Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Why I went back there again.

For some reason, I started reading back through some of my old blog posts. My really old ones. I can't believe it is nearly three years since I started this blog. I notice it took me a while to figure it out too, I didn't post as many pictures and I didn't give each post a title. I like to think that I have evolved, or at least this blog has. Then I read a post like this one, and think - well - what matters is what you think.

March 30, 2010

Return to Kenya

When Val and I came back from Africa the first time, in 2006, she knew she wanted to return some day. She left a part of her heart with the orphans from Brydges Orphanage in Nairobi and with the beautiful Maasai and with all the children at Pastor Joseph’s farm. She left part of herself behind on the Masai Mara with the cheetahs and the hippos and the thousands of homely wildebeest, relentlessly cantering across the wide plain. Ok, who am I kidding? I left part of myself behind too.

Last fall seemed so long ago, that day when I was sitting in this exact spot in the living room, when she made her announcement that she was going back to Kenya. She had found an organization on line where she could work with an orphanage for six months. I didn’t think that the day would actually arrive when she would get on that plane and fly into the adventure of a lifetime.

And now she is gone. The time will go quickly, I know that. She will come home changed, aged, like fine wine perhaps. She’ll come home with wonderful ideas for her future life. Maybe even a game plan for her future. Or if she just comes home with lots of pictures, a tan and good health, that would be fine with me too.

In the meantime, all we can do is pray for her, keep her in our thoughts and wait, somewhat impatiently, to hear some of her stories. And since I have been there already myself, I can go back to Africa in my mind, hear the Maasai singing their songs through the night to keep us safe from lions, smell the distinctly sour odors of poverty in Mathari Slums, feel the rough warm fingers of school children who have never touched a Muzungu (white person) before.

Sigh. I need to go back there again, don’t I?

And so I went back.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

You can do what is good and right

13 If you are always trying to do good, no one can really harm you. 14 But you may suffer for doing right. If that happens, you have God’s blessing. “Don’t be afraid of the people who make you suffer; don’t be worried.”15 But keep the Lord Christ holy in your hearts. Always be ready to answer everyone who asks you to explain about the hope you have. 16 But answer them in a gentle way with respect. Keep your conscience clear. Then people will see the good way you live as followers of Christ, and those who say bad things about you will be ashamed of what they said.

17 It is better to suffer for doing good than for doing wrong. Yes, it is better if that is what God wants. 1 Peter 3:13-17 Easy-to-Read Version

A friend of mine at work emails a daily Bible passage to several of her co-workers. She has been reading from the books of Peter the last few weeks. Every day when I open her email I am amazed at how Peter is so much like most of us today. Two thousand years later, how is it possible that he speaks to us about the same fears and worries that plague us.  

He lived in a time and place where the early Christians were being persecuted for any number of reasons. Those who continued practicing pagan religions blamed the Christians whenever anything went wrong. Because of that, they were often driven out of their hometowns and were ridiculed simply for being strangers wherever they located to. Many of them came from a Jewish background, which was grounds for harassment in many of the areas where they lived.

Unfortunately, it is much the same in our world today. We hear about all kinds of religious fighting in foreign countries and I for one can’t keep track of it all. Is it that much better in America? I don’t live in fear that I will be physically attacked, but we are persecuted for our beliefs just the same. 

The causes, the details, the individual situations aren’t what matter. What matters is that we continue to do what is right, that we don’t grow weary and that we continue to follow our Lord and Savior,

Heavenly Father, help us to remain strong in faith when we are tested. Help us to always stand up for the truth. Help us to always help our neighbors no matter what their personal convictions might be. Amen

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Orange Cat is Heard From

 Ok, if you have ever read this blog before you probably figured out that Mom is crazy. Here is one example. She has always had a thing for big ol' orange cats. This is the cat she had when she was a kid. His name was Alice Cooper. I don't get it. It had to do with something about a rock singer, but really Mom?
 So here is where it gets really weird. So when she got me and my sister, she named my sister Alice. How dumb is that? But she's not named Alice Cooper the second. Don't even ask what Mom named me. I don't think she even knows. Supposedly my real name is Cheshire Cat, but no one calls me. Probably because it is a dumb name. I don't know. I don't think it is the name of a rock singer at least.
 And if Mom really likes big ol' orange cats so much, why doesn't she let me stay in the house all the time like my baby sister Alice?
 Instead I have to stay outside with the likes of Betty the Uni-kitty. Mom calls us Owls for some reason when we sit on the deck like this. Oh, and Dino the Dumb Dog gets to come in the house all the time too.
I guess I shouldn't complain. I have lots of food to eat and my pet bowl to sleep in all night and all day if I want to.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Tumaini means Hope

I spent another entire evening tonight working on Tumaini Volunteers Inc. The IRS form 1023, the big complicated form required to apply for tax exempt status, is complete and Val will get it in the mail in the next few days.

We also have a logo and had a little fun in between all the hard work by designing and ordering business cards. I will post a picture of that as soon as they arrive.
The next item on our agenda is to plan a few small fundraisers and secure some speaking engagements. I also hope, that as things begin to take shape, we can rope some more team members into jumping in the trenches with us and helping with some of the work. I think it is also time to get some commitments from volunteers who are ready and willing to journey to Kenya and possibly jump literally into the trenches.

It is all very fun and exciting, as well as nerve-racking.

If you are tired of hearing about my travels in Africa, click here to follow the Compassion bloggers as they journey to Uganda. They would appreciate your support as well.

The vision of Tumaini Volunteers is to build teams of individuals who share the same passions to reach out to these underprivileged communities.

It is the mission, duty, and purpose of this organization to educate, encourage, provide aid, and facilitate sustainable development projects in underprivileged areas through empowerment of people on a local and global level.
(From our website)

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Focus - the word of the day

We have all these great people around us as examples. Their lives tell us what faith means. So we, too, should run the race that is before us and never quit. We should remove from our lives anything that would slow us down and the sin that so often makes us fall. Hebrews 12:1 Easy-to-Read Version

Have you seen the movie “Up”? It is a great cartoon with a wonderful story. The dogs who are in it apparently suffer from Attention Deficient Disorder. They can be totally focused on their mission one moment, but as soon as someone shouts “squirrel” they look around in every direction trying to find the little critter.

I tend to do the same thing. I can go from one room in my house to the next, intend on finishing a single task. But then I decide to wash the dishes. I go into the living room to seek out stray bowls or glasses, and instead the computer draws me in and I just have to check my email. There is an email from a friend recommending a book she recently finished, so I venture back to the other end of the house because I believe that book is in my office. The book is not there, but one of the dog’s toys is. I pick it up planning to return it to the dog toy box, but the dog spies me. His tail wags and his eyes plead, so I have to go outside to play with him. And it continues from there.

You know what I am talking about. Everywhere you look there is another “squirrel” to distract you.

Today’s word is Focus. Stop picking up on those “squirrels” in your peripheral vision. Look straight ahead. Run the race set out before you, never quit and don’t let those distractions run you off course.

Dear Heavenly Father, today help me to focus on the tasks at hand. Help me to finish what I start. Lead me away from all those things which distract me. Let me finish my day with a list of goals completed and with time left to spend with You. Amen
But how can you not get distracted by those faces? 

Friday, January 17, 2014

And it just keeps snowing

For the second time this week, my husband is out blowing snow this morning. I measured nine inches on the deck just now. My husband had blown the snow off of the deck on Sunday and I hadn’t measured it then, but it was a bunch. I don’t know where we are going to put it anymore. It is only January 17; we have at least two more months of snow ahead of us. 

I didn’t get any writing done this week. After my nightly stint of shoveling the front step and clearing a path across the deck, I spent two nights working on the Nonprofit. We have Kenyan items for sale now on Etsy and I also worked on our three-year projected budget.

Has anyone else out there ever started a Nonprofit organization and applied for tax exempt status? I think I have asked that before and based on previous responses, I believe we have our work cut out for us. I think they make it so challenging to get tax exempt status just so fly-by-night outfits get discouraged and don’t pursue it.

Just like the snow, we gotta keep shoveling. We will get this done, and Tumaini Volunteers will be taking in donations and sending volunteers to Kenya before you know it.

The other thing I spent my time on this week was dreaming about vacations. I know. With all the snow outside that seems a worthwhile pursuit.

Have a good weekend. 
Hard to get a picture of snow. It is all white.

Sunday, January 12, 2014


(Last Sunday, I posted that I had chosen one single word to help guide me through 2014. That word is Acceptance and I have it posted on my desk here where I write. But I had come up with an entire list of possible words. I thought I would share a few of them here over the next few weeks.)

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Deuteronomy 31:6 New International Version

Courage. When have I ever had to be courageous? I have never been kidnapped. Thank God. I have never had to disarm a bomb. Thank God. I have never been face to face with a wild bear in the woods. Oh, hold it. I was face to face with a black bear in my own backyard when I was seven or eight years old. Within two seconds, I had turned, run into the house, run through the entire house to my bedroom and leaped into my bed where I didn’t move for hours. That was some courage.

But I have faced getting a divorce, my dad dying from Alzheimer’s, and my sister being diagnosed with cancer (that was all in one year). I dealt with my sister dying from her cancer, my mom moving (twice), my husband losing his job (twice) and putting to sleep several pets. I’ve survived job stress, a teen-age daughter, a college-age son and a foreign exchange student from Portugal. And even the good things take some fortitude – buying a house, remodeling a house, getting remarried. 

I managed to get through my minor car accident last month, but I did not handle last week’s migraine with nearly as much grace. Every day we face something, whether small or large. We may not realize it, but it is courage that gets us through those days and it is God who gives us the courage to get through the worst of those times.

Dear Heavenly Father, grant me the courage to face my biggest challenges and my smallest inconveniences. Help me to remember that with You by my side, I can face anything, even a bear in the backyard. Amen

Thankfully, the largest wild animals in my backyard are the deer. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Woulda, Shoulda, Coulda

Last summer I joined a few local writers in forming a writers group. Our first meetings were small, informal and pretty much by invitation only. We wanted to test the waters, see what our goals were, see where we wanted this group to end up before we went public.

Our first public meeting was Wednesday. By early afternoon, a migraine was taking up residency in my head; I was not too happy about that, but more unhappy that I didn’t feel I would be up to conferring with fellow writers. I got home from work, called to cancel and crawled into bed.

The last time we met, we threw out the idea of a writing prompt – write about this topic and bring it to the next meeting. The prompt we came up with was to use the terms “woulda, shoulda, coulda”. I must admit, I didn’t let out all the stops on my creativity when I wrote my piece. Instead of my own words, someone else’s words kept popping into my head as I tried to write about things I could have done or should have done. My own words ended up very small and inadequate, so maybe it’s just as well that I didn’t make the meeting. Their gain, is your loss. Isn’t that how the saying goes?

Today, upon a bus, I saw a girl with golden hair.
I envied her, she seemed so gay, and wished I was as fair.
When suddenly she rose to leave, I saw her hobble down the aisle.
She had one leg and wore a crutch. And as she passed... a smile.

Oh God, forgive me when I whine.
I have 2 legs, the world is mine

I stopped to buy some candy. The lad who sold it had such charm.
I talked with him, he seemed so glad. If I were late, it'd do no harm.
And as I left, he said to me, "I thank you, you have been so kind.
It's nice to talk with folks like you. You see," he said, "I'm blind."

Oh God, forgive me when I whine.
I have 2 eyes, the world is mine.

Later while walking down the street, I saw a child with eyes of blue.
He stood and watched the others play. He did not know what to do.
I stopped a moment and then I said, "Why don't you join the others, dear?"
He looked ahead without a word. And then I knew, he couldn't hear.

Oh God, forgive me when I whine.
I have 2 ears, the world is mine.

With feet to take me where I'd go.
With eyes to see the sunset's glow.
With ears to hear what I'd know.

Oh God, forgive me when I whine.
I've been blessed indeed, the world is mine........

(The above poem is not mine; I’ve had it written down on a yellow piece of paper for the last 40 years. Some sources credit this poem to Red Foley, others continue to say the author is unknown. All I can add to it are these brief, insufficient words.)

I wish I woulda,
I think I shoulda,
I know I coulda,
But I didn’t

I whined instead.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

This Week in Hatchet Creek

Here we are in another new year. Has everyone made their New Year’s Resolutions? Has anyone kept their resolutions for one solid week?

I’ve decided that my resolution for retirement is to move to someplace warmer than Wisconsin in the winter. For the last few days we have had record cold temperatures here in the Northwoods. For the second day in a row school was cancelled because of forecasted wind chills of forty below.

Twenty years ago was the last time we had temperatures this cold. I remember January of 1994 as the first winter I was alone with my kids following my divorce. I was commuting to Rhinelander for work every day. That one crisp morning in January, I woke up, heard the forecast and that school was closed and decided that I wasn’t going to work, whether anyone liked it or not. I only called in twice because of the weather in the twelve years that I drove the thirty miles to Rhinelander, that day and one other time when a thick layer of ice covered every surface out of doors.

I remember lots of Wisconsin winters when I was a kid. School was only cancelled if the thermometer ready “-40”. None of this forecasted wind chill business. And if there was a foot of fresh snow on the ground, but the plows got out early enough, they still held school. Your bus just might not being running that day, so you could get excused if you were one of those kids. Naturally, on those days, my mom offered to drive us the five miles into school. A foot of snow wasn’t going to stop her Chevy Impala. And nobody had four-wheel drive, but somehow we still got around in our old sedans and rear-wheel pickup trucks.  

Anyway. There are still lots of outdoor events scheduled this winter. One Polar Plunge already occurred on January 1 and another one is planned for February. I can’t keep track of all the ice fishing tournaments coming up. Those are two activities I will never understand. Leave the fish under the ice where they are happy and us humans need to stay out of the water altogether.

I’ll have to let you know how all these happenings turn out. In the meantime, don’t forget your friends here in Hatchet Creek, where the dogs are mostly lab-mixes, the cats are often feral and whitetail deer have been known to roam the city streets.  
I didn't get a chance to take any pictures of our frozen town this week, but I did make it out to my garage. With the cold temperatures there is a lot of talk about bringing in your pets. I do let these three in when it gets this cold, but they are still pretty spoiled. The orange cat is sitting in a heated water bowl - minus the water. The other two are sleeping on expensive electric pet-beds. I don't know why they are looking at me in such disdain. Oh, that's right, they're cats. 

Sunday, January 5, 2014


When I wrote here last, I was trying to think of a word which I could keep in mind for the entire year of 2014. A word to help me cope with daily challenges, while encouraging me to work towards my goals for the year.

The word I have come up with is Acceptance.
I can’t change much, I can only change myself and that is difficult enough. In the meantime, all I can do is accept that life is the way it is. I can find the good in the worst circumstances if I only accept that this is the plate I’ve been handed. I can find peace in letting go and taking what I have been given.

Wish me luck with that!