our little excursion to go snorkling at Paradise Island. I've never snorkled before, have you? It's much easier than I thought it would be to coordinate breathing through the tube and swimming with fins. The breathing came easily, I believe, because of the nose piece that covered our noses and prevented a lick of air to come through. One bit of intake through the nose created a vacuum in a hurry. Yup, one breath through the nose and I learned in a hurry that I
would be breathing through my mouth! It's a bit frightening to attempt a breath only to find there is no air. Didn't like that feeling one bit.

It was a lovely excursion. The two and a half hour bus ride to and from was not a lot of fun, although the scenery was beautiful. Paradise Island is a sand bar pretty much in the middle of nowhere. It is surrounded by a small reef. Within 20 minutes of landing, we had our snorkels and fins and were swimming with the fishes. No lesson, just sink or swim. Jordan and I swam. I have not gone swimming in the ocean for a long time. I forgot how easy it is to float in salt water. I thought I would have to work hard to swim and breath at the same time. It felt effortless and allowed us to enjoy the view below. I think there are probably more beautiful reefs to experience, but for our first time out, it was just right. Bright blue fish, yellow striped fish, tiny white fish swam by, just out of reach. Gigantic white sea urchins and sand dollars were settled helter-skelter along the sandy bottom ocean floor. The coral reef was a mass of life, seaweed waving gently with the current.

We spent two-plus hours on the island. It is not a big sandbar, maybe a little more than a tenth of a mile long and not very wide. Four or five little shelters had been set up to give a break from the sun beating down and to provide a little snack bar where freshly sliced fruit and drinks were provided. The pineapple here is to die for. Not an under ripe one to be found. Also yummy were the cantelope and oranges. So much more flavor than that found in the grocery stores at home. The drinks consisted of Coke and rum, Sprite and rum, rum, rum or rum, oh, and a little bit of water. Not being a rum girl myself, I chose the water. I got a quizzical look from the young man serving the drinks.

Anyway, we spent quite bit of time on the sandbar out of the water, as they had to take turns bringing small groups snorkeling. So Jordan and I sat and relaxed and talked and people-watched. I love to people-watch. It keeps me entertained for hours. Anyway, this one particular couple from another group caught my eye. From their accent, I could tell they were German (I actually found out later they were Austrian). He had made several trips to the bar, NOT for water. During one trip, I heard him say to the boy, “Gots to getz Mama drrrunk.” It made me chuckle. They were a couple in their seventies. He wasn't very tall, a bit shorter than me, and was of stocky build, belly round. He looked strong-like-bull. She was littler still, short gray hair and blue eyes that sparkled. I watched her quite a bit. I just loved how her roundish, seventy-year old body embraced her two piece bathing suit. The top was skimpy as bikinis go, the bottoms not quite so, but a two-piece just the same. I delighted in the lack of self-consciousness she exhibited. In fact, that is one thing I appreciate about the majority of European woman I saw---they seemed to have no care about sporting the perfect body in their bikinis. They wear them with abandon. We Americans could learn a thing or two about that.

So I watched them. Near the end of our stay on the “island”, I watched as she walked over toward a group. Something wasn't quite right, but it took my mind a minute to realize what my eyes were seeing. She was oblivious to the fact that her errant right breast had loosened itself from its bindings and was laid out there for all to see. Everything started to move in a bit of slow motion as Jordan and I watched with mouths agape. It was like we couldn't move. We stood there. I said, “Jordan, look. That little woman's boob is hanging out. She doesn't know it.” Like idiots, we stood there and watched. The woman bent over to pick up a t-shirt. “Good,” I thought, “she'll put it on before she realizes it.” Not so. She continues to walk around, oblivious. We continue to stand like idiots and watch. She walks over to her husband and they talk for several minutes. They talk for several minutes and HE NEVER SAYS ONE WORD ABOUT HER EXPOSED BREAST!! Jordan and I are just amazed at this and still we are stuck where we are standing underneath the little grass rooftop. The little woman walks away from her husband and begins to weave through the small crowd, Betty Boob pointing the way. I begin an internal battle---”go tell her, Jan.” “No, I don't want to embarrass her!” “Embarrass her, Stupid, her boob is hanging out in all its glory!!” I do a stop-start-stop-start-stop-start-STOP. What is so flipping hard about this? I tell men their flies are unzipped all the time! Sheesh! The final straw comes when Jordan points out two women in their twenties who are laughing and pointing at her. That is IT. Stupid bimbos. I walk up to her. I point. She looks at me confused. She holds up her t-shirt toward me like that's what I might want. I shake my head and point again. She just looks at me with a puzzled expression on her face. Finally, I lightly touch my hand to her chest (No, NOT on her breast, silly!) She looks down and exclaims loudly, “OHH!!” She puts the girl away and then grabs me in a hug. We laugh, laugh, laugh, then she starts going on about her husband not saying a word. She hugs me again. He walks over. She berates him. He shrugs his shoulders and says to us nonchalantly, “I know what she's gots.” Pause. “And she knows whats I'ves gots, too!” He chuckles. We all laugh. She smacks his arm and says something to him in German. We talk for several minutes, but too soon it is time to go. We wave our good-byes and head toward our separate boats.

Shortly after a boat ride and a quick trip to a Dominican restaurant, we meet up briefly again. We invite them to join us at our table and we sit and eat. We learn their names are Peter and Eva and they are from Austria. They have been married about 15 years. We learn much in such a little amount of time. She is his second wife. He has one boy and a granddaughter. She has two children. They like to travel. He lived 50 years in Canada and was an engineer. She was an only child. She was conceived when her mother was barely 16. Her father was the first man her mother had “been with” and she was conceived the first time “they were together”. And kids think it can't happen to them. Ha. Her father was later killed in the war (WWII). They are just delightful. We eat. Eva coughs and I look. She turns toward Peter and taps his arm. She's choking. She motions him to pat her back. He keeps asking, “Heimlich? Heimlich?” I pound her back. She tries to cough. I pound some more. She coughs. Jordan grabs her bottle of water, quickly twists off the cap and hands it to her. She drinks it. She continues to cough a bit and tears are streaming down her cheeks, but she is going to be okay, I can tell she was scared. She keeps patting my arm. “Thank you, thank you.” she repeats.

We finish our lunches and say our good-byes. We hug. Eva says something about me saving her life. She hugs me again. We board our buses and go our separate ways. A glimmer in time has passed.

On the long ride home, I chuckle at random times. Jordan asks, “What?” Each time I answer the same. I'm just thinking about Peter standing talking to Eva while her little breast is playing Peek-a-boob. “I knows what's she's gotz.” Well, now, a lot of us do, too.

Today was a gift from God and I am grateful.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

No Time to Breathe

Hmmm. Why haven't I been posting? To say that life has been non-stop for the last several weeks, let me give you a run-down of my Sunday...

(We went to a Saturday service last August, so no church this morning. Just good old fashion worship of the heart).

5:30 am - The dog wakes me up to go outside.

5:35 am - I realize that if I want to get my painting project done today (and it must be done today so I can put the second coat on tomorrow night so our cute little construction guy can get the beadboard ceiling in on Tuesday).

5:40 am - I begin cutting in the edges of the ceiling.

7:00 am - Get in shower

8:00 - Bring my brother and sister-in-law to the airport (they came in to surprise Jordan for her college graduation (Yay! We have a graduate!)

10:00 am - Leave the airport.

10:20 am - Go to Lowe's to get the right paint for the walls. This is a good thing since I gave them the wrong paint chip for the four gallons I bought and began to use on Friday. We have now gone from an apple green to a moss green for the living room, dining room, kitchen area. Much better, thank you.

11:00 am - Arrive home.

11:15 am - Put a coat of paint on the ceiling (white, not green).

1:30 pm - Stop painting. Wash face, which is spotted white. Wash hands and forearms, redo make-up. Throw on some decent clothes.

1:55 pm - Arrive at church for our combined Open House for the five graduates from our church. It's a good thing my husband is capable of setting up. In fact, he ordered and picked up the cake and ice cream and soda/pop.

2:00 pm - Enjoy good company. Listen as the grads answer questions for the group of the things they've learned and their plans for the future. I just love young people. Their answers give us great insight to them as real people.

4:00 pm - Head home.

4:10 pm - Crack open the green paint and begin to paint the kitchen walls. Gotta get that first coat on, dontcha know.

5:45 pm - Do a quick clean-up.

6:00 pm - Pick Jim up at church. Head to South Bend for dinner with friends and their Notre Dame grad. Fun times and great food (Parisi's, South Bend).

9:20 pm - Leave the restaurant and head home.

10:00 pm - Change back into my paint garb.

10:10 pm - Attack the last two walls. More cutting in and rolling.

11:00 pm - Change into jammies. Brush teeth. Crash.

No joke. This is how the last few weeks have been. I am looking forward to flying to the Dominican Republic for three weeks to live with my little Dominican family next Tuesday. Am excited that Jordan will be with me for 10 days. I need sunshine and stopping (No, not shopping). A little fresh avacado and mango won't hurt, either. Oh, and have you ever had fried cheese Dominican style? To die for. Probably incredibly bad for you, too.

Now off to my last four days of school for the year. Halleluia! I love my job, but I need summer.


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Quick Tropic Update

In Santiago, DR.
This will be a quick post just to tell you that we arrived in Bryce Canyon and Tropic, Utah with Clella yesterday. She/We had a wonderful day that I will post about as soon as I can and add pictures to boot.

We've been to the cemetery to see where her mom, dad, sister and baby brother are buried, visited with the people who live in the house where she was born and had a long and delightful visit with the people who own her grandfather's barn. She got a discount at Ruby's Inn for being "pretty close to local" and a free breakfast coupon for having a birthday on Friday and for being from Tropic. She had a hard time settling down to sleep because she'd had "such a wonderful day". Today, we will return to Tropic and try to connect with some of her childhood friends. We learned that several are still alive and still live in Tropic.

Bringing Clella to Tropic has been as much a gift to us to experience with her as it has been for her. It is always wonderful to experience someone else's joy.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Guidance Counselors

So yesterday on the CounselorTalk listserv I'm a member of, a high school counselor sends out a request (a plea, actually). She has a senior girl who wants to go to the prom. She is a plus size girl, wears a size 24, can't afford a dress and can't find one at the stores. I make some long distance phone calls to the nearby city she is in. I call Lane Bryant, a clothing store for plus size women. They don't sell prom dresses. I call JC Penny. They have plenty of prom dresses---in junior sizes. The largest they have is a 16. So I call two numbers for the specialty store David's Bridals. Both numbers are disconnected. It kills me to think this girl can't get a dress. Oh, and did I mention that the request came on Thursday and the prom is on Saturday? Yeah, well, I thought about that girl all night long.

Then I go to get my haircut. Midway through the cut and on a whim, I ask my hairdresser if she knows where I could find a dress. Unbelievably, her daughter has one hanging in her closet, just the right size. I can't believe it.

I do a little research. The girl's school is two hours from me. Okay, that's do-able. I talk with my friend, Ann who also happens to be my boss. She's game for a road trip after school. Unfortunately, the other counselor is leaving town after work and cannot meet us. We can only get to the girl if we leave during the day. Ann says, "Hey, we've got planning to do for Monday's in-service. We can work in the car." We hustle. I call the school to get directions. Yay, the girl is at school today. We get in the car and head out.

We are cutting it close on time, but we may just make it. We realize we haven't come to one of the exits after a period of time. We should be near the school by now. We see a sign that confuses us. Seventy-four miles to our destination. How can that be? I call the school. Ugh. When I looked up the school online last night, I SWEAR it said the school was in Marion. I swear. I cannot find those websites now for proof, of course. Last night when I googled, I could not find a website for the school, just some independent sites with generic information. Okay, I thought. It's a private Catholic school. Maybe they don't have their own website. So I call the school for better directions. The school is not in Marion, it's in Marion COUNTY!!! !@#$%^&*(

We will never make it. In talking to the counselor, we find out that the girl found one dress at a charity shop. She has to hem it, but it will work. Plans foiled, but we tried.

Well, Ann and I got a lot of planning done in the three hours we were in the car. We are all ready for that in-service on Monday. I got some other work done to boot. Oh, well. We also treated ourselves to a little milkshake at a Steak n' Shake in Wabash. Woo-hoo! They are half-price today. Just a little gift sent our way.

I hope that girl has a good time at the prom. I hope she feels absolutely beautiful. I hope she knows there are strangers who cared.

Off on another adventure tomorrow. Going with another teacher to hopefully get in the Guiness Book of World Records by participating in the largest group hug at the St. Joseph County fairgrounds. Got to bring some canned goods for the foodbank, too.

Gotta love adventure!

Sincerely yours,
A Directionally Challenged School Counselor

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sick of Being Sick and a Road Trip

Clella and Todd catch a little dance at a pit stop along the road to Los Patos, DR in 2007.

I am not complaining (much)! I've had the creeping cruds off and on for about four weeks now. It's time to be done. Yesterday, I thought I was on the mend. This afternoon the aches were back. I need to be better by Sunday because Jim and I are going on a road trip with Clella, our adopted grandma. If anyone read the entry last April, she and I went on a road trip to Maine when I went to take care of my dad for a few weeks.

Jim and I are flying to Arizona to pick up his mom's car and will drive it back. We decided we should take Clella with us. Clella grew up as a Mormon in Tropic, Utah. She joined our non-denominational Christian church about eleven years ago. Jim met Clella when he got called on an emergency pastoral visit to our local hospital. Clella and her husband had been brought into the hospital for carbon monoxide poisoning. Sadly, Clella's husband, Dale, did not survive. Clella did. Dale and she had just moved into their new house three weeks prior. They had three different companies inspect the house and chimney before they moved in (Dale was always a cautious and common sense man, according to Clella). All three companies missed the bird's nest that blocked the chimney. Very sad indeed. Anyway, Clella struggled for a long time with Dale's death. They'd had a long and happy marriage. Clella and her sister picked up two navy sailors who were hitchhiking way back when. Clella claims she and Dale fell in love on that car ride between Tiajuana and San Diego. They were married a short time later.

Anyway, Clella has repeatedly told us her stories about growing up Mormon and being from a large family. When she was twelve, her mother died shortly after giving birth to a baby boy. Because the older children were independent or unable, Clella gained the responsibility of raising four younger brothers and sisters. At the age of twelve, she was expected to have all the responsibilities for them. Clella says her father was too busy spreading his seed all over Tropic to be bothered with raising children. Later, he remarried and Clella gained the quintessential ugly stepmother.
We have decided to take Clella to Tropic on our way home. This may be her last trip to Tropic, as she'll be 83 on May 1. You never know, though, she's a tough old bird. We want her to show us all the places she's talked about. I think it will be a lovely walk down memory lane for her and a delightful gift for us. We fly out early Sunday.

When we fly out, there will be major demolition going on back our house. New bathrooms are goin' in. Excitement all around.

"Last Trip to Tropic". Won't that make a great title for a story?
With Arelis in Los Patos. She'll try anything. I think she was hoping for a little gin in her coconut juice.

A late evening at Camp David, outside Santiago. This restaurant is on a mountain top which has the most harrowing drive up a mountain I have ever experienced. I was so stressed by the ride up that I refused to drive down in our van. Had to switch vehicles. I'm telling you, we almost slid off the cliffs several times. It did me in. Clella just made the trip like Aunt Edna from National Lampoon's Vacation, except she wasn't dead and tied to the roof.

On a shopping trip in the city of Santiago, DR.
How can you not just love her?