Tuesday, December 25, 2007

'Twas the night before Christmas...

This has been a good Christmas, but tough emotionally. Just can't get past the idea that it may be years before I celebrate this special holiday with my kids again.

In the last few meetings we've had, Ivan has shared about the Hephzibah House in New York City. It started out as a training place for women who wanted to be in ministry. Part of that training involved hosting missionaries who had said all their goodbyes, gotten rid of everything except the few things they had packed in steamer trunks, and were just waiting for their ship to come in so they could leave for the mission field.

Ivan's been sharing that this is where we need to be, mentally. We need to finish getting rid of all our stuff, pack the few things we're taking with us, and begin the process of letting go of 'home' and all that goes with it...saying goodbye.

It's a lot tougher than I thought it would be. Not normally one to cry easily I find myself dissolving into tears at the mere thought of leaving my kids. And I use the term 'kids' loosely. They are 21 and 26 years old, and the oldest is married!

What I should focus on is how thankful I am that we're a close family. And unlike those early missionaries who left, never to return, we will have regularly scheduled home ministry times every two to three years. Plus we've got awesome technology that will allow us to keep in touch via e-mail, via phone services like Vonage or Skype, and I think we'll even be set up to do video stuff.

And while we won't be physically with the kids in the years to come, we can still share these special times via modern technologies. And I'm also sure we won't be alone; we just don't know yet who will be a part of our circle of friends who might celebrate with us next year.

I have been thinking about the gift thing and it shouldn't be too difficult. Online shopping will allow me to find exactly what I want, and I can have it shipped to the appropriate recipient. Or I may do some shopping before we leave and have the opposite sibling hold onto the gift until it's time to present it. When it comes to gift giving, I will find a way. Mere thousands of miles won't stand in my way! And I can always imagine the looks on their faces as they open their gifts :-) Thinking about that has me smiling again, the tears retreating for the time being.


Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Came Early

I have finally entered the 21st century! My family went in together and got me a new iPod for Christmas! I haven’t had much time to play with it yet, but my son did show me how to download podcasts. Hopefully I’ll remember his instructions, since they came late at night and I didn’t write them down. I already have enough stuff downloaded to keep me entertained for hours, though!

We got one for my husband on his birthday last January and he LOVES his. When he’s doing what he calls ‘mindless’ jobs (painting, maintenance type stuff, driving) he listens to messages from favorite pastors, music, and even classes. Having grown up in a foreign country, he really enjoyed an American history course he downloaded FOR FREE from a university.

So I’ve been sort of jealous :-) Okay, really jealous. And I’ve mentioned I’d like one, too. Mentioned it just a few times. Okay, I’ve mentioned it a lot. Even so DH still had to ask what I wanted this year. You see, he has to be really listening. And I’m never sure if he’s really listening or not, and that’s why I have to repeat myself. Repeatedly.

I have rather lofty plans for my iPod: furthering my knowledge base, increasing my intellect, growing as a person.

So I can’t wait to download some favorite songs by Percy Sledge, episodes of The Closer, and a good whodunit audiobook. There’s this whole unexplored cyber world of entertainment out there!

But for now I’m set with podcasts from The Splendid Table, Coffee Break and my pastor’s recent sermons (being on the road as missionary appointees means we’re hardly ever at our home church so it’s a treat to be able to keep up with Pastor’s messages online).

So now I just have to get into the mindset of remembering that I have an iPod. I swept all the floors this morning in silence. It wasn’t until I was done that I remembered I could have been listening to one of my podcasts while wielding the broom. This could take some getting used to.

And now it’s time to mop…and learn more about food from the entertaining Lynne Rossetto Kasper.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Playing The Game with Family & Friends

Unearthing the presents I’ve been buying and stashing all year is a bit like having Christmas early. “Oh, I’d forgotten I bought that!”

So I’ve just been having fun wrapping all the loot with paper and ribbon I bought last year after the holidays. Amazing what a nice fluffy bow can do for a humble gift!

Which reminds me of a game we used to play when we were group home houseparents. Our clients were all teens and really enjoyed this game. I’d buy a bunch of cheap items, usually at dollar store type of places, but sometimes I hit sidewalk sales or even picked up new items at garage sales. Nothing cost more than $5 and most much less. The object was to not buy quality but quantity!

I’d wrap everything up as elaborately as possible and pile all the gifts in the middle of the floor during our group home Christmas party. Passing around a small dish, each person would roll the dice and if they got either a 7 or an 11, they could pick a gift out of the center. They were NOT allowed to open the gift at this point. The game continued until all the gifts were taken from the middle. Then the fun really began!

I would set the timer but no one else would know how much time was left so the game shifted into high gear and they were practically throwing the dice to the next person in order to go more quickly. But now if someone rolled the 7 or 11, they could take a gift from someone else. For whatever reason, certain gifts were highly coveted and would go back and forth a lot. When the timer went off, everyone was able to keep the items currently in their possession and open them.

What never ceased to amaze me was that the ‘gag’ gift never failed to be one of the most coveted! Over the years the gag gift included a pack of toilet paper, a box of rocks, several cans of sauerkraut, and one year a box of absolutely nothing. But it sure was wrapped pretty :-)

We’ve also played that game with friends, with other staff, with family. It’s just a lot of fun and in the odd instance someone doesn’t get anything, there’s always a gracious few who share. No matter the crowd. And when we were houseparents we noticed a lot of negotiating after with gifts changing hands even more times.

I always tried to have three times the number of gifts as we had players.
So if you’re trying to think of something to do, something to get the blood pumping and the laughter roaring, this is the game!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

[Wish they all could be] California Girls

Growing up I loved the Beach Boys. Although I never quite got the whole California thing. I mean, didn't they know they could be swallowed up by the earth any minute? Kentucky was a LOT safer with no fault line running underneath. Granted we didn't have any cool surfing places but we did have plenty of good fishing and swimming holes. So I never really had a desire to Go West.

Until my sister moved there.

Now I'm glad I did.

California is SOOOO beautiful!

And not even the slightest tremer occurred during our stay.

Such a good visit with my sister and her family! It was an excellent way to use some of those accumulated miles :-)

Packing as much as possible into our week, we visited Lake Tahoe, Sacramento and San Francisco. Did not make it to Ghirardelli Square in San Fran BUT I did buy a big ole bag of Ghirardelli chocolate at Costco in Sacramento -- does that count?

In San Fran we hit Pier 39 for a bread bowl of clam chowder and the cousins took a ride on the carousel, with Tina helping 4-year-old Emily climb to the second level and up on a horse. Tried to take some shots of the harbor and Golden Gate but our camera isn't so great on shots in the dark. The next afternoon we took a walk in Chinatown where Tina had oh-so-much fun shopping. An excellent spot for some bargain hunting :-)

Our trip to Lake Tahoe on Friday was timely as that area got a couple feet of snow over the weekend. Even on Friday there was close to a foot of snow on the ground. Our photos don't really do justice to the scenery -- it was spectacular!

During our visit niece Kitty performed in a shortened version of The Nutcracker. She was adorable as both a soldier and sugar plum fairy. A burgeoning thespian following in cousin Tina's footsteps :-)

The reason we were able to go was because we didn't have any meetings for the middle of December. But we ended up being able to share in two different churches while in California! Both pastors are on our mission's Board so we knew them, but still it was awfully gracious of them to give us time in the midst of all the Christmas 'doings'. (Thanks Pastor Steve and Pastor Rick!)

In my last post I mentioned some of the travel travails on our way home but didn't mention the trip out there. Because we woke to freezing rain the day before our flight and the news that it was to keep up until the next morning, we decided to head to the airport as quickly as possible and stay in a hotel with shuttle service. Of course we weren't totally surprised to get to the airport early the next morning and find out our flight had been canceled :-( After standing in line for over an hour (plenty of time to think about how awful it was probably going to be to try and get on a different flight) we found out they'd already re-routed us, leaving only an hour later! AND THEN we were put on an even earlier flight which allowed us to make an earlier connecting flight in Chicago. So we were only about half an hour later than we would have been if we'd made our original flight! How amazing is that?! Go United! :-)

All in all, a remarkable trip jam packed with memories and fun times.

And now we're home, facing the still daunting task of preparing for the move to Argentina. I spent most of today going through stuff in the basement. Two large black garbage bags full of stuff we don't want, and nobody else would either. Seven boxes packed and in the car ready to take to Goodwill. And two boxes shifted to the corner where we're putting stuff to take with us. A very satisfying days work!

And that doesn't even take into account all that Ivan got done today in his corner of the basement. :-) Go Ivan!

Most of the gifts are wrapped and I carried up the boxes of Christmas decorations. Hey, it's a start!

Worthy of "Additional Security Measures"

Aren’t I just so special?

Yes, I’m being facetious.

On our flight home from California on Tuesday I was chosen for “additional security measures” and since Ivan was traveling with me, he got the special treatment, too.
Besides being pulled aside and patted down, our things were checked for explosive residue. This entailed opening up my purse and the carry-on where I’d discretely tucked a package of sanitary napkins in the zippered side pocket. The security person left it tucked in. But helpful hubby, in his haste to zip everything back up whipped the bag around, flinging sanitary pads in every direction.
I blushed, but said nary a word as I quickly scooted around the security area picking up pads and stuffing them into my purse.
So I started out a little on the flushed side.
Then the terminal where we waited for our delayed flight was hot. Very hot. In preparation for the frigid Michigan weather we were returning to, I had dressed in warm clothes that included my long silk underwear.
At first I gently perspired as any proper southern woman will do. Hot flashes increased my discomfort. Beads of moisture appeared upon my brow. I pushed the sleeves up on my sweater. Then I took the sweater off. I used my boarding pass as a fan. I was beginning to feel a little bit desperate about the situation.
When they called our names to come to the counter area so we could get our seats assigned, I started to call Hubby and Daughter but discovered my cell phone was missing. I had been entrusted with all our paraphernalia while they accessed the free internet. So I had to haul all our coats, my purse and the carry-ons down the terminal a ways to where they were hunkered down on their laptops. Between the extra exertion and the anxiety over the missing phone, my heat index was rising faster than the Dow Jones used to. I had a bit of a meltdown actually. In my panic about the phone, I turned my purse upside down and dumped everything in it onto the seat.
I carry a large purse.
It was full.
Of everything I needed for the flight.
Including those sanitary pads I'd recently picked up in security.
Hubby's eyes got big, but he wisely said nothing.
What is there to say to a crazy southern woman having hot flashes in an airport while waiting for a delayed flight in a terminal that has to be eighty degrees and who has just discovered she can't find her cell phone because it's GONE?!
Boarding eventually began. But unable to stand it any longer, I finally hightailed it into the restroom and quickly disrobed, taking off the offending long underwear. Ahhh, relief!
Once on the plane, things began looking up.
Our seats were in the first aisle in economy, leaving us with lots and lots of leg room. Nice!
Great for our legs, but poor Hubby’s shoulder was really aching at the end of that four hour flight from being squashed into the middle seat.
So imagine our pleasure when we got on the last flight and found we were by an emergency exit door with only two seats instead of three, leaving not only extra leg room but also arm room. Yippee!
The two hour drive home from the airport went smoothly but, boy, were we wiped out when we finally pulled into our driveway at 2:30 a.m.!
So the trip is over and we are home.
It was good.
I will write more about the actual time in California later. And post pictures. Promise.
But after operating on just four hours of sleep, I am succumbing to the lure of my bed.
Good night.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

I'm Nutty about the Nutcracker

Saturday did not go as planned.
1) Woke up really congested -- AGAIN.
2) Had to go back to Wal-mart for the third time in two days to get yet another thing for our mailing. And didn't have time to do all that needed to be done so the mailing won't get out until Monday. At least Monday.
3) Saturday morning was so busy that I didn't have time to sit down and talk to my daughter, who didn't have to work and was actually home.
4) We stopped in Ft. Wayne on the way to my in-laws, just long enough for the weather to turn really bad. So the last leg of the trip to their house which normally takes 35 minutes took 2 hours and 15 minutes. Ivan couldn't use the brakes because the back of the car would start sliding so he had to put it in and out of drive. Scary!
5) I got a post written last night and discovered that while I'd been typing, the internet had gone down.
Whine, whine, whine.

1) It warmed up considerably overnight so the ice was melted and the traveling was much easier.
2) Had a good time with the folks at Living Gospel Church in Nappanee this morning. Ivan shared during the combined adult Sunday School and then we enjoyed a great message by Pastor Mike.
3) Lunch with our son and his wife at their house in Elkhart. Yummy Chinese!
4) Lots of folks came to the reception we had at our home church this evening to celebrate Jon and Natalie's marriage. They had a small private wedding on the beach in Florida back in August, but we wanted to have a time to share with the church family. It's taken a while (four months, to be exact) but we finally found a time that worked into everyone's schedule.
5) BEST OF ALL, my family gave me my birthday gift tonight, a couple days early. We're ALL going to see The Nutcracker Ballet next Saturday!!! I'm so excited!
There's a story behind the gift. I had gone back to college when the kids were little and one course required attending a certain number of concerts and musical events. As students we got a break on tickets which was really nice. Anyway, Tina was four the first time I took her to see The Nutcracker Ballet. We sat in the balcony on the end which was great because she couldn't sit still and pretended to be a ballerina in the aisle during half the performance. We enjoyed it so much that we made it a Christmas tradition to go every year. And we did for eight years.
We've seen a variety of performances, from really professional to amateur productions that dance schools put on. I've enjoyed them all!
Then one year I couldn't find a performance close enough to be practical and so we saw a Christmas play at the local college instead. Then we went to Africa for a year. And the tradition was lost.
Since then we've been just once. I organized a group of moms and daughters who went a few years ago. It was a lot of fun and I think it could have become a regular event but honestly, I just didn't have the time to organize it the next few years.
And Tina doesn't enjoy it as much as I do any more.
So for lots of reasons I haven't been in a while. I mentioned a while back that it would be nice to go this year, since it's the last chance for a while. But again, life's been pretty hectic and I never got beyond looking online to see where they might be having it.
When I opened my card tonight and saw the tickets, I got so excited! We're going out to lunch, catch the matinee performance and then go out to dinner. Life is good :-)