Sunday, December 04, 2011

The Never Ending Story

A rather momentous day occurred in the Kohl family genealogy books on December 3rd, as a new generation made its debut.  Grandma Kohl passed away before the majority of her great-grandchildren were born. Grandpa Kohl died years before his first grandchild was even married. Yet, as happens continually throughout history, their family and legacy continue. One of their great-granddaughters just gave birth to the first great-great-grandchild.

It's a bit mind-boggling to think about, this thing called "generations." None of us will ever live to see the long-term, generational effects of our descendants...and yet those effects will continue, perhaps for centuries. Will one of your descendants be a future president? Could one of them help cure a deadly disease? Perhaps one will create some wonderful, new invention. Deeper and more profound than that, however, is the impact they could have on the world around them. The longer I live, the more amazed I am at the tremendous influence the humblest people can have...and that influence isn't limited to their immediate descendants. It can overflow and touch numerous families and an entire community.

None of us can know whether or not this newly birthed generation will produce a famous inventor or world-renowned scientist. However, I am certain of this. Grandma and Grandpa Kohl would be in awe of the family tree that continues to flourish after them. Not because any of their progeny are rich or famous, but because so many of them continue to value the things they valued...commitment, integrity, strong work-ethics, serving others and valuing family.

I probably have a warped view of heaven. But I like to picture some angelic being approaching Grandma Kohl (who's probably sitting in some heavenly rocking chair, crocheting), and announcing, "Behold, for unto you is born..."
And then she laughs. That wonderful, jolly, contagious laugh that was uniquely hers.

Whether or not that's the case...the next generation is certainly worth relishing in and rejoicing over. These new little ones make all of our efforts and struggles through life so very worthwhile.
So, congratulations Matt and Haley - little Caden is carrying on quite a legacy.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The View from Mayberry

This isn't the first time I've touted the benefits of small town life. There's such a simple charm to it at times that I can't help mentioning it once in awhile. We've had a couple of experiences over the past month that have reminded me once again of why I like it so much.

Just last week, Nate and I stopped by the local Harrisburg gas station/garage/furniture building shop. As the owner, Ken, was pumping our gas he said, "You all are an intelligent couple - what do you know about Romulus and Remus?" many city convenience stores can you pull into and not only have the owner pump your gas for you, but also compliment your IQ level and quiz you about Roman mythology?

Before that incident, I was reminded again when we went to visit my 22 year old at college.  Bethany attends school 9 hours away from a little Arkansas town that perhaps could be "Hicksville, USA," especially if you judge it by the local people's dialect. However, we recently found one of its small-town advantages.

We can't afford late model vehicles.  Thus, during Bethany's years of attending college in Arkadelphia (yes, that is really the name of the town) she's had her fair share of needing to deal with local mechanics. It's such a helpless feeling as a parent to have a daughter that far from home with a broken down vehicle. Of course we want to go help her out and solve the problem for her, and yet reality (and her father) says, "Bethany, you need to do the best you can with this and we'll advise you along the way." Thus, in 3 1/2 years time, she's probably tried that many automotive places in Arkadelphia...only to eventually be frustrated and disgusted with the level of care and service her and her car receives. This year has been no different. Thus, when we went down there last month with the knowledge that her car, once again, needed attention, we were determined that if a good mechanic existed in Arkadelphia, we were going to find him. (My apologies if that is sexist to assume a mechanic will be male. ;-)

Bethany had already asked around amongst her college friends. A couple of them recommended one certain shop that they liked. We weren't completely convinced that college kids from out of state might know the very best, local mechanic. Thus, that evening after we arrived, we walked into the local "U Save More" mart...or was it "Save U More?" Either way - it was very local.

Two guys with chewing tobacco stained teeth were "shootin' the breeze" near the front of the store, so Nate asked them point blank, "Where's the best place to find a good mechanic in this town?" They looked at each other...thought a minute, then said, "Well - you gotta go across the tracks..."

Ah ha - that was the key.  We hadn't yet tried the wrong side of the tracks.

The next morning, Nate went looking for that mechanic. Nate liked him right away when he mentioned, "Well, my daughter's car had over 300,000 miles on it when we finally sold it - these old cars will go forever if you take care of them."  The other mechanic - the one on the right side of the tracks - didn't even have time to look at the car and make a guess at what might be wrong with it when he heard it was a 1994 model.

We also liked "wrong-side-of-the-tracks" mechanic later that day, when we drove up in our family vehicle, ready to make the long trek back home.  It had been making a continually louder and louder noise the day before as we drove farther and farther south.  Nate wondered if perhaps this small-town guy could tell him if it was serious or not. The mechanic said sure, he could listen to it and give us an idea of what might be causing it.

He crawled under it with a stick (I kid you not - it resembled a long, skinny baseball bat.)  Moments later, after holding his stick up in the motor while it was running, he clambered back out from underneath the vehicle and said, "You'll be okay - but you probably don't want to use your A/C, because the compressor is going bad and will probably lock up on it pretty soon."

Wow - that fast? No "come back later," or no computer hook-up analysis?  And the best part? (Well - not from a pocketbook standpoint.) The guy was RIGHT.  Just last week, on a warm day - Nate forgot the Arkadelphian's advice and turned on the A/C for the kids in the backseat who were complaining of being hot.  And the A/C locked up - smoke, sparks and all.  I tell you what - it made me a believer.

Call me nostalgic, but I'll choose Gomer Pyle with a stick any day over a city mechanic with a computer.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

October Fulfillments

I believe I can honestly say October is my favorite month of the year.  I absolutely, positively and completely love autumn.  Along with the comforting temperatures and rewarding fall beauty...our family has experienced some fulfilling October moments this year.

Nate's 10th mission trip with EMI as well as building a home with Extreme Home Makeover in Joplin, our 4th trip within 5 years time to the Renaissance festival in Kansas City, kids camping out with grandparents, college visits in Arkansas, and many other little highlights...

One highlight occurred when our two youngest children and I followed Nate to Springfield, MO for three days.  He attended the Tri-State surveyors' convention again this year.  He never goes to those unless he's needing his PDU's to keep his license current, since sitting through three days of lectures that he's heard several times before is NOT his style.  But the kids and I enjoyed some fun stuff, and he joined in the fun whenever he had a break.

Thus, Josiah, Jessie and I spent some time exploring Springfield.  One fun place was a retro arcade hangout that Nate and I enjoy...1984.  It's tagline, "The best thing since 1983," makes me smile.  Nate and I both graduated high school in 1983, and although most of the arcade games in the place were ones we never played, it somehow makes us feel a little more youthful to walk in there and challenge each other to an intense game of Qbert (especially since I ALWAYS win that one.)  Jessie and Josiah loved it, even though mom and dad were actually beating them most of the time - something that rarely happens when we're challenging them to the video games of their generation.

One of the funniest things Josiah said during our time in Springfield had nothing to do with 1984, Bass Pro World or any other fun place we visited.  We were simply walking into the hotel, and Josiah saw his daddy pull the room key card out of his wallet.  Josiah's quick glance and sharp mind made him exclaim, "Wow, how many hotel room keys do you have in there?!"

Dave Ramsey would be so proud to know that Nate's wallet is filled with room keys rather than credit cards.

Speaking of proud - October has brought some incredible opportunities to Nate that make it hard for me not to be extremely proud of my hubby.  First, it was a week in Nicaragua, successfully serving on another EMI mission team.  Next, he volunteered and was selected to go to Joplin on Oct. 19 and 20 to be a part of Extreme Home Makeover's Joplin Build project - building seven homes in seven days.  He'll be serving on the carpentry and framing crew for home #3.

Oh yes, I am SO very excited to see him sportin' that hardhat!  I only wish I could be there at the conclusion, to help shout, "Move that bus!"  What a rewarding day that will be for the seven families, as well as for the thousands of volunteers that play a small part in it.

Last but not least...I'm looking forward to taking three high school seniors to Arkansas at the end of October, to visit two wonderful colleges.  One of those colleges has been the residence of our 22 year-old for the past 3 1/2 will be so good to have an excuse to spend a little time with her.

Sharing life with family and serving others...all of this random activity somehow has seemed a little more gratifying during this radiant and glorious month of October.

"But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create..."  --Isaiah 65:18a

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

That's Just the Pits...Isn't It?

"Do everything without complaining or arguing." -Phil. 2:14
That has got to be one of the most challenging and difficult verses in the Bible for me.  After all, when I've got problems, I'm just SURE that other people should know about them, because they'll certainly want to feel sorry for me, won't they?  My problems are just as bad and probably worse than anyone else's around me, right?

There's the kicker that usually shuts my mouth from continuing the grumbling.  For every terrible situation that'd I'd love to complain about...I can always think of someone who's dealing with a tougher struggle.

My complaints about our net income dropping into the depths of the poverty level last year sound lifeless when there are so many unemployed people around me with NO income. My griping about that old lady that despises my pastor/husband is insignificant, when I consider what an amazing husband I've been blessed with, no matter what she thinks of him.  Perhaps she's never known the joys of having a loving and committed husband, and so she takes it out on others.

You get the idea.  Sure, we've all got issues and problems that can get us down, overwhelm us and cause us to grumble.  However, isn't everyone dealing with problems and struggles?

"But," you may say, "Their problems or your problems are nothing like mine - you can't understand how terribly difficult this is!"

No, I can't.  Likewise, you can not understand my troubles.  Who am I to assume that I've got it worse than you do...and vice versa?

C.S. Lewis put it rather bluntly: “Hell begins with a grumbling mood, always complaining, always blaming others... but you are still distinct from it. You may even criticize it in yourself and wish you could stop it. But there may come a day when you can no longer. Then there will be no you left to criticize the mood or even to enjoy it, but just the grumble itself, going on forever like a machine. It is not a question of God 'sending us' to hell. In each of us there is something growing, which will BE hell unless it is nipped in the bud. ” 

Thus, I will do my best to heed Mr. Lewis' advice and "nip it in the bud."  I'll bite my tongue for the umpteenth time and remember that when Paul said "everything," he really did mean everything...and for a good reason.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Who's to Blame?

Stories like this are disturbing, for several different reasons:

Man Dies from Toothache - Couldn't Afford Meds

Of course everyone cries, "If he would have just had insurance, he'd still be alive!"

I won't argue that it obviously would have helped him.  I don't want to take up the "national healthcare vs. no national healthcare" debate. But I see deeper things within an article like this that trouble me...such as this quote:
"When people are unemployed or don't have insurance, where do they go? What do they do?" Silverstein said. "People end up dying, and these are the most treatable, preventable diseases in the world."
Wow - that struck me as an exaggeration, and a sad commentary on today's if insurance is the only answer?

We personally have never had dental insurance.  During my early 20's, I also struggled with wisdom teeth pain off and on for a few years. One time, when I was pretty sure it had reached the infection point and I could barely open my mouth, I called a dentist and made an appointment, knowing that we would probably just have to make arrangements to make monthly payments or something. After x-rays,  the dentist said, "I'll charge $25 a piece to pull them, and we'll do all four and get it over with today."  No mention of expensive dental surgery; no offer to put me on antibiotics or pain meds for a few days. I had even driven myself to his office, expecting that I would be put on some meds for a few days and then have to schedule an appointment to come back at a later date - at which point I'd have someone else drive me.  However - he was making it affordable for me right now, I figured he was the expert, and so I let him go at it.  He shot me up with lots of stuff, pulled all four teeth in short order, and sent me out the door with a scrip for pain meds.  I couldn't even talk when I walked in the pharmacy - just handed them the scrip, feeling conspicuously like a swollen, speechless pumpkin.  I drove myself home, pulling over occasionally to spit the blood out of my mouth...laid around home for about 24 hours before the bleeding finally stopped, and that was that.

Granted - that dentist was obviously rather "old school," and I was pretty miserable for a day or two.  But - what if the young man in the article had visited an "old school" dentist?  Why does needing wisdom teeth removed always seem to automatically mean expensive surgery nowadays?  And why oh WHY aren't some health care professionals just a BIT more in-tune to their patients' needs?  I'd be willing to bet money that dentist had samples of antibiotics at his office that he could have given him for free, or he probably could have set him up on a payment plan and pulled his teeth.  Have we become such a "medi-quick convenience clinic" type of society that many of our health-care providers no longer need to understand some deeper issues that a patient may be dealing with (ie: he's out of work and not insured?)  Have we convinced a generation of people now that unless they have insurance, they're doomed to pain, misery and in this man's case...death?

Yes, it's sad that he didn't have insurance.  But what is sadder to me is that he died, NOT because he didn't have insurance, but because someone, somewhere, just didn't speak up and ask a question or two.  His dentist let him walk away.  What if that dentist had just taken an extra moment to ask, "I see you don't have insurance and can't afford wisdom teeth extraction.  Can you afford these medications?"  (but the dentist apparently didn't even offer him an antibiotic scrip?) Or what if that young man would have been honest and said, "I'm not sure I can afford a prescription right now."  Drug reps hand out free samples to doctors all the time...wasn't there someone, either the dentist or the ER physicians, who could have offered him samples if they realized he was unemployed and uninsured?  Or what about the young man's friends or family - if they had known, surely someone would have offered to help him buy those antibiotics?

I'm sure I'm over-simplyfiying it, but I believe some good old-fashioned communication, honesty and just a little concern and involvement could have saved this man's life.  Maybe insurance would have also saved him, but that seems to be a minor side-point.  Insurance will never take the place of people who genuinely care about others - whether they be care-givers, patients, friends or family members.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Can I Ever, Truly Retire?

I occasionally dream about what those far-off retirement years could look like - traveling, having a house stuffed to the brim with family during the holidays, traveling some more to visit our kids scattered around the world, relaxing (LOTS of relaxing)...and no more homeschooling.

That last one doesn't make most people's "dream" list of what retirement will look like, does it?  It's actually made my list for a long time now.  Don't get me wrong, I've loved all these years of guiding my children through those formative years of their education.  I wouldn't trade it for anything.  However, when I think about the fact that I began that journey in 1991, and depending on how long we homeschool the could be as late as 2020 or 21 before I'm makes me very tired.

I mentioned to Nate recently that if there was no other reason to find alternative schooling options for our younger three children when they reach high school age, that was ONE reason that was good enough for me - the fact that I'd be in my mid-50's by the time Josiah graduates.   When I started homeschooling as a young, 20-something-year-old mom, did I imagine I would still be doing it into my mid-50's?  Not even remotely.  But was Nate sympathetic?

"Oh, but that's a great age to retire; several years younger than most people retire.  That's one of the advantages of being a teacher!" he replied.

If only they could still use crayons
to do their college algebra.
Not exactly the kind of understanding, consoling response I was looking for.

As I think more about it, however, I realize homeschooling is too intertwined with the mom job to ever be something you just completely "quit" doing.  It's like during the summer, when Josiah asks about the web things in the trees with hundreds and hundreds of ugly caterpillars inside of them.  School is the furthest thing from my mind in summer-time (I enjoy summer break more than the kids do) and yet I hear myself telling him that we need to look them up and figure out what we can learn about them.  It's just become habit turning to look when someone hollers "MOM!" even if your children are nowhere around...or fully grown.

Does that mean I've convinced myself I can formally school my last three children all the way through their high school graduation?  Hmmm...I hope not.  But it does mean, some far off day when I'm "retired" and walking through the woods with one of my grandkids, we'll probably pick up some random, crawling thing and trot back to the house to figure out what it is.  And when the younger sibling screams because he didn't get a creepy crawly like big sister did...I'll turn to his mother and say, "You should deal with that screaming child."

THAT will be retirement.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Pandora, You Don't Know Me

I love to listen to Pandora internet radio.  I can choose the style of music I'm in the mood for...or, best of all, I can mix it up and get the variety I love in music.  (What other station will play Abba, Plumb and Billie Holiday back to back?)

However, I don't like the way it tries to figure me out.  It started a year or so ago, when a certain song would begin and it would tell me "so-in-so likes this artist."  What?  How does it know who my friends are and what they like? I don't remember ever giving it access to Facebook or anything.  I believe, when I signed in a few years ago to begin listening, that all I did was give it my email address; and yet Pandora - you never email me.  You're like a stalker, trying to silently figure out all you can about me.

Now that it thinks it has my friends figured out - it's getting pushy.  It thinks it now knows my gender and age...because it keeps putting this ad in my sidebar, showing pictures of gray-haired men, entitled "Meet 50+ men in your area."  What???!

Here's my reaction to this - bulleted, of course, to make my points clear and concise, since I'm now old and know the importance of such things:
  • My first thought was, "Why would I want to meet 50 or more men???"
  • Then I saw all the gray hair...and realized Pandora was really trying to say 50 YEAR OLD men (or older.)  
  • Next - the photos.  Haha...those are NOT men in my area, no matter what Pandora may try to tell me.  Guys that age in my part of the world usually have pot bellies, farmer's tans on their head from wearing hats all their life...and they do not look the least bit air-brushed.
  • The insinuation - that I would be looking for an old man - is wrong in so many ways...
  1. I'm a middle-aged woman who, like every other woman my age, would love to feel and look younger. You dare to suggest I need an OLD man?
  2. I'm so happily married, it's crazy.  Why would I even consider offending my un-bald, un-gray, trim and fit 40-something-year-old guy for a fake, photo-shopped, random old man?  
  3. Some other thoughts that shouldn't be put in print.
  • Last but not least, my husband says Pandora also shows him ads, but of course they're for women in the area. 
  • The pictures of the women?  They're YOUNG!  WHAT'S UP WITH THAT???!   Because he's a guy - he needs hot, young things...and since I'm a woman, I need old, gray-haired "distinguished" guys?  Now if that doesn't offend me, I don't know what would.
However - I love music too much to quit listening.  Thus, I'll just have to tolerate your pushy insinuations.

Just remember, are not smart enough to ever, truly, figure me out.  But don't take it personally - even my awesome husband struggles with that one.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

I Wish it Weren't So

Over the past few years, I often grin inwardly as I hear my husband remorsefully exclaim, "When will I learn that my wife is ALWAYS right?!"

However, I try not to gloat. In fact, there are many times that I would prefer to be wrong.  Take, for example, the most recent time I heard him make that statement...

We were headed to Houston, TX.  It was August, the middle of the afternoon and about 110 degrees on a desolate stretch of Oklahoma "highway."  (I use that term rather reluctantly, as the road would have been more aptly called a "roughway" or a "potholeway.")  All of a sudden there was the dreaded thumping and out-of-control feeling of a blown tire.  Nate handled it very well and aptly got us maneuvered to the shoulder.  He, with the help of our three older girls that were with us, made quick and efficient work out of getting the ruined tire removed, the spare tire mounted and before we were all completely drenched in sweat...we were back on the road.

Here's where I wish I could be wrong.  We hadn't been back on the road very long when I hesitantly ventured to say, "Nate, I know it will eat up an hour or two of our time, but maybe we should go get that tire replaced so we have a spare in case we happen to have another flat?"   (I had now been noticing that there were literally pieces and shreds of tire along every mile of that "highway"...I think the heat and the rough road were consuming tires.)

"Ah - where's your faith and sense of adventure?" eternal-optimist-Nate replied.  "If we're going to make it all the way to Houston tonight, we really just need to keep pushing on, and I'm sure it'll be fine."

Well, you can guess what happened.  It was nearing dark...we were only 2 1/2 hours from reaching Houston, and a truck passed us with a guy hanging out the window making weird gestures with his hands and pointing towards the back of our Expedition.  Nate, still the optimist, said, "I bet a lid is coming off one of those containers on the back."  (we have a hitch rack, for hauling our extra stuff that just doesn't fit in the vehicle)

He pulled over, got out, and I heard him exclaim, "Oh no - that tire is going down fast!"

He hopped back in, driving towards the nearest exit ramp at a snail's pace - it was some county road exit in the middle of nowhere, with nothing but farmland for miles and miles around.  And yes, I believe the next words out of his mouth were, "When will I ever learn that my wife is always right?!"


I - not being nearly as optimistic as my husband - have been a card-carrying member of AAA for the past few years.  He refuses a membership - but as long as I or one of our card-carrying older girls are in the disabled vehicle - we can call them to the rescue, whether or not I'm driving and whether or not I'm right.

I spent several minutes on the phone as the lady tried to figure out where we seemed that the nearest town of any size at all was over 30 minutes away.  She finally got a driver called - he called back and Nate explained to him that we didn't have a spare - we were FAR from home - he wasn't leaving his family standing along the interstate - and we had to have a tire.  The guy's response?  "I'm just the tow truck driver!"

However, he went above the call of duty.  His large tow truck for loading 4WD vehicles  was a club cab, so all eight of us piled in.  He had also called a local garage at a little wide spot in the road.  Did I mention that by this time, it was nearly 10 PM on a Sunday night?  No matter...the mechanic said he had some used tires lying around - nine of which were our size - and he'd open up and fix us up.

So, we got fixed up by a quiet little tattooed redneck who didn't seem to mind at all that it was late at night on a weekend.  We all stood around in his hot parking lot (except for Nate - who can't stand still and had to help.)  At one point...a random tall, lanky fellow walked up, twirling a lasso.  He hung around a bit, twirled that lasso some more, then meandered off.  Next, a cat wandered up and the girls were petting it, when the mechanic-of-few-words said, "That's Dog."

One of my girls said, "What?  Wait...this is a cat."

"Yup.  And his name is Dog."

Oh, Texas - are you sure you're not your own special country (or continent?)

And Nate, I KNOW you're special, but I wish to goodness that I could be wrong sometimes.  ;-)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Simple, Natural and a bit like a Fairytale...

Our first child...married.  Lots of emotions went into that big day.  For us, the emotions started several months before...more specifically, when a certain phone call came from a certain young man.  Since he lived three hours south of us, and since he didn't want to have such a life-changing conversation over the phone, he simply called to ask if Nate could meet him at a half-way point near the Lake of the Ozarks, so they could "talk."  We knew immediately what "the talk" was going to be about; we'd been expecting it.  No matter how much we expected it, however, we couldn't hold back those first few tears that evening.

The months leading up to the wedding were quite a roller coaster ride - as most big, parenting milestones tend to be.  There was the fun and excitement of wedding dress shopping, picking bridesmaid dresses, seeing how many decorations we could buy on holiday clearance, etc.  Yet there was the stress of SO much to do (especially since she wanted the wedding and reception to be here at home) and the fact that she was three hours away at college.  She tried her best to be easy-going about all of it, and yet, she had very definite opinions and ideas about how everything would be.  It proved to be quite the balancing act - trying to get her to tell us exactly what she dreamed  her wedding day would look like...and figuring out how to make that physically possible.  (If only Peter Jackson would have created Rivendell on our back 40, then we would have been ready to go!)

With lots of work and creativity from everyone, it finally came together and the big day arrived.  For me personally, the wedding day was a that I didn't have the chance to savor and cherish like a mother would want to do.  Later, as friends shared photos on Facebook and continued to comment about what a beautiful wedding it was, the savoring began to take hold.  I needed it, so I wouldn't continue feeling so overwhelmed with those "my 1st daughter is married??!!" emotions.  I loved the day when we finally got a look at the photographer's I could truly relish!  Then, much to our delight, a neighbor surprised us with a DVD of video footage he had taken at the wedding.  The wedding day was so crazy, I had no idea he was there with a video camera.  How fun it was to re-live the day (at least, about 20 minutes of it) by watching the video.  I missed the music, however.  Rachel and Kyle had done a fantastic job of choosing music for the ceremony - all of it fit so very well with the setting, mood, etc. - the nearly silent video just didn't seem to catch the feeling of the day.

But now...two years later...I've pieced the day together again.  Thanks to some fun and new software and lots of time, I can now cherish and savor that day to my heart's content.  The setting, the people, the live footage, the pictures and yes, even the music.

Now if you'll just turn your thermostat to about 100 degrees - you could truly imagine you were there on that very special day!

Thursday, June 02, 2011

So helpless, but I've gotta do something...

Is there a single person on earth who has not been touched by cancer in some way, shape, or form?  If so...I doubt they will remain untouched for long.

My first "touches" were in childhood - a grandfather with colon cancer and a grandmother with breast cancer and several occurrences of skin cancer.  I was fortunate at that point - cancer did not take either of them from me.  There were other acquaintances after that - but no one I knew very well.

Then it reared it's ugly head a little too close to friend and (near) neighbor, a young mom about my age, with children the same age as mine...died of lung cancer.

"Helpless" is the word that I now began associating with cancer.  After watching this  young mother go through all the treatments and suffering - after praying and pleading and praying and pleading with God some more - then seeing her 4 young children and husband suffer the loss to cancer in the's just such a helpless feeling.

There were soon others that also lost the cancer battle - a couple of young dads in our community, uncles on both sides of the family, and a cousin only a few years older than myself.  It was getting vicious.

The next touch was more of a body slam.  The unthinkable happened when our friends called in tears to say their 15 year old daughter had just been diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer.  She was my daughter's best friend and "bosom buddy"...and also cousin by marriage.  They had been friends before they were cousins (her mom-by-marriage was my husband's cousin.)  Her biological mother had been my friend, the one who died of lung cancer just a few years before.

Could I loathe cancer any more than this?

A few days before my daughter's high school graduation - cancer took her life-long, best friend away from her.  Now when she comes home from college...she goes to a cemetery to visit her.  There will never be anything right about that.  As a mom - I feel so desperately helpless as my daughter heads out the door to go visit a grave.

"Good haircut, mommy!"
And then, less than a year later, cancer touched us again.  My sister-in-law, younger than myself, is battling stage 4 breast cancer that has also moved into her liver.  She's the sister that never forgets a birthday, the one who is always so loving, supportive and positive.  The one who always seems thrilled to open her home to our large family, so we can have fantastic vacations in places like Orlando, Austin and Houston...or so we could hang out for a few days with the young girl receiving weeks of radiation treatments in Houston.  Her and my brother have a beautiful, 6 year old daughter.  And I, once again, pray and plead and feel helpless.

I'm so sick and tired of feeling helpless.  It's time to do something more.  It's not much of anything, really...but it's something.  First and foremost - I have to keep praying and believing that cancer can LOOSE!  Secondly - I'm joining in the bigger fight.

I've given to the American Cancer Society occasionally; supported others that take the time to participate in a "Relay for Life," but that's about as far as I've taken it.  Now, I'm stepping up.  I may not be able to kick cancer myself - I may not be able to kick cancer together with all of the whole American Cancer Society - but by golly I'm going to do something. 

Thus, in honor of my sister-in-law, Jennifer Cox, and in memory of sweet Amanda Joy McDaniel, I've formed "Team Jennifer and Amanda" to participate in an upcoming Relay for Life.  After the first day, over half of the goal had been raised, so I doubled the goal.  We still haven't made that goal - but I'm hopeful.

Obviously - others feel strongly about this cursed disease and the lives of innocent people it has touched.  If you're one of them, feel free to visit that team page and give a donation, purchase a luminary in honor or memory of a loved one, or just be thankful that there are so many fighting this battle.  A battle that we all hope and pray will some day end victoriously, so "helpless" will no longer come to mind when the word cancer is breathed.

Monday, May 02, 2011

So Proud of That...

 Nate has such a big heart - a heart for the world.  He's given months of his time over the past several years to go serve overseas on lots of different projects - most of them on Engineering Ministries International (eMi) teams.  eMi is a fantastic, world-wide ministry that is as near to a perfect match for Nate's big heart as anything he's ever come across.

Nate has worked on eMi teams from Guatemala to India, doing everything from surveying how deep a lake was in Rwanda to hijacking a taxi from their drugged driver in order to keep the team safe while traveling in India.  Most of these trips have involved helping children...a children's home in Guatemala, a site for a school in a remote village of Ghana, an orphanage in India, etc.
One of the neatest projects he's been a part of was in Rwanda - working for Kanukuk Kamps on their Kids Across Africa Camp.  For anyone that's watched "Hotel Rwanda" or heard the stories of the terrible genocide that occurred's hard NOT to get excited about a camp where these children can be carefree kids for a few days, have 3 nutritional meals a day and enjoy having lots of staff to love on them, share the Good News with them, and make sure they have the experience of a lifetime.
In one week's time, this eMi Rwanda team was able to do an amazing amount of work.  I love to watch the video they produced by the end of that week.  Considering that they started with just a leveled off top of a hillside by a lake, clueless as to  where the property boundaries were - and finished with a conceptual video and plan for a well-designed facility made to fit perfectly on the less-than-ideal, limited hill-top...I can't help but feel proud.  Proud to be the wife of a man who loves to donate his time to such projects...proud to be the mom of amazing daughters who love to "tag along" and help...and proud to be a child of The King.  A King who has a heart for the poorest of the poor in this world, and shares a portion of that heart with mere little, insignificant people like us.  It makes me smile from the inside out.  :-)

Friday, April 29, 2011

O, Those Melancholy Moments

I think there was an old song entitled, "Melancholy Baby" or some such thing.  I'm finding as my "babies" grow up into young adults - I'm the Melancholy Mama a little more often than I should be.
Take tonight, for instance.  My fourth daughter, Tabitha, just left a few moments ago to meet up with friends at someone's house, so they could all finish getting ready for their annual Spring Formal event.  A seventeen year old's "dream" night...getting to look and feel like a princess.  Why would that make me melancholy, for heaven's sake?

It has something to do with the fact that her older three sisters are all grown and gone.  Always before...for the past 6 or 7 years...when prom or spring formal rolled around, there were a "group" of sisters around. Giggling, painting each others nails, primping and curling and spraying, asking each others opinions about how this looks, or what if I did my hair like this?  It's always been so much fun - so much so, that often they've had friends who also come over and join in the big event of "getting ready."
So, when Tabitha came home this week and said, "Some of my friends are going to so-in-so's house to get ready for formal.  Do you mind if I join them?"  I had to force a smile as I said, "Not at all - you'll have fun."

Someone else's house...someone who has more teen daughters around home than we the fun place to go get ready.

She stuck around long enough to let me style her hair...that was fun.  But there were no older sisters saying, "Oh wait - maybe you should do this instead."  There wasn't much giggling.  No fancy dresses swishing around, getting in everyone's way.  All the dressing and make-up work was going to happen at the friend's house.

That's how it should be...I shouldn't always be the mom who gets to have all the fun.

Am I regretful, depressed, or wasting my time moping about the simple fact that children do grow up?  Not at all. Yet here I sit, wondering why the years keep flying by so quickly.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Technology - Frightful or Fearless?

I happen to be one of those people that really appreciates technology.  I love having the world at my fingertips, but more than that, I love having my children who travel the world at my fingertips.  Things like Skype, the internet, cell phones & did mothers do without those for the past few thousand years???  Perhaps they just worried more?  Or, perhaps they were blissfully ignorant of what it was they should be worrying about...

We experienced the awful terror that technology can sometimes make you aware of, just this past week.  Our daughter Bethany is doing a semester abroad in the UK.  I guess in Europe, colleges give month long spring breaks, because both Bethany and her OBU roommate, Hanna, (who is doing her semester abroad in Spain) have been traveling all over Europe during their spring breaks - the whole month of April.

As neither of them planned to carry a laptop around with them amongst their minimal luggage - we decided we would pay a little extra this month on our cell phone plan so that Bethany could send us 50 international texts during this billing cycle.  It's been great, knowing that she arrived in Rome and found her hostel all by herself - knowing when Hanna finally arrived and met up with her - knowing when she's getting on a train to head to some other exotic, European city.  For a parent - they've been extremely comforting and reassuring texts...well worth the extra $10 it's costing us this month.

Ah, but what to do when all of a sudden, you receive this text - 6 PM our time and about midnight her time:

"Hey mom, Hanna and I have a big problem.  We went to the hostel we booked in Paris and it had cancelled our reservation.  We are now in a baaaad part of Paris without a place to stay...We are near Porte de Chappelle St.  I dunno if you can do anything but could you at least pray?"

Kind of sounding like the beginnings of a parents' worst nightmare...especially if you've heard of the movie, "Taken."

Then the phone rang.  It was Bethany (yes, that will be an expensive charge on the phone bill - but would any parent mind at this point?)  She explained that they had found a hotel in that terrible part of town - but it was booked full.    And that street she had mentioned in the text?  She said she wanted us to know that street name, in case something bad happened to them, at least I would know where they last were so I could give that info to the police or something.

Very comforting.

And although 30 years ago a parent would have remained blissfully ignorant of her traveling daughter's is where frightful technology can turn into fearless technology.  Sure, we prayed just like she asked...but we got busy as well.  Nate and I immediately got on two different laptops, searching Google maps and hostels and hotels in the vicinity.  A lot of it was in French and did us absolutely no good.  But it was reassuring to have a map right in front of me, looking at the very street where she was feeling scared and hopeless, knowing that I was doing my best to help.  We sent several texts back and forth with a few addresses of hotels we thought we had found that might be near them.  As it turned out, however, Bethany and Hanna solved the problem on their own by getting the hotel owner to tell them where they could find a place to stay, since his place was all booked up.  That next place he suggested did have a room - and even though it was a "crappy room that is way too expensive" (Bethany's description) they stayed there since that owner couldn't speak English, and since it was nearing the middle of the night.

Thus - did technology really help us out?  Probably not.  Am I glad she has a cell phone and international texting, so she could dump her problem on us and scare us witless?  Absolutely.  Even though it was a frightful half was nice to know that even though my 21 yr. old is halfway around the world and handling life abroad very well on her own...she still needs us.  She still looks to us when she's in dire straights and doesn't know what to do.  She still knows that mom and dad are here for her...even if "here" is 4,000 miles away from where she is staying.  THAT is why I love technology...for those of us waiting back home, it's made the big, wide world that our children love exploring much more easily accessible and "small"...what mother wouldn't love that?

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

What I learned from the Super Bowl Ads...

I believe I can honestly say, in the days following the big game, I've seen more reports and articles about the Super Bowl commercials than about the actual Super Bowl.  I always enjoy watching the Super Bowl commercials (usually more than the game itself) but now with my job, I find myself paying more and more attention to all kinds of advertisements in order to see what I can learn from them.

Did I learn anything from all of those millions upon millions of dollars in advertising that I watched on Super Bowl Sunday?  Yes, I believe I did.  Did I learn anything valuable?  Probably not...but here's a quick summary:
  • My husband got gypped when he bought a Ford truck.  Apparently with a Chevy, I'd get a built-in babysitter for my little mischievous boy.
  • Speaking of the boy - he and his little friends would be even more adorable when they try to use the force if they had Darth Vader costumes.
  • GoDaddy does NOT look like a good place for daddy's to go. 
  • I think like Ozzy Osbourne? ("What's a Bieber?")  Wow, didn't see that coming.
  • I've lost respect for Harrison Ford.  I mean, are you old man, as a cowboy in the old west, shooting blasters at aliens while riding his horse?!
  • Eminem is not Lee Iacocca, but he makes a pretty good sell for Chrysler (and Detroit.)
  • Budweiser could probably make a movie with all the money they spent on costumes, sets, etc.  A commercial?  Not so much.
  • I don't care who you one would trade a personal trainer like THAT for a pair of tennis shoes!
  • I need a Pepsi Max - not to drink, but to chuck at somebody - that just looks like too much fun! 
Perhaps that is the extent of what I learned this year.  Nothing earth-shattering; no new insights to apply to my job...but some rather enlightening information, none-the-less.

Monday, January 10, 2011

But it Sure is Pretty!

On a day like today when the snow begins falling around here, those are inevitably the first words out of my mouth.  Yes, it's a pain to get around in.  Yes, it makes feeding animals, getting firewood, and going anywhere a bit more challenging (and sometimes that's an understatement!)  Yes, it's cold and wet and generally miserable outside.  But wow, just bear with me as I repeat myself for the hundredth time since becoming a country sure is pretty!

I can almost audibly hear this picture still, treasure the beauty of this moment and don't worry about tomorrow.  Yes, tomorrow may mean we can't make it all the way up our driveway in the van.  It most likely will mean that our noses, fingers and toes will be extra cold and red when we have to feed and water the calves.  Without a doubt it will mean the children will bundle up in layers, go outside for awhile, then come in and leave wet, muddy puddles and damp clothing everywhere.

But for now - it sure is pretty.  
"When snow falls, nature listens."  ~Antoinette van Kleeff

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Time Travel...

Within the past month, we've picked up one daughter who was returning from 6 months in India, and sent another daughter off for her semester abroad in Liverpool.  As I've wracked my brain trying to figure out time changes and when various flights are landing/taking off from various world-wide locations, I couldn't help remembering my first personal experience with such mind boggling, world traveling, time differences.  Never have I been so sleep-deprived in all my life.

It was January 19, 2001...but just barely.  The alarm went off at 2:30 AM so we could be to the St. Louis airport with our family (all 7 of us at the time) by 5:30 AM - an hour or so before our flight departed.  This pre-dated 9-11, so arriving 2 hours ahead for international flights wasn't really necessary.  Back then, they still mailed out paper tickets - we had received our tickets a couple of weeks earlier, along with the itinerary from the travel agent that arranged the flights.  We kept the tickets in the nice little holder that they arrived in, and consulted our itinerary.  Wow, what a mistake that turned out to be.  When we stepped up to the airline counter at 5:30 AM, five sleepy-eyed children and two overwhelmed parents, the lady behind the counter typed our reservation number into the computer and said, "Wow, you are here REALLY early for a 6:30 PM flight!"

GRRrrrrr....are you kidding me???  She double checked - but her computer was correct and our itinerary was wrong; we were not leaving at 6:30 AM as it so boldly dared to incorrectly inform us.
She did her best to find an earlier flight for us, after we explained our predicament, but the best she could do was a flight that left at 3:30 PM, so we still had about nine or more hours to wait.  Thankfully, my parents were along to say good-bye and take the vehicle back home, so they offered to get a motel room for us all to rest in for a few hours.  Nine people in one motel room...well, there was a little resting, but not much.

At 2:30 PM - 12 hours after the alarm went off - we headed to the airport a second time.  We left without a hitch, but the flight only took us as far as Memphis, where we once again had to wait.  About five hours later, however, we were finally in the air, headed to Amsterdam - our last stop before heading to New Delhi.  Ah, but what a last stop it turned out to be...

Upon arriving, we quickly consulted the screens to see if our departing flight would be leaving when it was supposed to - we should have only had a couple of hours to wait.  There it was - in blaring digital numbers that made our blood-shot eyes ache even more.  There was a 14 hour delay due to smog in New Delhi.  It might as well have been an eternity.

By now and in this part of the world, it was January 21st - our daughter Lydia's 9th birthday.  After wandering around dumb-founded for awhile, and double checking screens in a couple different locations just to make sure we really had read that 14 hour delay thing correctly, we found a room designed for children.  It wasn't much - a small room with a few baby beds and desks, and some little wooden toys.  We claimed it, laid our sleepy 18 month old Rebekah in one of the beds, and wished they also had beds for bigger people.  We got out the 2 or 3 birthday presents that we had managed to hide away in our carry-on luggage and celebrated a very low-key 9th birthday.

Did I mention that I was about 4 months pregnant?  Or, did I mention that I can NOT sleep sitting up-right.  Thus, airplane travel, even for 9 hours over the Atlantic, does not allow me to rest. 

Nate decided we should leave the child's room haven and go looking for an area where perhaps more of us could sleep.  We finally found it - a large area full of recliner/cot chair things.  However, most of the other people in the airport had also found it, and there was nary an empty seat.  We stood there awhile, impatiently waiting, until one became available.  No, we couldn't all sleep on one cot, but Nate knew how sleep-deprived I was (he usually has no trouble sleeping on airplanes) and declared that I should stay here and sleep, and he would take the kids back to the room.

That was a bit discomforting, no matter how tired I was.  I am terrible with directions, etc., so I had no idea how to get back to where we had just come from.  No problem, he said, you just stay here, rest, and we'll come back and check on you in awhile.  Okay, I was tired enough that I didn't care that he was going to leave me sleeping amongst a bunch of people from all over the world...just give me those earplugs and I'm out.

 An hour or so later he showed back up with all five children still in-tow, and stated that we just HAD to go see Amsterdam, since we still had several hours to wait.  He had done some checking while I was sleeping, and found a train that went to the city from the airport, and it would be leaving shortly so we needed to hurry.

Everything about this trip was out of my comfort zone - and this was definitely WAY out.  I immediately started saying, "But what if we miss the train back to the airport?"  "What if we get lost in Amsterdam?" etc, etc.  The last thing I wanted to do was miss that flight and have to wait several more hours again for another one.

Of course I was outnumbered...everyone was ready to go.  After all, they pleaded, it's Lydia's birthday and it would be so cool to go explore Amsterdam for her birthday!  No mom can argue with that kind of logic for very long.

It was nearly dusk, very cold, and about all I remember of Amsterdam is that it seemed to be a very dark and depressing place.  I'm sure that's not how it is at all...but through my travel-weary eyes that had never traveled outside of the USA, it's just the way it appeared.  We walked around for a few hours, stepped inside a few various places to get warmed up...then went back to the train.  No, we didn't miss our flight, and everything was okay (just like it normally is when my husband asks me to trust his judgment, even though I don't want to.)

About midnight of the 21st, Amsterdam time, we were finally on a plane headed to India.  The most memorable part of that flight, besides my weariness?  Flying over the Himalayas...even at night, they were very distinct and absolutely forbidding and beautiful, all at the same time.

In Delhi, a couple of guys were awaiting our arrival so they could escort us to our final destination - a five hour train ride and 1 1/2 hour taxi ride away from Delhi.  They also had been waiting and waiting, thinking our plane would arrive 14 hours before it actually did.  When we finally got there, sometime early afternoon of the 22nd, we so desperately wanted a bed and some sleep, we could barely think of little else.  However, they had planned a "treat" for us, to welcome us to India.  They found a couple of taxis, managed to get us and all of our luggage crammed in them, and off we went to a local YWCA, where we would spend the night.  We weren't staying yet, however, just getting our room and dropping off our luggage.  They were both so hungry and assumed we were too, and they knew where a real Pizza Hut was located, and wouldn't it be great to go get PIZZA, even though we were in India?  And it was even within walking distance of the YWCA, so no need to hire taxis again!  Okay, okay; we were honestly too tired to put up much of an argument. 

Off we went, half-asleep and dodging beggars, cows, bicycles, rickshaws, all manner of filth, etc., all the while amidst such a clamor of honking and noises as I had never experienced.  It woke me up a bit...but I can't say that was a good thing.

Once at Pizza Hut, we ordered our pizzas, and then the girls all promptly fell asleep.  They just all leaned on top of one another in the booth, not caring that the pizza would soon be there, or that our hosts were wanting to ask all sorts of questions and get to know us better.  I greatly envied the freedom of childish abandon and rudeness, and wished I could do likewise.

Around 4 PM we finally did make it back to our room-full of about 10 different beds.  Everyone claimed a bed, not caring too much about the lizard that slithered quickly up the wall, and fell into a very deep sleep.  We slept and slept, until about 2:30 AM when we were all suddenly wide awake.
Exactly four days after that alarm went off, I finally felt a little bit rested and ready to tackle the next adventure.  It's a good thing, because when our taxis got separated at the huge, Delhi train station that very morning, and we had to help push another taxi up the final leg of our mountainous journey that afternoon...I needed at least a bit of rest to endure my induction into this place where adventure so often finds you.