Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Meaning of Friendship

Every night when I go on the internet, to check email, Facebook, this blog and various other social media, I also click on the websites for the two funeral homes in town. Does that make me old or morbid or both? You just never know who may have passed away.

One night last week, on my usual tour of the world wide web, a name caught my eye. My mouth dropped open and my breath stopped. “No, it can’t be,” I said out loud to Dino and the cat. Kathy’s dad had died. Kathy, my best friend from high school.

Whenever I saw her parents, which was pretty frequently, they always stopped to ask how I was doing, how my mom was. And I’d ask what Kathy was up to. I had just seen them the week before and her dad had seemed fine. What could have happened? It’s probably called old age. At age 91, every day is a blessing and each day could be your last.

I hadn’t seen Kathy in over twenty years, but her face lit up when I walked into the church on Saturday. She couldn’t wait to tell me how much she enjoyed my book. When she introduced me to her husband and daughter, they immediately knew me as the author. Even her brother recognized me right away.

I felt pretty guilty. This was certainly their day and not mine. A few hours after I got home, it dawned on. The middle of Chapter 7.

I was no stranger to being left out.

One day shortly after I had started the seventh grade, my two best friends said they wanted to talk to me. We had been together since second grade, but now they had decided it was time to move on. They no longer wanted to be friends with me.

I was crushed. What had I done to them? Nothing. They just felt we were growing apart and had little in common anymore. My knees went weak, and I saw black spots in front of my eyes.

I was an awkward, insecure twelve-year-old. What was I going to do? Who would be my friend?

There was a girl named Kathy who was in most of my classes. I hadn’t known her before, but she was quiet and shy like me. She also got good grades like me. Maybe we would click.

Trying not to seem pathetic, I approached her the next day. “Would you be my friend?”

She was relieved, and a smile lit up her face. Evidently, her pals from previous years had left her as well. We remained best friends until we left for separate colleges many years later.

I don’t know what to say after that, what to write. I just wanted to share part of my weekend with you. 
Halloween weekend our senior year in high school. Sal, Kathy, Lori, Brenda and I spent the night at Sal's parents' cabin. It looks like it was rather cold out that October. Good thing that Sal stayed up all night stoking the fire. Those were fun times. But we are getting older. Besides my dad and Kathy's dad, Brenda's dad and both Lori's parents are gone. Sigh. 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Assignment: gather all your pictures

As you should know by now, I have been sponsoring a child through Compassion, International, for eight years. Just a few weeks ago, I lost my first child, Neela from India, and was given a little waif Mueni from Kenya. I received my first letter from Mueni this week, and I am so excited to build our relationship.

In the meantime, Compassion has got me involved in something else. Blogging. Imagine that! Every so often Compassion emails an idea for a blog post to all of its Bloggers. Sometimes I can do it, sometimes not. This month, I thought, I can do this. So here we go.

The challenge was a Scavenger hunt, finding a whole list of items that are in some way a part of life for many children in third world countries. Believe it or not, I already had pictures of most of these things, taken in my world travels.

A Baby Scale
I really did not think that I had a picture of baby scale, but thought that this picture was even better. It was taken at the clinic in Ayacucho, Peru, and shows the developmental milestones your baby should be making. But then I looked down in the bottom left corner. 
The device behind the blue train looks like a baby scale to me. 

Braided Hair
This is my daughter with Beautiful Anna, taken when I was in Kenya with her this May. 

Children playing Soccer
This is at the Compassion center in Nairobi. Mwazunga is from Mombasa and made a 12-hour bus trip to meet his sponsor, Kari. (Their story is in chapter 6 of my book.)

A Church sign
Ayacucho, Peru, is known as the city of churches. Evidently it is not the city of church signs. Of all the pictures of the churches that I took, this is one of few with any sort of sign. You'll have to trust me that that is a sign above the door and another one to the right of the door. 

Flag of a country where Compassion works
This is the flag of Uganda. This picture was taken at Lifest this year. It is in the Compassion Experience, where you walk through different rooms set up like life experiences your Compassion child may be going through.

A farmers market or food vendor
I had such a selection of farmer's markets and food vendors from my travels to Peru and Kenya, but none of them really showed the food. But this is still from my travels. It is at the airport in Amsterdam, where we had a six hour layover. Lots of time to look at Bread. 

A Flip phone
Ok, so probably my least creative. My very own flip phone. Please don't ever break on me. I am not smart enough for a smart phone. 

A food staple common to the developing world 
Maasai making chapati at Mosiro in Kenya. Chapati is common throughout India, East Africa and many other parts of the world. 

A goat or cow
The herd of goats we bought at Mosiro. Every day one of these guys left the herd. To show up later in our stew. 

A sewing machine
Can you find all three sewing machines? These are the WEEP women of Mathare Slum. (You can read about them in Chapter 4 of my book.) 

Seeds or grain
These are seeds and other things at a market in Ayacucho, Peru. 

A stethoscope
Yes, I had lots of options for a picture of a stethoscope. I wear one around my neck every day. But I had to be more creative than that. Of course. This is another picture taken in the Compassion Experience. Here, the Compassion girl from India is telling how Grandma was very sick and in the hospital. The rest of the family was praying to thousands of Hindu gods, while the little girl was praying to the one true God which she learned about through Compassion. 

So, how did I do? Here is the Compassion link of the assignment. I will tell you this blog took the longest of any to compose. You can probably imagine. And I hope no one considers me a cheater because I didn't take any new pictures. I think it is an even more amazing accomplishment that I had them all!

God bless you this week. Now get your camera out and start taking pictures!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Are you average too?

“I am so average – I am a woman, I have type O+ blood, I live in a 3 bedroom 2 bath ranch which is owned by the bank…. “

I wrote those words many months ago, oh, probably six months ago. I had a plan at the time where those words were going to go. Good thing I had written them down or they would have been lost forever.

This is what the average woman has done in the last eleven months.
Decided to publish a book. Published a book.

Decided to go to Kenya. Went to Kenya.

Decided to run a 5K race. Ran a 5K race.

What is left you wonder? What could possibly remain on my bucket list? Maybe that is why I feel as if I haven’t done much the last few months. I had been thinking it was because I was burned out from keeping up such a pace, but now I wonder if it is because there is no big goal out there, being held like a carrot, up for grabs if I strive hard enough.

I don’t know. All I do know is that at one time I kept my focus on what I wrote in this blog by writing about a person, a pet or a place on Tuesdays; a saying, a song or a sign on Thursdays; and a devotion on Sundays. That fell by the wayside quite a while back. I am going to try to resurrect that practice. Maybe if I don’t have a big goal hanging out there, I can at least have these little thrice weekly goals.

Until Sunday, then, remember there is nothing wrong with being average. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

In the Bubble

I know, it has been ten days since I returned from Lifest, I should move on, huh? But I really haven’t blogged about the festival at all. I have instead been in a down mood and fighting a migraine for nearly a week. Kind of not feeling so creative. Or social even.

A friend of mine who had been to Lifest with me a couple of times says that being there is like life in a bubble. Everything is safe, everyone shares your point of view, there is no stress. Life is easy at a place like that. You get to hear positive uplifting messages in word and song. During the three days we were there I don’t remember anybody having a bad attitude. I was probably the worst one, when I butted to the front of the line at the bathroom because several stalls had run out of toilet paper and I naturally had a supply in my backpack. The Christian thing would have been to share it with those who had been waiting longer. I am such a miserable sinner. Sigh.

Then we get home and life is one long series of bathroom stalls without toilet paper and I am not nearly as prepared as I thought I was. How can I supply the world with toilet paper when I am down to just a few sheets for myself.

(Has this analogy come to a useless end? Let me think a minute while you look at pictures.)
 Our little campsite in the Bubble. 
 The three girls who joined us in our Bubble at our campsite. 
 His Little Feet, a group of former orphans from around the world. I don't think they ever had the chance until now to live in the Bubble. 
Only God can make a Bubble this big, filled with this many people all singing His praises. 
I guess that even in the Bubble, manure will happen. And outside of the Bubble the Sun can still shine. It truly does depend on what you make of it. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Words of Wisdom Written Down

My husband and I attended Lifest again this past weekend.

I see that when I was there two years ago, I wrote long-winded - I mean - detailed blog posts about the various speakers and performers I witnessed there. I looked back over my notes, scribbled into my little pocket-size notebook, and noticed that I had actually taken NOTES while attending the different seminars. Taking NOTES? When I don't have to? I don't know what possessed me two years ago, but this year? Well, to be honest, I didn't even take my notebook.

I know, how does someone who claims to be a writer, forget to take her notebook? Ok, I had scrap paper, which worked very well, and my laptop to catch up on things each evening. And the laptop idea didn’t work out so well, but I won’t go there now.

So with all of this bad preparation, did I get anything out of Lifest this year? Oh, of course. Maybe I didn’t take notes and document every minute of the three days, but maybe it is about more than that. Maybe it is more about being in the moment. What’s meant to stick with me, will, without writing it down.

Sounds deep, but makes the whole aspect of being a writer a little less appealing. Huh.

Chad Moses - “Guilt is feeling bad about something you did; shame is feeling bad about who you are.”
Tiffany Thompson - “It’s going to be ok in the end; if it’s not ok, it’s not the end.”
Troy Murphy - “It’s not seeing is believing; it’s believing in seeing.”

Ok, so I did write some stuff down. What can I say? 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

I Promise . . .

Hard to believe that it is nearly two months since I returned home from Kenya. Also hard to believe that I am still dragging out blogging about it. But I promise, these are my absolute final thoughts – part two of my final thoughts.

1) Always carry a supply of toilet paper and hand-sanitizer. I don’t know what the statistics are, and I honestly don’t want to look them up, but I bet that of the entire world’s population, more people don’t use toilet paper than do.

It’s a good idea to always carry a water bottle on you, too, because you just never know where you can find water to drink and you sure don’t want to drink it out of the tap.

2) Speaking of water, I generally drink a lot of it. Working in health care, I appreciate staying well hydrated. Water is about the healthiest thing to drink. Unfortunately, the more you drink, the more you have to go to the bathroom. In a third world country, you don’t want to visit the bathroom more than you have to. So it’s a trade-off, abuse my kidneys for two weeks or go to the choo on a regular basis. I chose to take the chance on making my urinary track mad at me. We both survived.

3) Hang your clothes on the line inside out. Because the sun is so much stronger in Kenya, near the equator, it will fade your clothes quickly. Oh, and don’t expect to throw your clothes in a washing machine. If you need to do laundry, you will wash your clothes in a bucket, by hand. Or you can always pay a kindly Kenyan woman to wash them for you.

4) Did I tell you about the brooms? These are the kinds of brooms everyone uses. Yes, you can buy a modern broom at the Nakumatt, but these are the only ones I saw in use anywhere.

5) For seven years now I have struggled with the prosperity we have in America versus the lack of everything in Africa. What can I possibly do to make a difference in the lives of all those kind, happy people living in poverty in Kenya?

It all comes back to the story of the starfish on the beach. You know the one. Where the person is walking down the beach and hundreds of starfish have washed ashore, so many that just one person can’t possibly throw them all back before they die. So you pick up the ones that you can and throw them back into the sea. No, you didn’t make a difference in the lives of all of them, but you made a difference to that one. And that one. And that one.

And you know what? A lot of those starfish you saved today are going to wash up on the shore again tomorrow. Sometimes all you can do is make a difference in one life for one day. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Not Quite My Final Thoughts on Kenya

Hard to believe that it was only two months ago that I was in Kenya. Where has the time gone and what final inspiration should I leave with you as I move on to other things to blog about?

1) I don't think many in Kenya have high blood pressure. They truly live by the saying of "hakuna matata" - no worries. I am reading a book, "All That You Can't Leave Behind: a rookie missionary's life in Africa". The book is written in journal-format, so each day covers not only what is happening in his life, but random thoughts on life in Kenya. He explained in one entry that this attitude of being so laid-back is what helps to keep Kenya in poverty. When things are going well - there are enough rains and crops are growing, instead of thinking of ways to conserve this water for the drought that will surely come, they just enjoy the prosperity while they have it, not thinking much about the inevitable return to poverty.

2) They don't really drive on the wrong side of the road. They drive on the side of the road which is opposite of the side we drive on here in America. So why, as soon as I got there, was I comfortable with riding on the left side of the road. And when I came home after only two weeks, it felt wrong to drive on the right side of the road. Is it because I am right-brained or left-brained or just need a new brain?

3) I haven't figured out their school system. The government offers free education through elementary school. So why were a lot of people talking about school fees? I know they have to buy their own uniforms and books, but what were these extra fees? I think that there are a lot of private schools which charge fees, but these schools didn't look that much better than the public schools. I really need to get my daughter to clarify that for me.

4) You can buy anything at the Nakumatt. Sometimes it will be a lot cheaper than in the US, sometimes it will cost more. (You cannot be too careful with your digestive health when you are traveling.)

5) Everyone has cellphones. At first that seems like such a luxury, especially when food, clothing and housing seem to be lacking. But a lot of people do business that way. They need to stay in touch to make any money. The example that immediately comes to mind is anyone who supplies any sort of transportation for hire.

6) I think that I have more thoughts, so this will be continued next time…

Sunday, July 7, 2013


But Jesus called the little children to him and said to his followers, “Let the little children come to me. Don’t stop them, because God’s kingdom belongs to people who are like these little children. The truth is, you must accept God’s kingdom like a little child accepts things, or you will never enter it.” Luke 18:16-17 Easy-to-Read Version

 These are some of the faces of the children we encountered while in Kenya. I feel lazy by not writing some profound words about these faces. But really? What else can be said, the pictures speak for themselves. 

I pray God please bless all these precious little ones. 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Fourth of July! Celebrate with me!

"You know what cross country coaches say? You run the first miles on your legs and the last mile on your guts." Pat Loehmer (1959-1999)

Sorry that I haven't finished the story of my trip to Kenya. I am close. In fact, I only have closing remarks and final thoughts to share with you, along with a few random pictures that haven't fit in anywhere else. But that will have to wait.

Here it is the Fourth of July back in the States. When my kids were little, we would do the parade and whatever else we had to in town. Run back in at dark for the fireworks. Now that my kids are over that, and my husband works this year, I didn't have to go to town for anything. I planned on just spending all day being lazy at home.

Then something crazy happened. It all started earlier this spring when a coworker saw a picture of her daughter and grandson in the local paper. The picture was promoting the upcoming Fun Run in town on June 18. They had run in it the year before. My coworker thought the picture was great (their own little claim to fame), and from that she got the crazy idea that she and I should run in this race this year.

I have never run before in my life. In high school I would have been voted in the top 5% of the least athletic students. What was I thinking?

I looked over the details. Five kilometers. That's just over three miles. I could do that. So I started running. The first night after running one-tenth of a mile, I thought my lungs were going to explode. My legs had turned to Jello

It didn't get easier very quickly. I stuck with it though, spending more time on the treadmill or just running laps in my basement as winter dragged through all of April. But suddenly I was close to running a full mile.

Then other plans popped up for June 18. Good thing, too, as there is no way I could have even walked three miles by then. My coworker had backed out by then too. But now I had a dream. I wanted to run a 5K.

They have one here in my hometown every Fourth of July. When the first coworker chickened out, I begged two others to take up the challenge with me.

I knew I wouldn't be able to run the full way, but everyone told me that a run-walk-run-walk pace was ok. As long as I was able to jog around that last corner and cross that finish line!

Something happened though as I was a block from that last corner. My sister Pat popped into my head. "You run the last mile on your guts." Get out of my head, I said to myself, I don't need to start crying now. What I needed was the kick. And I got it. And I finished at a sprint - oh, yeah, right. Like I could sprint at the beginning even! But I finished.
Don't we look all fresh and ready to go? For the three of us on the right it was our first 5K ever. The guy, my boss, runs marathons. I think he just ran the 5K to mock us - just kidding, he's been very supportive of us. The gal on the far left also runs marathons and has started training for triathlons. She ran the 10K and did pretty good. 

Why do I already look like I am in pain? We are just starting out!
Coming around that last corner and getting my kick on! 
Running the race for my sister Pat.