Sunday, May 30, 2010

Project 365, Week 22

I've missed a couple of weeks with Project 365. On May 16th I spent the day praying and keeping vigil from 6,000 miles away as one of my best friends lost her oldest son after he was declared brain dead. He'd been in a terrible bicycling accident on May 14th. That was a hard week, my friends. Then last Sunday we were in Sta. Rosa for what we called the Bicentennial Retreat for the folks in our fledgling church plant.

But this week I'm back. I'll be honest, I missed taking pictures a lot of days over the past three weeks, so you're not going to have to suffer through 21 photos. And I'll keep my commentary brief :-)

We really like to sing at our church! Several of the kids are learning to play guitar so they can accompany us. Since some of them went to summer camp in February and learned new choruses, they've been teaching the rest of us. Not perfect by any means, but definitely a "joyful noise unto the Lord"!

Getting out of the house for a picnic on one of our warmer fall days, we headed to the river on the other side of town. We were the only ones on this stretch of park by the river. Very peaceful place.
We've gotten to know different missionaries serving in the area and had the pleasure of hosting one family for dinner a couple weeks ago. Their kids are too cute! They'd been in a conference all day and the kids had to be tired, but were still in good spirits. Their youngest is a typical little girl who loves to giggle!
Youth group tends to get a bit rowdy, as you might expect when you get a group of teens in a small place and attempt to play games. This particular night one of the games was charades and we were doing movie titles. I cannot remember what Ivan and Charley were acting out, but Charley was really hamming it up!
Another fine fall afternoon found us stopping for passion fruit sorbet at our favorite ice cream place. This is the view from their outdoor veranda, looking down the costanera.
This coming week I'll be sharing the latest in the what-it-takes-to-get-a-package-out-of-customs saga. For now, suffice it to say we spent quite a bit of time in this building one day.
The Bicentennial Retreat warrants the most photos this week (and you can see even more on that post!). I know it was only five days but I'm sharing eight photos. I couldn't narrow it down any farther! Considering we took over 400, I think that's pretty good.

Loading up on Friday...
One of the games on Saturday. Can you guess the objective?
The girls and ladies do a skit.
Timber! One of the dead cottonwoods comes down nicely between two trees we wanted to keep.
Group photo on the way to Embalse.
Ivan cleaned out the drainage pipe from the kitchen. No more sluggish sink!
Lots of hugs after Circle Time on Monday night.
Tuesday was our last day of the retreat AND the bicentennial of Argentina!  We celebrated by singing the national anthem and the kids put on a really funny skit, incorporating bits of Argentine culture and history. We also had a traditional asado (of course). All in all, a great way to end the retreat!

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Bicentennial Retreat

This past weekend was perfect for a retreat with the folks from our fledgling church plant because everyone, young and old, had a long weekend due to Argentina’s bicentennial celebrations that extended through Tuesday.

Mostly it was those who have been faithfully coming to church, but we did have a couple extras. One young man invited his sister and two other boys brought a third brother along. This was indicative of something we observed all weekend: these kids have SUCH a desire to see the rest of their families come to know Christ.

I have a lot to share and will try not to bog down in the details [but there’s no guarantee that won’t happen anyway].

Friday afternoon we headed out first, taking three girls and a trailer loaded down with supplies and materials.
By the time everyone else arrived, the girls and I had dinner ready and three tables set up to accommodate all 21 of us. We had to move most of the living room furniture out, but that was okay since we’d be doing most indoor activities around those tables anyway. Lots of laughter ensued, giddy at the prospect of a long weekend in the country, and the sheer joy of being with friends.

Our co-workers did an amazing job of organizing the activities, putting together the teaching materials, and creating a focus for the weekend! Because these are all new believers, we started at the BEGINNING. This meant helping them learn the order of the books of the Bible, acting out Bible stories in skits or with flannelgraph, and doing hands-on activities to reinforce the lessons on Firmes en El SeƱor (Firm in the Lord).

Our days looked (loosely) like this:
8:00 a.m. Breakfast
8:30 a.m. Study/Bible Games
11:00 a.m. Free time for outdoor games
1:00 p.m. Lunch, clean-up and free time
3:00 p.m. Organized games and activities
5: 30 p.m. Merienda
6:00 p.m. Study/Bible Questions
8:30 p.m. Dinner
9:30 p.m. Circle Time

I say “loosely” because something inevitably comes up.

Like first thing Saturday morning shortly after we’d started our Bible study when suddenly the lights went out. The day was overcast so without indoor lights, it was a little hard to read the verses.

When the truck from the electric company pulled up we learned they were actually there to temporarily take down one of the lines so a crew could take down two large trees next door. But by the time we were ready for our second Bible study in the evening, the lights were back on and it was all good. Meanwhile all the felling of trees provided great entertainment during free time :-)

Ivan hired the crew to take down two large, very dead cottonwood trees in our yard while they were at it, allowing us to check off another item on our “to do” list for the house in Sta Rosa.
The crew successfully brought this one down right between a couple of trees we wanted to keep.
You might think that a group of teenagers wouldn’t have much interest in studying the Bible for hours every day. But this group absolutely ATE IT UP.
They listened, took notes, asked questions -- wholly participating. Not just during the “official” study times either. There were lots of great questions and discussions throughout the day, especially during Circle Time at night.

That’s when we’d take down the tables, and gather in a circle to share what we were learning, how God was challenging us to change, and what we were going to do about it. Everything from dating to music to how to effectively share Christ with others was discussed.

Of course there was lots of high energy, jokes, and pure silliness too. And not just during game time.
Doing dishes is more fun when you share the suds.
"Hey look! A hot DOG!"
Titanic reenactment.
All those high jinx plumb wore them out  :-)
Our co-workers’ two oldest traveled overnight by bus from Bible Institute (in Buenos Aires) to help out. They were SUCH a huge help in so many ways: full of ideas for skits and games...
helping during study time,
leading the singing...
and a desire to serve in any way they could. In short, they have a heart for ministry and we were so blessed by their presence.

Part of ministry is getting your hands dirty. In Ivan's case, literally! We’d been a little concerned about the water situation. We’d had some recurring problems with drainage from the kitchen sink. Or rather, lack of drainage. Last time we were out there Ivan put some organic product down the drain that was supposed to dissolve whatever was clogging it. And we didn’t have any problems until Monday, our third full day of the retreat -- which is pretty amazing when you think about all the water we were using to wash up after four meals a day for that many people!

Anyway, Roberto and Ivan were able to find the problem area in the pipe leading to the drain field. It took a couple hours and some back breaking digging, but they cleaned out the drain and had it working good as new before the next meal. What a relief to have that handled!
What needed relief after that, though, was Ivan’s back. He was in some serious pain! Again Roberto came to the rescue, doing some stretching and pulling of limbs while Ivan laid on the floor. It also helped having a doctor in the house; Tito was able to give Ivan something for the pain. (Ivan’s back is fine now, by the way.) Just one more reason for the kids to call us the "PAMI team"  :-)  (PAMI is the social program for retirees in Argentina)
There were a few outings which called for group photos. Here's one from the top of Cerro Pistarini in Embalse (minus one goofball who was conveniently MIA for group pictures).
A great weekend with blessings abundant...seeing the tender hearts of these kids, especially in their concern for the spiritual needs of others.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Introducing "Just A Southern Girl Cooks"

Being sick and unable to lie down without coughing does have one advantage: I organized all my recipes on the blog. Actually created a second blog to link to this one and this button on my sidebar will take you over there any time you want :-)
I even put together a recipe index on the cooking blog so you can find what you want at a glance. So once you're at Just A Southern Girl Cooks, you'll see this button on the sidebar:
It just made sense to predate recipes for the same day they originally appeared on this blog. In the process, I was dismayed to realize I have not posted ONE.SINGLE.RECIPE this year! Not a one. Must remedy that as soon as possible.

I'll be back later in the day with more about the retreat, but I wanted to go ahead and share the happy news about Just A Southern Girl Cooks.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Introducing My New Button

After thinking about it for MONTHS, I finally created a page with links to all the blogs I like looking at/snitching ideas from/being inspired by/reading. This allowed me to add lots of new ones that have been residing in my "bookmarks" as well as making more space in my sidebar (remember my aversion to sidebar clutter?).

I'd seen this on other blogs but didn't know how to do it. I may have mentioned a time or nine that I am seriously technologically challenged. Then I ran across a post with all kinds of blogging tips, including how to backdate a post which allows you to create extra "pages" for your blog. I wish I had made a note of where I found the info, because I'd love to give credit where credit is due, but to be honest, I cannot remember since it's been close to a year.

So here you have it, my brand new button leading to a loooooooooooong list of fun blogs. If you click on this button on the sidebar, it will take you directly to my new and improved blogroll. Enjoy!

Happy Anniversary to Us!

For our 31st anniversary we're doing romantic things like this...
And this...
We both have bad head colds, we both managed to put our backs out, and we have laundry out the wazoo...but as Ivan says, at least we can feel miserable together...while we take turns breathing deeply above a bowl of boiling hot water doctored with tei-fu oil and a towel draped over our heads to keep the steam and menthol in. If I get just half the laundry done today (there's a total of 10 loads which I'm not sure is evident from the photo) I'll feel like the day was successful. Hmmmmm, we sure know how to celebrate!

We actually just had a fabulous five-day retreat with most of the folks from our fledgling church plant and I have lots to share about that in the coming days. Along with the latest in our dealing-with-customs-over-a-package series.

Having been pretty silent for most of a month, I'm eager to get back into the habit of almost-daily blogging. I just wasn't sure if I could/should/would continue to spend the time necessary to maintain a blog in view of how much busier we are these days with ministry. BUT I realized part of that ministry is staying in touch with family and friends back home and this venue suits me better than e-mail, facebook, twitter or any of the myriad methods out there today. Not that I don't use the others, but my conclusion is that I'm a blogger first and foremost. So...

Hello Bloggy world! I'm BACK!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Joyful Celebration

Some might call it a funeral, but the family and friends of Daniel Parker are choosing to call today a joyful celebration of his life! Yesterday over 1,000 people descended on our home church for the visitation. Most had to wait in line well over an hour. Many came devastated by the loss of this vibrant young man, but left encouraged by the sheer joy and peace radiating from his family. His blood family and his church family. They are following the biblical mandate in I Peter 3:
In your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.
What a testimony for Christ! 

A few months ago Daniel's younger brother wrote a song. Nothing unusual about that because Matthew is always writing songs. But this song was different. This song is about heaven. And this song will be played at the funeral today. It's a beautiful song and I hope you'll take time to listen to it. (Since I just linked it three times, there's no excuse not to!)

I wonder if Daniel had listened to Matthew's song when he wrote: "My goal for the next week, or two, or maybe lifetime, or even forever, is to uncover and realize more and more how much He loves me." (italics mine)

The sanctuary in our home church holds about 300. I'm pretty sure they'll be setting up overflow chairs throughout the rest of the building. The family has asked people to pray especially that those who do not know God would listen carefully to His saving message of grace today. Do I hear an amen?!

We've been able to keep up with what has happened via facebook, e-mails, and phone calls over the internet. The Daysman writes that the new social media has changed the way we grieve with its influence on the younger generation. He referenced an article in the New York Times about how "Facebook already hosts thousands of memorialized accounts of deceased users so their friends and family can continue to post photos and comments."  

We've read a number of comments and tributes to Daniel on facebook this week, including a beautiful post by his dad. We've enjoyed looking through the photo album his friends spontaneously put together, sending any photos they had to Michael who put them all together. My little corner of the blogosphere usually generates a fraction of the hits it received over the past few days after I linked to facebook and scores of other people re-posted the link. I had more visitors stop by to read the post about Daniel than I had the whole previous month. 

It makes me wonder: Have you been affected differently by the loss of a loved one since the onset of online social media?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Even Forever

As it is written,
No eye has seen,
no ear has heard,
no mind has conceived
what God has prepared for those who love him --
but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. 
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.
For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him?
In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.
I Corinthians 2:9-11

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,
declares the Lord.
As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Isaiah 55:8-9
Saturday I asked you to pray for our young friend, Daniel, after he was airlifted to the University of Michigan hospital. We were asking for a miracle. God answered our prayers in a way we didn't necessarily want or expect. But it's a miracle nevertheless. 

This post is in memory of Daniel Curtis Parker, a young man that God loved, God saved, God used, and now God has called home: August 27, 1986 - May 16, 2010.


We just aren't able to see the big picture. Sometimes we are left heartbroken and confused by circumstances beyond our control. But we have the express, written promise of God that we will be overwhelmed by what He has prepared for those who love Him.

Daniel Parker loved His God. And it showed. On the side margin of his facebook page he shared this quote:
The Word of the Lord has become for me ... derision all the day long. If I say, "I will not mention Him, or speak any more His name," there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.
But Jeremiah 20:9 wasn't just a nice verse to put on facebook. Last summer Daniel spearheaded a Bible distribution effort in his hometown, compelled by a burning desire to see every single resident of Jonesville, Michigan, have their own copy of God's Word.

His love for God was also worked out... the way he prepared/shared messages occasionally at church the way he coached soccer the way he loved and obeyed his parents the way he interacted with his sister and six brothers the way he developed and maintained friendships the way he encouraged others with his actions and his words the way he used his gifts to write computer programs

The last thing he wrote on facebook Friday afternoon was:
I made this :) 
Following the link leads to the program Daniel recently developed, and for his bio he'd written:
I grew up in Jonesville, Michigan and started programming at the age of 12. I had figured I could build something to bring me a passive income -- we'll see if that ever happens. I've since realized I couldn't stop working hard to advance technology that helps people, even if I did have money. I'm a problem-solver at heart. All of my work is intended to show God's goodness -- even in programming. I try hard to put good logic into every line of code, looking to the God who is behind all logic. I lead a balanced and fulfilling life: I've played soccer for many years and coached over 6 seasons (one of them a local high school); I love bicycling fast and far; I sing; I like to teach; and of course, hang out with smart people. But it's all in the pleasurable service of God, who saved me and gave his life for me.
He never missed an opportunity to share his God!

That's been especially true the last few years. We watched Daniel grow up so I know whereof I speak.
His mom is one of my best friends, and she's been so good about staying in touch even though we're 6,000 miles apart. Newsy, almost weekly e-mails fly back-and-forth. Our kids are close, like family. My son and Daniel collaborated on computer projects and software development. The last photo we have of Daniel was from last Saturday when he drove all the way from Grand Rapids, Michigan, to Winona Lake, Indiana, for Tina's graduation before turning around and heading back immediately for his brother's graduation from Hillsdale College.
Our church family at Countryside Bible is a tight-knit community and the kids are all really close -- like family. As news of the accident went out, folks got in their cars and headed to Ann Arbor. There was a strong presence of the Countryside family with the Parker family at all times, day and night, especially young people whose lives Daniel had profoundly touched. 

I wish I had some of my old photos to share from 'back in the day'. But we left all those in the U.S. Instead I've pulled some off facebook to share with you today.

I'd like to share something Daniel posted on facebook March 19th:
I am a sinner stuck in sin, no way to escape,
despising the One who made me,
even though He'll claim me back someday
to an eternity where I'll receive my due.
I am dead, but I also have life.

Why? Because God saw me and loved me,
and said, "That sinner shall I set free."
Yes, He loves me -
Jesus completed my eternal death
so that I could have his eternal life.

"Dead man walking" is how David Crowder puts it.
I am human, therefore in myself I am self-loving, which is death.
Life of my own no longer exists.
But since He died for me, I can now live for Him.

No longer bound for Hell,
because His favor is on me.
An amazing gift this is.
Un-asked for. Undeserved.

"The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing."
(Zephaniah 3:17)

God saved me because He loves me enough that He sings about me.
Can't wait to hear that song!
My goal for the next week, or two, or maybe lifetime,
or even forever,
is to uncover and realize more and more how much He loves me.
Daniel's goal for "even forever" has begun: he'll spend eternity uncovering and realizing more and more how much his God loves him.
Daniel Curtis Parker
1986 - 2010
PRAY for Daniel's dad and mom, his sister and six brothers. PRAY for the Countryside family. For Daniel "to die is gain" but for the rest of us, we mourn his absence. We celebrate his life, a life lived abundantly PRAY also for the organ recipients whose lives will improve immeasurably and possibly even be extended by the generosity of a young man who wrote "I am dead, but I also have life" just weeks ago without realizing he'd be able to give the gift of life to others through his own death.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Please Pray for Daniel!

Daniel Parker, a young man in our home church, was in a serious bicycling accident last evening. He was airlifted to the University of Michigan hospital where they operated to relieve bleeding on the brain. He's in critical condition and the prognosis is GRIM.
Daniel is a young man who loves the Lord and is on fire for Him. He has a zeal for others to know Him too. His mom is one of my best friends and I know how hard this is for her right now. Daniel is her oldest son. He's only 23. 

The elders in our church prayed over Daniel a few hours ago. The word to pray is going out on facebook, on twitter, and I'm sharing it here because I know I have a lot of prayer warrior buddies in the blogging community. THANKS FOR PRAYING!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Flashback Friday - First Jobs Edition

I know I already posted once today, but while I wait for my hubby I thought I'd play Flashback Friday again. I've missed it!

Here's the assignment:
How old were you when you got your first (paying) job? Did you work during the school year? What stipulations, if any, did your parents put on spending, saving, etc.? What types of jobs did you have before you were, oh, 21 or 22? Did you go to college or a technical/trade school? If so, did you work while you were pursuing your post-high school education? What were your favorite -- and least favorite, if you wish to share! -- jobs? What did you learn from those early jobs?

Whew! Linda packs a lot of questions into that paragraph!

I was 14 when I got my first "real" job. It was the summer before I started high school and I helped with the Head Start program. I rode the bus up and down the 'hollers' and helped the driver with all the little munchkins and once at school I helped wherever needed....sometimes in the kitchen (we provided a hot lunch and both morning and afternoon snacks), taking kids to the bathroom, helping with game time; really whatever they needed -- I was the 'go to' girl :-)

[I've mentioned this on my blog before but for those who are just visiting: Just before I got my first paycheck I heard there was going to be a pinto bean shortage so I used my first paycheck to buy 80 lbs. of beans. We ate a lot of beans and cornbread that winter! It's still one of my favorite foods. The money I earned in high school went toward helping my mom with bills and groceries. It also had to cover my clothes, entrance fees to ballgames or other activities, and anything 'extra'.]

Then I spent several years working in the one and only restaurant in town. Turner's was your typical small town greasy spoon and tips ranged in the $5-$10 per shift -- definitely not going to get rich in that job. But living in a town of 800? Not a lot of opportunities for high school employment. I did work year-round, but obviously fewer hours when school was in session.

My mom insisted I attend vocation school during my last two years of high school (they had a program that allowed students to attend high school in the morning, walk across the parking lot and attend the vocational school during the afternoon) and I took the secretarial course. My shorthand is but a faint and distant memory but I can still work a calculator like nobody's business :-)  And even though my typing speed is half what it was (130/per minute back in the day), I type fast enough for what I need.

That training stood me in good stead during my college years when I was able to get secretarial jobs at the college, in a lawyer's office and a bank. Working in an office is MUCH easier than standing on your feet all day long, dealing with unhappy customers and always smelling like a grease pit.

Both my favorite and least favorite jobs fall into the secretarial category. I loved, loved, loved working in the bank! Lots of different things to do, the interaction with people....the HOURS. It was great having evenings and weekends free after spending so many years in the restaurant business.

On the other hand, on a scale of 1-10 with 1 being the lowest score, the job in the lawyer's office was a negative two. Dysfunctional is a mild way of describing the working atmosphere and interaction in that office. Ugh. Even thinking about it now makes me slightly sick to my stomach. It was one of the first jobs I had after Ivan and I were married and I dropped out of college with the idea of supporting him until he finished, and then I would go back. Anyway, I was very thankful when God provided the money for me to go back to school six months later! Not just to get back on track with my education, but also to GET OUT OF THAT OFFICE.

Over those years I learned I was good at organizing, writing and administrative STUFF. But I liked being in jobs that had plenty of stuck-in-the-back-office kind of jobs for me.

Make sure and stop by Mocha with Linda to see what she and others have to say about their first jobs. Fun stories!

I cannot think of a single good title that would convey the random contents of this post

It's a blustery fall day, the kind that makes you just want to stay inside and sip hot cocoa or coffee and curl up with a good book. Not that any of that's going to happen here, but it's the perfect day for it.

Earlier in the week a package arrived from my sister that included all kind of goodies. My favorite is always the stack of photos. My nieces are growing SOOOOO fast! But she always tucks in other treats too. Original Ranch dressing mixes (used part of one already to make a big pasta salad this week), Puffs tissues that I horde for those times (thankfully few and far between) when I get a head cold and my poor nose just needs a little extra TLC, scrubby pads for the kitchen because the ones I've found here are super abrasive so my sister sent me a nylon scrubber and several of those green rectangular pads that I use all the time. AND....(drum roll please)....Godiva chocolate bonbons!!! I have slowly savored each wonderful morsel, and NO, I have NOT shared! Those babies went into my night stand and after each meal -- including breakfast -- I'd enjoy a couple minutes of chocolate bliss. SOOOOOOOOOOOO good! I ate the last one yesterday. *sigh* Thank you, thank you, sister-of-mine!

Yesterday was a whirlwind of activity...Spanish in the morning, cooking up a storm in the afternoon, visitation in the evening. When I sat down at 9 p.m. with my bowl of stew, I knew I wouldn't be getting back up until it was time to go to bed. LOL  That's part of why I haven't been posting as much lately. Life is suddenly MUCH busier and it's hard to find time to do everything I want. Or even everything I need to do. Sure could use some of that energy I had in my 30s. I move a LOT slower now than I did then...physically AND mentally.

Part of why I was cooking so much yesterday was to get a meal ready to take to a family whose mom had surgery this week. She came home from the hospital yesterday. But the best laid plans and all that... I had counted on having it ready when most families eat (around 9 p.m.) but it turns out her boys go to the evening session for high school (7 p.m. - 11 p.m.) so we went to visit before they left for school AND before my meal for them was ready. So Ivan picked up a pre-roasted chicken and some bread from the store to give them. It was a little mortifying, let me tell you. And then when we said we'd bring what I was making later, she said no. A cultural thing, I guess? I wonder if I'll ever get the hang of how things are done here.

The other day we went to visit her in the hospital (actually a private clinic) and the experience confirmed I do NOT want to get sick and need any kind of surgery or in-hospital treatment here. If that was a private clinic, I hate to think what the public hospitals are like. Yikes! It was clean, I grant you that, but everything was so old and not in the best condition. There was paint peeling off the metal bed frames (and they had to be at least fifty years old). I know when Ivan had the fluid on his knee drained last year, he said the operating room (at a different private clinic) had exposed wiring and a lot of things in the room had started rusting. And I heard another story about a gurney used to transport patients to surgery that didn't work properly and if the nurses weren't careful, holding on to it firmly at both ends, it tipped, rather like giant scales. Can you imagine? LOL During Spanish yesterday I got the names of three clinics in Cordoba that are supposed to be nicer. Good to have that info "just in case"!

After six months and four visits to two different eye doctors, my third pair of glasses arrived yesterday and I CAN FINALLY SEE AGAIN!!! Well, except for the computer screen. A laptop provides an interesting mid-range vision problem that isn't addressed with bifocals. But my old pair of glasses works great for this purpose so I'll just keep them handy by the computer :-) And before I get a bunch of comments about multifocals, let me just say this third pair? was me crying uncle and going back to bifocals after I could not see AT ALL through the first two pair of multifocals. There are apparently some of us who cannot handle the multifocal lenses. 'Nuf said.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Random Dozen - The Return

I've been M.I.A. from the Random Dozen for a while. Preparing for English group isn't taking as long this week so I'm ready to spread the randomness again!

1. Please share one memory of your high school graduation. Pics would be great!
Umm, I never actually graduated from high school. Up until that year (1976-77) those who had sufficient credit were allowed to finish in December. We had some serious snow storms that year and the schools were closed, causing us to miss the last week or more of the fall semester. But knowing I had enough credits, and a decent GPA, I went ahead with plans and left for college in January. Only to receive a letter in March from my high school saying they would not allow me to graduate unless I returned to high school for the remainder of the spring semester. I decided to forgo high school graduation and continue with college. I went on to graduate with my bachelor's degree some years later and no one has ever asked for proof of high school graduation. So no memories, no photos. Sorry.

2. What is one "emergency use" item you keep in your vehicle at all times?
A large plastic potato chip bag clip. Not for chips, silly. We have one of those seat belts that keeps getting tighter and tighter and tighter so once I'm buckled in, I put the clip on the belt so it can't strangle me to death before we reach our destination.

3. In your region, do you celebrate graduation open houses? Addendum: (If so,) how many open houses/bridal showers/weddings are on your upcoming events calendar?
Having lived in the Midwest for a good portion of my life, yes, graduation open houses are de rigueur. And since my husband was a youth pastor for some years, we have been to a LOT of them. There were weekends that felt more like open house marathons as we sprinted from one to the next to the next. Since I am fond of food (surprise!) I am fond of open houses. Love those little meatballs! Sad to be missing them (open houses and meatballs) once again. Especially my daughter's college open house this coming Sunday. Several women in our home church are putting it together (food, decorations, the works) so Tina can celebrate with her Michigan "family". 
4. Tell me one truth you believe about motherhood.
Although we do the best we can, how our kids turn out depends more on grace than anything we do.

5. What was the last thing you broke?
A ceramic tile floor in the kitchen insures maximum breakage of anything and everything I drop, and since I tend toward the klutzy, let's just say there's "a whole lotta breakin' goin on"!

6. On average, how many pieces of junk mail do you receive daily?
Thankfully the Argentines have not discovered the joy of junk mail yet and we receive very little. Plus, it normally does not come in the mail but is hand delivered door-to-door, so we'll occasionally find fliers rolled up and stuck in the fence. But that's usually only for new businesses that are opening.

7. Do you like to shop by catalog?
No, since I don't get catalogs any more. But even when I did, I didn't. (Make sense?) But I am a HUGE fan of online shopping! From my perch 6,000 miles away I can order fabric on eBay, books on amazon and sheets from Overstock. Luuuuuuurve the internet!

8. Is lawn maintenance at your house a "his job," a "her job" or "his/her job" or "that's why we have teenagers" job?
Definitely his! My outdoor "job" is to recline in the hammock and make sure he doesn't miss a spot :-)

9. Which room would you like to redecorate in your home?
Our bedroom. It's so blah right now. I have material but haven't made curtains yet. No pictures on the wall. Never finished the decorative pillows I started OVER A YEAR AGO. Sense a little procrastination? It's a room no one but us generally sees, so it's last on the list for our time and energy. 

10. Do you read a newspaper regularly, or do you read most of your news on line?
Part of my Spanish homework is to read newspaper articles but I do it all online. In class yesterday I read about a 70-year-old man, his wife and 36-year-old daughter (mentally impaired? article didn't say) who were homeless and had spent the last two years "living" in a posh mall in Buenos Aires. They have enough to pay for their meals -- and even leave a tip -- but spend their nights on the street or sleeping in McDonald's on weekends when it's open 24 hours. They are always neat and clean. The wife spends her days reading books while he reads the newspaper, which he buys. I, on the other hand, haven't bought a print newspaper in months.

11. Do you believe everything happens for a reason?
Yep. Firm believer in the sovereignty of God.

12. Are you more worried about doing things right, or doing the right things?
Both? Seriously, I want to do the right thing AND I WANT TO DO IT RIGHT.

It's great to be back! I enjoyed the questions, even if I didn't have good answers for all of them. And it's always fun to see how similar or different answers are by other RD participants!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Home cooking

I was up early this morning. The girls have to be out the door by 7 a.m. I'm pretty sure I've mentioned how the schools here typically run in shifts to accommodate the number of students. Anyway, the girls attend the 7 a.m. - 1 p.m. shift.

*YAWN* Not a fan of getting up when it's still dark. But it is a quiet time of day, which I do like. This early no workers have arrived next door to start hammering and pounding and to crank up the radio to a station that plays truly awful cuarteto music -- sometimes so off key that even I can tell (and my family will tell you it takes some serious off keyage to catch my attention).

What's funny is why I was up so early. It's because the alarm DIDN'T work.

With the insomnia issues I struggle with, Ivan wants me to sleep when I can so he graciously and willingly gets up with the girls and takes them to school, allowing me to sleep in. But... [you knew there'd be a big BUT in here, didn't you?]... last night around 10 p.m. his phone kept sending him the same text message over and over. It's some hitch in the cellular phone system that happens every so often. Talk about annoying! When it happens there's nothing we can do except turn the phone off and wait for them to fix the problem.  Or leave it on and listen to a loud and obnoxious noise every 10-15 minutes.

However, his phone is what we use as an alarm. So last night we used my phone instead. Now the last time we tried using it (the day we were going to Cordoba to pick up our D.N.I.s) it didn't work. So I was very careful last night in making sure I programmed it correctly. Only I didn't. I have no idea what I did wrong. I thought it was set and enabled, but it didn't go off this morning. Aaargh! I woke up when I heard the girls moving around in the kitchen, getting their breakfast. So I woke Ivan up.

And then I couldn't go back to sleep. Yesterday I didn't even hear the alarm go off. This morning the alarm NOT going off woke me up.

I foresee a 10 a.m. siesta on the horizon.

For now I'm enjoying a good cup of coffee and a homemade granola bar.

I've been spending a lot more time in the kitchen these days. My 9x13 pan has seen more action in the past month than I think it saw in the previous two years. I'm making some kind of treat every Wednesday for English group, usually a plain white cake for youth group on Saturday, and something of a chocolate nature for Sunday merienda after soccer. Those boys can pack it away!

I'm also making more soups and slow-roasted things now that it's cooler. I like working in the kitchen this time of year. The warmth, the smells... they spell comfort on many levels. Yesterday I spent a good part of the evening making a roasted butternut squash soup. First I chopped several squash into large cubes. I toasted some herbs and spices and then threw them into the blender in order to make a spice rub. Roasting the squash called for butter, a few spoons of the spice rub, vinegar and molasses. Good stuff. The smell while it roasted was amazing. Then using my big soup pot I sauteed onions, celery and carrots, added chicken broth and a cinnamon stick. The smells mingled and created such a rich scent. I added the roasted squash cubes to the broth and cooked it a little longer, then pureed it in the blender in batches. I made a double recipe of the soup so that took a while. A cup of half-and-half for a final touch of richness and the soup was ready. We ate it with grilled cheese sandwiches.

I've just found myself thinking more about food lately. (If that's possible.) I suppose because we're doing more in terms of ministry... having people over for meals, doing things as a group where food is involved... This week, of course, we have the girls with us so I want to make sure and keep them well fed; it hasn't been that long since I had a horde of hungry teens to feed on a regular basis so I haven't forgotten their capacity for enjoying great quantities of food.

And again, I think it's the time of year. There's just something so satisfying about filling the house with the warmth and smells of home cooking.

What's on your menu today?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Project 365, Week 19

I'm just not feeling the photo love these days. Even when I make sure we have the camera with us, most of the time we still don't take any pictures. What's up with that?! But never fear! This week's Project 365 will not be lacking in photos, no it will not. Because as most of you know, my daughter graduated yesterday! And I'm totally stealing photos from her facebook to share with my little corner of the bloggy world :-)

This is not to say I don't have any photos of my own for the week. Just not many. Most of what I have are of houses and property we checked out during two separate drives to look at real estate. Not sure when, or even if, we'll be able to buy a place of our own but it doesn't hurt to look. Finding one place turned into quite an adventure that lasted 2 hours (the house was only 11 km from where we live but we got totally and completely lost trying to find it). Felt a little silly when we finally did get there, since it's barely 1 km off the highway.  Loved, loved, loved the setting by the river...
The house on this property has a foundation and a few walls but not much else. No windows, no roof, and half the walls are missing. But that setting... *sigh*  Location is everything, as they say in the real estate business. And this place is in a great location...except for what we need. It's too far out from where we're working to establish a church, and there's no public transport out that way, what with it being between two towns.

But on to a happier, MUCH HAPPIER, topic!

I'm sharing LOTS of photos from Tina's graduation and festivities, so just sit back and enjoy the tour :-)  First up is a photo of Tina with her brother and sister-in-law on Friday night at the Presidential Dessert.
Tina and Kyle:
Not sure what to call him. Boyfriend? Good friend? Anyway, they're spending a lot of time together these days and he helped make this weekend special with a number of extra touches, like making sure there were flower arrangements on the tables at the celebratory lunch on Saturday -- in red and white, the school colors.
How thoughtful is that?! And that's just one of the things he did.

Speaking of thoughtful, I mentioned the women who traveled down from Michigan for the graduation. One of them had to leave immediately after, in order to get back to Michigan for Hillsdale College's graduation. But Katie and Lois were able to stick around and have lunch with the crowd.
There was quite the group that descended on Cerulean's for sushi and bento boxes after graduation. Looks like they're enjoying it!
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Right after graduation Tina had some photos taken with special people, like her grandma:
And one of her best girlfriends and fellow graduates, Toni:
Lots of fun and great memories!

For those who asked, no there was no way to skype during the graduation nor were they doing live streaming like we hoped. BUT they did videotape it and Tina ordered the DVD for us!

Our son tried to take photos during the program but unfortunately a bald man was sitting directly in front of them and the camera flash kept bouncing off his shiny pate so none of those pictures came out. LOL  I do think we'll get more professional prints from the college.

And before I leave the subject of my daughter I wanted to share that she already has a job! They offered her the position on April 30th and she started work on Monday, the 3rd! She's the project coordinator for a large marketing campaign for her alma mater as they make some pretty big changes in their programs and what they offer. The college hired Brandpoet, who in turn hired Tina as the project coordinator. I'm sure I'll be blabbing on and on about some of the things she'll be doing in the coming months :-)  We're very proud of both her accomplishments in college AND for getting the new job!

She's been feeling rather overwhelmed, what with working her new job and her old one (two week notice will take her to the end of this coming week), with graduation in the middle, and an open house in Michigan next weekend. Once she gets through all of that and things calm down, she might start to breathe again. LOL

Breathing is not something I do much of on Saturday nights. I'm too busy laughing at our young people; they keep me in stitches and make it hard to breathe. We are blessed with a GREAT group of young men and women who are growing in the Lord, and having a good time doing it!
Have you ever tried to play ping pong with more than one paddle?!

After the ping pong tournament we sang. The youngest girl in our group had taken time this week to put our choruses together in little booklets. No more loose papers floating around and trying to find the right one.
Some of the kids are taking guitar lessons and learning the new choruses so they can accompany us as we sing.
We announced tonight an upcoming long weekend retreat at the house in Sta. Rosa and the kids are pretty excited! It looks like we'll have three couples and 15 kids going. I think we might end up feeling like the Old Woman Who Lived in the Shoe :-)

This week we'll have our co-worker's two youngest daughters while they get away for a bit of a break. They've been doing all the paperwork and preparing to leave on furlough in July and it's just been nuts all they've had to do. I'll enjoy cooking for more than just us, and anticipate they'll get lots of fodder for their annual skit spoofing us. Honestly, those two girls have nailed me and Ivan and they're just hysterical when playing their (our) parts!

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Graduate

When my kids were little, older women would tell me, "Enjoy them now because they'll be grown before you know it." I would smile and nod ('cause I was brought up right and knew enough to be polite to my elders) but I simply could not envision a life beyond diapers and skinned knees and toys strewn throughout the house. Like I'd always have my babies with me.

But they do grow up and then they're gone. And, in our case, so were we...6,000 miles overseas.

My youngest graduates from college tomorrow. Graduates with honors, summa cum laude.
We are SO PROUD our buttons would be bursting off if we had them. She's worked really, really hard and totally deserves the honors (which includes the Communications Student Leader award!).

She'll graduate surrounded by family and friends who love her. Her brother and his wife. Her grandma. An aunt, uncle and cousins. Friends she's made during her sojourn in Indiana. And three dear ladies from our home church in Michigan will be traveling down for the festivities.

These three women have all played a big part in Tina's life. Peggy was her mentor in high school and they spent long hours studying the Word of God together and sharing their hearts. During that same time, whenever we'd have to travel for long periods of time on deputation, Katie opened her home and not only gave Tina a place to stay but also made her a part of the family. Since we moved overseas Lois has done the same, providing much more than a place for Tina to crash whenever she goes to Michigan...she pampers and cares for Tina like a daughter.

I'm so thankful these ladies will be there to share in this momentous day with my daughter. But I'm still really, really sad I can't be there too.

Because tonight there's this amazing Presidential Dessert for graduates and their family.

I kid. Sort of. I am sad because as a parent, you especially want to be there for the big things. And this IS a BIG thing!

Tina, you know we'd be there if we could. We'll be with you in our thoughts and prayers, cheering you on from our little corner of the world.
Love you bunches :-)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Project 365, Week 18

My blogging blahs extended to photography this week and I have almost nothing to share for Project 365 :-(  I took one, and ONLY ONE photo up until this weekend. Because yesterday was a holiday and we ended up with over 100 photos on the camera (taken by whoever happened to have the camera at the time) I'm sharing four photos from our Labor Day festivities. Most of the world celebrates International Workers' Day on May 1st. Here it's a big holiday, and that means most of the stores are closed (unless they're tourist related) and people usually get together with family and friends. [Sidenote: When I was a kid we had games at school on May Day. Do they still do that?]

Anyway, here's a photo from earlier in the week (taken on a walk, of course). I just loved how this berry-laden bush draped over the wall.
We had several couples over for pizza and a movie on Friday night but we only took two photos. Lots of laughter and fun; we'll definitely have to do this more often! [BTW, I made both types of pizza: from Argentina and the U.S. and our guests really liked the fully loaded American style!]
For the past two years on May 1st we've taken the youth to an all-day event at the Palabra de Vida facility in Sta. Rosa de Calamuchita. This year a set of parents went along too and we ended up with a total of 17 people, in three vehicles. It was a PERFECT day for the outing! More like summer than autumn with clear skies, a slight breeze and temperatures in the high 70s.

Being Latin America, even though we were there on time (10 a.m.) nothing started until noon. At which point the boys soccer tournament commenced. I don't think there were enough girls to have a volleyball game, but they had fun just hanging out and cheering the boys on. The games began with prayer.
Can you believe we have NO photos of the boys actually playing?! Not sure who had the camera at that point, but I guess they were too excited about the game to even think about taking photos. LOL

Since the event was in Sta. Rosa -- actually only one kilometer from the house -- we took our group there for lunch and merienda (afternoon snack). At lunch the kids were horsing around and having a good time.
Sorry to say the boys didn't win a single game of soccer, but they still had fun. And when it was all done we went back to the house for merienda and a few games of bocce. The kids also gave each other impromptu guitar lessons.
Then they asked Ivan to play. He took classical guitar lessons in college but that's been a few years!  Oh, and that's "Charley" with us; he's also part of our English conversation group so we gave him an English name :-)
As the sun went down it turned chilly but we enjoyed sitting out in the yard until it had fully set, at which point we packed up and came home. It was a great day!